Bible Through the Year: Episode 47

Week 47 Devotion

This week we will continue reading the book of Acts, which is a continuation of the gospel of Luke. In fact, the books of Luke and Acts are really two parts of one unified story about what Jesus began to do and to teach (Luke) and what Jesus continued to do through His followers throughout the world (Acts). This is a fascinating book that shows how the gospel of Jesus spread from Jerusalem to Judea, from Judea to Samaria, and then to the very ends of the earth.

Next, we will be reading the book of James, who was the half-brother of Jesus and also the man who became a “pillar” in the church in Jerusalem. If you read the book of Acts chapters 12-15 you will see James in action and you will also read about his death at the hands of persecutors in Jerusalem. This book is heavily influenced by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and it serves as a strong encouragement for the followers of Jesus to live out their faith in very practical ways.

Finally, this week we will also be reading the book of Galatians which is one of the Apostles Paul’s letters to a church that is really struggling to keep the gospel of God’s free grace at the center of their faith. A problem has risen in this church and it comes in the form of a group of teachers who are teaching that in order to be the true people of God Gentile Christians must obey the Torah, especially the commands to be circumcised, to eat kosher and to keep the holy days. Paul writes this letter to make it clear that salvation comes to those who trust in Christ by faith and not by works of the law. He then explains one of the purposes of the law and helps the church understand how the Spirit brings transformation in the lives of God’s people

Something to meditate on…

The opening chapter of the book of Acts sets up our expectation of what we will read about in the chapters that follow. In chapter 1, Jesus is still with the Apostles and He has spent the last 40 days teaching them about the Kingdom of God but the time has come for Jesus to go back to the Father. Before He ascends back into Heaven, Jesus tells the apostles that they are about to receive the power that Jesus promised them.

In John 13-16, Jesus promised His friends that the day was coming when they would receive the Holy Spirit who would bring to their memory all the things that Jesus had taught them and would bring conviction of sin and righteousness to the world. But here in Acts 1 Jesus lets them know that the Holy Spirit is also going to give them the power they would need to accomplish their mission. They are going to bear witness to Jesus and His gospel in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and finally to the very ends of the earth.

The gospel of the Kingdom is going to spread out and bear fruit in all the world. That’s what we see taking place in this book. The Holy Spirit falls on the day of Pentecost filling the followers of Jesus with power and with miraculous gifts. Those people who are filled with the Spirit begin to bear witness to the gospel and the peoples need of salvation through faith in Christ. When new people believe it not only changes their lives but it begins to also change the city where they live. This change makes some people glad but it also angers others and this leads to the church being persecuted. But this persecution doesn’t stop the preaching of the gospel it only serves to intensify it.

This is the story of the book of Acts and we will see this cycle take place over and over again until the end of the book. What began in Jerusalem with just a handful of Jewish Christians ends in the city of Rome where Paul awaits an audience with the Emperor. The book comes to a close with no real ending because there is no end in sight for the powerful spread of the gospel in the world. Our lives today are a continuation of the story that Luke began in the 1st century and God has called us to live out our part of the story as we allow the gospel to spread in and through us today.

Something to discuss…

The book of James is considered by many to be in the same tradition as the wisdom literature in the Old Testament because at times it reads like the Proverbs. In fact, it seems clear that the two main influences on James’ writings were the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summary of the Torah, and the book of Proverbs.

But some have also worried that James might not be emphasizing the gospel of grace as clearly as other New Testament authors. Some have even suggested that James contradicts Paul’s message of justification by faith alone. But I don’t think the main burden of James’ letter is to develop our doctrine of sanctification, rather he is emphasizing how the gospel affects our lives. He isn’t focusing on gospel doctrine so much as he is focusing on living a life that bears the fruit of gospel transformation.

His point is not to convince us that we are saved by faith alone, but that real faith will never stand alone. Real faith works. It moves us. It changes us and gets us on our feet to fuel our love for God and for our neighbor. The gospel teaches us how to love others, how to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans. The gospel teaches us to value spiritual wealth more than material wealth. The gospel teaches us to guard our words, to mourn indwelling sin and to live each day like it is our last.

This short book is helping us to understand what it means for us to live as wholehearted, grace transformed followers of Jesus. This book doesn’t contradict the gospel of free grace, it complements it and shows us that true faith in Christ is the root that leads to fruit in our Christian life. Take some time this week to discuss how Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is influencing James’ writing. Discuss how genuine faith serves to motivate the kind of obedience that James is encouraging in this book.

Something to pray about…

The book of Galatians is the earliest letter of Paul and it shows us that it didn’t take long for legalism to become a real threat to the gospel in the churches. Paul begins this letter by voicing his astonishment that the Christians in Galatia have so quickly abandoned the gospel of salvation by grace alone. He spends the rest of the letter dismantling the legalism that is being promoted by those within the church.

In this book, Paul is going to help us understand one of the purposes of the law and he is going to help us to stop trusting in ourselves for salvation. Jesus alone can save us from sin and keep us in the favor of God.

We may think that we are beyond this kind of legalism but I don’t think we are completely free from it. Legalism lives in our hearts. It shows itself time and again. We are naturally bent toward the belief that in order for others to love us we must do something to earn that love.  We are naturally bent to think that in order for God to love us, we must make ourselves lovable. But the gospel seeks to destroy the natural bent of our hearts.

The gospel teaches us that, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The gospel tells us that God loved us before the foundation of the world. The gospel is a testimony to the fact that God’s love for us is not a response to our loveliness but is a product of God’s gracious and merciful heart.

As we read through the book of Galatians this week lets pray that God would let the authority, impact, and power of the gospel destroy the roots of legalism that live in us. Let’s pray that the grace of God would overwhelm our hearts again.

 

 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 46

Week 46 Devotion

This week we read the climax of the gospels, which also happens to be the climax of the entire Bible. This week we will look on as Jesus is betrayed, stands trial, receives the sentence of death, and suffers that sentence to finality. But the story of Jesus didn’t begin with His birth in Bethlehem and His story doesn’t end with His burial in Jerusalem. Three days after dying and being placed in a borrowed tomb, Jesus rose from the dead.

This week we are going to read about Jesus crucifixion, His death and burial, His triumphant resurrection and the mission that He has given to His disciples.

Something to meditate on from Luke 23:26-43…

With the trial over the only thing left to do is to carry out Jesus’ punishment and Luke chooses to leave out some of the details in how that took place. For instance, we see nothing about Jesus being scourged in Luke’s account but there is no doubt that it took place. Matthew, Mark, and John tell us that upon Pilate’s orders Jesus was scourged before being crucified.

The scourge was a particularly brutal form of flogging that consisted of a short wooden handled whip to which several leather straps were attached. These straps were often embedded with pieces of lead, brass or even bone so that when the thongs came into contact with the victim these pieces would pierce and grab the flesh and when pulled would cause terrible lacerations.

Scourging was often administered by two men (soldiers) who would stand on either side of the criminal whose hands were tied together and stretched over his head to expose his entire midsection to the abuse of the whip. The effect on the body was horrific and it was common for people to die from the scourge itself.

When Pilate’s soldiers finished scourging Jesus they took him into the Roman military barracks or Praetorium where they proceeded to mock him in front of an entire battalion of soldiers (600). They put a scarlet robe on his back, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and placed a wooden scepter in His hands and then knelt in front of Jesus mocking Him for claiming to be the King of the Jews.

Now that the soldiers have had their fun with Jesus they begin to lead Him away to Calvary’s Hill just outside the city gates. But Jesus weakened by the scourge is unable to carry His cross any further. The Roman practice was to place the crossbeam on the back of condemned criminals, a sign bearing their name and crime was hung around their neck, and they were made to walk to the place of their crucifixion. This was done to increase their humiliation.

 But Jesus is too weak to finish the journey so the Roman soldiers seize Simon and place the cross on him. The fact that the soldiers make Simon finish the task is not a sign of mercy or pity for Jesus, instead, it shows that the Romans themselves wouldn’t think of carrying a criminal’s cross.

Crucifixion was a means of capital punishment used by Romans but they saw it as despicable as well. The very word crucifixion was hardly spoken of in polite Roman society. No one survived crucifixion. The purpose of the cross was a painful, agonizing and humiliating death, which would serve to deter others from committing similar crimes.

So why did Jesus, the Son of God, suffer and die on the cross? Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus didn’t die for His sin He died for our sins. He died in the place of sinners to pay the penalty that our sin deserved. He took our place and paid our debt. He became our substitute and the Lord has laid on Him the sin of us all (Is 53:6).

In God’s righteous judgment He has determined that the just penalty for sin is death and that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. And we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is any transgression of the law of God and we are guilty because we have sinned times without number. And our dilemma is this; there is no way that we can stop sinning and there is no way that we can possibly atone for our sins. Our sin condemns us before a holy and righteous God.

But Christ’s death upon this horrible cross means life for you and me.

2 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed.

Christ died, not to pay the penalty for his own sin, but to pay the penalty for our sin.

What an end to the life of Christ. This man who turned the world upside down is dying on a Roman cross between two thieves. This man who wielded supernatural power has now yielded up His life to atone for our sin. This man who once debated and silenced the rulers has now refused to answer their insults. Behold, the silent Lamb of God who willingly gave His life and suffered so that we could be set free

Something to discuss from Luke 22:14-23…

Earlier in the week, Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem, not simply to eat the Passover lamb, but to be the True Passover Lamb. He has come into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover not because He needs to be covered by the blood of a lamb, but because He is the lamb whose blood will save all of God’s people from judgment. But before He gives up His body and blood as a sacrifice He is going to celebrate with His friends one last time.

All the preparations have been made in the days leading up to this meal. The room was secured. The Passover lamb had been selected. The food has been prepared and now Jesus and the 12 have begun to take their seats around the table.

Jesus took the position of host at this table, which means that He is in the one who will lead them through this meal and teach them about the Passover events along the way. The Passover meal was a time when the people of God would look back and remember how God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It was a memorial meal designed to remind Israel of God’s mercy, God’s justice and God’s power.

The meal itself would be broken into 7 parts:

An opening prayer of Thanksgiving was offered by the Head of the house (host) and the first cup of wine was offered to those at table. Jesus does this in verses 17.

Bitter herbs were eaten as a reminder of the bitterness of Israel’s slavery in Egypt.

A child would ask, “Why is this night distinguished from all other nights?” and then the father or host would tell the Passover story.

Psalms 113 and 114 would be sung, the first part of the Hallel, and this would be followed by the washing of hands and the second cup would be passed.

The lamb was served together with unleavened bread and the backdrop of this meal was explained through Exodus 12-13, which describes the night of the Passover. The night when God sent the destroyer, the Jews were set apart because their homes were covered by the blood of the lamb. The unleavened bread was a reminder that they had to be ready to leave in haste the next morning.

The last thing to be eaten was the lamb and then the third cup would be passed.

Finally, they would sing again the last part of the Hallel (Psalm 115-118) and the fourth cup was served.

This is what Jesus and His disciples were set to do on this night. He reclined at table on this night after years of waiting and He led His disciples through the Passover meal, following the tradition of the Jews, but at certain points, he changed the script.

V. 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."  20 And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood…”

Jesus broke script when He picked up a thin slice of unleavened bread and started to break it up and give it to His disciples. He told them that it was His body, a symbol of His body to remind them of His sacrifice. He told them that they were to do this, in the future, and when they do they are to remember Him.

He picked up the cup, the third cup, and he passed it to them telling them that this cup marked the New Covenant sealed by His blood.

 In Matthew 26 we read this, “27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus changes everything. Not only has he changed the Passover script; He has forever changed the way we understand the Passover. The lambs used in Egypt and for thousands of years after the Exodus where all pointing to One Final Lamb whose sacrifice would put an end to all sacrifice.

Heb 10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The Lord ’s Supper is for us a celebration of the completed work of Christ. The Supper is a reminder that a New Covenant has been struck between God and His people and it is secured by blood that cannot fail. The Supper is a memorial of the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus that purchased forgiveness and eternal life for all those who believe. Each time we eat the bread and drink this cup we remember the Lord Jesus Christ and we are reminded again of his sustaining grace.

Something to pray about from Matthew 26:36-46…

Even at the last hour, Jesus is still teaching us and this time He is teaching us how to pray in times of trouble. Here He tells them to pray that they may not enter into temptation. Pray for the enemy to be held at bay. Pray to the Father to keep you strong though temptation is present.

In the immediate context, Jesus is probably warning the disciples, especially Peter, against the coming threat of denying Christ and abandoning Him. If Peter was ever going to be serious about prayer it might be now since Jesus just told him that before the night is over he will deny the Lord three times. But this has little impact on the disciples and before long they fall asleep.

But in the overarching context of the Christian life, there is a need for us to pray to the Father to keep us from temptation. We need help to live by faith and our help comes from the Lord. Yes, there is a need for us to be wise as we face trials. Yes, there is a need for us to have counselors and accountability as we face temptations, but there is an even greater need for us to pray for God to protect us, to help us and to keep us from temptation.

We see an example of this in Jesus’ own prayer.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

The temptation is to find an easier route. The temptation is to give in to fear and to abandon the cross, but at the same time Jesus asks for the strength to submit Himself to the Father’s will. In this prayer Jesus asks for two things: 1. Remove this cup from me, 2. Let Your will be done. Jesus is open and completely honest with God. He made His desires known, but in the end, He is absolutely committed to the Father’s will.

Oh, that we might grow to such godly confidence and selfless love that we will abandon our own comfort for the sake of God’s will and the good of others. Dear Christian don’t, fall asleep when temptation is crouching at the door, but stay awake and pray. Cry out for God’s protection.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 45

Week 45 Devotion

As we continue reading in the gospels this week we are going to see Jesus closing in on the cross. He has some final instructions to give to the disciples, some final warnings to let them know about, and then the cross will come. This week we will be reading about those last-minute details that Jesus wants his friends to know about. So let’s get right into it.

Something to meditate on…

One of the things that Jesus wants His friends to be prepared for has to do with what is going to happen to the city of Jerusalem and more specifically what is going to happen to the Temple.

For three years the disciples have followed Jesus around in the small towns and villages along the Jordan River valley. They spent one long period of time in the fishing village of Capernaum which sat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but most of their time together has been spent on the road marked by small towns filled with hard-working farmers and shepherds. These towns were little more than a well of water surrounded by small stone and mud houses. On the rare occasion, they might come to a small city with a standing market and a well-built synagogue.

But now they have made their way to the city of Jerusalem, which is a feast for the eyes by comparison to the little villages they are accustomed to and at the center of this city stood one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Yahweh. At this time, the temple is in the process of being rebuilt by Herod the Great who kicked off a temple-rebuilding program that lasted more than 80 years. His plan was to enlarge the temple and to adorn it with such materials that it would become a wonder of the ancient world, and he succeeded.

Herod’s temple was magnificent in every way. It was twice the size of Solomon’s temple and it was arguably more beautiful. The stone Herod used was white marble and some of them could be as large as 67 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide. These were massive stones and many of them can still be seen today. The visual appeal of the temple was absolutely stunning.

As you approached the outer wall you would see rows of white marble pillars, silver-plated gates, and gold-plated doors. Golden adornments were attached to the structure itself and when the sun shone on these golden plates Josephus said that the temple would flash like a “snow-clad mountain.”

For Jesus disciples, this is easily the most magnificent structure they have ever seen, but Jesus is going to let them know that the size and beauty of this temple will not be enough to keep it from being completely destroyed.

Luke 21:5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The temple will stand for less than 40 years before Rome destroys it, the city around it and the nation of Israel as a political unit. To the Jews there was little doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple could mean only one thing, the end of the world, but Jesus lets them know that this is just the beginning.

The destruction of the temple was not a mistake. God intended that it be brought down and along with it a shift would take place in how we relate to God. The temple system is no more and this means that the sacrifice for sins, which reconciles us to God has been made. Jesus’ sacrifice means that our debt has been paid, one offering to satisfy the massive debt of sin that is owed by all those who believe.

The Temple system is no more and this means that the priests who mediated between man and God, are no longer necessary. A true and better High Priest has taken up the charge. Jesus stood in the gap between God and man on the cross and He now stands in the gap mediating and giving us access to God.

The Temple itself is no more and in its place, stands the church, the body of Christ, and the Spirit of God dwell in us as the tangible presence of God on earth. 

The Temple is no more; Christ has taken its place. You can’t trust in a system to save you; your salvation is a person. You can’t trust in a priest to bring you to God, unless that priest is Jesus Himself. There is no sacrifice that you can make that will wash away your sin and clothe you with righteousness, only Christ can do that.

Something to discuss from Matthew 23…

A strange thing has happened in our culture and in the church and it has to do with our understanding of the love of Jesus. Some people have assumed that since Jesus loves us that He would never say anything to us that would challenge our way of life. Some people have assumed that because Jesus loves us He will basically turn a blind eye to our sin. They have assumed that since Jesus is love He will not confront us over sin or call us to repentance.

This idea has had a massive negative impact on the church and many of us have seen its effect. Church leaders no longer want to call sin what it is. Pastors and church leaders refuse to practice anything resembling church discipline, or even to offer sound Biblical counsel to their people who are caught up in sin.

What has happened is that instead of viewing the love of Jesus through the lens of Scripture we have begun to view the love of Jesus through our own cultural lens and we have made a god out of love. So people will say things like, “It is not Christ-like to rebuke someone for sin?” The media will seek to defame any Christian who speaks clearly about sin. What has happened is that we have lost any truly Biblical understanding of what the love of Jesus looks like.

According to the Scriptures, Christ-like love doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin but instead it seeks to carefully expose that sin and point the sinner to their redeemer. True love understands the powerful and traumatic effect of being confronted by the holiness of God and then comforted by the liberating power of God’s grace. This type of love is what we are going to see as we read this chapter.

In Matthew 23, Jesus is in the company of Pharisees and Lawyers (Scribes) and rather than to turn a blind eye to their sin He is going to go after them and He does so purposefully. Jesus is confronting them over their hypocrisy, their pride, and the fact that they are leading God’s people away from the truth.

In this chapter, Jesus is confronting sin in these men that no one else could see. He is laying bare the emptiness of their religion so that they would come to understand that they were entrusting their eternity to a foundation that could not hold them. They were trusting in themselves. They were trusting that they didn’t need God at all to save them from sin. They believed that all they needed was a set of rules and the grit to follow them.  They were working to be their own functional savior and they stunk at it.

They didn’t take the holiness of God seriously. They didn’t take their own sin seriously and they thought way to highly of themselves. But, Jesus is working to pull their mask off and show them their sin, and I believe it was a loving thing for Him to do. Sadly, they didn’t seem to take Jesus’ words to hear but instead they hardened their hearts, plugged their ears and refused to let Jesus words affect them. Don’t let that be true of you today.

As you read through Matthew 23, I want you to know that going through the motions of religion cannot save you. Putting on a mask and making everyone think that you have it all figured out will never bring you peace with God. Your attempts at self-salvation will fail. But Christ has come to free us from our self-salvation mission. Jesus died so that our sin would be washed away. He died to cleanse us from within and to give us new hearts. Jesus died so that our debt to God would be paid in full and this can be yours if you will believe.

So let us repent of our own legalism and trust wholly in the work of Christ. Rather than trying to stand before His throne to boast of our goodness, let’s stand before His throne and plead the blood of Christ alone.

Something to pray about from John 17…

John 17 is a wonderful chapter filled with Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and that includes all of us who believe today. This prayer is a humbling look into the mind and heart of Jesus as He seeks to glorify God and He seeks to care for His people.

His first petition to the Father comes in verse 11 where He says,

Holy Father, keep them in your name…

Jesus is asking the Father to sustain us in our faith and in our identity as children of God.

His second petition comes in verse 17 when He prays,

Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.

Jesus is asking the Father to grow us in holiness through His Word guiding and influencing our lives.

His third petition comes in verse 22 when He prays,

I ask…that they may be one even as we are one.

Jesus is asking the Father to keep us united to one another as a family with the kind of unity that God Himself enjoys within the Trinity.

These are great things for us to pray for ourselves. Let’s pray that God would strengthen and sustain our faith in the midst of the trials of life. Let’s pray that God would sanctify us through His Word as we read it and hear it taught. Let’s pray that God would give our church, and churches all around us, great unity in our fellowship that centers around the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 44

Week 44 Devotion

As we continue reading in the gospels this week we are going to see Jesus moving closer to the end of His ministry and the fulfillment of His mission. Along the way, we have seen Jesus pointing to the fact that one of His trips into Jerusalem would result in His arrest and suffering. Here it is from Matthew 16:21…

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Once Jesus’ identity became clear when Peter confessed Him to be, “The Christ, the Son of the living God” the next big question was about His mission and His mission was to die in Jerusalem.

This week we are going to read about the final stage of His final journey to that city and we are going to read about His triumphal entry into the city. This is a really strange twist to the story of Jesus’ life because He arrives in the city and the people are praising Him but by the end of the week they are cursing Him. So let’s spend some time week looking at this triumphal entry and try to understand what is going on.

Something to meditate on…

The Triumphal Entry is a monumental event in the life of Jesus, but it is also the hinge upon which all of history turns. Jesus has made His way to the city but more importantly, all of history has been leading up to this moment when the Son of God enters the city where He will rescue fallen humanity from sin. God’s promised King is standing on the doorstep of Jerusalem and for this reason; this scene might be the most anticipated event in the Bible. But it is not without irony.

The irony has to do with the fact that Israel’s perfect King has finally come and by the end of the week they will have Him put to death. Israel had been hoping for God to raise up a King to lead them out of oppression and into freedom and prominence. They had prayed for such a king, longed for such a king and God has indeed sent them that king. But his posture is not what they expected. Jesus hasn’t come as a warrior King firing arrows into enemy lines, instead, He has come as a humble prophet whose words pierce people’s hearts. Israel expected a conquering king and God sent them a suffering servant, a sacrificial savior.

Even now as the disciples complete the final leg of their journey to Jerusalem, the city of Kings, they are not prepared for how this journey will end. Their sights are set on a throne but Jesus is focused on the mercy seat. They expect to soon see Jesus wearing a crown of gold but in just a few short days they will see Him crowned with painful thorns. The disciples are filled with hope on Sunday as Passover week is set to get underway, but by the end of the week, they will be filled with grief and fear.

The week kicks off with a very humble version of what you might expect at the coronation of a Hebrew King. Jesus rides in on a donkey to the songs of His people. He rides in over palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna, to the Son of David” and “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

As a King He shows compassion for His people when he stops to weep over them in Luke 19:41. Then He deals with the corruption in the temple when drives out the money changers and runs off those who used the temple of God as a place to make money. The week gets started on the right foot. Finally, this is a man like the kings of old who can take charge and execute justice but who will also show mercy and compassion.

But this is just the beginning of Jesus’ passion week. The cross is just days away and God's anointed King has come but before He will sit on His throne He will first go to the cross. He comes as the greatest King the world has ever seen, more powerful than any before Him; but He is also humble, gentle riding like a servant because He has come to lay down His life in order to save us from sin and destruction.

Something to discuss…

In John 11 we see what will be the final sign of Jesus ministry and remember there is 7 signs total in John’s gospel and each of them is intended to show the unique power of Jesus over the effects of sin. In this case, we are going to see Jesus overcome the final effect of sin which is death because Jesus is about to raise one of his dead friends from the grave.

This comes at a point in Jesus life when things are really heating up around Him. The more He preaches and makes these “I AM” statements the more attention He gets from guys who want to arrest Him. With every new sign He performs, the leaders of Jerusalem take one step closer to putting their plan in motion to put Him to death. So some might expect Him to try and keep a low profile as He gets nearer to Jerusalem, but that is not Jesus’ plan.

First, of all, He delayed the trip to see Lazarus in the beginning of the chapter and this was by design. He wanted this miracle to take place. So a few days after He heard that Lazarus was sick Jesus begins to make His way to Bethany and He comes to the tomb to find that His friend has been dead for 4 days. Lazarus’ sisters are there and Jesus joins in their grief. Don’t miss the fact that Jesus identifies with us in our pain and loss.

But next, He calls for the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb to be moved and He calls for Lazarus to “Rise and come out.” The people looked on in shock as a man walked out of the tomb still covered in grave clothes. Lazarus was alive. He had been raised from death. This was an amazing day, but it was also a day that set in motion the plan to kill Jesus.

Some of the Jews who had seen what Jesus did, they ran ahead and told the Pharisees and the Chief Priest. They gathered the Jerusalem council together and decided that they could not let Jesus go on like this and so they made plans to put Him to death. The raising of Lazarus was the final straw.

But here are a few questions for you to discuss. Why would these men want to kill a man like Jesus? What was their motivation for wanting Him to put to death? What did they hope to accomplish by their plot against Him?

The raising of Lazarus was an incredible sign of Jesus’ power over death but it was also foreshadowing His own resurrection.

Something to pray about…

In Luke 18 we see Jesus teach a parable about two men and how they prayed when they came into the temple. One prayed with pride in his heart and contempt for others in his mouth. The other man prayed with brokenness in his heart and deep sorrow over sin in his mouth. At the end of the parable, Jesus lets us know that the humble sinner is the one whose sins were forgiven.

As we pray this week, think over Luke 18:9-14 and ask God to give you a heart of humility like that of the Tax Collector. Pray that God would help you know the truth about your sin and that it would produce a God-honoring humility in your life. Start by confessing your sin and your sinfulness. Then ask God to work in your heart and your life and your circumstances.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 43

Week 43 Devotion

This week we are going to focus most of our time reading from the gospels of Luke and John. This will give us an opportunity to focus in on the structure of these books and hopefully, that will help us gain a better understanding of what we are reading.

Now, over the last two weeks, we have been looking at one of the main themes found in all of the gospels and it relates to the identity of Jesus. Everyone wants to know who He is and everyone has an opinion about who He is. Everyone, from peasants to kings is asking this question and last week we finally received our answer. In a conversation with the disciples, it comes out that Jesus is “the Messiah and the Son of the living God.”

Most of us already knew this but in that day and at that time this was incredible news. The Jews had been waiting for Messiah to come for hundreds of years and now He was finally here. So the next question is what will He do? When would He establish His Kingdom? How long before He takes the throne? All these questions are now swirling in the minds of the people, but Jesus’ plan isn’t going to follow theirs.

In fact, Matthew and Luke both show us that right after it comes out in conversation that Jesus is the Messiah, He also revealed this to them:

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 

This is a huge twist in the expectations of the people, but it is going to begin to make sense as the story continues. So, let’s keep reading and thinking and praying about what God is showing us in His Word.

Something to meditate on…

John’s gospel is laid out differently than the other gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they include the same stories, in the same sequence, and with the same wording. But John is different. It is organized differently; the wording is quite different and the stories that John uses aren’t always found in the other gospels.

John also tells us the purpose of his book but he puts it at the end. In John 20:31 we read,

These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name. 

The book begins much the same way that the other gospels begin in that the big question has to do with who is Jesus, but in typical John fashion the wording is unique. John introduces the story of the Word, the divine Word, who has been with God from the beginning and Who became a man in order to reveal the glory of God to us. In the first chapter of John, we see 7 different titles given to Jesus: He is called the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the son of man, rabbi, Messiah, King of Israel and Jesus of Nazareth.

Then in chapters 2-11, we see Jesus perform signs, there will be 7 in total, and all of these signs point to the fact that Jesus is who He claims to be. Speaking of who Jesus claims to be, there are also 7 statements that Jesus makes during His life and we call them the “I AM” statements because each of them starts with the phrase “I AM” which is a reference to the covenant name of God. In other words, Jesus is claiming to be God.

So, the basic pattern of John’s gospel is that a man has come from the very presence of God to tabernacle among the people. He performs 7 signs that all draw attention to His power and He makes 7 claims that point out His unique relationship to God as Father. Now when the book opened, the people were really excited about Jesus and they were hopeful that He would become a great man and great leader for them. But along the way the people got discouraged, they misunderstand Jesus’ claims and by chapter 11 the religious leaders want Him dead.

We saw this begin to happen last week when we looked at John 6, but let’s see that trend continue this week by looking at John 7. The chapter opens with the celebration of the feast of booths or tabernacles and this festival retold the story of Israel’s wilderness wanderings when God led the people as a pillar of cloud and fire and provided them with water in the desert.

Then as that celebration was coming to a close in verse 37, Jesus stood in the temple and said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Then in chapter 8:12 Jesus said, “I AM the light of the world.” The people had just finished celebrating the fact that God gave them water in the wilderness and guided them by the light of His presence and here is Jesus making the claim that He is able to give water to the thirsty and is God’s illuminating presence to the entire world.

Some believed but others are offended and they seek to kill Him for making these claims. But what about you? Deep inside each of us, there is an emptiness, a hunger or thirst, that nothing in this world can truly satisfy and Jesus is claiming that He can satisfy that hunger once and for all. Each of us wants to find our way in this world, the right way so that we can live with joy and make a difference. Jesus doesn’t say that He is a light in the world but that He is the light of the world.

Meditate on the claims that Jesus is making as you read. Think about what He is saying and what it means for you today.

Something to discuss…

In Luke 10 we see that Jesus wants more of His followers than for them to simply come to Him, He also wants them to go out into the world. In this chapter, we see Jesus send out 72 of His disciples and they are to prepare the people for Jesus’ coming. From Luke 9 to 19 there is a journey taking place where Jesus is making His way to Jerusalem, and along the way, He is going to stop at all the little towns and villages to preach the good news. But these group of 72 disciples is supposed to go into those towns ahead of Jesus to prepare the people for His coming.

But what are they being sent out to do? Their mission is outlined in verses 9-11 and it is the same instruction that Jesus gave to the 12 in chapter 9 when He sent them out. This new batch of guys is to go out and…

1. They are to heal the sick (10:9 & 9:2)

2. They are to proclaim the Kingdom of God (10:9 & 9:2)

3. They are to warn the people of the Judgment that is to come (10:10-11 & 9:5)

As these guys go they see some amazing things and they even come back to Jesus and celebrate all that they’ve been able to do. But the reason I want us to discuss this passage is so that we can be reminded that this is a crucial pattern within the life of the church, even for us today.

This is the pattern of discipleship and mission that is to mark the church all the time. This pattern of going into the world, preaching the gospel, discipling new believers and sending them out is our firmly established calling as well.

Jesus is a sending savior. He doesn’t simply call us in to receive His blessings/grace; He also sends us out to dispense that grace to others. We preach Christ in the world as ambassadors who have been reconciled to God by faith and we long to see others come to His love and forgiveness as well (2 Cor 5:17-21).

So here are some questions to discuss this week: Are you involved in the work of proclaiming the gospel? Are you involved in the work of training laborers for the world? Are you engaged in evangelism personally? Are you praying for more laborers to be raised up and sent out?

Something to pray about…

Let’s stick with that same theme in our prayers this week.

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

The harvest work will not be accomplished by human effort alone; God must raise up more laborers in order to bring His purpose to completion. A major part of our responsibility is to plead earnestly with God to expand His labor force.

Are you praying for God to bring salvation to those who hear the gospel? Are you pleading with God to usher in a harvest of souls? Are you like the persistent widow, nagging God to save your friends, neighbors, children, co-workers?

Let’s spend some time this week praying for God to raise up more laborers. Let’s also spend time praying for people we know who don’t know the gospel or trust in Christ. Finally, let’s pray for God to use us in His great work of gathering in a harvest of souls.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 42

Week 42 Devotion

This week we are going to get a clear answer to one of the biggest questions that the gospel writers are trying to answer for us, “Who is Jesus?” Last week, I brought this question up and encourage you to think about it as you read the assigned readings. Did you notice how often this question appeared in the text? This question is one of the key themes in each of the 4 gospel accounts.

As you read through you can see that the people are trying to figure out who He is. The people from his home-town think they know him, after all, they know his parents, but they can’t figure out how He became so wise in the Scriptures. As His ministry grows, the crowds begin to form and they too are asking, “Who is this man?”

The Pharisees and Scribes are intrigued by all that Jesus is doing and they are concerned about all that Jesus is saying. For instance, on several occasions, Jesus heals a person and says this, “Your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees are quick to ask, “Who is this man who claims to forgive sins?”

The disciples are trying to figure this out as well. When they are in the boat with Jesus and the storm is about to claim their lives, they wake Jesus up and ask for help. Jesus sits up and speaks to the wind. He sits up and speaks a command to the storm and both the wind and the waves obey His voice. This was enough to put fear into the disciple’s hearts and cause them to ask, “Who is this man who commands the sea and the wind?”

This week we see that this question has reached all the way to King Herod. He wants to know who Jesus is. This is a pretty impressive progression. From the 1st chapter of Luke to the 9th chapter of Luke, we have seen this question on the lips of Jesus’ family, His neighbors, the crowd of followers, The Pharisees and Scribes, the 12 disciples and now even the king is trying to figure this out.

So it makes sense that at some point Jesus is going to sit down with the disciples to have a discussion about this question. We are going to see that discussion unfold this week.

Something to meditate on…

In Matthew 16, Luke 9, and Mark 8 we see Jesus finally sit down with His disciples to have a discussion about His identity and Jesus poses the question with a kind of, “what’s the word on the street” type of question.

Now, everybody has an opinion about Jesus. From the 1st century until now, people from all walks of life have weighed in to give their opinion about Jesus. And here in our text, we see that Jesus wants to talk about this with His friends. In other words, Jesus cares what you think of Him.

Now, this passage falls on the heels of Jesus feeding the 5000 where the disciples saw first-hand the miracle of Jesus turning a small amount of food into a feast. And you can easily imagine that as the Disciples were walking through the crowd handing out food that they were interacting with the people and this question (Who is Jesus?) was one that the people were talking about.

The question is, “When the people talk about me who do they say that I am?” And we learn that there are three general responses to this question: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets of old. In other words, the people aren't realy sure who Jesus is, but they have no problem putting Him alongside some pretty heavy hitters.

Their responses indicate that they see Jesus as a major prophetic eschatological (end times) figure, but there is no mention of the possibility that He is the Messiah and there is really no clue that He is the Son of God. Like many people today, they know that Jesus is important but they are blind or unclear to the reality of who He is.

But Jesus wants to bring the question closer to home when He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” The “You” here is emphatic, which indicates a contrast between the crowd’s opinion and the disciples’ opinion. “Now that we’ve discussed what they think, I want to know what you think. Who do you say that I am?” And Peter steps forward as the spokesman for the group saying, “You are the Christ of God.”

One of the marks of discipleship (saving faith) is that despite what people may say about Jesus, we understand that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is not just one man in a long list of potential ways to God. He is the long promised and long-awaited savior of God’s people, the only one who can bring peace between God and man. Jesus is the most important man in the history of the world. As Christians, we know and trust that Jesus is the promised One; that He is not simply a messenger, but the message.

Here are a few questions for you to answer: How did Peter come to understand Jesus’ true identity? What are the disciples supposed to do with this knowledge? If Jesus is the Messiah, what should we expect to see take place in His life?

All of these questions can be answered as you look at this passage in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Something to discuss…

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, we read about the huge crowds that followed him around. But by the end of His ministry, we see that the crowd has dwindled down to just over 100. So what happened? John 6 helps us to answer this question.

In the beginning of the chapter, the crowds have gathered because “They saw the signs that He was doing on the sick (v. 2).” Then in verse 14, they recognized that Jesus had performed a miracle, a sign, by feeding 5,000 with just a small amount of food. That night, Jesus left the crowd and sailed to the other side of the sea but by morning they were tracking Him down. They caught up with Jesus and a conversation ensues.

They seem to be upset that Jesus left them but He replies, “You didn’t come looking for me because of the signs that you saw me perform. You came here for food. But you need to seek the food that will give you eternal life.” This statement might be a bit hard for us to understand but I don’t think the crowds would have the same problem. They recognize that Jesus is making a reference to Moses and the Israelites.

When God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, it was Moses who led them through the wilderness. When they became hungry it was Moses who asked God to feed them. In a sense, it was Moses who gave them bread from Heaven. The crowds see Jesus as a Moses type figure who will lead the people and feed the people. So this crowd has come for more bread.

But the problem with this metaphor is that Jesus is not just Moses, He is the Bread. Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus has come down from Heaven. Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus was sent by the Father to satisfy the needs of His people. Like the manna in the wilderness, the people must feast on Jesus and satisfy the need of their souls with Him alone.

This is too much. If Jesus had simply kept feeding them they would have been happy. In fact, they would have made Him their King. But He didn’t just come to feed their bellies, He came to feed their souls. He came to die as their Passover lamb. He came to cover them with His blood that would atone for their sins. They wanted food and He gave them the truth. They wanted bread and He gave them His own life.

So many of them left and stopped following Jesus on that day. The crowd of thousands broke up and became a group of just over 100.

How does this chapter help us understand the fickle crowds in churches today? What can we learn from John 6 that will help us to understand what we often see in the evangelical world today? Why do people flock to Jesus in such large numbers? Why is it that only a small fraction of those people continues to follow Jesus throughout their lives? What would God have us think and do to protect our own hearts from the temptation to wander away?

Something to pray about…

Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

What a painfully honest prayer. In Mark 9 we meet a man whose son is demon possessed and this father wants nothing more than for his son to be healed. The disciples have tried but they were unable to help the boy and now Jesus has joined the group. He was up on the mountain with the 3 for what we call the transfiguration, but He’s back and when Jesus realizes the situation He rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.

The father explains to Jesus the desperate nature of his son’s condition and then asks Jesus to have compassion on them. But here in verse 24 you see the desperation in the father. He is so desirous for his son to be healed that he cries out. He can’t be civil any longer. He needs help and he wants it from Jesus.

He believes that Jesus can heal his son, but he knows that his faith is weak. This is an acknowledgment that though faith is present in us we still need God’s help. It is an acknowledgment that without God’s sustaining grace we cannot believe as we ought to believe.

So let’s make this our prayer for the week that God would strengthen our faith. Let’s pray for God to deepen our faith, to sustain our faith, and allow His power to be seen in our life each day.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 41

Week 41 Devotion

This week we work our way deeper into the New Testament gospel and one of the biggest questions that the gospel writers are trying to answer for us is this, “Who is Jesus?” Having read through all of Scripture up to this point it is clear to see that this man stands out from all those who have come before him. In just a few chapters, Jesus has far surpassed Elijah and Elisha in terms of the sheer number of miracles that he has performed and the scope of his power has far outpaced all the prophets.

Jesus is also a man who speaks with a type of authority that has never been seen. The people marvel at the fact that he speaks with great wisdom but also the fact that he doesn’t quote sources like the other religious leaders do. Jesus speaks off the cuff if you will, and what he says is incredible.

But there is something else about him, he knows what is in the heart of men. He knows what men are thinking and he calls them out in front of everyone. He talks about forgiving sin like he is God and he has no problem whatsoever in calling out the religious leaders of the day to point out their hypocrisy and their flawed theology.

This man is unique and compelling but the question is, “Who is He?”

Something to meditate on from John 5…

So far in John’s gospel, we have read about Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and the woman at the well who was a Samaritan. Here in John 5, we see Jesus interacting with a crippled man in Jerusalem. The man is sitting by a particular pool that is known to have healing power. Jesus walks in and sees a man lying by the pool so he asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

The obvious answer is yes but the problem is the man needs help to get into the water. Jesus says to him, “get up, take up your bed and walk. And at once the man was healed…” Jesus doesn’t need a prop to help him. He doesn’t need a magic formula to aid him in his healing work. His power to heal comes from within, from his very nature.

As the story continues, we see a group of Jewish men who know the once crippled man and when they ask him what happened he points them to Jesus. But there is a problem, Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath and even told the man to take up his bed and walk home, which would have been a violation of their strict Sabbath rules. So the Jews ask, “Who is this man who said to you take up your bed and walk.”

As you read through each of the four gospels, especially toward the beginning of them, pay attention to how many times you see that question being asked, “Who is this man?” It is a key theme and it is one of the most important questions that any man can ever ask. Who is Jesus?

He has a mysterious heritage but there is clear Biblical evidence letting us know that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He had a rather normal upbringing, it appears, but even as a 12-year-old boy in the Luke 2, He possessed amazing knowledge of God and had a unique relationship with God the Father. He possessed power, the kind of power that no one had ever seen nor heard of from the prophets of old. He spoke with authority as if His very words were directly from God.

Who is this man, whom they call Jesus Christ? Next week we will see this theme and this question come up again but this time it will be Jesus asking the question to His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” But until next week let’s be thinking about who Jesus is based on what where He has come from, what He is doing, and how He is doing it.

Something to discuss from Matthew…

We are going to spend a lot of time in Matthew this week reading 6 chapters. The majority of what we’ll read comes from the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7. This sermon is incredibly important because it is the first major public address of Jesus and because it is a detailed announcement concerning the Kingdom of God.

In it, Jesus tells us what the Kingdom is like and what it’s citizens are like. He tells us the characteristics of His kingdom and we come to realize that they are completely backward in comparison to the kingdom of this world. He makes it clear in this sermon that He has no intentions of setting aside the law of God but rather He will fulfill it, whatever that means.

We are going through this sermon in detail on Sunday mornings and you can follow along on our other church podcast (Cornerstone Wylie Sermons) or you can go the resource page on our website at cornerstonewylie.org.

Moving on from the Sermon on the Mount we get a slew of stories related to Jesus healing various people. In chapters 8-10 He has 9 different encounters where He brings healing, calms the sea, raises a dead girl, cast demons out of two men; and all of these are intended to show us that Jesus hasn’t simply come to announce the Kingdom but He has come to bring the Kingdom into people’s lives.

When we talk about the Kingdom of God we tend to talk about it as being already present but not yet fully consummated. Much of that comes from our understanding of what Jesus is doing in the gospels. He brought the Kingdom to earth and He imparted its power into the lives of people. Even today we who believe are part of the kingdom of God and we can work to make the Kingdom known in the world. But we know that there is still more to come.

There is a day in the future when the Kingdom will come in its fullness when it will be fully and eternally established. But for now, we live with the tension of the kingdom as having “already” come but “not yet” complete. So this week as you are reading make sure to think about how Jesus’ words and works display the power of His Kingdom and discuss with others what life will be like when He brings the Kingdom to its fullness.

Something to pray about…

When we look at the life of Jesus it becomes clear what he valued the most because that is what he spent his time doing. Jesus valued the Truth. His life was spent in preaching, teaching, arguing, illustrating and bearing witness to the Truth of how God created the universe to be. Jesus died to vindicate the Truth of God’s Word and to fulfill God’s promise of redemption. Jesus shows us with his life the value of God’s Truth.

Jesus valued people.  If Jesus wasn’t teaching people or sharing the Truth with them, he was healing them, feeding them, casting off their afflictions and caring for them. He was full of compassion and even the instances where we see him confronting others it has to do with the fact that their teaching is corrupted and burdensome to the average man.

Jesus valued both the spiritual condition of man and his physical condition as well. But there are times when it seems that Jesus values something even more than people. We often see him pull away from preaching and teaching, we see him pull away from healing and caring for people so that he can get alone and pray.

Jesus valued prayer. One of the major themes in the gospels is the consistent prayer life of Jesus. Prayer is mentioned dozens of times in the gospels you can put these occurrences into three categories: Jesus Teaching on prayer, Jesus Commanding His disciples to pray, or Jesus is modeling prayer as an Example for us to follow.

No matter where He was and no matter what He was doing, He seems constantly to be longing for communion with the Father. When he is in the wilderness preparing for His showdown with Satan Jesus is fasting and praying. When his time for ministry came and news about Him was spreading he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. On the eve of his sermon on the mount, he spent all night praying. Before the transfiguration, he was praying. On the night when he was betrayed he was praying. Even on the cross, Jesus is praying when he lifts up his eyes and says, “Father forgive them…”

What we see throughout the life of Jesus is that He was a man who has no problem dropping everything to pray. He has no problem losing sleep so that he can stay awake and pray. In fact, he often just wanders off into the wilderness so that he can spend time with the Father in prayer. Prayer is one of the unshakable rhythms of Jesus life and for us, his followers/disciples, we are to follow him living like he lived, valuing what he valued and doing life like he did.

Take time this week to read about Jesus teaching in Luke 11 on prayer and then go and follow His instruction by praying? Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Confess your sin and your need of His grace. Thank Him for his mercy and His blessings. Make know to Him your needs, your fears, your longings, and trust that He sees hears, knows, and desires to care for His children.

Start today and begin to develop prayer as a consistent rhythm in your life.

 

 
 
 

Bible Through the Year: Episode 40

Week 40 Devotion

This week we work our way into the New Testament and I couldn’t be more excited. All of the history, all of the ups and downs, all of the promises and anticipation from the Old Testament have built up to this. Something new is about to take place and we have a front row seat where we will read about it.

What is God going to do with Israel? What will happen to Jerusalem? Will God’s people ever have a new king? What about the New Covenant that God promised through Jeremiah and Ezekiel? All of these questions and more will be answered as we work out way through the New Testament.

Something to meditate on from Matthew…

The gospel of Matthew is the first book we will encounter as we turn to the New Testament and the purpose of this gospel is to give an account of everything related to Jesus (birth, life, death, resurrection) but Mathew is really focused on showing how Jesus fulfills the promises and expectations of the Old Testament. In fact, Matthew wants us to read his gospel as a continuation of the Old Testament, which is why he starts with a lengthy genealogy.

Have you ever wondered why that genealogy is in there? It’s in there because Matthew doesn’t want us to miss the fact that Jesus is not an afterthought but is connected to all the stories that have come before. Then moving on from the genealogy, Matthew wants us to see the connection between God’s work of redemption in the past to God’s work of redemption in the present.

Here’s what I mean. There are two key events in the Bible that help us to see the redeeming love of God more clearly than any others: The Exodus from Egypt and the Ministry of Jesus. Matthew wants us to see a parallel between what took place at the time of the Exodus and what is taking place as Jesus takes His place getting set to deliver the Sermon on the Mount.

Exodus and Matthew Compared

We call this typology and it is extensive in Matthew. But here’s the point, as the gospel of Matthew gets underway there should be great anticipation as we get set to hear what the Messiah and new Moses will say about the Kingdom of God and our own redemption from bondage to sin.

Something to discuss from Luke…

There is plenty for us to think about and discuss as we begin reading the gospel of Luke. The birth narratives in this gospel are more extensive than the others. We get this great story in chapter 2 about Jesus as a 12-13 yr old boy who gets separated from His parents but he not only keeps calm but decides to go into the temple and teach the teachers. But for the purpose of this devotion, I want us to focus on what we see in Luke 3:24-38.

Yes, I want us to talk about the genealogy. Part of the reason that I want to draw this out has to do with the fact that we just finished reading the Old Testament and this list of names stands out as a solid reminder of key events that have taken place in Israel’s history. The Jews of that day could read this list of 77 names and be reminded of what happened just a generation ago and if they were paying attention then they could come to realize that everything from the past has been leading up to Jesus.

But let’s ask the question, what are the theological implications of what we read? One thing that I find intriguing about this genealogy is that though there are some big names and important people listed, we can’t forget that fact that these are also sinful men whom God has been gracious to forgive and to use for His good purpose.

Adam – Failed to protect his wife from Satan, sinned against God, blamed his wife and ushered all of humanity into rebellion against God.

Noah – Got drunk and passed out naked in front of his family

Abraham – Gave his wife away twice because he was afraid for his own life

Jacob –cheated his own brother out of his birthright and then he deceived his own father in order to steal the blessing

David – committed adultery and murder

These are all men whose particular examples we would want to avoid and we would not want our own sons to follow in their footsteps. But what this reveals to us is that God delights to use us for His good purposes as a means of showing His faithfulness and His grace. No one reads the genealogy of Jesus and praises these wicked men for doing their part to bring about the Messiah; when you read this list of capital sinners you can only be struck by the fact that even though these men were faithless, God remained faithful.

One more thing, this long list of sinful men lets us know that there is hope for every sinner who calls on the name of the Lord. Salvation is a work of God’s grace and not the result of our effort. Salvation is not about our covenant faithfulness it’s about God’s covenant love.

Something to pray about from Mark…

I don’t know if you noticed it or not but Mark seems to be somewhat fond of the word immediately. As I read the first two chapters I noted in the margin of my Bible that this word shows up 10 times. So I jumped on my bible software and did a little research to find that Mark uses this term 36 times in his gospel. But the question is why?

Are we to understand that Jesus was like a teleporter vanishing one second to appear in another? Nope! Was He just this breathless guy that went from one place to another, from one person to another, from one need to another? Maybe. But is there a better explanation for the frequent use of the term immediately.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think. Mark uses this term as a way to speed us through from the good stuff to the really good stuff. Mark wants us to have a good and full picture of who Jesus is and of what Jesus said and did during His ministry; but he really wants to make sure that we don’t miss the cross. It’s as if Mark just can’t wait to get to the end of the story so that we see what his gospel story is all about.

We get distracted sometimes by all the details. We are prone to miss the forest because we are staring at and analyzing one really interesting tree. We have a tendency to miss the climax of the story because we are trying to figure out what to do with that one encounter Jesus had with that person in that place…but throughout this book Mark wants us to know that there is something coming that changes everything.

So, I think that Mark is trying to get us to the cross as quickly as possible and that is what I want us to pray about this week. Let’s pray that for all the questions we have about Jesus, and His teaching and His life, let’s not neglect to understand the importance of Jesus’ death. He came to die. He came to set us free from our slavery to sin. He came to lay down His life as a ransom for all those who believe in Him. So let’s pray that we would keep the gospel at the forefront of our minds not just this week, but always.