Wait till you hear this!

The story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is amazing and inspiring, but it’s nothing compared to what God did next. Wait till you hear this!

Today’s Reading

Psalm 78; Romans 7

Selected Verses

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.  Psalm 78:4

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 4:4

Reflections

With the perspective of the New Testament and the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, we could say “Wait till you hear this!” to the Psalmist who reveled in God’s mighty works to Israel. God had done for Israel something unthinkable, unimaginable. He brought ten plagues on Egypt, delivered an enslaved people from that world powerhouse, led them out of the land loaded with spoils, opened up the Red Sea for them to cross, and drowned the pursuing army in the water behind them. This is a story that needs to be told generation after generation.  Pass it on!

But wait till you hear this!

In the New Testament we learn that God took on human flesh and lived on earth. We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. His people rejected Him and crucified Him, but His death bought redemption from the guilt of sin under the law.  His death was not a terrible tragedy but the greatest victory ever accomplished.

How do we know?

He rose again from the dead. Since that time millions have believed in Him. They trust Him, not their own good works, for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. These millions understand themselves to have died with Him so that His death for sin serves as their death for sin.  They are free from any remaining condemnation because their debt was fully paid by Jesus. As a result, these believers from every nation and language in the world belong to Him and live to bear fruit for God.

Think about it

God delivered a nation of a million people out of Egypt, some 3500 years ago, but in the past 2000 years, right down to today, He has been delivering untold millions of people from spiritual death and slavery to become His fruitful people. Tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He is doing. Pass it on! Wait till they hear that!

Jesus’ Claims: True or False?

Truth is essential. The claims of Jesus Christ rest in actual historical events, not merely philosophical theory. If true, how can they be ignored?

Today’s reading

 Leviticus 18-19; Matthew 27:32-66

Selected Verses

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. Leviticus 19:11

 Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first.

Matthew 27:63b-64

Reflections

The law of Moses commanded truthfulness.   It needed to be commanded because honesty died early in human history when the serpent lied and deceived the woman in the garden.  Jesus referred to the devil as the father of lies (John 8:44).  All enter into his realm by natural birth.  Only by a new birth are we set free from this kingdom of lies and deceit.

The scribes and Pharisees knew the claim Jesus made that He would rise from the dead on the third day.  The disciples hid fearing that Jesus might be gone forever.  Meanwhile, the religious leaders worried that people might actually believe Jesus’ prediction about  rising from the dead.  Was there really a danger of the disciples stealing the body and starting a rumor that the Lord had risen?  I doubt it. After all, they had shown no courage when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56b).  Nevertheless, the stated position of Jesus’ enemies was that He had made a false claim and that the disciples would lie to cover for it creating a hoax of monumental magnitude.

It was their stated position. But, I suspect, some of those opponents wondered if Jesus would make good on the claim.  Tomorrow we will see how this all worked out and, in the end, the unbelievers inadvertently enhanced the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Think about it

Truth is essential.  The claims of Jesus Christ rest on actual historical events, not merely philosophical theory.  Consider the historical evidence for the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.  It is either true or false.  Everyone must face the truth.  Jesus was no imposter.  His claims proved true and we must all take them seriously.

Complete in Him

God’s full deity is in Christ, so we, who are in Christ, have been filled with everything we could ever need.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 43-44; Colossians 2

But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.

25 “I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.                              Isaiah 43:24b-25

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.                    Colossians 2:9-10

Isaiah describes the sorry spiritual state of Israel expressing God’s weariness with their empty religiosity, but also His mercy towards them. Yes, He has had enough of their hypocrisy. They have demonstrated again and again that they only go through the motions of repentance and offering sacrifices. Their best is worthless. But God will not let them go. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He will not blot them out.  No! He will blot out their sins, the sins which have burdened Him. This is the grace and mercy of God.

But how will He do that?  Later, Isaiah will explain how God will do this, without compromising His holiness and justice.

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We find the Apostle laying out for his readers the glories that are found in Jesus Christ. All the deity of God is in Christ. God is fully and completely with us in Christ. Christ is God incarnate, in the flesh. He is filled with wisdom so we need never seek other philosophies. He died and was raised from the dead so that in Him we are raised to life. In Him we are complete, filled, with nothing more to need or long for.

This plan of God revealed partially and progressively in the Old Testament and fully and finally in the New brings God the glory and His believing people salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.   Let nothing and no one delude you, says Paul. Keep walking with Him and be deeply rooted and built up in Him (2:6-7).

Picking your Preacher

Today’s reading: Proverbs 9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-32

9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:9-10

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

The character of a man or woman is revealed in their response to wise instruction.  The wise listen to wisdom and act.  Fools reject wisdom and listen to foolishness.

The writer of Proverbs addresses the wise and the foolish. Like the sower in Jesus’ parable, he puts out the truth and it falls on good soil and bears fruit or on rocky, thorny soil and produces nothing (Luke 8:4-15). The difference is not in the message taught, but in the receptivity of the hearer.

But are we to be receptive to every self-appointed expert, every professor of “truth”? How will we know who to trust? We will know if we fear the Lord. The true teacher fears the Lord and teaches the fear of the Lord. Anyone who teaches otherwise is certainly not from God.

Paul was a faithful teacher and apostle of Jesus Christ. In his letter to the Corinthians, he reminds them that he passed on to them what he had received, the gospel of Jesus Christ who died for our sins, was buried, rose again the third day, and was seen by Peter, the twelve, and five hundred more. Paul was a reliable preacher of the truth. The Corinthians had been listening to fools masquerading as wise. They were being influenced by someone (or more than one) who told them there was no resurrection. The Apostle quickly lists many and strong arguments against this false doctrine.  The historical reality of the resurrection of Christ is foundational to the gospel which is the basis for their faith and salvation.

Will Paul’s readers respond positively to his corrections? They will if they are wise. They will if they fear the Lord.

How do you assess the wisdom of those to whom you listen? Be sure your heart is set to fear God and to gain the knowledge of the Holy One. Choose your teachers and preachers carefully. Be sure they themselves qualify as wise, God-fearers before paying them any attention.

The Authority of the Bible

Today’s reading: Psalm 13-16; Acts 18

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.                                                                                   Acts 18:27-28

The Scriptures of the Old Testament were powerfully and effectively used by the Apostles and other disciples in the first century as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he was helped by some further instruction from Aquila and Priscilla, who had been instructed by Paul. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example.

Lessons from Mount Moriah

Today’s reading: II Chronicles 1-3; John 12:1-19

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.                                                   II Chronicles 3:1

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.                                        John 12:17-18

Mount Moriah is significant in biblical history. We hear about it first when Abraham went to that location to offer his son, Isaac, in response to God’s command (Genesis 22:2). A thousand years later, David buys property from a Jebusite named Araunah or Ornan (his name is recorded both ways) in order to make an offering there to avert the plague, he had brought upon the nation by taking a census. In today’s reading, we learn that the location of that property is none other than Mt. Moriah.  It becomes the location of the temple which Solomon built.

Long before Jesus’ time, the first temple (Solomon’s) had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian invasion and rebuilt. The second temple is the one which is mentioned in the gospels and which Jesus cleansed (John 2:13-17), but it was in the same location, Mt. Moriah. That temple was also destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He rode into Jerusalem and was proclaimed King of Israel by the crowds. John points out that it was because of the resurrection of Lazarus that the crowds came to see and hail Jesus.  All this is occurring in the vicinity of Mt. Moriah and the second temple, soon to be destroyed.

Mt. Moriah had significance because the events that occurred there showed the need for an offering for sin to satisfy the just wrath of God. Abraham learned that God would provide His own sacrifice for sin. David learned that the punishment for his sin demanded an offering. Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate offering. He referred to it when He cleansed the temple of money changers and sellers of sheep, oxen, and pigeons. “Destroy this temple,” He told the Jews, “and in three days, I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). He was, of course, referring to His body, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. (John 2:18-22)

Don’t miss the importance of the lessons taught on Mt. Moriah.

The Tyranny of Public Approval

Today’s reading: II Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47

10 You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”                                                                                        II Kings 14:10

44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?                                                          John 5:44

Seeking glory from society is a sure stumbling block to believing the truth and to living wisely and godly.

Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated Edom. Then he called on Jehoash, king of Israel, for a face off on the battlefield. Jehoash called his bluff and told him to “be content with your glory.”  Good advice, but Amaziah wasn’t buying it. They fought and Amaziah lost badly, not only the battle but all the gold and silver in the temple and the palace. He would die in a conspiracy. He foolishly started and lost a war that was about his own glory, not God’s.

Jesus confronted the Jews who were increasingly opposed to Him and His teaching. He unmasked their motives. They sought glory from one another and not from God. No wonder they could not see that God had sent Jesus, His Son, and that there was overwhelming support for His claims. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own works, the Father’s approval, and the Scriptures all pointed to Him as the Messiah. Those who sought public approval and acclaim were too blinded by their pursuit to see and accept the obvious truth.

How much does public opinion affect your decisions and your viewpoints? Jesus calls us to follow Him, the One who did not seek glory from people. Follow Him and be free from the tyranny of the fear and praise of men. You will be glad in that hour when the dead are called to the resurrection of life and judgment.

 

Courageous Soldiers; Fearful Sheep

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 20-22; Mark 14:26-50

2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ Deuteronomy 20:2-4

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Mark 14:27-28

Moses instructed the people of Israel about the proper sense of confidence in the Lord as they prepared to go into the Promised Land and face entrenched enemies. He did not tell them it would be easy. He did not tell them they were the greatest army ever fielded. He did not tell them their enemies were a bunch of wimps. He told them the Lord their God would go with them to fight for them and to give them the victory.

The key to confidence in the face of battle is trust in the Lord, who is greater than any foe.

Jesus’ disciples also faced a daunting foe, those enemies of the Lord who had conspired together to arrest and falsely charge Him so that He would be put to death. Jesus told the disciples, they would fall away. He even showed them how their fleeing would fulfill Scripture. They were quick to contradict Him, Peter leading the chorus, asserting that he would die if necessary with Jesus. The rest of the disciples joined in agreement.

Of course, these were empty promises. But Jesus also pointed them beyond their failure, to His resurrection and His reunion with them in Galilee. This must have given them comfort even when they failed to stand by Him at His arrest and trial.

The key to remaining faithful under extreme pressure is to focus on God, His presence, His power, and His faithfulness.  He will be with us in the worst of trials. He will never leave us or forsake us. We may waver. We may fall away, like the disciples. But He will never fail us. He is gracious to His fearful sheep.

What scary trial do you face now? Are you confident of His presence? If you have failed to trust Him do you know that He welcomes back His frightened sheep?

As Paul wrote to Timothy, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…” 2 Timothy 2:1.   Be confident in Him. In Christ, there is grace to face your toughest battles and grace to forgive your greatest failures.

Truth about the Claims of Christ

Today’s reading: Leviticus 18-19; Matthew 27:32-66

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. Leviticus 19:11

63 … “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Matthew 27:63b-64

Telling the truth was commanded in the Law of Moses. It needed to be commanded because truthfulness was lost early in human history when the serpent deceived the woman in the Garden. Jesus referred to the devil as the father of lies (John 8:44). All are born into his realm by natural birth. Only by a new birth are we set free from this kingdom of lies and deceit.

The scribes and Pharisees were very aware of the claim Jesus made that He would rise from the dead on the third day. While the disciples were in hiding, fearing that Jesus might be gone forever, the religious leaders were worried that people might actually believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Was there really a danger of the disciples stealing the body and starting a rumor that the Lord had risen? I doubt it. After all, they had shown no courage when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56b). Nevertheless, the stated position of Jesus’ enemies was that He had made a false claim and that the disciples would lie to cover for it creating a hoax of monumental magnitude.

It was their stated position, but maybe even those opponents wondered if Jesus would make good on the claim. Tomorrow we will see how this all worked out and, in the end, the unbelievers inadvertently enhanced the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Truth is essential. The claims of Jesus Christ are rooted in actual historical events, not merely philosophical theory. Consider the historical evidence for the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. It is either true or false. Everyone ought to face the truth. Jesus was no imposter. His claims proved true.