God wins.

Revelation 20

Monday, December 5, 2022

The title of this post is unassuming. Two words: a noun, the subject, and a verb in the future tense. 

I am in the business of speaking, teaching, training, sermonizing. And sometimes (less often than I’d like to admit) I may have a sermon that God uses in spite of all my failures and faults. But if I were to have all the power of the greatest speakers, the powerful conviction of Billy Graham, the clarity and precision of Andy Stanley, the dedication of pastors from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King Jr. and beyond, more than a thousand eloquent sermons could not compare to the truth of the future of the world summed up in these two words. 

God wins. 

I don’t want to take away from that truth, but I do want to flesh it out a bit. 

In the earlier parts of Revelation, the beheaded souls have been calling out from beyond the grave to the God who will give them justice (Rev. 6:9-11). God promised the victors that they would have reward upon reward (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21). When God wins, those who placed faith in God above even their own lives have the incredible promises. For time out of mind (1000 years) they will reign with Christ, they will not be hurt by the second death. While the language of two resurrections is not common in the rest of the NT*, the truth is that they are SO ASSURED of their salvation its as if they cannot possibly be brought to judgment. The joy of this resurrection is that we who are powerless, weak, poor, and oppressed will one day win, be victorious and live forever with God and his Christ, because God wins. 

And Satan can’t win. The dragon’s wings are clipped, and the serpentine body is prepared for the flames. In this world, God has power to throw the serpent of old, the devil and Satan, and bind him for 1000 years. During that time, his temptation and power are cast down. In the end, the devil who deceived the world was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. This is a threat and a promise. Moreover, Satan KNOWS this is his end. The battle between God and Satan is not a cinematic, climactic masterpiece. There is no worry about who will win. Satan is not trying to win, because he can’t. He IS trying to make YOU LOSE, because that is a possibility. But God will help you overcome sin, fight temptation, and come through faithful. God can protect you from the defanged, declawed, clipped-wing dragon, because God wins. 

In some sense, part of the glory of God, part of his winning, is allowing humans to choose their outcomes. God allows people to determine their final state. While we are only and forever able to be saved by the glory and grace of God, God both does not force his salvific will upon us and does not preclude us from choosing him. God gives people what they desire. The books are opened; the dead are judged. Christ is our hope (Col. 1:27), our peace (Eph. 2:14), our resurrection and life (John 11:25). If any person has rejected Christ, what have they done but rejected peace with God and people? Rejected hope of eternal life? Rejected the resurrection and the life? God gives them exactly what they demanded. God doesn’t put up with those who were rebellious against him in this life. Because…

God wins.

No ifs, ands, buts. 

No amount of persuasive words will make it less true. 

No force of hell can stop Him, not a dragon or an atheist. 

The promise is true:

God wins. 

– Jake Ballard.

* There are hints of two resurrections in the rest of the NT, but nowhere is it explicitly stated like here in the apocalyptic work of Revelation. 

Reflection Questions

  1. How significant is the phrase “God wins” to you? To elaborate, in what areas of your life are you losing? Temptation and sin? Suffering and pain? Anxiety, depression, stress? What would it mean for you to stop trying to fix it all yourself, and let God win, allowing him to be victorious where you haven’t been yourself?
  2. In the ultimate sense, Satan is powerless. While we might be attacked, tormented, and tempted by evil today, that is not the way the world will be forever. How does it make you feel to know that all evil and wickedness are going to be overcome by the power of God? Will you allow God to protect you, so the battle is one-sided in your favor today?
  3. There is no peace, hope, resurrection or life without Christ. Have you given him control of your life, allowing him to be your savior and lord?

The Glory of the Son

Hebrews 1

Monday, September 19, 2022

In this letter to the Hebrews, we see the Son glorified above all else and I just want to bask in his glory as I read these words. It says that Jesus is the heir of all things. It sounds impressive to be heir of all things but the glory that Jesus has in that title isn’t his own, it is that of his Father. To be heir means to be a person who inherits. That means that God chose Jesus, his Son, as his heir to inherit all things. Only God has that power and he chose to bestow it upon Jesus.


It also says that God created the world through Jesus. This sounds like 1 Corinthians 8:6 where it says all things are from the Father and all things are through the Son. This, again, is such an honor that has been given to the Son to be used in this way where all of creation can only see God through Jesus. The relationship between Jesus and God is so much more than I can even fathom or explain. That the Father loves his Son so much to give him all these gifts, and give us gifts through him.

The Son is the radiance of the glory of God. What a beautiful image! If God is the sun, then Jesus is the light that we see on earth. You can’t look at the sun, but you can see the light everywhere during the daytime. In the NRSV translation of this verse, it says that Jesus is the reflection. If God is the sun, then Jesus is the moon, reflecting the light of God even at night when we can’t see the sun.

Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. This makes me think of those concrete handprints that kids make when they’re little. That piece of concrete is nothing but an imprint, and yet it looks exactly like the hand that formed it. Jesus is the imprint of God’s nature, we can see God exactly through him.

Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. To think that the man who was mocked, beaten and given a criminals death would be given this power. In Genesis, we see God creating the universe with nothing but a word. In the gospels, we see Jesus performing signs and miracles with nothing but a word. He commands a lame man to get up and walk, and the man gets up and walks. Jesus is truly the heir of all things, he inherited even the power of God’s word.

The Son is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. There can be no position more glorious than this (besides the position of the One to whom Jesus is sitting to the right of). Even the angels who dwell in heaven don’t have this honor. Truly Jesus is much superior to the angels. The name that Jesus inherited is more excellent than theirs. In Revelation 19:12, we see an epic image of Jesus arriving with a host of angel armies wearing a cloak dipped in blood. It says that he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. And his name is called the Word of God. This is what Jesus is called in John 1, the Word of God. Jesus has been given this name and the power and the majesty and the glory. Stand in awe of the Son of God.

Verses 5-14 go on to use the scriptures of old (see Hebrews 1:1) to show how much greater the Son is than the Angels. It says that Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God (John 3:16) and that God is his Father. Even the angels bow down in worship to this Jesus while they are merely messengers, like winds and fire. It says that Jesus is anointed, chosen by God and given a kingdom and throne that will last forever. It even uses passages that we would attribute to the Father to describe the Son. We know that the Father founded the earth and the heavens are the work of his hands, but the Son has come to inherit these things as well. Jesus remains even as the earth wears out like clothing and his years will never end.

Reading these verses makes me feel that the glory of Jesus is so much more than I can fathom. I believe it all and yet I still struggle to follow him with all of my heart. I can only imagine that though my head knows these things to be true, my heart doesn’t fully believe it. Do you believe it? Do you act as if you believe it? I pray to God that you and I will have our hearts changed so that we truly believe the incredible words written here and that we are moved to action, to fulfill Jesus’ commands to go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Application Questions

  1. Which image or description of Jesus do you find most powerful or most helpful in attempting to understand the high place God holds for Jesus?
  2. What might receiving this letter (the book of Hebrews) have meant to the original audience – Jews/Hebrews who had become Christians?
  3. If you were to write a letter to Jesus, how would you address him? Are there any questions you would ask him? How would you revere him?

An Even Better Story Coming

1 Thessalonians 4

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

I have always enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia.  As I read them, I love to compare the story to what is written in the Bible.  Of all the books in the series, my favorite is The Last Battle.  I love seeing the old characters, the Pensieves, returning to the series.  1st Thessalonians 4 is describing the time when people come back into the story, just like the Pensieves coming back into the Chronicles of Narnia.


Verse 17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”  Can you imagine being able to see the dead in Christ?  There will be the reunions to loved ones and the meeting of the heroes of faith.  In The Last Battle, those who were still alive at the very end are excited to meet Lord Diggory and Lady Polly because they were in Narnia in the very beginning.  But, even more, they loved meeting their old relatives and friends.


While seeing the dead in Christ will be great, there is an even better promise in verse 17: “We shall always be with the Lord.”  We get to spend eternity with the Lord!  That is a great promise that we can look forward to the fulfillment of.  We know that when the kingdom comes, it will be a life beyond comparison.  A life that none of us will ever be able to even start to imagine.  


The Last Battle ends with these few sentences: “[T]he things that happened after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


The lives of Peter, Edmund, and Lucy as they were written in the earlier books, with the amazing adventures in the land of Narnia, was nothing to compare with their life in the new Narnia.  They were beginning an even better book which no one on earth will ever read, where life just gets better and better.  We have this to look forward to where we also will have such amazing lives in the kingdom that they will be nothing to compare to this life.  There is an even better story coming that we can’t even begin to fathom!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions to Discuss and Reflect Upon

  1. What order of events does Paul relate to the Thessalonians in chapter 4 so that they will not be, “uninformed about those who sleep in death” (verse 13) ? Is this the same or different as what you hear at most Christian funerals? Could it be there are many today uninformed about those who sleep in death?
  2. What are you most looking forward to at the time of Jesus’ return? Remembering this, how will it change your day today?
  3. After telling the Thessalonians what they have to look forward to, Paul said to, “Encourage one another with these words” (vs 18). How can you do that today?

The Creator’s Firstborn

Colossians 1

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Before Adam, before the fall, there stood Christ. While his life wouldn’t begin for another 4000 years, God had already set salvation in motion.  It is why the stars and the sand could speak to Abraham. It is how Isaiah could see visions of one crying out, “prepare the way”.  It was the fabric that held two genealogies together to come crashing into miraculous birth in Bethlehem. It is the very dead Jesus being raised by His Father to be the firstfruits of the resurrection and giving him preeminence as a King in the life to come.  

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  – Colossians 1:15-17

Jesus Christ wasn’t Plan B because of a fall of man in the Garden of Eden. He wasn’t a contingency plan to be used in emergencies only.  He is the culmination of God’s love for man and the inevitability of the selfish nature of freewill.  In him, through him, and for him, ALL things were created. Things of heaven. Things of earth. Things we can see. Things we can’t.  And it all makes sense because of his life.  God, the Father of Jesus, is the author of providence and will.  Jesus Christ has been given the place as the executor, the head, the mediator, our way back to God after wandering in the desert, ritualistic religion, or feeling foreign in our own body.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. – Colossians 1:21-23a

The fullness of the word of God is revealed.  It isn’t a mystery. It is available to anyone, anytime. No matter the amount of struggle or hate we fortify and reinforce in our minds, our hearts are attuned to Jesus because he is stitched and woven into every creation, including each one of us.  Oh, how God was mindful of us. He knew. His creation surrounds us and testifies of His glory, which in turn, is distilled in Jesus Christ. My prayer is we all recognize that the glory of God can exist in each one of us when we live as Jesus lived, placing the Firstborn of Creation into our hearts, and embracing the very context for existence.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:1-4

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How would you describe Jesus, The Creator’s Firstborn, to someone who has never heard of him before?
  2. What does creation teach you about the Creator and His plans?
  3. What does it mean to you to be reconciled to God through Christ?

Witnesses

Mark 16

Sunday, August 7, 2022

After numerous chapters devoted to preparing for the death and subsequent sacrifice of Christ, we finally reach the glorious reward of the Resurrection! Mark chapter 16, compared to the other gospels, is quite sparse in descriptive details of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. However, what it does depict breathes a message of hope and love for the future of the church, as well as a final instruction.

               When Mary and Mary were given the message to tell the remaining disciples that Christ had risen, the disciples couldn’t believe it. “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” Mark 16:11. In fact, it seems like one of the things the disciples are best at is not believing something until they see it. They did not have faith that the thing they had been listening to Jesus predict for the past several years would come to fruition. Don’t worry because Jesus rebuked them for not believing when he found them again. Do you struggle to believe what Jesus has promised us? Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a world where we all get along, where there is no longer pain. But without faith, we will never see this world; not because it won’t exist, but because we lack the faith to see it. Have faith!

               The final message Jesus gives the disciples is to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15. That is our grand mission! What are you doing today to increase the Kingdom of God? Some of us are not called to verbally preach the word, and some of us are blessed with such a gift. But not being good at public speaking is no excuse to not spread the word.

               Actions can speak significantly louder than words. In fact, that’s often the best way to spread the word; by living it out. To speak the message of Christ with empty words whilst living a life completely contrary is almost worse than to have never spoken a word at all. It is by watching the lives of those who follow Christ that we will be living examples of the love he provides us. In your joy, in your struggles, in your sadness, and in your blessings, praise God that you have been given this life to live. Focus on becoming the people that God has instructed us to become and devote your successes to Him. Live your life with the purpose of praising and worshipping Him, and He will reward you. As Christ commands it, do not simply speak the word; live it. Amen

-Mason Kiel

AND

2 witnesses are better than one! Today we have TWO writers for you – so below is your second devotion on Mark 16. Thank you Mason AND Jeff for writing for today. Keep sharing the good good news! Jesus is Alive!

            Have you ever been a witness who was called on to testify in court?  I have.  It was an interesting experience.  I had seen a crime committed, I reported it to the police, the criminal was arrested, I was asked to give a written statement to the police and I was later called on to testify at their trial.  I will say that when you witness something that causes excitement, gets your heart pounding, and puts you in “fight or flight” mode, it affects your thinking and perspective.  Everything seemed to be going faster than it really was.  Normally it’s more believable when several people give their eyewitness testimony.  Of course, no two witnesses agree on every detail.  Each person sees different things from different vantage points.  Each person remembers different details.  Each person recalls the sequence of events in a slightly different order.  These variations in detail are actually normal and good.  If every witness testified exactly the same details in the same way the lawyers for the other side would be arguing that they were unreliable because they obviously got together and rehearsed their testimony, which is a big no-no.

            When people read the Gospel accounts of Jesus they are seeing the story of Jesus unfold through the eyes of a variety of different witnesses.   The Spirit of God is the inspiration behind each of the writers, but God works through human beings and through different witnesses.  So it should come as no surprise when we read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and also the writings of Paul, Peter, James, and others, that while they are telling basically the same story, they do so from different perspectives.  The Gospel writers are either reporting what they themselves witnessed or what other eyewitnesses reported to them.  They tell the same story with different perspectives and often emphasize different parts of the story or place the events of the story in slightly different orders in keeping with the overall theme of their account.  Each story has different audiences in mind, different themes, and is not carbon copies of each other.

            One very important rule that is repeated throughout the Bible is that there must be a minimum of two or three witnesses. (See Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, John 8:17, and several other passages).  We’ve already noted that there are four Gospel accounts in the New Testament which fulfill that important principle.

            It is also interesting to note the background of who is qualified to be a witness.  Jewish law has a list of different types of people who are not permitted to be called as witnesses: “women, slaves, minors, lunatics, the deaf, the blind, the wicked, the contemptible, relatives, and the interested parties (Yad, Edut 9:1).” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/witness .  The Talmud, which is a Jewish Commentary from ancient times gives more details about who the “wicked” are who cannot testify.  At one point in ancient Jewish history, shepherds were included in the list of people disqualified from witnessing. “As a class, shepherds acquired a bad reputation as being lawless, dishonest, and unreliable, above all because of their habit of trespassing on other people’s lands to graze their flocks.” https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/20-february/regulars/out-of-the-question/shepherds-character-reference.

            Here’s what I find very interesting: two categories of people who were not permitted to act as witnesses were shepherds and women.  I’m not interested in debating the fairness of those exclusions, but simply note that at the time of Jesus’ birth, life, and death, some of the people who were not accepted as reliable witnesses were shepherds and women.  Why is this important? Consider, who were the first eyewitnesses who heard the angelic announcement about the birth of Jesus?  Luke says it was “Shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8).  It was to these “unreliable witness” shepherds that the angels appeared.  And it was these unreliable witness shepherds who went and reported to Mary and Joseph all that they had seen and then went out and “spread the word” about all that they had seen. (Luke 2:17)

            Now, maybe that was just a fluke… but maybe not.  In today’s reading, Mark 16, we fast forward to just after the death of Jesus.  Who is it who first go to the tomb after Jesus died?  Once again, it was to “unreliable witnesses” – this time it was women.  To whom did the angel appear announcing that Christ had risen?  “Unreliable witness” women.  Maybe it wasn’t a fluke after all.  Maybe it’s a part of God’s deliberate plan to choose people to be witnesses of these important saving acts of God, which the world normally rejects.  Does God choose to reveal His great acts of saving to the lowly people the world rejects?  It seems He does.  In fact, now that you know to look for it, pay attention when you read the Gospels and notice how many times the witnesses God uses come from the ranks of the supposed “unreliable witnesses.”  How many times does God use women, or tax collectors (another category of unreliable witness) or slaves, the blind, the deaf, or just plain sinners to be His witnesses?  You’ll find that from beginning to end, the Gospel is filled with “unreliable witnesses” who turn out to be very reliable.  And in a giant flip-flop of societal expectations, it is the lawyers and religious professionals from the reliable witness class who are the ones who bring false charges against Jesus.

            But the real question that each of us needs to ask ourselves today is, am I a reliable witness for Jesus?  Am I willing to tell the truth about what I have seen, heard, and known firsthand about Jesus in my own life?  Am I willing to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about Jesus?

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

  1.  Why do you think God chose “unreliable witnesses” to be the witnesses to Jesus’ birth and resurrection and other key events?
  2. When was the last time you told someone else “witnessed” what you have seen,  heard, or experienced about Jesus?
  3. Who is someone whom you could witness to today?

Paul Before Felix

Acts 24

May 12

Once again Paul is calmly stating the facts against his false accusers.  He stresses “there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (v.15).  Felix likes to listen to Paul, probably hoping for a bribe.  He’s a willing audience until Paul starts stepping on his toes.  When the subjects of righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment come up, Felix suddenly has better things to do.

Take care not to listen to God just when it’s convenient.  Or stop fellowship if someone steps on your toes.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”   God wants us in fellowship for a reason.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever been in a “bad situation” (before your accusers or in custody for two years or something else) that was an opportunity to share about Jesus and a coming resurrection for the righteous and wicked? (Hint: the answer is yes) Did you seize the opportunity? How could you see the opportunity and be bold to do so next time?
  2. Are you easily offended or avoid further contact when your toes are stepped on? What is a healthy attitude to take?

What is Your Act?

Acts 1

April 19

The first few verses of chapter one constitutes an introduction to the book of Acts, giving us the key to the book. Here we have revealed the essential strategy by which Jesus Christ proposes to change the world, a strategy which is the secret of the character of the church when it is operating as it was intended to operate. I strongly suspect that most Christians suffer from a terrible inferiority complex when we confront the world around us. We have bought the idea of many around that the church is quite irrelevant, an archaic group that is irrelevant today. That view is false. The church is the most important body in the world today because whatever happens in the world happens because of something that is, or is not, happening in the church.

Now, in his first statement here, Luke gives us the great strategy by which the Lord works among mankind. He says, “In my former book…I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach… ” The Gospel of Luke is the record of the Son of God. Jesus, the man, came to begin something, to do and to teach, and the record of that beginning is in the Gospels. But this second book is the continuation of what Jesus began to do. In a very real sense, Acts is not the acts of believers, but the continuing acts of Jesus. It is an account of what Jesus continues to do and to teach. In the Gospels he did it in his physical body of flesh. In the book of Acts he is doing it through the bodies of men and women who are followers of him and endowed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Whenever God wants to get a message across to men, he does not simply send someone to announce it; his final way of driving it home is to express the message in flesh and blood. He takes a life and aims it in a certain direction and, by the manifestation of his own life through the blood and flesh of a human being, he makes clear what he has to say. That is the strategy of the book of Acts. It is the record of followers of Christ endowed in the Holy Spirit; men and women,  owned by him, and thus manifesting his life. That is the secret of authentic Christianity. Anytime you find a Christianity that is not doing that, it is false Christianity. No matter how much it may adapt the garb and language of Christianity, if it is not the activity of human beings possessed and indwelt by the life of Jesus Christ it is not authentic Christianity. That is the true power of the church, as we shall see in this book.

The book of Acts therefore is an unfinished book. It is not finished but is still being written. The book abruptly closes with an account of Paul in the city of Rome, living in his own hired house. It just ends there as though you might turn over the next page and begin the next adventure. What is your act?

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What is your act?
  2. How would you rate yourself as a follower of Christ? What role does the Holy Spirit have in your life?
  3. Looking at Acts 1 what do you find the disciples of Jesus doing? What is their mission? What is their hope? Is this an appealing group to be a part of? Explain.

You Follow Me!

John 21

April 18

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. He answered yes three times. Then Jesus told Peter how he would die—apparently by crucifixion. Peter wondered about how it would go with John. So he asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” Here’s the whole exchange.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at the table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

Jesus words “None of your business, follow me” are sweet to my ears. They are liberating from the depressing bondage of fatal comparing. Of looking at someone else’s life and feeling inadequate.

I was encouraged by Jesus’ word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die…painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others.

That word landed on me with great joy. Jesus will not judge me according to my superiority or inferiority over anybody. No sibling. No friend. No ministry. These are not the standard. Jesus has a work for me to do (and a different one for you). It is not what he has given anyone else to do. There is a grace to do it. Will I trust him for that grace and do what he has given me to do? That is the question.

I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Learning to walk in freedom with you.

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what areas do you most often fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others? When you compare yourself to others, do you more often see yourself on the shorter end of the stick or above others? What is the danger in either direction?
  2. How can we remember and put in action Jesus words: “What is that to you? You follow me!”
  3. What adjectives would you use to describe Jesus in this chapter? What are his priorities? Page through the previous chapters of John asking the same questions? How can you seek to be Christ-like this week? What work does Jesus have for you to do?

Do You See?

John 20

April 17

Do You See? Have you recognized Jesus’ resurrection? Is it a foreign idea to you?

Here’s the issue: In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.

Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see? The issue is: Do I care? Do I find that idea helpful? Do I feel that it helps me flourish as a human being? And if it seems like it doesn’t, then I will just view it the way I view UFOs and possible life in some distant galaxy—I just don’t need to bother with it.

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, goes to His tomb only to find that He’s not there! Jesus appears to Mary and several others, fulfilling all that He had said about rising from the dead.

Either you see Christ risen and that changes you or Christ’s death is some obscure event that happened in the past.

The reality is Jesus is alive! He is risen! He can change us like he promised. We have no hope of changing ourselves. The only way we can put away sinful habits is through a relationship with Jesus made possible by His death and resurrection.

On the cross, Jesus clothed Himself in our sin. When Peter and John looked into the empty tomb, they saw Jesus was not there and He had left His burial clothes. John 20 shows us that Jesus left our sinful nature in the grave when He rose from the dead.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We do not have to be controlled by our desire to sin. Not only do we not have to be clothed in sin, the resurrection means we get to be clothed in something better. In Colossians 3:12, Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Following Jesus allows us to put away our old lives and begin new ones.

If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.

Do you see?

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you see that Jesus is alive? What evidence leads you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is living today?
  2. What does it mean to you that you don’t have to be clothed in sin any more? Are you still? What does one do to make the transition from living the old life to the new? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to about it?
  3. Who do you know who needs to see? What can you show them about Jesus – today?

The Unlikely Pair

John 19

April 16

Each year, we talk extensively about Jesus’ death on Friday and resurrection on Sunday. The in-between often gets skipped in our remembrance, those long hours of grieving—and for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus—burying Jesus’ body.  

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. 

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both secret disciples. They feared making their public allegiance to the controversial Jesus. Both were members of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council—the same institution that crucified Jesus. They used their status as religious elite to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body to bury properly. 

They used to follow Jesus in hushed voices and under the veil of night. Now, they are boldly professing their faith in the same circle they once feared persecution. 

Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

Although Joseph and Nicodemus were an unlikely pair to care for Jesus’ body, they were chosen by God for two apparent reasons. 

First, belief in the resurrection hinged on the testimony of those who witnessed Jesus’ lifeless body. Joseph and Nicodemus weren’t one of Jesus’ ragamuffin friends whose testimony would likely be questioned. No, they were respected and trusted as members of the religious elite. In this way, Joseph and Nicodemus were two of the first agents of Christian apologetics. 

Second, ordinarily, crucified criminals like Jesus would have been buried anonymously in a field. Joseph, however, brings the body to his own designated tomb. This fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9)

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)

Ultimately, God positions people for His purposes. Joseph and Nicodemus were perfectly positioned for this holy task, which begs the question: what has God positioned you to do? 

Child of God, you are chosen and well-equipped. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What has God positioned you to do? Can you recall any circumstances in your life that God used for His purposes?
%d bloggers like this: