I was having a phone conversation with someone who had been serving in their local church. The topic of the Kingdom of God came up and she asked me what is the Kingdom of God? She said she really didn’t know about that.
I was thrilled to answer her question with scriptures about the Kingdom and I sent her lessons and lists of verses. Of course, I had to be selective because there is so much about the Kingdom in the scriptures.
In Luke 8, we discover that Jesus is traveling from “one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God”. It was good news in the time of Jesus and it is good news today. The Kingdom message offers hope and eternal perspective. Jesus and his followers lived in the real world, too. They faced difficulties as we can see from this brief description of the women who followed him and also financially supported Jesus’ ministry. The women “had been cured of evil spirits and diseases”. They had experienced first-hand the blessings of being spiritually and physically healed by Jesus. Now they could also support the Lord Jesus as he shared the good news of the Kingdom of God with others.
Jesus used multiple parables or short stories to illustrate the importance and astounding value of the Kingdom (see Matthew 13 for more). The parable of the Sower is presented to show that a person should receive the word of God and produce good fruit. We are so blessed that Jesus also shares the explanation of the parable in the following verses. As Jesus told his disciples the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you. We see that the word of God is offered freely, but some allow it to be snatched away and others fall away when the going gets tough. Some let life’s worries, riches and pleasures take over and there is simply no room for it in their lives. Now of course our hope is to be those with noble and good hearts, that hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. From season to season, I have been amazed by some plants that produce like crazy. When you have a harvest of “get me another basket”, the garden work is worth it. So keep planting and watering and sowing those good news seeds so God can produce His kingdom fruit through you.
What do you know about the Kingdom of God? What does Jesus want people (then and now) to know about God’s Kingdom? Why do you think it was what he spoke about? Is it what your church talks about?
Look again at Luke 8 at the types of soil the seed – word of God – landed on. Can you think of an example of each – what causes the seed/plant to NOT grow healthily? What is needed for it to be healthy and growing/producing? How healthy is the word of God in your life? What is interfering with its health?
Everything is dying. Your phone’s battery is draining and will need to be recharged. Your phone itself will someday give out or become so slow or outdated that you’ll need a new and shiny one. But that one will die too. Your car will get you places…until it doesn’t. Your body itself will eventually lose its ability to sustain the delicate balance known as life, and will stop functioning altogether. This will happen to you, everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know.
The human race and life on earth are in deep trouble if the wrong supervolcano decides to erupt or if a very large random rock hurtling through space collides with earth. Our existence is a very delicate thing.
Even the sun as we know it is dying. It’s said that in somewhere around 4 to 5 billion years, our sun will eventually begin to die as its hydrogen fuel runs out. It will swell to a red giant and swallow at least Mercury, Venus, and our own planet before becoming a white dwarf.
It’s predicted that eventually the universe itself will expand hopelessly into a cold and dark nothingness of no usable energy. It’s called “heat death” and is a lot like winter, but much worse.
That’s a lot to take in all at once. The realization that everything we know is fading away can lead us to a dark place. It may remind you of Nietzsche’s caution that “if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” What gives? Is there anything that lasts?
“For ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25 NRSV)
Not everything dies and fades away. Peter is telling us that the good news you were given—the word of God—endures forever. To us, the phrase “word of God” can often mean the Bible, but the way the Bible uses it is so much more broad and rich. I tend to think of it as something like God’s life-giving wisdom, through which he created everything. In John 1 we can read about how Jesus, through his life and ministry, became the perfect embodiment of that word among us, carrying on another chapter of something that was always there.
That chapter seemed to come to a close when Jesus was executed. To his followers, it must have felt like all hope was lost. But we know how that story ends up! We are shown there is more to come when Jesus is resurrected. It’s another chapter of this everlasting word.
As there was more to come for Jesus, there will be more to come for us. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are given hope and an inheritance that won’t fade away. Jesus is said to be the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, meaning his was the first resurrection, and we’re given confidence ours will be yet to come.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that through resurrection, the dead are “sown” perishable, but raised imperishable. Resurrection transforms things that have perished (or would perish) into things that can’t perish. It transforms the dust of the ground into something new and alive and beautiful. Remembering that Jesus was transformed from a dead man into some kind of mysterious, eternal, resurrected being, we embrace the living hope that someday we’ll experience the same transformation.
As we reflect on how resurrection will transform us, there are hopeful rumblings that it will transform all of creation into a new heaven and a new earth. How mind-blowing is it to think of an entire universe raised imperishable? What does that even look like? That’s such an amazing mystery to think about!
There’s no way for me to know how long I’m going to live, or how long there will be an earth or sun or universe. I do, however, know that God outlives all of those things! If God is around, there is always more to come. There is always another chapter of the word.
So let’s not grasp at the things that are going to die and fade away. Instead, let’s keep our hope in what will last forever—what Peter calls “the living and enduring word of God.”
Questions to ponder
1. What might Peter say our response should be now that we’ve heard the good news (hint: verses 13-16 might offer a good start)?
2. What other things besides the word of God do you think are “imperishable”?
Having read the first two chapters of Hebrews, we have seen the author building up this case for belief and hope in Jesus as the Son of God. Now in chapter 3, the author is trying to bring us back to an example that the readers would have been familiar with to help us understand the necessity of our faith. He calls back to Moses, the prophet who first heard the name of YHWH, delivered the Hebrews from enslavement in Israel and performed many signs and wonders in the midst of the Jews (Exodus 14:31). This Moses that the Hebrews are so familiar with, who brought the law that they hold in such reverence, was faithful in God’s house. However, his faithfulness was to testify of the Prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18:18, 19), namely Jesus.
By conjuring up this image of the Old Testament prophet, Moses, we are reminded of the rebellion of the Hebrew people after they were delivered from Egypt. In only a matter of years, the people hardened their hearts and they were filled with unbelief even though they had seen the signs of God in their own lifetimes. Can you imagine witnessing the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of Cloud and Fire or the radiant face of Moses and yet still turn your back on the God who freed you from slavery? It doesn’t make sense to me at all. For some reason, the peoples’ hearts were hardened so that they couldn’t believe in God, even though they heard the voice of God.
Now this story isn’t just an example from the past, it is a story that represented the people to which this book is written. Many Jews believed that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah, but others refused to believe. Their hearts were hardened even though they saw all the signs and healings that Jesus performed. It is their unbelief that is their downfall.
I want to apply this story to today as well, while it is still called “today.” If I hear God’s voice, what will I do? Will I believe or will I harden my heart? I believe there are signs and works being performed today through the power of the Holy Spirit as it was promised by Jesus (John 14:12). If you don’t believe that there are still signs being performed to this day, ask a believer in your congregation if they have ever witnessed or performed a work through the Holy Spirit. More have than I think we realize.
The other part of hearing God’s voice today, is that the author of this book is re-presenting the words of God, the words of the Holy Spirit, words spoken Prophetically through David. This is the voice of God that you hear today. Encourage each other every day as long as it is called “today” (Hebrews 3:13). This should be your main takeaway from this passage. If you want to ensure that no one is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin so that they will enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 3:18), then tell someone the word of God today, while it is still called “today.” Speak the word of God in power, for there is certainly power in the word of God. We are given a message of hope that we can boast in (Hebrews 3:6). Pick up your phone and text a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of this hope. Get up and visit your brother and sister to tell them of this hope. If you believe in this hope, then let the whole world know and be a partner of Christ in his work of proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 3:14).
Who can I tell today about the hope that is found in Jesus?
How often do I think about the hope that is found in Jesus?
Ask a Christian, have you ever seen a sign or a work of the Holy Spirit?
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.
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?
What might receiving this letter (the book of Hebrews) have meant to the original audience – Jews/Hebrews who had become Christians?
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?
Last week, we talked about our identity in Christ, grounded and rooted in him and made new in his grace and mercy. Today, we have one last look at this identity, and I think it’s important to read Ephesians 5 and 6. In response to this new identity, we are called to a new and better way.
First, husbands and wives are called to love and to submit to one another in reverence for Christ. (5:21-33) Children are called to honor their father and mother. (6:1-3) Fathers are called to train and instruct their children. (6:4) Relationships between slaves and masters were expressed to show a better way to treat common social relationships in that day, and that Christ makes slave and master equal. (6:5-9) Praise God that as we have expanded on the promises of Scripture, slavery has been eradicated in the US and is fought against around the world.
BUT, what I really want us to look at is how we are called to dress. I really enjoy renaissance fairs. It’s great; enjoying nature, seeing people dressed in amazing costumes, laughing at jokes and enjoying fair food! Who doesn’t love gnawing on a GIANT turkey leg or getting ye olde bratwurst? But my favorite part is the jousting tournaments. Knights dressed in armor, charming on horseback. In most jousts, the joust is real : they don’t plan who will hit the other, who will unseat the other, and who will win. How cool is that?!
I know Paul was thinking about Roman armor, but when I think about the armor of God, I imagine a medieval knight. A shining breastplate, a broad and defensive shield, a powerful sword! But is God really calling us to dress with armor, Roman or medieval? He is using the armor as a metaphor. We are in a war, but we protect our heart with righteousness and our head with salvation. We run in peace and wrap ourselves up with truth. When it finally comes time to battle, we pull out the sword of the spirit, the word of God. This means both Scripture and the gospel message, the written and living word of God!
God is calling you to live in response to your identity in Christ. In how you treat your family and friends, in how you fight your battles, your identity in Christ should define everything about you.
May you allow your identity in Christ to better your relationships.
May you fight your battles against Satan, evil, and sin in the power and grace of God.
May you be more like Jesus, this day and every day.
How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?
What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?
John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.
John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.
John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.
It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.
John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.
So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.
So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).
Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.
Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.
In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.
Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.
We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.
I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 19-20 and John 1
We’ve had some really heavy topics, and we are not quite out of the woods yet. We are coming to the point in the reading where there is just joy and happiness and peace, but we are not there yet. It takes someone showing up on the scene to make that happen. We have the coming of a rider on a white horse. The images that John uses only highlights that he is speaking about Jesus.
I love Christmas; the songs, the snow, the presents, the expectations. I even love the time leading up to it. In the wider Christian tradition, this time is called Advent, which is Latin for “to come”. We recognize in Advent the first coming of Jesus. And in Revelation 19, we are shown a picture of the second coming of Jesus. Those two images could not be more different.
Jesus came as a peaceful prince riding on a donkey. Jesus will come as a conquering rider on a white horse.
When he came, many called him a liar and a demoniac. He will come and be known as “Faithful and True.”
He came to bring salvation. He will come to bring judgment.
He came with eyes full of tenderness and sorrow. He will come with eyes of fiery flame.
He came and bore a crown of thorns. He will come crowned with many crowns.
He came and was wrapped in tattered cloths. He will come in a blood stained robe.
He came and was known as Jesus. He will come and be known as Word of God.
He came and refused the help of the legions of angels. He will come and be accompanied by the armies of heaven.
He came preaching words of truth. He will come and his words will be a sword coming from his mouth.
He came and only a small number knew who we was.
He will come, and his name, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will be emblazoned on his thigh.
This is the Messiah we serve. He is not weak; he is not a push over; he is not a doting parent or Santa Claus.
He is the conquering king, coming to claim the world that is rightfully his, to avenge his servants who have been oppressed, and to drive out those who did not honor him.
Let this image of Jesus wash over you, and praise God that the King is coming.
I love to look deeper into these verses in Colossians to fully understand what Paul was writing and why. Paul was poetic in his language and using wording that the Israelites used to describe the personification of wisdom. If you look through the Old Testament it is not likely that you will find the phrase “Holy Spirit”. You will however find the term “Spirit of God” which we discover is the same thing, God’s power within us. Likewise “word of God” is not seen in the Old Testament. Once there is a reference to the “word of the LORD” but the majority of the references toward the Word of God are seen describing this personification of wisdom. A different way of saying the same thing. Jesus is the living embodiment of the Word of God.
“He is the image of the invisible God” – Jesus is called the image of God in these verses and in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Hebrews 1:3 he is described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. Two truths are revealed through the first half of this verse: God has remained unseen “no one has ever seen God” John 4:18 and second, Jesus reveals the nature and character of God for he is the image of God in which humanity was originally created in Genesis 1:26. It is the image that we as the faithful will be transformed into upon Jesus’ return.
“The firstborn over all creation” – Paul borrowed from his Jewish upbringing; firstborn was a Hebrew way of saying someone was especially honored. The nation of Israel was called firstborn (Exodus 4:22), as was David (Psalm 89:27). The word, in these instances, did not refer to their physical birth but to their place of honor before God. So here Paul is saying that Jesus has a place of honor over all creation.
“By him all things were created” seven times in these verses Paul mentions “all creation”, “all things”, and “everything” stressing that the Christ is supreme over all through the power God granted him. The tense at the end of this verse was not translated correctly in the NIV, it says “all things were” however the original language was not past-tense “were” rather present “are”.
“Before all things” like with firstborn this does not speak of time but importance. The Christ is before all things in importance for it is only through him that all things will be restored.
“All things hold together” he will usher in a new age in which sinful man will be redeemed and united with our holy God.
This passage speaks of the importance of the Christ, the place of honor over all things that he holds. Additionally it points to both Jesus’ place of honor over the church and those who will be resurrected to eternal life as well as a chronological order. Jesus was the beginning of the church as we know it. And he was the first, and only one to this point, which God raised to new life. We the faithful will follow suit once Jesus returns.
“All (his) fullness dwell” (his) was added to many translations which adds to the confusion and skepticism that people may have concerning these verses. Before moving forward think about what happens to those who come to God through Jesus. We are filled with God’s spirit, His power and character, at least to a point. But Jesus was filled with the fullness of God, all power and authority were given to him. He also displayed the nature, character, and attributes of God. Paul also had another reason for his choice of words, “fullness” was a popular term among the Gnostics who used it to refer to the combination of all supernatural influences. So Paul used their own word to elevate the Christ above all other religious ideas and systems.
“To reconcile to himself all things” Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection set the stage for not only the faithful to be made new but also all of creation. Unfortunately it does not mean that everyone will be saved from sin and ultimately death. We have free will and we make our own choices. But God does not give up on us. I believe that even those He has already seen reject Him are given daily opportunities for redemption.
It is important that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and the reason that we need a Christ, Messiah.
To be continued… (by someone else)
(Editor’s Note – Thank you Jeff for finishing off the book of Proverbs with us this week, and giving us two free theme days to think on! Tomorrow we will begin looking at the book of Revelation – one chapter a day through the month of November. And in December we will finish off the New Testament with the book of Luke. So many precious things in God’s Word! Keep taking it in.)
More than we would like to admit, we struggle with temptation. No matter how great our will or sense of purpose in our life, it always seems to find a way to slither into our lives and rear its ugly head. Ironically, we are caught most off guard and unaware, not when we are in the midst of a struggle with sin or a desperate time, but when things are at their best. One minute we are walking close to God, doing his will, connected to His Spirit, loving His word, sharing his Gospel, and the next we are faced with an idea (James 1:13-14). An awful idea. A wonderfully awful idea that will feed our selfishness, our human condition.
In Matthew 4, today’s reading, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert. God, being the great storyteller he is, takes Jesus to the ultimate contrast of Eden, where the groans of nature longing for restoration can be most heard (Rom 8:22). A setting that is far away from paradise, an allegory of the state of mankind, filled with the different, yet same challenge – temptation. Now, there are theological hairs you can split as you read this message today. Don’t do that. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus’s triumph begs the question, “How did He overcome temptation?” Well, He was the Son of God, right? This is true, but an error in our thinking if we think this is the sole reason that Jesus wins the days. He is the Son of God, but he faced temptation, “just as we are”, and did not sin (Heb 4:15). You might say, “He obviously had a special ability to resist.” You are right. It is the same special ability we have access to: The Holy Spirit. God may take us to the desert to see what our faith is made of, but He will not give us something we can’t handle, and will actually empower us if we seek Him in that moment (1 Cor 10:13).
But careful. Careful we must be because when we are in the desert it is easy to see what is coming. We might feel as though we have plunged a dagger into the heart of temptation, but we have not put it to rest. We must remember, we are human. No matter how willing our spirit is to continue on day after day in the will of God, our flesh is weak (Matt 26:40-43). We crave food. We seek power. We want to be known. Our eyes, the lamp into our soul (Matt 6:22-24), see a way we can instantly fulfill the desires that will be made complete by God and chases after them in selfish, fleeting moments. Unfortunately, this often comes on the day we leave our armor at home, catching us off guard, not ready to do spiritual battle.
Looking to Jesus, how can we be ready to do battle with temptation? First, he knew the word of God. It is how He responds not only to the temptation, but even when the word of God is seemingly being used against Him. How can you know the will of God? It is as ironically simple as losing weight: diet and exercise. Consume the right thing, His word, and practice it daily, so you will be spiritual healthy. Next, do God’s business. Know that temptation can come at any moment, but comes easier when we are idle (Prov 16:27-29). Keep your eyes on God and your hands and feet busy to his work. Like the old adage, “if you’re going through hell, just keep going,” Jesus faced the temptation, but immediately moves onto His ministry. Temptation IS NOT sin. No guilt required; pick up and move on. Finally, be on guard. Relapse can setback or even kill your spiritual life. Removing unnecessary temptation from our lives is a must. Even if we are in the word every day, engaging in spiritual disciplines, or deeply involved in a ministry, at the very height of our endeavors, it only takes a moment to go back to sin and fall harder and faster than we ever did (the very nature of relapse). If you can’t hang out with your friends without getting drunk, then don’t hang out with them. If you can’t be on the internet without looking at inappropriate sites, then don’t get on it. If you can’t use social media without bridling your tongue and speaking in love, then stop. Jesus uses hyperbole to illustrate the practical advice when he states, “it is better to cut your hand off” or “pluck your eye out” (Matt 5:29, 30) than to be lost to sin, and ultimately the kingdom of God.
It is imperative you know there is a way to overcome temptation, no matter how great. We have access to the Father, power through His Holy Spirit, and our eyes on Jesus Christ not only as our example, but our mediator when we fall short. He speaks to the Father because Jesus knows what it is like, and encourages us to not give in or give up. Study. Do. Guard. Repeat. Temptation may come, but sin will no longer find a foothold in you.
When Paul writes II Timothy he is in Rome. In Prison. Piecing together his life from Acts and his letters, it is believed that during his first trip to Rome he was under house arrest – and then released and able to take his final missionary journey. But, back to Rome he goes, and this time he ends up in prison. Real prison. In chains. And, he is now writing about having “fought the good fight and finished the race.” (4:7). The end is in sight. And Paul has no regrets. In fact, he still has hope for the future – “a crown of righteousness” (4:8).
I was blessed by the opportunity to go to Rome with Jason several years ago while he was on a business trip. While he worked, I walked. It was incredible to walk through the ruins and roads where Paul very well may have walked before his chains. Courthouses, palaces, the temples of foreign gods, and in their midst, the Mamertine prison which according to tradition housed the apostle Paul, as well as Peter, before they each died for their faith. Perhaps it was a different prison, hard to be certain. But I do know that there was a real prison with real chains. Real places. Real people. And a very real God who was at work then (and long before) and is still at work now – and for all eternity.
A God worthy of serving with our life and if necessary our death. A God who does not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) – and I sure need that! A God who breathed out the Scriptures for us so we would have his wisdom and words – so useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) Without them we can not be thoroughly equipped for the work he has for us to do. (2 Timothy 3:17).
A few years ago our theme at Family Camp was Apprentice. How to pass along a craft – an art – from one master artisan to the next generation. Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) How are you contributing to the cycle?
Paul has many powerful words to Timothy about his duties as a young preacher, and what he is to pass on to others. And they become even more powerful when you pause to remember that they are being written by Paul, the mighty apostle and missionary, now chained and in prison, near the end of his life. According to tradition, soon to be beheaded for his faith. He writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Are you doing your best? What can you do to improve how you present yourself to God? Is it evident you are a workman for God? Any areas of shame that need to be addressed? How are you handling the word of truth?
I think it would be fascinating to see documented how the Word of God was passed down from Jesus to Paul, and on to Timothy and then to Timothy’s church, etc …. Through the ages … across the oceans … from generation to generation . . . to you. Your spiritual genealogy. What will you do with it? How will you pass it on? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”