Wednesday, April 29, 2015

God in Residence (John 14:21-24)

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:21–24, ESV)

In verse 11 Jesus said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:11, ESV) Jesus was speaking to His disciples and telling them to believe that He and the Father are one, but if they could not grasp it, wrap their minds around it, or settle it in their own minds then at least look to the works and believe on account of the works. He had said before that the works were to proof of Him being sent by the Father. The works testified to His words affirming that He truly was who He said He was. And now He tells them that just as He did what the Father wanted because of His love for the Father, so were they to keep His words because of their love for Him.

John records for us several statements of the Father’s love for Jesus. In John 3:35 it is John the Baptist testifying to the Father’s love with these words, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35, ESV) In chapter 5 Jesus spoke of the Father’s love for Him personally and in this said, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:20, ESV) Because of the love which the Father has for the Son the Father showed Him all that He was doing and was even going to demonstrate greater things through Him. And then in chapter 10 Jesus spoke of the ultimate or greatest act that the Son was sent to do, which was to lay down His life and then take it back up again so that man might be given his. “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17, ESV)

Clearly Jesus established that people who love do for those they love. And just as the Father loved the Son, so would He love anyone who loves the Son. And beyond that the Son would also love them and even manifest Himself to them. Those who do not believe will not see the Son after His death and burial, but those who love Him He would show Himself to them. One of the remaining disciples who also was named Judas, but not the Judas who had already left, spoke up and asked Jesus how could it be that He would be able to show Himself to some and keep others from seeing Him.

In His response Jesus paralleled what He had already about the relationship He had with the Father. Jesus had said that He demonstrated His love for the Father by doing what the Father willed and that the Father loved Him and was with Him. In a unique way Jesus is one with God. The Father in Him and He in the Father. When it came to His followers Jesus said that those who loved Him as demonstrated by their obedience the Father would also love and “We”—Father, Son, and Spirit would come to them and make Their home with them. In the next verses we will read again about the coming of the Spirit, and particularly Jesus saying that through the coming of the Spirit that God—Father, Son, and Spirt—“WE” would indeed come and dwell in believers. In contrast to this Jesus also said that those who do not love Him will also prove it by their actions—their lack of obedience.

And just as Jesus had said all along these words were not His own, they were the words of the Father and they were totally trustworthy. “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5, ESV)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pie Aren’t Square – Pie Are Round (Malachi 3:6a; James 1:17)

“For I the LORD do not change….” (Malachi 3:6a, ESV)

Last night Robin and I had the privilege along with our kids of eating dinner with a group of our brothers and sisters in Christ (other Christians). At the table were several math teachers. When it came time to ask about dessert our daughter (Beth) chimed in that she would like some. To this we offered to get her some for later, which we did and even stopped to enjoy on our way home. Where we were was a place known for its desserts, and when the question was asked one of those at the table made the comment that you can’t square pie (pi or π), which is a math joke based upon mathematical definition. In response, one from my family (I don’t know which one exactly) responded by asking if they knew the square root of pi (π). No one came up with an answer, and the conversation moved on.

This morning, while in my shower where I often think of strange things, including illustrations, I thought again of this conversation. Following is a note that I sent to one of those at the table. I have included it as a response and have not reworded it really for sake of time but also to keep it in context.

“I know we had some mathematicians at our table last night and one of my family threw out the question about the square root of π in response to a statement about squaring π as being something that we cannot do. For me, mathematics did not make sense until I took calculus and moved from memorizing a bunch of formulas to understanding how these formulas were derived, and that when it comes from curves they could only find their answers in accepting some constants that could not be fully defined and using approximations which bring you close but never get you there.

I quickly thought about going further with it, but decided not to. But as I sat thinking about it this morning I realized where there was a gap between the understanding of a child and the understanding of the educated mind.

By definition π is an irrational or transcendent number. It cannot be represented accurately in fractional form, nor is it the root of others. By definition, based upon observation and calculation, it is a constant—a non-varying existent number which can never be fully represented even with the best computers which man has invented. It goes on and on and on without end or ever repeating itself in an endless cycle of numbers. It is totally unique to itself as is another famous constant e (Euler’s number or constant used in logarithmic equations).

[In response] a mathematician will resort to [this] definition and base all of his assumptions on [the] definition leading to the fact that [no] product of that number cannot accurately be [deduced] either. This would make deriving a square root impossible just as it would make squaring a circle impossible because you can always go a step further.

But from a child’s or non-mathematician viewpoint there is a limit to the number. It only extends as far as they can know it and as such they then can square or even square root that number. In doing this they remove the irrational and make it seemingly rational. They remove the transcendence and make it something they can wrap their hands around. And having reduced it to a limited number which they can plug it into their calculators, and using limited decimal spaces they can then manipulate it. Thus where the mathematician would say by definition that there can be no square root of π the non-mathematician would say that 1.772 is close enough for them.

In a sense isn’t what the non-mathematician does with π similar to what man does with our God who he does not understand. Sure they might make some sense out of it that they can work with, but in the end they have done nothing more than taken that which they cannot fully see and rationalized it into that which they can see, after all their calculators let them do it. And on an opposite side, there are also those who because they cannot fully grasp the limitless nature of something kept them always questioning. In that sense I am glad that at some point in time men discovered constants, and because of those constants he could move forward. He doesn’t have to fully grasp them though much has been revealed. He doesn’t have to know their exact end but trust that the results are dependable. He can move forward knowing that some things do not change, and because of that he finds stability.

I am so thankful that our constant is not found in a number, but in our God who created everything and even demonstrated for us in His creation that some things just have to be accepted as true for things to make sense."

“For I the LORD do not change….” (Malachi 3:6a, ESV)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:16–20, ESV)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Adopted and Loved (John 14:18-21)

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you. Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”” (John 14:18–21, ESV)

Before Jesus’ death and burial He could be seen by everyone, but after His resurrection He was seen by those who believed. He promised His believers that He would not leave them alone—as orphans, but would return to them. What they did not anticipate was that once He was placed in the grave was that they would in just a few days see Him as the resurrected Christ, but they did. Jesus made a promise and He kept it. The big difference is that after His resurrection He made Himself known only to believers, and from that point forward it would be settled that because He lives they were to live also.

He had told them that if they had seen the Him they had seen the Father, and knowing Him they knew the Father. Upon His resurrection they would know without a doubt that He indeed was (and is) in the Father and the Father in Him. He would prove Himself to be more than a man and to be fully God. And beyond that because of their belief they would also know Him in a new way. Rather than walking alongside Jesus they would be walking with Christ in them. When the Spirit comes they would be filled forever, as He had just said, with the very presence of God.

Jesus had already established that the commandments were summed up in two things—love God and love others. Those who have these commandments and lives in accordance with them demonstrates his love for Christ. And those, Jesus said, who love Him will be loved by the Father. And beyond that Jesus would love them in return and manifest Himself to them. He already spoke about Himself being manifest in believers when the Spirit comes, and this surely would happen to His disciples and every single person who believes in Him from that point forward.

When I think of them not being orphans I think of being left alone without parents. Prior to our trusting in Christ the Bible says that we are slaves to our Father the devil. Speaking to the Jewish leadership in John 8:44 Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, ESV) In contrast to that Paul wrote in Romans 8:14-15, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:14–15, ESV)

What an incredible contrast. When we trust in Jesus Christ and are saved we are moved from one family apart from God and adopted into His forever family, destined to be with Him forever. Jesus surely did return to them with His resurrection and He surely has taken all who have died as beloved children of God to be with Him for eternity. This is the certain hope that we all possess, not because of works that we do, but because of the love of God show to us such that we believe, are saved, and are then called to reciprocate in loving Him and others just as He loved us.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Help is Around the Corner (John 14:16-17)

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

In these verses and the ones that follow we clearly see the fullness of the Trinity present. Jesus had said that He was returning to the Father, and here we read that He will ask the Father to send another Helper. This other helper is not a spirified Jesus coming back to help them in some special way. He was asking the Father for another Helper, and this Helper unlike Jesus would soon return to the Father would be with them forever, and this Helper is the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity being fully God. The Spirit has been God from eternity past and is fully and eternally God. Up until that point the Spirit was always present with man, but not given to dwell in all believers.

In this passage we see the word “Him” to speak of the Spirit and this can give us a clue as how to refer to the Spirit in pronoun form, but the Greek word translated Him is the word “autos” which is used to speak of a separate and distinct individual. We can see this in the root of our word “autonomous” or acting independently. But unlike our word “autonomous” the Spirit like the Father and the Son never work independently. While they are on one way looked at individually as God they are also clearly spoken of as fully One as God. All three are God, but the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father.  This is how Scripture declares it to be.

Jesus was returning to the Father and the Father was sending the Spirit to continue that which Jesus put in place by laying down His life and taking it back up again. Having done this all that believe are saved, and as Jesus said and John commented on in John 7:38-39, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:38–39, ESV)

Jesus was soon to be glorified and the Spirit was soon to come in a full and different way, and the only ones who would know the Spirit are those who are saved.  The world would not see the Spirit or be able to receive the Spirit. The Spirit was only being sent to those who believe. Up until that time the disciples had known of the Spirit and they had even experienced the working of the Spirit. We read throughout Scripture that followers of God had been filled with the Spirit, but what Jesus was telling them was there was soon going to be a time where the Spirit would be in them and the Spirit would remain.

And the most incredible thing is that those works that Jesus said that they were going to do which were to be greater than His, the Spirit was going to help them accomplish. There are many terms used to refer to the Spirit, but here Jesus uses the term “Helper.” It is the Greek word “parakletos” and it is variously translated as “helper” and “comforter” or someone called to one’s side. And in reference to Jesus it is even translated “advocate.” The disciples were not to do this alone. Jesus was going to be with them through the inner-working power of the Spirit.

We also read that the Spirit was the Spirit of truth. There was much that the disciples did not know and could not grasp. They did not even fully comprehend what He was telling them as we saw by the question of Philip a few verses back. But when the Spirit comes the Spirit was going to guide them in all truth. Just as Jesus spoke the words given to Him by the Father, so would the Spirit. Later in chapter 16 of John Jesus would tell His disciples, ““I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12–15, ESV)

Later in this current chapter (14) we read that the things Jesus was saying to them the Spirit would even bring to their remembrance. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV)

Our God is so awesome. He did not send His Son to save us and leave us to fend for ourselves trying to muscle things through for Him until we die and join Him in His presence. He gave us life at the time of our salvation, and He gave us His Spirit to be fully in us to equip, enable, and empower us for His service so that we might be an incredible part of the greater works that Jesus left to be accomplished.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To God be the Glory (John 14:12-15)

““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:12–15, ESV)

Jesus just finished telling His disciples that if they had a problem believing or understanding how He and the Father could be one, then they should at least look to the works and believe. If what He had said did not make sense and they could not grasp it, then look to the works and know from them that He really was who He said He was and trust Him that what He had to say was absolutely trustworthy. Having said this He then spoke to them with another “Truly, truly” statement that whoever (or everyone) who believes in Him would also do the works that He had done. Then He stepped it up by saying that what they were going to do was even going to exceed what He had done.

Of course, not one of them could perfectly pay the penalty for man’s sin, nor would they perform many of the miraculous signs that attested to Him being truly sent by the Father, though many would die for Him. When we look to the purpose for which He was sent, which was to save the lost, we can easily see that His disciples were on the beginning front lines. Within two months we would read in Scripture that Peter spoke to the people on the day of Pentecost and over three thousand souls were added that day (Acts 2:41). In Acts 4:4 we read that the number of men alone who had come to believe came to about 5,000 (not including women and children), and as we read elsewhere in the New Testament is was not uncommon for a whole household to come to believe when the husband came to believe. This was also true in the case of Lydia when she believed as well (Acts 16:15). We could readily see that within a short period of time that the number of believers could easily have grown from a small number to 15,000 and more. And from these numbers and the addition of another apostle (Paul) the gospel would continue to spread to the whole world. Truly they were left to be God’s instruments in bringing these things to pass. Never would any of them exceed the righteousness of Christ or approach Him in essence as God become man, but they indeed would be used to reach out into the world as incredible vessels of God used for His service.

The why? Jesus told them that they were going to do this because He was going to return to the Father, and we will see in a few verses when He did this the Father was soon going to send the Spirit as the supernatural enabler to work through man to make this happen.

But what were they (or we) to do on their part? Jesus had first told them to believe. Next He told them to ask. What they were to do was to ask Him and He would do it. This is a pretty bold statement. By answering these prayers of His disciples Jesus was going to not only continue the work He was sent to do, but He was going to glorify the Father in the process. Jesus said over and over again that His objective was that the Father might be glorified. Even here in saying that He would answer the prayers of His disciples, He again affirms that the purpose is that the Father might be glorified. Truly the objective of the Son whether here or in the presence of the Father is to glorify the Father. As Jesus brought to completion the purpose for which He was sent in obedience to the will of the Father, the Father was glorified in Him.

What were they to do? They were to believe Him, ask Him, and then obey Him. Jesus went on to say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Because of His great love for them He promised to answer their prayers in the process of the work He left them to do. And to demonstrate their love for Him in return, they were to obey Him. This did not mean jumping through all of the religious hoops that they had been trained to do as Jewish men, but it meant following after Him fully in obedience to His will. And though it was going to be tough, Jesus did not make what they were to do that complicated, even assuring them of victory in the end.

Later John would write to all believers what He learned from Jesus, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1–5, ESV)

Continuing on a few verses later John added, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:13–15, ESV)

Jesus may have been speaking directly to His disciples on that night, but what he told them was not just for them. John tells all of us that we are left to do the works that Jesus came to see completed. We are called to believe that He will do them in and through us. We are expected to ask Him for those things, and then we are to step out trusting that He will do as He promised. This is the promise mad to those who love Him and who are committed to doing His will. He will do His will through us and in this God will be glorified.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

“Believe Me” (John 14:7-11)

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:7–11, ESV)

In verse 6 Jesus told His disciples that He was the way to the Father. Continuing on He added that to know Him was to know the Father also. It again is one of His statements of truly “like father like son.” Before taking on the form of man Jesus was eternally present with the Father and completely one with the Father as well as with the Spirit. The three are uniquely one as God.

Their oneness truly is unique. My name has a “Junior” on the end of it. I was named after my father, and while both my father and my mother shaped who I am, I am neither of them. Looking at me might shed light on them, but no one would really be able to say that they know them because they know me.  And now that they have passed into eternity people can only see but a shadow of them in me. This is not true of Jesus. He is the perfect representation of the Father. There is no difference in their heart, attitudes, judgment, presence, knowledge of anything else. They are eternally and absolutely one existing in three persons.

Reading Philip’s response we almost have to ask if he was even listening. Jesus had just finished saying that having seen Him they had seen the Father and know the Father. To this Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Philip, Philip, Philip. All the time they spent together and Philip still did not get that Jesus was sent by the Father as His full and perfect representative. He was God become man living with them, and in living with them they had grown to know God. Jesus restated to them that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father, and then He questioned Philip about how He could possibly ask such a question.

At the heart of this question had to be a remaining core of confusion indicating that His disciple still did not know who He was. They did not fully grasp that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. They truly are one and there is no separating them. One does not exist apart from the other, and one did not come from the other. They are fully and eternally one.

Then Jesus went on to tell them (again) that none of what He said or did was of His own initiative, but was what the Father who dwells in Him does. It is so easy to think of Jesus as a man come from God. It is even easy to think of Him as God becoming man and having a close relationship with the Father who sent Him. But grasping fully how the Father was in Him and He was in the Father while He was in the form of man is simply something that we have to trust is true because God said it is so. Jesus, being fully man, never ceased to be fully God, and the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit was a constant and inseparable oneness. This is almost the last appeal Jesus makes on this issue. To them He said “believe Me,” and then He finished His appeal by saying that if “believe Me” was not adequate at least believe on account of the works He had done.

I don’t believe that their lack of belief was a lack of trust in His integrity or them thinking that He didn’t know what He was talking about. Rather, it appears that they truly did not comprehend yet what He had been telling them, and based upon their lack of comprehension of His words He told them to at least look at the works and believe. Believe is an awesome thing that we have been given. It is that ability from God to take something that we may not fully understand and accept it to be true. This does not make us ignorant or simple, but people who have come to trust in God who has proven Himself to be true even to the things we may not fully grasp; that remain mysteries in some way.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Do You Know The Way? (John 14:4-6)

“And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”” (John 14:4–6, ESV)

During Spring Break this year we took our kids out for a special day at the end of the week. We told them we were going to be outside so dress appropriately, but we did not tell them where we were going. Of course, one of them guessed but we didn’t confirm the correctness of his guess right away. We were just asking them to join us for a fun time. We knew where we were going and all they had to do was trust us, get in the car and come along. This is what I thought of when I read the passage for today.

Jesus told His disciples that they knew the way to where He was going. To this Thomas took replied that he didn’t even know where Jesus was going, so how could he possibly know the way. If you don’t know where you are going then how can you know how to get there? This seems like a reasonable response, and Thomas said just that. Not knowing the destination he could not possibly know the way.

Looking to the destination first, Jesus had said many times that He had come from the Father who was in heaven and that He was going to return to Him. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 Jesus taught them how to pray, beginning, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9, NASB95) Jesus in this prayer and elsewhere declared that the Father was in heaven, and they clearly knew this. There was no doubt. This was not new news to them. Neither was it new to them that Jesus was preparing to return to the Father. But though He had spoken of it they still weren’t grasping it. They were, as Thomas indicates, still looking to Him leaving their presence but not leaving this earth, and they did not know to where. This place that He was going to in order to prepare it for them was unknown, and as such they did not know the way to get there. They were lost.

To this Jesus responded with another one of those popular memory verses—His sixth “I Am” statement in John. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV) Thomas said that He did not know the way, and Jesus replied telling His disciples that He was that way. He was the way; the only way. They did not need to know every step along the path. They did not need to know every hurdle they would have to cross. They did not need to know how long it was, or anything else about the journey. What they needed to know is that the way to heaven, the way to be with Him and the Father was simply to trust Him. He was going to get them there, and He would not lose a single one of them. He is the Way.

Jesus not only said that He is the way, He also said that he is the truth. I sometimes joke with my kids saying that we are going to “The Bologna Palace” or “to the moon” when I don’t want to tell them where we are going. They know that I know where we are going, that I am not going to tell them, and they just have to trust me to get them there. Jesus declared that He is the truth. He is perfect truth. He, as we read in John 1, is the Word and we read in Scripture that God’s Word is truth. There is no shadow of lie or any deception in Him. He is perfectly the truth, and as the truth He is going to do exactly what He says—no exceptions. When I give my kids one of these answers I am saying, “Just trust me,” and generally it works out just as intended. With Jesus it is an absolute guarantee that He will bring things to pass exactly as He said. He is the Truth.

And beyond that, He is also the Life. There is life in no other name. He is the One sent by the Father to make man spiritually alive and give Him eternal life. What He was about to finish for them would seal this for all eternity. He was sent to give life, and He was hours away from accomplishing it. No amount of works or anything else that man can do will gain anyone access to the Father. The only way to the Father is through Him who is Life.

Thomas did not need to know the details of the trip. He needed to know who it was that was going to get Him there, and He did. He may not have recognized it yet, but He knew the way and it would not be too long before he was being presented with the risen Way’s nailed pierced hands and sword pierced side. Then He would say, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28, ESV)

As we move into Acts and Saul is searching out believers for persecution we read, “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:1–5, ESV)

Interestingly as Jesus told His disciples on that last night that He was “the way,” we read that before becoming known as Christians in Antioch in Acts 11, that they were first known for belonging to “the Way.” It is right after this that Saul is confronted by the Way Himself and Saul believes.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Plenty of Rooms (John 14:1-3)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3, ESV)

An amazing thing about many believers who face certain and near death is that they are able to do so with a good amount of peace. The reason they are able to do this is that the Spirit has given them rest as they trust in the greater promise of God’s faithfulness to bring them from their frail existence into His glorious presence. For them they realize that this is not the end, but really the realization of the great hope in which they lived. When people surround these believers in these moments they soon realize that rather than comforting them that they themselves are the ones being comforted.

Here Jesus told His disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. Sure He was soon going to go through a very intense time leading to His death on a cross and Him taking on the incredible burden of the sins of mankind. It was going to Him being forsaken by God the Father in a way that only God the Son could understand as He became sin for all of us. But beyond that He already knew that He also was going to take His life back up again and return to the Father who sent Him. He was going back home. And rather than being emotionally overwhelmed by the sheer weight of what was soon to happen, He looked past that to the other side and because of that He was able to comfort His disciples who were with Him.

His disciples believed in God, and here Jesus is telling them again to trust what God had said and believe in Him as God become man for them. If they had their hope in God then they could also find hope in His words. From there He told them that when the “now” comes which He referred to in the previous verses and the afterward had arrived that they would join Him in a place which He was preparing especially for them.

This is quite a contrast to how Jesus came into the world. As a baby who was born in some undisclosed location or structure and laid in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. His parents had gone to Bethlehem as they had been required to register for the census, and when they arrived there were no available rooms so Mary gave birth to her son in the only place they could find and laid their newborn son in a manger, which was a feeding trough for animals. Jesus came into the world without a room to be born in, and in leaving this world He assured His disciples that they would have one prepared for them. Unlike the ways of man, God worked differently and God was able to take care of every single one of them.

What an amazing thought to know that when Jesus the Christ left His disciples behind He left them with the assurance that He was leaving to prepare a place for them. And beyond that He left them with the assurance that He would not leave them blind to find their way there. He would in fact take them there to be with Him. And they are left with assurance that this is where they would remain for all eternity. Jesus said that where He was there we would be also. Sure, this was specifically said to His disciples to whom He was speaking in the Upper Room on that last night, but this is a truth that we read in the Bible to be for all who believe.

Unlike one faith system around today that holds that there will be exactly 144,000 who go to heaven to rule with Christ, the Bible assures us that with God there is no such limit. In fact, we read that while many will perish, Christ’s shed blood was without limit in its adequacy to cover the sins of man. It is not about hitting this magic number and then being done even though God does know the time when Christ will return in the clouds to take up His church and God does know the time when Christ will return to the Mount of Olives to restore Israel. God knows everyone who is saved throughout time, and He has room for every one of them. He has room for me and He has room for you.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–5, ESV)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Promise of Afterward (John 13:36-38)

“Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:36–38, ESV)

Jesus had said previously that He was going to leave and when He does that no one would be able to find Him. The Jews, not knowing what He meant, wondered where He thought He could escape to that He would be unfindable. His disciples had been told in many ways that His time was close and that He was going to return to the Father, and do so without them, but they didn’t get it. Here Peter asks Jesus where He was going as Jesus had just told them again what He had told the Jews. “Where I am going you cannot come.”

This time in responding to Peter He added one very important word, “Now.” Jesus did not say that they could not follow Him EVER, but for NOW they couldn’t. For a season, which we know varied with each of them, they were going to remain before ultimately joining Him. Jesus affirmed this by adding, “but you will follow Me afterward.” Of course, He did not mean a day or an hour later, but later in the sense that each of them had yet to die and enter His presence. This is how the transition was going to be made. On the day that they stepped out of their bodies they would step into His presence. Some like John would have a long time to wait, dying over sixty years later.

Peter would not settle for a not now answer. He pushed Jesus as to why He could not follow Him right then. He insisted that He indeed was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. He would be right there with Him in whatever He had to encounter or endure. There was nothing that Peter would not face for Jesus, according to Peter. But Jesus knew better. He answered Peter asking if he really would lay down his life for Him, and without giving Peter a chance to respond with a, “Surely I would,” Jesus told Him that before morning came he would have already denied Him three times.

Knowing that Peter was going to do this Jesus did not give up on Peter or any of the remaining disciples. But specifically responding to Peter with this knowledge Jesus told Peter that even his denials would not disqualify him, but that he would follow Jesus afterward. And according to tradition Peter would indeed be put to death for his faith about thirty five years later. 

Near the end of his life Peter wrote about the path that he had followed in serving Christ. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16–21, ESV)

Peter stood as strong at the end as on the day of Pentecost when he witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit and 5,000 people being added to their numbers. He restated that he was there. Everything about Jesus is true, and that no one who spoke for God did so of his own invention, but as each of them were moved by the Holy Spirit. Everything that Scripture had to say was true and he had seen it confirmed in so many ways.

Peter had lived many years with the promise that he would follow Jesus and that he would go after Him. In all of those years he did not lose hope or wonder if he got it wrong. He trusted that God had that timing in His hands and that He would do just as He said. In chapter 2 of his last letter he wrote not about his own impending death, but the hope of all believers that the Lord would return to take all believers with Him. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:8–10, ESV)

Consider the last words of Peter after having followed Christ in hope for so many years. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,” … “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:14-125, 18, ESV)

Peter lived with the confidence that there truly is an “afterward”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A New Commandment (John 13:31-35)

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:31–35, ESV)

I have many favorite passages in Scripture, and two of the verses in today’s reading are near the top of the list. Jesus had said that He is the light of the world while He was in the world. He had also said that He was going to leave, and that they light would shine through us as cities on a hill whose light cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). After Satan entered Judas and Judas left on this last evening with His disciples, Jesus turned His attention from the betrayer to the finished work. His reason from coming was firmly established and the last piece of the puzzle was put in place. All that was left was for it to fully unfold.

Jesus was looking past these last events to the final result when He takes His life back up again and returns to the Father having done what He was sent to do. In His faithfulness as the Son of Man, the Son of God was going to return to the Father and be glorified by Him. And in doing perfectly what He was sent to do the Father was glorified in Him. The fullness of God was going to be fully glorified by the finished work of Christ, and this was going to happen immediately. There would be no delay.

Having said this to His disciples, Jesus then turned His attention to them and what they were to do after His leaving. First, He told them that they would look for Him, and just like He told the Jews they would not be able to find Him. In the beginning of Acts we read that they were to soon stand and watch Him ascend into the clouds returning to heaven. It was then that they were told by two men in white robes to not stand there and look, for He was gone for now. He would return in the same way, but not right now. Jesus told them that they would not find Him, and surely enough that time soon came when they could not find Him because He physically returned to the Father, resurrected body and all.

And when He left they could not go with Him. They would have to remain, each for his own prescribed time.  This meant that they then had to move forward from that point, and it is here that Jesus gives them the most basic instructions we could ever imagine. He took all of the Scriptures and boiled them down into one straightforward instruction. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus, said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV) Speaking of them as lights on a hill or lamps on a stand, Jesus told them to let their lights shine so that people might see Christ in them as they tangibly demonstrate His love resulting in God being glorified in them. From there He went on to say that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but that every word would be fulfilled in Him. This moment in John is when Jesus is telling them that these things had been fulfilled. He was looking past the cross to the finished work on the other side, and looking at the work He truly would be able to say, “It is finished.”

Now, having brought all of these to completion He summarized how they were then supposed to live. They were to love one another just as He had loved them. How did He love them? He gave them everything. He laid down His life for them. He fed them of His bread even knowing that one of them would betray Him. And through His resurrection He gave them life. He told His disciples that in this way they were to love each other, and in loving them an amazing thing would happen. As the world looked on and saw the love they visibly demonstrated for each other they would know that they are His disciples.

As the world sees us live like Christ, the world is given an opportunity to see Christ in us. And when they world sees this we have a prime opportunity to tell them what it is that makes the difference. As Christians sharing Christ is more than speaking words or doing actions, it is combining them in such a way that people see, hear, understand, and respond. The real work is a work of the Spirit both in us as we live for Christ and in them as their eyes are opened. But God has chosen to make us an instrumental part of the process. We are these vessels with a great treasure inside that we are charged with giving to others.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bread Eating Betrayer Exposed (John 13:21-30)

“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (28) Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” (John 13:21–30, ESV)

Judas shared many meals with Jesus as had the rest of the disciples, and in that sense Jesus could have been talking about any of them in verse 18 when He said, “He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.” Any one of them might have at one time or another done something that Jesus could have possibly been speaking about. But Jesus made it clear that He was not speaking of small things. He went on to say that one of them would betray Him. After He said this all of the disciples looked at each other not being certain of who He was talking about. I can just imagine them looking around at each other wondering who it was and possibly what any of them might do. They simply didn’t know. They couldn’t imagine it.

So, Peter motioned to John who was reclining near Jesus in an effort to get him to ask who it was, and this is exactly what John did. “Lord, who is it?” Having already said that the one who ate His bread would be the one who betrayed Him, Jesus then told them that the one who would do this was the one to whom He would give a choice piece of bread. Jesus then dipped the piece and gave it to Judas who was the son of Simon Iscariot. We know that Judas had already entered into a deal to turn Jesus over when the devil put this into his heart (John 13:2), but now we read that after he had eaten the brad that Satan entered into him. Looking at Judas and knowing him to be possessed, Jesus told him and I suspect them, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

Satan possessed the one who would betray Jesus so that Jesus might be turned over in God’s perfect timing in order to give His life as the perfect sacrifice for sin. By His death, burial, and resurrection Satan was permanently defeated and his assured. Satan was probably rejoicing in bringing about the death of the Son of God, thinking that somehow he had won. But in reality, he was instrumental in the Father’s plan to bring about his own end. By faith men would no longer be slaves to sin. Satan would no longer be their master.

While all of this was going on the disciples remained clueless. They didn’t even get that Judas was going to betray Jesus. We read that when Jesus told him to go and do something quickly that He might have Been sending Judas, who had the moneybag, out to get something for the meal or possibly to give something to the poor. They had no clue that Jesus was sending Him out to do what the prophets had written hundreds of years in advance. Having been told to go, Judas left without any word that we know of. He left, and the next time they meet would be later that night in the garden when Judas betrays Him with a kiss.

While one was planning a betrayal and the others could not fathom it, Jesus knew exactly what was going on. He knew that the Father’s plan was being fulfilled just as intended, and that no matter how dark or devious things might seem God was still in control. Even Satan was powerless to change what God intended, and in fact was a willing pawn in His perfect plan. The reality is that the neither Satan nor any of his henchmen can do anything apart from God’s permission. God does not do evil, and He is sovereign over those who work evil. He establishes the framework. We saw this in Job when Satan was granted limited permission to afflict Job. We know this from the entirety of the teaching of Scripture.

Satan did not win that day. And in Christ he does not win in us. In Christ those who believe and were once dead in their trespasses and sins have been (done deal) made spiritually alive. God wins.