Monday, December 27, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 18:12-27

“Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. ” (John 18:12–27, NIV)
How could he? Just days before this denial Peter was passionately proclaiming his unfailing devotion to Jesus the Messiah. It was Peter who would be the first disciple to confess with clarity that Jesus is the Savior, the son of the living God. But now, during the time when Jesus needs him the most, Peter denies he ever knew Him. How could he?
Maybe he dropped his guard. Jesus had asked His disciples to join Him in prayer while they were in the garden, but they did not feel the same sense of urgency. Instead of kneeling beside Jesus, they laid down their heads and they soon fell asleep. Perhaps if Peter understood the spiritual warfare that was being waged for the souls of man, he would have stood strong in the battle before him.
Maybe it was pride. He was offended when Jesus predicted his denial. Instead of asking for Jesus’ help, Peter impulsively claimed more courage than he possessed. Not too different than his offense when Jesus offered to wash his feet. Perhaps if Peter would have more readily admitted his weaknesses and fears, Jesus would have helped him understand what it means to find strength in Him when we are weak in ourselves.
Whatever the case might have been, Peter failed to proclaim what he claimed to believe…and we are no different.
Most of us will never face as intense a trial as Peter did. But moments of truth occur in our lives most every day. How will we respond to:
• Embarrassing circumstances when exposed as one who loves and follows Jesus?
• A situation that exposes your pride and calls you to admit your failure?
• A call to prayer even when you’re tired?
We all know the feeling of being paralyzed by surprise, fear or possible shame. And many times, like Peter, we confess Jesus as Lord, but by not relying on Him in our moment of need, we deny His power. May we always be on guard for the battle never sleeps, and spiritually speaking, neither should we. Let us humbly go before the Lord and find strength in Him that we do not possess on our own. Do battle on your knees and find strength in your walk.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 18:1-11

“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” ” (John 18:1–11, NIV)
Jesus and His 11 disciples (minus Judas who had slipped away in the night to betray Jesus) were gathered in a familiar place. It was the Garden of Gethsemane just on the other side of the Kidron Valley. From where they stood, they could see the temple just on the other side of the valley. It was a quiet and peaceful night…so they rested.
Little did they know that on this night, everything was about to change. Their world would be turned upside down and the valley beneath them would become a valley of confusion. Nothing that happens next would make sense in their eyes.
They heard the rumble of footsteps that grew louder by the minute. You can’t miss the sound of 600 Roman soldiers fully armed and in battle gear. The light of the torches and lanterns would have lit up the sky.
It would be similar to the feeling we might have when we hear the sound of sirens screaming down the street. Police and Firetrucks. SWAT teams and armored vehicles. Someone must really be in trouble. But then you notice…they are coming for you!
What have the disciples done? They are not guilty of any crimes. If anything they are guilty of healing, not hurting. They are guilty of spreading hope, not disarray. And yet, the massive army and the flaming torches were coming for them. How startled they must have been to find themselves surrounded by such and awesome display of force.
Apparently the soldiers thought they would find trouble, but when they arrive, Jesus makes the first move. He steps forward and asks, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
Jesus simply tells them, “I am He.” But the response of those who came to arrest him was highly unusual. John says, “…they drew back and fell to the ground.”
Maybe they were expecting a fight and they found a willing volunteer. Maybe Jesus raised His hand and they flinched in response. Whatever the case, we know the tension was high and their response tells us that they knew the power of the innocent man they had come to take prisoner.
Over 600 armed soldiers and they hit the ground. It foreshadows a day when all humanity will do the same. A day when the resurrected Jesus will stand before mankind and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord.
On that day, will you bow in worship or will you bow in fear? In gratitude or in grief? How you respond to Christ today will determine your answer to that question. But make no mistake…we will all be on our knees.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 17:20-26

““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” ” (John 17:20–26, NIV)
As a body of Christ, we need to understand: God sent His son…Jesus sends His disciples…and through the great commission, we are sent as well. Our goal is to do the Father’s will. And I think we often make doing the Father’s will more complicated than it has to be. Think about all He has done to help us in this.
He gave us His Word which openly reveals His plan and purpose in the world. He gave us His Spirit to guide us in all truth. He set us apart as a New Covenant community of believers in Jesus Christ. Designing us with many parts, each one equally valuable in His eyes and all equally necessary for the healthy function of the body to carry out that mission. God uses all these things to make His will known.
But I think the most important thing He has done for us is what Jesus is demonstrating to His disciples right here in our passage. We know the Father’s will by abiding in the vine. We cannot have oneness with God (or with each other for that matter) if we don’t have an intimate and abiding relationship with Christ. We cannot do the Father’s will if we are not spending time in His presence. We do not have the strength to endure if we are not finding our strength in Him. We will not speak the truth in love if we do not learn to love His truth.
But when we do…when we are abiding in Him and walking in the good works He has prepared beforehand…it is a beautiful thing. Our oneness in purpose bears fruit that glorifies God. And when each cluster of good works is added to the other, the vineyard of God’s church sends a powerful message of hope to a lost and dying world. That is the divine mission of God we are called to carry on.
Follow the example Jesus has given us and find yourself often and the feet of our Father. Surrender your will to His and do nothing on your own accord. Live comfortably in dependence of His faithful care. Remember…The saint that advances on his knees never retreats.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 17:9-19

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. ” (John 17:9–19, NIV)
So Jesus recognizes that His disciples were given to Him by God and they belong to Him and so He prays for their protection, knowing that only God has the authority and the power to answer His prayer. He says, “Protect them in the power of your name so that they may be one as we are one.” So what does this mean to be one as Jesus and His Father are one?
When Jesus prays for oneness, He is speaking of the unity He has with the Father in both will and purpose. It is this unity that guides Him to complete the mission that He was sent to accomplish. Just think about His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” ” (Luke 22:42, NIV)
Unity of will and purpose. Oneness.
I think what He says about Judas confirms this idea. Judas was doomed for destruction because he was not united in the will and purpose of God. Clearly, Judas had his own plans motivated by his own selfish desires. There was no unity of will and purpose. No oneness with the disciples or with God. And so He perished by choosing to go his own way. And this tells us that any path away from God is a path that leads to destruction.
And so Jesus prays that His disciples, given to Him by God, would continue the mission, united in will and purpose, even after He is gone. “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world,” Jesus says, “but keep them safe from the evil one.” Jesus knows that the hostility that He has encountered will soon shift to the disciples. The easiest thing to do would be to remove them from the world. But when there are no disciples, the mission of God dies. Remove all the lights and sin is unexposed. And where there is no perception of sin, there is no need for a Savior.
A follower of Christ must believe that God is strong enough to preserve His people and His mission is dependent upon their trusting Him enough to live in the world but not of the world. Christians are not called to segregate from society nor are they commanded by Jesus to try and make the world a better place. The mission of the disciple of Christ is not to recreate the Garden of Eden by restoring heaven on earth. There is something much deeper than peace and comfort, not to mention the fact that Jesus said this world is not our home. This idea reminds me of the burial rights of the ancient Egyptians. When they discovered the tomb of King Tut, for example, they found him buried in beautiful ornate clothes. He was surrounded by gold and jewelry. They made his grave into a palace. When our goal is to make this world a better place in order to live a happy and peaceful life, we too are making a grave into a palace.
Jesus calls His followers to something different. Something deeper. Jesus left His disciples in the world to be unified in the will of God so that they might carry out the purpose of God. That has to be our undivided focus. What happens in the world is up to the creator of the world. Whatever part I play is up to Him to decide. My involvement is under His authority, based on His calling, according to His plan of redemption.
Whose plan are you following today. Like Judas, do you follow your own plan for your own purpose ultimately motivated by the selfish desire of “what’s best for me”?
Or do you surrender your will to the will of God. Trusting in His promises and relying on the hope of something far greater than anything this world has to offer?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 17:1-8

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17:1-8, NIV)
Jesus’ prayer for Himself is that He would surrender to the will of His Father. Ultimately, that’s what prayer is for all of us…an act of surrender. The surrender of our will to His will. I’ve heard it described like this: If I throw out a boat anchor from my boat and catch a hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore toward me or do I pull myself towards the shore?
Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but instead, it is aligning my will to the will of God. Jesus prays that He might be glorified in what is to come, which we know is His death, burial and resurrection. When He came to earth, and the word became flesh, he set out on a mission, given to Him by God. Up until this point, He has told His disciples and others following His ministry that the time had not yet come…now is not the time. But here He says, “The time has arrived.”
Jesus came to earth to establish a new covenant community, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, made possible by His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus will glorify God as He completes His work on earth that His Father has given Him to do. He is obedient unto death…even death on a cross.
But as amazing as the life and testimony of Jesus was, it was just a shadow of His glory. We know this because he prays in verse 5 for his glory to be restored when He is seated at the right hand of His Father. You see, when the word became flesh, He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He emptied Himself…of what? Of His glory. The incarnation veiled the glory of God.
He took on the form of bond servant, in the appearance of a man and He humbled Himself to become obedient unto death….even death on a cross. And notice that the disciples were given to Jesus as a part of that mission. They were chosen with a purpose. Their faith was manifested in their obedience to Christ’s words because they believed in His divine mission. What we know of the Messiah has been given to us by His disciples who were inspired by the gift of the Holy Spirit God had promised them - the mission for which Jesus came. Jesus has surrendered to the will of the Father…his disciples are learning to do the same, and so are we.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 16:17-33

“Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ” (John 16:17–33, NIV)
Jesus says that the world will rejoice and in the very same verse, he tells the disciples, “Your sorrow will be turned to joy.” So what we have here is 2 sets of people rejoicing for 2 different reasons.
The world rejoices because they have eliminated Jesus. They have protected the peace of their society and the security of their religious system. But the followers of Jesus are rejoicing for a different reason. They rejoice because they have been granted peace with God and the security of His forgiveness is beyond what any religious system could ever provide.
Both the world and the Christian are joyful…but for different reasons. Both claim freedom…but for different reasons. Both declare truth…but for different reasons.
And here is the essential difference between the two: One is based on what man accomplishes apart from Christ…the other is based on what Christ accomplished on behalf of man.
So we should ask ourselves: “When I look at my life, where does my joy come from? Does my peace and security come from what I can accomplish apart from Christ or have I relinquished control and confessed that apart from Him I can do nothing?”
You see, the best we can do is patch things together. And that never lasts very long. Eventually our best efforts fall short. But that’s not how God works. God makes things new. And Jesus just said, “that day is coming…”
As we read that passage today, we need to know that “that day” is here. Jesus has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Our peace not based on our faithfulness, but on His. Our joy is not based on our accomplishments, but on His. Our prayers are not answered based on our obedience, but on His.
Our joy is made complete in Christ. The sorrow of His departure turns to joy when He resurrects us into a new life with Him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 16:1-16

““All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” ” (John 16:1–16, NIV)
Jesus says, “I tell you the truth…It is to your advantage that I go away.”
Can you imagine how strange this must have sounded to the ears of the disciples? Jesus, the Messiah, had finally come and now He is saying that it is better if He goes away. I really do feel for these guys because all this has to be overwhelming to them. Just think about it. Step in their sandals for just a moment.
One day you are a fisherman. An average Jewish man fulfilling his daily trade. Some strange man comes along and calls you by name. “Simon, throw the net on the other side of the boat.”
“You’re kidding, right? I have fished all day and you are going to tell me that the reason for my failure was that I was fishing off of the wrong side of the boat. What? Do I need to stand on one leg when I cast the net? Will that help?” (I really think Peter would have said something like that!)
And then you pull in the catch of your life. “What…just… happened?”, you say. And that was just the beginning. For years now you have repeated that same question over and over again…what just happened?
Until you realize…this is the hope of all Israel. Jesus is the promised Messiah. In fact, He asks you one day, “Who do you say that I am?” And without hesitation, you answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
“Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,” said Jesus, “flesh and blood did not reveal that to you. That was from My Father in heaven.”
You think to yourself, “I am walking with my Savior”…and then He tells you, after years of deepening love and friendship, “I must go away now, and you cannot come where I am going.” Can you imagine? Deflated, confused, anxious… What does this mean?
From our perspective, we know what it means. We understand through eyes of faith what the disciples would soon learn for themselves. What Jesus did on the cross, and God validated by His resurrection, ushered in a new era never known before in all of human history. He didn’t put new wine in an old wineskin. Or a new piece of cloth on an old garment. He didn’t just fix a sin problem by patching things together. Jesus made something new.
The church of Jesus Christ is experiencing the blessing of God that exceeds even the unimaginable privilege of knowing Him in person and seeing Him face to face. If you are a follower of Christ, you are experiencing the greatest work of God in the history of the world. This is a day that the patriarchs and the prophets longed for… and God has now made possible through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer in Jesus Christ.
We don’t grasp the magnitude of this privilege do we? But its true!
To say that it is to “our advantage” may biggest understatement that Jesus ever spoke. The indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is the greatest work of God in the history of the world. And his going away…His death burial and resurrection…is what made it possible. You are no longer foreigners to the promises of God. As a Christian, you are the recipient of His greatest work in the history of mankind. Rejoice today and share this good news!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 15:18-27

““If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. ” (John 15:18–27, NIV)
Persecution… Nobody likes it and so we do our best to avoid it. Many of us live very peaceful lives in the absence of persecution and so let me give you 3 reasons why this might be the case.
First of all, we can avoid persecution if we can transform the world into a collection of godly people who are unified in the truth of God’s word. If everyone is faithfully following His truth without compromise, then the truth is not offensive. However, this option will not work because we cannot create heaven on earth. Only God can do that. And He promised, “In the world you will have trouble.”
Trouble exists because of the presence of sin and until Jesus returns to establish a new heaven and a new earth where sin no longer reigns, we must accept the reality that we live in a sin cursed world and persecution is inevitable. Because sin exists, truth is distorted, Jesus is rejected and your identification with Him means the same for you.
But what if we isolated ourselves? Couldn’t we avoid persecution if we created protected communities of like minded people? This is the mistake we often make in our churches. We create a community where we live and interact with people like us and avoid any exchange with people “not like us”. In doing so, we can avoid persecution but we must sacrifice the great commission to do so. Jesus said,
“When there is a need for light, no one takes a lamp and then hides it under a bowl. No, they put it up high on a stand so that it can illuminate the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deed and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt. 5:15-16
So now we’re down to the third way to avoid persecution: Knowing the truth, but not speaking the truth. That way you never offend anyone who is not living the truth. This is the one I believe we have crafted into an art form and have invented every possible justification.
“I don’t want to judge them… We should be tolerant of different beliefs… I’m not responsible for other people’s decisions…”
Actually… all those statements are true. But none of them are an excuse not to speak truth into people’s lives. Christians have been chosen and appointed. Chosen to be a distinctive people, a holy nation, a kingdom of priests. Appointed to be ambassadors of Christ, as though God were entreating through us, calling all men to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything about us should declare the story of forgiveness and grace through faith.
Speak the truth. It is the calling of every believer in Jesus Christ. But speak the truth in love. Suffering is a badge of true discipleship. Very often, your unapologetic identification with Him will be an inevitable offense to those who refuse to walk in truth… but only as long as you are living and speaking that truth in love.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 15:12-17

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. ” (John 15:12–17, NIV)


He who spoke the universe into existence. He who breathes life into every living creature on earth. The One in whose image every human being has been created. This high and mighty God, looks at those who follow Him and says, “I no longer call you servants…I call you friends.”
As a follower of Christ, you are a friend of God. Now think about that for a minute. Because it is, in fact, the distinguishing characteristic of our faith.
Examine any other religion in the world, and you will not find a god that is being served whose compassion so moved him to condescend from his throne on high to dwell among his creatures. Not only that, our God willingly enters into the sufferings of His creatures in order to redeem them and this world. No other theistic religion in the world will make this claim!
You are a friend of God and no greater love has anyone than he who lays down his life for his friends. And that is exactly what He did for you and I.
We did not earn His favor. We did not merit His love. We were dead in our trespasses and sins and dead people don’t move!
And so, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He love us, God moved first. He made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Did I already say unimaginable?

If this is true, and it most certainly is, do we need any greater motivation for us to go out and do the same? That’s the point Jesus is making!
Those who have received this great love must share this great love. Those who have been forgiven much, must forgive much. Those who have been given mercy, must show mercy. In other words, do unto others as it has been done unto you. Jesus is our example. Go and do the same. He withholds nothing from those who walk in the ways that He has prepared beforehand.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 15:1-12

““I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ” (John 15:1–12, NIV)
“I am the true vine...remain in me.” What a profound statement! When Jesus says He is the true vine, what He is proclaiming is that there is no life outside of Him. In fact, He clearly states that “apart from Him, we can do nothing”.
But yet, we often try to attach ourselves to different vines don’t we. We try to find life in religious systems. For the Jews, it was Judaism. In our culture, Christians attach to denominations and ritual church routine. We look for the meaning of life in science or the way of life in politics. We seek security in relationships. And we find satisfaction and contentment in our hobbies, or our possessions, or our wealth.

How’s that working for you?

Jesus says that every option we choose apart from Him will leave us empty inside - like a disconnected branch that withers and dies. Oh, we can choose to attach ourselves to many things… but only one will give us life.
“Remain in me,” Jesus says, “and I will remain in you.”
Take some time to look at your life and examine the fruit of the vine. Do you see evidence of life in healthy relationships, peace during difficult times, and hope in something bigger than yourself. Or has the branch become heavy with the decay of a failing marriage, an uncontrollable habit or an unfulfilling job. Jesus is the only true vine. There is no life outside of Him. You can try….but you will find that apart from Him, you can do nothing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 14:15-31

““If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave.” (John 14:15–31, NIV)

Now, if you’re one of the disciples and you’re listening to Jesus, even though you may not understand everything He just said, what you do know is that Jesus is not going to abandon you. His departure is temporary. And when you see Him again, He has something to give you that will change your life forever.
Trust me… the disciples could not comprehend everything Jesus was telling them. But Jesus didn’t expect them to. He is just keeping His promise of letting them know things ahead of time so that when they do happen, they will understand. The light will come on…their faith will be confirmed and they will say, “Surely this is the Son of God!”
Is it not amazing that Jesus spoke about things before they actually happened so that when they did occur, it would validate who He is as the promised Messiah? Is it not equally amazing that these very accounts have been preserved in such a way that 2000 years later you are still reading them in order to fulfill the very same purpose – so that you may believe?
That tells us something about Jesus, doesn’t it! He wants you to believe… and to follow Him in faith… and to be strengthened in your faith.
You see, when these things unfolded for the disciples, it served to confirm their convictions and ignite their passion to the point that most every one of them would be martyred for their faith. These guys hit the tape running. The distractions of the world would not slow them down and convince them to pull over and park. No compromises…they were all in!
What about you? Does His truth still confirm your convictions and ignite your passion? Are you willing to lay down your life, your dreams, your desires for His sake? Are you all in?
Know that you don’t get there by taking control. You get there by relinquishing control. The Spirit is given, not gotten. Did you notice that Jesus did not give the disciples a list of requirements to meet in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? The fact is, the disciples were mostly confused and had no idea what was going to happen.
So, it’s not a reward for good behavior is it? It’s not a second blessing. It is THE blessing as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of His promise not to leave us as orphans but to continue to guide us in truth and love. Your submission is the only limiting factor for your experience of His resurrection power. The Spirit is given, not gotten. Are you all in?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 14:1-14

““Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. ” (John 14:1–14, NIV)

Betrayal, denial and now departure. This is the news the disciples have received from Jesus in the past few minutes of conversation. One of them would betray Jesus, one would deny Him, and in the end, Jesus would be going to a place they could not go. To suggest that the disciples were confused and troubled would be an accurate understatement.
And the words of Jesus were intended to bring comfort to their troubled hearts. Although His disciples could not follow Jesus right away, they would eventually go to where He was going and in the meantime, Jesus was making the necessary preparations.
As you and I read this, we probably have the same mental image as the disciples. We picture a physical place… maybe a mansion. It is found at a specific location and it is furnished and prepared for lots of guests. So the question Philip asks is logical, “How do we get there?”
Great question! “Can you at least give us a map Jesus? We definitely want to meet you there, but having never been to this place, we need some directions.”
But Jesus explains, “The destination is a person, not a place. It is not a list of things to do, it is a person to follow. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.”
What Jesus would accomplish through the cross was not limited to a heavenly mansion. It was life giving relationship with God that would begin at the moment of faith. We don’t need directions to get to this place because we have a guide who has shown us the way and unless we follow him, we will never find what we are looking for.
Jesus then explains to His disciples the unique relationship He has had with the Father, who was living in Him and doing His work. “If you have faith in Me, you will do what I have been doing,” Jesus said.
Amazing! This is the reality of those who have found life in Jesus - His Spirit lives within those who believe in Him so that we may do what He demonstrated in His life and ministry. He made disciples, and we are called to go and do the same. The work He does through us is greater than anything we could ever do on our own. Each day He is still leading us. He is offering to be our guide.
Not through a map or a set of directions, but through a relationship. His Spirit guides us in all truth and life. Are you following Him?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:31-38

“When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! ” (John 13:31–38, NIV)

“Love one another as I have loved you…”
Now that’s a tall order! How many examples of that do you see around you?
The honest truth is that not many of us have loved someone else to the point that we have been falsely accused, tortured and cruelly crucified on their behalf. For that matter, I don’t know that many of us have even lowered ourselves to the point of washing another person’s feet as an expression of humble devotion. Is it really possible to love others like Jesus loved us?
If the picture you have in your mind is our personal commitment to mirror the life of Jesus by following the example of His love for others, then I would say that we are setting ourselves up for failure. Asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” is a great question, but the fact of the matter is, nobody has the ability to match the pattern of His life. His ways are not our ways and the depth of His love is humanly incomprehensible. The example of Peter’s denial seems to illustrate this point.
Peter was a courageous man whose faith stood out boldly in the landscape of the disciples. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” His confession is one of the great professions of faith in all of scripture. And yet, Peter would not risk ridicule for the sake of following Jesus, much less give His own life.
At least not yet…
In just days, Peter would stand before the people and boldly proclaim Jesus as the promised Messiah. It was a step of faith that could (and eventually did) end his life. So what is the difference between the Peter who fearfully denied Jesus and the Peter that stood up on Pentecost and fearlessly proclaimed salvation in Christ alone?
The difference is the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without it, following the example of Jesus is only wishful thinking. It’s an admirable effort to live a good life, but it will always fall short of what is necessary to be a child of God.
Following Jesus, loving as He loved, is based on the power of the Holy Spirit and not the power of the human will. It is accomplished not by valiant effort but by willing surrender. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life by trusting Jesus will find it.
Each day, every one of us has to make the choice of who will be in control. Choose today to surrender to God so that He can do in you what you cannot do for yourself. Your life literally depends on it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:18-30

““I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. ” (John 13:18–30, NIV)
We see from this passage that Jesus chose every disciple, even the one who would betray him, in order that scripture would be fulfilled. The point here is Jesus is not surprised by the betrayal. In fact, He chose Judas knowing He would betray. Jesus knew it would happen because God said it would happen. But where did God reveal this betrayal? The verse Jesus quotes out of Psalm 41 seems vague at best…or is it?
The verse Jesus uses is one written by David as he reflected on the betrayal of His friend Ahithopel. (You’ll find the details in 2 Samuel, chapters 16 and 17.) Ahithopel was a friend of David’s who used that friendship to gain information in order to inform David’s son, Absalom, in his sinful rebellion against his father. If you read that account of betrayal, you will find that the guilt of Ahithopel’s sin so overwhelmed him that it became more than he could bear. Guess what he did in the end?
He hung himself…just like Judas will do.
Jesus is reminding His disciples, you remember the events surrounding David and the betrayal of his friend? Watch closely…It’s about to happen again.
The disciples are all listening trying to make sense of what He is saying. All the disciples…including who? Judas!
Judas is still in the room and the passage says that Jesus was troubled in His Spirit. I believe Jesus was troubled because there was one He truly loved who would reject that love for personal gain…and it broke His heart.
You’ll notice that the disciples were quick to look at each other, not themselves. John (after being prompted by Peter) finally asks Jesus, “Lord, who is it?”
And look what Jesus does…he answers John by fulfilling the verse He quoted from Psalms. He takes the bread and he offers it to Judas.
It’s important to see: this as act of friendship. Jesus is fulfilling scripture but He is doing so through an act of love. One final offer to Judas, which he once again, refuses. Judas has been following Jesus for years. But throughout this time, he has been more interested in what he could gain than what he could give. In his pride, he pilfered money he had been given the responsibility to steward. Probably small compromises at first…but persistence disobedience hardened his heart to the point that his mind became calloused to the truth…the truth that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The truth that the verse Jesus just used was a verse about Him. Judas had let sin reign and he was responsible for his decisions. Jesus says, “Do quickly what YOU are about to do.”
Satan may be directing his path, but Judas is willing to follow, and both of them are doing what God knew would happen in order for His plan of redemption to be fulfilled.
Faithful obedience flows out of humility but pride comes before the fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:1-17

“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ” (John 13:1–17, NIV)
So, in case you didn’t know, the land of Palestine is basically a dusty desert. People walked around in sandals all day. It was hot and sweaty and so when you come into someone’s house, you basically had mud all over your feet. And so it was customary for the host of the house to provide a servant to wash people’s feet. It was a mark of honor and respect for your guest.
But in our passage, no one is willing to lower themselves to do this menial task because verse 2 says they were already eating supper. Instead of washing someone else’s feet, they decided to sit on the floor and eat with stinky, dirty feet. (Typical men, right)
Well, Jesus uses the occasion to teach a very important lesson. In the middle of supper, He stands up and the text says, “He laid aside his garments and girded himself with a towel.” Some versions say, “He removed his outer clothes” or “laid aside his robe”.
I don’t think Jesus had to do this. I think He did do it because He wanted to make sure His disciples didn’t miss the point. When He removed his robe and girded himself with a towel, he assumed the dress and posture of a slave – a servant for the guests. Had a servant been in the room, this is what it would have looked like and Jesus is saying, “I am that servant.”
And then He went to each disciple and washes their feet in a servant’s dress and a servant’s posture. I can only assume that there was complete silence in the room… until Jesus came to Peter.
Peter’s question was more of a protest. “Lord, you…wash my feet?” You notice that Jesus doesn’t try to explain. He just says, “It doesn’t make sense right now Peter, but it will soon enough. Just trust me.”
What does Peter say? “Never shall you wash my feet.” Peter challenges Jesus.
This was his pride talking. He was certain that He would never dishonor Jesus. Peter was saying, “Maybe these other guys in the room are willing to dishonor you, but not me! I’m different. I am uncompromising!”
We learn from the other gospel writers that during this same meal, Jesus will tell uncompromising Peter, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me 3 times.”
Pride comes before the fall…Faithfulness flows out of humility.
You see…When we think we have all the answers. When our theology is wrapped with a nice little bow. When we look at others and say, “Maybe them Lord, but not me!” Watch out!
If we are not humble in our relationship with God and with others, admitting that apart from Him we can do nothing, our enemy grabs a foothold that he will undoubtedly use against us.
He’ll convince you that community within the body of Christ is really not that big of a deal. That’s for people that are weak. I am strong enough to do this on my own. And when the lion can section you off, he will chase you down for the kill.
And what about our dependence on God? Isn’t it pride that keeps us from spending just 5 minutes a day in the truth of God’s Word? Let’s be honest. When we can’t seem to find time for God, what we are saying is “You know…I’m pretty good on my own. If I get in trouble, I’ll give you a call. And I will definitely see you on Sunday. But otherwise, I think I can do this without you.”
No you can’t! Be careful!
Pride comes before the fall…Faithfulness flows out of humility.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:37-50

“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” ” (John 12:27–50, NIV)
Dead, Playing Dead, or Living in the Light. Which one are you?
That’s what John describes in this passage. He turns first to those who refuse to believe. Their consistent denial of God’s truth has hardened their heart and their conscious has been seared. Truth is literally standing right in front of them as Jesus speaks, but just as the prophet said it would happen, they did not believe. Even the miracles of Jesus did not penetrate their hardened hearts. They were dead because of their choice to deny life in Christ.
But others decided to take the step of faith only to turn around and pretend like they were dead. They put their trust in the message of Jesus and His promise of redemption. And yet, because of their position of influence, they kept their decision a secret. The fear of man’s condemnation prevented their ability to rejoice in God’s redemption. How can this be!
If we live to please people, our reputation will be our only reward. Oh, we’ll get a pat on the back and an “attaboy” or two. We will receive some awards and recognition. But it will always fall short. It will never meet the need that our heart desires. It will always leave us wanting. Our strength will be reduced, our outlook confused and our joy taken from us.
Only when we walk in the light are we truly satisfied. Only then do we experience the love of God that is beyond all comprehension – exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. Only then do we truly live the life that He has made possible.
Make the choice today not to divide your life between the sacred and the secular. What you do Monday through Saturday is just as sacred as what you do on Sunday. This undivided life of Jesus is the perfect example. Everything He did was to please His Father. He did nothing on His own accord or out of selfish ambition. So should it be with us. May His kingdom in your heart be undivided.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:20-26

“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. ” (John 12:20–26, NIV)
“Now there were some Greeks…”
What an interesting observation. Keep in mind that we are in the midst of preparation for the Passover Feast and there are thousands upon thousands of people who were arriving for the celebration. Jesus has already entered into town with a hero’s welcome as large masses of people laid palm branches at His feet and cried out in loud shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
And then, almost as a side note, John tells us that there were some Greeks who went up to worship at the feast who wanted to see Jesus. Now we know this seemingly insignificant inquiry was actually a huge turning point in the Life of Jesus because up until this point, Jesus had consistently informed His disciples that “the time has not yet come.” And now, in response to having been told about the Greeks, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
What is so special about the Greeks? What was it about their inquiry that triggered this response from Jesus?
Perhaps we can get a clue from early in the life of Jesus. He calls His disciples together and He gives them instructions about how to spread the good news of the Messiah who came to seek and save that which was lost. He says, “Do not go to the Gentiles (Greeks), and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
You see, God came to call His chosen people to repentance. Not because He didn’t care about the others, but because they were established by God with a specific purpose in mind. God had set them apart, made them a great nation, so that they could represent and usher in the promised kingdom of God. The people of Israel were to be the megaphone through which Jesus would announce His plan and purpose for the world. And yet they turned from the blessing of God to do what was right in their own eyes. They lost sight of their mission and became a people who were righteous in their own eyes. They no longer depended upon God for redemption and so they rejected the offer of their Redeemer – Jesus.
And as a result, those that Jesus originally told His disciples to avoid, now became those most interested in seeking His truth. The rejection of the Jews swung the door wide open for Samaritans and Greeks. The time had arrived for the Son of Man to be glorified so that anyone who believes in Him shall be saved. From this point on, there was neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all became one in Christ Jesus.
Some might look at this and suggest that Jesus had a “plan A” to usher in His kingdom through the nation of Israel. However, since they rejected His offer, He went to “plan B” to fulfill His mission. We should not make such an assumption. Jesus knew how the Jews would respond, and from eternity past, He has never deviated from “plan A”. He cannot deviate from doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. He only gives His very best…He knows no difference.
So you need to know, the same is true for your life. God is not restricted by your choices. He knows every decision you will make before you ever make it. In His perfect way, He has the ability to miraculously work all things together for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. He will always offer you His very best. Will you choose to follow Him or seek instead to do what is right in your own eyes?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:12-19

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” ” (John 12:12–19, NIV)
It is called the Triumphal Entry of Jesus because that is literally what it is. The palm branches laid at His feet were a traditional greeting reserved for soldiers who were returning from a victorious battle. It was a hero’s welcome of the highest magnitude.
But notice what Jesus does with the pomp and circumstance. How easy it would have been for Him to ride the emotion of the crowd, mount a white stallion and ride in victorious, sword in hand, as the King of all Kings. For in fact, that is who He is.
Yet Jesus was not a king who came to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom. The donkey He rode in on was a sign of humility. A symbol of peace. Jesus had not come to be exalted on a throne but lifted up on a cross.
But oh how the crowd wanted something different. They like the idea of a Savior on their terms. A valiant King who performs miraculous signs and wonders. A King who overcomes the oppression of their enemies and restores the nation of Israel to a place of prominence among all other nations. They want a King who dominates their enemies and so they shout out to Jesus, “Be our King”, “Save Us”, “You have been sent to us by God”.
Yet in just a matter of a few hours, this very same crowd who is calling out to crown Jesus as King will raise their voices once again to crucify Him as a criminal. They want victory through dominance, Jesus will provide victory through sacrifice. They want deliverance from their enemies, Jesus will provide deliverance from their sin. They want peace through a ruler on earth, Jesus will give peace through His rule in our hearts.
It’s a choice we still make today: Do I serve God on my terms or on His? Do I bow before Him as Lord and Savior or do I simply call on Him when I get in a bind? Does my obedience flow out of worship or out of obligation?
Take time this week to approach the throne of grace with humility and worship God on His terms. Recognize His self-sacrificing love, His peace through forgiveness and His joy in redemption. Worship these attributes of our Savior and… then go and do the same.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:1-11

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. ” (John 12:1–11, NIV)
Martha and Mary. We are first introduced to these sisters in Luke’s gospel where we find them bickering with one another for “not doing their part”. Actually it was Martha who was bickering because Mary is just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus rebukes Martha's harsh words and explains that Mary has made the better choice.
Apparently she got the message because we see them here again with a different outcome. Martha is still serving and Mary is still at Jesus’ feet.
But there is no rebuke from Jesus this time because the service that Martha is rendering was never the problem…it was the heart behind the service. Last time she was complaining because Mary wouldn’t help. This time, she allowed Mary to worship at His feet while she worshiped by serving Him at His table. There is a new attitude of humility and meekness with Martha, and it has made all the difference in the world.
But, Mary is not only at the feet of Jesus. She has taken a vile of very expensive perfume which John tells us it was worth about 300 denarii – the equivalent to about one year’s wage. Mary takes it, breaks open a $30,000 bottle of perfume, and used it to wash the feet of Jesus.
Judas, a thief, sees money he could have pilfered, go down the drain and so he protests. Jesus turns His rebuke to Judas this time and says, “Leave her alone. She has saved this for the day of my burial.”…..
Did she? Did she know that in just 7 days, Jesus would be crucified?
No, probably not. But it is likely that she had saved this perfume for a special occasion. Some suggest maybe it was the dowry she would need in order to marry. What we do know, is that this is no small gesture. It is a self sacrificing act of adoration and Jesus uses it to reveal to His disciples what was coming.
Mary used it as an act of love. Jesus used it to reveal the ultimate act of love…His death on their behalf.
Stop and think about the 4 individuals in this scene and their interaction with Jesus: Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Judas. Three are worshiping, one is not.
Martha, still serving, but with a changed heart. In humble gratitude, she looks at Jesus with affection and expresses her love in preparing a meal for Him to eat.
Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead, is probably looking at Him and still wondering, “How did you do that?” Do you think he was worshiping? Most definitely! He knew firsthand the power of God and something tells me he was still in awe.
And Mary… such self sacrificing adoration. She just gave more than a bottle of perfume for Jesus. She gave Him all her hopes and dreams.
But then there is Judas. He’s not worshiping because he is more concerned about what he could gain than what he could give.
Now you tell me, which one are you? A worshiper who eyes are fixed on Jesus…serving with your hands, serving with your testimony of His power, serving with your obedient love.
Or are you more concerned about what you can gain than what you can give?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:45-57

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him. Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. ” (John 11:45–57, NIV)
Isn’t that ironic! The religious leaders sought to kill Jesus in order to save their nation. Yet, God would turn this misguided intention into the means by which the whole world would be saved. Amazing is it not?!
You see, the goal of the religious leaders, while under Roman rule, was to keep the peace. As long as they maintained the status quo, the Jewish community had been given relative autonomy. But as soon as they started causing a scene, Rome would not look so favorably upon this religious sect. The religious leaders appointed themselves as those who must protect the peace.
And along comes Jesus. To say He was causing a scene would be an understatement. He was drawing large crowds, performing miraculous signs and making some amazing claims about being sent by God. Just days from now, he would be ushered into Jerusalem with palm branches, a traditional welcome for soldiers returning from victory in battle. They would shout “Hosanna” in hopes that Jesus was the long awaited king who would deliver them from the oppression of a foreign ruler who served foreign gods. They were beginning to place a great amount of hope in this man Jesus.
“Too much hope,” was the opinion of the religious leaders. They knew that Jesus was causing such attention that it threatened the autonomy of the Jewish society. In order to keep the peace, they would need to eliminate Him. It appeared to be the only satisfactory solution. One man must die for the peace of a nation.
But that was too small. God knew that one man would die for the salvation of all mankind. God would take the evil intention of the religious leaders and turn it into the gracious eternal purpose of God. The sacrifice of Jesus, at the risk of the peace of a nation, would become the means for ultimate peace with God.
Even today, there are those who would embrace His sacrifice with an understanding of what it accomplished on their behalf while others would choose instead to push it aside in hopes of maintaining the status quo.
Where are you? Too often, we are like the religious leaders who would rather not make any waves and so we choose to live life without incident. Just keep the status quo. We see that a life committed to following Jesus may cause more trouble than good and so we “eliminate” Him by turning our attention to all that the world has to offer instead.
Without question, following Jesus is a risky move. He may stir some things up in your own heart that you might rather He leave alone. Releasing your selfish desire for control can be a painful departure. It will require everything.
Jesus said,
“He who wishes to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:17-45

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. ” (John 11:17–45, NIV)
“If you had been here...”
I am sure those words resonate in the hearts of so many who have faced deep disappointment in their life. Some have seen disease ravage the bodies of those whom they love so dearly. Others have seen their dreams change in an unexpected blink of an eye. And because we know what God has the power to do, it is easy for us to look at Him in our moment of grief and despair and ask, “Why didn’t you do something?”
We have in our mind what would be best…and when our expectations do not match His plan, we are disappointed and even hurt by what we experience. This must have been the emotion and Mary and Martha. They saw the life of a brother they loved end too soon. They see the man that could have changed their circumstances but He is too late.
They weep.
Jesus knew what was coming next. It was the reason for His delay. Lazarus would rise from the grave. And yet, when He saw the grief of His friends whom he loved, in their moment of pain, he joined in their sorrow as tears flowed from His eyes.
Jesus wept.
Despite His sovereign control of all things and His power to perform the miraculous, Jesus still felt the pain of seeing the suffering of those whom He loved. He does not turn a blind eye to the dark places of our life even when He knows the beauty of what lies ahead through His redemptive power. He meets us in our moment of need and He cares for us tenderly with great sympathy toward our limited understanding.
I know this to be true as I prayed this same prayer when my brother died of cancer. "God, why didn't you do something?" I have not received an answer to that question. And yet, God has tenderly taught me to trust in him even when I don't understand. He didn't arrive too late, He had something better in mind. He cared for me in the moment of need and the many moments to follow.
Take comfort in knowing this tender love of Jesus. Rejoice in His power to redeem. Trust in His perfect timing.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. ” (Titus 3:4–7, NIV)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 11:1-17

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. ” (John 11:1–17, NIV)
Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. A man whom Jesus loved and a family that He regularly spent time with during His ministry. It makes sense, in a time of their greatest need, for them to call upon the One who has invested so much of His life into their lives. In a moment of desperation they cry out, “Jesus, we need you.”
When Jesus received the news, He reflected on what God had prompted Him to do. He regularly went before His Father in prayer in order to align His will with the will of His Father. He did nothing on His own accord and God was in sovereign control of His ministry on the earth. Since God had not directed Him to go to Bethany, when Jesus received the news, He did not react to the crisis. Instead, He trusted in the faithful guidance of His Father.
And 2 days later, God said it was time. Jesus prepared His disciples and told them they would be traveling to Judea, but the disciples protested. They were looking through the eyes of reality and based on what they had experienced in the recent past, Jesus and the disciples would be walking into a death trap. Something tells me that Jesus knew that the disciples were right about the death that awaited them. But what they didn’t understand was who was in control.
That seems to be an important point of this passage. You see, the timing of events indicated that Lazarus would have died before Jesus could have arrived even if He would have left right away. But if this were the case, everyone would have concluded that Jesus did everything He could but simply arrived moments too late. “It was outside of His hands,” they might say. “He did the best He could.”
His intentional delay, as guided by His Father, would reveal a different conclusion. It is not out of His hands…God is in control…and everything was happening according to His perfect plan. “Walk by the Light of the Lamp at your feet and God will guide your every step,” Jesus said. “But step away from His leading hand, and you will become lost in confusion and darkness.”
What a great lesson in trust. Are you walking in the light of the lamp at your feet?
This may mean that you can only see one step at a time. Do you trust His sovereign control? Perhaps the circumstances appear as if God has chosen something less than what is best. Do you believe that He ordains everything for His eternally good purposes, even if they do not make sense in the moment?
This was the lesson God intended for the disciples. I believe He is still teaching this lesson today. Trust in His sovereign control and His eternal goodness. As Thomas concluded, God’s plan for your life is worth dying for.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 10:22-11:1

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. (John 10:22–11:1, NIV)
John continues in His gospel now recording events which occur 2 months after the previous verses. The Feast of Dedication is what is known today as Hanukah. Once again, people are gathered to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem and Jesus uses this opportunity to address the crowd.
But notice that there is a cumulative effect that is occurring. The people have heard what Jesus has said, they have seen the miracles He has performed and they have observed His character in the midst of both admiration and accusation. Their conclusion: “This is no ordinary man! In fact, He is so extraordinary, it just might be possible that He is the Christ!”
The suspense was too great. We don’t know who it was but some brave soul had the courage to ask what was on everyone’s mind: “Are you the promised Messiah?”
Jesus responds by saying, “I have already answered the question by what I have said and what I have done. The evidence is sufficient, but you do not believe.”
Jesus then draws their attention back to the analogy He spoke to them just 2 months earlier. “Faith must precede understanding. You do not understand who I am and what I have done because you refuse to believe. Those who believe know my voice and they follow me. God is in control and whatever is true of God is true of Me.”
Well...they got their answer! But they didn’t like what they heard. This exposes the fact that those who asked the question had already made up their minds about Jesus. More accurately, they should have asked, “Since we know who you are not the Messiah…then who are you?”
It is clear from their response that they understood what Jesus said. He claimed to be God (because He is) and so they did what the law prescribed: “Kill anyone who makes a false claim about God.” (Ex 24:15-16)
Don’t miss this! Jesus has now openly declared, “I am God with skin on.”
The people responded with blinded eyes, “No you are not. We do not believe you.”
And so their confusion turned into frustration and their frustration into anger. Their anger would eventually lead to the unforgivable sin – denying the person and work of Jesus the Christ.
But on that day, the scripture says, “Many believed”. Did they believe because they understood? Did it all make perfect sense to them? In a word, “No”.
The difference between the two groups was this: One chose to lean on their own understanding and refused to trust in someone who had given them every reason to believe. Their understanding prevented their faith.
The other chose to believe even though they didn’t fully understand. There was no good reason to deny what Jesus had said to be true. Their faith preceded their understanding.
Where are you? Are you walking in faith with the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen? (Heb 11:1)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 10:1-21

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter. ” (John 10:1–22, NIV)
As Jesus continues His ministry, the revelation of who He is becomes increasingly clear. He has just performed a miracle (healing a man born blind) that could only be done by the promised Messiah. This “Messianic Miracle” was anticipated by all the religious leaders but not accepted once it was performed. Instead, they found every reason not to believe.
Now Jesus explains who He is with an illustration. It was a story to help them understand what is difficult for their minds to comprehend. To do this, He takes a very familiar scene from their everyday lives. The shepherd was a common figure in this society and everything Jesus describes would have been well known to His audience. In the story, 3 main characters are identified – a thief, a hired hand and a shepherd. Each of these characters has a specific motivation toward the sheep.
The intention of the thief is clear. His goal is to steal and kill and destroy. He is does not enter in through the gate but climbs the wall in order to deceptively lure the unsuspecting sheep into his hands. The story does not explain his tactics but the people would know that a stranger among the sheep would cause some alarm unless he was able to entice them with a promise to satisfy a need. Maybe it was food or water but whatever it was, the goal was to separate the sheep and isolate them so that they could be removed. Once in his hands, the thief had a single minded goal of destroying his prey. He is more cunning than the wolf that boldly attacks and scatters the sheep. The thief is most successful because of his stealth and his deceptive promise of something good.
The hired hand is just doing his job. He is watching the sheep. He does not know the sheep and they don’t know him. He’s really not that interested. Remember…its just a job. And as long as he gets a paycheck, he’ll make sure everyone stays happy. But as soon as it costs him something, his commitment comes to an end. As long as everything is peaceful and calm, he is dedicated. But his loyalty ends when he is asked to sacrifice something for the well being of the sheep. His life is more important than those he protects.
But this is not the case with the good shepherd. He considers the needs of those under His care as more important than His own. His motivation is pure - He desires what is best for the sheep. He protects and nourishes them, not just so they can exist, but so they can live life to the fullest. To do this, the Good Shepherd leads them to places that the sheep have no ability to find on their own. In fact, they will not leave the safety of the protected pasture, unless he guides them to new places of green fields and still water. His loyalty is of such depth that He willingly sacrifices His own life in order to save His sheep.
The audience must have been listening and picturing in their mind the reality of the story Jesus just told. They could see the image He had painted, but they did not have eyes to see the truth within this masterpiece. And so Jesus explains, “I am the Good Shepherd. I have come that you might have an abundant life. I lead you beside still waters. And in the end, my life must be sacrificed so that your life can be saved.”
But what good is a dead shepherd? If this was the end, the sheep are destined to die at the hands of the thief. Therefore, Jesus goes on to explain, “No one can take my life without my willing submission to the plan of God. What you intend for evil, He will use for good. My death is temporary because my life is eternal. I will rise again.”
The reaction of the crowd would indicate they understood the magnitude of this statement. Some called Jesus a devil or a lunatic. Others are beginning to see that the miracles He has performed and the words He now speaks lead to an obvious conclusion. He must be the promised Messiah.
As you read these words and consider the life of Jesus up to this point, one cannot overlook the sincere effort of Jesus to explain who He is and why He came. Our reaction should be just as dramatic as what is witnessed in the crowd that day.
As C.S. Lewis writes,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus came to give us life and to give it abundantly. His death is what gives us this life. As the Good Shepherd, He cares for you in the tenderest way and He fights for you with His arms spread wide.
Rest in His care. Trust in His love. Follow His lead.
Know today that you are the object of His deepest affection.