The Highway of Holiness

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.– Matthew 7:12-14 ESV

Verse 12 has come to be commonly referred to as The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is essentially a summation of all that Jesus has said, and acts as a bookend to verse 17 of chapter five:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

These two verses comprise what is known as an inclusio, bracketing all that is contained between them and forming a single unit of thought. The over-arching theme has been Jesus’ treatment of the Law and the Prophets or the Old Testament revelation. Here, in verse 12, Jesus brings His thoughts to a conclusion, summarizing all that He has said in one succinct and simple statement: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. This is the law of love, and it supersedes and fully expresses all that was written in the law. Paul summarizes it well:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:8-10 ESV

He simplified it, even more, when he wrote to the believers in Galatia:

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:14 NLT

And not long before Jesus was to go to the cross, He would tell His disciples:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35 NLT

But it is essential that we understand what Jesus is saying. In our sinful, self-centered state, it would be easy to draw a faulty conclusion from His words that allows us to focus on what we want from others. In other words, if we want our back scratched, we will reluctantly scratch someone else’s back, expecting them to do the same to us in return. Our outwardly, gracious actions would be selfishly motivated. But that is not the kind of love Jesus is talking about. He is referring to a selfless kind of love that expects and demands nothing in return. It is focused on giving, not getting. The apostle Paul warned against turning the law of love into some kind of self-centered mechanism to get what you want.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:1-4 ESV

No one enjoys being hated, so why would we choose to hate others? There is no joy in being taken advantage of, so why would we treat someone else that way? If the idea of someone having an affair with your spouse offends you, it should also prevent you from ever considering doing the same thing to someone else. Jesus’ statement is not intended to be self-centered but other-focused. He is telling us that the law was essentially about loving God and loving others, and not yourself. And those who have been blessed or approved by God will love as He loves. They will do as Jesus did, which Paul sums up in his letter to the Philippians:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Jesus knows that the life of love and self-sacrifice to which He is calling His audience would not be easy. He is fully aware that His words have been difficult to hear and that what He has been commanding them to do would be impossible to pull off. The crowds who had followed Jesus to the hillside in Galilee had been attracted by His miracles. They were enamored by His ability to heal the sick and cast out demons. There was something attractive about this man who could do the impossible. But now, they were hearing that He expected the impossible of them.

He was teaching that if they wanted to be part of God’s kingdom, they were going to have to live radically different lives. Their status as descendants of Abraham was not going to be enough. Their adherence to man-made laws and religious rules was not going to win them favor with God. In fact, Jesus breaks the news that the path to God was actually narrow and quite difficult, and the number of those who take that path would be quite small. But, in contrast, the path to hell is like a broad, sprawling avenue, filled with countless people who have chosen that way because it is easy and rather enjoyable.

Jesus is letting His listeners know that the way to God was not what they thought. It was not going to be through keeping the law. It would not be due to their ethnic identity as Jews and descendants of Abraham. Jesus is presenting another, exclusive way to God: Himself.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 ESV

He would also present Himself as the gate or door that provides the sole means by which men and women might be saved and find entrance into God’s kingdom.

“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” – John 10:9 NLT

Obviously, Jesus did not believe in universalism, the false, yet popular, doctrine that teaches that all will eventually be welcomed into heaven by God because of His love. Jesus promoted Himself as the sole means by which anyone is made right with God. He is the way, not just one of many ways. He alone has satisfied the just demands of God and paid for the sins of mankind with His own life. And He offers Himself to any and all who will receive Him as their Savior and sin substitute.

Those who accept His selfless sacrifice on their behalf receive the forgiveness of their sins and enjoy a restored relationship with God the Father. But Jesus warns that few will take Him up on His offer because the gate is small. It’s narrow and limited. It requires faith. And the path beyond that gate is difficult.

The Christian life is not an easy road. Salvation provides us with freedom from condemnation for our sins but does not provide us with a trouble-free life on this earth. We will face tribulation and difficulty. Living out our faith in the midst of a fallen world will be trying at times. Too often, Christianity is sold as a panacea for all of life’s problems. We falsely advertise faith in Christ as a solution to difficulty and the key to happiness. It explains why a book with the title, Your Best Life Now can become an international best-seller. But that is not what Jesus came to bring.

Jesus did not die in order for us to have our best life now. Yes, He did promise to give us life and life more abundantly, but not our own terms. The real benefit we receive from placing our faith in Christ is not our best life now, but eternal life to come. We have been promised a future sinless state, free from pain, suffering, sorrow, and tears. We have been guaranteed a place in God’s kingdom and no one can take it from us. So, with that in mind, we are encouraged to view our life on this earth as temporary. We are on a journey to a better place. We are on a path that will eventually lead us to our eternal home. This is why the author of Hebrews encourages us to, “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).

The prophet, Isaiah, tells us of another path, a highway that will lead through the barren and desolate land, a highway of holiness. It will provide a path for the redeemed into God’s earthly kingdom, where His Son will reign in Jerusalem. Those who enter the narrow way now and walk the path provided by Jesus’ death and resurrection, will one day walk that Highway of Holiness, free from sorrow and sin.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. – Isaiah 35:8-10 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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A Prophet Like Me

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. – Deuteronomy 18:15-22 ESV

The preceding verses contain a God-ordained ban on “anyone who practices divination, an omen reader, a soothsayer, a sorcerer,  one who casts spells, one who conjures up spirits, a practitioner of the occult, or a necromancer” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11 NLT). There is a special significance to these particular pagan practices because they were often used as a means of discerning the future or of obtaining divine guidance.

According to the NET Bible Study Notes, divination was “a means employed to determine the future or the outcome of events by observation of various omens and signs.” An omen reader was, in essence, a fortune-teller who supposedly possessed the power to predict the future based on the reading of signs. A soothsayer was someone who had the power to divine the future. The pagans believed that anyone who possessed the ability to cast spells could control the future. They also placed high stock in those who claimed to be able to communicate with the spirit world because these people could gain insights that were inaccessible to others. The term, “practitioner of the occult” is actually one word in Hebrew and it refers to a wizard or what we might refer to as a false prophet. The word actually means “knower” and is a reference to their knowledge or insight into the unknown. Finally, a necromancer was someone who had the ability to communicate with the dead.

All of these practices were closely associated with the pursuit of supernatural guidance or assistance. Which is why Moses bans their practice among the Israelites. The people of God were to have one source of divine input, and that was to be God Almighty, and God had chosen to communicate His will through Moses. With Moses having been banned by God from entering the land of Canaan, there was a greater-than-normal risk that the people of Israel would be tempted to use pagan practices to gain divine insight. So, speaking through Moses, God assured His people that He would continue to speak to them through men whom He would appoint.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you—from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him.” – Deuteronomy 18:15 NLT

God would not leave them without a means of receiving His guidance and direction. And Moses reminded them that this promise of a God-appointed prophet was in keeping with the request they had made at Mount Sinai.

All the people were seeing the thundering and the lightning, and heard the sound of the horn, and saw the mountain smoking—and when the people saw it they trembled with fear and kept their distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we will listen, but do not let God speak with us, lest we die.” – Exodus 20:18-19 NLT

The powerful manifestations of God’s glory had left the Israelites paralyzed by fear. So, they had demanded that Moses act as God’s mouthpiece, communicating His divine will and protecting them from God’s holiness. And God had given His divine approval of this plan, assuring Moses, “What they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command” (Deuteronomy 18:17-18 NLT).

The prophet of God was required to speak on behalf of God and was not allowed to communicate anything other than the word of God. In a sense, a prophet was like a preacher, disseminating divine wisdom to the people of God. He was expected to be a truth-teller, speaking only what He had received directly from God Himself. And since the prophet was God’s primary means of communication, the people were obligated to listen to and obey all that the prophet said. And Moses warned that God would hold the people personally responsible for refusing to heed the words of His prophets.

This dire warning would become particularly pertinent centuries later, when God sent His prophets to warn of coming judgment if they did not repent. God would even warn His prophet, Jeremiah, that his words would fall on deaf ears.

“Tell them all this, but do not expect them to listen. Shout out your warnings, but do not expect them to respond.” – Jeremiah 7:27 NLT

God would promise to give Jeremiah the words to speak, but also the strength to withstand the anger of the people when they chose to reject what he had to say.

“But you, Jeremiah, get yourself ready! Go and tell these people everything I instruct you to say. Do not be terrified of them, or I will give you good reason to be terrified of them. I, the Lord, hereby promise to make you as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. You will be able to stand up against all who live in the land, including the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and all the people of the land. They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you.” – Jeremiah 1:17-19 NLT

The role of the prophet was a divinely-appointed one, and while anyone could claim to be speaking on behalf of God, there were serious repercussions for those who did so and proved to be lying. They were to be put to death. And the litmus test for determining the veracity of someone’s claim to be a prophet was whether what they prophesied actually happened.

“…whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” – Deuteronomy 18:22 NLT

So, Moses assured the people that they would have no reason to seek the pagan forms of divination as a means of knowing the future. God would continue to speak to them through prophets whom He would appoint. Their only obligation was to listen to what the prophets had to say.

And, there is a final aspect of this passage that must not be overlooked. Two separate times Moses states, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you” (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV). The tense is in the singular. And while the context of the verses clearly indicates that there would be many prophets who would follow Moses, there is a sense in which these verses predict the coming of a particular prophet, one who would show up in the same way that Moses had. This prophet would be a deliverer, just as Moses had been. He too would be sent by God to rescue the people from captivity, but rather than deliverance from slavery in Egypt, this prophet would provide release from slavery to sin and death.

The author of Hebrews provides a comparison between Moses and this future deliverer/prophet who would be similar to, but greater than Moses.

For he has come to deserve greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house deserves greater honor than the house itself! For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. We are of his house, if in fact we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope we take pride in. – Hebrews 3:3-6 NLT

God promises to send “a prophet” who will speak on His behalf.

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” – Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV

The apostle John would later write of Jesus, the promised prophet of God:

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. – John 1:10-13 NLT

And John would later quote Jesus Himself as He provided clarification for what God had meant when He told the people of Israel that for all those who refused to believe His prophet, He would “require it of him.”

“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:17-18 NLT

God would not leave His people without direction. He would continue to guide them and provide for them. But they were obligated to obey the words of His prophets. And the day would come when He would send His final prophet, Jesus Christ, in order to deliver the most important message ever delivered by God through the lips of man.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. – 1 John 4:2 MSG

1 John 4:1-6

There are so many versions of Jesus being offered up today that it’s hard to keep track. There is Jesus, the life coach, whose sole purpose was to provide us with a model for self-improvement. Just follow His instructions and you can be just like Him. Then there’s Jesus, the moralistic monk, who gave us a host of wise sayings to quote and even to live out if we so choose. This Jesus was kind of a Hebrew Muhatma Gandhi, who spoke against social injustices and promoted peace and love. There’s Jesus, the martyr, a radical peasant who tried to bring about a social revolution, but died while trying. His faithful followers picked up where He left off and kept the spirit of His cause alive. There’s even Jesus, the Son of God, who whose a man chosen by God to be a living example of what it looks like when men learn to live in harmony with their Creator.

But the problem with all these versions of Jesus is that they are not the real Jesus. They may give us brief glimpses of some aspect of His life or a partial view of His nature, but they leave out the most important, life-altering point of His existence. He is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God who took on human flesh, in order to pay for the sins of mankind and satisfy the just demands of a holy, just and righteous God. John made this point clear at the very beginning of his letter, stating, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:1-2 ESV). Jesus, the eternal life, had been manifested or made known to John and the other disciples. They had seen, touched, and heard Him. They had spent over three years living with Him. They had seen Him perform miracles, transfigured, walk on water, raise the dead, and suffer a brutal death by crucifixion. But they had also seen Him alive three days after He had been buried in a borrowed tomb that had been surrounded by guards. They had heard Him say that He was going away, but that He would be returning for them some day. And they had clearly heard His parting words as He gave them His great commission to spread the good news regarding Him to all the world. This is the Jesus John preached. This is the Jesus Paul proclaimed and gave his life for. This is the Jesus of Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Titus, Timothy, the Philippian jailer, Lydia, Silas, Barnabas, James, Tabitha, Phillip and millions upon millions of others over the last 2000-plus years.

But we live in a society that has a difficult time accepting the truth about Jesus. So they re-invent Him. They come up with their version of Him that makes Him more palatable and acceptable. The Jesus of John and the disciples is too intolerant and demanding. Their version of the gospel doesn’t come across as good news at all. So people reject it or simply revise it to suit their tastes. In his book, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, Lesslie Newbigin writes:

The gospel is news of what has happened. The problem of communicating it in a pluralistic society is that it simply disappears into the undifferentiated ocean of information. It represents one opinion among millions of others. It cannot be “the truth,” since in a pluralistic society truth is not one but many. It may be “true for you,” but it cannot be true for everyone. To claim that it is true for everyone is simply arrogance. It is permitted as one opinion among many.

The problem is that John and the disciples present Jesus as the only way. “Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God” (1 John 4:2 MSG). Even Jesus Himself 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 wasn’t one way among many. He wasn’t just another option. He was the only way. The exclusive, no-other-alternative-available way. It was A. W. Tozer who said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” But I would add, what comes into our mind when we think about Jesus is what will determine our relationship with God. Jesus was and is the Son of God. He is the God-man, 100 percent deity and 100 percent humanity. A mystery that is inexplicable by man, but essential for the salvation of mankind. Jesus lived a sinless life. Yet He was required to die a sinner’s death, in order to pay the penalty due for the sin’s of mankind. He died in our place. He took on our sin and the punishment we deserved, so that we might receive forgiveness, pardon, and escape from the condemnation of death. But we must believe that He was who He claimed to be. We must accept the gift that He so graciously offers. We must believe in and trust our lives to the Jesus Christ as sent by God, proclaimed by the apostles, taught in the Bible and confirmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. No other Jesus will do. No other way will suffice. No other version of the truth will work. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5 ESV).

Truth Is NOT Relative.

I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. – 1 John 2:21 ESV

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). That’s a rather exclusive, intolerant and non-subjective statement. Jesus claims to be THE way, THE truth, and THE life – not just one of many options or alternatives. Nobody gets to the Father without going through Jesus. And when John tells his readers that they know the truth, He is referring not only to the teaching concerning Jesus, but to the person of Jesus Himself. They know Him personally. They know Him as He who is from the beginning. He is the life. He is eternal life. He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. He is the propitiation for their sins and their advocate before the Father. They know THE truth. And anyone who teaches anything other than that is a liar. No matter how reasonable what they say may sound. There are not variations of the truth. There is only THE truth – Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul had to deal with this problem in the early days of the church. He wrote to the believers in Galatia, warning them, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV). There were those who were presenting a different version of the truth. They were selling a variation of the truth which was really just a lie. And Paul was very blunt in his assessment of these individuals. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV). A contrary or contradictory gospel is a false gospel. Any good news that does not present Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life is ultimately bad news. And yet, we are so susceptible to subjective truth. So were the believers in Corinth. Paul had to reprimand them for their unhealthy tolerance of alternative truth narratives. “You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed” (2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT). Paul feared that their “pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NLT). Rather than keep their focus on the truth about Jesus, they would allow themselves to be distracted and deceived by the lies of the enemy. If you recall, when Satan tempted Eve, he didn’t totally contradict the word of God, he simply twisted the truth and turned it into a subtly deceptive lie. He got Eve to doubt God’s word, not reject it. And that is what the enemy does with us regarding the truth. His goal is not to get us to reject it outright, but to simply distort it or dilute it by creating a more acceptable version. But if it denies Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, it is unacceptable. If it presents Jesus as one of many ways to God, it is a lie. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). So either He was a liar or He was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And John has gone out of his way to remind his readers that they know the truth. They know Jesus. They know Him who is from the beginning. As a result, they know the Father. They have a relationship with God because of what Jesus has done. And their sins have been forgiven. They are strong. The word abides in them. And they have overcome the evil one.

The lies are all around us. The enemy is constantly attempting to get us to accept false versions of the truth – distorted variations on the theme. But we know THE truth. It is Jesus. Jesus the Son of God. Jesus, God in human flesh. Jesus the sinless sacrifice. Jesus the payment for our penalty. Jesus the resurrected Christ. Jesus our advocate. Jesus our coming King. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes into a right relationship with God the Father but through Him. There is no other truth. There is no other way.

Day 119 – John 14:1-14

Knowing Jesus.

John 14:1-14

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” – John 14:9 NLT

Jesus had just informed Peter that he would deny Him three times, then He says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 NLT). Really? For the last few hours, He had been talking continuously about being betrayed, denied, having His body broken, His blood shed, and that He was going away, and where He was going they couldn’t go. So how could He tell them to not be troubled? There is much the disciples do not understand. And they would not understand it until some time after Jesus left and the Holy Spirit came. So until then, Jesus tried to assure them that, in spite of all the fear building up inside themselves, they could trust Him. In fact, He encouraged them to trust in God AND to trust in Him. Why? Because He and His Father were one. This was a joint plan, involving both the Son and the Father, and so the disciples had nothing to fear. Jesus assured them that He was going away, but that He was also returning for them, and when He did, He would take them to be with Him.

Thomas speaks up, expressing his confusion and concern. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5 NLT). You can sense the growing anxiety in Thomas’ reaction. He doesn’t understand WHERE Jesus is going or WHY He has to go. He can’t comprehend what is happening and what it is that Jesus seems to be inferring. This is NOT what he and the disciples had expected. But Jesus tells Him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). With this one statement, Jesus summed up His entire ministry and message. It had always been about access. Jesus came to provide a way for men and women to be made right with God and to restore them to fellowship with Him. Sin had compromised their relationship with God. Sin had alienated them from God. The Law had showed them God’s holy standard and sin had caused them to rebel against it, preventing them from keeping His law perfectly. Jesus had come to remedy that. He had come to do what they couldn’t do: Keep the law perfectly. He came to live a sinless, holy, obedient life, so that He might be the perfect sin substitute and die in their place on the cross. In doing so, He would satisfy the just demands of a holy, righteous God. Jesus would take on our sin and suffer our punishment, and in return, we would receive His righteousness and God’s approval. So when Jesus told Thomas and the disciples that He was the way, the truth and the life and that no one could come to God any other way than through Him, this was radical news to them.

If You Had Known Me

Jesus followed this bombshell by bringing up the subject of the knowledge of Him. He said, “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is” (John 14:7 NLT). This had to have offended the disciples. Hadn’t they just spent the last three and a half years of their lives with Jesus, and now He was insinuating that they didn’t know Him? But in reality, they didn’t know Jesus. Up until that point, they hadn’t known Him as the way, the truth and the life. They knew Him as the Messiah, the healer, the Son of God, the teacher, rabbi, parable teller, and miracle worker. But there was so much they still didn’t know about Him. But Jesus assured them that even with their limited knowledge of Him, they knew God, because He was revealing God to them through His life and actions. He really was the way, the truth and the life. And He really was going to provide access to the Father through His coming death on the cross. It would all make sense to them eventually.

Philip, hearing all this talk of knowing God, asked Jesus to show the Father to them, and then they would be satisfied. Once again, Jesus responds with a statement that had to have deeply hurt Philip. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” (John 14:9 NLT). The inference is that Philip still did not know or comprehend the deity of Jesus. He knew Him, but He didn’t know Him. His knowledge of Jesus was limited. Jesus told him, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (John 14:9 NLT). What Jesus wants Philip and the other disciples to grasp is that He and the Father are one. He is not just a representative of God, He is God in human flesh. He is divine. Seeing Him is as good as seeing the Father. Hearing from Him is as good as hearing from the Father. “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me” (John 14:10 NLT). This was news to the disciples. This intimate connection between Jesus and the Father had been unknown to them up until this point.

The main focus of this entire exchange between Jesus and the disciples seemed to be their knowledge of Him. Because ultimately, their belief about Jesus would need to be based on what they knew about Him. If their knowledge of Jesus was limited, so would their faith be. Jesus wanted them to know exactly who He was, so that they could believe. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the seame works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with my Father” (John 14:12 NLT). The belief Jesus spoke of had to be based on His identity as the Son of God. His unity with the Father was to be the foundation of that belief. And ultimately, the disciples would do greater works than Jesus. This is not talking about greater miracles, but it is speaking about the scope and reach of their ministry. Jesus’ ministry was limited to a specific geographic area and only impacted a limited number of people, but the disciples would be responsible for helping spread the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Their efforts, when based on the name of Jesus, would be backed by the power of God and would therefore be unlimited. But it all began with their knowledge of who Jesus was.

And the same is true for us today. We must fully understand and grasp the significance of who Jesus is. For many of us, He is simply our Savior, which is important. But we must also recognize Him as our God and Sovereign. If we limit our understanding of Jesus, we will limit our belief in Jesus. If we fail to see Him as God and fully deserving of our full obedience, worship and honor, then our belief will be limited. Jesus came to provide us with more than just a ticket to heaven. He has given us access to God. We can know God through Him. We can experience the power of God because of Him. He is still the way, the truth and the life. It is still true that no one can come to the Father except through Him. No one can know the Father, but through Jesus. So the greater we grow to know Him, the more we will know God. And our belief will increase exponentially.

Father, help my unbelief. Help me to grow to know Jesus better and better every day. Open my eyes to the reality of who He is, the significance of His deity, His sovereignty and majesty. I want to know Him better so that I might know You more. Amen.

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

Day 82 – Luke 13:22-35

Narrow, But Necessary.

Luke 13:22-35

Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.– Luke 13:24 NLT

There’s only one way and it’s not the popular or politically correct way. It’s exclusive, intolerant, seemingly discriminatory, restrictive, repressive and narrow-minded. At least from man’s limited perspective. Somehow we want to believe that heaven has an open-door policy with a sign over the doorway that says, “Welcome! Any and all who wish to, many enter here.” No standards. No requirements. No problem. The Jews of Jesus’ day believed they each had a “Golden Ticket” because they were considered God’s chosen people. Their heritage as descendants of Abraham guaranteed them entry into God’s Kingdom. But Jesus rocked their world by informing them that they would be “thrown out” of the Kingdom. The patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be there, along with the prophets, but not them. They would each be persona non grata – unwelcome and unable to stay. Jesus told them that they would “stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’” (Luke 13:25 NLT). But Jesus will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from” (Luke 13:25 NLT). At that time, they will be hoping that their having been in close proximity with Jesus will be enough to save them. But it will prove insufficient. What they’ll be missing will be a relationship with Jesus. They will have never have expressed faith in Jesus. While there will be people from all over the known world – from every nation, tribe and tongue –  entering into the Kingdom of God, a vast number of Jews would be standing on the outside looking in. And some of the most self-righteous, self-important people in Jesus’ day – the religious leaders – will find that their high place of honor carries no credibility in God’s Kingdom.

Because they have refused to believe in Jesus, they will be refused entrance into His Kingdom. It all boils down to belief. It all rests on faith. It has nothing to do with human effort, achievement, honor, or religious affiliation. The requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of God remains the same for every man, woman and child who has ever lived: Faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only way to have a restored relationship with God the Father. That’s a very narrow door. It is very exclusive. It is highly restrictive. And it is extremely intolerant of any other way. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). He is the access point. He provides the path by which we enter into heaven. Any attempt to find any other way will fail. But those who place their faith in Him alone will discover that He really is the way, the truth and the life.

Father, thank You for providing a way – the way. Yes, it is exclusive, but it is effective. It works. Jesus Christ really does provide a way for men to be made right with You. Nothing else works. Nothing else compares. Nothing else matters. The way may be narrow, but the destination is broad, beautiful and unrestricted in any sense of the word. Amen.

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

Day 79 – John 10:1-20

Three In One.

John 10:1-20

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 NLT

The Gate. The Good Shepherd. The Sacrificial Lamb. Within this short segment of Scripture, Jesus refers to Himself using three different analogies. Each carries with it a different and important aspect of what Jesus role as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He is the Gate. It is only through Him that anyone can have access to the Father. He is the Gate through which the sheep may enter into a right relationship with their heavenly Father. It reminds me of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths” (Psalm 23:1-3 NLT). Later on, in this same Gospel, John will record these words of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). He is the Way. He is the Gate. There is no other. And He leads the way to a rich and satisfying life. The enemy has no such intention. He wants to kill, steal and destroy. He wants to offer ways which lead to death. He wants to offer counterfeit doors that never end up getting you where you think you’re going.

But Jesus is not only the Gate for the sheep, He’s the Good Shepherd. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus cared for the sheep because they belonged to Him. These other men were merely hirelings at best, and thieves and robbers at worst. They didn’t really care for the sheep. They cared only for themselves. In referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus is obviously referencing Ezekiel 34. The prophet had some scathing words against the leaders of Israel in his day. “What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them” (Ezekiel 34:2-6 NLT). And God was not done. He went on to warn these so-called shepherds, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey” (Ezekiel 34:10 NLT).

Then God tells what He will do for His sheep. “I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!” (Ezekiel 34:11-16 NLT). God said He would, and He did. He sent His own Son, as the Good Shepherd. He came to provide justice for the sheep of God. And He would do it by laying down His own life on their behalf. Jesus would be the Sacrificial Lamb. Jesus clearly said, “I sacrifice myself for the sheep” (John 10:15 NLT). In fact, Jesus stated the His Father loved Him “because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again” (John 10:17 NLT). Jesus would voluntarily lay down His life as a substitute and payment for the sins of all mankind. He wasn’t forced against His will. He volunteered for the job. It is all in keeping with the words of John the Baptist uttered at the appearance of Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NLT).

The Gate. The Good Shepherd. The Sacrificial Lamb. Jesus did it all. He encompasses the complete package. He alone makes it possible for men to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. He alone meets the just demands of a holy God for a payment for the sins of mankind. He alone could live a sinless, spotless, completely obedient life so that He might be a suitable substitute for sinful men. He alone provides an access point to eternal life. He alone is the Good Shepherd who truly cares for the sheep more than He cares for Himself. He alone is selfless, sacrificial, and totally committed to the well-being of the sheep. He did it all. And He did it all for us.

Lord, You are amazing. It is hard to comprehend just how amazing You really are. Everything we know about salvation and the gift of grace that You have made available is of Your doing. Your Father sent You, but You are the one who had to leave heaven and take on human flesh. You are the one who had to live a life among those whom You created, and tolerate their abuse, ridicule and, ultimately, their rejection. You are the one who had to live a sinless life among a world saturated with evil and a people in love with sin more than the thought of a Savior. You are the one who had to die a criminal’s death, when You had committed no sins. You did it all. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org