A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

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In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

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In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

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Power Can Blind People From The Truth

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John 7:45 – 52

45 When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

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It is really sad when we see people in places of authority abuse their power and consider themselves “better” than the average person.  This is the case with the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  These men, who either inherited their positions or achieved them through years of rigorous study of the Scriptures, truly thought they were above ordinary citizens.

For quite a few generations, the religious leaders believed that they were the only ones who really understood what God’s Word had to say and what it meant.  And they reinforced this by creating a myriad of rules that the people were supposed to obey in the hopes that their good actions and their animal sacrifices to God would make them acceptable to God.

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Then Jesus came along and preached a different message.  He talked about loving God and loving people as being the greatest commandments, not the religious rules and rituals that the Jewish officials said were so important to uphold.  In effect, Jesus challenged not only their teachings, but also their very positions of authority.

They had to put a stop to this then and they sent out temple guards to arrest Jesus.  But when the guards heard Jesus cry out, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (vv. 37-38), they found themselves unable to arrest Jesus.  For this was the kind of spiritual message they had always longed to hear, but had never heard before.

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This response of the guards infuriated the Jewish leaders.  They attempt to condemn the average person by calling them all fools, ignorant of God’s laws, and people whom God would curse, meaning they would be destroyed by God’s wrath in the final day of judgment.  In their jealousy and anger, they did not realize that they were condemning themselves to face God’s wrath.

Check out Matthew chapter 23 where Jesus declares that they are all hypocrites, blind guides, white-washed tombs, and snakes who are full of wickedness.  Even though one man, Nicodemus, tried to be reasonable and suggest that they look carefully into this matter of trying to arrest Jesus, the leaders turned on him and accused him of not knowing their own Scriptures.

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This passage is relevant for us today, for there are leaders even within our churches today who would place religious rituals ahead of having a living relationship with Jesus.  We must choose carefully those whom we would place in positions of authority in the church.  But it would also be very good for leaders today to remember that Jesus said to His followers, “The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

But let me suggest that this attitude of “spiritual elitism” can be found in any person of any church, whether they are in a position of authority or not.  It is very dangerous for any one of us to think that we are more “spiritual” than anther brother or sister in the faith.  We can easily fall into the trap of being like the person who has a wooden plank in their own eye (i.e. sin in their life), but who tries to remove the speck of sawdust from their friend’s eye.  (Matthew 7:1-5)

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Let me go one step further here and ask what attitudes we have about Christians in other denominational churches.  Ouch!!  This can reveal some bad attitudes and prejudices that might not be very godly.  Do we have the grace of God enough to be able to work with, even fellowship with others who genuinely are seeking God, but do not do it the same way that we do?

I know this can be difficult.  And I do not want in any way to water down the Gospel or compromise my core beliefs in God and Jesus.  Consider the choice that our family had when we worked in that small village in Papua New Guinea for five years.  At that time, the only church present there was a little Catholic church, overseen by a few national men who had been taught to lead people in some songs, read a few Scriptures and make a short comment on how it could help us in our walk with God.

We easily could have just stayed in our house and had our own family worship time and kept well away from that village church.  But what message would that give the people?  So in addition to our personal worship time, we would often attend the village church to support the idea of public worship of God.  I do know that a few of the people were sincere believers in Christ, and I believe our presence encouraged them in their faith.  Please, let us all accept our brothers and sisters as equals, wherever we may find them.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit

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John 7:37 – 44

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

40 When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43 So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

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In this short passage, four things jump right out and ask us to look into them more closely.  What is this Festival that Jesus was at, and how important is it to what he says?  What is it that Jesus is actually offering to people who come to Him?  Why did the people think that Jesus might be the great Prophet they had been waiting for?  And why are they confused about Jesus’ identity?

Let’s start with this day of celebration in Jerusalem.  This was the annual Festival of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths.  This was the time when the Jews would remember the years of wandering in the desert and had to live in tents until they finally crossed the Jordan River and could live in houses.  At this Festival, thousands of Jews would come to Jerusalem and pitch a tent, or a covered booth, and remember God’s protection and provision to them in the past.

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On the very last day of the Festival, there was to be extra rejoicing as the end of the week commemorated their forefathers entry into the promised land of Canaan, the land which “flowed with milk and honey”.  At this climactic moment, Jesus stood up and boldly proclaimed, “Come to me whoever is thirsty.”  And to whoever would put their trust in Him, He promised them, “rivers of living water”.

Think about the picture of the ancient Israelites who wandered the barren deserts for forty years.  Their greatest need was to find water.  They found out very quickly that they had to trust God to supply their daily needs.  The most dramatic example of this is when God told Moses to “strike the rock, and water shall flow from it.” (Read Exodus 17:1-7)

What Jesus was saying to the people was that just like God Himself through Moses provided natural water to sustain their bodies in the desert, so now Jesus was by analogy saying that He was like God and could provide sustaining water to the people there in Jerusalem.  But not just natural water, but spiritual water that could refresh the hearts and souls of those who would put their trust in Him.

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No wonder the people began to say, “This must be the great Prophet,” which alludes to Deuteronomy 18:18 where God promised Moses that another great Prophet like him would one day come to help the people of Israel.  Some people went even further and declared that Jesus must be the Messiah, the specially anointed One whom God would send to save Israel.

And yet, when the people are so close to the truth about who Jesus was, and is, they became confused.  They had been taught that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem of Judea.  They had heard that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee.  They could not reconcile the rumours with their teachings.  What is sad is that both of these statements were true, for Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem, but then raised up in Nazareth.

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I believe that the situation today is not much different from that day long ago.  So many people are still wandering around in spiritually dry waste lands.  Many seek to fill this spiritual void in their lives, but they are looking in the wrong places.  Jesus is still standing before us all and saying, “Come to Me, and I will quench your spiritual thirst.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the flood gates of God’s compassion and forgiveness for our sins.  That is, to whomever will accept Jesus as the One who paid the penalty for sin for them.  And when Jesus was raised from the dead and returned to Heaven, He was then able to release the power and the life of the Holy Spirit into all of our lives.

That is what is meant above about the Spirit not having been given yet.  While Jesus was on earth, He ministered directly to those who were immediately there before Him.  Remember that God is really three Persons-in-One, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And God chose to limit His involvement with mankind as one Person at a time.  We all had to wait for Christ to ascend before the Holy Spirit could descend and empower and fill each one of God’s children.

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Consider what has been said here and ask yourself this: “Is my life spiritually dead and dry?”  Then I invite you to turn to Jesus who can forgive you of your sins and release the power of the Holy Spirit into your life.  And don’t be like some of those Jews who thought they knew who Jesus was and where He came from.  Read the Bible and find out for yourself.  God bless you on your journey for Truth and Life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God Looks On The Inside

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John 7:14 – 24

14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”

20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

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In the section of John chapter 7 just before this passage, we saw that Jesus was trying to keep a low key profile.  As some would say today, it looked like he was trying to “fly under the radar”.  It must have been difficult for him seeing as the annual “Feast of Tabernacles” was meant to be a joyous time for all Jews, and especially in Jerusalem.

And then suddenly during the middle of the week of celebration, we see Jesus marching straight up to the Temple and beginning to teach.  I wonder what was going on in his mind.  Could it be that he saw the shallowness and superficiality of the faith of many of his countrymen and he wanted them to come to know his Father like he did?  Or more probably, he could no longer stand the hypocrisy and the abuse of religious power that the Jewish leaders exercised over the people and Jesus finally had to speak up against this.

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The encounter that followed was very dramatic.  Jesus taught with great boldness concerning God and His Kingdom and the people were amazed at this.  They saw that his message was full of spiritual power, but they had always been led to believe that a person had to go through the Rabbinical schools (their form of theological seminaries) to have such power and authority to teach and preach like Jesus did.

But Jesus points out that religious pedigrees and positions are things that are important to men, but not to God.  What is really important is to lead people back into a living relationship with God.  Even if it means pointing out the sin in one’s life that is keeping that person away from God.  Jesus knew that his teachings struck at the hearts of those selfish hypocrites of his day, and he calls them out to the table by stating that they even have it in their heart to kill Jesus, and thus kill his message that would convict them.

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The truth is laid bare when Jesus revealed their hypocrisy over actions done on the Sabbath.  They claimed that no one could do any work of any kind on the Jewish day of rest.  And yet they had the command of God for circumcision, which was older than the Law, that they said allowed them to break the Sabbath rest.  In other words they used one law to break another law.  And they felt quite justified in their rigid legalism.

On the other hand, Jesus did a tremendous act of compassion by healing a lame man on the Sabbath.  But rather then praise Jesus for his action, they accused him of breaking a religious law.  To God, this is so absurd!  To allow a religious rule to overshadow meeting the needs of hurting people goes against the very nature of God.

Jesus pointed out what the real issue was when he said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”  Whenever we put the focus on conformity to external behavior (which is what legalism is all about), we lose sight of what is really important, the true condition of the person’s heart.  It is not difficult for a person to do “all the right things” and still be miles away from God in his heart.  But if a person’s heart is pure and open and receptive to God and His grace, then all his external actions will match the inner beauty of his heart.

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And that brings us to some important application here.  Let us be very slow to judge and condemn another person simply on the external behaviors that we might see.  We must instead take the time to get to know that person and what is going on in the inside of him or her.  We do not need to promote conformity to rules to be the basis of thinking that person is right with God.  We need to help nurture a person’s relationship with God.  That is a heart issue.

In closing, let me remind us all that Jesus gave a stern warning to us in his analogy that we might have a plank sticking out of our eye (metaphorically speaking) while we judge someone else’s sin (which he compared to as a speck of dust in their eyes).  Let us clean up our own heart before we think we can help clean up someone else’s heart.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Witnesses Who Tell Us Who Jesus Is

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John 5:31 – 47

31 If I speak for myself, there is no way to prove I am telling the truth.32 But there is someone else who speaks for me, and I know what he says is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he told them the truth. 34 I don’t depend on what people say about me, but I tell you these things so that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that gave a lot of light, and you were glad to enjoy his light for a while.

36 But something more important than John speaks for me. I mean the things that the Father has given me to do! All of these speak for me and prove that the Father sent me. 37 The Father who sent me also speaks for me, but you have never heard his voice or seen him face to face. 38 You have not believed his message, because you refused to have faith in the one he sent.

39 You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, 40 but you refuse to come to me for eternal life.

41 I don’t care about human praise, 42 but I do know that none of you love God. 43 I have come with my Father’s authority, and you have not welcomed me. But you will welcome people who come on their own.44 How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!

45 Don’t think that I will be the one to accuse you to the Father. You have put your hope in Moses, yet he is the very one who will accuse you. 46 Moses wrote about me, and if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me. 47 But if you don’t believe what Moses wrote, how can you believe what I say?

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Jill and I enjoy reading books.  We do have slightly different tastes in the stories we read though.  I’m much more of the science fiction intense espionage kind of guy, while Jill likes to read a good suspense legal thriller with lots of courtroom drama.  So I will read about aliens and distant galaxies or a book by Tom Clancy, and Jill might read an Agatha Christie or John Grisham novel.  But I can appreciate a good legal thriller too.  And that is partly what we have here in these verses of John.

When we watch a legal fiction story on TV today, we all watch as the sleuths and the police search to find the one witness who will “make the case” and put the bad guys away for good.  Sometimes, the most important piece of evidence is not even a person, but an item which ties the criminal to the crime.  And now in our modern scientific world, all that is needed sometimes is just a tiny bit of DNA to close the case.

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That is not what it was like though in first century Judaism.  When someone was accused of wrong doing, it was very clear in the Law of Moses what standards needed to be applied in the case.  Deuteronomy 19:15 tells us what that was: “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  This standard for gathering solid evidence of something needs to be kept in mind as we look briefly into John 5:31-47.

Now we all realize that Jesus is not actually standing in front of the court and facing accusers at this time.  (That would come later.)  But in many ways, with the persecution of the Jewish authorities heating up, Jesus was being put into the court of public opinion.  Some people were believing that He was in fact the Son of God, and that He had the authority of God Himself to do all the miracles which He did.  On the other hand, there was a growing opposition arising against Jesus, what He did, and what He taught.

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So Jesus challenges his “accusers” in this passage and lays down some pretty solid evidence with regards to who He really is.  First of all, Jesus mentions the testimony of John the Baptist.  Go back to John chapter one and read how John declares that God sent him baptizing people for the express purpose of discovering and revealing who Jesus was.  He saw the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus at the baptism and then declared, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

As much as John the Baptist was respected as a great prophet, Jesus then goes on to say that there is a greater witness than John.  He basically says, “Look at the works (i.e. “miracles”) that I do, and they will tell you exactly who I am.”  And in fact, God Himself is called upon as a witness.  God declared openly, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.”  (See Mark 1:11)  And further, many of the Jews knew that only a person approved by God Himself could do the kinds of miracles that Jesus did.  Remember what Nicodemus said in John 3:2?  “For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

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Jesus has already given three key witnesses which clearly show Jesus to be “one sent from God.”  But the Jewish leaders might not accept these testimonies.  So then Jesus hits them right where they lived.  He claimed that the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament), and even Moses in his writings could back up Jesus’ claim of being the great Messiah and the One promised by God to be the Savior of the world.  How much more evidence did they need to believe in Jesus?

And I now ask this question to all who read this.  Look at the wondrous universe we live in.  Look at the new born baby.  Remember when you “could have been killed” in a near-accident.  Look into the lives of really alive Christians who used to be not so nice people, but God changed them.  How much evidence do you need to know that what the Bible proclaims about God, about Christ, and those who follow Him in loving obedience are all true as well.  Think on that my friend.  Don’t be closed like these Jewish leaders were.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Jesus, The One Equal To God The Father

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John 5:16 – 30

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

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In this passage, we see the open hostility of the Jewish leaders that broke out against Jesus.  It was bad enough in their opinion that Jesus had performed a miracle on the Sabbath, the holy day of rest for the Jewish people.  (See my last article on “Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism“.)  But now they hear Jesus utter words that show that He equated Himself with God the Father.

As I reflected on the blindness of the Jewish leaders, I realized that they did not have the benefit of living in the period of “post-resurrection”, nor the hundreds of years that the Church has had to understand the implications of Jesus Incarnation, His death, and His resurrection.  The Jewish people were all waiting for the Promised Messiah, the One whom God would anoint and bring salvation to His people.

I do wonder though, what exactly they expected to see when they would meet the Messiah.  Would He just suddenly appear, without having any background of a birthplace or a family such as Jesus had?  Was the Messiah going to just appear as some super human and lead the nation to victory against their enemies in this world?  We know that is partly what they thought.  What caught them off guard was that Jesus was rather ordinary, being born in Bethlehem and raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth.

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And then Jesus elevated Himself high above all other humans by making claims of being equal with God Himself.  In this passage we see a number of ways in which Jesus is equally compared to God the Father.  We see these similar things:

  • God is always at work in the world, and so is the Son (implying supernatural activities)
  • what the Father does, He shows to His Son, and the Son also does the same things
  • the Father and the Son can both raise the dead and give them new life
  • God gives the authority to judge all men into the hands of the Son
  • people will honour the Son just as much as they honour the Father
  • the Son is the source of Life just as the Father is also the source of Life for all people

That is quite a list of qualities that Jesus attributes to Himself.  No wonder that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  They were actually right to challenge Jesus, for no ordinary man could claim these things.  But Jesus was no ordinary man.  Twice Jesus refers to God as “the One who sent Me”.  As people who now live after the Resurrection, we know that Jesus’ claim to be God the Son was validated by Him rising from the dead.

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And it was the will of the Father that caused Jesus to leave Heaven and come down to earth.  He in fact was the awaited Messiah.  And the promise here is that for anyone who will accept Him as the One who is equal with God and who was sent by God the Father, that person is able to come to God by means of Jesus (like walking across a bridge) and will no longer be under the penalty and curse of death, but will receive the gift of eternal life with God forever.

It really is too bad that the Jewish leaders did not have all the information and insight that you and I have today.  So it is easy to criticise them as being so blind that they could not see Jesus for who He really is.  But I wonder if we would have done much better ourselves?  The key thing right now is for us to not miss the point, namely that Jesus really is the One who is equal to God the Father, the Author of Life, and the One who saves us from death and brings us into eternal life.

Jesus Suffered So That We Might Live – Pt 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 9

In John 10:10, Jesus tells his disciples (and by extension He tells all of us too) that He came into this world in order that people might truly live and have an abundant life.  Most Christians understand that this refers to the renewed spiritual life we can have with God once we accept Jesus as our Lord and have our sins forgiven.  But that is not all that Jesus is talking about.

Sadly, there are still many believers in Christ who have accepted Jesus into their lives, but also believe that there still must be something that they must “do” to really experience complete forgiveness of their sins.  This wrong thinking not only robs the cross of Christ of its full meaning and impact, but it also robs the person of experiencing the fuller life which they can live in the freedom that has been purchased for them on the cross.

    

 Max Lucado points out very well in chapter five of his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” that we tend to hang on to our faults and mistakes and that this is like putting on old clothes that declare “We are sinners!”  And since we are the ones who keep putting these old clothes back on, we think that it is also up to us to “do good” to be able to remove these old sins and faults.

Listen to how Lucado sums this up on page 83:

Welcome to the vest system.  Hard to hide it.  Harder still to discard it.  But we work at doing so.  Emphasis on the word “work”.  Overcome bad deeds with good ones.  Offset bad choices with godly ones, stupid moves with righteous ones.  But the vest removal process is flawed.  No one knows what work to do or how long to do it.

When we really understand the message of the Bible as it speaks about how we are all flawed and sinful people (see Romans 3:23), we also come to realize that there is nothing that we can do to fix this and become righteous people in God’s sight.  That is the bad news.  But the good news is that we don’t have to “do” anything, besides accept Christ and His death to be our substitution for the penalty for sin (see Romans 6:23).

    

Hooray!  Wonderful!!  We can’t take off our dirty rags of sin, but Jesus can!!!  That’s great news.  And it gets even better.  Lucado says on page 87:

You can remove your vest.  Toss the thing in a trash barrel, and set it on fire.  You need never wear it again.  Does better news exist?  Actually, yes.  There is more.  We not only remove our vest; we put on His!  He is “our righteousness”  (1 Corinthians 1:30).

How incredible and amazing is God’s love!  When we were sinners, God still loved us (see Romans 5:8), but as a holy God, He could not bear to look at us in our state of sinfulness.  If that were the end of the story, then God would have to leave us abandoned and forsaken, something that happens all too often in families today.

But as Jesus was dying on the cross, not for any crime or sin that He had committed, He took our sins upon himself (read Isaiah 53:12) and exchanged his robes of righteousness with us so that we could be considered holy by God.  In that brief but climactic moment before Jesus died, as He carried all of our sins to the grave, He exclaimed “God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Jesus allowed himself to be forsaken at that moment in order that we might no longer be forsaken by God.

    

At that moment, we passed out from under the curse of sin and death and entered into the light and life of God.  As I said near the beginning of this article, this life definitely refers to the gift of eternal spiritual life with God as people freed from captivity to sin.  But Scripture also promises us so much more richness of life while we are still living on this earth.

Perhaps the word that can sum it up best is the word “freedom”.  By placing our lives under the authority of Christ, He releases us so that we are free from sin, free from the power of Satan, and even free from self as we are so apt to keep ourselves bound to our old habits and behaviours that trip us up and end up creating more misery in our lives.

    

Once we embrace all of this, then we can truly live.  We will live to love our neighbour, to love our God, and even properly learn how to love and forgive ourselves.  It is at this point that we will then begin to really experience great family lives, great marriages, and great friendships with others.  At this point, we will be content and even prosper in our businesses and careers in life, because God’s blessings will be upon us.

And then when the end of our lives do come, we will graduate from a great life here to a fabulous life there.  As Lucado says, our names will be “written in the Book of the Lamb.  Not in pencil marks that can be erased, but with blood that will not be removed.  No need to keep God happy; He is satisfied.  No need to pay the price; Jesus paid it ALL!

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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