Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:1-23 ESV)

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What to remember this weekend

Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
(Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53-54:1 ESV)
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53 ESV)

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
(Matthew 27:1-61 ESV)

Self-Love and Loving Others

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Recently, I got into an online forum discussion (a dangerous place to be sometimes) about the question of if it is necessary to love ourselves to be able to love others?  Related to that was a discussion of self-esteem.

One position, and one that I once believed strongly, is that, yes, it is.  We must love ourselves and take care of ourselves to be able to love others.  Here is my problem with that.  When Jesus said, “love others as you love yourself,” I believe that he was assuming self-love, not commanding it.  Most of us have some sense of self-preservation and take care of our own needs.  What Jesus was saying was to put the needs of others on that same level.  As Paul, would later say, we are to love others by considering their needs above our own.

Regarding self-esteem, most Scripture is interested that we do not esteem ourselves too highly.  We shouldn’t be bugs pretending to be gods.  I could be wrong, but I do not see much in Scripture that warns us against low self-esteem.  If anything, scripture teaches us to lose ourselves and to sacrifice ourselves.  In a rare moment of online lucidity, here is what I wrote:

Only a person struggling with suicidal thoughts would probably see themselves as completely worthless. Most people have a good sense of self-preservation that flows from some sense of self-worth. Taking care of ourselves physically and mentally is one thing. I have no problem with this or else I wouldn’t be watching my weight and jogging three times a week.

My problem is the order that things are put. “I love myself, then I can love others” does not ring true when put beside Scripture. It is a cultural understanding of where love comes from, not a Biblical one. The type of love that Scripture teaches in not the natural love that our culture describes. It is supernatural. It is unconditional. It begins with the self-sacrificing love of God that fills me and loves through me. Jesus did not say, “Love yourselves and then you can love others.” When He talked about self, He said ‘crucify yourself’, ‘take up your cross’ and ‘deny yourself’. All those things imply that to truly follow Christ and to love as He loved, I have to get self out of the way, and as Paul said, ‘put on the new self, created to be like God’.

My worth comes not from me, but from Christ in me. My ability to love does not come from loving me but from loving God supremely. It comes from an absolute surrender of self to God and walking in His spirit. God calls on us to love others with His love, not our self-love. Jesus said, “No man has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” In other words, even self-preservation is laid aside for the sake of loving others. That is how Jesus loved, and that is how we are recognized as His disciples. I don’t give love because I have worth. I give love because He is supremely worthy and made me His own. Love does not spring from within us. If it did, it would be tainted by sin and selfishness. It begins with God and as we grown in likeness to Christ, it flows out from us to others.

Cause for Humility

My youngest daughter works hard to keep me humble.  Actually, she doesn’t work hard at it.  She seems to come about that ability naturally.

In the past year, I had a number of speaking engagements.  As we were waiting for one program to start, she commented about being bored.  I asked, “Are you still going to be bored when I start speaking?”  Without hesitation, she replied, “Yes.”

After speaking at one engagement, I realized that I could hear a recording in the coming week on the radio.  I said to my family, “I don’t suppose that I will.  I’m not sure I want to hear myself on the radio.”  Once again, my youngest daughter spoke up, “Yeah, especially since we’re heard it before.”

If I were to think more Biblically about myself, I wouldn’t need her help to be humble.  This time of year is a reminder of just how humble we should be.  Sadly, many Christians give the impression that we have it all together.  The message we seem to project to the world is if only they would be more like us, they would be ok.

The truth of the matter is Jesus came because we are not ok, and even more, there is no way that we can be ok without Him.  We are all born sinners with an inclination to sin and to rebel against God.  It isn’t just the big sins that society promotes but the “small” sins that we all commit that separate us from God and from being in a personal relationship with Him.  God didn’t create us to live separately from Him.  He created us to walk in the garden with Him, but through sin, we chose to walk on our own paths.

The only thing that separates a Christian from someone else is that we have realized that our own path isn’t nearly as good as the path God created us to walk on.  His path leads to eternal blessing.  Our path leads to hell.  The problem is that we are so caught in sin that we can’t find our way to His path.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  He came and through His death and His resurrection He made the way for us to get to the path.  Through the  Holy Spirit,  God gives us to new life (being born again). He takes us off our path and places us on His path.  We realize our sin and our need for a Savior, and the Baby in the Manger becomes more than a pleasant thought.  His life in all of its glory in living and horror in dying and glory once again in rising becomes our source of hope and joy.

The problem is that when we get on His path, we sometimes forget that it was He who put us there.  We believe that we have it all together because of our own power and intelligence.  We become like the Corinthians in the New Testament.  Paul had to ask them, if they had received everything they had, why did they boast as if they didn’t?

We have no cause to boast of ourselves, only to boast of Him and to glorify Him.  My daughter shouldn’t have to give me cause to be humble.  Thinking about the Cross should be cause enough.

The Christmas Child and the Man on the Cross

I have made a strange discovery this Advent season.  I can hear more Christmas music on NPR that I can on many Christian radio stations with a lot less talk. Perhaps, I shouldn’t  judge, but it is frustrating to turn on the radio hoping to hear music that praises God and instead hear endless banter and people calling to share about the worse gift they ever got for Christmas or some other mundane topic.  When that happens, I just move down the dial, if that is what it is still called, to an NPR station and hear classical renditions of some beautiful Christmas music.

It is not that NPR doesn’t have talk between the songs as well, but at least it isn’t about getting a head massager.  And here is what listening to NPR during the Christmas season confirms as I hear the songs and the stories that people have who conduct, compose arrangements and perform the songs.  People like the idea of Christmas in the distorted sense they have understood it.  They like this whole idea of a child being a source of hope and of peace and good will.  They just miss some key words.

The angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14)

The song implies that there are people whom God favors and people whom He doesn’t favor.  And that favor is based not upon our having warm, fuzzy feelings around a manger scene.  It is about the work that the child in the manger did as a grown man upon the Cross.  Our peace depends upon His grace, His favor resting upon us.

Yet, the view of Jesus on the cross doesn’t bring about feelings that a warm fire, a glass of hot cocoa and The Little Drummer Boy playing in the background can.  What for many believers is a demonstration of God so loving the world is the most offensive thing to others.  What stirs our hearts with wonder at God’s grace stirs others with disgust.  They call it cosmic child abuse and human sacrifice to appease an angry God ignoring the fact that it was God incarnate sacrificing Himself for us.  It is offensive because it reminds us of how horrible our sin really is.  It reminds us that God’s love is a result of grace and not something to which we are entitled.    It reminds us that we cannot save ourselves, but that we need a Savior.

Reading the Gospels for Devotions

This year rather than read the Bible through as I had done for several years, I have read the gospels over and over.  I have tried to find ways to keep from letting it become too familiar or too legalistic to be of value to my spiritual growth.  Also, I have been teaching the study, Reading the Bible for Life by George H. Guthrie, at church.  I have tried to join some of the ideas from that study into my devotional life.  This morning, I came up with four questions to guide my meditation and journal writing as I read the gospels.  I usually read one chapter per day.

  1. What do I learn about Jesus from this chapter?  Here, I am focusing on who Jesus is by meditating on His nature and character.  I am looking at how the Gospel writer explains Jesus’ humanity and divinity.  I am also looking at how His fulfills prophecies and how He is revealed as Messiah, Savior, and Lord.
  2. What does Jesus teach by His words or by His example?  I am looking for what I must obey.  As my Lord, what does Jesus want me to do?  In Luke 2, which I read this morning, it says in a couple of places that Jesus grew in wisdom.  This is an example to follow, and I began to consider how I might focus on growing in godly wisdom.
  3. How do people respond to Jesus in ways that I should emulate?  In the text, how do I see others obey Jesus.  For example, as I read Luke 2, I noticed how Simeon waited for God’s promise and rejoiced with praise as he saw it fulfilled.
  4. How do I apply what I have observed to my life? After meditating upon or writing down the things that I have observed, I look back and try to think of specific ways that I need to apply.  For example, this morning I decided that to grow in godly wisdom, I need to read a chapter of Proverbs each day.
I hope that this will be helpful to those of you seeking to go deeper in looking at the life of Jesus and in reading the Gospels.  If you have found other questions, books or methods that help you to think about a passage of Scripture, feel free to suggests them in the comments.

Looking for Home

Last week, we took our sons to their new home for the next four years (at least).  Both are entering their freshman years at a small Baptist university. However, their having a new home has left me confused about where my home is.  Since we were married, my wife and I have lived in four different states and three different countries, four if you want to count the one where we unexpectedly had to spend about four or five months.  Our children were born in three different countries, and the two that were born in the US were born in different states.  I have lost count of how many apartments and houses we have lived in.

So, for me, I don’t consider any place to be home. I had come to think of home as the place where we were all together as a family.  For example, if we were staying in a hotel somewhere and went out for dinner, I would say when we were done eating, “Let’s go home.”  Home was wherever we were as long as we were together.

Now, we are not together.  One-third of the family is away making a new home.  So, do I have to change my definition of home?  Actually, I think that I just need to radically correct it.  God created us to be with Him.  Jesus said that eternal life is knowing the Only True God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent. (John 17:3) We are at home when we are close to Him.  In this life, many distractions interrupt our being with Him. Yet, we should pursue the practice of His presence, learning to pray without ceasing, talking with Him as we would a friend standing nearby.  In the end, we will have perfect fellowship with God when we are in heaven.  Heaven is our true home, but heaven is where we will live in complete fulfillment of the purpose for which God created us.

Yes, I still want to be together with my family. I would love for that to be in one place and not to be constantly moving.  But my longing for home should help me to understand my deeper longing to be at home with the Lord and to practice His presence in this life so that I will be ready to stand in His presence in the one to come.

Key to Christian Success

Many believers struggle with particular issues in their lives, or it could be that they excel in certain areas.  Lots of men pray for become better fathers or husbands.  Some people pray to become better at sharing their faith.  However, Jesus did not divide up the Christian life into areas that we are to get right one by one.  Rather, He said that the successful Christian life is one of abiding in Him.  Jesus described it this way in John 15.

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. [i]

The Christian life is not a compartmentalized step-by-step progression.  We should take the Christian life as a whole and not subdivide it.  Christ, Himself, is the whole.  He is the center.  By abiding in Him, all else comes into place.  Prayer takes it rightful place.  Obedience takes it rightful place. Love takes it rightful place.  If we read further in John 15, we see that if we abide in Christ, we can expect to become fruitful as believers.  However, we also can expect to suffer.  As we abide in Christ and experience suffering, we must depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength.

To abide in Christ, we must submit to the Father pruning out those things that prevent our becoming fruitful such as sin or misplace priorities.  We must be in the Word of God.  As we learn the Word, we must shape our lives and our thinking to His standards.  And, we must be people of prayer.   Abiding in Christ is not complicated.

 

 


[i] English Standard Version

Are Christians Beautiful?

Are we really beautiful? According to a couple of contemporary Christian songs, we must be. With one of these songs, I don’t have many problems. God does make us beautiful in Christ, but He doesn’t do so for our self-esteem. The other is more blatant with the “let’s feel good about ourselves” theme. The verse has a reference to our being beautiful, and in the chorus, the singer prays that God will show us that we are worth dying for.

Why would I have a problem with that? If we were somehow worthy, we wouldn’t have needed for Jesus to die for us. To suggest that we are worth it diminishes the greatness of God’s love: for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The result of His love and grace is beauty, but it is not our beauty. It is His beauty in us and working through us. So whatever beauty we may have as believers in Christ is for His glory alone.