Jesus: For Our Sake

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30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. (John 12:30)

        Many times as we read the gospels, where Jesus is walking among the people, he says something similar to the quote above. Lazarus died so that God could reveal Himself through Jesus to the people. The quote above was when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross and God audibly confirmed that His name has been glorified through the Son. God speaks out loud as Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan so that people would hear. We can think about the fact that any time Jesus prayed out loud to the Father it was for the sake of those who were witnessing it. He was part of the trinity, He is God, so any audible prayer was said so that you could hear what a perfect heart sounds like in communication with its creator.

        Now think about the times that Jesus did things for the people’s sake and they would or could not comprehend it. He was indignant as He went to the tomb of Lazarus to raise him because the people could not understand. They cried because they could not comprehend that ‘the Resurrection’ was walking in their midst. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Now imagine how His heart must have ached knowing that He was going to go to the cross to be crucified for a world that did not understand. Even His followers could not comprehend the way the events were unfolding at that time. Jesus went to the cross for our sins willingly but imagine His hurt when He was unable to help them understand. He did all thing for their sake even though they could not receive the message.

        We are called to be the image bearers of Jesus and to be witnesses to His life and message. Do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the lost? Do you take the extra steps to allow the spiritually immature to draw closer to understanding through you? We are called to live not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. That command sounds very big and might be intimidating since we are saved by a Savior who sacrificed His life literally. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God will make it possible, but also that our obedience to the Kingdom could be as simple as being patient and smiling while we explain the truth of God or being calm and showing the believers who are dependent on milk how to cut their spiritual teeth on the meat of God’s Word. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:2) you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12) Take the time to love others for the sake of God’s Kingdom, let that love show even when it’s hard for the sake of the immature or lost, let your heart reflect the light and love of God for your sake as you draw closer to the perfect image of Christ. As you reach out to the world remember the blood poured out for your sake so that you could pour out love for someone else’s.

Accused But Never Defeated

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In the Gospel of John, chapter 8 verses 2-11 we find a story we all know about the woman caught in adultery. This story has so many things in common with the way people treat each other even now. Let’s look at the story, broken down with comments, and please recognize the way Jesus not only defeated the manipulation but also reflected the love of God into the circumstance to reveal yet again how love triumphs over law, always.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

       Those who were not caught up in a selfish pursuit to condemn what would render their service to the law futile (Pharisee) were eager to drink from the living well. Those who were lost in their posturing, worldly religious position, and misguided interpretation of the Word were looking to discredit the Savior at any cost.

 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.

       There are many issues to take note of here. Where is the man caught in the act with her? Where is her husband who would have taken part in catching her in the act because nobody else would have been more aware of the situation? Also take note of the way they address Jesus: “Teacher” or “Master” in the King James Version. They are trying to find fault in Him and they address Him in a way that allows them to discredit Him from that very position, as if to mock Him and His teachings all together.

 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

       They are using the sin of the woman to try and condemn a sinless man. They are also using the law to condemn the love of God that Jesus came to express. The law is being used against the fulfillment of the law (Jesus). It’s not her sin they are worried about, they are trying to condemn Jesus at her expense and for their selfish purpose.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

       Jesus doesn’t give His attention to the accusation. He doesn’t feed into their plans to derail His teaching. In fact, His lack of attention makes them pour more emotion into their purpose. Jesus in His perfect wisdom brought them to a point where one statement would send them into retreat. He let their ignorance, selfishness, pride and emotion drive them into a place where they would expose themselves when the perfect nature of God was reflected into the situation. They had no foundation when the love of God washed over the situation.

 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

       Look at how the accusers left: Oldest to youngest, leaders to followers, high stature to low stature. I see the elevated men leading the younger men into this confrontation. The Pharisee that have their worldly position and authority at stake are followed by the mislead men to who they are teaching the law. This is a common problem where people blindly follow fallible leaders and never seek God on their own to form the relationship that allows God to grow in them. They are blind to a truth that they have never been exposed to.

 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)

       Now we see the perfect love of God triumph over the law. We see the fulfillment of the law through Jesus break through the constraints of religion. We see the light of our Savior break through the darkness of accusation and condemnation.

      Let yourself stand there and be in that moment. Watch Jesus write on the ground. What is the Spirit telling you He wrote? Think about that. See the love of God defeat the law. See Jesus triumph over religion. See hearts changed and not condemned. Take note of God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s love, and the salvation found in His Son.

A Savior that Never Lets You Go

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       Once you give your heart to God and accept Jesus as your Savior, you belong to the One that will never let you go, never cast you out. Just as a good father will never cast out his child, your perfect Father unconditionally holds on to the hearts given to Him .

 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

      We can know that our knowledge of God and His Son is because the Holy Spirit has drawn our hearts into unity with the Father. God calls His children to Him and through our perfect Savior we find salvation and eternal life. We were chosen by God to walk in His love.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

       Many will say they know God but their life will bear no fruit. They will not give their hearts entirely to Him and know the peace and joy that can only come through the creator of the universe. God calls the hearts that He knows will belong to Him. The religious deeds and meaningless words do not fool a God who sees a man’s heart. He also sees the intentions of a misguided heart. Good deeds from a foul heart do not please God as much as a misguided deed from pure heart. An imperfect deed done in love pleases a God who sees through human frailty.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

       God cherishes His children; and Jesus, who came to earth to reconcile us to the Father through His perfect sacrifice, will never let you go, never leave you, and will love you without condition. Jesus will leave the 99 to find you when your heart wanders because He cherishes what belongs to Him. Give your heart and life to the perfect Father, who leaves it in the care of His perfect Son, who gave His life to make it pure and give it eternal life. Be held by the one who will never let you go.

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)

Step Up, Leap Forward

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Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic (Hebrew) called Bethesda, (Bethsaida) which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews (Jewish Religious Leaders) said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” (John 5:2-10)

       As we read the story above from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John we see a story that at first we may skim over as Jesus healing a man. We appreciate the miracle as our Savior walked the earth in order to fulfill the law and bridge the gap between us and our Heavenly Father. But we miss the depth found in this short passage. Let us look deeper and note the commonality this invalid has with many believers today.

       This man had been ill/paralyzed for a long time and that can easily correspond to a believer being stifled in their walk as they sit around the “pool” waiting for opportunities to comfortably step up and apply the Word of God to their life. When things are easy and worldly behavior will suffice, they blissfully move while they neglect the weak foundation they are building for their life. They get to a point where they have to move out of worldly comfort and walk in a reliance on God, which will also cause them to walk in the ridicule of the world. Look above at verse 10 and see how the Jewish leaders didn’t marvel at the fact that a paralyzed man walked after 38 years; their first reaction was to attack him for carrying his bed! (Blinded by law)

       Also notice that Jesus asks the man in verse 6 if he wanted to be healed. This is the same offer that walking with our Lord gives us. We can overcome all of the obstacles in life when we accept the yoke of Jesus and the healing he offers us as we “lay next to the pool” paralyzed by the constraints of stepping out of worldly safety. Notice that in verse 7 the man actually never says yes to Jesus’ offer of healing. He starts with an excuse of why he couldn’t accomplish it without the Lord’s help. Such a simple story sounds like many believers today: paralyzed in worldly/self-imposed constraints, unwilling to let Jesus step into the difficulty, making excuses as to why their earthly power should have been enough, and ridiculed by people when his faith was exercised.

       Notice that: Jesus was the answer to his healing, he was unable to accomplish this miracle on his own, he was too lost in self-reliance to answer yes to the healing of Jesus, and was ridiculed because his healing set him apart from the world. How many of us are paralyzed and afraid to show our Jesus to the world? How many of us are lost in our self-reliance and self-doubt to allow God to move in and through us? How many of us are sitting by the “pool” looking to the world for help? Are you afraid the world will ridicule the light you shine when Jesus fills your heart?

     Step up and be healed! Step up and shine your light! Step up and be set apart (holy)! Step up and let the ridicule draw out the insecurities of those around you! Those insecurities don’t belong to you in JESUS! Step up so those insecurities are confronted by the love of your Savior! Bear His image, show His heart and shine His light. Do not be afraid. Do not be ashamed. Be the vessel of the Holy Spirit you are called to be. Step up and watch how God can cause you to leap forward!

Did God Create Evil?

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In a word: Yes!

Have you ever heard the question of how could God allow evil to exist? The simple answer is that evil would not exist without God. A verse sprung this thought into existence, or should I say allowed a way to put a big concept into words. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7) What this says to me is that evil would not exist without good, darkness would not exist without light, joy would not exist without sorrow. How would we recognize one without the other? Darkness is nothing without a reference. Darkness is simply the absence of a real thing, in this case light. Cold isn’t real on its own, it is again the absence of another thing, heat. God is the source of all good and created the light of our world. The absence of Godliness in this world is where we become aware of evil and darkness. The fact that God exists to bring us light, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control is the only way that the opposite can exist as the world turns from is creator. So yes, God did create evil by existing and offering His glory to His creation. He also created free will and allowed us to choose to walk in His light or turn from it and suffer in darkness. God is not evil and His hand does not create the harshness of this world. Those things exist when a hardened and sinful heart falls into pride and rejects the light. God seeks to hold your hand as you reflect His light into the darkness in the earth. He wants you to walk in His presence for all eternity in Heaven. Heaven also has a counterpart: Hell. Hell is simply the absence of all things that God offers. We can never say anyone is sent to Hell by the same concept. Hell belongs to those who reject God and His glory. That decision is simply honored and they are given that wish for eternity. Hell exists because people chose to have a life without God and in turn are allowed to live in that desire. If we remove God, we have Hell; which this world resembles more and more as it falls into selfishness and pride. Be the light, reflect God’s goodness, shine your light on the path that leads to Jesus, and know that turning from darkness leads you into the arms of Jesus Christ.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Holy Seed in a Calloused Heart

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“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. (Isaiah 6:9-10,13)

          The first verse here, from Isaiah 6, describes those who walk blindly through the darkness of this world. They have access to the holiness of God but refuse to let it penetrate their heart and cause changes that lead to sanctification. They miss the fullness they have access to in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. The biggest hindrance is people’s refusal to submit to God bigger purpose for His people. They can’t imagine that they are not the center of His movements in this world. The thought of suffering or becoming a servant leave them seeking gratification in their own way. The constant struggle against the pull of their hearts toward their Father cause them to become calloused so that the desire for God becomes dull. They fall into the trap of putting their desires over those of God. God desires that submission to Him and a deep relationship rooted ion love would lead our desires to become His desires.
          The voice of God becomes drown out in the business associated with self-servitude and self-gratification. The calloused heart isn’t the pliable vessel where the Holy Spirit is meant to thrive and shine forth the light of God through His children. When a person wrapped in the cords of the enemy comes to the end of themselves, they are then in a position to receive the greater gifts of God. Their eyes can then see, ears can then hear, and hearts can then receive the power found in Jesus Christ through their weakness. They can then turn to the faithful Father who stands patiently waiting for His children so that none may parish.
          The second verse above talks about the holy seed of God. In this case it refers to the remnant that God uses to carry His glory through time even as the people turn away with callused hearts. I think of this as the holy seed found in every person that we refer to as a conscience. God speaks into our spirit and writes His moral code upon mankind made in His image. Even in a calloused condition the draw toward God, the empty place we look to fill with lesser things, still causes us hardship and struggle. Acknowledge the holy seed that pulls at you when God isn’t first place in your life. Never let your heart become so calloused that the Holy Spirit cannot shine through your life. Refuse to let yourself be ruled by your fleshly desires. Be restored to, submitted to and led by your Heavenly Father so that your life finds the purpose and joy for which it was created.