Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 8:31-58

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. ” (John 8:31–58, NIV)

Confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart are two different things. This passage in John’s gospel makes this point clear. Jesus proclaims that He is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness. In response, there were Jews who believed that Jesus knew the way and so they confessed with their mouth that what He was saying was true.
The problem is this: the Jews believed what Jesus said was true for someone else, but it didn’t apply to them.
“We believe that Jesus is a light for those who walk in the darkness. But this does not apply to us because we are children of Abraham - Children of the light.”
Jesus turns to them and says, “Your life of obedience will reflect the belief in your heart and true belief will set you free from the bondage of sin in which you now live.”
Now we’re getting too personal! The Jews were willing to believe as long as the condemnation of Jesus applied to someone else. They wanted to follow Jesus but they were not the ones who needed His work of redemption.
Jesus tells them that they are deceived and immediately their “belief” turns to anger. In one moment they were testifying that Jesus is the Light, and in the blink of an eye, their testimony changes.
“Jesus is not the Savior,” they proclaim. “He is a man who is demon possessed and does not speak truth.”
Let me get a little more personal. As much as 80% of Americans claim to follow Jesus as the Light of the world. And yet, the moral and ethical decline of our society is ever increasing. Not unlike the Jews in conversation with Jesus, we too like the idea of the redemptive work of Jesus. But once His condemnation turns on us…we don’t like Him so much. We compensate by reinventing grace and calling it tolerance. Jesus is attractive just so long as I don’t have to change.
As Jesus will repeatedly proclaim, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love.”
Our tongue is deceitful but the fruit of our life cannot lie.
As John will later write in his epistle, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1Jn 1:6)
The true heart of a believer is one who confesses belief in Jesus because they are overwhelmed by their own depravity and their heart cries out for a Savior. In gratitude for their redemption, they repent of their sin and daily seek to find strength in Jesus and His continuing work of sanctification, knowing that apart from Him, they can do nothing.
Faithfulness flows out of humility…pride comes before the fall.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 8:12-31

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:12–31, NIV)

As we read this account, the words of Jesus are familiar to us but likely do not have the same gravity as they would have in the context in which they were spoken. On the first night of Tabernacles and apparently on each night of the feast except on Sabbath, the worshipers awaited the signal of the special lighting of the festive golden lamps in the court of women. The lamps were intended to remind worshipers of God’s leading the people of Israel through the wilderness at night by a pillar of fire. The lighting of lamps also signaled Israel’s recommitment to the God of light, and it was accompanied by festive music of the Levites and special dancing by chosen men of piety.
It is within this context that Jesus speaks to the crowd and announces, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
OK…you tell me! Does he have your attention?
I suspect that all of the people (and if we were there, that would include us as well), have their eyes fixed on Jesus. And you don’t just hear His words…He is speaking to a need inside your heart. In the midst of the water ceremony, He says, “If you are thirsty, come to me and you will never thirst again.” And now, in the midst of the lighting ceremony, He says, “If you want to find your way to God, follow me. I am the way. You will never walk in darkness again.”
These are people who have come to worship God. Some have traveled hundreds of miles on foot. They are thirsty to know God. Their heart longs to be satisfied in Him. But they have done this ritual year after year and they still haven’t found what they are looking for.
And now Jesus stands before them and announces, “I am what you are looking for.” As a gentle, yet clear invitation, he calls on those who are searching to find their way to follow Him in faith. And on that day, many chose to take that step of faith.
But yet there were others who stood in opposition - those who had satisfied their thirst for God with religious routine. Those who did not need to know the way because they had created their own path to God…or so they thought. They did not hear the words of Jesus because they had convinced themselves, they did not need the words of Jesus. And until a person recognizes that they are lost, they will not accept the invitation to follow someone who says they know the way.
Consider today how you approach God. Have you created your own path to spiritual satisfaction or do all roads lead to Jesus?
Now be honest! The best way to answer this question is to examine your life. How do you begin your day? Do you start by centering your heart on God and His truth or do you fall out of bed thinking about the things you need to get done that day? Once your day is started, do you look to see where God is at work or does your work keep you from seeing God? When you close out your day, do you thank God for His faithful provision or are you anxious about tomorrow and what the day will bring?
Remember, Jesus is the light of the world. When we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness. Sometimes His light at our feet only reveals the next step or two. But choosing to walk without Him will always lead us into a path of destruction. Follow the Light.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 8:1-11

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” ” (John 8:1–11, NIV)

It’s a trap. Jesus has the attention of the crowd. Everyone is listening to Him teach… and in walk the religious leaders.
Picture a college classroom. Hundreds of students listening to the teacher and in the middle of the lecture, the Administration walks in.
“Excuse me. We have a question.”
Behind them is a woman. Disheveled. Humiliated. Turning her face to the ground.
“This woman was caught in adultery. The Law of Moses says we should stone her. What do I you say?”
It’s a trap! They want him fired. Discredited. If he tells them to let her go, they condemn him for ignoring the law of God. If he instructs them to stone her, then they will condemn him for ignoring the law of Rome which prohibits such action. Either way, He’s a lawbreaker. There is no right answer and this is exactly the reason they ask the question. It’s a trap.
But Jesus understands their motives. If they were truly concerned about the law, they would know that the law requires both the man and woman to be stoned. The man is missing. Not to mention the fact that they said she was caught “in the act”. How did that happen?
The fact of the matter is, the religious leaders were quick to point out the sins of others and yet they were so blind to their own defiance of the law by arresting the woman without the man – not to mention their unwillingness to accept Jesus as their own Messiah.
So Jesus is silent and He begins to write with His finger in the sand. No one knows what He writes but whatever it was, it made the accusers uncomfortable. Suffice it to say, whatever He did was supernatural because the accusers relinquished their position of authority. Jesus answers the question by instructing the one who has not sinned to cast the first stone. The tables have turned.
The one who casts the stone is an obvious liar and therefore defies the judgment of God who says all have sinned and fallen short His glory. By making the accusers examine themselves, He exposed their true motives. Now they stood condemned and rightly chose to walk away.
Jesus doesn’t ignore the woman’s sin, but His compassion does reveal that she is more important than the wrong she had done. Jesus had not come to judge the world but to save the world. Because of this truth, the woman could still repent and her life could be redeemed. One day, however, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead and on that day, there will be no time to repent. Jesus is patient, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to eternal life. Jesus is offering the woman the forgiveness she needs to avoid this day of judgment. Her lifestyle will reflect the response to His offer.
Here is what we need to see: Sin is blinding. It leads us to judge others with a standard we refuse to apply to our own lives. Self justification reveals our pride and we cannot live in humble obedience when the sin of pride reigns in our heart. It is the choice to look in the mirror with our eyes closed.
On the other hand, humility brings compassion. It does not condone sin but calls us to repentance and a life of faithful devotion by trusting in His forgiveness and love - An obedience which flows out of gratitude.
Jesus drew a line in the sand. What side of the line are you on?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 7:37-52

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” ” (John 7:37–52, NIV)

It’s the last day of the feast. For the previous 7 days, each morning, priests drew water from the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher and then marched in a parade behind the High Priest to the temple and around the altar. The trumpet was blown and psalms of praise and thanksgiving were sung to God for the harvest. This was an important day because the festival took place during the dry season as the cisterns used for drinking water were running dry. The prayer for rain was necessary for their survival. But not only water for the cisterns, the crops in the field would not survive if God did not send the rain to bring in a harvest.
For 7 days, the “water parade” took place as the priests marched to the temple each morning and the people were called to pray for the necessity of water that only God could supply. It was in this context that Jesus stands among the people to make His stunning announcement. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
The people were celebrating the ritual of prayer that recognized their dependence on God for life giving water. Jesus stands in the midst of the ceremony and says, “I am the answer to your prayer. In me, you will find life giving water for your soul! Drink from the cup of my salvation and an endless supply of water will satisfy your thirst for God…forever.”
John explains to us that the living water Jesus spoke of was the promise of the Holy Spirit which resides in the heart of every believer.
Well…when a man stands in the midst of a celebration of this magnitude and makes a claim of such significant implication, you would expect that it would get people’s attention. And that it did! In fact, it divided the crowd into two groups. Some who heard this announcement rightly understood that the only one who could make such a claim was the Messiah himself. Perhaps Jesus was the Messiah – the fount of living water.
Yet others opposed this view. They argued that the Messiah must be born from the family of David in the town of Bethlehem. Here’s the problem with their argument. He WAS born from the family of David and his birthplace WAS the town of Bethlehem. They knew the scripture. They just didn’t take the time to know the person to see what the scripture spoke of was standing right in front of them.
You need to know that the offer still stands. Jesus is the answer to our prayer. He is the One that quenches the thirst of our soul as we yearn to be satisfied with that which only God can supply. Are you satisfied in Him alone? Or have you fallen into the trap that Jeremiah speaks of when he reveals the heart of God:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. ” (Jeremiah 2:13, NIV)

Are you satisfied with living water or have you dug your own cistern?
Drink deeply from the only water that satisfies. Find your hope in Christ alone.