20/20 Vision, Entry #8

He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

John 1:39 (context, 1:31-51)

The calling of the 12 was one of the more remarkable events in history. Some experienced amazing things–Nathanael for instance (1:47-48). But I suppose the most astonishing thing was how the disciples left everything to follow in the steps of God.

“Come” is a word of submission. To obey it they must trust him. Jesus wants these men to follow Him. He wants them to ‘travel’ with Him. Jesus deeply desires that these new disciples see for themselves the things of God. He wants them to engage in the work and experience the Kingdom first-hand.

“You will see.”

There is a need for people who can really look at things and ‘see’ what is real. Today it seems the world is living in a fantasy. There are very few who can understand things as they really are. For many the ways and presence of God are never real. The world never understands what the Kingdom is all about. They are truly blind.

Completing Scripture, Entry #6

“And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:21

Jesus initiates the conversation, as He usually does. He is talkative without being irritating or tedious. “He began to say” is just the start, and He intends to penetrate our defenses with His words. As ‘hard-headed’ as we are, we desperately need a spiritual jackhammer. And Jesus promises to keep His word.

The Bible is ‘God-breathed.

It isn’t like any other book, it discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). There is nothing–absolutely nothing that remotely compares to God’s Word. It is the ultimate authority in the entire universe. By the Lord’s eternal Word all of creation came into existence. By His speech He changes our calloused hearts to be like His.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” 

John 1:1-3 

When Jesus stands up and reads, He ‘bonds’ His ministry to these scrolls. Both He and God’s words are fully connected with each other. He ‘fulfills’ everything that is written down in ink. The authority of Christ and the power of the precepts are fully cemented together. God’s wondrous work is truly seamless.

“I will answer for it, the longer you read the Bible, the more you will like it; it will grow sweeter and sweeter; and the more you get into the spirit of it, the more you will get into the spirit of Christ.”

-William Romaine


Tempted by the Devil, Entry #3

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God are’”

(Matthew 4:4)

God’s Words are equated to bread, emblematic of God’s kind of food. Bread signifies life. Jesus addressing the tempter places the Word of God as the final Sustainer of life itself. By His declaration, He establishes what is real and necessary to every disciple.

The Word of God is the food that the believer needs. Without the promises of God, we’ll “starve” inside spiritually. We must have what God is speaking, all that “the mouth of God” wants to share with us.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 parallels Matthew 4:1–4. When Jesus is tempted three times, He quotes exclusively from the book of Deuteronomy each time. We see Him strengthening His calling by using the truth found in the OT, He establishes His ministry using the Law of Moses.

God’s words have a profound effect on our hearts. They change us from the inside out and nothing can do that. Without his words, something dies deep inside us. We look around and realize there is no real meaning.

“I will abundantly bless her provisions;
    I will satisfy her poor with bread.”

(Psalm 132:15)

(See also: Matthew 3:15, 4:7, 4:10)

Image, “Christ in the Wilderness,” Briton Riviere

The Boy in the Temple, #1

Art: William Holman Hunt, oil 1890

“And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:49

His parents are somewhat frantic. Jesus is missing. He can’t be found in the pilgrimage crowd journeying back to Nazareth. The travel time from their home back to Jerusalem would have taken several days on foot, a trip of over 60 miles.

They find the youth in the Temple, and it’s there they questioned His decision to stay with the rabbis. Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary are somewhat astonished. Why did He call the Temple, “my Father’s house?” Why did the teachers of the Law find Him so compelling?

A lot of boys would’ve found a more exciting place ‘to hang out.’

What we learn I suppose is the primacy of the things of God. Jesus has a definite connection to the place God dwells, His presence, and the rest God gives to each one who will only come. He is waiting for ‘ignited desire’ for each believer to come. Our hearts are now His home.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

(1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Let’s Consider What Jesus Said

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

John 21:25

Jesus explained the kingdom of God to people who were just like us. He spoke simply and directly, not at all like the Pharisees. He never made it complicated, or mysterious, instead he “simplified” things. He took theology and clarified it. His simple teaching was such that little children understood.

Many publishers print Bibles with everything Jesus said in red.

It’s that conviction that this website has been created–it’s the red ink that teaches God’s Kingdom to us clearly and perfectly. Jesus is talking about the nature of the reign of God. It’s good for us to consider, and put these teachings into practice

Good theology asserts that Jesus Christ is the “God-man.” The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus is the supreme Creator, and the one who holds all things together (Col. 1:15-17). Christians believe he is the second member of the Trinity. When he was born he still was God–but now with flesh!

I assert that this means that He deserves to be actively listened to, obviously, and carefully. What Jesus said must be considered in the light of who He is–if he’s really who we believe he is, his words are authoritative, and critical. After all, he is the one who guides the stars and planets and holds atoms together.

But it’s not that all the “black” verses are in any way deficient.

They’re not outdated or easily deficent, rather each of them finds a connection to a red-letter principle. The Old Testament promises look forward to a New Testament fulfillment. It’s been said by commentators that the OT is the NT concealed, and the NT is the OT revealed.

The “Sermon on the Mount” is a case in point.

There is simply nothing like this particular teaching in any work of man. (Shakespeare’s words aren’t even a blip on the radar.) Believers are those people who believe that Jesus Christ’s words are completely authoritative.

Moses climbed Sinai to obtain the Law from the Almighty, the Lord Jesus sat in the grass on a mountainside to teach. (Matthew 5:1-2). He opens his mouth and teaches his disciples the Beatitudes–those amazing verses that are the very foundation of God’s active rule in our lives.

He declares salvation and God’s profound love for us. He keeps sharing it over and over. He wants us to understand the Father, to be obedient to the truth, and live the Kingdom. What Jesus says will often shake us up, but they’re God’s clear will for us.

It’s imperative we take a closer look.

Your brother in Jesus,

Bryan

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To Seek and to Save, #87

9 “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:9-10 (context, vv. 1-10)

The Jewish people regarded salvation simply as being a child of Abraham. Faith was not necessary, but being saved was simply genealogical. It was the exclusive privilege of every Jewish man and woman. It was the sole position of anyone who was descended from Abraham.

There were exceptions however. If an Israelite lived outside of the Law, they forfeited their salvation. If they cooperated with the Gentiles, or if they committed some heinous crime, they couldn’t be a true Israelite. You were saved, just because you had descended from Abraham.

Zacchaeus couldn’t be saved. He had essentially had renounced his salvation when he cooperated with the Romans as a tax-collector. He had made the choice of a living his life outside of what was acceptable to the religious norms. In short he chose to be damned. He had decided to walk the highway to hell, but that was his decision.

When Jesus called up the tree to Zacchaeus, and invited himself to dinner, Jesus was committing a forbidden act. You must understand that Zacchaeus was unclean, a sinner, and any contact with was regarded as a grossly evil action. In short, Jesus had allied himself with an unclean man. Thus Jesus must be unclean as well.

The “righteous” Jew would never ever have anything to do with Zacchaeus. That is why they had such an issue with Jesus’ decision to eat with him. And that’s why Zacchaeus was thrilled to have such an eminent teacher as his guest.

Jesus was seeking to save the lost.

Zacchaeus invited all of his “evil” friends to come and come to join in the feast. It’s funny, when it came to “evangelism,” he did all the work!

Zacchaeus would prove himself as a “child of Abraham” by his amazing repentance. The presence of Jesus in his home sparked life in his heart. Zachaeus’ repentance was remarkable and truly spontaneous. And probably more astonishing was Jesus declaring that Zacchaeus was now a true child of Abraham.

When we finally decide we can mingle with the lost, just like Jesus did, we can expect to see miraculous things. We won’t contaminate ourselves–it doesn’t work that way. When we reach out, we can count on the “Jesus” who now lives inside of us to touch the outcast. He wants to, and all he needs is for us to find the lost, and be with them.

I must implore you to “seek and save” those who are outside the norm. Ask Jesus to lead you to them–and quit worrying about what other Christians might say and think.

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

   James H. Aughey

Mary Knows Best, #73

“The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, 42 but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, (context vv. 38-42)

I grew up in America’s rural dairyland–the great state of Wisconsin, with its cheese and bratwurst. Our high-school classes included Agronomy and Animal husbandry. We were taught how to judge cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. I know the differences between a holstein and a brown swiss. To this day, I know what to look for if you need to buy or breed farm animals. Amazing, huh?

I remember our field trips to visit the different farms. I remember once seeing a cow who had a plexiglass “window” that you could see into a cow’s four stomachs, and watch hay as it was being digested. Useful stuff.

The sisters both loved Jesus, of that, I have no doubt. But Martha did the work, and Mary only sat and listened. It was Jesus who understood what was going on. He discerned the frustration of Martha, and knew the eagerness of Mary. Jesus saw inside. He understood them both completely.

He understands your heart, and mine. His sees us as clearly as one would look through a window pane, and he knows everything there is to know. And yet–he will never condemn you. His love for you is limitless, and forever; it won’t ever change, even on your worst days.

One thing means one thing. Not two things, or three. One thing.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”

Psalm 27:4

“When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing…come, follow Me.” 

Luke 18:22

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 3:13-14

We must discern what is best. We must look, decide, and judge what needs to take precedence over other things. How and what we decide determines everything. We each get to pick, and to choose, and then we get to live with the consequences. The repercussions of our decision reverberate throughout our whole life, and into the lives of others.

“The one thing needful evidently is that which Mary chose — that good part which should not be taken away from her. Very clearly this was to sit at Jesus’ feet, and hear his word.”

CH Spurgeon

Our decisions determine our destiny. You and I will make a choice. Will you work, or will you sit? You must decide what you should do. I strongly suggest that you decide wisely.

Will you decide to sit at his feet today?

“The way to get the revival is to begin at the Master’s feet; you must go there with Mary, and afterwards you may work with Martha.”

CH Spurgeon

Sin Always Means Death, #68

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 8:24, (context, vv. 21-30)

Death is defined in a very basic sense, as the cessation of life. You’ll simply stop breathing, and your heart will no longer beat. You’ll be brain dead in a matter of minutes. And perhaps it’s then you’ll suddenly realize that you really do have an expiration date. (Will it be a burial, or a cremation?)

I don’t want to sound morbid. That really isn’t my intention. I know I can be blunt–but please, don’t dismiss this ghoulishness as the prattlings of a really weird person. I sometimes think we really need a jolt; it teaches us to take life a wee bit carefully. Our days are numbered–whether we like it or not.

“Teach us how short our lives are
    so that we can become wise.”

Psalm 90:12

The words of Jesus can be somewhat stark and terribly pointed— It’s silly I know, but there’s something here that feels like you’ve got a pebble in your shoe. It annoys you, but you’ll try pretend its not a real problem, you’ll survive, you’ll do just about anything but sit down and shake it out, or else you’ll learn to walk funny. But he’s now speaking truth to us, and his words are crystal clear, they cut us like a scalpel.

There’s a militancy in verse 24, something that’s granite hard, and it doesn’t flex like we want it to. Spiritual honesty has never come easy to humans, and to be honest, we’ll choose varying intoxicants over what is real. “Truth. You can’t handle the truth”, is a line from a movie that somehow got stuck in my brain.

Experience has taught me that truth is almost always negative when it’s first encountered.

“Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” can be chilling, and if we’re really, really honest it might feel like a steel-toed boot in our solar plexus. It somehow takes the breath right out of us. When Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, they begin to suffocate. They can’t handle what he’s saying, so of course they fall back, they resort to their carnal specialties–accusation and slander.

Believing–that seems like it’s the critical component. I think that Jesus spoke this truth with real compassion. He’s not like us. He’s not fighting back. He simply declares what’s true–and believe it or not, he desperately wants them to believe him. He loves each one of these religious rascals, and because of that–truth has to be plainly spoken–he wants to save their souls.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

C.S. Lewis

   

 

The Whole Truth, #65

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32, (context, vv. 31-47)

There’re several ideas in these two verses which absolutely have to be considered. They can’t be ignored, they’re essentially bedrock. I’m convinced the most astonishing things about God’s Word is that it’s alive. It’s far more than stark dark letters of black ink on white pages. It really breathes and moves in each of us who want to follow Jesus.

The Bible is alive–it has a heartbeat. It simply wants us to get out our spiritual stethoscope and listen.

We sometimes get confused about the word “abide.” It seems like a tricky word, and of course we’ll insist on complicating it, but if he is calling us to follow Jesus – the Word made flesh–means we’ll abide, (to live in, to dwell in, to make your home there) –in that Word. Disciples sometimes won’t do this out of fear of man, or they can’t because of unconfessed sin, or politics, or religion, or philosophy. They’ll become confused about this, and it’s painfully obviously to all.

Imagine, you find a lost wallet in the parking lot. Now what?

You open it to find ten 100 dollar bills! I’m convinced at that certain moment, the Spirit will speak what’s true. You really can rationalize it–possibly this is definitely God’s gift to me (!), or maybe we might look for the driver’s license in order to return this lost wallet to its owner. But it’s a moment of truth, and all of heaven is standing on tiptoe to see what you will do next.

The truth will set you free.” Keeping the money, and ditching the wallet seems like a fine idea at the time, but it’s essentially a seductive trap. If you rationalize this, at this at this point, you’ll fail his test. Your freedom is at stake. What’s true, and what the Spirit is saying, is well on its way of being discarded. (A thousand dollars after all would truly be a blessing? Maybe I’ll tithe off it?)

And maybe the Holy Spirit wants to see what’s really in our hearts, and just maybe a minor angel planted it there, just to show everyone what see what we will do. And maybe it was accidentally dropped, which is probably the case. But what are you going to do? The longer you wait, the trickier it seems to get.

Are you abiding in the words of Jesus? He’s calling you to follow him–and he wants you to become intimate with the real truth, which is really him in the flesh. Disciples who are living out the life of Jesus will act like him. As “abiders” we’ll insist on making his decisions, and becoming truthful people–even if it seems like a disaster.

“Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.”

Augustine

Jesus Knew Who He Was, #61

“So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, 

“You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

John 7:28-29 (context, vv. 25-31)

Jesus was sure of himself–he fully understood his identity. There was not an iota of self-doubt or awkwardness. He was sure and steady, not at all like us. He spoke like a man who is totally confident about who he was. He walked out an awareness of who he was, and what he must speak.

Jesus had concrete knowledge of who he was, and now is proclaiming it to the people and priests. No one could stop him, he was like a spiritual locomotive. He spoke with total love, wisdom and authority. He spoke as a man who was not bound by religious definitions or ritual.

The temple was the special place were people met God–and God met people. And it’s in this certain place that Jesus now speaks to the crowds.

The issue here is one of identity, Jesus reveals who he really is, but also declares the awesome gap that exists between God and man. “Him you do not know” is the terrible analysis of our heart condition. We are separated and we’re walking in the dark. Romans 3:10-12 explains it like this,

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

“He sent me,” explains the concentrated effort of God to get our attention. It seems that the Father has gone to extraordinary effort to bring us home to him. Jesus is God’s greatest effort. Jesus Christ was sent to find us, and return us to God.

“Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God because He said so.”

C.S. Lewis