Deuteronomy 17-18, John 18

Wholly Holy.

Deuteronomy 17-18, John 18

You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. ­– Deuteronomy 18:13 ESV

God wanted His people to be holy. He demanded that they be blameless. The Hebrew word translated as blameless is tamiym and it means “entire, whole or complete.” It is a word that carries the idea of moral integrity. In Latin, it is the word, integer, and it means “untouched, undivided, whole.” When we read the word, blameless, we tend to think of perfection or perfectness. But the real idea behind the word is that of wholeness. It is the same word used by God in His address to Abraham found in Genesis 17:1: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless’”. God was not expecting Abraham to live in perfection or without sin, but He was expecting Abraham to live a life that was wholly and completely dedicated to God. Every area of his life was to be lived out in full view of God. No compartmentalization. No hidden areas. He was to “walk before” God. The Hebrew word is halak and it means “to walk back and forth; to walk about; to live out one’s life.” God expected Abraham to live his entire life in full view of the gaze of God, knowing that God would see every area of His life. Nothing was hidden from God. The Israelites, descendants of Abraham, and recipients of the promises made to him, were to live their lives in the same way. They were to be blameless, whole and complete. There was to be no hidden areas in their lives, where they attempted to hide their actions from God. The laws of God were intended to cover every area of life. They were comprehensive and complete. Nothing was left to the imagination. A life lived in relationship with God was to be a life that was wholly and completely impacted by His presence, power and will.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had already told the people of Israel, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind,your whole being,  and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV). This was the great Shema. God was telling them that He expected their love for Him to be comprehensive and complete. It was to come from their whole mind, their whole being, and their whole strength. Their love for God was to encompass their entire life – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8 ESV). He was quoting from the writings of Isaiah, the prophet, who had recorded the words of God against the people of Israel. God does not want lip-service. He doesn’t want His followers to simply go through the motions. The worship of God is to be holistic and complete. It is to be comprehensive and all-encompassing of every area of life. We see this modeled in the life of Jesus. His love for His Father was comprehensive. It was evident in every area of His life. His desire to do the will of His Father, even though it involved His own death, was an expression of His love. He held nothing back. Jesus was arrested, falsely accused and forced to undergo a series of trials on trumped up charges. He was subjected to all kinds of abuse and accusations. Even Pilate said, “I find no fault in him” (John 18:38 ESV). He was blameless. He was obedient. He was simply doing what His Father had called Him to do. And it was for His dedication to the will of God that He would die. Rather than preserve His own life, He willingly sacrificed it, out of love for the Father.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are the kings of compartmentalization. We are constantly trying to keep back certain areas of our lives over which we can maintain control. We give God portions of our lives, but withhold other areas for our own use. Our work can easily become our private domain, somehow separated from our “spiritual” lives. Our finances can become our personal arena over which we alone sit as masters. We can so easily give the appearance that we are dedicate to and in love with God, while we reserve certain aspects of our lives for our own use. Our thought lives remain ours to control. Our time becomes ours to use as we see fit. Our social lives become separated from our spiritual lives. And yet, God has called us to live lives that are holy and blameless, completely and wholly dedicated to Him.

At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus was approached by a Jewish lawyer who asked Him how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus, knowing the man was an expert in the law of Moses, asked him what he thought the law said about it. The man responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 ESV). Jesus told the man, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28 ESV). What Jesus knew was that it was going to be impossible for the lawyer to “do this.” He would find it impossible to love God wholly and completely. He would discover that his inability to love others as God intended would be a stumbling block in his attempt to love God. No man can live blamelessly or wholly dedicated to God apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ. He alone makes it possible for us to stand before God wholly holy. It was the death of Jesus that cancelled our debt to God and transferred the righteousness of Christ to our account. It is what is often referred to as the Great Exchange. “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Romans 4:5 NLT). My sin for His righteousness. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross on my behalf, I stand before God as wholly holy.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But while I am positionally holy before God, there is a need for me to live practically holy before Him all the days of my life. I must continue to learn to live in obedience to His will, not out of some misguided attempt to score brownie points with God, or earn His favor, but out of love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). There is an expectation on each of us as Christ-followers to live obediently within the will of God, submitted to His Spirit and guided by His Word. We are to model our lives after Christ, We are to “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5 NLT). At attitude of servanthood, submission, humility and obedience to the will of God. My entire life is to be lived out before God, with nothing held back, no parts hidden or compartmentalized. I have the Spirit of God within me who makes it possible for me to live wholly holy. Not perfectly, but increasingly more willingly submitted to God’s will for my life as His child. It is a process. It takes time. It is what is often referred to as sanctification, the ongoing transformation of my entire life into the likeness of Christ Himself. And there is a day coming when we will be like Him. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3 ESV). The time is coming when we will be perfectly holy and complete. In the meantime, we are to maintain that as our goal. We are to strive towards holiness in every area of our lives. We are to love God with our whole mind, our whole being and every ounce of our physical strength – striving to be wholly holy – with the Spirit’s help.

Father, I want to be wholly holy. I know it is impossible in this life, but it must be my goal. It must be my heart’s desire. I also realize I can’t do it on my own. I must rely upon the Holy Spirit’s help and depend upon His power to make it possible. Continue to reveal to me my own shortcomings and inadequacies and remind me of my constant need for Your help to live the life You’ve called me to live. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 15-16, John 17

The Truth.

Deuteronomy 15-16, John 17

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ­– John 17:17 ESV

One of the things the Israelites were constantly having to learn was to trust God when He spoke. Much of what God told them to do sounded bizarre and far-fetched. His rules and regulations had to have seemed onerous and arbitrary at times. The sacrificial system He commanded them to keep had to have been burdensome and costly to keep. His commands regarding the release of all debts during the sabbatical year had to have seemed unfair and unjust. But God kept reminding them that His laws were to be obeyed and His commands were to be kept – at all times and at all costs. He repeatedly told them, “You shall…” and “You shall not…” God’s commands were to be obeyed, even when they seemed to make no sense. His appointed festivals and feasts were to be celebrated on time and in the manner He prescribed. Everything was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness. Their expressions of mercy toward one another were to be reflections of the mercy God had shown them. Their celebrations of the festivals and feasts were regular reminders of God’s past deliverance and daily provision in their lives. They were to live according to God’s word, trusting that what He said was true and trustworthy. They were to listen to His instructions and obey His commands, regardless of what the other nations around them did. God’s word was not to be treated as a suggestion or an option to be considered, but as truth to be believed and obeyed.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s word is truth. It isn’t just another version of the truth, it is the truth. It is not to be treated as optional or negotiable. It is not to be considered as one of several options to be considered. God didn’t give the Israelites a choice as to whether or not they could obey His word. Of course, they often did disobey His word, but it always came with consequences. Failure to fully comply with His commands always resulted in a less-than-enjoyable outcome. One of the ways the Israelites learned to believe God’s word was to disobey it. They often found out the hard way that what God said was true. They inevitably discovered that God’s way was always the better way. His word was worth obeying. One of the difficult things about living in this world is our constant struggle with knowing the difference between truth and falsehood. The Israelites would constantly find themselves tempted to worship false gods. They would struggle with listening to alternate versions of the truth. This world is the domain of the enemy. Jesus referred to him as the father of lies. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV). But God is truth. He is the essence of truth. What we see around us is tainted by the effects of the fall. It is not as it should be. It is not as God intended it should be. Injustice, poverty, disease, war, suffering, heartache, and death are not God’s invention or intention, but the result of sin entering into the world. God’s word brings life. Even when God ordered the seeming death of the innocent, there was always a just and righteous reason for it. Even His command that His own Son die in the place of sinful man was a justifiable, righteous and true. It was right. It was necessary.

When Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV), He was including His own death as part of the equation. His death was necessary for Him to become the way. His death was a required part of God’s truth. His death had to happen for eternal life to be possible. And while the disciples had a hard time understanding and embracing the gravity of Jesus’ words, it was the truth. It was the revealed word of God. It was His divine plan to deal with the problem on man’s sin and separation from His presence.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has always been in a desperate search to know the truth. Where did we come from? Why is there suffering in the world? How can we eradicate disease and forestall death? What comes after death? But we are limited in our understanding and prone to believe lies instead of the truth. We turn to just about anything and anyone in our search for the truth. We listen to the lies of men. We embrace the false assumptions of science. We turn to our intellect and rely upon reason. But we continually find ourselves wondering what is true and what is false. We question who we can believe and trust. But unless our search for truth takes us to God, we will constantly find ourselves believing the lie and living with a false sense of hope and an unreliable version of reality. Jesus told the Jews in His day, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV). There is only one version of the truth, and it can only be found in God’s written word, the Bible, and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Anyone who seeks truth in the Scriptures, but fails to see the Son of God, will miss the whole point of God’s written word. To turn the Bible into a self-help guide or a manual for living is to distort the truth of God’s word. The Bible reveals God to man, and the greatest manifestations of God was Jesus Christ, the very Son of God in human flesh. Praying to His Heavenly Father in His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said, “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:8 ESV). Jesus was sent from God. He was the very truth of God revealed to men. He was God’s revealed plan for the salvation of mankind. And yet, men refused to believe Him. They refused to acknowledge Him as the way, the truth and the life. He didn’t fit their definition of truth. They had embraced a different truth – one of their own making. But for those who believed the truth and placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah or Savior, Jesus revealed to them the truth of God regarding man’s sin and the divine plan for salvation and their own sanctification.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus asked the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV). The truth not only includes our salvation, but our ongoing sanctification. The Bible reveals man’s plight and God’s plan for restoring mankind to a right relationship with Him. The Bible tells us the truth about God and man. It reveals to us who God is and tells us the truth about who we are and how desperate our condition. The truth of God’s word paints a vivid and realistic picture of the world and mankind’s need for a Savior. Even as a believer, I must depend upon God’s word to expose me to the truth – enlightening me to my ever-present need for God’s ongoing salvation and His Spirit’s constant transformation of my life. Just as God’s word reveals that no man can save Himself, it also teaches me that I cannot sanctify myself. I can’t make myself holy. I can’t make myself Christ-like and righteous. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God alone. That truth should be a source of freedom and release for me. The truth is, I must live in this world, surrounded by lies and falsehood. I must attempt to grow in Christ-likeness and increase in holiness. But I don’t have to do it alone. My ongoing spiritual maturity and increasing holiness is a result of God’s work in my life. As Jesus said, I am sanctified in truth – the truth of God’s word.

Father, we are surrounded by lies. We are constantly tempted to believe anything and anyone, except You. Thank You for opening my eyes to the truth regarding Your Son and His offer of salvation. But help me to understand that the truth found in Christ also includes my ongoing sanctification or growth in spiritual maturity or Christ-likeness. You have shown me through Your Word how maturity takes place. Sometimes it sounds farfetched and difficult, but I know it is the truth. Sometimes Your Holy Spirit seems distant and hard to comprehend, but I know He’s there because Your Word promises it. Help me trust Your Word and live according to Your truth. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 13-14, John 16

Help For Holiness.

Deuteronomy 13-14, John 16

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the people who are on the face of the earth. ­– Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV

Over and over again, God reminded the people of Israel that they were to be holy, because they belonged to Him. They were His possession and, as a result, they were to live lives that reflected their unique position as His chosen people. He had given them rules and regulations for conducting their lives that included dietary laws and a sacrificial unlike any other. They were to worship only God and were not allowed to have any other gods as substitutes or options. God took idolatry quite seriously, demanding that any prophet who encouraged the people to worship other gods was to be executed. Any friend or family member who tried to tempt a loved one to worship a false god was to be stoned to death. It didn’t matter if it was a wife, mother, father, brother, son or daughter. Any city that ended up worshiping a false god was to be destroyed and all its inhabitants put to death. Nothing was to be taken as spoil and the city was to remain a ruins forever. Holiness was a non-optional requirement for the people of God. They had been set apart by God for His glory and so they were to live lives that reflected their unique standing as His possession.

This demand to live holy lives was passed on to the New Testament believers. Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV). God still expects His children to live holy, set-apart lives. But we have a distinct advantage over the people of Israel. We have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who makes our pursuit of holiness possible.

What does this passage reveal about God?

What we see in the Old Testament is a vivid glimpse of God’s holiness in full display. By the time He had called the people of Israel and led them to the border of the Promised Land, idolatry was in full swing in the world. False gods were everywhere. Mankind had developed the capacity to make gods out of just about anything and everything. They worshiped gods they made with their own hands. They worshiped the trees, the planets, the water, and other parts of creation. They made gods who handled everything from fertility and fruitfulness to war. Nations borrowed the gods of other nations. They saw nothing wrong with having multiple gods and would add new gods to their retinue of deities in a heartbeat. But the God of the Israelites would not tolerate the worship of any other gods. He claimed to be the one and only God. He let them know that they, as His possession, were to have no other gods before them. They were to remain devoted solely to Him and worship Him alone. God was intolerant and inflexible on this matter. His people were to remain faithful to Him. He knew they were surrounded by nations who worshiped all kinds of gods. He realized that they would be constantly tempted to turn to those other gods and give their devotion and allegiance to them. That is why God was so adamant that the people of Israel destroy the nations who lived in the land and tear down their altars and the places of worship dedicated to these false gods. The people of Israel belonged to God. He had chosen them. He had redeemed them from slavery. He had made a covenant with them. And He had kept His part of the covenant. Now He was expecting them to keep theirs.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Faithfulness is not a natural character trait among men, and spiritual faithfulness is a virtual impossibility. When it comes to the worship of God, the human race has proven it has a difficult time remaining faithful and true. Ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by listening to the lies of the enemy, man has made a habit out of making gods of his own creation. We have a long track record of remaking God in our own image, or simply making a whole new god altogether. And with our new gods we have ended up making our own set of rules and standards by which to live. The various gods available today tend to offer conflicting views regarding life and how one can enjoy the afterlife. Each offers their version of the truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). He claimed to be the only means by which man could be made right with God. False gods offer false hope when it comes to mankind’s condition. Sacrifice to a false god can never provide true forgiveness or redemption. Belief in a false god, not matter how sincere, can never deliver anyone from the penalty that sin deserves. Even the Israelites, while they worshiped the one true God, could not keep His laws perfectly and completely. They were incapable of living the holy lives He demanded. They couldn’t keep His laws or live up to His standards. They struggled with disobedience and unfaithfulness. The law constantly reminded them of their sins and the sacrificial system provided little more than a temporary pardon, delaying the inevitable consequences for their sin because they couldn’t stop sinning.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But God fully understood man’s condition and had a divine solution already in place. He had planned all along to send His Son to die in man’s place as a payment for the penalty for man’s sin. Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and lived as one of us, so that He might live in complete obedience to the law of God. He did what no other man had ever done: obey God’s law to perfection, which made Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. He was the sinless sacrifice that God required. And because of His death in our place, God is able to offer us forgiveness from sin and salvation from death – and all we have to do is trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do, God offers us forgiveness from sin and promises us eternal life. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). But even with the promise of eternal life, God still demands that His children live holy lives. He still expects us to live set-apart lives, in keeping with His divine standards and reflective of our unique position as His holy possession. But the good news is that He has given us a “Helper” – the Holy Spirit – to assist us in living the life to which God has called us. Jesus told His disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11 ESV). After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended back to heaven, and this triggered the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost found in the second chapter of Acts, tells of His initial coming. The Holy Spirit was a game changer. He turned cowering, fearful disciples into bold, fearless spokesmen for the Kingdom of God. He turned timid, uneducated men and women into passionate evangelists for the Good News of Jesus Christ. He made possible powerful preaching and unbelievable miracles. He empowered, guided and comforted those who had, just a few hours earlier, been fearful and hopeless. Jesus ended up leaving His disciples behind, but He did not leave them alone. He gave them His Holy Spirit, and today, as Christ followers, we have that same Holy Spirit available to us and resident within us. As a result, we have all that we need to live the lives God has called us to live. We can be holy. We can live distinctively and differently from the world around us. Peter tells us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” ( 2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

Father, thank You for making holiness possible. You have given me Your Spirit to assist me in the process. And never let me forget that it is a process. It is a transformational process that takes time and requires my willing participation. I must desire to live differently and then allow Your Spirit to lead me and empower me to make it possible. I have the ability to live according to Your divine standards and live up to Your righteous requirements, just as Your Son did, because Your Spirit lives within me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 11-12, John 15

No Excuse.

Deuteronomy 11-12, John 15

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. ­– John 15:22 ESV

The people of Israel were without excuse. They had seen the hand of God in their lives. He had rescued them from captivity in Egypt, led them through the wilderness for more than 40 years, and now had them poised to enter into the long-awaited land of promise. Moses told them, “For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did” (Deuteronomy 11:7 ESV). All that they had seen God do over the years on their behalf should have empowered them to obey Him. They should have had no problem believing in God and his ability to lead, provide for and protect them. As they entered the Promised Land, they should have been fully confident in God’s ability to do what He had promised to do. Not only had He said He would give them the land, He had told them that the land would be rich and abundant and, if they obeyed Him, it would get ever better. Moses reminded them, “he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full” (Deuteronomy 11:14-15 ESV).

But in spite of all that God had done for them, the Israelites continued to struggle with believing and obeying. Moses had to repeatedly warn them not to worship other gods. He made sure they fully understood that they were going to have to destroy all the nations living in the land, along with all their false gods. They were going to have to remove every imaginable temptation to turn their attention from God and worship anything or anyone other than Him. God had made His will clear. Moses had made the conditions regarding God’s promises non-negotiable. So whatever happened in the days ahead, they would be without excuse.

What does this passage reveal about God?

From the very beginning, God has made Himself known to man in a variety of ways. God’s creation reveals His divine nature, power, and presence. Paul wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20 ESV). God is not hidden from man. He has displayed His glory all around them. But man has tended to worship the creation rather than the creator, making gods out of animals, trees, the planets, and even one another.

In the days following the fall of man, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, mankind found itslef on a trajectory of disobedience and rebellion against Him. Each of the nations developed a whole host of other gods to worship. By the time Abram received his call from God, idolatry was in full-swing. So God revealed Himself to Abraham in a remarkable way, making Himself known more intimately to man than ever before. Over the centuries, God would continue to reveal Himself to the descendants of Abraham – visibly and even verbally. He would reveal Himself through His law and the sacrificial system. He would display His power. He would allow them to enjoy His divine presence. No longer would they be limited to learning about God through nature. His revelation of Himself had become intimate and immediate. So they were without excuse. They knew that God existed. They knew He was faithful. They knew He was powerful. They knew He was holy, righteous, and just. And they knew He had a strong hatred for sin and had to punish it unapologetically.

And yet, they  continued to struggle with belief and obedience.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The problem with man is not that God is impossible to discover, but simply that the God of the universe is not the God they want. They prefer a god of their own making. They don’t want an all-powerful, must-be-obeyed-at-all-costs God. They want a loving, merciful, gracious, gift-giving, wish-granting god who exists for their benefit. The truth was, the Israelites had experienced God’s abundant grace, mercy, and generosity. But His gifts came with requirements. He demanded allegiance and faithfulness. He required fidelity. God had made man for His glory. Man had turned that idea on its ears, insisting that God existed for their glory. Even the Israelites had slowly begun to believe that they were somehow special because God had chosen them. They convinced themselves that He owed them His undivided attention and affection. In their minds, God owed them something. He had to bless them. He had to prosper them. But they had forgotten that God chosen them in spite of them, not because of them. Rather than seeing themselves as dependent on God, they had somehow convinced themselves to believe that God needed them. They believed themselves to be  indispensable to God. After all, they were His “chosen people.”

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God was not done revealing Himself to man. With the coming of Jesus, God had chosen a new way to make Himself known. Jesus was “God incarnate” – God in the flesh. He was Immanuel, “God with us.” But even when Jesus left heaven and took on human flesh, men chose to reject Him. Even after He had performed miracles and given them sign after sign of His deity, they just couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Him. Why? Because He was not who they were expecting or offering what they wanted. As always, God’s revelation of Himself blatantly exposed the sinfulness of man. Jesus came to keep the law that no man had ever been able to keep. He came to offer them salvation from sin. But Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin(John 15:22 ESV). He had arrived on earth proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. They were looking for a kingdom on earth. He had come to offer salvation from sin. They wanted freedom from Roman rule. He came demanding that they must believe in Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But they refused to believe Him. His arrival had demanded a decision on their part. They either had to believe in Him or reject Him. But Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:24 ESV). His signs and miracles were intended to reveal His deity. They were meant to validate His claim to be the Son of God. But the people worshiped His miracles instead of Him. They wanted to see signs and wonders, but rejected His offer of salvation. And they were without excuse.

God wants to offer me so much more than just a better life and temporal blessings that fade with time. He wants to provide me with more than simply good health and a trouble-free existence in this life. He sent His Son to pay for my sins and offer me eternal life, free from condemnation and the fear of death. Jesus offers me abundant life, but based on the promise of a life after this one. The tendency is to make this life the goal, to attempt to get everything I can here and now, and forget about the hereafter. God wants us to live in dependence upon Him, allowing Him to bless us as He sees fit in this life, but focusing our hopes and desires on the life to come. Jesus promised us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). We must rely on Him. We must depend upon Him. We must allow His life to flow through us, producing the fruit of His Spirit, not the deeds of our own sinful flesh. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. And if we attempt to live this life in our own power, focused on our own selfish desires, believing that God exists to make us happy, we are without excuse.

Father, I can so easily make it all about me. Help me to understand that I can do nothing without You. I am helpless and hopeless without Your Son and His gift of salvation – available to me every day of my life. May I continually learn to live for You and Your Kingdom, not my own. I have no excuse for believing that this life is all there is or that You somehow owe me a favor. May my life bring you glory each and every day I live. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 9-10, John 14

A Love For God.

Deuteronomy 9-10, John 14

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? ­– Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV

Moses went out of his way to remind the people of Israel of all that God had done for them over the four decades since He had released them from bondage in Egypt. He made sure they understood that it was “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:12-13). He broke the news to them that God was “not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deuteronomy 9:6 ESV). But he also told them, that in spite of themselves, God was going to go before them and deliver the land and their enemies into their hands. And all God asked for in return was that they show Him the love, devotion, obedience, and yes, fear, He so rightly deserved. Moses wanted them to understand the incredible nature of the relationship they enjoyed with the God who created the universe. “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 ESV). He wasn’t just some divine guide for living or a convenient source for food. He wasn’t some kind of talisman or good luck charm to help them win battles or overcome difficulties. He was the almighty, holy, righteous, just, powerful, loving, merciful and gracious God of the universe.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires that men show Him the honor and glory He deserves. He demands that they show Him the fear His power and holiness requires. He longs for them to understand just how incredible it is that He allows them to come into His divine presence, in spite of their sins and constant tendency to rebel against Him. God wants men to willingly obey and love Him because of all that He has done for them. Of all people, the Israelites knew first-hand the power and holiness of God. They had been given His law. They had heard what He required of them and what He would do if they disobeyed Him. But they had also experienced the incredible blessings that came as a result of obeying Him. They knew what it was like to have Him go before them, providing direction and protection. And they alone, of all people living on the earth at the time, had been given this unique relationship with God. And all He asked in return was that they love, fear and obey Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Even those who have experienced the love, mercy, grace and power of God in their lives, sometimes have a difficult time expressing legitimate love in return. We all struggle with obedience to God. Partly because of our sin nature. But also because our God is invisible to us. We live in a temporal and physical world where the spiritual is difficult to see and comprehend. So we make decisions based on what we can see. We tend to believe what we can touch and experience with our senses. We find ourselves trusting what we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes. The Israelites had visible manifestations of God’s glory and presence, and still struggled with trusting and obeying Him. They experienced countless displays of His blessings and still tended to fall out of love with Him when things didn’t go quite the way they expected. And we do the same thing today. But we have been given God’s Word as a constant reminder of who He is and all that He has done for mankind over the centuries. Not only that, God’s Word tells us what He is going to do in the future as part of the fulfillment of His divine promise to mankind. For those of us who know Him and have a relationship with Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given a glimpse into God’s faithfulness in the past and His faithfulness yet to come. We know how God solved the problem of sin and man’s inability to live obediently to His law. We know God sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our rebellion against Him and provided a way for us to experience forgiveness and a restored relationship with Him. We also know that God is not done yet. He is one day going to send His Son again to bring an end to ALL sin and suffering. He will restore order where there has only been chaos and put all things back the way God had intended them to be all along.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus came to provide salvation from sin and the penalty of death. He gave His life so that I might live – not on my own terms, but according to God’s divine will. Christ’s death not only provided me with salvation, but with the power of the Holy Spirit who makes it possible for me to live obediently and faithfully according to God’s will. Jesus promised His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 ESV). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV). Jesus still expected obedience and love from His disciples. He told them, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21 ESV). But He also knew that they would be incapable of obedience and love without help. So He told them that they would receive divine assistance in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Like the disciples, I have the capacity and power to love and obey.

God’s requirements have not changed. He still expects us to fear Him, love Him, obey Him and serve Him. But He hasn’t left us to try in our own strength. He has placed His Spirit within us, and that power is now available to us, He resides within us. Which is why Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14 ESV). The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to do great things in the name of God and out of love for God.

Father, I want my life to be an expression of love for You. I want to live in obedience to You and reliance upon You. I have no excuse for not doing so, because You have placed Your Spirit within me. I know I have the capacity to say no and refuse to listen to His directions for my life. I do it far too frequently. But help me to see that His power is the key to living obediently, joyfully, and powerfully. I want to let Him lead me and empower me to love You by living fearfully, obediently, faithfully and submissively to Your will for my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 7-8, John 13

Betraying God.

Deuteronomy 7-8, John 13

Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth”. ­– Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV

God had blessed the people of Israel in amazing ways over the four decades since He had released them from captivity in Egypt. Not only had He arranged their release through a series of spectacular and devastating plagues, He had also fed them with manna from heaven and water from a rock. He prevented their clothes and their sandals from wearing out. He had revealed the glory of His power and presence through the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day. He had promised to give them a land of their own, providing for them vineyards and fields they never had to plant, as well as homes and cities to live in that they weren’t required to build. God had shown these people favor after favor, extending mercy and grace beyond measure. But as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land, Moses warned them. He knew their hearts. He was well aware of their tendencies. He had struggled with these people for over 40 years. So he gives them some much-needed last-minute advice.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was going to do His part. He had gotten them this far, and He would make sure that the land He had promised to them made it into their possession. Moses knew that this second generation were no different than the first. As soon as they saw the strength and size of the enemies in the land, they would panic. But he reminded them that God was clear out all the nations before them. He would literally give them over to the Israelites for destruction. Their job was to fight and, ultimately, to wipe out the nations who occupied the land. As harsh as this may sound, God had a very good reason for the extermination of the pagan nations that lived in the land of Canaan. He knew that they were idol worshipers and worse. They were the antithesis of what He wanted the people of Israel to be. If left to live in the land, it would just be a matter of time before the Israelites intermarried with them and took on their gods. They would end up co-habitating with the enemy and compromising their convictions. So God ordered their complete annihilation. He wanted the full attention and devotion of the people He had chosen. God wanted to bless them, but that was going to be impossible if they risked betraying their loyalty and devotion to Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Moses told the people, “The whole commandment that I command you today, you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give your fathers” (Deuteronomy 8:1 ESV). “So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him” (Deuteronomy 8:6 ESV). But he also provided them with a sober warning to “take care lest you forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11 ESV). How would they forget God? By failing to keep His commandments. By accepting His blessings and enjoying the God-given wealth of the land, but allowing pride to rise up and cause them to wrongly assume that “my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV).

He warned them not to forget God. To do so would be to betray Him, to turn their back on Him. And yet, they would be constantly tempted to do just that. God would give them victories and they would attempt to take credit for it. God would bless their crops and increase their wealth, and they would assume responsibility for having made it happen. Moses knew that God was going to bless them, because He had promised to do so and God could be trusted to keep His word. But Moses also knew that the people would be prone to betray God by refusing to obey Him and give Him the glory He deserved. One of the greatest ways men can honor and glorify God is to recognize His activity in their lives. Acknowledging the presence and power of God all around us brings Him glory.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus lived His life on this earth to glorify the Father. He said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son,he will soon give glory to the Son” (John 13:31-32 NLT). Jesus complete obedience to the will of the Father in this life brought glory to God. His death on the cross brought glory to God because it was the ultimate expression of His unwavering obedience. His resurrection from the dead brought glory to God because it was the work of God. And now, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, restored to His former place and glorified by God Himself.

Jesus was not going to betray His Father. He would not assume credit for the work of the Father in His life. He spoke only what His Father commanded Him to speak. He lived in obedience and submission to the will of God. And He has called all His disciples to live likewise. We are called to live like Christ, to live in humble submission to God and willful obedience to His Word. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, not as a ritual to be repeated, but as an example to be followed. Jesus humbled Himself. He served others. In just a few hours from the moment He toweled off the feet of the last disciple, Jesus would be hanging on a cross, the ultimate expression of servanthood. He would give Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus wanted His disciples to follow His lead. He wanted them to honor God rather than betray Him. Peter claimed that he was willing to die for Jesus, but Jesus begged to differ. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 13:38 ESV). Jesus had already revealed that Judas was going to betray Him. Now He tells Peter that, he too, will betray Him. The betrayal of God is a constant threat to each and every one of us. Turning our backs on God will always be a real temptation as long as we live on this earth. But we have been called to live in obedient submission to His will, giving Him the glory He deserves by recognizing His constant hand in our lives. Nothing we do is accomplished apart from God. Our greatest achievements are due to the grace and mercy of God. Rather than betray Him, I should live to display Him to the world around me. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Father, I am nothing without You. I can do nothing without You. Forgive me for taking credit for and control of my life. I want to live in obedient submission to You, recognizing Your role in my life and remembering all that You have done for me over the years. May my life bring You glory and honor as I recognize Your activity in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 5-6, John 12

Called Out. Sold Out.

Deuteronomy 5-6, John 12

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ­– Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV

God had chosen the people of Israel for a reason. He wanted them to be a living, breathing example of what a relationship between God and man might look like. He wanted to reveal His power through them. He wanted to providentially provide for them. He wanted to guide and direct them, as well as protect them. Their relationship and interaction with God was to be a special and unique, unlike that of any other nation. But that relationship required allegiance and obedience. God had proven His love for them through His decision of choosing them, redeeming them from slavery in Egypt, and giving them His irrevocable pledge of a land of their own. But God expected theirs to be a reciprocal relationship. He wasn’t just looking for half-hearted adherents to His laws who obeyed solely out of fear. He desired a people who would love Him for who He was and for all He had done for them.

Verses 4-5 of Deuteronomy 6 contain the great “Shema” – what would become, in essence, the statement of faith for the Hebrew people.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV). This was a call to commitment, a corporate live in a covenant relationship with God, recognizing Him as their God and loving Him accordingly. The proof of their love for God was to expressed in their faithful devotion to Him alone. It was to be holistic in nature, influencing every area of their life and every aspect of their nature. They were to be wholly holy, completely set apart to God and fully in love with Him.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires a relationship with mankind. He could have demanded unwavering allegiance from those whom He has made, and hold them accountable for their failure to obey. But knowing that they were completely incapable of living in obedience to His law and unable to meet His righteous standards, He chose to show mercy and grace. He lovingly and graciously provided the means by which they could enjoy His presence and receive His forgiveness and pardon, in spite of their repeated failures to remain faithful and sinless. But God expected those whom He had chosen and showered with His mercy and grace to respond in love. He wanted them to recognize His goodness and appreciate just how blessed they were to have this one-of-a-kind relationship with Him. He wanted them to tell their children. God expected His people to be so overwhelmed by His grace that they would willingly and gladly tell the next generation.

In those days, the key to living in a loving relationship with God was based on an understanding of and obedience to the law of God. That’s why Moses tells the people, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV). But it wasn’t just the law of God that was to be passed down. They were to constantly remind one another of God’s goodness and grace. They were to remember His great deeds done on their behalf. They were to recall His covenant faithfulness and recount it to those who were too young to have experienced it. One of the greatest expressions of our love for God is our willingness and eagerness to talk about Him to others. We talk about those whom we love. We brag about those who are near and dear to us, including our family members or friends. But do we brag about God?

What does this passage reveal about man?

Over in the gospel of John, we read that not long after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, people began to believe in Him. It’s amazing how a little thing like raising the dead made a profound impact on them. Even some of the rulers of the Jews had become convinced that Jesus was truly who He claimed to be. But John tells us, “but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43 NET). Isn’t that the problem we all face? They cared more about what others thought about them than they did about all that God was doing among them. They worshiped man more than they did God.

Jesus Himself said, “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me” (John 12:45-45 NET). Ultimately, belief in Jesus was really an expression of belief in God, because He had been sent by God. He was the Son of God. Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus had been greeted by enthusiastic crowds shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13 NET). They appeared to be expressing love for Jesus that was from their whole mind, their whole being and all their strength. It looked as if they were giving it their all. But in just a short time, their shouts of joy would turn to screams of rage. Instead of “Hosanna!,” they would be shouting, “Crucify Him!” Their love for Jesus would prove to be short-lived and short-sighted. Instead of recognizing Him as their Savior, they ended up rejecting Him. His talk of death and sacrifice were unappealing to them. They weren’t looking for a suffering Savior, but a conquering Messiah and King.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus told the people in the crowd, “If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NET). Jesus was calling for a commitment. He was asking for a wholesale expression of allegiance on the part of His followers, involving their whole mind, their whole being, and all their strength. Jesus was calling them to a long-term relationship that was going to last long after this world has ceased to exist. God expects those for whom He sent His Son to express their love and appreciation for His great gift of mercy and grace. We show our love through our belief, but also through our behavior. We express our love for God by talking about Him incessantly and eagerly. We tell of His goodness. We brag about His power. We express thanks for His blessings and remind one another of His promises yet to come. Those of us who have been called out are expected to live sold-out lives, fully committed to Him and expressing our love for Him as we live in obedience to Him.

Father, thank You for choosing me. I was totally unworthy, but You sent Your Son to die in my place in order to pay for the sins I had committed. Help me comprehend the magnitude of that reality and live accordingly. May my life increasingly reflect my love for You as I talk about You, brag on You and live in obedience to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Deuteronomy 3-4, John 11

The Glory of God.

Deuteronomy 3-4, John 11

Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes. He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. – Deuteronomy 4:33-35 NLT

God had revealed Himself to men. Not only that, He had chosen to make Himself known to a nondescript nation who didn’t deserve His grace, mercy, power or the privilege of His presence. Moses explained to the Jews, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV). God chose the Israelites, not because they were a great nation or because they somehow deserved to have a relationship with Him, but because He wanted to reveal His glory to them and through them. They were to be an example to the rest of the world of what it looked like to live in a right relationship with the Creator of the universe. He had given them His law in order to set them apart from the other nations of the earth. They were to live according to a different standard. Moses reminded them, “Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:6-8 NLT). God was wanting to reveal His glory through the people of Israel. He let them hear His voice. He allowed them to enjoy His presence. He graciously and repeatedly provided proof of His power. So that they might know “that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39 ESV). Israel existed as a nation is order to reveal God’s glory. But they would constantly confuse the situation, and mistakenly believe that God existed for their glory. They would find themselves believing the lie that there was something special about them. They would convince themselves that God had chosen them because they deserved it; and He was somehow obligated to continue blessing them whether they were obedient to His law or not.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV). He will not tolerate unfaithfulness. The privilege of being His chosen possession comes with the responsibility to remain faithful. He will not put up with spiritual infidelity among His people. His law was intended to set His people apart. It was to be a practical and visible expression of their uniqueness and glorify Him. When the other nations saw how the Israelites lived, according to a unique set of instructions, unlike anything else they had ever seen, they would recognize the greatness and glory of God. Any time the nation of Israel lived as God had commanded and did as He had instructed, the nations around them were witness to His glory, and it produced a fear of Him. God wanted to reveal His glory through them. He wanted to exhibit His power on behalf of them. They were to be a living, breathing example of what life could be like when it was lived in obedience to Him. For God, the problems and seeming setbacks of this life are of no consequence. There is nothing too great for Him. He is not panicked by our predicaments. He is never up in heaven wringing His hands in worry over the situations and circumstances of our lives. He is never caught off guard by the trials and tribulations that seem to constantly mar our existence on this earth. They are simply opportunities for Him to reveal His glory among men.

When Jesus was given word that His friend, Lazarus, was ill, He delayed two days before He finally made the trip to Bethany to visit him. Upon receiving news of Lazarus’ condition, Jesus simply said, “it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV). Jesus knew that His delay would result in Lazarus’ death. In fact, he told His disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15 ESV). When He finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. But Jesus was not surprised or shocked. He told Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23 ESV). Jesus knew something that Mary and Martha didn’t know. He knew that His Father had power over death and the grave. He also knew that in the days ahead, there was going to be an even greater resurrection from the dead that would radically change the spiritual landscape of the world. Jesus Himself would die, but be raised again three days later, all to the glory of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Mankind is in desperate need of God’s glory. In spite of the fact that God’s glory and greatness has been revealed through His creation, mankind has refused to acknowledge it. Instead of worshiping the Creator, they ended up worshiping the creation itself. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV). Instead of honoring God and giving thanks to Him, mankind “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-22 ESV). In other words, mankind did exactly what God had warned the people of Israel NOT to do. The Israelites were to set a different standard. They were to worship one God. They were to glorify Him and not one another. They were to worship the Creator and not the creation. Creation was intended to reveal God’s glory, not replace it. Men were intended to seek God’s glory, not their own.

Mary and Martha were disappointed that Jesus had not come earlier and healed their brother. They were upset that He had not prevented Lazarus’ death. But Jesus told them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 ESV). They were focused on Lazarus’ death. Jesus was focused on God’s glory. Jesus’ delay and Lazarus’ death were intended to bring glory to God. They would be further evidence of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. Everything Jesus did during His time on this earth was done so that He might bring glory to God the Father. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4-5 ESV). As a man, Jesus spent His life bringing glory to God. The glory of God was His obsession. Jesus showed us how to live as children of God. Our lives are to be lived out for the glory of God. We are to be ordinary vessels through which God’s glory is revealed to men. On this earth, we exist for His glory. But there is a day coming when we will be glorified by God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The temptation on this earth is to make much of me. It is so easy to mistake this earthly existence as the focal point. I want to be glorified and made much of. But my life is to be lived out for God’s glory, not my own. I am to be an instrument in His hands, not the other way around. My life is to point to Him and provide opportunities for Him to exhibit His power and presence among the lost of this world. Paul reminds me, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). Jesus lived in obedience to God, even to the point of willingly giving His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He glorified God in life and in death. And as a result, God glorified Him by raising Him from the dead and restoring Him to His side in heaven. And it is the reality of Jesus’ glorification that is at the heart of the message of salvation. It is because He has been glorified that we know can have assurance that our future glorification is a sure thing. And every time we talk about it and tell others of it, God gets glory. Even talking about the gospel brings God glory. Pointing others to Jesus brings God glory. Living in reliance and dependence on Him in this life brings God glory. Making much of God and less of ourselves brings God glory. Keeping our focus on the future instead of the here-and-now brings God glory.

Father, I want my life to bring You glory. Forgive me for the many times that I end up trying to turn that equation around, desiring to believe that You exist for MY glory. I want to make much of You. I want to live my life in such a way that You become the focus, not me. Help me to understand that my glorification is future. In the meantime, my desire should be to bring You glory in all that I do. May my life be a vehicle for Your glory. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Deuteronomy 1-2, John 10

The Good Shepherd.

Deuteronomy 1-2, John 10

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” – John 10:1-4 ESV

God leads. He always has. But the problem is that few want to follow Him. Even the people He chose as His own possession found it hard to follow God faithfully and fully. Theirs is a story of repeated doubt, disbelief and disobedience. In these early chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounted for the people how God had led them all the way to the land promised to their forefather, Abraham. He reminded them how God had fulfilled His covenant to give them the land, but how they had refused to go in. Fear replaced faith and they allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by the difficulty of their circumstances rather than trust the word of their God. So God disciplined their disbelief and disobedience by denying them entry into the land and forcing them to wander around the wilderness for 40 years, until that stubborn generation died off. And yet, in spite of their rebellion, God continued to lead them and care for them. Moses reminded them, “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7 ESV). God had shepherded them all throughout their time of wandering. He had never forsaken them. He had never turned His back on them. And during that time, the younger generation had been able to watch God lead and learn to obey His voice. So that by the time they found themselves standing on the edge of the Promised Land, they would be ready to not only hear the words of God, but obey them. A big part of following God is learning to listen and obey – even when it doesn’t make sense. God told the second generation, “Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you” (Deuteronomy 2:24-25 ESV). Following God was going to require faith.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Our faith should be motivated by God’s faithfulness, because He is trustworthy. God keeps His word. He fulfills His promises. He is fully capable of accomplishing what He says He will do. But doubt in the word of God always leads us to disbelieve the faithfulness of God. To doubt what God says is to doubt who He is. It is to disparage His character. But there is not basis for questioning the character of God. His track record is impeccable. We may not always understand why or how He does things, but we cannot and should not doubt His motives or question His sovereign will for our lives. For those who truly follow God, who have allowed their lives to be led and shepherded by God, they can look back and see His hand on their lives, guiding, directing, and protecting. That was what Moses had told the Israelites as they stood on the border of the Promised Land the first time. “Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31 ESV). God had proven Himself faithful, time and time again. “Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1:32 ESV). In their case, hind sight did NOT prove to be 20-20. The sheep stiff-armed the Shepherd.

What does this passage reveal about man?

In the book of John, we read those familiar words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 ESV). In this chapter Jesus established Himself as the one who had come to lead the sheep of God. He came to provide abundant life for the sheep. He came to lead them to green pastures where they could find nourishment and security. He came to provide protection from harm. But for all of that to happen, the sheep would be required to hear His voice and follow Him. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4 ESV). There is a picture of intimacy and trust here. The sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. They know Him and have learned to trust Him. They may not know exactly where He is leading them or what He has in store for them, but they trust Him. Following is an expression of faith. There were those in Jesus’ day who struggled with His claim to be the Son of God. They asked Him, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!” (John 10:24 ESV). “Jesus answered, ‘I told you, and you do not believe’” (John 10:25 ESV). He had shown them signs. He had performed miracles. He had given them plenty of proof. But they did not believe. Jesus told them, “You do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (John 10:26 ESV). They didn’t recognize His voice. When Jesus spoke, rather than hear the voice of God, they simply heard the words of a man. And the response of many was, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:20 ESV).

When Jesus calls, His sheep hear His voice. There is an intimacy and familiarity between Jesus and His sheep. They recognize Him because they belong to Him. And when He calls, they follow. When Jesus called His disciples, they not only heard Him, they willingly followed Him. And yet, by all indications, they didn’t even really know Him. In almost every case, they had just met Him, and yet when He said, “Follow me,” they dropped what they were doing and obeyed. There was a recognition of relationship they didn’t even fully understand at the time. They heard His voice and did what He told them to do – as a practical expression of trust.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

After 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness, under the steady, ever-present hand of God, the second generation developed an increasing familiarity with the voice of God. They learned to listen to His voice and do what He told them to do. He had proven Himself faithful all those years. He had been a good shepherd. Oh, they would still struggle with obedience and trust. They would still doubt His word at times. But there would be no basis for their doubt and no excuse for their distrust of God. God will always be proven faithful. He will always come out trustworthy. The problem is never God’s faithfulness, but our faithlessness. We doubt. We fear. We disbelieve. We disobey. But God is faithful. It is amazing to think that Jesus came to lay down his life for the sheep. He didn’t just come to lead us, He came to die for us. He said, “For this reason the Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18 ESV). Ultimately, Jesus’ leadership required His own death, and He gave up His life willingly and gladly. He lead through death. He rose again so that we might understand that there is life after death. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28 ESV). He calls. We hear. He leads. We follow. And our ultimate destination is eternal, not temporal. Jesus reminds us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV). He is the Good Shepherd and He is leading us to a land of green pastures. But we must follow faithfully. We must trust His Word. In spite of what we may encounter along the way, we must believe that what He says is true and what He has promised He will fulfill.

Father, You have led Your people faithfully for generations. And You sent Your Son to not only be our sacrificial lamb, but our Good Shepherd. He has laid down His life for us, so that we might spend eternal life with You. But for the time being, we find ourselves wandering in our own form of wilderness. Things here are not always easy. It is sometimes hard to hear His voice over the confusion and chaos of this world, but He is speaking. He is calling. Give us ears to hear and hearts to listen. As He leads, help us follow – faithfully and expectantly – with our eyes on the future reality of eternity. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Numbers 35-36, John 9

City of Refuge.

Numbers 35-36, John 9

“You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” – Numbers 35:34 ESV

God dwelt among His people, and His very presence demanded that they live set-apart lives. His holiness and righteousness required that they live differently and distinctively, abiding by a stringent set of rules and regulations that governed their behavior and interactions with one another. And yet God knew their weaknesses and fully understood their incapacity to live up to His exacting standards. The entire sacrificial system was designed to deal with their ongoing struggle with sin. He even provided them with six cities of refuge, Levitical cities where someone guilty of unpremeditated murder could run for protection. There was no police force in those days, and it was the responsibility of the next of kin of anyone who had been murdered to bring about justice by executing the one guilty of murder. But God’s holiness required that only those who were guilty of premeditated murder could be executed. To unjustly execute the innocent would have been as evil in God’s sight as to excuse the guilty. So He provided those who had committed murder accidently or impulsively a means of finding justice. They could run to one of the cities of refuge and receive a fair and unbiased trial. If they were deemed innocent of having committed premeditated murder, they could live in the city of refuge and enjoy permanent protection from the “blood avenger.” They were still guilty of murder, but their lives were spared. The city of refuge became their prison until the day that the high priest died. Then his death would serve as an atonement for their sin, providing them with release from their guilt and the right to live among their kinsmen again – innocent and free.

The ongoing presence of God was constantly in jeopardy due to the sinfulness of men. Yet He provided them with countless means by which they could receive restoration and assure His continued existence among them. It was God who set them apart. Without them, they would have been nothing. His presence provided them their distinctiveness. And it was their sin that threatened their uniqueness as His chosen people.

What does this passage reveal about God?

From the day that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God has been actively and aggressively seeking to restore order to the chaos created by their actions. Their sin brought disorder, disobedience and, ultimately, death into the world. It wasn’t long after Eve listened to the lies of the enemy and convinced her husband to join her in rejecting God’s word, that murder showed up on the scene. One of Eve’s own sons would kill his brother. Death entered the scene. And disease would not be far behind it. Their bodies would undergo the inevitable effects of aging. Sin would increase. Rebellion against God would run rampant. And yet God continued to reach out to mankind, offering a form of refuge from the consequences of sin. In a real sense, God’s choosing of Abraham made he and his descendants a “city of refuge” for mankind. The people of Israel would become a single source for God’s abiding presence and divine protection from the guilt and condemnation of sin. It was among the children of God that men could find access to God. It was through the law of God that men could learn of the divine requirements and expectations of a holy God. It was through the sacrificial system instituted by God that men could find atonement for their sins and freedom from the penalty of death they so justly deserved. God had provided a city of refuge among the sons of men. And eventually, God would send His own Son as the ultimate and final means of refuge and escape from sin’s destructive power and God’s righteous judgment.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The Scriptures make it painfully clear that all men are guilty of sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV). “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9 ESV). “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). The law of God was given to show men their sin. Like a speed limit sign on the side of the freeway, the law was a constant reminder of man’s proclivity toward disobedience and rebellion. Our guilt is unquestionable and undeniable. Every individual who has ever lived has stood condemned before a holy and righteous God due to the sinful nature passed down to them from Adam and Eve, which has been evidenced by their own sinful behavior. We are all guilty. We all stand condemned. And the very presence of disease and death in our world is an outward reminder of the reality of sin’s devastating consequences.

In the gospels we read of Jesus’ constant encounters with those who suffered from diseases and disorders of all kinds. In John 9, He meets a man who had been blind since birth. This man lived in a constant state of darkness. The disciples, like most of their fellow Jews, believed that this man’s malady was due to either his own sin or the sins of his parents. They were partially right. His blindness was a result of sin entering the world and bringing with it disease and physical disorders. Like so many others, this man was suffering from the lingering effects of sin on God’s creation. Jesus cleared up the confusion by declaring, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3 ESV). Jesus would prove to be a city of refuge for this man, providing him with a way of escape from the devastating consequences of sin’s presence in our world. This man lived in darkness, but Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV). Jesus restored his sight. He freed him from darkness. He opened his eyes so that he might physically see, but even more so, that he might spiritually see. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 ESV) and the man responded, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (John 9:36 ESV). Jesus answered, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you” (John 9:37 ESV). And the man believed.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

At this point in the story, Jesus made an interesting comment. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see many become blind” (John 9:39 ESV). This man had been given the ability by God to see the Son of God. He had been provided with the capacity to physically see so that he might spiritually see. And as a result, he found refuge from his guilt in the Savior. But there would be those who remained blind and ignorant of God’s gift of salvation and healing through His Son. It is probably safe to assume that not everyone who was guilty of murder took advantage of the cities of refuge. They may have taken their chances on their own, assuming they could escape judgment and avoid the wrath of the blood avenger. But it was those who fled to the cities of refuge who found safety and protection. Not everyone who saw Jesus believed in Him. He makes it clear that there were those who remained blind and spiritually sightless, incapable of seeing that He was their only means of escape and their only source of refuge from the devastating consequences of sin. It is to Jesus that I must turn as my city of refuge in this sin-soaked, death-marked world. He alone can provide me with protection from sin’s condemnation and provide me with an assurance of God’s acceptance of my life and His ongoing presence in my life. He is my refuge.

Father, You have provided me with a refuge from the devastating consequences of sin in the world and in my life. You opened my eyes that I might see Your Son as my Savior. You gave me sight. You provided me with a place to run and find protection, forgiveness and, ultimately, atonement for my sins. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org