Thursday, January 12, 2017

Amazement or Anger?

When Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) we get to witness a crowd go from amazed at the words of Jesus to angry at the words of Jesus in a matter of minutes.  The crowd in the synagogue knew Jesus because he grew up in Nazareth and probably attended this synagogue since it says in verse 16 that it "was his custom."  The scene is very interesting because Jesus was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and intentionally finds Isaiah 60:1-2a to read:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Jesus rolls up the scroll and hands it back to the attendant.  As was the custom of the rabbi he would then sit down to teach.  The eyes of all in the synagogue are on Jesus as he sits down.  "And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (4:21).  Luke then tells us, "Al all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth" (4:22a).  Based on what we read of the crowds reaction it seems they may have understood what Jesus was saying.  But what they had in mind was a leader who would lead them over Rome.  They were thinking politically not spiritual.  They had temporal issues on their mind not eternal issues.  Doubt begins to arrive as they start asking, "Is not this Joseph's son?"  We have seen him grow up in this place and it did not seem that there was anything special about this boy.  Their amazement quickly turns to doubt.  Doubt leads them to unbelief.

Jesus then cuts to the heart of the issue which has to do with their sin of unbelief.  Jesus says, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard (not believe) you did at Capernaum do here in your hometown as well" (4:23).  Jesus reveals his deity by telling them exactly what they will do in their rejection of him as the Christ.  The proverb, "Physician, heal yourself", is fulfilled when this same crowd screams for Jesus to be crucified says to him while on the cross, "He saved others; let him save himself, is he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One" (Luke 23:35)!  Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him.

Next he teaches them about two prophets who were rejected by the Jews, Elijah and Elisha.  These two prophets were rejected so God sent them elsewhere.  Elijah went to save a widow during the time of famine who lived in Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  Elisha saved a leper named Naaman who was a Syrian (2 Kings 5).  May not sound like a big deal but these were Gentiles God chose to rescue because of Israel rejection of his prophets.  Gentiles were consider unclean dogs by the Jews.  Jesus was showing this crowd their damning sin of unbelief.  It may not make sense to us Gentiles but these synagogue goers hear his message loud and clear.  How would they respond?  "When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath" (4:28).  Jesus struck their hardened hearts.

These in the synagogue loved the idea of Rome being overthrown.  They were amazed by the idea of Jesus leading a revolution.  Finally someone would free them from their oppression.  But Jesus came for a greater freedom.  He came with better news.  He came to set them from their slavery to sin.  He came to bring them an eternal kingdom.  But when confronted their sin they became angry rather then repenting and believing in Christ.  Had it been Jesus' time to die they would have killed him on the spot (Luke 4:29).  But when it was his time to die he did.  He chose to come and die for hard-hearted sinners like those in the synagogue that day and us reading this post right now.  Sin has separated us from our Creator but the Messiah has come to reconcile us to our great God.  There are two responses each of us could have either amazement which will produce repentance and belief or anger which will produce rejection and unbelief.

Be amazed by Jesus!

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Help My Unbelief

Do you ever feel that your faith is weak?  Do you feel like the dad in Mark 9 whose son had an evil spirit that said to Jesus, "if you can do anything"?  Jesus kindly responsds, "If you can!  All things are possible for the one who believes."  There is only one response back to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).  It's easy to theologically criticize this dad who doubted that Jesus could heal his son.  In our pride we may read the story wondering how this dad could ask such a question to the soveriegn Creator of the universe.  "Doesn't he know who Jesus is?"  Yet if I take the time to examine my life and my heart I quickly realize that I ask the same question to Jesus myself.

How do we build stronger faith?

The way to build stronger faith is getting to know the object of your faith better.  Faith means nothing apart for the object which you place your faith in.  If I have faith in a broken object I am going to discover disappointment and suffering.  But placing faith in an object that has been proven good time and time again will produce an ever increasing faith.  This is why we must know the object of our faith or our faith will be weak.

The object of faith that will not disappoint is Jesus.  That statement means I am saying all other objects to which you place your faith will fail.  Jesus never fails.  How can I make such a claim?  That claim is backed up by truth which we find in the Bible.  Jesus never once failed in one promise he made.  He can never fail in fulfilling a promise he has currently made.  When the Bible says he is coming back (John 14;1-6) that is his promise he will fulfill.  When the Bible says trust him with your life that is a promise we can cling to with all our heart.  When the Bible says to repent and believe in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven (Romans 10:9-13) that is a promise he will not break.  When Jesus says, "All things are possible for the one who believes" he is making a promise that he will never break for those who believe in him.  "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Jesus, the covenant keeping God cannot break a promise.  Every promise in the Bible has been fulfilled already, is being fulfilled now or will be fulfilled one day.  We old tight to his promises while he gives us ever increasing faith as we see more of his goodness and kindness to us through his promises.  "Lord, help us to trust your promises because they are promises made that we know will be kept since you are the covenant keeping Christ."

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't be a Glory Robber

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" -Colossian 3:17

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" -1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul is trying to tell us something about life.  No matter what is going on in your life.  No matter the circumstances.  No matter the events.  No matter the time.  Whatever it is or what we do, it ought to all be done in the name of Jesus Christ and for his glory.  God's people desire to represent Christ by ascribing to him the glory.  We are no longer our own but we realize we have been bought with a price, a great price.  We belong to him.  Our allegiance is to him.  Everything we do should be done for his name sake.

In Colossians 3:17, Paul says, "In the name of the Lord Jesus."  "Lord" is "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; he is the master."  Jesus alone has the title Lord.  Remember, "for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorties - all things were created through him and for him" (Col. 1:16).  "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever" (Rom. 11:36).  We belong to him because he created us.  Yet we turned in rebellion against him.  We wanted to have preeminence because in our own idea of wisdom we thought we were a better God.  We are glory robbers.  Glory robbing is a serious sin.  We want or desire people to worship us.  We desire Facebook likes, retweets, followers, friends, comments because we want glory.  Until we can see our sin on this level, the level that understands stealing glory from God is deeply sinful, we will never fully understand God's reconciling grace.  We may tend to be decent people in the eyes of others but oh to see our own hearts!  We want the glory!  We want the praise!  We want to be worshipped!  But we are told that in whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to give him glory!  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Admonishing One Another

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" -Colossians 3:16

Admonishing is to warn or exhort another.  The people who love you the most will not only teach you the truth but, when needed, will admonish you with the truth as well.  Those who love you the most will also take the time to learn how to admonish a brother or sister in Christ.  Those doing the admonishing need grace as well as those being admonished.  Admonishing is not something most of us like to do or have done to us.  Have you ever been admonished?  It hurts.  But a friend will be willing to admonish you in hopes that you will respond in repentance so that furth damages from sin will not occur.  This is a reason why we need to be a part of a local church that holds up the word of God.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thoughts from Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is probably the most well known Psalm.  Since the Psalms are, for the most part, songs then Psalm 23 would be number one on the charts.  Most people even those who have not read the Bible are familiar with Psalm 23.  It is a beautiful Psalm of comfort which depicts God as a loving shepherd to his sheep and a gracious host to his guests.  I would just like to briefly share some of my thoughts on verse 1-3.  

1. The Good Shepherd (1)

Notice David says "The LORD is my shepherd."  The first question to ask: Is the LORD your shepherd?  The rest of the depends on the answer to this question.  If the LORD is not your shepherd then these truths that follow do not apply to you.  These are for the sheep.  Unlike David we can fast forward to the time of Jesus.  We get the full story and know what Jesus says in John 10.  The Good Shepherd is none other than the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, in John 10, says, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (11).  In order to be one of the LORD's sheep you must enter the fold through his terms.  Prior to his proclamation of being the Good Shepherd Jesus declared, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture" (9).  These are the same words Jesus would speak again in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me."  Jesus is the Good Shepherd because he laid down his life for sheep who were being lead astray.  We were wondering in the wilderness while Jesus was on a sheep rescuing mission.  In him we "shall not want."  This is better translated "shall not lack."  The reason we shall not lack is because the shepherd will provide for all our needs.  

2. The Gracious Shepherd (2-3b

We have already seen that the shepherd provides to the point that we lacking nothing.  David is going to continue to show us the graciousness of our good shepherd.  Notice how the next four phrases in Psalm 23 have a pattern of the shepherd doing something on our behalf.  

  A. He makes me lie down in green pastures (2a)
This speaks of the peace brought to us by our shepherd.  Sheep did not rest much because of the anxiety of attack.  But with the shepherd in their presence the sheep are able to lie down in green pastures.  Green pastures also remind us that the lot on which the shepherd gives to his sheep is beautiful and well taken care of.  Remember what Jesus said in John 10:9, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved (safe) and will go in and out and find pasture."  By the Good Shepherd's grace we find peace and pleasant pasture.  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).
 
  B. He leads me beside still waters (2b)
Steve Lawson says, "This refers to waters that have been stilled, further expanding this peaceful scene.  Weary and worn sheep need a long, refreshing drink from the rapid streams.  But being instinctively afraid of running water, the shepherd must pick up a few large stones and dam up a place, causing the rushing stream to slow its current and create quiet waters.  Then the flock may drink with no fear.  God gives true, abiding peace to believers who abide in him and drink of his grace."  This reminds me of the peace Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7, "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

  C. He restores my soul (3a)
When our soul is beaten by the cares of this world or we have failed to trust our Good Shepherd we read that the Good Shepherd comes and restores our soul.  Psalm 19:7 lets us know how the Shepherd restores our soul.  It isn't some magic wand waiving while calling out bippity boppity boo.  That does sound exciting but not real.  God tells us, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7).  The way the soul is restored is through the hearing of God's word.  God has given us his Word for the purpose of knowing him.  Knowing him deeply brings restoration to our soul.  

  D. He leads me in paths of righteousness (3b)
Ultimately the path to perfect righteousness is through a relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  "For our sake, God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in Christ Jesus we might become the rightesouness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Perfect righteousness is a gift of God's grace through imputation.  But those who have been called by God as his chosen people are called to a life of holiness.  God is not only the One who graciously justifies us but he is the One who also leads us in the path of righteousness.  He gives a new heart that seeks to honor and glorify him with our lives.  His grace saves and sustains his sheep.  

3. The Glorious Shepherd (3c)

Why does God act so graciously to his people?  His grace stems from his love for his own name.  God delights in God therefore he is good to us.  Notice in Psalm 23, David writes at the end of verse 3 that he does all these good things for us "for His name sake."  We tend to think God does everything for us because ultimately he loves us.  God does love his sheep but he loves his own glory most.  We should be grateful that this is true of God.  Why?  If God did not delight in himself above everything or everyone else than God would cease to be God.  Whatever or whoever God glorified in more than himself would be God.  In order to be the good and gracious shepherd of his sheep he must be the supreme and glorious God who delights in himself. 

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD" (Ps. 25:7)!

"For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great" (Ps. 25:11). 

"Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake" (Ps. 79:8-9)!

His glory equals our good.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL