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Archive for February 2016 – Page 2

I Am the Door

January 24, 2015

18_the-sheepfoldMoses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:13-14)

God revealed Himself to Moses as “I Am.” Jesus Christ also identified Himself as “I Am.” The Jews were trying to embarrass Him by alluding to His virgin birth. They said to Him, “We know who our father is. It is Abraham. Who is your father?” Jesus blew them away with these words, “Your father Abraham saw my day and was glad.”

Their response was understandable. They answered, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answer was absolutely amazing. “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” He said that He existed before Abraham! He was exposing His true identity as the God-Man by making known His eternal nature (John 8:37-59).

Jesus used His I am identity to make clear seven of His most incredible characteristics. We saw in the previous blog that He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Looking further into His role as the Good Shepherd, we find this statement from His lips, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he shall be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Shepherds in Israel were different from those in the rest of the world. Each shepherd had only a small flock of sheep to care for. They did not use dogs to control their sheep; the shepherds took that responsibility themselves. A single shepherd cared for a flock of sheep throughout the sheep’s life. In time, the shepherd developed a special relationship with his sheep. Each sheep would be named and would come to recognize the voice of its’ owner. Jesus knows His sheep by name, and His sheep recognize His voice.

Shepherds would often pool their money and build a large sheepfold in a city to house their sheep. They would then hire a person, a hireling, to watch over the flock through the night. Though the hireling may sincerely care for the sheep, he did not care as much as the owner. If the sheep were threatened by danger from thieves or predators, the hireling may decide to abandon the sheep. The owner, on the other hand, would most likely stay and defend the sheep, even to death. Jesus claimed to be this kind of shepherd of His flock. He would lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:15).

When out in the countryside looking for pasture, the shepherd would build a temporary sheepfold for His sheep. He would use whatever materials were available. Sometimes the fence would be made of wood and rocks but most likely large rocks. The sheepfold would have a single door. This way the shepherd could count the sheep as they went in and out. During the night, the shepherd would sleep in the door. The shepherd would literally “become” the door. Any predator or thief would have to come through the shepherd to get to the sheep, and the sheep would have to come by the shepherd to get out. This way the sheep could be kept securely in the pen.

This gives deep meaning to the words of Christ, “I am the door of the sheepfold. He who believes in Me will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. He is the door that leads to eternal life. The believer entering through this Door will go into forever life and be protected and preserved by the Good Shepherd. Going out to find pasture means that the Good Shepherd will feed and nurture the believer eternally. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Door. All who enter by Him shall never want.

“They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 7:17).

Election: Navigating the Elephant in the Room

January 16, 2015

elephant-in-the-room-wip-leah-saulnier-the-painting-maniac“Dad, it’s the elephant in the room.” My son made a point that he felt was extremely obvious, but no one wanted to admit that they got it. That was the first time I remember hearing that expression. I have heard it many times since. The term refers to a question, problem, solution, or controversial issue which is obvious to everyone who knows about the situation, but which is deliberately ignored because to do otherwise would cause great embarrassment, or trigger arguments or is simply taboo.

It struck me that the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ are so very profound, yet they apparently go without notice. These truths become spiritual “elephants in the room.” I get the fact that His words – the words written in red in my Bible – are no more inspired by the Holy Spirit than those of Peter, Paul, James, and John. But I admit that His words weigh heavily upon this writer’s heart. This blog starts a short series on the seven “I Am’s of Jesus Christ.” In these “I Am” statements I want to look closely at some recognizably clear but painfully ignored statements (elephants in the room) of our Lord.

Why do people who hear the gospel reject the gospel? The short answer is that all are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin and the dead cannot hear.  Secondly, Satan blinds the minds of people to the truth contained in the gospel. Adam’s entire race is born dead and blind. It should be obvious that unless God works to allow His word to penetrate the mind of the dead by breaking the hold of Satan’s blindness, the person cannot hear and believe the gospel. The real reason why people do not believe comes from the lips of Jesus Christ.

Let’s visit our Lord’s “I am” found in John 10.  Jesus begins by identifying Himself in verse 11 as the Good Shepherd, “I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep.” This was in contrast to the hired helper that really does not own the sheep and would most likely not lay down his life for them (vs. 11-13). In verse 14 He repeats, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and I am known by My own.” How He knows His sheep or how they know Him, He does not say. Then in verses 27 and 28, He crystalizes this truth by a further explanation. The Good Shepherd uses the personal pronoun, “My sheep.”

He is plainly identifying a special group of people that He owns, a people branded as His own possession. This is obviously in contrast to some who are not His sheep. He continues, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.”  Again, He does not tell us how He knows His sheep or how His sheep hear His voice or how they know Him or how they follow Him, He just states that it is so. One has to work hard to misunderstand these words written in red. Amazingly, He then says that He gives these sheep, the ones whom He knows and the ones who follow Him, eternal life,  that they will never perish.

This forced me to ask a few questions. “When were these sheep His sheep? Did they become His sheep after they heard His voice and decided to follow Him? Or were they His sheep before they heard His voice and followed Him?” They belonged to Him before they followed Him and before He gave them eternal life. As far as we know, they were always His sheep. A group of Jews surrounded Jesus and demanded that He tell them if He was truly the Christ (John 10:24).  He strongly informed them, “I told you and you do not believe.”

Belief in Him is the subject. He said that the works that He had done were sufficient to convince anyone that He was the Christ. He was obviously referring to His amazing miracles. Verse 26 answers the question as to why people do not believe in Jesus Christ. “But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” This can’t be missed! It is so very clear. It is the elephant in the room. The Jews who rejected Jesus Christ rejected Him because they did not belong to Him. Those who belonged to Him believed! This is the reason people reject the gospel.

Ah, Jews, you say. Yes, He is speaking specifically here about Jews. Those coming to Him were Jewish sheep not Gentile. But in verse 16 He says, “And other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” These “other sheep,” which will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd are Gentile sheep.  Some Gentiles will hear His voice and come to Him. And then there will be one flock (made up of both Jews and Gentiles) and one shepherd. Who could miss this? It’s the elephant in the room.

Come and See

December 7, 2013

Continuing with the series on the the spoken words of Jesus Christ, the words written in red……

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had at their fingertips much information on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  At issue for each of them was what to include in the books we know as the Gospels. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Matthew assembled facts concerning Christ as King.  Christ’s words written in red in Matthew reflect that He is the sovereign one.  Mark emphasized Christ’s role as a suffering servant. The words of Christ in Mark bear this out.  Luke gathered info concerning Christ as the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity. Christ’s words in Luke confirm his humanity.  Lastly, John presented our Lord as the Son of God. Christ’ words in the gospel of John highlight the fact that He is God.

We will begin our look at the amazing Bible words written in red by combing through the gospel of John. The second person of the Trinity, the the Lord Jesus Christ, created this universe with His spoken word, fashioned Adam from the clay breathing His own life into him, and took on Himself a physical flesh and blood body.  He was born into this world via the womb of a young virgin named Mary. He grew to manhood and began His public ministry.

The first recorded words of Jesus Christ in John came immediately after John introduced Him as the Lamb of God (John 1:36).  Two potential disciples began to follow. Jesus asked them, “What do you seek?” He was asking them (and us) what they were seeking from Him. We need to ask that same question. What do we want from Christ? They responded by asking, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said simply, “Come and see.” This is His first recorded invitation. He wasn’t asking them to come to the house where He lived, but He was inviting them (and us) to come into His world and see amazing spiritual truths that would forever change their lives (and ours).

One of these followers was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  Andrew quickly went to his brother and told Him that he had found the Messiah. This gives us a simple but insightful way to begin to share our faith. We should take the news of our meeting Jesus Christ to our relatives first – those whom we love most. What an obvious place to start, right!  What are we to say? Our witness should be that we have found the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to do this is by sharing the gospel with them. Note what Andrew did next. Andrew found Peter, and he brought him to Jesus. That’s not complicated! We are likewise to bring our family members to Christ. We cannot make them believe in Him but we can bring them to Him, giving them the opportunity.

When Jesus saw Peter, He said, “You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas,” which is translated “A Stone.”  Christ’s deity immediately shines through. He called Peter by name. Peter must have been thrilled. It was only natural for the God-Man to recognize Peter; He created him. He had also fashioned all of Peter’s days before he was ever born (Psalm 139:16). He named him with the Aramaic name, Cephas, a rock. Peter was destined by the Christ to be one of the foundation blocks of the early church (Matthew 16:18). This should give us great confidence that God knows every believer intimately and has a special purpose for each.

The Lord Jesus spoke these simple words to Phillip: “Follow Me.” I believe that Christ said it simply and softly. In like manner, Jesus Christ calls every believer out from the world by the gospel to follow Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  His soft voice-print “Follow Me,” can be heard in the minds of those who heed His gospel and believe it.  Jesus Christ actually calls us to Himself by name (John 10:3).

Phillip thought of a friend – Nathaniel – found him and said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” The targets for our sharing our faith should be first family then friends. Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel knew the history of Nazareth in his day. It was a poor city and no one of any prominence could possibly come from there, surely.  Nathaniel at this point did not realize that Jesus Christ was going to focus in on the poor and helpless of the earth, not the wealthy or the strong.  Paul later would challenge the Corinthian church to take a look at the people sitting around them. They would recognize that the wise, strong, and those of nobility were in short supply. In fact, God has chosen those whom the world thinks are foolish, weak, and nobodies (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). The reason? So that God will receive all the praise for their salvation.

Phillip answered Nathaniel with the now familiar, “Come and see.” And did Nathaniel ever see! When Jesus saw Nathaniel walking up, He said to him, “Behold and Israelite in whom that is no guile.” Or more literally, Behold a son of Jacob (the name means deceiver because Jacob was) in whom there is no deceit (no deceit in Nathaniel). Jesus knew Nathaniel’s character. He knew him intimately. Nathaniel was astonished! He asked Jesus how He could possibly know Him. Jesus then flashed His ID card by saying, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathaniel began immediately connecting the dots. The fig tree was not in the area and yet Jesus had seen him? How was this possible? God is everywhere present, that’s how. Nathaniel responded: Teacher, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel. It’s really you! Wow!

Nathaniel was going to need special motivation to throw caution to the wind and share the gospel. For this reason, our Lord did not stop there. His written in red words continued to flow with amazing power.  “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. . . Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  Christ is saying, Nathaniel if you thought my reference to Jacob was amazing then listen to this.  You do remember Jacob’s ladder, don’t you? Do you recall when Jacob saw the angels coming down from heaven and going up into heaven? You shall see heaven open and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Jacob’s dream was a beautiful prophecy that one day God was going to come down to man and then go back again. Christ is telling Nathaniel that Jacob’s ladder was speaking of Him (Genesis 28:12). I’m the One, Nathaniel.  I’m that Ladder! Nathaniel – and we – should be sufficiently motivated. What amazing words! The ladder – the Lord Jesus Christ – is the way to heaven (John 14:6).  Allow the word of Christ to richly dwell in you!

Written in Red

November 15, 2013

?????????????????????????I have always been intrigued with the words written in red in my red-letter edition of the New Testament. These are, of course, the recorded words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. I realize, Biblically speaking, that His words are no more inspired of God than those written in black and are no more necessary to our Christian growth than those written by Paul, Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and all the rest.  But for some unexplained reason, I always slow down when I read the words of Jesus. I guess I unconsciously feel compelled to read them a little more carefully. This became even more pronounced as I grew in my understanding of the true identity of my beloved Savior. He is truly God manifest in human flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). He is the member of the Holy Trinity that created this entire universe, and He is the One who created me (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:1-2). It is understandable that one should be in awe of His creator.

Recently I was teaching once again the miraculous controlling ministry of God the Holy Spirit from Ephesians 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation (excess) but be (being) filled with the Holy Spirit.” What is the evidence that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is active in us? We will have a song in our heart. We will speak with other Christians in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and we will make melody in our hearts to the Lord. God gives us a song. Singing is followed by a thankful attitude toward God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and a submissive spirit toward one another motivated by an admiration of God (Eph. 5:19-20). The end game is a family relationship marked by submission, love, and respect (Eph. 5:21-6:9).

Colossians is almost a photocopy of Ephesians. A parallel passage to Ephesians 5:18 is Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Christ’s rich indwelling words from this passage produce the same result in us as the control of the Spirit in the previous passage. What are the results of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly? It results in our wisdom and our teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. What follows is a thankful heart to God the Father through Jesus Christ. And, as we would expect, strong family relationships result (Col. 3:17-25). The pattern is a perfect match.

There is no difference in effect between the controlling ministry of the Spirit and the indwelling word of Christ. Both produce exactly the same results in us. Is the “indwelling word of Christ” referring to the God-breathed words written in the entire Bible?  Most commentaries say that it is.  Or does Paul mean by “Christ’s word” that which He communicates to us by His special words written in red? Asked another way, could not the truth contained in what Christ teaches be referred to as “the word of Christ?”

I have memorized many of Christ’s recorded words.  I find myself meditating on them often. When visiting people in the hospital who are struggling with health problems – sometimes life and death issues – or people in nursing homes who are at times lonely, I am compelled by the Spirit of God to pray audibly the powerful words written in red in the Bible. Folks seem to be comforted by hearing them. I sense that these powerful words meet a need in the life of the hearer. I completely agree with the officer’s testimony who heard Jesus speak. “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).

The Final Witness

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March 4, 2013

We are thinking deep thoughts about those who die having never heard the gospel or even the name of Jesus. Are they still accountable to God for their sin? Will they stand shoulder to shoulder with all who have heard the gospel over and over and yet rejected it? The answer to both questions is “yes”? The “never heard” group is responsible because God has been faithful to reveal sufficient information as to His existence.

In our mock courtroom scene, the accused stand before God’s great judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. A plea of ignorance has been voiced, and the fairness of God’s character has been brought into question. Two witnesses, “Creation,” and “Conscience,” have given adequate proof that even those who have never heard the gospel have received adequate proof that God exists.

Now God’s final witness is called to the stand, “Continuous Care.” Paul and Barnabas are winding down their first church planting adventure in Asia Minor. Paul became aware of a crippled man’s need. He commanded the cripple to stand up.  Instantly upon obeying, he was healed! Amazing! The people who witnessed the miracle thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods. Paul’s answer gives voice to God’s witness of “Continuous Care.”

“We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17)

God has made His presence known through His faithful care of everyone – every nation and every language group – throughout all of human history.  God, through what we call “natural laws,” provides food and shelter for all. Year after year God makes the seasons available, both to those who believe and those will not believe in Him.

Jesus said, “It rains on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). In fact, many times the rain seems to fall more on those who do not believe than on those who do. Some attribute this activity to the work of “Mother Nature.” They say that it is all the product of natural evolutionary processes.  Others quietly recognize these faithful events as coming from the hand of a living God. Whatever position one holds doesn’t affect the changing of the seasons. God just faithfully keeps on giving. God feeds, shelters, and heals the bodies of every false cult, atheist, and every religious sect around the world and has done so for generations.

God’s continuous care becomes His voice to everyone – “I am here and I am not silent. My word says that I have loved you, and I have expressed that love through the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. I have made Him who knew no sin to become sin for you. If you will hear His message and believe in Jesus Christ, you will be saved.”

Regardless of what anyone ever does concerning the truth of Jesus Christ, God’s faithful witnesses continue to speak – His magnificent creation, His law placed in the heart, and His continuous care. They warn of a coming day when God will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He has given ample proof to all that He raised Him from the dead.