Posts tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Does He Know You?

There is a vast difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing the person. I could spend the next few years in researching the life of George Washington for a new book. I could read his personal journals and everything discovered by historians. And even if I feel like I know him, I will never be able to say that George Washington is my friend and we know each other! While a relationship certainly involves learning about them, gaining that knowledge is no substitute for know the actual person.

Jesus, in Matthew chapter 7 talks about this, and it is a passage that is cause for serious reflection by Christians. Jesus is talking about the judgment, and differentiates between the two groups of people in a very revealing way.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)

There are some important things to notice here.
1. Both groups, the saved and the lost, were verbally calling Jesus “Lord”. Jesus is not diminishing the importance of being our Lord, but is rather emphasizing that just saying the magic words is not what means you have a relationship with God.

2. If we look at the entire passage, keeping His commandments is a sign of one who is saved. If I can say this in a positive sense, obedience is a symptom of having a relationship with Christ.

3. But here is the danger. If you look at what the lost ones say, they were doing all the right things as well! What causes their confusion is that they thought that if they did all the things they were supposed to be doing, they would have a relationship with Christ and go to heaven. If their checklist was complete, someone told them, then their performance was satisfactory and they would make it in.

4. From the passage, what is stated as the determining factor was whether or not Jesus knew them. Did they have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? What got them into heaven was not what they did, but who they belonged to. According to John in 1 John 2,

“He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (I John 2:4-6)

If we concentrate on deepening our relationship with God, the good works will be a natural reflection of the vibrancy of that relationship. Our lives will show the power of the love of God working within us. But if we lack that love, we run the danger of doing the works out a need to be right with God through our performance and not have that relationship. Our lives will not be characterized by “faith working through love”, and whatever is not of faith is sin. Even the seemingly good things we do will be sinful because they weren’t done in faith and love. We will be practicing lawlessness and not even know it. If it takes the threat of losing your salvation and going to hell to motivate you to obey God, then you are already backslidden in heart. Are there things you are doing because God said to do it or else, you have fallen away.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, must make our aim the same as that if the apostle Paul — to know Him!

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

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Fulfilling the Law

There are two types of leaders that really bother me. One has all the authority they need, but refuses to use it. The other is someone with no authority, who thinks he has it anyway. Both usually result in a train wreck. Jesus Christ was neither of those. He had full authority from the Father, and used it perfectly! This astonished those who heard Him teach.

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28, 29 NKJV)

Does this just mean that He was assertive in His tone, or pontificated with skill? No, I believe it goes deeper than that. The previous verses come at the end of the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew chapters 5 – 7. And unlike the scribes, who would just read the Law, Jesus was actually expanding upon it! Let me show you what I mean by that.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)

The word translated fulfill there is the Greek word pleroo (play-ro-o) which includes the concept of completing or filling up. What kind of man would dare to say that he was coming to complete that which had been handed down in fire, earthquake and smoke at Mt Sinai? Only God could do such a thing! This begins the anger in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees that will one day lead to His crucifixion. They never dispute Jesus’ miracles, and never try to. This assertion of power equal to that of God was enough to incite hatred in their hearts and charges of blasphemy.

Jesus fills out, or completes, the law in a series of “you have heard” and then “but I say” statements. These serve to bring the Law from the outside (mere physical performance) to the inside ( the condition of our hearts). Appropriately, Jesus starts with the Ten Commandments. He takes the commandment on murder and fulfills, or completes it.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21, 22)

Next, Jesus fulfills/completes the commandment regarding adultery by making it a heart issue first and foremost.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28)

Then we come to bearing false witness. Jesus fulfills/completes the commandment by saying not to swear by anything, but to let your answers stand on there own veracity.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

In dealing with our enemies, Jesus again takes us to the heart of the matter.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. ..
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:38, 39, 43, 44)

But why do this at all? Why not just say that He was coming to replace the Law with a new one? Because we need the Law to demonstrate to ourselves that we are lawbreakers, already sentence to eternal death by a just God. Without that, the Gospel will be an abstract concept, and not the truly “Good News” that it is. We need the Law to show us our need of a savior and to take us to the cross to find Him.

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:22-24 KJV)

The Law gets us to the cross, where grace takes over and leads us to God by faith. We don’t abandon obedience to the commands of God, but are rather changed from the inside out. On the inside, we are justified by faith, and on the outside, we are clothed with Christ at baptism for all the world to see. Just like putting clean clothes on someone covered in mud doesn’t make the person clean, we clean up the inside by justification (Romans 5:1) and only then have them put on Christ in baptism for all to see (Galatians 3:27). Christ is put in before He is put on!

But again, we must begin with the Law, and the realization of the just penalty for sin. Only then can, or will we want to, go to the cross for payment of our due penalty. Then, and only then, are we reconciled to God.

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach- (Colossians 1:19-22 NASB)

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Hijacking the Rainbow

So one thing that annoys me is when words are redefined or symbols are changed from what they were first intended to be. This is especially true when some person or movement takes something that God has set aside as a reminder of His goodness and covenant promises and flips it on its head into something opposite of what God intended. Me example would be taking the word “Christian” and the symbol of the cross and letting it be used by Westboro Baptist Church.

But there is another example that is permitting our society. Please don’t misunderstand me here. If a person or group of people want to have a symbol, they are free to do so in our nation where free speech is protected. But when someone takes something God-ordained and uses it to symbolize that which God calls and abomination, then it is a direct affront to, and a mocking of, God Himself. Read this short passage and try to guess what I am referring to here.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9-17 NKJV)

The scene is this. The judgment of God has fallen on sinful mankind and everyone has suffered judgment via flood. As a symbol of the covenant Jehovah makes with Noah, God designates the rainbow (the first one ever seen) as symbolic of His promise to never again use a worldwide flood to judge sinful mankind. In doing so, it would also be a reminder of the reasons that flood judgment came in the first place.

What society is doing now, by making that same rainbow a symbol of the homosexual movement, is to say the following things.
1. Mankind is showing a lack of the fear of The Lord.
2. Mankind is saying that they do not believe that God will judge sin. In fact, they are daring Him to do so.
3. Mankind is saying that we, as fallen, sinful people, have the authority to determine what is good and evil. We have erred in the same way as Adam and Eve when they decided they could define good and evil for themselves.

So does that mean we hate people because of who they sleep with? Of course not! It means that I love them enough to warn them of the dangers of mocking God and presumptuously assuming for themselves the authority to decide good and evil. It means I love them enough to tell them that God only wants what is best for them, and that His warnings are not arbitrary, but designed for their protection.

But the time has come for us to say “no” to the hijacking of the symbol of God’s covenant. The time has come to tell the world that the rainbow is symbolic of the judgment of God that sin will inevitable bring. But such judgment is not something that any of us must endure, for Jesus Christ has taken upon himself that penalty in our place. Come to Christ in full surrender, submit to His lordship, and escape the wrath to come!

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Hope Fully Living

Hope is one of those words that can be difficult for someone to define. If you have hope, you know it. If you don’t, and are hopeless, you know that, too. But what is hope? How would you define it? More importantly, how does God define it in the Bible? Let’s take a look in Romans chapter 15.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

The first thing we need to realize is that Jehovah is a God of hope. He has so much hope that it is a part of His very nature. That means He is the source of all hope for His children. Biblical hope can best be defined as “a confident expectation”. God does not wish for things. No, that implies that He is uncertain of the outcome and is just “hoping it all turns out right”. No, God knows the end from the beginning.

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ (Isaiah 46:10)

God is the God of hope precisely because He is certain of the outcome of things that have not yet happened from our perspective. So we can anchor our hope in the one who isn’t up in heaven crossing His fingers and hoping for the best.

But how does God give that hope to us as His children? By “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). You see, nice we come to a realization of the nature and character of the One in whom we have placed our trust, we can experience deep joy. Because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we now have access to God. In prayer and in reading, studying and meditating n His Word, we can daily come into his presence and have that faith built up and our hope reaffirmed. As The psalmist David wrote:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)

We not only have joy, but with God, we have fullness of joy!

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)

Another byproduct of the hope we have in God is peace. Even in the midst of life’s darkest hour, we can be at peace with God. We have a calm assurance that God is on our side because if He was willing to save us by His death, He will also see that work through to the end by His life, and constant intercession for us. God gave us grace to save us, but that same grace goes on to change us as well.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 KJV)

So as we increase in peace and joy, we increase in hope. They all go together and build upon each other. So no matter what you are going through (and some of us are really going through it), even if it is the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear, for God is with us (Psalm 23). We know that we receive our hope from Him who is the very “God of hope” and can rest in His love and will for us.

that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus,(Hebrews 6:18-20a NKJV)

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The Vicar of Christ

Last week, many around the world were watching with rapt attention as the Roman Catholic Church went through the process of selecting a new pope. Among the people’s many titles, is “Vicar of Christ” which means he is Christ’s representative on the earth. “Vicar” is the word we get “vicarious” from, and it is used when describing Christ’s vicarious death for us, as he took the punishment we deserved.But the question to be asked is this: who is the real Vicar of Christ? Surprisingly, the New Testament does answer that for us. Because, whether you realize it or not, if you are a born again Christian, YOU are the Vicar of Christ to those around you. Here’s how I got there.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5:20 NKJV)

Christ uses us to be His mouthpiece to the lost. Jesus is not showing up personally and telling lost people to follow Him. No, that is what He commanded His disciples to do, and He is not going to give us mission and not expect for us to carry it out. We are His voice, His hands, and His feet to carry the Gospel message to the world and plead with with them to be reconciled to God. That is why Jesus began the Great Commission with “all authority has been given to me….go therefore”. We aren’t going out for our own sakes. We go in the authority He has been given, and has delegated to His servants.

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17 NKJV)

Not only is our message one that is from God, but our actions are done in His name as well. In context, this verse is talking about the way we minister to one another in the church. But the principle carries over to all that we do. With that in mind, we need to always be cognizant of the fact that, as Christians, everything we do on a daily basis should be something that represents who Christ is. Being a vicar of Christ is not a part-time job.

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (II Corinthians 3:2, 3 NKJV)

Not only do we as Christians carry His message, we are often the message itself. The saying that “you are the only Bible some people will ever read” is definitely true. In fact, if people don’t see the truth of our message being lived out in front of them, they will give no credence to the message we speak. In gourmet cooking, presentation is important because food must look appetizing or no one will want to eat it. The saying goes, “the eyes eat first”. The same is true of our walk with God. People need to see the truth of our message before they hear the truth of our message.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 KJV)

So there you have it. While the world press have been guessing who the Vicar of Christ was going to be, they didn’t realize that all the needed to do for an answer to that question was to go and find a Christian. We are all Vicars of Christ as He lives and speaks through us.

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What Is Truth?

What is truth? That is a big question, and one of primary importance for mankind. There is much debate among thinkers and non-thinkers about the very existence of absolute truth. The non-thinkers are those who would say, “there is no absolute truth” since they would see the logical corner they have placed themselves in. For that statement to be true, it would need to be absolutely true and would thus be claiming its own nonexistence.

Even the Roman governor of the province of Judea, in his unregenerate mind, asked the question of Jesus.

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:38 NKJV)

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He made a statement that answers that question.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

So the first, and primary, thing we must understand is that the truth is a person — Jesus Christ. The ramifications of that are tremendous! In making that statement affirming His identity as “the Truth” Jesus was also saying a lot about what the truth is NOT.

1. The truth is not a set of teachings. Before you react, let me explain. Jesus and the Apostles taught many things, all of which are true. They are factually without error. But they are true because they come from He who is “the truth”. The correct teachings of the Bible are there to tell us ABOUT the truth, and as far as each of them goes, the provide illumination on a part of the picture of Christ. Don’t mistake what I am saying. False teaching is a big deal, because it draws us away from Jesus, who is the source of truth and paints a false picture for us. One good way of discerning truth, especially if someone is using Bible verses on us, is to ask whether or not the teaching in question magnifies Christ Jesus or magnifies us.

2. We can know the truth. Yes, we can have an intimate, personal relationship with the Truth. But that does not mean we will have the full, clear, perfected set of doctrines in our little brains. Full illumination is reserved for the eternal state. For now, we must follow after Jesus and take in pieces of truth for spiritual nourishment along the way. That means putting up with people whose plates look different than our own. They may see some things more clearly than we do. Paul, when talking about the eternal state, put it this way:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:12, 13 KJV)

On our best day, when we are most attuned to the Spirit and are the most receptive, we still see through a glass darkly.

3. We must follow after things in their proper order. Jesus is the way to truth and life. We find the truth by following Jesus Christ. We don’t sit down and try to once and for all figure out a perfect doctrinal set of teachings and use them to find Christ. No, we follow after Christ and He gives is spiritual food and teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10 NKJV)

4. Jesus is the full revelation of God, and we need seek nowhere else for truth. God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit uses the power of the Word to draw us to Christ (John 12:32; Romans 10:17). As long as we are putting first things first, and following after Jesus, the Truth will reveal truth to us through the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Be patient with yourself. There have been many times I have been frustrated by my lack of discernment or by not being rock solid on exact definitions of everything I believe. But that is okay. As long as I am following after Jesus, and nurturing my relationship with Him through prayer and feasting in the Word, my dark glass will slowly become easier to see through. Remember that we are not following after a philosophy, but after a person — the person of Jesus Christ.

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Circumcision of the Heart

The Old Testament is replete with types and shadows that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. One of those Old Testament symbols of the covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was so integral to the Old Covenant that the concept of an uncircumcised Jew was unheard of.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he says that baptism is the spiritual fulfillment of circumcision.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11, 12 ESV)

Now that we are in the New Covenant with Christ, we experience a circumcision that is spiritual and of the heart. And according to Paul, this spiritual circumcision occurs at baptism. Fittingly, the concept of an unbaptized Christian is just as foreign to the New Testament as an uncircumcised Jew was to the Old Testament.

But is this verse in Colossians saying that baptism is what saves us? Well, was Abraham declared righteous before being circumcised or afterwards? According to Romans chapter 4, at what point was Abraham declared righteous?

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:7-10 ESV)

It was Abraham’s faith that caused him to obey the commandment of God and be circumcised, and it would be accurate to say that if Abraham had refused to obey God that he did not have faith. His obedience proved his faith. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we have faith, and that faith is proven, or validated, by our submitting to baptism.

Thus, salvation is by faith, and that faith is shown by our baptism. Righteousness comes by faith, and is not of works. We are saved by faith, not by faith plus a ritual. But that sign of the covenant must not be diminished or disregarded, either. Just as faith without obedience is out of context, obedience without faith is useless as well. But the connection of the old circumcision to baptism is clear. And Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God before he was circumcised. In the same way, we are declared righteous when we believe, and we submit to the sign of our covenant relationship when we are baptized. Failure to do so proves we didn’t really believe in the first place.

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