Posted in 1Timothy, Hebrews, Job, John

The Mediator

“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” Job 9:32-35

The longing of Job was for a mediator. Someone who could stand in the gap between him and God. Someone who could remove God’s judgment and then place one hand on God and one on him to bring them together. This longing, which is also the need of all human beings, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God, the eternal Son. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1; 14) Jesus was and is fully God. When the Jews asked Him if He had seen Abraham, He replied, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58) This is a clear reference to God’s Name in the Old Testament.

But Jesus was also a man. Hebrews 5:9 says that Jesus was “made perfect.” How could God be anything less than perfect? He was always perfect as God, but to become the perfect mediator He had to become a human being. “Once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest.” (Hebrews 5:9) As our priest He offered the perfect sacrifice for sins, Himself. He needed to be God because He had to take the place of the whole human race; and He had to be man because it was man who had sinned. This sacrifice removed God’s wrath from all humanity and transformed God’s throne into a place of grace instead of judgment. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man. We don’t have to understand the mystery of who He is to believe and worship. “There is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 2:5)

Posted in John, Mark, Philippians

Embracing the Cross

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” Mark 8:34-35

Sometimes people refer to their difficulties as, “their cross to bear”, and assume that they’re bearing it just by going through the trouble. But the cross, to be a cross like our Lord’s, is something you must take up and bear of your own free will. Jesus said about His life, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” (John 10:18)

You and I don’t choose the trouble that comes to us in various forms, but we do choose how we will deal with it. When we grumble, complain, blame, and get frustrated, angry, or depressed it’s evidence that we are still very much on the throne of our lives.  God’s inviting us to embrace suffering like Jesus did, knowing that this identification will lead to knowing Him more intimately, and result in a deeper faith in us. (See Philippians 3:10)

Francois de Fenelon, one of the great spiritual leaders of the 17th century, gave this wisdom to a struggling disciple:

“I am sorry to hear of your troubles, but I am sure you realize that you must carry the cross with Christ in this life. Soon enough there will come a time when you will no longer suffer. You will reign with God and He will wipe away your tears with His own hand. In His presence, pain and sighing will forever flee away.

So while you have the opportunity to experience difficult trials, do not lose the slightest opportunity to embrace the cross. Learn to suffer in humility and in peace. Your deep self-love makes the cross too heavy to bear. Learn to suffer with simplicity and a heart full of love. If you do you will not only be happy in spite of the cross, but because of it. Love is pleased to suffer for the Well-Beloved. The cross which conforms you into His image is a consoling bond of love between you and Him.” (100 Days in the Secret Place; page 21)

Posted in 1Corinthians, John, Luke, Mark, Psalms

An Intimate Appearance

“Go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.’” Mark 16:7

Jesus told His disciples at the last supper that He would meet them in Galilee after His resurrection. The angel is repeating what he overheard Jesus Himself say to them at this last meeting, but he has also witnessed the devastation of Peter. His instructions from heaven evidently include this special reference to the fallen leader who has denied Christ three times after promising to die for Him: “…tell the disciples and Peter.”

Jesus, Himself, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, not in Galilee, but in Jerusalem on the day He was resurrected. This appearance was unpromised and unexpected. He also appeared the same day to two men on the road to Emmaus. And then, that same night, as the two of them were retelling their story, He appeared to all of them (except Thomas), and the details of this visit are given to us in Scripture as well. (See Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20)

But there is one appearance that happened where we are given no details. Jesus appeared personally, on resurrection day, to Peter. Two different New Testament authors reference this appearance, but give us no specifics. In Luke 24:34, while the men who saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus were telling their story, the disciples respond by saying: “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon (Peter).” In 1Corinthians 15, Paul is referencing all the resurrection appearances to men, and says: “I passed on to you…that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the others…” (1Corinthians 15:4-5)

Why aren’t we told of this interaction with Peter? What did Jesus say to him? What did Peter say? Maybe there are some interactions with the Lord that are so intimate they aren’t for others to hear about.

Here’s what we know for sure: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) He loved Peter so much that He singled him out on the most important day in history. He took time to come close and restore one who was being crushed by his own sin and failure. Isn’t He amazing?

Posted in John, Matthew, Revelation

Twice His

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in…” Revelation 3:20

A boy and his father carved out a toy sailboat from a block of wood. The boy had great delight in his creation so he put his initials on the bottom, and the toy became almost like a friend to him. He carried it with him during the day and kept it by his side when he slept at night.

One day a tragic thing happened. While the son was playing with his boat in the river behind the house, it got away from him. He ran to the house to tell his father and together, they searched downstream to no avail. But months later they attended an auction at a neighboring town farther down the river, and the son saw that a toy sailboat was being auctioned. Could it be? He ran over to it, turned it over, and was overjoyed when he saw his initials. He put it back on the shelf and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would own that boat again. Whatever this toy was worth to someone else, it was worth more to him. He would gladly give all he had to own his boat again.

After winning the auction, we could say that the boat belonged to the boy a twice over – once on the basis of creation and a second time on the basis of redemption. God feels the same way about you and me. In great love, the Father and the Son created us by the Spirit and the mark of their design is all over us. Your brain, eyes, skin, muscles, and internal organs are all proof that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. But sin has taken us down the river from a holy God removing us from His presence, but not from His thoughts. He planned our redemption and paid for it when He gave His life for our sins.

He has already paid for our redemption but refuses to make us go with Him. He calls (Matthew 22:14), enlightens (John 1:9), draws (John 12:32), and knocks (Revelation 3:20), but He won’t push, grab, force, or manipulate. The part of our salvation He delights in is us saying, “yes,” in response to His grace, with our own free will. It doesn’t matter how far down the river of sin you are. It doesn’t matter how deep your doubts, how evil your thoughts, or how blasphemous your words have been. He still loves you and in His mind you belong to Him twice.

Posted in John, Revelation, Romans

Intimacy with God

“This is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent.” John 17:3

We had an amazing conference a few years ago called “Intimacy with God”. We had incredible speakers, but the highlight was a strong awareness of the wonderful presence of God. Here are some of the truths highlighted from our speakers.

  1. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) One of the great hindrances to intimacy with God is the feeling that we are only tolerated by God. The truth is that we are not only accepted in Christ, we are a delight to Him. God doesn’t just love us, He likes us.
  2. God is a Father who wants us to succeed, not just for a little while, but until the end. He wants us to become godly people who overcome the sin nature through vigilance and perseverance. Intimacy with God does not mean everything will be easy for us, it means that God loves us enough to train us for righteousness.
  3. Intimacy with God does not mean that we will be famous in front of people. God will give a stone to those who overcome that has a name on it that no one knows accept the one who receives it and God Himself. (Revelation 2:17) There is a privacy in intimacy where you and God share things that no one else gets to share with you. Our culture is often about publicity and appearance before others, but God values those who live to please Him regardless of whether people recognize them.
  4. Ultimately intimacy is not about our pursuit of God, but about His pursuit of us. The greatest road to intimacy is in a commitment to following these three words: “Follow the light.” As God pursues you, purpose to respond quickly and you will discover an adventure where God reveals Himself to you again and again.
  5. There are two wings to the Christian life: Intimacy with God and activity for God. Without both of these wings we will not be able to fly the way we want to or in the way God wants us to. It is easy to focus on one or the other but we need both. James said that faith (intimacy) without works (activity) is dead.
Posted in Isaiah, John, Romans

The Shame Chain

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

Caught in the act of lust and the betrayal of adultery. Guilt and shame increase as those around pick up the stones of judgment. The holy Son of God up close with a sinner caught in a shameful, sinful act. How does God see the act and how does He see the person?

In my study this week I was reviewing statistics about pornography in the church. 50% of men struggle and 20% of women which is 9% better than those outside the church. The enemy is using our cultural infatuation with sex to erode the moral courage of the people of God.

One statistic I hadn’t seen before was that 90% of Christians who struggle in this area feel shame whenever they try to come into God’s presence. No wonder the problem is so entrenched! If all I think God is saying to me is “go and sin no more,” I am stuck in my shame. If I feel dirty I will eventually return to dirt no matter how hard I try to avoid it.

The power to “go and sin no more” is in hearing “neither do I condemn you.” The one Person who has the right to judge you has chosen to die for your sin so that your judgment can be removed. Listen to His heart for you: “Neither do I condemn you.” He has given us the “gift of righteousness and of the abundance of His grace so that we can reign in this life through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

Let Him wash away the shame chain that keeps you going back to the mud. You are a beloved child of God, not a slave to lust. Arise and shine for you Light has come! (Isaiah 60:1)

Posted in Isaiah, John, Romans

Resurrection Righteousness

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22

The historical event of the resurrection has established a heavenly reality for all who are willing to believe. God is offering the gift of right standing (righteousness) with Him, when we trust Christ.

When we owe a speeding ticket, we are not in right standing with the law until it is paid. If we don’t pay our electric bill, we are no longer in right standing with the electric company until we remit the amount owed. If someone makes a payment on my behalf, I gain right standing even though I wasn’t the one who settled the account. This is the gospel. God has paid for my sins, so right standing is available to me.

What must I be willing to believe to access this heavenly reality?

  1. That I am guilty before a holy God and am unable to make things right on my own. Isaiah says that even our righteous acts are as filthy rags in God’s sight. (Isaiah 64:6) We may feel righteous by comparison to others, but God doesn’t compare us with other people. He views us through His own perfection. 
  2. That God made payment for my guilt by dying for my sins. The cross is the greatest display of God’s holiness, and of God’s love. God’s justice demanded payment for sin while God’s love provided that payment on my behalf.
  3. That I must make it personal by receiving the gift of righteousness. The gospel will not affect me until I believe it. All who reject, or ignore Christ, will one day find themselves accountable to God for all their sins. But the only sin that condemns us is an unwillingness to accept the Spirit’s invitation to believe in Jesus. (See John 16:7-9)

Those who do believe can join in the ancient hymn with great joy, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Posted in 2Peter, Hebrews, John, Luke, Matthew, Psalms, Revelation, Romans

Stored Wrath: A Look into Hell

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath when His righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5

God wants us to contemplate hell now, so we don’t end up there. We are told to behold both His kindness and His severity (Romans 11:22) as a protection from us ever having to experience His severity. In His mercy toward us, Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven, not as a threat to His enemies, but as a warning to His friends. Jesus doesn’t want any of us to go to hell.

As we take a look into hell from this text, we can see three things:

  1. God doesn’t send anyone to hell; we send ourselves there. “You are storing up wrath against yourself.” Jesus died so we could be forgiven; He’s already tasted death for us. (Hebrews 2:9) No one needs to go to hell when God’s expressed will for all of us is to be saved. (2Peter 3:9)  If we end up in hell, we will have only ourselves to blame.
  2. God’s anger and wrath against sin is being “stored” now, but will be poured out then. We all outlive our bodies and will face the day of judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) Those who have rejected Christ’s love and payment for their sins will make their own payment in the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
  3. God’s judgment will be righteous. Those who have not received eternal life will eventually be destroyed in the lake of fire, body and soul. (Matthew 10:28)  They died physically once, received back their bodies before final judgment (Revelation 20:13), and then will physically die again in the lake of fire which is called the second death. They will eventually perish in hell (John 3:16) but not before they pay, by conscious torment, for every sin they committed against humanity. (Luke 12:47-48)  They will ultimately be consumed by eternal fire and will eventually be remembered no more. (Matthew 3:12; Hebrews 10:27; Psalm 37:38)

C.S. Lewis said in The Great Divorce, “Some would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. And to those who reject Christ’s rule He will say: ‘Your will be done.’”

Posted in John, Romans

Desire, Discipline, and Delight 

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38

Desire without discipline will lead to defeat. All Christians have a desire for Jesus, but many don’t add discipline to their desire so when they are thirsty they go to wrong places. Some go to addictions, others to entertainment, some to human relationships, and others to work, but only Jesus Himself can satisfy the deep thirst of our souls. When we don’t take time to be in His Presence reading His Word, praying, worshipping and connecting with other believers we are ignoring the means by which He pours out His Spirit on us, and this leaves us in spiritual defeat. Many believers have the testimony Paul describes in Romans 7:19, “The good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”  Instead of rivers flowing, many believers feel discouraged because of repeated failure.

Discipline without delight will lead only to us doing our duty. If Jesus becomes one more “have to” on our list, our relationship with Him will only be one more burden required of us. It is possible to read the Bible, pray, and go to church without ever drinking from Jesus. It is possible to have a Christianity defined but what “I” do for God instead of what God is doing in me. Trust me, I’ve lived this way and all it does is produce spiritual pride which results in hardness of heart. Discipline will always start out as a “have to,” but if we refuse to make it an end in itself, discipline will eventually give way to delight as our spiritual taste buds come alive to God’s presence and word.

No one is impressed by the discipline of a teenage boy who remembers to eat three times a day.  Eating is his delight, not his duty. When we reach delight we stop noticing our discipline because it just becomes part of who we are!

Posted in John, Matthew, Micah

The Ground Under Your Feet

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:8

I was in an informal conversation with a young pastor recently when he said, “I really struggle giving grace to church people who are not fully committed even though they know better.”

I asked if he minded me using the word “mercy” where he had used the word “grace,” and he told me to go ahead. “So here’s what you’re basically saying,” I responded. “You struggle to give mercy to those you feel don’t deserve it.” He understood where I was going. If someone “deserves” mercy it isn’t really mercy, it’s justice.

Jesus made it clear that our attitude toward others determines the ground under our own feet. If we choose to judge others than the same measure we use will be applied to us. (Matthew 7:1-4) But if we choose to be merciful toward the faults of others, we will find a wide place of mercy under our own feet as well. The merciful obtain mercy.

In Micah 6:8 God laid out clear instructions of how to please Him: “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Our natural tendency is to give mercy to ourselves, love justice for others, and to walk in self-righteousness, independent of God.

We need grace to do justly instead of making excuses for ourselves. We need grace to not only give mercy, but to love showing mercy to others.  And we need grace to simply walk humbly with God. No wonder Jesus said that the key was not us but Him in us. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Him we will bring forth much fruit. (John 15:5)