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?