“You Are God’s”

I love challenging sections of scripture because it forces me to dig a little to try to figure out what the author intended. In John 10:34-36 we have one of those challenging sections. This passage reads,

“The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

This certainly is a difficult passage for us today, but not so for the audience at that time since they attempted to arrest Jesus on the grounds of blasphemy because of his claims. They knew what he meant! So what does Jesus mean by saying the scripture teaches that men are gods?

First we need to notice that Jesus is quoting Ps. 82. 6 which says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.”

Second, the context of this quote of Ps 82 is to challenge the unjust judges of Israel. It is specifically a reference to those in an authoritative role for God.

Third, a judge was someone who was commissioned by God to “be god to men” (Barclay). The authoritative role of the judge came from God’s commissioning, and it was as though they were gods to the people. This is not implying they were divine.

Fourth, the support for the authority role of these judges and the application of the term “god” to them is well stated by Barclay when he says,

Exodus 21:1–6 tells how the Hebrew servant may go free in the seventh year. As the Authorized Version has it, verse 6 says ‘Then his master shall bring him unto the judges.’ But in the Hebrew, the word which is translated judges is actually elohim, which means gods. The same form of expression is used in Exodus 22:9, 28. Even scripture said of men who were specially commissioned to some task by God that they were gods. So Jesus said: ‘If scripture can speak like that about men, why should I not speak so about myself?’”

Although not all translations have the word “judge” for elohim in Ex. 21:6, some do. The NET translation note says, “the phrase means to God.” They also state that although there is not complete agreement that the word is a reference to judges, they go on to say, “Others have made a stronger case… that it refers to judges who acted on behalf of God.”

Fifth, Jesus goes on to say that those who ruled for God did so as his word was given to them. Jesus is far superior since he was set apart (consecrated by God) and sent to the world as the Word.

Since Jesus is far superior to the imperfect human judges of the Old Testament, who were referred to as “gods,” he is right to refer to himself as the Son of God due to his far superior position and commissioning. He is not a mere man, but in reality, he is part of the triune God!

Father, thank you for the insightful teaching of Jesus. His brilliant analysis of your Word and his clarity for us who follow him. I thank you that he is the set apart one commissioned to save us from our sin. There is no one like him. If anyone on earth qualifies to have the term “God” applied to him it is Jesus. In fact, he is God, the Son!

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

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Good Habits

Today I was impressed once again by the life of Jesus. He models something for us that really is amazing. He models the need to pray. Of all people who have ever lived, he would be the only one we could argue did not need to pray. And yet he did, and he did so frequently.

Notice how D. M McIntyre discusses the reality of Jesus habit of withdrawing to pray as mentioned in Luke 6:15. He says this,

“It was our Lord’s habit to seek retirement for prayer. When He withdrew Himself from men, He was accustomed to press far into the uninhabited country—He was in the deserts. The surprise of the onlookers lay in this, that one so mighty, so richly endowed with spiritual power, should find it necessary for Himself to repair to the source of strength, that there He might refresh His weary spirit. To us, the wonder is still greater, that He, the prince of Life, the Eternal Word, the Only-begotten of the Father, should prostrate Himself in meekness before the throne of God, making entreaty for grace to help in time of need.”

These words are a reminder to me that I need to rededicate myself to prayer. If Jesus was not too busy to pray, neither am I. Over the years I have been impressed with four reasons for prayer that still motivate me. They are

1) Prayer is where my intimacy with God can flourish
2) Prayer allows me to see God work through his answers
3) Prayer accomplishes things that would not happen without it
4) Prayer allows me to conform my will to his so that I can say, “not my will but your will be done.”

Father, thank you for the challenge to refresh my efforts to pray more intentionally. Help me to redevelop this holy habit. Thank you for the privilege of prayer!

Following Jesus with you,

Light Of The World

Jesus made one of his seven “I am” statements in John 9:5 where he said, “I am the light of the world.” All of these “I am” statements are claims to his deity.  After making this proclamation, there is the curious story of his healing of the blind man. Notice how this is described in the next two verses,

“Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. lThen he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”

What is the point of this unusual healing? Why would Jesus spit in the dirt and make a paste he applied to the eyes of the blind man and then have him go to a specific pool called “Siloam” to wash before he is healed?

There have been many proposed explanations for this story, but I think there are a couple of observations that have helped me to understand this miracle better. The first observation is that this healing seems to illustrate a statement Jesus made in verse four where he says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus identifies himself as a “sent one” from the Father. He was sent on a mission to be the light while he was in the world.

A second observation is mentioned by Gerald Borchert who said,

“In the present case the mixing of Jesus’ spittle (ptysma) with dirt is somewhat reminiscent of God’s breath mixing with dirt of the earth in the miracle of human creation (Gen 2:7).”

If this is the case, it is a reference back to the divine creation itself where God made man out of the dust. Here Jesus is showing his divine authority because of his modeling the creation of man in this healing.

A third observation is that the meaning of the word “Siloam” is “sent one.” As Lenski observes,

“We cannot assume that Jesus selected this pool for the beggar’s washing without himself being conscious of the meaning of its name. Too often he speaks of his Sender and thus designates himself as the One Sent. He never acts without the most comprehensive insight. In this instance even the disciples may well have caught the connection: “Wash in the pool of Siloam—of the One sent.”

The Greek allows for the translation of this term to be “of the sent one.” In other words, the blind man is told to go to the pool of the Sent One–Jesus.

All of these observations seem to be connected and show that if a person is to emerge from his spiritual blindness, he must go to the Sent One, Jesus, to receive sight. Jesus uses the pool of Siloam to illustrate the need for coming to him and him alone for healing.  He is the Sent One. He is the only one who can deal with our sin and lead us to God.

Father, thank you for another example of the intentional ministry of Jesus. He took advantage of a situation to further clarify the truth of his uniqueness. He is the only one sent by you to address our sin debt. Only through faith in him and his atoning work on our behalf can we see!

Following Jesus with you,

True Disciples

Most of us do not like being evaluated. In school, I recall cramming to get through an exam with little fruit in my life to show for it!

Did you realize that there are clear expectations for a believer? Specific conduct that reveals whether or not a person is a true disciple of Jesus. One of these tests is mentioned in John 8:31-32 which says,

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is explicitly teaching the expectation for one of his disciples to be in his Word and living a life of obedience from day one. There is not a two stage discipleship process. Some think a person can believe, and then later choose to be an obedient disciple. That is not what Jesus taught. Everyone who believes in him is one of his disciples, and the expectation of conduct applies universally to all disciples and begins immediately at salvation.

Eternal Security is a theological truth that teaches once a person is saved he is always saved. That is true. Assurance, though, is dependent on my believing the truth of eternal security and comes from a life of obedience. Assurance of salvation is always related to compliance. In our passage, Jesus clearly says that only those who continue in his teaching are in reality or are in fact his disciples. Obedience is visible evidence of salvation and is expected of all who are followers of Jesus. Obedience does not earn salvation but shows that a person is saved.

When we see someone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus and yet is not following his teaching, we should not give that person assurance of salvation. We should show them the clear expectation of following Jesus and his teaching. A sinning disciple should repent of their sin and ask for forgiveness, or they may not be a believer at all. We should not be afraid to proclaim the same expectations of discipleship that Jesus did!

Father, I thank you that you have made not only salvation possible, but you have also made the path of discipleship to Jesus very clear. One of the evidences of my salvation is my obedience to the Word. This certainly does not mean I will be perfect, but that my normal way of life is obedience, and when I sin I address it the way you tell me to in your Word. Help me to remain faithful to you and your desire for my life.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

He Waited 2 Days?

The story of Lazarus is very moving. We find this story in John 11. Notice the introduction of this event in verses 5 and 6,

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

The first thing that stands out here is that Jesus waited two days before he went to the aid of Lazarus and to be with those he loved, Martha and Mary. This truth is one of the teachings of scripture that makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it? If one of my loved ones needed me and I could help, I would have gone right away.

The fact that Jesus did not do this implies we do not fully understand the details or God’s plan. One potential hint that could explain the delay of Jesus is found in verses 38-39 which says,

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’”

What stands out in this section is that Lazarus had been dead four days! Why is that mentioned? If Jesus had not delayed two days and left to see Lazarus as soon as he heard of his illness, Lazarus would have still been dead for two days. Why did he wait until he was in the tomb for four days?

The ESV Study Bible gives great insight that is very helpful, “Though burial usually followed soon after death (see Acts 5:6, 10), some later Jewish sources indicate a belief that the soul hovered over the body for three days, hoping to reenter it, but then gave up and departed.”

One possible explanation then for Jesus waiting two days was to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had the power, authority and ability to raise a dead person to life. Lazarus had passed the 3-day waiting period that some believed was the time for the spirit to re-enter the body. He was dead, no matter how you looked at it.

Jesus intentionally delayed his arrival to perform one of his greatest miracles, the raising of Lazarus! Even his love for others fell under the leadership of God and his timing. His mission was to show to the world that he was the Messiah. This required the death and resurrection of Lazarus. It was all part of God’s plan.

Father, it is hard to understand how, why and when you do certain things. In the case of Lazarus, it was part of your plan to allow him to die. That did not mean you did not love him. The mission of the Gospel took precedence. Lazarus was blessed to experience a supernatural intervention in his life by Jesus raising him from the dead. In this case, it all seems to have worked out well. And yet, there will be times in my life when I do not understand and things may not work out like they did for Lazarus. Help me to respond in faith like Mary, who even though she did not understand and was crushed by the death of her brother, it did not stop her from believing in Jesus. This is clearly seen in verse 27 which takes place before the resurrection of Lazarus when she said,

“She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”

Help me to live a life of faithfulness in spite of my circumstances like Mary.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Perspective

Have you noticed that your perspective on an event has a significant impact on how you view it and experience it? This also is the case with how God sees events in my life and how I see them. His perspective can be very different from mine. This reminder hit me when I was reading about the people in the wilderness. In Ex. 19:3-4 it says,

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

When I read that, I assumed that if God brought his people to himself at Mount Sinai on eagles wings, that meant it was an easy ride. That picture brings to my mind an easy transition without problems. The eagle in a sense swooped in and carried them effortless to God’s presence at Sinai.

As John Hannah states,

“God compared His delivering the people out of Egypt, across the Red (Reed) Sea, and to Sinai to His carrying them on eagles’ wings (cf. Deut. 32:10–11). When young eagles are learning to fly, the mother eagle flies under them with her wings spread out to catch them.”

My human perspective of the transition of the Jews from Egypt does not correlate with the hard reality of their journey. The previous chapters described the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea when it looked as though the Egyptian army was going to destroy them. It also included the complaining of the people because they had no water and no meat and they were thirsty and famished. It was anything but an easy journey from the Jewish perspective. It took great effort and endurance for the Jews to get to Mount Sinai. And yet, God said from his view, it was as though he carried them on eagles wings to himself.  He is the one who humbled the Egyptians and miraculously met every need of the Jews on their journey to him.

The Jews saw the hard road they took and the sacrifice required to get to God. In God’s mind, the journey was easy since he is in complete control of all things. The concerns of the Jews were not concerns of God because he was fully able and willing to take care of them. In the heat of the moment, the Jews forgot the greatness of their God, focused on the challenges at hand and lost perspective!

Father, I need to remember to try to see life from your perspective. I can get caught in the daily challenges of faithfulness and you see it as a path that can be tread because of your enabling. That does not mean it will be easy for me, but it is doable with simple faith and obedience. Help me to focus on you and your promises so that I can live above my circumstances.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Telling God “No”

Have you ever told God “no.” Have you known what God wanted you to do and then, for whatever reason, you shied away from simple obedience?

The story of God telling Moses to be his spokesman to Pharaoh is a dramatic example of this possibility. Notice how Moses records a confrontation with God and his will in Ex. 4:10-16,

“‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’ But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.’”

What a gripping account of the vulnerability of Moses and God’s grace. Moses fails to trust God and is disobedient. He had the audacity to tell God “no.” Are you kidding me? God is enraged at the lack of faith of Moses, and yet he graciously provides a solution to being God’s spokesman. God selects Aaron to speak for him instead of Moses.

Most of us would probably say that we have not had an experience like Moses and have never so blatantly said “no” to God. When I read this story, it is so easy to find fault with Moses and wonder how he could have been so foolish! And yet, the more I think about it, the more I see myself doing something similar every time I choose to doubt God’s leadership of my life. Every time I want to worry and doubt God and his promises, I am saying “no” to God and his loving care for me. Since life is not going the way I want it, I can fall into the rut of doubting God’s care for me and even question his leadership of my life. That is a slippery slope, and we must all try to avoid it. I simply need to live a life of trust in God and his promises and be faithful to his will as recorded in scripture.  I need to do this in spite of my circumstances.

This truth reminds me of something I heard Professor Howard Hendricks say when talking with one of his students. Hendricks asked a student how he was doing, and the student replied, “ok, under the circumstances.” To which, Hendricks profoundly said, “what are you doing under there!”

In summary, I have to live a life of faithfulness regardless of my circumstances. I have to live “above” my circumstances if I am living by faith.

Father, such faith-living is very challenging. Help me to realize when I am saying “no” to your leadership for my life. I do this when I complain, doubt your promises and when I worry. Help me to live a life of faithfulness and to courageously take the hills that are before me in life. Give my your grace to be a man of passionate obedience and live above my circumstances.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Rights

It seems that in America we always hear about our rights. We are to have these rights based upon the founding documents of our country. I am sure you are thankful for these rights as I am.

This morning, as I was reading John 1, I was reminded of a “right” for which I am very thankful. Notice what verses 12 and 13 say,

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Through faith in Christ, we have been given the “right” to become a child of God. What an incredible statement. The word “right” means “a privilege reserved exclusively to a particular person or group” (Logos).

Being a child of God is an exclusive right for only those who have embraced Jesus as their Savior and God (Jn 20:30-31). Of all the “rights” I have, there can be none greater than this one. This right to be a child of God is eternal in its benefits. I am on equal standing with all of God’s children through faith in Jesus alone.

Father, thank you for this simple and yet profound reminder of this truth. May I walk with confidence in my position as your son, not because of anything I have done to warrant your favor, but because of what you have done for me through the death and resurrection of your Son. If I view my life based on this truth, it will impact how I choose to live.  I am God’s son through faith in Christ.  That sonship is something that I will never lose (Jn 10:28).

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

“He Is The Only One Left”

The story of Joseph and his brothers is a very compelling and emotional story. Once Joseph is granted the leadership over all Egypt second to only the Pharaoh, his brothers visit because they need grain due to the famine.

Joseph recognizes them, but they do not recognize him. He accuses them of being spies and says that he needs to see Benjamin to confirm the story they told him to show they were not spies.

When his brothers get back to their father, notice what he says in Gen. 42:38,

“But he said, ‘My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. oIf harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.’”

Did you notice why sending Benjamin was too much for Jacob to bear? He said, “he is the only one left.” What does that mean? It means that he was the last son alive from his favorite with Rachel. Rachel had two sons, Joseph, and Benjamin.  She died giving birth to Benjamin.

How do you think it must have felt to be a son of one of Jacobs other wives? You did not rate in your father’s eyes unless you were born of Rachel! This must have caused considerable friction in the family and may give more insight into why his brothers sold Joseph into slavery.

As K.A. Matthews states, “Benjamin is ‘the only one left states what the brothers had known all along: Benjamin was the only son who counted in their father’s eyes.”

In light of this fact, John 1:12 is very encouraging, It says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Father, the truth that I am one of your children through faith in Jesus is overwhelming. I am not a second class son; you love me just as you love all your children. We are all equal in your sight. Thank you for loving me so.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff