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.