One Thing I Know: I was Blind. But Now I See!

One Thing I Know: I was Blind. But Now I See!

©  2022 C. O. Bishop

John 9:1-38

Introduction:

In a way, today’s message could be categorized as “Apologetics”—defending the faith.

Or, it could be called Evangelism, as in giving one’s testimony.

It could be about Persecution, because the fellow in this chapter who gave his testimony was excommunicated from the temple and publicly condemned for the completely factual and honest testimony he offered.

Or, we could simply see it as the history of a man, who was born blind, and who, after many years of blindness, was given his sight. In that case we should ask at least three questions:

What happened, Where did it happen, and Who were the witnesses?

John 9:1-38 (Where did it all happen?)

1And as Jesus passed by,…”

(Passed by, where?) In the previous verse, John 8:59, we see that Jesus was just leaving the temple. The Pharisees had attempted to stone Him, but somehow, He walked away without their attacking Him…and it says, He “passed by.” The next verse says, “and as he passed by…” So, wherever he was, it was evidently quite near the temple.

“… he [Jesus] saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Possibly the blind man was begging just outside the temple. That was a common way for a blind or crippled person to seek sustenance, in that time period. (We see it also in Acts 3:1-3.) And, in verse 8, here, it says that had been the practice of this particular blind man. Whether or not he was begging when Jesus and the disciples saw him, is not important.

First Witnesses

So, to begin with, we have at least Jesus and His disciples as witnesses to what happened next. (So far, we can’t count the blind man, as he can’t see them.)

But the disciples asked whose fault it was that he should be born blind. To us, this seems a strange question: But to people who thought that all sickness is a judgment from God, it seemed a logical question.

There are people, still today, who think that “If you are living right, then nothing bad will happen to you.” But Jesus made it clear that bad things can happen to good people (Job was a prime example!) And, in the Psalms it was made clear that good things often happen to bad people. They often get rich by evil means, in fact. (Read Psalm 73) But they will face judgment, the same as everyone else, and God has not forgotten their evil.

Jesus gave a clear answer to His disciples: “Nobody was “at fault!” This was not punishment. In this particular case, God was about to receive great glory by demonstrating His power..

 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Jesus reminded them that He was the Light of the world: (He had just told them that, earlier the same day.) And He commented that while he was in His earthly ministry, His light was the only obvious source. But, He also said the night was coming.

 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

He was probablywarning that no one continues working after they die. We can only “shine” for the Lord while we live. Every one of us faces the end of our “working day.” We have been given a job to do, and we will run out of time. Jesus knew His time was short: We need to see our lives in that same light. My bestunderstanding is that this is what He meant. So, what did He do?

What Happened?

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus spit in the dirt, and made “mud,” as we would call it. He made mud, and wiped it all over the man’s eyes. Then He gave three commands:

  1. “Go” and
  2. “Wash”
  3. In the pool of Siloam,”.

The name “Siloam” means “sent”…was this an admonition that we (also) should go where the Lord sends us, and do what he commands? Or, as some commentators feel, was it a reminder that Jesus was sent from God?

I guess it could be either. But the result was that the man did “go where he was sent,” and he did “obey by faith”…and he came back seeing completely normally. So, now he is a witness, too! He knows what happened, and though he couldn’t point out the Man who healed him, because he had never seen Him, he knew his name. He knew the Name of Jesus! That is worth something all by itself.

More Witnesses!

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.  12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.

The neighbors and other people were “witnesses,” too,”but all they saw was the result. They knew he had been blind before. They could see the change in the man’s life, as it was obvious that his eyes were healed. But they could not understand what caused the change. (They knew the “before” and the “after,” but they had no idea what had happened to him.)

They asked him for an explanation, and he told them in very plain language exactly what had happened, from his own perspective. That was his first testimony, and it was perfect!

This is a perfect example of what we are commanded in 1st Peter 3:15! They asked, he was ready, and he gave a straight answer! There was no “messing about” with human storytelling. Everything he said was the simple truth, without any “embellishment.” And what did the neighbors and other people do? Did they throw a party and celebrate with him and his family? Nope. They dragged him off to the Pharisees, for an investigation!

13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

Here is another “sabbath day healing! Jesus seemed to do it on purpose, to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Over and over, Jesus healed on the sabbath, and they were offended every time! But they couldn’t escape that they were now witnesses, too!  They saw only the effect…they did not know him before, and they rejected all testimony from others.

16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Even the Pharisees could see there was a problem: The one group said, “He must be a ‘bad guy!’ He’s working on the sabbath!” The other group said, ”How can a ‘bad guy’ heal the blind??” There was a division among them, because the Truth was staring them in the face, and they were rejecting it! So, they went back and began questioning the healed man again.

17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

The only possibility the healed man could think of, is that anyone who could heal like that must be a prophet of God. He had just been made the recipient of a first-class, “Old Testament-style” miracle!  And the only people who could do such things, according to scripture, were prophets of God!

18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?

Of course, the next step is to accuse the blind man of lying: that he had not been blind at all! If there were no other witnesses, this would not necessarily be a bad thing to suspect. But all of the neighbors, and other people who brought him in, could testify that they had seen him for years, begging near the Temple…and that he had indeed been blind. But that wasn’t good enough! They dragged his parents into it!

20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

So, they called in the man’s parents…how strange! (Now, some commentators suggest that the “man” was simply “over thirteen,” thus, having passed his Bar Mitzvah, he was “legally able to give testimony.” They see that as why he was legally “of age,” but still under his parents’ authority.

I would remind you that, in Exodus and in Numbers, the people under twenty were considered children, and not old enough to be counted in the census, or to be a part of the collective decision to reject God’s offer of the land. So, everyone over twenty at the time of that rebellion, died in the wilderness during the next forty years, and all those who remained were, after that period of time, “of age.”)

My guess would be that the man was at least 20, and possibly thirty, as there were certain public responsibilities a man could not partake in unless he was at least 30. (That is why Jesus did not begin His public ministry until He was 30.)

God lets us see the “inside story,” here: He tells us why the parents were afraid to back their son in his testimony. They were afraid of being kicked out of the temple! (Besides, they did give honest testimony: “Yes, that is our son! Yes, he was born blind! Beyond that, we have no idea what is going on, here! You will have to ask him!” Yes, they were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were being completely honest and logical.)

 24 Then again called they [the Pharisees]  the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.

They were commanding the healed man to recant, and to agree with their claim that Jesus was not the One who healed him! They accused Jesus of being a sinner!

What was His Defense?

25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

This is the “bottom line” testimony of every believer. Jesus saved me! Jesus has changed me! (“I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!”)

A personal testimony always has that advantage: it is hard to argue with someone’s personal experience, though it is possible that a person could be mistaken or even lying. In this man’s case, all he could tell them was, “Look, fellows! I was born blind! Today is the first time in my life that I have ever seen anything! You can say what you want about Jesus, but he healed me!”

It seems the man was beginning to catch on, regarding the politics involved, here: From this point forward, his answers begin to take on a different flavor. They have “crossed a line,” in his mind, and he begins to “push back” a little, defending his own testimony: defending his faith!

26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.

This is another odd line of attack. “We know about Moses (whom we have never seen, but we have read about him in the Torah.) But this man we know nothing about…so he must be bad!”

30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

Isn’t it interesting that a formerly blind beggar is given enough wisdom to “walk the Pharisees through” the logic they needed to figure out the Origin of the Power of Jesus!

He offered three points of fact, and a conclusion. The facts::

  1. God doesn’t hear sinners!
  2. If a man is a worshipper of God, and an obedient servant of God, God does hear him.
  3. No one in the history of the World has ever healed the eyes of one born blind.

His Conclusion:

If the man were not of God, He could do nothing!” (It’s odd: they didn’t respond well to his little “Lesson in Logic!”)

Rejection!

 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Yeah, proud people don’t like getting “schooled” by people they consider inferior to themselves. They get pretty huffy about such things. And, since they were in a position of power, they “pulled rank” and had him excommunicated from the temple. I’m sure that hurt him, emotionally. He had just received the biggest blessing of his life, and the result was that he was rejected by his community. But he had at least a rudimentary knowledge of Jesus: He had “been through something” with Jesus!

Knowing Jesus

 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?

This is kind  of a touching scene: Jesus went and found the man he had healed. He had never seen Jesus before, and had only once heard his voice. Jesus probably found him feeling pretty discouraged…dejected…depressed, maybe. But he asked whether he “believed on” the Son of God. It means “do you place your faith on the Son of God?”

36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

He worshipped Him! Jesus willingly received the worship of this man and others! That only leaves about three possibilities:

  1. He is crazy, and he thinks he is God. Or…
  2. He is an incredibly audacious Liar, and wants other people to think He is God. OR…
  3. He really is God!

This man finally made the connection that this was Jesus: the one who had healed him. And he suddenly knew that there was another possible person who could heal, other than just a “Prophet of God:” (Of course!) GOD can heal a man who was born blind! Jesus had his total respect and gratitude before, when he thought Jesus was “just a Prophet.” Now Jesus has the man’s faith and devotion and love. Now the man knew Jesus was God!

What about Us?

There are all sorts of lessons we can learn here: One is that we need to have our eyes opened by Jesus. Also, we need to know from His Word how we were born again,. We also need to be ready to give an answer and able to say, “He saved me!” Finally, it behooves us to at least be able to offer some defense of our faith. Even if it is just the simple statement that “I believe in ‘the Jesus of the Bible!‘ There is no substitute for Him.”

Lord Jesus, open our eyes, so that we can see as this man did, how you have healed us of the sickness of our souls, and set us free from our slavery to sin. Let us speak to Your glory.

“Before Abraham Was, I AM”

Before Abraham Was, I AM

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 8:51-59

Introduction:

Last week we examined the concept of “finding freedom in Christ:” finding ourselves freed daily from the continuing destructive power of sin in our lives, as well as gaining permanent freedom from the eternal penalty of sin. We were able to determine that only believers were eligible for either of those two aspects of freedom. And it follows that only people who have been freed from the penalty of sin, so that they no longer face condemnation from God, will also find the eternal freedom from the presence of sin, which will be enjoyed by all believers.

Security in Eternal Freedom

So, the eternal freedom from the penalty of sin, which was granted to you the moment you believed, is yours forever. The eternal freedom from the presence of Sin, is also ours, guaranteed, in the presence of the Lord, but we will not experience it in this life: so long as we still possess our sin natures, the presence of sin and the problem of sin will persist.

But the freedom from the power of sin, experienced in our lives today, is what Jesus was inviting the believing Jews (in verse 30) to learn and experience. He told them that if they continued in His Word, they would become His true disciples: He told them that they would experientially know (“ginosko”) the Truth (which turned out to be Himself) and that He would make them free. We saw that concept reiterated in verse 36, where He said that the Son would make them free.

Rejecting Freedom and Dishonoring God

We also saw that, while the believing Jews may have rejoiced in His promise, the Pharisees who were also precent, were offended by His promise of freedom.

Jesus spoke to them, saying that if they had been “of God,” (as they claimed to be) they would have received Him and honored Him, because He was of God. But since they were not of God, they could not receive the words He spoke. And they dishonored Him, in spite of His truth.

Who do You Honor?

John 8:48-50

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

One has to consider, even as a believer, whether one’s words and actions honor the Lord. Years ago, a man who professed to be a believer, and even a bible teacher, suggested some rather “Madison-avenue” ways he advocated for the church or for missionaries to raise money for the ministry. I expressed my feeling of repugnance toward such actions, and he replied, “The bottom line, Chet, is that it works!”  

What is the “Bottom Line,” for Believers?

I was still uncomfortable with that reply, but, as he was much older, and in a position of some honor, I kept my thoughts to myself, as I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me. Hours later, as his comments echoed in my mind, I realized, that whether something “works” or not should never be the “bottom line” for believers.

The “bottom line,” for believers, has to be the question, “Does it Honor God?!” It has never been the church’s mission to make money, and things that “smell like the World” should be viewed with deep suspicion, and considered very carefully, before engaging in such practices. There are many practices which, while perfectly legal, are still immoral, and never honoring to God.

The people to whom Jesus directed this rebuke were not believers. They claimed to be followers of God: they were the well-respected “pious businessmen” of their day: the “religious professionals,” just short of the priesthood. But they were deliberately dishonoring a man who was honoring God with His life.

That behavior revealed who they really were! We need to carefully avoid doing anything like this, for whatever reason. We don’t want to “trash-talk” other people, whether for political reasons or any other reason. It does not Honor God to do so.

Honoring God through Obedience

Jesus did not seek glory or honor or wealth. He sought to carry out the directives of the Father. Remember John chapter 4: When Jesus entered Samaria, and stopped while the disciples went into the city of Sychar to buy food, he was already on the edge of behavior the Jewish leaders would hate. When He publicly held a conversation with a Samaritan woman, He was crossing the line! Even His disciples were astonished at that behavior! But His motivation became clear, when He said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work!”

Jesus had not been trying to gain social standing, or the favors of the religious authorities. He was not seeking His own honor, either, but rather, that of the Father. And there in John 4:1-42, the immediate result was the salvation of many lost souls in Sychar.

Had the Pharisees realized that Jesus sought no personal honor, but sought only to please and honor God, it should have changed their attitude toward Jesus. But they hated Him and just wanted Him silenced. They were absolutely not interested in what he was teaching, except that they felt it constituted a threat to them.

If a Man Keep My Saying, He shall Never see Death

John 8:51-53

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

Jesus made the “blanket statement” that whoever kept His word would never die. The Pharisees now seized upon His promise of eternal life, and said again that Jesus must be demon-possessed.

They pointed out that Abraham and all the patriarchs and prophets were dead. Their point was that if all the “greats” of the faith had died, what was He claiming for himself?

How could He promise that if someone kept His Word, they would never die?

The Promise of Eternal Life

Remember, back in John 3:16, Jesus had promised that “whoever believed in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.” Again, in John 5:24, He had said “whoever heard His word and believed on Him who had sent Him, had eternal life immediately.” In John 4:14 and John 7:37, 38, he had promised the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would become a “fountain of living water, springing up within the believers.” So, this was nothing new, really. But they seized upon His Word, and challenged Him again.

54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

So, Jesus took them back to the issue of Honor: He said, “if I were to honor myself, it would be valueless.” But He said that the Father was honoring Him. He reminded them of what He had told them earlier, that they did not have a relational knowledge of God, but that He Himself did have that personal, relational, and experiential knowledge of God. He concluded that if he were to knuckle under and imply that He was no different than they, not knowing God, personally, then He would make Himself a liar “…like unto you!” (It is starting to get personal, here!)

Before Abraham Was, I AM

Jesus went on to say that the patriarch Abraham had rejoiced to see my day” (the day of Christ.) Abraham was a prophet, and he had seen the coming deliverance. He had rejoiced, to see that day coming. Further, Abraham had seen Jesus, face-to-face! (Remember the meal of beef, bread and butter, and milk?) He had conversed with Him personally, and addressed Him as the Judge of all the Earth! But Jesus only said,

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Abraham knew Jesus, walked with Him, obeyed Him. and rejoiced in His promises and presence.

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

Of course, the Jews were incensed by that statement, too, and they derided Jesus, saying, “You aren’t even fifty years old, yet! How can you claim to have seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

What did Jesus Mean?

Now, in today’s English, we might have simply thought it was bad grammar, and that Jesus was failing to maintain the correct past-tense in the sentence. He began by saying, “before Abraham was” (which clearly is a past-tense condition) but ended by using a strictly present-tense statement of self-existence.  (Did the Jews question His grammar?)

Nope! They took up stones, intending to stone Him to death, for what was clearly blasphemy. They knew Jesus was using the eternal “I AM,” by which the Old Testament God had identified Himself to Moses. They saw that He used it as if He Himself were God! And, the fact is, that is exactly what He was doing! The Pharisees had no question about His intent! They knew that He had just claimed to be the God of Israel!

Seven statements in St. John

When Jesus had earlier claimed to be the Light of the World, they had missed the point: They did not realize that, for Him to be the Light of the World,  He had to be the light of the Gentiles as well as the Light of Israel. He had to be far more than just a carpenter and an itinerant street-preacher.

When He had claimed to be the “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” they were offended, but still did not make the connection that He was claiming to be not only their sustenance but their sustainer!

This is only the beginning, as there are five more heavy identifiers which He will use in the Gospel of John, regarding Himself. But this one makes His overall intent very clear: He definitely is claiming to be the God of Israel, in the flesh, and is confronting them face-to-face!

And that is how they understood it, too! Couldn’t they have applied Isaiah 7:14, where the prophecy reads that the child born of the virgin shall be called Immanuel? (meaning “God with us!”)  But they gave no thought to whether what He said was true: they only wanted to silence Him and to kill Him. That proved all His estimation of “who they were” and “what the intent of their hearts was,” to be clearly the truth!

59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

They still were not able to carry out their murderous intent. He was still the One in control, and His time had not yet come.

Who are We dealing with, here?

I think we tend to forget who Jesus really is, ourselves. Though we never slander Him, we seldom think of Him as being identical to the God who parted the Red Sea and drowned the entire Egyptian Army. We seldom see Jesus as the One who spoke the World into existence, and who created everything in it, completely by His own authority, and from His own, limitless imagination.

And, even when we briefly consider these things, we may momentarily rejoice at His creativity and power, but we still feel free to “go do our own thing,” whenever the notion hits. Somehow we still feel that we are “free moral agents,” and that we are under no absolute obligation to follow the will of our Creator, Savior, and God. (But we are under just that obligation!)

What Manner of Man?

When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples in the boat had feared for their lives before He acted, but they were more afraid, afterward: They asked, “what manner of man is He, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?”

And yet, after He had stated His will for their lives, and after His death, burial and resurrection, most of them (in John 21) had decided to go back to commercial fishing. Jesus called them away from the fish for the last time, and redirected their thoughts to His command.

After they received the Holy Spirit, in Acts chapter 2, they seem to never have lost sight of the objective anymore. They all seem to have faithfully walked with Him after that.

So, What about Us?

Each of us already has been born again. Each of us already has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit: So, why are we still so easily distracted? Why do the things of the world so easily entangle us?

In Hebrews 12:1, 2, the writer begs us to consider all those that have gone before us, and take their example:

Hebrews 12:1, 2,

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The great cloud of witnesses he mentions are the whole group named, or alluded to, in the previous chapter. It was not that they are “watching us”, as “witnesses” of our behavior, but rather, that they have all testified to us. They testify as witnesses of what God can do in the lives of believers who are committed to His will. And, on the basis of their testimonies, he commands us to “lay aside every weight.”—”Get rid of anything holding you back, just as a competitive runner would lay aside any heavy clothing or baggage, in order to run well.”

What is Holding You Back?

But he also calls us to lay aside the “sin that so easily besets us.” What is there in our lives that regularly trips us up? What passions do we regularly obey, that are detrimental to our obedience to Christ? These are questions for self-examination. I point no finger at anyone, except myself. And yet, the command is there for us all to see.

Finally, He commands us to “Look to Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith.” Take Him for our example of commitment and obedience. He says that it was “for the Joy that was set before Him” that he “endured the Cross, despising the shame” of that Cross, and, as the eternal champion, He has “sat down on the right hand of the throne of God” the Father.

Get in the Race!

He calls us to emulate His example: not just sit on the sidelines, and wave flags and cheer. We are to enter the race ourselves and run!

The Pharisees to whom He spoke were his enemies. Most of them would never believe in Him. But there were believers in the group, and those were the ones to whom He extended the invitation to walk with him and learn from Him, and be set free from their sins by His power in their lives.

That invitation has been extended to us, as well. We need to answer that invitation daily, follow Him, and reap the benefits He promised.

Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to follow You, and to follow Your example. Teach us to look for Your will, and listen for Your voice, Teach us to read Your Word, seeing Your face in the pages, and obey Your commands faithfully. Make us the Men and Women of God You have called us to be.

Jesus: The Judge of All the Earth

The Judge of All the Earth

© 2022, C. O. Bishop

John 5:15-23

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Gospel of John, and we have come to a place where a fairly heavy doctrinal question is posed: “Who are we really dealing with in the Person of Jesus?”

In the context, here, Jesus had healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and the man had responded by “turning Jesus in” to the Jews…probably the religious rulers. So, in verses, 15 and 16, we catch the initial sense of “what is happening.”

15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

The man identified Jesus as being the one who had healed him (more specifically, the one who had told him to take up his bed and walk) and we see that the immediate response of “The Jews” was to persecute Jesus and seek to kill him. I always have inferred that the passage referred to the religious leaders, but, as I read it over again, I see that it does not specifically say that. It just says, “the Jews.”

However, we want to remember that this happened in Jerusalem, and the Jews in Jerusalem seem to have had a different response than did the Jews of smaller cities and villages, as a rule. And Jerusalem was ultimately the key response for the entire nation. Bethany received Jesus as the Promised King and Savior, but Jerusalem clamored for His death!

The Initial Accusation

So, the first accusation they made was that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. This is apeculiar thing, as He seemed to deliberately heal on the Sabbath to further challenge His accusers. The word “Sabbath” means “rest!” And Jesus was giving the sufferers Divine Rest, through the healing He provided.

He delivered them from the bondage of their illness, paralysis, or demon-possession, and He gave them rest! In Hebrews chapter 4, we will eventually see that Jesus is our Sabbath: And, having received Him as our deliverer, we now “labor to enter into His Rest,” on a day-by-day basis.

Jesus did not try to explain any of this to His accusers. He simply stated His claims and continually demonstrated His authority. What incredible authority; to speak and cure paralysis! To speak and cast out demons (who recognized Him and called Him by name!) To speak, and raise the dead! To speak, and calm the storm! And their only response was to try to kill him! What an amazingly wrong-headed response! It was bad enough that they continually argued against Him, but to want to kill the only one who had the power of life seems incredibly short-sighted!

Jesus’ Reply, and the Second Accusation

Jesus’ spoken reply to His accusers made them even more determined to kill Him:

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

You see, now they really thought they had him cornered: He was convicted by His own words! They correctly understood that He was claiming Deity. He was not saying, as a person today might say, “My Heavenly Father (in contrast to my biological or human father) is watching over me.” They correctly understood that He claimed to be the Heir, God in the flesh!

The odd thing to me, there, is that in their own Scriptures they had that express promise made to them. In Isaiah 7:14, God said that “The Virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” The name, “Immanuel” literally means “God with us!” That sounds like a pretty precious promise, to me!

So, if someone came along, claiming to fulfil that promise, wouldn’t the logical response be to “check His credentials?” There were lots of prophecies they could turn to, to check Him out, but they did not bother to do that. They just assumed He was lying, and they attacked Him.

19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

He pointed out the illogical character of their response, saying, in effect, “Look at the Works!” He later said, “if you don’t believe my words, believe for the sake of the works!” He showed that the works themselves had to come from the One who had the authority to heal! At the very least, they should have been able to see that He was sent from God.

In John chapter 9, we see that this precise argument was raised by the man who had been born blind, and whom Jesus healed. He said, “No man can do such things unless God is with Him! From the beginning of the world, it has not been heard that a man received sight who had been born blind!” And, again, the response of the Jews was only to accuse the man who was healed, and to cast him out of the temple, rather than confess the strength of his argument. They were not willing to see Jesus for who He truly was, even when confronted with irrefutable truth.

Jesus went on to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son:

20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

He described the Love relationship between the Father and the Son, and further said that the miracles were about to increase, specifically so that they should “marvel”—be filled with amazement. And raising the dead was what he said was coming up.

Now, they had not yet seen Jesus raising the dead, but He offered a preview, of what was going to happen: speaking to those who were His sworn enemies, He offered the resurrection! He claimed the authority to raise the dead at will. What proof could He give of that authority? They would see the proof, but, so far, He had not done such things. In John 11, he publicly raised to life someone who had been dead long enough to begin to decay. And, in John 12, their response was still to want to kill him!

If someone who has already demonstrated that He could heal people who were completely wrecked by disease, makes the claim that He can raise the dead, He should at least be given the opportunity to prove His claim. But that was not their response. Nor is it the usual response today. I have had someone declare to me that if they saw someone raised from the dead, they would have to believe. But, in Luke 16:31, Jesus said that is not true, either: He said that “if they will not believe Moses (God’s prophet…God’s Word) then they would not believe, even if they saw someone raised from the dead.”

The Universal Response

So, what is the usual response of Humanity to God? We see in scripture that the Jews’ response was not unusual for the rest of the World either. So, we should be cautious about condemning the Jews for their response. Jesus taught that very few would actually enter in by faith…that most people would choose the path toward destruction.

Keep in mind that their response is by their own choice. Even in the Old Testament, God says that the voice of Wisdom calls to the simple and the foolish, to turn from their ways, and also that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But the depravity of the Human race is universal. Our egos war against God, by nature.

In Psalm 14:2, 3, God said, The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

We want to “re-write” such a passage to say, “…not very many…” but God says, “No, not one!” Collectively, we have rejected God. He has pursued us with His Grace and Love and Kindness and attempted to reconcile the World to Himself. Also, that passage from Psalm 14 is quoted verbatim in Romans 3:9-12.This is not an “Old Testament problem.”

God’s Solution

God saw that Human reasoning and Human “wisdom” would never result in a right relationship with God. (1st Corinthians 1:21 says, for after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” ) So, He chose, before the foundation of the World, to receive a specific group: those who would respond in faith to the Good News of God’s Grace.

Jesus said in John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” He gave Himself as the “magnet” to which people would either respond in faith or not. Some may respond with indifference. Others may be “attracted,” but still unwilling to believe, because of the offensive nature of the Cross. Some may respond in ridicule, saying that the entire message is utter foolishness. Still others may respond in anger, claiming that they are “Good People!” They see no need for a Savior and are insulted that we would suggest they need one!

But, still others will respond in faith, choosing by faith to lay their hands upon God’s chosen sacrifice, and see Him as their only hope. Faith is a choice. To those few who choose to believe God, He gives eternal life and eternal forgiveness of their sins.

So, Jesus has named Himself as the one through whom the resurrection is to be had. He has named Himself (back in John 3:16-18) as the only Savior, and said that the only requirement is faith. He said that those who believed in Him (as their Savior) would not be condemned, but that those who refused to believe were already condemned, specifically because they do not believe. But what else does he say, here in John 5:22, 23?

Jesus, the Judge of all the Earth

From Human perspective, we have been told that God is the eternal Judge: and so He is! But we frequently fail to consider the triune nature of the Godhead. John began to investigate this truth, way back in John 1:1 – he said that “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Now, in any other context, that statement alone is contradictory—paradoxical: Something (or someone) cannot be with another being, and simultaneously be that other being.

So, we had already begun to see that this “Word” who was later identified as Jesus, was in some mysterious way to be seen as being God, Himself. That is an important point to grasp. Later on, Jesus brought it to everyone’s attention that only God can forgive sins, and that, while a human may say “your sins are forgiven,” it becomes the ultimate in “cheap talk” unless they can prove that they have the authority to forgive sins. So, He proved His authority to forgive sins by demonstrating His authority to heal a paralyzed man. (He simply spoke, and healed him!)

But what else does that suggest about Jesus? If He has the authority to forgive sins, does He not also have the authority to not forgive? That makes Him the Judge! And Jesus confirmed that truth, in the next two verses; also warning the hearers of the consequences of unbelief:

22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

Here are four points to grasp from that statement:

  1. God the Father does not judge.
  2. God the Son does judge…and all judgment has been committed unto Him.
  3. The goal of God is that people will honor the Son as they honor the Father who sent Him.
  4. Whoever does not honor Jesus in the same way as the Father, does not honor the Father!

Where does this leave the people who say that they believe in Jesus, but see Him as somehow less than God in the Flesh? Many people say they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but deny that He is God. This is a stumbling block to all the cults: they want to appear to honor Jesus, but they balk at admitting His deity. And, the person they are dishonoring is the one who is their Judge.

Old Testament Evidence

What evidence do we have that I am not just misinterpreting Jesus’s words? Genesis 18:25 sees Abraham pleading with God in the Flesh (to whom he had just served lunch…beef, bread, butter and milk…and who had eaten it) and addressing Him as “the Judge of all the earth!

Well, so long as I see that person as God (and it is) there is no information there to support what Jesus said…except that, there is one more New Testament passage that caps it: John 1:18 says “No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” So, yes, that was God, but not God the Father!  Abraham called God the Son “Judge of all the Earth!”

If I compare the two passages, where Jesus claims to be the only Judge, and where Abraham called Him that to His face, then I begin to see that the person the Jews were hating and seeking to kill, was literally:

  • God in the Flesh
  • The only Savior who would ever be offered on their behalf, and
  • The Eternal Judge before whom they would stand if they rejected His offer of peace.

It is hard to imagine being so hard-hearted as to not see the joy of the people Jesus healed, and to not hear the pure wisdom He taught. But to be confronted with the reality of His authority, and to deny it as though he were only a political rival, seems insane. And yet, that is where we all have stood, originally, and it is where the vast majority of the world still takes its stand, today.

How can we apply this truth?

So, what can we do with this knowledge? If we have already received Him as our Savior, then perhaps it will remind us of the importance of daily seeing Him as our Lord: our Master. Perhaps it can give us greater drive to share with others our hope of redemption, our only hope of forgiveness and eternal life.

Remember that evangelism is nothing greater (nor less than) one beggar telling another beggar where to find free food and shelter. We came to Christ as beggars, condemned and unclean. He gave us a new life, completely holy before Him. But we still have nothing, outside of what He gives us. So, we offer that gift freely, without any condescension… we are just saved sinners ourselves. We aren’t looking down our noses at anyone. But the one we serve is the true Master of all things…the only Savior and the Eternal Judge. Take it seriously and pass that Grace to others!

Lord Jesus, change our hearts to truly see You as the only hope for the world, and more specifically, the only hope for every individual sinner in the world. Help us to see through Your eyes, and care with Your heart. Make us to serve as Your hands and feet and to speak as Your voice.

Watch out for Robbers!

Watch out for Robbers!

Complete in Christ

© C. O. Bishop 9/14/18 Cornell Estates 9/16/18

Colossians 2:8-17

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Epistle to the Colossians, and have read of Paul’s concern for the churches to whom he was writing, and, by extension, his concerns for us, as believers. One of the things that he warns against is those who would rob us of our liberty in Christ: those who will try to convince us that God has not given us the whole truth, and that there is something else we need, in order to be in good standing with God.

Guard against Robbers

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Notice the three-fold attack of the Enemy here, in verse eight:

  1. Through philosophy and vain deceit (Who is the deceiver? The “Liar and Father of lies”.)
  2. After the traditions of men (Human reasoning…appealing to my old nature, the “flesh”)
  3. After the rudiments of the world (elementary concepts, not embracing spiritual realities)

We are warned that, collectively, these three are not “after Christ.” Remember who our three enemies are? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil! And here they are again!

The fact is, we tend to like “philosophy;” in fact, the word “philosophy” means “love of wisdom”. But the problem is that there are many sources of such “wisdom,” and not all are from God. One of the three things that attracted Eve to eat the Fruit, was the fact that it was “to be desired to make one wise.” But that “wisdom” was not from God: it was a deadly trap!

James 3:13-18 points out the three other sources of “wisdom,” all of which are in opposition to God. He shows the “works” that are associated with such “Earthly, Sensual, or Devilish” “wisdom”, and then contrasts it with the “fruit” of Godly Wisdom.

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

(There are those three enemies again: The world, the flesh, and the Devil!)

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

The wisdom we need must come from the only good source: In Proverbs 2:1-7, God says that His Word is the only reliable source. Do we have a teacher we especially like to hear? That is good; but we still need to read the scriptures on our own, as well, and measure his words against God’s Word. As did the Berean believers, we need to “Search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so.” (Acts 17:11)

Things that sound good, are not necessarily good teaching. Compare scripture with scripture. All scripture has to agree with all other scripture. If we are taught something that seems to contradict the rest of the Word of God, we need to stop and read carefully: something is definitely wrong.

Don’t underestimate Christ

Verse 9 is an important truth regarding the Deity of Christ. This is a crystal-clear statement that “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.” We have a very human desire to “reduce” God to a humanly understandable level. That is not a good thing to do: He is not a human, except as He has chosen to appear, in the person of Christ. He is the immortal, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator, and the God of all time and eternity! Why should I expect him to be something I can casually read about, consider for a moment, and grasp completely? There are so many comparatively small things within His creation, which we can study all our lives and still not understand: why would we expect the Creator to be simpler than His creation? Entomologists may give their whole lives to understanding a particular type of insect: Isn’t it obvious that the Creator of all things, including that insect, is more complex and harder to grasp than the insect, let alone the rest of creation, from silkworms to supernovas?

I can’t even grasp all the things that humans create: I use computers and cell-phones on a daily basis, but, when experts try to explain to me how they work, I only understand them in general terms. Regarding the specifics of why something doesn’t work, I have no idea what’s wrong.

Jesus encompasses all of who God is: He is God; and the entirety of the fullness of the Godhead was and is present in Him, in His human body. And, He says that we are complete in Christ!

You are complete in Christ!

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

This is an important truth, all in itself: You are complete in Christ! He is the head of all things, above all authority and angelic beings, whether holy or fallen, and He says we are complete, in Him!

So, what should I do when someone comes along to tell me, “No! You are not complete! You are missing this one little thing about which God didn’t bother to tell you!” What then? Doesn’t that comment sound remarkably similar to the Serpent’s temptation of Eve, in the Garden? “You shall not surely die! (Hisssss) God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil!” (Hisssss)  (Genesis 3:4, 5)

Learn to recognize Robbers

Beware the voice of the Serpent in all such appeals! At minimum, this sort of suggestion calls into question the character of God! Any teaching that diminishes the deity of Christ, or questions the holiness or wisdom of God Himself, is ultimately from the pit. This is not meant as some sort of “knee-jerk, reactionary name-calling.” We simply need to be realistic about God’s Word: there is an Enemy, and this is one of the ways we perceive his hand. We see his character in the teachings of his workers: they seek to make us doubt God’s written Word, and to not trust Him.

We also must look to see God’s character in the teachings of His servants. God’s faithful servants teach us to understand and trust in the written Word of God, which draws us closer to the Living Word, Jesus! They confirm that God’s Word is complete, and holy, and that His character is Holy and Righteous, and Good, and that He is entirely trustworthy. The Holy Spirit never teaches contrary to the Word of God, nor does He cause us to doubt the character of God.

I have had people tell me that “there were things left out of the Bible, you know;” and that I, as a Bible-believing Christian, am living in ignorance, because I “don’t know the whole story.” Now: who is most likely to bring me such an idea; trying to convince me that “God is not giving me the straight story?” Is this a true “servant of light,” or is it, more likely, a minion of Satan appearing as an angel of light? (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.)

We need to learn our wisdom from God, by becoming so familiar with His Word that every false doctrine “sticks out” as having “something amiss.” In every such case, so far, I have been able, through God’s Word, to satisfy myself that the person bringing the message was not a servant of God; their message was utterly contrary to God’s Word, and contrary to Grace, as well. We are complete in Him. We simply need to feed on His Word, and become strong.

What is the result of our Position in Christ?

Verses 11-15 tell us some precious truths that are entirely due to our position in Christ:

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

The “circumcision,” here, as well as the “baptism,” have nothing to do with our physical body. Jesus, by His death at the Cross, has “put off” the flesh, once for all. We are no longer slaves to our old sin nature. It is still present, but it has been “put off” at the Cross, and we can trust in that truth, on a daily basis. This is entirely a “positional” truth: it is true because we are in Christ.

The baptism in question, here, is also not the physical baptism with water, but the Holy Spirit baptism addressed over in 1st Corinthians 12:13. Every believer has been “baptized” into Christ, whether they know it or not. Because of that baptism by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ, we have been identified with Him in His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension, with the result being that, from God’s perspective, we are already seated with Christ in Heaven.

Water baptism only reflects this “real” baptism. It is an outward symbol of a spiritual reality, just as circumcision was supposed to have been for the Jews. Again, these are true because we are in Christ. There is nothing for us to do, to obtain these things: they are already true of us, in Christ.

The next verse is in the same category: it is true for all believers, because they are in Christ.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Notice that this is all past-tense: I was “dead in sin:” I have been “quickened” (made alive—resurrected) with Christ. My sins already have been completely forgiven: all our trespasses have been forgiven; past, present and future. Remember: when Jesus died for you, all your sins were in the future! He died for all your “future sins,” because all of them were in the future when He died. You have never “surprised God” by your sins. He knew them all, from eternity past. He chose to include them in His sacrifice at the Cross.

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

The Law, which spoke against me, in my condemned state as a lost sinner, has been blotted out: erased, as it were, where it once condemned me. The condemnation of the Law was nailed to the Cross along with our sins. Is the Law still God’s Word? Absolutely! But it no longer condemns me: because I died with Christ, the Law has been fulfilled, as it applies to me. It condemned me to die, and I died: “End of story!” So, all of its judgment against me has been nullified, in death.

15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The word “spoiled” here, means “looted,” or “robbed.” In what way did Jesus “loot” or “rob” the demonic hosts at the cross? He took back the souls of all believers from the one who had long enslaved them! He purchased us, actually, with His blood, and through His death. But the key, here, is that Jesus triumphed over Satan at the Cross. This was the fulfillment of the “Seed of the Woman” prophecy in Genesis 3:15. This is where the “Serpent’s head” was “crushed.” What was expected to be a victory for Satan, and an ignominious death for the Son of God, turned out to be the Absolute Triumph of God, in Christ, and the crushing defeat of the Evil One.

How should we respond to this truth?

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The result, then, of the final “setting aside of the Law, for righteousness,” is that we are also free from the trappings of the religious law adhered to by the Jews. (See Romans 10:4—“For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”) There are still people today who want to place themselves back under these Laws, though God tells them to not do so, right here in this passage.

What is worse, is that, they usually want to place others under that condemnation, as well. They are not satisfied to be a slave themselves: they want you to be one, too. The cults all fall into this category, as they all (either explicitly or, by implication) deny the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, saying that we must work to earn salvation, or work to maintain a right standing before God.

They go out of their way to convince us, because they themselves have been convinced that, in order for them to be saved, or to receive reward, they have to draw others into the same bondage. The cults are not doing it out of concern for your soul, but for their own. A Christian may share his or her belief, too, but he or she has no obligation to do so, and, as a rule, nothing to gain by it. They seek to free others from bondage, not enslave them. They are not concerned, as a rule, with what church you attend, but, whether you receive the free gift of God: eternal life in Christ. They may also invite you to their church, of course; but, if they are faithful servants of God, the real issue is the salvation and freedom of your soul.

Is there anything “wrong” with keeping the feasts, or observing the Sabbath? No, there isn’t! If you enjoy the celebrations, that is fine, but we are under no obligation to such things. We are not to be placed under further bondage: instead, the Holy Spirit sets us free from the bondage of sin, and does not place us in bondage to the Law. He truly sets us free to live for God.

Finally, Paul points out that all the things of the Law (the feast-days, the dietary laws, etc.) were, collectively, at best, only a picture of the coming reality of righteousness in Christ. Jesus is the Reality! He asks that we not allow ourselves to be robbed of our freedom in Christ by others, who, themselves, have rejected it.

This is, unfortunately, an extremely common trait among humans: we don’t want others to enjoy something that we, ourselves, don’t have. So we judge one another, and try to make each other feel less content with God’s supply. Paul warns us to not allow this to happen to us, and (by application), we are not to do it to others, either! You are complete, in Christ. Rejoice in that truth, and don’t allow anyone to steal your joy, by causing you to doubt it.

Lord Jesus, please allow us to meditate upon the truth that we are complete in You, and help us to grasp the importance of clinging to that truth. Help us to learn contentment without falling into complacency. We do want to grow, but we do not want to be tormented by vain ambitions. Glorify yourself in us, in Jesus name.

Paul’s Concerns for the Churches

Paul’s Concerns for the Churches

© C. O. Bishop 8/25/18 Cornell Estates 8/26/18

Colossians 2:1-9

Introduction:

We have been slowly studying through the book of Colossians, and have finally begun chapter two: In it we begin to see some of the pitfalls for faith, and the concerns that Paul held for the infant churches. He addressed the church at Colosse, and the church at Laodicea as examples. We tend to think of the church at Laodicea only in terms of their eventual failure, as recorded in Revelation chapter 3, but the fact is, they began as a vibrant, healthy church, just as did the churches at Colosse, Philippi, and other cities. His concern for all the infant churches was that they grow strong and stable in Christ, and that they be the testimony of the Living Christ to the World around them, rather than being dragged down by that World. Paul gave us, in his prayer, a “prescription” to protect us from the design of the Enemy against our souls.

The Prescription of Prayer

1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

There is an interesting word used, here: The Greek word “agona” is almost always translated “fight, or conflict” but frequently in the context of prayer, not a physical battle. We are told to labor fervently” in prayer, and this is the word used. In this context, I believe that is the intended application. Paul has not met some of the churches face-to-face, but has the same concerns for them that he has for the churches he actually planted. He is “fervently laboring” for them in prayer, for what things?

That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

Paul lists at least three things, here: (again, it is instructive to see the things on Paul’s prayer-list.)

  1. That their hearts might be comforted.
  2. That they would experience true unity, brought about through Agape love, and,
  3. That they would collectively experience all the riches in a full assurance of understanding, through the knowledge (Greek epignosin) of the Trinity:
    • The mystery of God
    • Of the Father, and
    • Of Christ.

 

These are not light, casual things: Paul is not just praying that they “have a nice day.” He is praying that they will be comforted by the Word of God, through the experiential knowledge of the Savior. The word “epignosin” has to do with a complete, full, experiential knowledge of a person, place, thing, or condition. It is not just being able to recite some facts about a person, a place, a thing, or a condition. It requires personal experiential knowledge.

The more we experience God’s Grace and Love in our lives, on a day by day basis, the better-equipped we are to deal with the hard times and the trials and temptations in life. Remember, back in Proverbs 2, we saw the source of wisdom and understanding to be the LORD (God’s personal name in the Old Testament.) And, through our study of the Old and New Testaments, we can see that the particular person of the Godhead who showed up in human form, to give personal attention to believers was none other than God the Son. (W will see more about His Deity, in the verses to come.) So it is literally true that the knowledge of the mystery of the Father and the Son, along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, is going to be the source of comfort, and unity, and wisdom, and understanding. Paul confirms this, in the next verse:

In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus is the one we need to cling to, and to learn from, in order to have the comfort, unity, and understanding that we so badly need in life. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd! He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead them that are with young!He is the one to do all these things! There is a reason Jesus declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, in John 10:11.

I find comfort, seeing the Shepherd in the Old Testament; how he dealt with those who trusted in Him. I find great joy in the figure of Christ, in the book of Ruth: Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi and Ruth, reached out to Ruth in grace, going beyond the scope of the Law, in directing his workers to “drop extra handfuls” of grain, when she was near. He spoke to her personally, inviting her to come and eat with his workers. She was overwhelmed by his grace, but accepted the invitation. And, as she sat to eat with the workers, it turned out that Boaz himself was there among them, and that he, himself, personally passed her the food. Ultimately, he turned out to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi. (He and Ruth produced a son, the grandfather of King David, and the great-g-g-g-grandfather of the Lord Jesus, who is our Kinsman-Redeemer!)

Do you see the pattern there? Jesus reached out to us, as poor, lost sinners, in Grace, paying the price of our sins, by His own blood. He invites us, as believers, to come and be fed by his Word. And then, “Where two or three gather in His name, He himself is in the midst of us,” and He himself feeds us on His Word, and by His Spirit.

We need the knowledge of the Holy God on an experiential basis, not “just the facts”. The facts have to lead us to the Person. When I read the Scriptures, I could be looking for just the facts, and, sometimes I am. But, in reality, I am always trying to reach beyond the printed page, to see the Living Word, beyond the Written Word. How we respond to the Written Word, is usually a good indicator of how we are responding to the Living Word, Jesus. If we are not actively pursuing the relationship with the Living Word, then we can easily be swayed by the enemy.

The Purpose of Knowledge

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

The World around us is one of the three enemies named in scripture. And the World produces countless sources of “enticing words”, through advertising, through false teachers, through political speakers, and, especially through the various mass-communication media. Television, radio, and the internet could be wonderful tools for Good, but, they have become terrible tools of Evil, as they have largely been taken over by those who are enemies of the Gospel.

How did the Serpent beguile Eve? Through enticing words! And we are still susceptible to the same temptations, today. We are easily confused, and easily persuaded to follow bad leaders. We desperately need to know the Savior, well enough to recognize when the “voice” calling us is not that of Christ.

It is interesting to me (and I have confirmed this with bank tellers) that bank employees are trained to recognize counterfeits, not by looking at the various counterfeits, but by being trained so thoroughly in the recognition of the genuine currency (or real identification cards) that a false bill, or fake I.D. card is immediately seen as false. I knew a young woman who worked as a bank-teller, and she excitedly told me, one day, how she had “caught” a bank-fraud in progress. She noticed that an identification card simply “looked wrong”, and she excused herself while she took it to her supervisor. The supervisor also spotted it as false, and she had her keep the “customer” busy while she called the police. The police arrived in a few minutes, and blocked the thief’s car from front and back, and made the arrest. (Good catch!)

We are supposed to be growing in our understanding of God’s Word, too, so that a false teacher will stand out immediately, as being suspect, and we will listen carefully to see where the doctrine is leading. We then compare scripture to scripture, to check our intuition.

The Progress of Faith

Paul was impressed with all he had heard about this church, and prayed that they would continue to learn to walk by faith.

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

How did you receive Christ? Through works? Through intensive study and learning? Or was it by faith, because you heard the Gospel and chose to place your trust in Jesus as your Savior? Of course, each of us, as believers, share that testimony in common: regardless of how we arrived at that point of decision, each of us eventually had to make a choice by faith.

Having made that choice, and having received the Savior by faith, we are now exhorted to learn to walk by faith. Growing in Christ does require learning and growing and being built up in our faith, through the continual application of God’s Word to our lives. Psalm 119:9-11 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto, according to thy Word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy precepts! Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee!

Nothing has changed, regarding God’s Word, and the feeding of God’s Flock. We are strengthened and stabilized by applying God’s Word to our own lives, personally. This is something I have to do myself: no one else can do it for me. They may help me along, through good teaching, or by sharing with me, personally, but I do have to respond, personally, in faith.

The Product of Faith

Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

We are called to be rooted and built up in Christ. We are called to be established (stabilized, and solid) in the faith as we have been taught, abounding in the faith with thanksgiving.  We build on the foundation of scripture. Once in a while, especially when we are new believers, we may have a misconception, and, if we are committed to the truth of God’s Word, then He, by the Holy Spirit, will quickly correct the error, and help us to see how things “fit together”.

A sister recently shared with me how she felt that she was like a child, trying to put a puzzle together, under the supervision of her Father: once in a while, she tries to force a piece into place, where it does not belong. He quickly lets her see that it is not a good fit, but that does not mean that she immediately can see where it does fit. So she is learning to trust God to show her in His time, how things really do fit together, within the framework of sound teaching.

I have had to do the same thing, as, occasionally, there were passages by which I was so frustrated, that I had to stop reading them; confessing that I could not understand, them, and waiting on God to bring me to a point of maturity wherein they were understandable to me. Had I tried to force the issue, I likely would have come up with some wrong conclusions. And, sometimes those wrong conclusions are the deliberate work of an enemy:

The Pedigree of “Wisdom”

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Notice that the three-fold attack of the Enemy here, is through

  1. Philosophy and vain deceit (Who is the Deceiver?)
  2. After the traditions of men (Human reasoning)
  3. After the Rudiments of the World (elementary concepts, not embracing spiritual realities)

And he says that, collectively, these three are not “after Christ.” They are not from God.

We tend to like “philosophy”…in fact, the word means “loving wisdom”. But the problem is that there are multiple sources of such “wisdom,” and not all of it is from God. Remember that one of the things that attracted Eve to eat the Fruit, was the fact that it was “to be desired to make one wise.” But that “wisdom” was not being offered by God, and it was a deadly trap!

James 3:13-18 points out the three other sources, all of which are in opposition to God. He lists the “works” that are associated with such “Earthly, Sensual, or Devilish wisdom”, and then contrasts it with the “fruit” of Godly Wisdom.

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

So, the wisdom we are looking for must come from the only good source: God says that His Word is the proper source. Do we have a teacher we like to hear? We still need to read on our own, and measure his words against God’s Word.

Just because things sound good, they are not necessarily good teaching. Compare scripture with scripture on a daily basis. All scripture has to agree with all other scripture. If we are being taught something that we think is in contradiction to the rest of the Word of God, it is time to stop and read carefully, as something is definitely wrong.

The Primacy of Christ

Verse 9 is an important truth regarding the Deity of Christ. This is a crystal-clear statement that “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.” We have a very human desire to “reduce God” to a humanly understandable level. That is not a good thing to do: He is not a human, except as He has chosen to appear in the person of Christ. He is the immortal, immutable, all-present, all-powerful Creator, and the God of all time and eternity! Why should I expect him to be someone I can casually read about, consider for a moment, and grasp completely? There are so many small things within the creation itself that we can study all our lives and still not understand; why would we expect the Creator to be simpler than His creation?

I can’t even grasp all the things that humans create: I use computers and cell-phones on a daily basis, but, when technicians have attempted to explain to me how they work, I can only understand in the most general terms. When it gets to the specifics of why something isn’t working, I have no idea what is wrong.

We have to recognize the Deity of Christ in our daily lives: He is not just our “Best Friend”…He is God! He is the Judge of all the Earth! We owe Him our Love, surely, for the relationship’s sake, but we owe our faith and obedience, because He is the Master…He is the Creator: He is God! We must turn to Him for all things, whether sustenance, wisdom, guidance or protection. Remember who Jesus really is, and respond to Him accordingly! Read His Word with that in mind, and treat His Word with the proper respect and reverence. Read for understanding, for comfort, and to experience true Worship and obedience.

Blessings upon you all as you seek to know the Lord better every day.

Lord Jesus, grant us your wisdom: we see you as the only sure source, and we desire to know you day by day, as our Master and our shepherd. Lead us to green pastures, and Still waters, and allow us to serve you faithfully as your ambassadors.

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

© C. O. Bishop 3/10/17 THCF 3/12/17

Hebrews 3:1-13

Introduction:

1Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Perhaps the first thing we need to do is look at the significance of some of the words used, here: It is interesting to me that the writer addresses his audience as “Holy Brethren”.  “Holy” means set apart for God’s purpose. We are no longer slaves to sin, but neither are we our own masters: we are not free agents but, rather, we are ambassadors for a Holy God. We have a job to do: we are to be about His business.

What about the word “brethren?” It just means brothers, of course…The writer was a Jew, and he spoke to other Jews, so, it is possible that he used the word “brethren” only in that regard, but it seems doubtful. They were familiar with that use, of course, but this goes a little deeper. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus as their savior have become brothers in Christ. I think that meaning more closely follows the intent of the book. Furthermore, it supports the concept that this book is to all believers, even though the primary audience was the Jewish believers of the first century church (pre-AD 70.)

He says that we have been made partakers of the “Heavenly Calling”. Give that one some thought: in what way are you a partaker of the heavenly calling? Is that a reality in your life? In Romans 8:29, 30 Paul makes it clear that every single believer is called to God’s service…how are you responding to that heavenly call? Perhaps this will require some soul-searching…. In my own case, I have to ask, do I spend more time concerned with the things of God, or am I primarily interested in my own things…my own needs and interests? Something to think about.

Apostle” means “sent one”. Jesus was sent by God to do a specific job—to offer himself to God as full payment for the sins of humanity. He completely fulfilled all the prophecies concerning himself, some over which he would have zero control if he were not God incarnate, though some people have argued that he artificially engineered the “fulfillments.” Many were utterly outside his control as a human. He was God in the flesh, fulfilling His OWN Word. He could literally pick his place of birth, his parentage, etc. He was sent to do the will of God, the Father and he fed on that reality. He said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

The “High Priest” was the only one who could enter the holy of holies, with a sacrifice for the nation, and approach the throne of God. And he could only do so once a year. Jesus is the High Priest upon whom our lives depend. Either his sacrifice, presented before that Holy God, is sufficient, or we are forever lost. The writer is telling us to give this some thought…consider who we are dealing with. Jesus carried out his ministry with absolutely flawless faithfulness. Then the writer compared the person of Christ to Moses, who was also faithful:

Jesus is better than Moses

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

Moses was also called faithful. But he was part of the creation, while Jesus was the creator, thus worthy of greater honor.

For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 

A further point is made, that, relationally, Moses was still a servant. Jesus is the only begotten Son: the heir of all things, as well as the creator of all things. He is literally “God in the flesh”.

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

 So, as sons of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus, we are encouraged to not lose sight of who we are in Christ: part of the household of God. And, he exhorts those who are dabblers, still uncommitted, to make a decision before it is too late. For every opportunity, there is a closing date: a “pull-date”—a time after which the offer is no longer valid. And, to all who play games with the Gospel, claiming faith, but never committing themselves, he warns that the result can be eternal loss. He uses Israel as an example, saying that unbelief is why the first generation, who left Egypt with Moses, failed to enter into the land. (Notice, here, that the land was not a picture of salvation. It was a picture of the rest-relationship with God. They had already been under the blood of the Passover, by faith; and they had already been through the Red Sea, again by faith. But when they balked at entering the land, he said, “Fine, then: you can’t go in.” So, in spite of the fact that they were saved by faith, they lost their opportunity to enter into the joy of that relationship, because of unbelief.)

The Second Warning: “Harden Not your Hearts”

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

There seem to be fairly harsh warnings throughout the book of Hebrews…and while some might be simple warnings against failing to enter into the rest relationship, others are clearly warning against eternal perdition…being lost forever. Since that has already been ruled out for the child of God, one must read more carefully, and then we can see that some of those who originally received this epistle had never committed themselves to the sacrifice of Christ, but were simply “along for the ride”, thinking that, “if it doesn’t work out, I can always return to the Mosaic Law, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices thereof.”  But, since the real sacrifice now has been made, the earlier ones which were only pictures of the coming Lamb of God, no longer have any validity. There is nothing left, to which they could go back…it is just an empty shell, now.

While we, as believers should take to heart the warnings of this book, we need to see that the sternest warnings, here, are to those who have failed to place their full trust in the blood of Jesus at the Cross. There is no threat of a believer losing his or her salvation. We are secure in Him. But those who pretend faith are not only not secure, they are in special danger as having “neglected so great a salvation”, and having “hardened their hearts” (the first two warnings.)

10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Notice that is says “they have not known my ways”…not that they once knew them and simply slid back into their old ways. This is a critical difference. To those who are lost at the Judgment of the Living Nations (Matthew 25:31, ff ), Jesus says. “…I never knew you.” It is possible for a believer to continually live in the flesh and never learn the “ways of God”. But it is not possible for God to address a true believer and say, “I never knew you.”

Seven Rests from the Word of God:

(So, what is the “Rest” offered here?)

There are at least seven “rests” mentioned in scripture:

  1. The rest of God himself after the Creation,
  2. The rest offered to Israel in the land of Canaan,
    • The rest given to the next generation of Israel in the land of Canaan,
  3. The rest demanded for the Land
  4. The rest offered to Ruth in the book of Ruth,
  5. The rest Jesus offered to unbelievers, “Come unto me and I will give you rest,
  6. The rest Jesus offered to believers, “Ye shall find rest unto your soul…”
    • The rest God offers for the believer in Christ’s labor and rest, today.
  7. Eternal rest in Heaven.

Some of these are very similar, and I will not try to “surgically” separate them, but some are very different, and God says so. Those I will attempt to explain:

  1. When God rested after completing the creation, it was not because he was tired. The word used is “Shabbat”…from which we get the transliterated word, “Sabbath”. It means to cease from our usual labor, or from labor in general. It means “rest”, in the sense that we mean when we say “give it a rest!” (Stop doing that, now…)
  1. God offered rest to his people in the land of Canaan: They were already believers, having trusted in the blood of the Passover, and having passed through the Red Sea under the cloud of God’s presence. But they were offered “rest” in Canaan. Rest (in the sense of “relief”) from persecution, rest from poverty, rest from the desert. It was a picture of the Rest in Christ, to which the New Testament believer is invited. As demonstrated in their lives, it is entirely possible for a believer to miss out on that rest. The next generation entered into Canaan, but we see in subsequent passages (Psalm 95) that there still remained a “rest” for believers to embrace—Canaan itself was not the promised rest…it was only a picture of the promised “rest.”
  1. God demanded “rest” for the land. The land was to be left fallow every seventh year, and allowed time to regenerate. Israel did not follow this command, and, after 490 years of disobedience in this regard, were cast out of the land for 70 years, to make up for the 70 missed “Sabbaths” of the land. Interesting fact.
  1. Ruth was offered “rest” by Naomi. Ruth was working to support herself and Naomi, by gleaning in the fields. She had no security, as a stranger to Israel, and there were no “social services” offered. A widow, especially a foreign-born widow, did not have much hope in that society. (Their “welfare system” was limited to the gleaner’s rights.) But, she had placed her trust in the God of Israel (Boaz said so, supplementing her own statement of “Thy God shall be my God.”), and Naomi asked whether she might seek “rest” for Ruth, in the form of marriage, so that she had some security. The remainder of that story is as fine a holy romance as one can read. That was “rest,” in the form of security and blessing.
  1. Jesus offered two “rests”, in Matthew 11:28-30. The first was offered to those who labored and were heavily laden (unbelievers). He said “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the rest that is conferred upon us in salvation: it is a free gift.
  1. The second is different: He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. This “rest” is not a free gift; it is a product of an obedient relationship with the Savior. It comes as a result of walking with Jesus. “Ye shall find rest unto your souls.” It is only available to saved people, but not all saved people experience it. This is the primary “rest” discussed in Hebrews 3:7—4:11, although the “rest” involved in salvation is also alluded to. (In similar fashion, peace with God is a reality for all believers (Romans 5:1), but the Peace of God is offered on the conditions of faith and obedience. (Philippians 4:6,7)
  1. The final rest offered in the eternal state is described in numerous places in scripture, but notably in Revelation 22:1-3. “…no more curse”. We yearn for that final rest, and it is guaranteed to us: but we can experience God’s Rest in this life as well.

Departing from the Living God.

12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Is it possible for a believer to “depart from the living God?” In the same sense that the Prodigal Son left his father, yes, it is possible. But it is important to remember that all the time the Son was on the road, going or coming, he was a son. All the time he was feeding those pigs, and wishing he could eat their food, he was a son. And had he died there, he would have been a dead son: not a dead pig! His human father did not know where he was, so, from his perspective, he was dead…they were separated. (Death always is a separation of some sort, in scripture.)

But when he woke up and realized his own folly, he headed back to his father’s house. His Father saw him coming, and without hesitation, ran to meet him. He confessed his folly, and fellowship was instantly restored. The consequences of his sin remained…he was penniless. The remainder of the father’s fortune was still going to the elder son.

But his position as a son had never changed. Only his condition had changed. We see similar results in a Church-age believer’s life, in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15. There are those whose life-work will be lost, because it is entirely of a temporal nature (having no eternal value), but who will still be saved, themselves, though as one escaping through flames.

13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

On the other hand, let’s consider the alternative: were there people who lived in Egypt, and saw the plagues, who were impressed enough to obey Moses, and sacrifice a lamb? And who ate of that lamb, and followed Moses out of Egypt? Even followed him through the Red Sea? And, were terrified at Sinai, hearing the trumpets and voices, and seeing the smoke? And ate of the manna, daily, but somehow still never placed their trust in the living God? I have no way to know for sure, but my experience with churches today tells me it is entirely possible that there were people at that time, as well, who went through all the motions, but never knew, nor desired to know the living God as their savior and God. How can we know this?

During the Earthly ministry of Christ, there was one for sure (Judas), and likely others, who saw all the miracles, heard all the teaching, and ate the loaves and fishes, etc., but who never believed. (Definitely true of Judas!) And, during the Church age there have been many who attended church all their lives, sang the songs, prayed the prayers, took communion, listened to the preaching, and in many cases, went into the ministry themselves, but never believed the Gospel. I have met some of them. Peter warned against them (2nd Peter 2).

I have known some believers whose spoken testimony confirmed that for years they “played along”, living like a believer, but knowing, all the time, that they were living a lie. At some point they realized the deadly danger they were in and repented: they changed their mind about the pretense they were maintaining. From that point on, their perspective had changed.

There are others who pressed on with their smug self-will, certain that they were leaders of the blind, and that all these “sheep” were simply misguided fools. I have known pastors who outwardly seemed model Christians, but who eventually confessed that they did not believe the Bible. I cannot explain that, but it is true…and, from testimonies I have heard, it is not even all that uncommon.

The Deceitfulness of Sin:

Notice it says that their hearts were hardened “through the deceitfulness of sin”. Why is the sin called deceitful, rather than the sinner, in this passage? Because the sinner is being deceived by their own sin nature. Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. The blood-circulating pump that is the physical heart is not the issue. That one either pumps blood or it doesn’t. The deceitful “heart” in Jeremiah is the old sin nature of the New Testament. This is the “evil heart of unbelief” warned against in verse 12.

God seldom uses the word “heart” to refer to the pump—he uses the word to denote the seat of emotions and intellect—the soulish part of the human trichotomy. We are a three-part being: body, soul and spirit. And the human psyche or soul, is contaminated with sin. (The Greek word is “psuche”…that is where we get our word “psyche.”)

Your old nature doesn’t “go away” when you become a believer. In fact, it is frequently referred to as “the flesh”, just as the soul is sometimes referred to as the heart. But you were given a new nature. That is why Jesus called it being “born again”. You have a new nature. That new nature is completely holy, just as this passage suggests, and it is truly “made in the image of God” in righteousness, as well as true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) That is one reason I can say with assurance, that, if you have been born again, this passage is to you! The book of Hebrews is for you, as a believer. The seven warnings are to a specific group spelled out in the book: those who have not been born again, but who are pretending faith. But, to the believers, he addresses you as “Holy Brethren!”

However, because you are a believer, you need to especially be aware that your old nature is still extremely deceitful. You have had all your life to practice “listening to your heart”, as we are so often told to do. We have to deliberately practice listening to God instead of our hearts. People say “Your heart won’t lead you wrong!” But, in fact, the opposite is true. We have to constantly soak ourselves in God’s Word, so that we are less likely to be drawn away by our old sin nature.

Conclusion:

There are four things we should be able to “take away with us,” here:

  1. If you have been born again, God counts you as holy, and righteous, and as His child.
  2. If you have been born again, you have a job to do…a heavenly calling: you are God’s ambassador.
  3. If you have been born again, there is a rest you are invited to enjoy, and warned not to miss out on.
  4. If you have been born again, you have two natures, and one of them (the old one) is very deceitful. There is a war going on, and the enemy’s best weapon against us is that old sin nature…our deceitful hearts.

So…what do we do about it? We choose daily to walk with God, and saturate ourselves with His Word, so as to minimize the effect of our old nature. We pray, we worship, we fellowship with other believers around the person of Christ. We pray for and look for opportunities to do our jobs as ambassadors of God. We study to equip ourselves for that work, and keep our testimony clean so as not to be disqualified for service. All this we do under God’s Grace and under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, who indwells us and keeps us through all our lives.

Lord Jesus give us the Grace to continually walk with you and not to miss out on your daily blessings through sin and inattention to our jobs. Teach us to live in such a way as to draw others to you, not drive them away. Teach us to rest in you. Amen