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Archive for the ‘Gospels’ Category

If Jesus truly had the words of eternal life as Peter said  in John 6:68, why wouldn’t everyone who heard His words accept the message of the gospel?

The answer is found in John 3, right after the well-known proclamation of God’s love for man in John 3:16, we read this:

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3:19-20

Is your love for your sin keeping you from accepting the free gift of salvation?  Are you clinging to the darkness, hiding from the light, so you can continue to engage in your sin?

Don’t be deceived, Light is coming.  He will expose you for who you are and your evil deeds will be known by all.  Repent and turn from your sin and allow the Light of the World to flood the darkness of your soul.  Today is the day of Salvation!

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When tribulation strikes, when unspeakable atrocities stare us in the face, are we going to be like the disciples, hiding in a room, leaving town, forgetting what He said would happen, what He has promised us?

Or will we remember that He said:

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

“I have plans for you, to give you a future and a hope.”

“I have given you all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the way, the truth, the life.”

“I am the shepherd. My sheep hear my voice.”

“I collect your tears in a bottle.”

“You are the apple of my eye.”

“Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.”

“If I be lifted up, I draw all men to me.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“I am the light of the world.”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

“I will replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh.”

“I have left you a comforter who will teach you all things.”

“I am coming back.”

He is risen . . . just one more promise kept. Behold, He will keep them all in due time. His justice is not swift . . . He would that none would perish. But justice will come. His promises are true.

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Ever wonder why the image of the cross figures so predominantly in the New Testament.  It’s more than the obvious – Jesus died on a cross.

Mark 5:34 records Jesus speaking, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  When Jesus made this statement, he hadn’t gone to the cross yet.

John Stott says “becoming a Christian involves a change so radical that no imagery can do it justice except death and resurrection – dying to the old life of self-centeredness and rising to new life of holiness and love.”

In Galatians 5:24, Paul writes “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh of its passions and desires.”

In Romans 6:6, he says,  “our old man was crucified with Him.”  He repeats the imagery of the cross and death on the cross to speak of living a life of self-denial – death to self.

Often people think that their “cross” is the trial or persecution they are undergoing.  The trials are not the cross.  The trials function to strengthen one to carry his or her cross.  The cross is the life of self-denial, the laying down of one’s own life for the furtherance of the gospel.

As a Christian, I am best described as “dead man walking” since I must carry the instrument of my own execution, the cross.  I must die, so He might live through me.  By this great miracle, others will see Him and His glory and be drawn to Him.  Thus, the gospel is spread.

Father, make me to be dead to self and alive to Your Spirit.  May Easter remind me of how that fully-surrendered life appears.

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Why did Jesus have to be betrayed by one of those closest to him as well as those in religious authority?

1.  It was the fulfillment of scripture.

  • Psalm 41:9 “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.”  See also John 13:18 confirming fulfillment of the prophecy.

2.  It was necessary so we could know that God understands and can sympathize with our situations, the betrayals we suffer at the hands of those closest to us and those in authority over us.

  • Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

We have all been betrayed.  Our inclination is to seek revenge or punishment for our betrayer.  But Jesus was betrayed, and He did not defend Himself.  Rather, He lived out the sovereign will of His Father, trusting that the Father would change the circumstances if He willed.  Jesus understood that the will of the Father (God), is the primary focus for the Son (and for us as children of God).

3.  It is clear evidence of the “religious’ heart of man apart from God.

The betrayal of Jesus by his own people, by the “religious” of his day, is a warning to us of what can happen when we allow our religion to become more important than our faith in and relationship with the Savior.  Jesus warned the religious leaders, but they were unmoved.  They had no heart for God.

Jesus was betrayed because that is our relationship with God apart from Christ.  We are betrayers.  We can’t keep the law.   We can’t put the will of the Father before our own desires.  He had to show us how.  He had to make a way for us.  Betrayal was the first part.

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As discussed in yesterday’s post, some characters from the Christmas story , despite their close proximity to the miracle, miss Christmas entirely.

We can make a case that the chief priests and scribes missed Christmas.  As strange as it sounds, those whose life was dedicated to the scriptures, to God’s law and teachings, missed God’s arrival as foretold in prophecy.

In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 2:1-2), Matthew tells us that after Jesus was born, Kings from the east came to Jerusalem looking for “the King of the Jews.”  Herod, when he heard this unsettling news immediately called for his experts in the field, the people most knowledgeable about such things.  He called the Chief Priest and the scribes, the experts in Jewish religion and writings.

As expected, these men knew exactly what the Kings of the east were referring to and where the “King” would be born.  Despite that knowledge, they had no presence in Bethlehem.  No one was monitoring the births of boys in town.  No one seemed to be watching for a Messiah in Bethlehem at all.

The words of the prophet Micah were no more than pen strokes on a parchment scroll.  The knowledge of God that these men had never translated into faith in God, so they missed Christmas.

We don’t want to judge them too harshly as this could happen to you or to me.  We might, like those men and others like them, mistake the mere knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Word and even a role as a religious leader as sufficient to satisfy God.  Beware, even the religious leaders, the most “Holy” men of their time, missed Christmas.  Knowledge of God doesn’t equal saving faith in God.

If you do not have a personal, intimate, saving relationship with God.  If you don’t know Him (not just of Him), you can change that today.  Pray the following prayer to change your status from outsider, to child of God.  Don’t miss Christmas.

Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner, and I have broken your law.
I need a Savior; I cannot save myself.  Please allow your shed blood to cleanse me of my sin. Forgive me and cleanse me.  I want to live for you, to submit myself to you, to be a child of God.

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In the Christmas story, characters lurk in the shadows.  They are present, but their roles are minor.  It is among these characters that we find some who missed Christmas.  If we are to avoid this fate, for surely it is possible for any of us to “miss Christmas,” we must learn from their mistakes.

We could make a case that the innkeeper missed Christmas.  The young couple arrive at the innkeeper’s door with the Messiah almost ready to be delivered (oh how rich the irony).  What a blessing for any Jewish family to have the long-awaited Messiah be born in their home.  Sadly, such an opportunity was lost.  The innkeeper was focused on financial gain – not a bad goal in itself, but devastating if it keep you from meeting God, from welcoming Him into your home, from seeing things according to His plan.

Not having a God-centered view of events and circumstances, the innkeeper missed Christmas.  But we don’t have to be like the innkeeper.  We can focus on the eternal and away from the temporal.  We can take our eyes from our finances and consider our inheritance in heaven.  We can embrace Christmas with its reminder that God, Holy and just, took on flesh to accomplish His great plan of salvation for us.

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Matthew 2:1-12 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.

  • What caused the Kings to come to find the Christ child?  Who did they say they were looking for?
  • What was Herod’s response to hearing what the Kings from the east had to say?
  • What is Herod’s plan with regard to this “king of the Jews” that has been born?
  • What was the reaction of the Kings to seeing the star (v. 10)?
  • What was the response of the kings from the east when they saw the Christ child according to Matt. 2:11?
  • What is your response to the Christ child?  Do you worship Him?  Tell others of what you have seen Him do in your life?  Perhaps this coming year, you want to make your response to the Christ child more evident
  • What gifts did they bring to Jesus, the King?  (v. 11)
  • What does each gift signify or foretell?

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Luke 2 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.
  • Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?
  • Where was Jesus born?  Why?
  • What did Mary do with Jesus after He was born?
  • What happened out on the plains outside of Bethlehem that night?
  • To whom was the first recorded announcement of the birth of the Christ Child made according to Luke 2:8-14?
  • Why is it significant that the announcement of the Messiah was made first to the Shepherds?
  • What does Luke 2:15-16 tell us was the shepherd’s response?
  • What was the response of the shepherds to seeing Jesus in the manager?  (Hint: Luke 2:17-20)

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He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”  Luke 5:3-10

What do you observe from the passage?

• What is Simon’s attitude when Jesus asks him to launch the boat?
• What is his reaction when they catch so many fish?
• What causes his change in attitude?

When confronted with evidence of God’s power, we cannot but notice our inadequacy, our humanity.  Like Peter, we may have fished the same lake for 20 years, so we humor the “novice” who asks us to put out nets in way past the best hour to fish and then find that we knew nothing of what we thought was our field of expertise.  That’s how it is when God shows up.  All our best efforts, our worldly wisdom, our expertise are nothing more than a vapor.

Jesus’ last words to them are words of hope, words that speak to their future not their failures.  Thank you Jesus that You always see us in terms of our future (with You) and not our failures.

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Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.

 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.  And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.

But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.   So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  

John 8:2-11

OBSERVATIONS:

Where is it taking place?

  • In the temple, the center of religious teaching, the (only) place where the presence of God dwelt on earth

Who is involved in the story?

  • Scribes and Pharisees – religious leaders and experts in the law
  • Adulterous woman – found in the “very act of adultery” and so has violated God’s law  (Exodus 20:14)

Why do they bring her to Jesus?

  • Pharisees and scribes thought they could trap Jesus.  Either He was the Messiah, sent from God, or he was a fraud.  If He was soft on the law, it was proof He was not Messiah.  Jesus had been meeting with sinners, eating with tax collectors and thereby showing a very lax view of God’s law and those who violate it.
  • They were trying to discredit Him.

Who’s missing?

  • Adultery is a 2-person crime – Where’s the man?

Old Testament imagery?

  • Jesus writes with His finger (same way God wrote on the tablets at Mount Sinai)
  • Maybe He was writing out the 10 Commandments
  • Maybe He is writing their names next to the various commandments – the scripture says that they are convicted
  • Jesus proves that He is God by knowing secret sins of people whose sin is not well known
APPLICATION

Remarkably, Jesus could have, with His obvious knowledge of things, condemned her, but He chooses not to be a witness against her.

Similarly, God is not in the business of, nor does He desire to be a witness against you.  Rather, God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

This is not to say that Jesus (God incarnate) is soft on sin.  He knows the law.  He wrote the law.  Don’t be confused or misled, one day (maybe sooner than you planned) He is coming to judge.  Come to Him now, when His purposes towards you are forgiveness and restoration.  Later His purposes will be only judgment

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  John 5:24


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