How To Know God

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John 14:1-14

1“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

                                

One of the wrong opinions about God is that there is only a limited amount of God and His blessings available to all people.  This idea has come in many forms.   The most obvious way is when a new religion (or even an old one) preaches the message that “there will only be a select few chosen who will get to Heaven (or Paradise), so make sure you are one of the ‘chosen ones'”.  And of course what they mean is, “Be obedient to what we tell you to do and you might be one of the fortunate ones.”

Many cults have been born out of this thinking.  And some of the world religions are not that different from this kind of teaching.  But when you boil it all down to the basics, these people are all preaching some kind of “works” salvation, which tells you all the rules and rituals you need to follow to be accepted by God into Heaven.

    

Unfortunately, I have met many Christians who also have a limited view of God.  They think of God and His blessings as being like a pie.  They say that there is a limit to God’s riches for us, so get what you can, or just accept that you didn’t get a bigger piece of the pie.  But this is just as far away from the truth as some of these cultic groups and their teachings.

Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel, But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  When we are a believer in Jesus, we can be refreshed and renewed every day in our spirits, and all who “drink of Jesus” will be granted eternal life.  That is why He is able to say in our passage today, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.”  All of us can go to be with Jesus and the Father in Heaven.

                                

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

                                

It must have been very frustrating for Jesus to have shared His life so intimately with His 12 disciples, and yet they still understood so little about Him on that night before He was to be crucified.  And I wonder if Jesus gets frustrated with many of us today, who have so many more resources available to us so that we can understand who He is, and what our role is to be within the Kingdom work being done right now here on earth.

When Jesus came to live among people, He revealed the very heart of God the Father to mankind.  And Jesus showed us all the kind of spiritual power and authority that is available to those who are the children of God.  What an amazing concept, to think that we as believers today could also perform the same kind of miracles that Jesus did, and even greater ones.  That is, if we truly have learned who God is, and what He can do in us and through us.

We must remember though, that miracles are not meant to draw attraction to themselves.  No, Jesus never performed miracles just so people could see miracles, or even to bring attention to Himself.  No, the miracles of God are always meant to bring people to a faith in God, and in His Son, Jesus.  That was true back then, and needs to be true still for us today.

As Matthew 5:16 so aptly put it, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

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The Best Ways To Honor Jesus

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John 12: 1 – 11

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

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In these opening verses of chapter 12, we see once again the many different ways in which people responded towards Jesus.  There are many characters in this story.  We have Jesus’ friends, which included Lazarus and his sisters.  We see a contrast between the two sisters in the actions they take.  We gain more insight into one of Jesus’ disciples, namely Judas Iscariot.  And finally, we read a little bit about the Jewish people and their religious leaders.  All of these characters respond differently to Jesus.

Starting from the end of the story, we read that many people were coming out to see Jesus, the miracle worker, the One who had raised Lazarus from the dead.  Some may have come simply out of curiosity, as word-of-mouth spread about how Jesus had resurrected a man from the grave.  Even so, this sense of wonder and curiosity led many of them to believe in Jesus, when they saw with their own eyes what Jesus had done.

This is in such contrast to the religious leaders.  They too had heard the stories about Jesus’ miraculous powers, but this did not lead them to seek for truth or bring them to a faith in Jesus.  No, they were reacting more out of jealousy, seeing that the people were rejecting their authority and going over to Jesus.  They saw Jesus as a threat to their religious structure and order which gave them such purpose and such power.  They were thinking of themselves, not of what God was doing through Jesus.

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Meanwhile, back at this house where the party to honor Jesus was happening, most of the people were quite content to sit and listen to Jesus.  And this is a good place to be, close to the One who had come from God and had demonstrated that God was working through Him.  But notice the differences between the two sisters.

This day was a great day, a day to honor Jesus, and what do we see Mary and Martha doing?  Martha was busy preparing and serving all the guests who had come.  Now someone might say, “Well, someone had to do this.”  But we have reason to believe that this party is not taking place in their home, for it talks about Lazarus being one of those “reclining (relaxing) at the tables”.  Most likely, they were guests also in someone else’s home.

We read elsewhere (in Luke 10:38-42) almost the same thing, that Martha was “distracted” by all the preparations, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and soaked in all that Jesus said.  Both sisters loved Jesus as a very dear friend, but one was working to please Jesus, while the other was pleasing Jesus by her pure heart and devotion towards Him.

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Not much needs to be said about the last person, Judas.  His statement of offense at Mary’s actions might have the appearance of putting others first, namely the poor people of that area.  But all he really cared about was himself, and taking advantage of the position he had as the treasurer of the group.  As John states through hindsight, Judas was just a thief.

And this begs the question for all of us.  What are we doing when we come to Jesus today?  What is the intent of our hearts?  Are we hard-hearted like the religious leaders who are more concerned about religions rituals and regulations, than meeting the One from God face-to-face?  Are we involved in a church just because of the position of power and authority we can obtain, and seek to get all we can for ourselves?

Are we “busy” as Christians, but not taking time to develop our relationship with Christ? Are we at least coming to the table to listen to what Jesus is teaching us?  That is good, but it must not stop just there.  Can we be like Mary and find that which is most precious to us and offer it up to Jesus?  There are many ways in which we can honor Jesus in our lives.  The best ways will always involve doing things for God and others that come at some cost to ourselves.  This will show God exactly where our heart is towards Him and His Son, Jesus.

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Jesus A Mere Man, Claimed To Be God!

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John 10:31 – 42

31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” 33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 

37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

39 Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. 40 He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. 41 And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” 42 And many who were there believed in Jesus.

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This is a very difficult passage to understand as there is so much going on here that is tied in together with the history and the theology of the Jewish people.  Take for example the reaction of the crowd in verse 31.  What in the world had Jesus done that prompted the people to pick up stones and want to kill him?  And we are not talking little pebbles here, but large stones as big as a grapefruit.  It wouldn’t take many of these to hit a man and kill him.

We must look back at the previous verse, where Jesus said in verse 30, “I and the Father are One.”  It was quickly understood by the Jews that Jesus was not talking about sharing the same purpose of God, but rather the very identity or being of God.  And that would go against one of their most sacred Scriptures of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the LORD of God, the LORD is one,” and the First Commandment of Exodus 20:2, “You shall have no other gods besides Me.”

Now if we look at the history of Israel after they came out of Egypt in the book of Exodus, we see that they were not very good about keeping these commandments, for they fell so easily into worshipping the many Canaanite gods when they took over the land of Palestine.  They eventually suffered deportation to Babylon and slavery for their polytheistic practices.

    

When they came back from the Exile seventy years later though, they became (for the most) a very devout, even fanatical, monotheistic people.  They had recognized that their worship of false gods had brought about their captivity.  So they would have been greatly opposed to anyone suggesting that any other person other than YHWH (the LORD) could be His equal and worthy of worship and obedience.

The people there had finally caught clearly what Jesus had been alluding to for some time, namely that He was talking about Himself as if He were in fact God.  That’s why they wanted to kill him.  Jesus quickly pointed out again, just like in our last passage, that the miracles that He had been doing should have been enough testimony to His divinity, or at least that God had sent Him to earth as His representative.

    

The people did not accept this though, so Jesus did something that was very Jewish in nature.  He used the Old Testament Scriptures to back up His claim.  This is explained well in “The Translator’s Handbook”:

to assume that Jesus is doing no more than claiming an equal status with the people addressed in that Psalm is to miss the entire point of the passage.  Jesus’ argument is, in fact, a typically rabbinical one by which the speaker argues from the lesser to the greater.

According to the rabbis, Psalm 82 was addressed to Israel when they received the Law at Mount Sinai.  Jesus’ argument proceeds in this way. If those persons who received God’s Law on Mount Sinai could be spoken of as “gods,” how much more can the one whom the Father has chosen and sent into the world claim to be “the Son of God.”

    

I believe that Jesus’ argument for his divinity is logically sound.  But we have to realize that a belief in Jesus as being an equal partner in the Godhead, such that He can say, “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father,” has to accepted at a faith level, and not just at an intellectual level.  There is so much about God, and His nature, that we will never really understand.  At least not until we get to eternity beyond this life.

The question is whether we can accept what Jesus claimed about Himself, or if we dismiss it from the beginning as impossible.  If we are open to consider His claims, then the rest of the story about Jesus’ life, His recorded miracles, the idea of being resurrected back from the dead, also become possible to us.

It is my belief that there is enough corroborating testimony and evidence that what Jesus claimed that He could and would do actually did happen as recorded in the Gospels.  And if He could perform acts (like the miracles, and especially His resurrection) that speak of divine powers, then I can accept His testimony about Himself, that He is in fact Divine.  What do you think?

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