Friday, March 23, 2012

He Sat Down

It had to be more than just the few words Jesus spoke to those in the synagogue that Sabbath day which drove the people in His hometown to try and kill Him by tossing Him over the edge of the high cliff that Nazareth was built on. Something else had to have happened, something else took place.

According to Luke 4:14-15, after the temptation in the wilderness ... "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all."

Because Jesus had been teaching in their synagogues throughout Galilee, in the power of the Holy Spirit, which they weren't used to ... He gained fame and honor as He explained in detail the Word of God as no one else had ever done. After all, He was the Word made flesh. Remember, at the age of twelve Jesus had taught in the Temple in Jerusalem and amazed the doctors of the Law. (Luke 2:46-47)

Josephus was a 1st century Jewish historian credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus outside of the gospels. He wrote that ... "When Jesus was about fourteen years of age, the chief priests, and the principal men of the city, were constantly coming to him to be more accurately instructed in matters relative to the law." If this were true, it is no wonder to find the leaders of the synagogues throughout Galilee now listening to Jesus, 16 years later to hear what He had to say.

Jesus was now ready to begin His ministry and Luke continues with the story, in verses 16-21 ...

"He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him (a rolled up scroll) the book of the prophet Esaias.

And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written
(Isaiah 61:1-2) ... ' The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.'

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them ... ' This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.' "

Temple etiquette was such that the one who read the Scripture, the Law, invariably stood up to do so; and in fact, it was not lawful for them to even lean against any thing while reading. When finished reading, that individual would sit back down in his seat.

The Jews generally sat while they taught or commented on Scripture. After Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll, He sat down as if to teach in His hometown synagogue, which was most likely expected of Him considering the fame generated from the other times He spoke throughout Galilee.

Luke makes note of the fact that all the eyes in the synagogue were fixed attentively on Him. Why were they watching Him? Was it His fame as a speaker or teacher? I believe it was more than that. They were watching because of where He took His seat. He took another seat instead of going back to his former seat.

Then as expected, He began to just speak to them out of His heart. In verse 22, Luke says that all spoke well of Him and of the grace that came out of His mouth, and they asked each other … "Is this not Joseph's son?"

So what's the real problem here? I think the problem was two fold ...

1.) After He read from the book, Jesus sat down in the chair that back then all synagogues had ... "in waiting" ... a chair reserved for the Messiah they expected someday to come and sit in.

2.) After being seated in Messiah's chair, Jesus, by saying ... "this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" ... was telling the very same people that watched Him grow up in Nazareth that He was the Messiah.

How could this be? They knew Him as the son of Joseph the carpenter. I am of the opinion ... because Jesus said in so many words that He was the Messiah and then taking His seat in that special chair must be what set them off in such a rage that they tried to kill Him.

May I suggest a shadow and type in this story of what was to come later in the Heavenly ministry of Jesus as our High Priest as shown in Hebrews 10:10.

In the Amplified Bible it reads this way … "we have been made holy through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ."

Now here is where it gets interesting. The writer in verse 11 continues with … "Furthermore, every human priest stands (at his alter of service) ministering daily, offering the same sacrifices over and over again, which are never able to strip the sins that envelop us and take them away."

Notice it says the priest "stands" in the place of service whether in the tabernacle or temple. Did you know there were not any chairs or seats in either the tabernacle in the wilderness, or later in the temple in Jerusalem? They were both different than the synagogues where the Scriptures were discussed each sabbath.

The priests always stood while they performed their duties in the tabernacle and temple. They couldn't sit down for two reasons.

1.) There were no chairs, and 2.) They were never finished offering sacrifices … it had to be done daily, over and over.

It gets better. As we continue reading with verse 12 … "Whereas this One Christ, after He had offered a single sacrifice for our sins that shall avail for all time, sat down at the right hand of God …" This time not in Messiah's chair, but in the Mercy Seat of Heaven.

Verse 14 ... "For by a single offering, He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy."

This is telling me, that what Jesus did … one time only … when He sprinkled His own Blood on the Mercy Seat in Heaven … was enough … to satisfy God the Father. Nothing else can be done, or should be done. It is finished for all time.

This is why the resurrected Jesus sat down at His Father's right hand … to show us He completed His work … it's now finished.

I really don't know, or even care if my opinion is right concerning what chair Jesus used when He sat down in the synagogue in Nazareth that day. I just wanted to show the shadow of what is important, the fact that all the priests of the past, together with all the offerings ever given … could not and did not match … the one offering Jesus gave, on and for, our behalf.

Because His work is finished, Jesus, our High Priest, unlike all of the other priests is now … seated ... once again.

Comments welcome.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Whom Do You Say I Am

Jesus asked His disciples the above question in Luke 9:20. Of course Peter, the bold one of the group was the first to answer and said … "the Christ of God."

What would your answer be? Who is He? Is He God? A part of God? The Word of God? The Son of God? I want to look at just a small portion of what's said about Him in the Scriptures.

After Peter answered the question correctly, Luke says that Jesus ... "commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day." (Luke 9:21-22)

Peter said Jesus was the Christ, which was true, but to the Jews that would also be the same as saying He was the Messiah. Maybe that was why He told them not to tell anyone yet, because it wasn't time for Him to reveal who He truly was.

But notice who Jesus said He was … The Son of man. By using this term, Jesus was also identifying with His humanity. He had been after all, born of Mary and had taken on the covering of human flesh.

The Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus, said in Colossians 1:15 … "He is the exact likeness of the unseen God, the visible representation of the invisible …"

The image that is seen of Jesus therefore is that of ... the Son of God. He is the perfect and complete eternal image of God His Father; more than a shadow or a representation, more than just a visible likeness; this "image" includes the same nature and perfections as the Father, but with His own personality and distinction as the Son, even while He was in the flesh as … the Son of man.

As the Son of man, was Jesus God? The Apostle John had no reservation at all in declaring Jesus, "the Word of God" and then with the same breath states that Jesus … "was God."

John 1:1-2 ... "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God."

The Apostle John proves that he is speaking about Jesus when he says ... "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …" (John 1:14)

In John 1:34 & 36, John the Baptist adds a new dimension or description of Jesus when he says ... "And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. And looking upon Jesus ... he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!"

Why was Jesus said to be (the Word) in Heaven and not the Son of God? In Hebrews 1:5 we find a quote from God about Jesus ... "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee …" This shows a particular place in time (this day, today) the day Jesus was born.

Jesus did not become the Son of God until He was born of Mary, and became human flesh. Until He became the Son by birth, He was "the Word of God" … or as I like to say … He was the words spoken by the Father.

As the "Word of God," Paul states that Jesus was equal with God.

Philippians 2:6-11 ... "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

This gives us a hint of just how much Jesus gave up to become the Son of man. Being equal with God and in the form of God … Jesus stripped Himself of all that was God … in that He became like men and became flesh, even unto death.

I'm going to try and paint you a word picture using two illustrations, both faint shadows as to why John the Baptist said of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God."

I want to take you back in time to Genesis 4:1-10 and the story of two brothers. We find Abel killing a lamb for a blood offering for his sin which God accepted. His brother Cain also presented a sin offering, but it came from his own works, the fruit of his own labor which wasn't accepted by God. Therefore we have Cain angry and dejected, killing Abel after taking him to his field, which is a shadow and type of the world.

So what’s in this picture? This is the first look at both ... a man and a lamb ... together bleeding in man's field of sin. This first illustration is a shadow and type of what was to come 4,000 years later … Jesus, the son of man dying as the Lamb of God in man’s field of sin after being sent into the world.

The next picture of Jesus is found in Genesis 22:1-14 where Abraham is told by God to offer Isaac, his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham takes the wood and lays it on Isaac’s shoulders for him to carry up the mount. Years later, Jesus also had to carry the wood, His cross, up the very same hill. When Isaac asked where the the lamb was, Abraham said, "God will provide himself a lamb," which is exactly what John the Baptist said of Jesus, "… behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." Another shadow of what was to come.

Jesus came to show us who "God" really was and what He was really like.

Hebrews 1:3 … "He is the sole expression of the glory of God, and He is the perfect imprint and the very image of God's nature …"

One day Jesus had been talking to His disciples about God the Father when Philip asks Him to show them the Father. Jesus responds with this question in …

John 14:9 ... "Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father." (Amplified)

I don't teach "Jesus Only" as some do. I believe in the Trinity … Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe each one is a separate being. I also believe that all three are ... ONE … and that all three are equally God. No, I can't explain it … but that doesn't mean it's not true.

Follow these questions and the answer I give to each one ...

Who is the creator? Jesus. Who is the Lamb of God? Jesus. Who died on the cross? Jesus. Who is the Healer? Jesus. Who is seated on the Mercy Seat? Jesus. Who is coming back for His church? Jesus. Who has been given all power both in Heaven and in Earth? Jesus. Who is the same yesterday, today and forever? Jesus. Who ever lives to make intercession for you? Jesus. Who is Lord? Jesus.

Do I see only "Jesus" most of the time? Yes … I admit I do.

I started with the question Jesus asked His disciples … "Whom do you say I am?" What is your answer now? It should be … God.

Comments welcome.

Friday, March 9, 2012

If We Confess Our Sins

R.C. Sproul says ... "According to God's Word, we feel guilty because we are guilty. Only when we experience God's grace and mercy ... by trusting in Christ as our Savior, confessing our sins, and asking for forgiveness ... do we deal effectively with guilt and experience real freedom."

1st John 1:4 ... "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."

"That your joy may be full" ... is the purpose for the Apostle John's letter; not written to unbelievers, but to believers, those who already have been pardoned from past sin. John, knowing that his fellow believers in Jesus would still be troubled with the guilt that sin leaves behind, set pin to parchment and wrote about the faithfulness of the Lord to forgive every blunder ... every careless, stupid or blatant mistake involving behavior or judgment.

He is giving instruction about what we should do ... not if we sin ... but when we sin. And if you haven't yet, you will.

John speaks about several things in this short letter, including the one thing all believers have in common ... occasional sin. I'm not speaking of habitual sin as a way of life, but the times when we just don't act like Jesus; times when we miss the mark and we fail; the times we make wrong choices or give in to whatever. It doesn't matter what it is ... sin is sin.

1st John 1:8-9 ... "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The point made, even to believers is this. In the Word of God, forgiveness of sin always supposes that there is confession ... and there is no promise that it will be imparted unless a full acknowledgment has been made. What's the promise again? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive ..."

In spite of the fact that believers are cleansed from their sins by the blood of Christ, they still are not without sin; no man is without sin. This is not only true of all men conceived in sin so that all are in a fallen state, but it is even true of God's elect. Even though you are a born again believer and the flesh may no longer have control of your life ... these things do not take out the being of sin, or cause it to cease to act, nor do they make sins cease to be sins.

While it is true that we have been redeemed from the fallen state we were in through the blood of Jesus, there is a continual war going on between our flesh and God's spirit within us. So when we do sin by frequent slips and falls, and we confess that sin ... we have a fresh application of the blood of Jesus for cleansing.

Although our sins have been, not just pardoned, but done away with and we are now justified from that sin by the righteousness of Christ; and although we are free from any judgment on account of that sin ... yet we are not free from the doing of it or the guilt that newly committed sin brings.

So, through confession and repentance we are redeemed from them, and are acquitted, discharged, and pardoned, so that sin is no longer imputed to us, and even though God no longer sees the sin that was cleansed by the blood of His Son ... as to the guilt that remains of that sin ... that is another question.

When we do sin, it will help us deal with the guilt if we realize as the Apostle Paul once stated in Romans 7:14, 17 & 21 ... "I am carnal, sold under sin. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."

This is not an excuse or an attempt to lessen the blame; I'm not trying to defend or justify our acts of sin. All I am trying to do is to establish the obvious fact that we do sin because our carnal flesh never, ever gets saved. Confess that sin and move on with your life. Do not allow guilt from that sin to remain.

If the blood of Jesus removes the sin ... shouldn't the guilt of that sin ... also be removed?

Once our sin has been dealt with and taken out of our sight and God's; our conscience being cleared of them, our hearts sprinkled and purged by the blood of Jesus ... we should therefore be free of all condemnation from them.

Do we think we are somehow punishing ourselves for that sin by holding on to the guilt that remains from that sin? All we are doing is making ourself miserable. Once confessed, the sin is no longer there. Nor should the guilt according to ...

Romans 8:1 ... "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," ... period.

What a promise ... "If we confess our sins ..." What does it say? "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Comments welcome.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Understanding Men

It was another hot July day in the Midwest. The heat from the afternoon sun was beginning to take it's toll on the two men nailing new shingles on the parsonage roof. The older man, the church pastor, now in his late sixties, had asked one of the young men of the church to help him with the roofing job. They had just finished the back side of the roof and now had about three bundles of shingles down on the front side facing the street.

The pastor had to smile when his younger friend stopped and stood up so he could take a better look at a pretty girl walking by the church parsonage. She looked about the same age as his young friend, twenty something or there about. She had a nice figure, a dark tan, and was wearing a white tank top with tight cut off jean shorts ... you know, she looked like the beautiful all American girl. She also noticed him because she looked up and smiled as she walked on down the sidewalk.

After he grabbed another shingle and went back to work, he said to his Pastor ... "I guess you noticed I was watching that girl. I'm sorry, I just can't help looking at pretty girls."

After another minute or so he asked this question ... "Pastor, when do you think I will stop being attracted to pretty girls?" His old pastor's reply was ... "When they take a shovel and pat the dirt over your face."

Men are just made different than women. I don't know why God made women so beautiful and attractive to the male species. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great ... if we males weren’t sexually attracted to women, the human race would cease to exist. I heard one man say once ... "If women weren't physically made like they are, men would put a bounty on them." He had gotten into an argument that morning with his wife.

But that does just about sum it up. In the first marriage class my wife and I attended after we were married, our pastor's wife made this statement explaining the difference between men and women and their motivation for ... "love and marriage." She said, "Men love, because of sex, and women have sex, because of love."

And from observation over the years, I think she was right. Men are just wired differently than women. To a man ... the importance of the God ordained sexual relationship with his wife would rank second, right after honor. To a woman ... that same God ordained sexual relationship would rank about fourteenth, right after gardening.

Because men are wired as they are, Jesus forewarns men about "girl watching."

Matthew 5:28 ... "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

It's not the attraction that the beauty of a woman brings to man that is the problem. God gave men the attraction and interest in, and even the desire to find a woman to be a life partner. That's why in Genesis 2:18 God said ... "it wasn't good for Adam to be alone" ... he needed a life partner, a woman to be with him.

The warning Jesus gave, was not related only to looking at the beauty of God's female creature ... it was warning man not to lust after her. Men are stimulated by just looking at a woman.

That's why carnally minded men look at pornography. I was going to say un-regenerated men, but sadly ... so do some believers in Jesus. I'm not trying to give men an excuse ... because they have none ... but men are very weak when it comes to the physical beauty and attractiveness of a woman.

Notice this warning is to men ... not women. Generally a woman responds more to the loving touch of her man, not from the sight of him. But in todays society it seems as though all general rules have been done away with. The world (Hollywood) tries to portray men and women as sexually the same ... but they’re not. Women's lib openly suggests for women to be the aggressor, on the hunt looking to satisfy their own sexual passions. The male is the hunter gatherer, not the female.

I'm reminded what John Wayne once said ... "If women would get back up on the pedestal where they belong, men would keep them there."

Sorry ... I've strayed off my message, which is ... men, be careful what you look at. Looking at the wrong thing can change your life ... if you allow it to.

In the following example, we have a man looking at the wrong thing accidentally ... in this case it was a beautiful woman; and then through it, he allowed lust to form in his heart. This is the situation King David found himself in.

2nd Samuel 11:2 ... "And it came to pass in the evening, that David arose from his bed, (perhaps from the evening heat, which would explain the following) and walked upon the flat roof of his house, and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon."

No one really knows why Bathsheba was bathing late in the evening. She may have waited until it was cooler after sundown which would allow her to bathe on her balcony or even on the rooftop in seclusion ... or so she thought.

So with David, looking turned into watching, and watching turned into thoughts of desire, and desire grew into lust, and lust became sin. All David had to do was divert his eyes and turn away ... but he didn't. He was a man.

When men, trying to excuse their lustful desire say ... "I can't help myself" ... they're lying. Go ahead, try blaming God for making you this way, it won't work. The Apostle James wrote about this very same subject on the first page of his letter to the Christian Jews when he said to them ...

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren."

Let's be real honest here ... Bathsheba bathing in the moonlight would catch any man's eye. Any normal man would be tempted to take a second look even longer than the first glimpse was. I'm being as honest here as I can. Even me.

This was perhaps the greatest temptation David ever faced. But do not ever forget ... temptation is not sin.

Looking, wasn't sin. You can't help what you see. But was watching Bathsheba bathe sin? Not quite yet, but it opened the door to sin. Watching I'm sure, quickly turned into desire ... now David is walking through that door. But is desire, sin? Take the next step with David ... his desire from watching a beautiful woman bathe, now turns into lust.

Okay, let's look at what James said ... "when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin."

The Greek word for lust, as used here is "epithumia" (pronounced ep-ee-thoo-mee'-ah) and means simply ... a longing (especially for what is forbidden) a desire.

I also want to look at the word conceived. Normally we think of a baby being conceived in the womb. This isn't quite like that, although it is close. The word James uses in the Greek is "sullambanō" (pronounced sool-lam-ban'-o) and means ... to clasp, that is, to seize, to catch and take captive.

I may be splitting hairs with this conclusion, but when David saw Bathsheba bathing; as far as we know an unplanned accident; and then because he stayed and kept on looking, David's desire became ... "lustful desire" ... and just as James said, lust was conceived and took him captive.

When you are taken captive by someone or something, you are not in charge any more ... your captor is in charge. Each and every step David took in the process that night, set him up for sexual lust, that longing, that forbidden desire to have Bathsheba and it took him captive.

Let me once again give us weak men and perhaps women who may also need this good advice from Nicholas Herman, the old seventeenth century Carmelite monk from French Lorraine that I often quote. He said ... "We should seek to learn the sins that do most easily beset us and the times and occasions, when we do most often fall."

With men, the times and occasions just might be ... looking at their own Bathsheba.

Comments welcome.

Oh yes, I thought that my next post might be ... "Understanding Women" ... but after thinking about it, I realized that is impossible.

Blessings ...