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The Great Commission, #111

“Jesus came near and said to them, 

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Matthew 28:18-20

Well now. Red Letters is now done. We’ve traversed our way through Jesus’ acts and teachings. I’m quite aware that I have overlooked much of it. I just maybe lose some sleep over this.

But I rest in John 21:25–

” And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the book that would be written.”

John 21:25

“Authority” is the key.

The Greek means “freedom of choice,” or having “the power to make decisions.” Jesus alone has that right, if we’re to evangelize the world, it must be under his auspices. We need to remain dependent on him, and serve under his authority.

Very precise instructions are given.

  • Discipleship
  • Baptism
  • teaching them to observe
  • under command
  • his presense–right until the end.

Each of these is under his authority. He’s in full control of each believer, and commissions them to act on his behalf, and under his lordship. In a definite sense we don’t act apart of him–everything we do, all of our actions must reflect that truth.

Someone wiser than I reflected that we’ve essentially changed this to “the great omission.” Perhaps that’s true for many Christians–and churches. It’s easy to do, and often we alter the express command of Jesus into our own personal improvement plan.

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.”

   Charles Spurgeon

The adjustment is terribly subtle, and the enemy has his fingerprints all over it. His work makes perfect sense. Stop the Church at any price. Some suggest that we’ve become a cruise ship now, instead of a battleship. I think that a simple study of the history of the Church would back that up.

“Everything God does is love — even when we do not understand Him.”

   

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God’s Electricity, #110

“He also said to them, 

“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”

Luke 24:46-49, CSB (vv. 44-49)

His power is critical. These verses are packed full of really strong things. You can’t minimize any issue in this passage without damaging something that matters. I don’t intend to do that. For me, everything he says is crucial. I hope I won’t diminish anything that he has spoken to us.

  • There’s the issue of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We can’t minimize this. It’s the most astonishing event in history. It becomes our message.
  • There’s the critical need of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is something that needs to be heard. The whole world must understand what has happened, and how they must respond.
  • The disciples of Jesus know this, they understand, and they’re the witnesses of everything Jesus did. All that they saw and learned, isn’t for them, but for others.

But the real significance is becoming empowered from God. They must operate out of what God has promised to them. There’s power coming, God’s electricity is going to meet every circumstances they’ll face. People are going to be shocked by what’s going to happen.

They need to wait for Him though.

Power is coming–they need to hold on. They will witness, and testify about Jesus. They’re being sent, but not in their own strength or effort–but with the father’s power. The gift isn’t given for their enjoyment, but for his work.

The Holy Spirit is the electricity that gives the kingdom its power. Any substitute will mean failure, and weakness.

We operate only when we are filled with his Spirit. There’s going to be incredible obstacles, but we’ll have insurmountable power. The Word we preach must be done with his power, orders, authority. The message is one of repentance and forgiveness, a proclamation of spiritual deliverance. And it begins in an upper room in Jerusalem.

What will happen there will be forever known as Pentecost.

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His Amazing Breath, #107

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

John 20:21-23 (19-23)

This is the second “peace be with you” in this passage.) So why the duplication of this peace proclamation? The disciples are sequestered and scared in the upper room (v. 19; and Luke 24:36. Having peace is being emphasized–the disciples were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were undone by Jesus’ surprise visit.

Peace was definitely a precious commodity for them.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission to do, and they must be as ‘familiar’ with Jesus just as Jesus is with God. The disciples had followed him for three years–seeing incredible miracles, and hearing profound teaching, they’re ready, they just need power.

In track and field, there’s a relay race where a baton is passed from runner to runner, and maybe that’s how it’s working here? We see the same idea in John 17:18.

The baton has now been passed to the disciples.

The breath of the risen Jesus is necessary (and yes, he’s breathing.) What went down here, I don’t know exactly. But Jesus recognizes that his 12 followers will need this to do his work. Also, we might consider Adam in Genesis 2:7 where God’s breath brought him to life, which is pretty awesome when you think of the parallels.

The Holy Spirit is the energizing factor to do this new work.

The disciples were pretty much observers, but now they are to take up the ‘mantle’ of Jesus’ work. This is a definite duplication, which connects with the idea of one seed producing many others (John 12:24.) That’s how the Kingdom will come to people.

Verse 23 intrigues me. It seems that our life comes from the breath of Jesus. And it’s the Holy Spirit gives both power and the authority that’s needed to function like Jesus. We also now have the ability to pronounce forgiveness to the new believer, and yet that doesn’t seem a function of the Church today.

I wonder why this is so?

This entire passage as a doozy. It clearly declares the Churches new role as we follow in his footsteps. Disciples are to do exactly what Jesus does–with his breath and authority–filled with the Holy Spirit. If we neglect these things (it seems anyway) we’re going to fall flat on our face.

“The work of Jesus for His disciples on resurrection Sunday gives an ongoing pattern for His work among His people. Jesus wants to continue this fourfold ministry of assurancemission, the Holy Spirit and authority to His people today.”

From David Guzik’s website

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Go to My Brothers, #105

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

John 20:17-18, (context, vv. 11-18)

Some believe that somehow this ties into the holiness of Jesus and his need to ascend with God. This thought is that somehow Mary would defile him. I don’t believe this for a second. A much better idea is that Mary was so excited to see Jesus alive that she grabbed a hold of him and simply wouldn’t let go.

The risen Jesus was not a ghost, or a spirit.

He was solid, just like you and me. And he wasn’t Mary’s hallucination, delusion or some sort of wish-fulfillment. It was him–it’s Jesus. Yes, he was buried, everyone knew that. But now he was actually standing before her–very much alive.

“Go to my brothers” is quite profound when you think about it. There’s no superiority or condescending attitude to speak of. Rather he’s relating to his cowering and foolish followers who are hiding out as his brothers. They maybe in hiding, but he’s telling them that they needn’t be afraid.

“My Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” is wonderfully aware.

It’s funny, but this is the first time that he refers to them as his brothers, and the resurrection from the dead has changed everything. It’s interesting, but a brother relationship is even closer than a friend relationship. The disciple are now relating to Jesus in a new capacity. They’re now brothers–family.

Mary has been “commissioned” by Jesus.

She is now the first one to carry the Good News that the Lord has risen from the dead. The Jews didn’t recognize the testimony of a woman in their courts, but Jesus chose her. She’s been given the responsibility to carry the news to his followers. This is no small thing.

We see Mary announcing this to the disciples. The word “announcing” means she simply declared to them what she had just experienced. Perhaps that’s the essence of witnessing to others–we simply communicate what Jesus has done for us. Our testimony is a very powerful thing, (Rev. 12:11).

“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply.”

    Charles Wesley

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Mary Sees Him, #104

Mary Magdalene and an Empty Tomb

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 

“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”

John 20:14-15

Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.

It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.

But he’s alive!

Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!

The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.

“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”

     Frederick W. Robertson

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What is Truth?, #101

 “Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

“Jesus answered, “You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.””

“Pilate said, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out to the crowd again and said to them, “I find nothing against this man.”

John 18:37-38, NCV

Not only was Jesus on trial, but it seems the truth was too. “Truth” is mention three times in just two verses (again, for emphasis). Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor of Judea, meets with Jesus to make the determination if Jesus would be executed.

Truth seems to be a focus here. Jesus understands that he was sent to declare the truth to the people. He also states that those were called would be listeners, and these would respond positively to all the Jesus had been saying. Jesus clearly understood what he must do, it was the reason he was born.

Pilate is cynical, “What is truth.” He asks the question that even today is being considered. He thinks that truth has many variations, and none of them could be understood.

But Jesus pronounces that he is the King of truth, and to Pilate that was foolish. No one person, in his mind anyway, could be the sole source. He dismisses Jesus’ statements with a philosophical idea that things are relative, nothing can be understood with any degree of certainity.

Pilate very obviously believes in unbelief.

He seems to want to set Jesus free–from his balcony he points out Jesus’ innocence. He finds no reason that Jesus should die for these statements. We see him negotiating with the Jewish people. But the Pharisees have decided that Jesus must die, we see them stirring up the crowd.

To Pilate’s credit he tells them that Jesus is no revolutionary. He presents no danger to either Rome’s empire or Judea. Being pressured, he orders Jesus to be whipped. It was also the place where a crown of thorns was put on Jesus’ head (John 19:1-5).

He tries to negotiate once more.

But the people won’t listen. It was Passover, and there would be pilgrims in the city. Scripture tells us that they’re on the verge of rioting. They declare that anyone who supports Jesus must be an enemy of Caesar (John 19:12-16). Pilate finally acquiesces and orders Jesus to be executed. C.H. Spurgeon makes the following observation about Pilate:

“Oh, the daring of Pilate thus in the sight of God to commit murder and disclaim it. There is a strange mingling of cowardliness and courage about many men; they are afraid of a man, but not afraid of the eternal God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Pilate ceremoniously washes his hands over the whole thing. He seems disturbed by the whole incident (Matthew 27:24).

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

This is our calling–and this verse exhorts us to do this in order to learn holiness, and to follow him with a complete heart.

Tradition has it that Pilate does become a believer in Jesus some years later. He is martyred for his faith by being beheaded on orders by the emperor Caligula.

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The Interrogation, #100

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“If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 And they all said, “So You are the Son of God?” And He said to them, “You say correctly that I am.” 71 And then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth!”

Luke 22:67-71, NASB

The Sanhedrin thought they had him. Jesus mounts no defense in this particular trial. He is serene, quiet and very much in control. The interrogators tried 5-6 different questions, each purposefully designed to reveal Jesus’ guilt. We should remember, he was regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

This was regarded as a capital crime–a death penalty could be given. But the Law declares that a trial could only be held in the daylight. It was to be public, open to all Jewish men. And in cases like Jesus’, the evidence was to be offered on one day, and a verdict the following. It couldn’t be a “rush” to judgement.

They got there licks in even before the official arraignment before the high priest. Jesus is blindfolded, mocked and beaten, even before the trial began (Luke 22:63-65). All of this took place as soon as he was brought in from the Garden, even before he was charged with a crime!

The deck was definitely stacked against him. The blindfold seems to be a test of sorts, it was believed that the real Messiah would have the supernatural ability to discern his attackers, even while blindfolded. That explains much if it’s true. The spitting was pretty evil though (Mark 14:65).

In this passage Jesus carefully turns the tables on his interrogators. His reply is perfect–they are forced to examine their own hearts. When you put the Son of God on trial, you can expect to see things like this.

“Jesus warned them that though they sat in judgment of Him now, He would one day sit in judgment of them – and with a far more binding judgment.”

David Guzik’s Biblical Commentary

Jesus reply of “I am” carries significant meaning, and we see the impact it has on his captors. In verse 71, they now have the answer they’re looking for, and we sense that they’ve got the evidence in that response. It’s the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for.

The patience and endurance of Jesus amazes me.

He stands alone in the middle of accusations and after being mocked and beaten. In the Garden he states that at his word he can have “twelve legions of angels” ready to protect him (Matthew 26:53). This is profound–I consider not only his restraint, but also his steadfastness, his ability to press on no matter what.

He doesn’t crack or break under the pressure. He goes the distance. He patiently endures it all, and he did this for you and me. Now dear ones, that’s a very good thing.

“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.”

Hebrews 12:3

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My Kingdom, #98

 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:36

Jesus perfectly understood his kingdom. Three times in this one verse, Jesus uses the statement, “My kingdom.” Three times. Perhaps there is something here we should look at closer? Maybe?

First, Jesus tells Pilate that, yes, he was a king. Second, that this kingdom was not a political rival kingdom. Its boundaries were not physical ones–they’re spiritual, and Pilate and the emperor were not in the equation. King Jesus’ kingdom was not “of this world,” which also by the way, is repeated three times in this single verse.

These 40 words declare to Pilate that he shouldn’t be worried.

Those who look to King Jesus have renounced the tenets of this world’s ideas–force, pride, public image and power. The kingdom of God comes to us in the Red Letters of Jesus–the Beatitudes and the parables.

“Romans thought they knew about kingdoms and their might; that armies, navies, swords, and battles measured the strength of kingdoms. What Jesus knew was that His kingdom – though not of this world – was mightier than Rome and would continue to expand and influence when Rome passed away.”

David Guzik

Brokenness, humility, love, servanthood and sacrifice are the ways his kingdom comes to people. The world’s methods of doing things–even religious and “moral” approaches, are never the way things work under his authority. At times even, they may seem very noble and right; but that isn’t the way Jesus’ rule truly comes.

Interesting. I believe the church, especially here in the West, understands Jesus as a Savior, but not as the King. The idea of a king and lord aren’t automatics for us. We have senators and constitutions, media outlets and freedom of speech–but that somehow never prepares us for the rule of a true sovereign.

Jesus is calling us to live out his rule in our lives, and to embrace him as King. He’s much more than our Savior, and we must understand that. If we want to really grow in him, we must understand his lordship.

The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place.

R.C. Sproul

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Celebrity Servants? #92

drsunil.com, art by Takla

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8 (context vv. 3-17)

Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, I’m like a fly on-the-wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus, and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?

Jesus made himself a slave (or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it?) Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.

But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments, and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.

He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoy the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other. He showed us a leader in action.

And isn’t making disciples all about loving someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up, when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen; and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.

Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.

There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight?

The Church was never meant to operate like this. That’s what Jesus said. Instead it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege, and the adulation? I know I can’t.

Peter was classic Peter. It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).

Jesus still washes his people. He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.

The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

 John Stott

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The Grapes of Wrath, #91

Warning: This is a hard one!

“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.””

Luke 20:18 (context. 9-16)

Who wants to fall? Not me. This very blunt declaration has to be understood by that which immediately proceeds it: the “Parable of the Vineyard Owner.” This isn’t one of your nice ‘run-of-the-mill’ parables either. It’s got some real teeth.

It really is a potent stuff. The authorities–over, and over have rejected God’s prophets–everyone that he has sent. They do this continuously–history really does repeat itself. Finally, God finally sends his Son, and they decide (quite coldly) to kill him, and take the vineyard over for themselves.

Disobeying the voice of the Holy Spirit is a terrible thing.

And I’m afraid it’s done fairly consistently. He speaks over and over to us, but we’ve disobeyed him so often we can’t hear him anymore. His voice is often a quiet one, and we no longer really look or listen for it. Dear one, I’ve been in ministry for over 35 years, I’ve seen it up close, I’ve seen it in myself.

When we repeatedly ignore his voice, we’ll find ourselves in spiritual silence. We’ve now become spiritually deaf.

And guess what, we won’t even know it. We think we’re doing okay spiritually. But we really don’t hear him anymore. And that’s precisely what the leadership of Israel has done. They no longer hear him. Read their response. They don’t believe this parable, (maybe they think it’s funny?)

“When the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders heard this, they said, “May it never be!” 

(verse 16b)

That really should disturb us–and it’s frightening. But you must understand, it’s not confined to them–it’s launched at us as well. His parable travels through the centuries, and nails us. The translation of that particular “promise” in verse 18 might help clarify any ambiguity we might have:

 “Anyone falling over that stone will break every bone in his body; if the stone falls on anyone, he’ll be smashed to smithereens.”

(v. 18, the Message)

It’s a promise. We’ve got this tendency to think of God’s promises as wonderfully positive. But this promise is scary. The price of ignoring Jesus has consequences, and these “chosen” people are about to discover judgement. They have ignored him for the last time.

The nation of Israel will be destroyed by the emperor Titus. The ancient historian Josephus wrote that he killed 1,100,000 Jews and they carried 97,000 as slaves to Rome. 

At this particular moment in time, it’s critical that you learn to hear what the Spirit is speaking to you.

You’ll need to learn to distinguish his voice through the world’s static. But we much rather keep the status quo, and simply ignore this dark moment. We don’t want to listen that close. Maybe we’ll become “weird.”

Perhaps you’re afraid of what he might say. Maybe you’ll need to turn away from something that is causing you to go deaf? But I must tell you, hearing him is a joy. I guarantee it’s worth it. It’s what you were created for!

“One of two things you must do; you must either receive Him or reject Him. You receive Him here and He will receive you there; you reject Him here and He will reject you there.”

    D.L. Moody

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