Matthew 16:13-20, Part I-III

Matthew 16:13-20, Part I: Who Is Jesus?

Question One: The People’s Answers

 

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Often man’s Duplexity is characterized as a dichotomy. In reality, man is a unit. He has a body but he is more than body. He has a spirt but he is more than spiritual. Man is a whole person. As such, he thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s and their manner of life and leadership (16:12; 11:28-30). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed for them and those under their teaching (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. The Pharisees and their followers had endorsed the adequacy of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves as their own messiah. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one. They needed freedom from Rome and her domination. They denied their spiritual bondage.

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach and instruct the disciples about Himself. His motif was question-asking. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. He waited for an answer and then moved to instruction. This is an excellent tool for one-on-one ministry.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. Jesus was challenging them as He ministered appropriate biblical truth to them in their situation given their level of spiritual maturity and their level of willingness to understand and apply the truth. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah to remove the burden of Rome. The tile Son of Man is used some 80 times in the gospels and all but one by Jesus (John 12:34). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The use of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people gave varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God.

 

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

Matthew 16:13-20, Part II: Who is Jesus?

Second Question: The Disciples’ Answer

 

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal as He honed in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be. The importance of that fact rested on Jesus and His purpose. He asked an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would provide the disciples with a proper view of Jesus, His message, His mission; and a proper view of their message and ministry as God’s agents. All of these aspects were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. What they saw with their physical eyes exceeded their comprehension. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He was exhorting them to consider people and events from the vantage point of spiritual eyes, the eyes of saving faith. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they in the faith? The question is a good one for every believer. Jesus’ question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching as logical and even commendable. They were tempted to be tossed back and forth by accepting human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected and deserved fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly informed in regard to their own salvation and in order to grow as a child of God. Moreover, they needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belts in order to carry the gospel message forward. If the gospel message had no impact on them individually in terms of changed thinking, wanting, and doing, it would have impact on others. The Word of God filets the heart and confronts the person with God’s truth (Heb. 4:12). Change is of the essence for the believer. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

 

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. Jesus’ second question (who do you say I am?) was intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part III: Who is Jesus?

The Source of the Disciples’ Answer

 

In this portion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6 (Acts 7:32) and Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 22:32 and John 8:56-58. In contrast to the crowd, Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).

As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of that person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). Do you agree with Jesus and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation regarding Jesus in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on three facets: you, the knower; the object of your knowledge which should be Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit; and the standard and source for your answer. There is only one true source – God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects and deserves a return on His gift and investment. Salvation and growth in Christlikeness are keys to returning to God what is rightfully His. He deserves all of a person given His way for His glory. Returning to God what is His begins at salvation and continues all the way into heaven. Eternally, the believer will continue to grow in Christlikeness.

 

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People

 

Introduction: the primary goal of this material is to help church leaders shepherd the flock in the giving and receiving medical care. Secondary goals are helping sheep be God’s kind of sheep/counselee/patient, helping physicians be God’s kind of physicians, and helping church leaders help both groups achieve those goals.

 

  1. Personal note: I am a rheumatologist through God’s providence who ordained my choice. The fact of that I am rheumatologist is important for a number of reasons. Not all fields of medicine are the same. General principles override all disciplines but there are significant differences. The field of rheumatology differs in many respects from other fields of medicine. Complaints of misery, often long-standing, are a constant menu for most rheumatologists. The whole person is affected (thoughts, desires, actions or inactions). Patients tend to be long standing as their problems are chronic. Therefore I urge physicians and patients or would-be patients to take note of the general principles of good stewardships as derived from the Bible and apply them to the giving and receiving of medical care in their own area.

 

  1. Our standard is the Bible which:
  2. Is clear, authoritative, necessary, and sufficient for life and godliness including giving and receiving medical care: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
  3. Focuses on relationships, vertically and horizontally, and the whole person: Matt. 22:37-40; Duet 6:4-6.
  4. Addresses stewardship which includes the giving and the receiving of medical care: Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
  5. Presents a worldview that has been interpreted as anti-science and “non-medical”:
  6. The hard sciences such as biology, physics, astronomy, etc.
  7. The soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
  8. Medicine which utilizes the hard and soft sciences.

 

III. The Bible’s orientation is radical, antithetical, counterintuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-self. It presents the doctrine of two ways.

  1. The doctrine of two ways includes such contrasts as natural-supernatural, truth-falsehood, sight and senses–faith, unsaved-saved, lost-found, trust in self-trust in Lord, unclean-clean, and the wide-narrow road.
  2. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to live and function in God’s world.
  3. Man is to grieve God’s way (1 Thessalonians 4:13), be angry God’s way, (Eph. 4:26; James 1:19-20), seek God’s way (Mat. 6:33), and to fear God’s way (Ps 56:3-4; Proverbs 1:7).
  4. There is no Scriptural mandate to worry God’s way, be depressed God’s way, or to be overwhelmed God’s way.
  5. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to practice medicine and to receive medical care. These are extensions of how a person lives (thinks, desires, acts) outside the doctor’s office.

 

  1. Basic anthropology in the giving and receiving of medical care: ma n is the image of God.
  2. Everyone is a religious being, a theologian and a worshipper.
  3. The object of the worship is self, through people and or things or it is God.
  4. Everyone looks outside of self or within for direction and strength.
  5. Everyone is a relational being.
  6. Everyone, believer and unbeliever, has, whether acknowledged or not:
  7. A vertical relationship – to God – in His world.
  8. A horizontal relationship – to others – in God’s world.
  9. A vertical reference to circumstances and to God – God’s providential ordering of life events.
  10. The personal significance of those relationships influence and determine thoughts, desires, and actions in any situation.
  11. Everyone is a revelational being. He receives, interprets, and implements what he has received in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions.
  12. Everyone is a rational being. He is a thinker, initially designed to think God’s thoughts for God’s glory and to partake of the blessing to and for him and others.
  13. Everyone is a moral, ethically responsible being.
  14. Man is faced with the issues of lawmaking and law-keeping.
  15. He makes choices that are cognitive and willful,
  16. Everyone is a representative. Man is not his own but he was designed to follow God’s design in the Garden.
  17. Everyone is a reflector. Man was designed to reflect God’s glory to the world and back to God.
  18. Everyone is faith-based either saving faith or non-saving faith.
  19. Everyone is an affective, emotive being.
  20. He has feelings but he is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  21. Subjectivity is the rule.
  22. The term “feelings” is too often culturized and psychologized.
  23. Everyone is a seeker. The issues are who does he seek, how does he seek, and what is the motive for seeking.

 

  1. More anthropology
  2. Everyone lives out of an identity, is motivated to set an agenda and pursue it.
  3. Man was created the image of God – a whole person – wanting, thinking, and doing.
  4. As a whole person, he is duplex, a complex unity.
  5. He is body as well as having a body (outer man: he is a physical, material being); but he is not only body.
  6. He has a soul (inner man: he is a spiritual being); but he is not only inner man (other terms the Bible uses for the inner man are heart and mind).
  7. He thinks and desires/wants in both his inner and outer man.
  8. He acts in as well as out of/from the inner and outer man.
  9. In every situation (God’s providence), the doctor and patient are theologians.
  10. The issue for both is which kind?
  11. The Bible is our source for the answer.
  12. Everyone is a sensual and faith-based being.
  13. He gathers or takes in information via the senses.
  14. He interprets/evaluates information in both the inner man (heart/mind) and the outer man (brain).
  15. He draws a conclusion.
  16. He acts according to his evaluation.
  17. He has an interpretive grid which is one of two kinds captured in Proverbs 3:5-8:
  18. He trusts God (fear of Lord).

1) He lives according to saving faith, biblical truth, and the application of biblical principles to all of life.

2) He has biblically-controlled thinking and wanting

  1. He trusts self.

1) He is guided by the trio, in part or the whole, of feelings, reason unaided by biblical truth, and/or experience.

2)  He is controlled by his own thoughts and desires

 

  1. Cautions for the helper (pastor, counselor, and doctor) in regard to the sheep
  2. No helper is to be exclusively a spiritual mechanic (focused solely on inner-man activities) or a body mechanic (focused only on the physical) because:
  3. Man is duplex, a whole person, image bearer of God and a theologian.
  4. His situation in life is God’s providential ordering. Life is not just is.
  5. The situation is:
  6. The context for the person to demonstrate the functional significance of his relationship to God in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  7. A tool for him to further develop a God-honoring relationship in Christ.
  8. All helpers are to be listeners and learners:
  9. Listen to learn to love to lead.
  10. Don’t assume.
  11. Understand what the person is saying: clarify clichés and terms.
  12. Understanding the person in his situation is the key to discipleship.
  13. Next the person is to give appropriate truth to the person in his situation given his level of willingness, his knowledge, and his spiritual maturity.
  14. The importance of methodology
  15. Be alert to the fact that the person invariably begins with how he feels, his experience, and his own logic and most often in terms of his trouble often called suffering.
  16. The person is BOTH a suffering sinner AND sinful sufferer.
  17. Labels matter.
  18. Maintain the proper balance between sinner AND suffering.
  19. Ask questions with an inside-out focus.
  20. Inquire about the person’s thinking, wanting, motivation, and resultant actions.
  21. Your goal and your method
  22. The key is to function as a God pleaser.
  23. Minister biblical truth so that it functions vertically – the person’s relationship to God – and horizontally – the person’s relationship to others.
  24. Most sheep/counselee’s/patient’s focus is primarily horizontal (change him or her or the situation).
  25. Any vertical reference is often distorted: view of God, self, and others:
  26. Determine what biblical truth is needed that best fits the person in his situation.
  27. Learn and teach God’s way of change: “put off” and “put on.” by determining:

1) Help determine the genesis of wrong thoughts, desires, and actions

2) Develop the need and even urgency of putting off by putting on.

3) Give hope because of the resources that every believer has in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

4) Help determine the proper biblical replacement and the how if it. Be specific.

5) People change and get victory in the concrete.

 

VII. Helps for the helpers: pastor, counselor, doctor, and patient/counselee

  1. Think “whole-person” and man as “duplex.”
  2. The inner man affects the function of the outer man: inner-man activity of thinking and wanting affects a person’s feelings and activity.
  3. The outer man affects the function of the inner man.
  4. The outer man-inner man connection depends on how and which part of the body is affected.
  5. The physical/material is the area of medicine that is most familiar to people.
  6. Person: what is wrong with my body? Fix me. Give me relief.
  7. Doctor: attempts to find an anatomic and or physiological defect and treat it – accepts the Medical Model of disease.
  8. If no defect found, he still applies the Medical Model and treats – often with psychotropic drugs.
  9. Mental illness and emotional breakdown are loaded terms.
  10. The mind/heart and the brain are not synonymous.
  11. Feelings (they are anatomic rightly understood) and emotions (non-anatomic) are not synonymous.
  12. The mind/heart is immaterial and non-physical.

1) Broken heart: bad feelings

2)  Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has been referred to as acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and “broken-heart syndrome.”

  1. The mind/emotions are not broken.
  2. Often they work overtime in the realm of thinking and wanting.

1) Wrong thinking and wanting leads to symptoms that are called physical.

2) Wrong and thinking is exposed at the time of the event/situation.

  1. Man thinks in his heart (IM) and brain (OM). There is a connection between the outer and inner man that does not appear to be a defined anatomic neural circuit.
  2. Man’s duplexity and its relationship to behavior require serious biblical thinking.
  3. What is needed? There is no science-Bible/biblical truth dichotomy.
  4. The answer is biblically-directed, whole person considerations.
  5. The result will be appropriate application of biblical truth by all involved.
  6. Thinking “whole-person” duplexity means that the outer and inner man is linked.
  7. Wanting, thinking, and doing are both IM and OM activities
  8. Feelings are linked to thinking and wanting so get to the person’s thoughts and desires.
  9. Man is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  10. The trio of feelings, experience, and unaided human reasoning competes with the Word of God especially in the areas of progressive sanctification, problem solving, and decision making.

 

VIII. By divine plan, the goal of every believer to please God. He does that by becoming more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:9 (metaphor of Christian oyster).

  1. This includes the pastor, counselor, doctor, and the patient.
  2. The believer is the most changed person.
  3. He is to be the most changing person.
  4. In part, he does that by bringing biblical principles to bear as he considers his physical problems.
  5. The goal is honoring God by getting victory in the problem not necessarily out of the problem.
  6. Victory is defined as:
  7. Being controlled and directed by biblical principles rather than the desire for relief.
  8. Pleasing God rather than self in the situation
  9. Using the situation/condition to develop Christlikeness
  10. Victory may not include “cure.”

 

  1. The pastor, counselor, and doctor are the teacher and modeler of the above principles as good theologians-stewards:
  2. Stewardship defined: the God-given responsibility of taking care of that which has been entrusted to you with accountability.
  3. Stewardship involves the inner and outer man and every aspect of man as God’s image: thinking, wanting, and doing.
  4. Teach and model biblical stewardship and expect its practice.
  5. It is much more than tithing and giving.
  6. It is a whole-person activity.
  7. The pastor helps the sheep/patient regarding:
  8. The patient’s physician and his relationship to him:
  9. Is the doctor a Christian?
  10. If he is, what does that mean practically for both patient and doctor?
  11. Does the doctor bring biblical principles to bear on the patient in his problem?
  12. In determining:
  13. The doctor’s goal in caring for him.
  14. How the doctor’s practice of medicine differs from that of an unbeliever.
  15. In evaluating the medical diagnosis and treatment.
  16. What is the diagnosis and its basis?
  17. What is the solution, if any, and its basis?
  18. The pastor helps the counselor and doctor regarding:
  19. Understanding that the discipline of medicine at its core is pagan.
  20. Understanding that the problem is not science but the scientist (including the physician) as he evaluates “facts” (no fact is neutral – it is interpreted according to truth or falsehood).
  21. Developing biblical skepticism regarding medicine and its practice:
  22. He takes doctors under his wing.
  23. He finds a doctor and counselor who is a learner and you be a learner.
  24. He teaches them from the Bible and partners with them.
  25. He finds one that is theologically sound or is willing to be.
  26. He helps him see the better way which is pleasing God in the midst of God’s hard Providence. The situation is from God and the patient’s tool for growth.
  27. He helps him see that the consistent, humble application of biblical principles re: the whole person is the best care he can give his patients.
  28. It will be slow.
  29. Doctors may be a valuable ally or an effective enemy.
  30. Find out.
  31. Pray for them.
  32. Doctors are vulnerable and may unknowingly help undermine the gospel message.
  33. Be aware of prayer meetings.
  34. Gear prayer requests toward wisdom issues: growth in Christ and not simply relief/cure.
  35. Teach that God’s answer of no for relief is never no to growth in Christ.
  36. Help the people to be excited about growth in Christlikeness.

 

  1. Thoughts about going to the doctor and receiving medical care
  2. The patient should go to the doctor, not to get, but to please God as a good steward.
  3. Poor stewardship can be manifested via too few or too many visits to the doctor.
  4. Good stewardship can be few or many visits to the doctor.
  5. The same balance applies to exercise, sleep, food, and medications.

 

  1. Thoughts about giving medical care
  2. Does the MD administer or minister? What is it that he does and how?
  3. The goal is to please God and help the patient do the same.
  4. Teach the MD to bring appropriate biblical truth to bear on himself and the patient.
  5. The physical condition of the patient does not alter the essence of biblical truth but it may change how/in what way biblical truth is ministered.
  6. He needs to know theology and medicine well.
  7. He must apply proper theology including man’s duplexity/whole person.
  8. He must have confidence in the Word AND confidence in his use of that Word.
  9. He uses his Bible as his guide.
  10. It won’t tell him the specifics of diagnosis and treatment.
  11. It will direct the physician and the patient in the Truth/truth which is real freedom.
  12. Christian physicians and pastor should develop a biblical skepticism for medicine: its approach to people, its goals, its agenda, its philosophy and its practice.

 

This material may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s permission: jimhalla@yahoo.com

 

 

Love: Part I-VII

Love: Part A

God’s Love: 1 John 4:7-12

 

Love is a common, simple, four-letter word that is so misunderstood. The culture talks about lovers when referring to fornicators and adulterers. Objects of love may be people, animals, activities, and objects. The idea of the word love carries the idea of attraction, desire for, wanting, and feelings – often warm and fuzzy ones. So often a term is used without defining it. Many would say that everyone knows what love is. If that is your starting point, you will miss God’s definition as given in the Bible.

Too often, Christians have bought the culture’s concept and brought it into their understanding of God and themselves. God’s love is unconditional is a common refrain in some areas of the Christian community. Most don’t know what the phrase means. In fact, it is difficult to track down the origin of the phrase. The term is not used in the Bible so it has an extra-biblical origin. But words and terms do matter. Christians must be careful when they use terms that convey a low view of God and His Word and a high view of man.

Actually the term is a selfish one because it suggests that the “lover” does not care about the condition of the one receiving love or affection or overtures or interest. This raises the issue of the purpose of love and loving. Unconditional love carries the idea of giving with no strings attached. Rather as we shall see, God’s love has one sole purpose: it loudly and clearly proclaims His glory. By loving an unlovely and unlovable people by human standards, he saves a people who don’t deserve to be saved (Rom. 5:6-10; 2 Cor, 5:18-21). God loves to show His glory by bringing about a change in people – from His enemies to becoming His family members. God love is supernatural. The noun and verb are linked and at times are inseparable.

Many wrongly interpret God’s love as unconditional. The idea that God loves in spite of himself and in spite of the one loved is unbiblical. God’s love is informed – it is intelligent. God knows himself fully and completely. God knows His creatures. We need to unpack the idea that God’s love is conditional or unconditional or perhaps both depending on one’s definition by searching the Scripture. Scripture has much to say about God and love. One defining text is found 1 John 4:7-12:

v.7: Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

v.8: Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.

v.9: This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

v.10: This is love; not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

v.11: Dear friends since God loved us we ought to love one another

v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish love as a noun and as a verb. The phrase God is love defines love as a noun and God as the supreme Lover. As such, He loves; here love is a verb. From John, we learn that God is love  – a noun (v.8). It is of His essence, His nature, and His Being. Therefore, to correctly understand the concept of love, one must begin with God. Most theologians consider love as one of God’s moral perfections. It is included under the heading of God’s goodness. The fundamental idea of God’s goodness is that God is, in every way, everything that he as God should be. We might call this perfection. God is Perfect. God is good in and for himself. He is also good for His creatures. He is the only and highest good. Goodness and love are linked. Because God is good he is love and he loves. Rightly understood the word love is a mini-definition of God. He is love and He defines love.

Love at the very least involves relationships and action. In this sense we can and should say that biblical love is conditional. Love and loving rests and begins with the Triune God. Love is conditioned by the character of God. If there is no God, there is no love either expressed as a noun or as a verb. From John’s first letter we learn that love is Intratrinitarian. All persons of the Godhead are Lovers. Consequently, there is love within the Godhead. What this love looks like we do not know. We were not there in eternity past.

We do know that there is perfect knowledge, harmony, and functionality within the Godhead. Love involves knowledge and it is conditioned by God himself. Therefore love is conditional. He can’t help but love! It is an absolute necessity for him to love. That fact is a relief for sinners!

Intratrinitarian love is impossible for man to comprehend. John makes this point in verse 12. The Church and the world get a glimpse of God and His love of Himself by His love of others – both His children and enemies. Again love and loving is conditional. They are dependent on the very nature of God. Since love is an action there is evidence of it. Notice that the term or concept of feelings has not entered into the discussion. Generally and properly it is taught that the ultimate demonstration of God’s love to mankind is the sending of Christ, the Messiah and of Christ himself. It is interesting that the Bible emphasizes the evidence of God’s love to mankind. This in itself is a loving action. Trying to comprehend God’s love of himself may be near impossible for man, fallen or unfallen. Therefore God would have believers look at the cross.

Application:

  1. Contemplate the Triune God’s love of Himself. What are your thoughts and how do they influence your love of others?
  2. How do you define love? What is the significance of the fact that God is love?
  3. Consider mankind’s fallen state: why should God love a rebel?
  4. How is it possible for Him to do that very thing?

 

 

 

 

Love: Part B

God is Love

 

Our subject is God’s love and its conditionality or un-conditionality. We began with God because the Bible begins with God (Gen. 1:1-2). God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the eternal God. God’s love of himself is eternal, complete, relational, perfect in knowledge, and active. God loves himself and his creatures because he is love.

God is known by mankind but not as he ought. This limitation is in part due to effect of sin on man’s thinking and wanting and because of who God is. Therefore, God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. We know from nature and the Bible that God is the Revealer and that he has created man as his image bearer. Therefore, man is a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. God desires that he be known and accurately. If God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension, how then will mankind know God and love? John gives the answer in 1 John 4:8: v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (see John 13:34-35). Jesus gives a similar answer in another venue: John 14:8-9. He tells Philip that if the disciples have seen Jesus they seen the Father which is one reason for Jesus’ coming (John 1:18).

Why would God spend so much blood and effort proving to sinful mankind that God is love? Number one, as we have noted, the love of God for himself is beyond human comprehension. Number two, the love of God is conditioned by the very nature of God and the nature of fallen man. Number three, love of enemies is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It is humbling. God loves himself, the perfect Being. How do we grasp that truth as finite and fallen creatures?  In a sense, God stacked the deck. To say that God loves his friends seems palatable and reasonable. To say that God loves his enemies will get a Whoa. The person will ask how that is possible. It gets better and deeper: in some way, God loves his enemies with the same love that he loves himself. That seems impossible but it is a reality. It is a reality only because God is love and his love is conditioned by who he is and who man is.

God’s love is conditional because it depends on his very nature and does not depend on man. Salvation is a reality only if God loved hell-bound, self-loving, and self-pleasing rebels. There would be no salvation if God was not love. Again, God’s love and loving acts are conditioned on God’s nature. No other love or Lover could save man let alone desire to save man.

Fallen man is in danger, lost in guilt, and condemnation. Misery awaits him in this life and the next unless God supernaturally intervenes. We speak of God’s supernatural intervention as salvation and redemption. So we should. We must remember that God is love and He loves independently of man’s fallen condition and estate.  It is as if mankind was placed in the worst condition possible so that salvation would be a WOW activity. God’s love is conditioned by his very nature and nothing in man. In fact, sober judgment would say don’t love the unlovely. Yet God does. This is in stark contrast to the Triune God’s love of himself.

To say that God’s love is unconditional is imprecise if not incorrect. God himself conditions love. His nature is to love and the clarity of his love is shone most clearly when the object of his love is an enemy. The phrase, God’s love is unconditional, misses the point of God’s nature. The word suggests that God is a love machine and that it is his job to love with no strings attached. It emphasizes that God’s love as unselective. He loves everybody without distinction because of something inherent in the person and not in God. That is precisely the opposite point! Everything in fallen man points to leaving him alone. In contrast, there is something in God (his nature is love) that demands him to love. Loving himself perfectly, completely, and eternally does not seem to motivate fallen man to praise and humble fallen man. Apparently God’s love of himself had no impact on the fallen angels.

It is true that God’s love is conditioned by his nature and is highlighted by the state and character of fallen man. There is no condition that any one person can bring to bear on God in order to force him to love that particular person. The person is the recipient of God and his love. He does so because God is love and not because he deserves it. He has nothing – he has no bargaining chip to force God to redeem him.

Once loved by God, there are conditions on the one loved in terms of duty, privilege, and blessings (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 John 5:3-4). The loved one is expected to change in his thoughts, desires, and action toward God, self, and others. The personal cost to be loved by God is zero. God saves. Once a person is saved, there are costs. God expects a return on his investment. He gave his all-in-all and the believer is to give himself daily, 24/7. Growth in love of God and others (neighbors and enemies) is part of the believers spiritual DNA.

 

Application:

  1. Clarify the terms conditional and unconditional love.
  2. God’s love is conditional: agree or disagree and why?
  3. God’s love is unconditional: how is that a dangerous concept? What truth may it carry?

 

 

 

 

 

Love: Part C

God’s Love: Conditional

 

From 1 John 4:7-12, we learned that God is love. Because He is he loves. God loved and loves himself eternally and perfectly. There is no defect within the Trinity. God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. The New Testament speaks of the Father’s love of the Son and the Son’s love of the Father and by implication the Holy Spirit’s love of the Father and the Son. Simply, there is a love fellowship between the three persons of the Godhead (The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14 ESV).

As a consequence or a fruit of Intratrinitarian love, God loves his people. God expresses a common goodness to all his creatures (Matt. 5:43-48; Acts 14:17). But He loves his own in a salvific way. It is a wonderful truth that God’s love is conditional: it is dependent on His very nature. It is good that the condition for God to love does not rest with man.

From man’s perspective one may say that God’s love is unconditional. There is nothing in man to warrant God to love him. The fact that man is made the image of God is his only claim for God to exert kindness to mankind. As Creator, God does extend kindness to men for a time. The fallen angels have no salvation or offer of it. Post-fall there is much about and in man to warrant God’s wrath and never to be loved by God. However, God’s love is conditional: it is conditioned by God himself.

God loves simply because He is love. Thank God that he loves his enemies. One object of God’s love is unlovely people. By man’s standards they are un-loveable. Yet God loves his enemies. There is nothing in a person that forces God to love him or her (Rom. 5:6-10; John 17:9, 14, 20-24). Yet God loves them with a purpose – to bring a people to himself. God’s agenda is for them to become like his Son. There is nothing in man to force God to think and act in a certain way. There is much in man that requires God to act in judgment on mankind. Yet God loves his enemies. Therein is love that God loved first (1 John 4:19). John was speaking to believers. God loves his people in a saving way.

Christ demonstrated Triune love by his perfect obedience before the cross and his perfect death on the cross (John 3:16-21). In addition, we don’t see God but we see others. When self-pleasers, even believers, are kind to others, the world and especially the Church is presented with an insight into God’s love of himself (John 13:34-35; Matt. 5:43-48). Love is more than kindness but love includes kindness.

The ultimate expression to the world of God’s love is the estate of humiliation of his Son which includes the cross. In that way God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Rather they deserve wrath and condemnation. This act of sacrifice on the part of the Triune God points to God as the true Lover. The cross defines supernatural love and pushes the believer toward heaven. There he gets a glimpse of Intratrinitarian love. Seeing Jesus and witnessing his teaching and miracles does not match the cross in terms of revealing the nature of God (John 14:6-9). But even the cross must be seen from eternity past and the love that the Triune God has for himself. Humanly speaking love can be defined as God gives, as He meets a need, no matter the cost, with the correct motive, and by His standard (John 3:16; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25). God’s love of himself is displayed as He loves the unlovely (Rom. 5:6-10).

It is on the basis of God’s very Being that John tells his congregation that they are to love one another – it is a necessity (v.11). Moreover, believers are to love one another because love comes from God (v.7). John sets forth several non-negotiable truths: God is love and he is the fountainhead or source of all love. Several corollaries follow. First, only believers can love. Unbelievers cannot love because they are not born of God; they are not regenerated. Second, loving one another is not a suggestion; it is rooted in who God is and who the believer is in Christ. Third, loving one another is a testimony that God is love, that His love is radical and supernatural, and that the true lover of others is one who is loved by God and loves God (1 John 4:12, 19).

 

Application:

  1. In your thinking, clarify where God’s love originated. What significance does that have?
  2. What are the conditions on God to love?
  3. What are the conditions on man to love? How is it possible for man to love?
  4. Loving others is an expression of being loved by God.
  5. What did it cost you to be loved by God?
  6. What did it cost God?

 

 

 

Love: Part D

God’s Love: Conditional and Unconditional

 

John told his congregation that God is love (1 John 4:8). Since God‘s nature/Being is love, love characterizes all aspects of God’s Being: His holiness, justice, righteousness, mercy, and goodness. Again love must begin with the Trinity. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity that is steeped in the very Being of God. In eternity past, only the Godhead existed. He existed in perfect wisdom, harmony, and functionality. When we speak of God’s holiness, anger, righteousness, and justice, we are to understand that God, in and through love and holiness, placed His righteous judgment and wrath on Christ at the cross. He poured out his anger on Christ. He judged Christ and all believers.

In love, Jesus took the anger every believer deserved. In that sense, sin as a noun, has been given its due: at Jesus’ expense God punished and destroyed sin – its guilt and condemnation. In love, an angry, righteous God was working for each believer as well as himself. Christ went to hell on the cross. God loved his enemies through his Son. In his anger, God lovingly placed Jesus on the cross as a substitute for each one of his people. Moreover, the Holy Spirit indwells the Church and the believer to disarm the sinful disposition of self-pleasing through personal lawkeeping – one aspect of sin’s power. The unbeliever is too busy with self: self-pleasing, self-grasping, and self-exaltation (Rom. 8:5-8; Gal. 5:16-18; Eph. 2:1-3; James 4:1-3). The Holy Spirit is at work enabling God’s people to become more like Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit brings about changes in a person: his desires, attitude and actions and his belief and behavior. In contrast to the unbeliever, the believer is able to please God rather than self. Therefore a believer loves both God and others because he has first been loved (1 John 4:19).

Let’s consider again the term unconditional love. Is God’s love unconditional? From John, we learned that God is love. His love and its expression are conditioned on that which he is – he is love. We rightly expect God to love – it is his nature. However, too often, we begin with ourselves as recipients of God’s love. We must begin in eternity. As discussed in earlier blogs, the first evidence of the fact that God is love is within the Trinity. He loves himself totally and perfectly. Who else was there to love? One can only be amazed that He moves outside of the Trinity to find objects of his love. In marked contrast to himself is perfect, he loves those who are undeserving and unlovely (Rom. 5:6-11). Therefore God’s love is not conditioned by anything in man, about man, or what man can do. There is nothing inherent in fallen man that makes him lovely. Although he is still the image bearer of God, he is lost until saved/loved by God.

God’s love is based on the simple and profound fact that God is love. Although this fact is expressed most clearly within the Trinity, God would have us look to the cross for a clear picture of Intratrinitarian love. God loves himself because of himself. Therefore, God loves fallen men in spite of themselves and in part, because they are the image of God. As mentioned in other blogs, God meets man where he is. The creature, fallen or not, does not comprehend God and the fact that God is love. God meets mankind at his level. Fallen man does not deserve God’s love – he deserves God’s wrath. Yet God, in His holiness, justice, righteousness, goodness, wisdom, and power, loves unlovely people. Contrast the two objects of God’s love: the Triune God and fallen sinners, rebels. What a contrast! God presents himself as the Lover par excellence. God’s love of his enemies does not simply point to the cross but to him. If God was not love, there would be no cross.

Look to the Trinity, then to the cross, and then to your love of others, friends and foes alike. You will begin to discover that God is love, conditioned by His very nature and independent of man’s condition. In fact to love “good” people requires very little (Matt. 5:39-42, 43-48; Luke 6:29-30).

John 14:8-9 records Jesus’ short conversation with Philip. Philip wanted Christ to show (demonstrate) the Father to them. Perhaps Phillip wanted a theophany or a spectacular revelation. As all Israel claimed to want, Philip asked for a sign. Jesus was the Sign – a living Sign. The Messiah was standing before Phillip. If Phillip had seen Jesus with spiritual eyes, the Father and the Triune God would have been seen as well. Christ revealed the Triune God and the true nature of love.  Do you see Him?

 

Application:

  1. Meditate on God, His love, and the object of His love. Write out your response.
  2. How does the fact that God is love and that you have been loved as a believer influence your relation to God and others?
  3. What is the big deal about having a loving God such as yours? Be specific.
  4. Think through the fact that you have been loved to and through death: Christ’s death and your spiritual death to self, sin, and Satan. By virtue of the fact that God is love, He has invested more in you than you have invested in yourself or in him.
  5. What significance do those facts have in your life; why and why not?
  6. Now, as one loved, you are called to love as you have been loved. Consider this working definition of love: give of self to meet a need in order to please God. Write out specific ways that you have been or can be a true lover.

 

 

 

Love: Part E

Is Self-Love God’s Way?

 

The movement of self-love, self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem has been in the rave reaching a climax even within Church in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The concept was touted as Self Esteem: New Reformation by Robert Schuller. The one common denominator in the terms is self. The key was to look to self for a better view of self based on a subjective standard of worth chosen by the person and verified by his feelings. Maslow’s need theory and self-actualization are based on self, self, and self. The concepts are still around but have lost some of their steam. However, it is proper for Christians to ask if there is a godly way to love self. In addressing the issue of self-love, consider these five facts:

  • The Bible’s presupposition that man loves himself (Matt. 22:37-40)
  • God loves Himself (1 John 4:7-8);
  • Man is the image of God and therefore was initially designed to love himself God’s way (Gen. 1:31);
  • The fall and God’s judgment corrupted man and man’s capacity for biblical self- love (Rom. 1:18-20; 8:5-8);
  • John brings love of God, neighbor, and self together in 1 John 4:7-12, 19.

In this blog, I will address the first two truths.

 

  1. Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-37 summarize the dynamic of love by including a twofold exhortation which summarizes the Law and the Prophets. In each case Jesus summarized the essence of the Christian duty and privilege with the words: love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Sadly, the teaching of Jesus has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. This misunderstanding has led to the false teaching that Jesus gave three commands; that without love of self, one can’t possibly love God and others; and that love of self precedes any other activity (Maslow’s jargon). In essence, self takes center stage and self-pleasing and getting becomes the lens by which the person interprets God, self, others, and life (actually those events that God brings into a person’s life).

In each portion of Scripture mentioned above, Jesus gave only two commands. Jesus presupposed that man already loves himself. The Holy Spirit reinforced that presupposition in Ephesians 5:28-29, 33. The husband is to love his wife as he loves himself and his own body. Jesus and Paul highlighted the intensity, fervency, constancy, and quantity of love which was considered a verb. An object of love is assumed. By design God is that object. He deserves and demands to be loved. He is the only being with the credentials to justify those facts. God has designed man to glorify Him by loving him in his presence forever. Biblically, love as a verb is the act of a person giving himself to another out of welfare for, loyalty to, and respect for another. It is a devotion word. In contrast, self-love is giving self to self for self. This activity can take many forms.

  1. In 1 John 4:7-8, John writes that God is love and the Lover. Intratrinitarian love teaches the believer how he is to love God, others, and self correctly. Whom did God love? He loved himself from all eternity! Love involves knowing, giving, and enjoying. God gave Himself to Himself. He withheld nothing. Intratrinitarian love focuses on each person of the Trinity. Each person has revealed Himself completely, totally, and comprehensively so that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit know and are known by the other. God holds nothing back from Himself. Therefore, God’s love is exhaustive, knowledgeable, revelational, and relational. Love of man by man is to follow the Intratrinitarian pattern. Man is to move outside of himself to the other person. Being known by God and knowing God are prerequisites for properly loving God and thereby loving self.

Love is considered an aspect of the goodness of God. A fundamental idea of the goodness of God is His worthiness. God in every way answers in all parts to the ideal which he is in himself. God sets the standard because he is the standard. God is in every way all that God should be. There is no part of God that is lacking; there is no part of God that is not good. Since God is good in himself and for himself, He is good for and to his creatures. He is the highest good and the fountain of all good (1 John 4:7-8). His goodness is revealed in his common kindness to both friend and foe alike; in the salvation and sanctification of his people; in his mercy, and in His long-suffering. God out of and from love graces his people.

The love of God is a specific aspect of His goodness in which God eternally communicates himself not only to himself but to his creatures. He gives himself in word, deed, and person. He The Triune gave himself in Christ, the living Word (John 14:6). God through the Son, the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of himself (John 17:17). Motivated by love, God desires His creatures to know Him and to enjoy him, now and eternally. God moves from the Trinity toward fallen creatures. God has a proper self-focus. God loves himself but that love moves from him to others. He is best honored and served when his enemies become his children and serve and honor him.

 

Application:

  1. How are love of God and love of self linked?
  2. How is it possible for any being including God to love?
  3. What was one effect of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment regarding th dynamic of love?

 

 

Love: Part F

Is Love of Self God’s Way?

 

In last blog I considered two foundational truths in the study of self-love. The first consisted of the command to love God and neighbor even though every person is steeped in self. A second truth focused on God the Lover and source and model of love. In this blog I consider a third foundational truth.

III. Adam and Eve were created as image bearers of God and very good (Genesis 1:26-28, 31). They were designed to live in God’s world his way for his glory and for their own good. Their good was linked to God’s glory and the benefit of all mankind. They were designed to properly love self.  Pre-fall they were properly related to God and to each other. Love of self was proper because they were in proper relationship to God. Proper relationship with each other and self logically followed. Love of self was based on a true knowledge of and a proper orientation to God, self, and others. It was proper and best for Adam and Eve to love themselves and each other. The way to properly love self was by loving God which led to loving each other.

Proper love of self requires a person to view himself from the same perspective as God did and does. Man is the image of God and as such God loves man. God loves man for His own sake. One theologian wrote: God loves in mankind Himself. God loves himself first and most, completely and perfectly. That is a source of comfort and joy for all believers. Since God loves himself as part of his very nature, so, too was man designed to love self because man is an image bearer of God. Pre-fall, man was in proper relationship to God, others, and self. Therefore, he was able to imitate love of self as modeled by God’s love of himself. Adam had a right concern about himself and Eve as they were in proper relation to God. A denial of these pre-fall facts distorts is actually is self- hatred which has drastic consequences (Proverbs 8:32-36).

Biblical love is factual, relational, and revelational. Therefore self-love involves proper knowledge of self as a whole person – body and soul, and proper application of biblical truth. The goal for man is to return himself to God daily as he prepares for eternity. God calls all mankind to give an account of who they are and how they have responded to the duty and privilege of rightly loving self. Rightly loving self will be demonstrated in proper love of God and others. Proper self-love looks away from self to God. Every person is to return to God that which is due God. That something is the person – all of him. The believer is equipped to please God. This is what Jesus did (John 4:31-34; 5:19-30)! He calls the believer to do the same when he exhorted the disciples to deny self, take up his cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:24-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27; 14:25-27; John 12:25-27). Self-pleasing can be ONLY be equated with biblical self-love when love of self considers God and others first and from God’s perspective. In pleasing His Father, Jesus was practicing and modeling Intratrinitarian love. He was modeling biblical self-love. Jesus was consumed with pleasing God and therefore loving himself. He had a proper view of self-love because He had a proper of self and God.

In eternity past the Triune God covenanted to save a people for himself which was a most loving activity (John 6:35-43; Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:28-30). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are self-lovers and God-pleasers par excellence. Proper self-love is linked to pleasing God. In fact, proper knowledge of self leads to proper knowledge of God; a proper knowledge of God leads to a proper knowledge of self. If there is no God, there is no love. There is only selfishness and misery follows in this life and the next.

 

Application:

  1. What is the significance of the truth that God is love for you?
  2. Love is factual, relational, and revelational: explain.
  3. Properly loving self is first focused on the Triune God, His nature and commands and secondly on your neighbor. How should you and will you apply these truths to you?

 

 

Love: Part G

Is Love of Self God’s Way?

 

In this final blog I cover two additional truths that help to clarify the biblical doctrine of self-love.

  1. Jesus understood the effects of the curse of sin. Post-fall, the two underpinnings of love – proper relationship and proper knowledge of God and self – were lost. As a result of the fall and God’s judgment, man was and is out of proper relationship to and with God, others, and self. As a result, man suppresses and resists the truth of God and self (Rom. 1:18-20). He then functions as a truth exchanger and an idolater (Rom. 1:21-25). This mindset and lifestyle continues unless God supernatural intervenes.

Self-love and idolatry are almost synonymous. The capacity to properly love – God, others, and self – has been corrupted. Proper self-concern was eliminated and replaced by selfishness. Self takes center stage. Following satanic counsel became mankind’s modus operandi which took the form of self-pleasing via self-worship. Man became an idolater! He served and serves himself at the expense of pleasing and serving God. Proper biblical love of God and neighbor became non-existent. Consequently, the sinner used God and others to get for self.

  1. 1 John 4:7-12, 19 is a summary of God’s explanation for reversing the effects of the fall in the area of self-love. It builds on Matthew 22:37-40 and the parallel accounts in the gospels. John presupposed sinful self-love and highlighted God’s solution. He began with God as the fountain of all love – God is love and he loves (v.7-8). God is Lover par excellence. In response to God’s love of him, the believer truly loves. Only the believer can properly love. He is and will grow in loving God, others, and self God’s way.

Man’s capacity to love is derivative and initially it was properly directed toward God and others. Once God judged Adam and with him the whole human race, the capacity to love was directed toward self for self away from God and others. Upon regeneration (born of God – v.8), the believer can truly loves because he has been loved by God (v.19). The believer was regenerated, in part, so that he could love God and love others God’s way. As a result, self-love begins not with self but with God and others. The biblical view of love including self-love destroys the validity of all psychological theories. Proper self-love looks away from self to God and others. With that, we have come full circle and are back to a Matthew 22:37-40 and a proper understanding of love.

 

Application:

  1. Define love.
  2. How does your love model God’s love of Himself?
  3. How is it possible to self-love?
  4. What does godly self-love look like and from what does it spring?

 

 

 

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part A: Who Do YOU Say I Am

      Matthew 16:13-20 Part A:      Who Do YOU Say I Am

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Man thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, we find Jesus with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s (16:12). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. They had endorsed adequate law keeping by virtue of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Jesus continued to instruct the disciples. Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach the disciples about Him. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. Asking questions, waiting for an answer, and then moving to instruction is an excellent discipling tool and a one-on-one ministry tool.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. It is essential for ministering the appropriate biblical truth to the person in his situation in order to help the problem given his level of spiritual maturity and his level of willingness. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah. Only Jesus used the title (Matt. 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 24:30). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It was used some 81 times in the Gospels. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The used of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people had multiple and varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

 

       Matthew 16:13-20, Part B :   Who Do YOU Say I Am

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal by honing in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be (einai). Jesus was asking an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would equip the disciples for a right view of the essence of Jesus’ message and mission and a right view of their message and mission as God’s agents. All three were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they were in the true faith? The question is a good one for every believer. His question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching or at least were tempted to be tossed back and forth by human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly prepared in regard to their own salvation and for growth as a child of God. They needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belt in order to carry the gospel message forward. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith with Him was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. The you in Jesus’ second question is intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

      Matthew 16:13-20, Part III:     Who Do YOU Say I Am

In this potion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6; Matt. 22:32; Acts 7:32. Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33). As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of the person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). A second question follows: do you agree with Him and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son were one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on you, the knower; the object of your knowledge, Jesus Christ; and the standard and source for your answer, God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects a return on His gift and investment.

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

 

 

Philippians 2:14-17: Grumbling and Complaining: a Measure of Your Functional Unbelief and Dislike and Distrust of God

Philippians 2:14-18: Grumbling and Complaining: Part I

A Measure of Your Functional Unbelief and Dislike and Distrust of God

 

Where are you on the grumbling and complaining scale? In Philippians 2:14 Paul gives a sweeping imperative: Do everything without complaining (murmuring) or arguing (complaining). Several points are worth noting:

  • The verse follows on the heels of verses 12-13. In those two passages Paul directs the people to work out their salvation in general and the solution to their problems in particular. The command is simple and direct.
  • Saved people are to think, desire, and act like saved people. Paul wanted the congregation to focus on the proper activity of saved people.
  • The congregation as well as individual believers are to grow in Christlikeness. That is, they are to think, desire, and function as God-pleasers rather than self-pleasers.
  • In verse 13 Paul gives the reason why the Philippian believers are to aggressively pursue Christlikeness: God through the Holy Spirit is at work within the person and within the Church. The Holy Spirit has changed the believer from the inside-out and indwells the person. The Holy Spirit works in and with the person but never for or against the person.
  • Proof of God’s work within the Church and the believer is growth in Christlikeness. As a result, God is glorified, the individual believer is blessed, and the body of Christ grows as well. It is a win-win situation

In verse 14, Paul began to work out what Christlikeness will look like in the life of the Church and a believer. There is to be no grumbling and complaining. Paul paints the not picture by emphasizing the seriousness of grumbling and complaining. He gives no leeway. The command is an absolute. The command has a relational reference. Grumbling and complaining disrupts unity within the body of Christ and within the individual. It is anti-Intratrinitarian. The harmony and functionality within the Church and the husband and wife should be modeled after the Trinity (Eph. 5:32). Further, grumbling and complaining works against unity by facilitating disunity (see 1:27-2:3; James 4:1-3). It is an attack on God and His control. It is an expression of a person’s unbelief, distrust, and dissatisfaction with God and His control at that moment.

Grumbling and complaining is so common and has many forms. The Bible highlights the seriousness and sadness of grumbling and complaining in several passages. Grumbling and complaining flows from and enlarges a discontented, divided heart (see Numbers 11, 21 and 1 Cor.10). Something is amiss in the person’s world (actually in God’s world!) and the person is compelled (actually he compels himself!) to voice his displeasure. He may think he is grumbling and complaining only to himself or only to others around him. Bur the circle widened when he included others as his audience.         Actually and ultimately the dual activity is directed to God and against God. Such is the ignorance and arrogance of mankind. Yet it is often pointed out that “we all do it.” The universality of arrogance seems to mitigate a proper view of the activity itself and of the grumbler and complainer. In fact, the grumbler and complainer is a dependent creature (not the Creator!) who has inverted his position in God’s world (not his world!). He is functioning as policeman and overseer and acts as if he has the right to voice his displeasure to anyone and perhaps to everyone.

In verse 15, Paul gives a powerful motivator against grumbling and complaining and a powerful motivator for contentment, gratitude, and joy. Grumblers and complainers are not Christ-like and they will not become God’s spotless and blameless children as was God’s original design in eternity past (Eph. 1:4). In fact, they more resemble Satan.          Grumbling and complaining is the opposite of growth in Christlikeness. Rather grumbling and complaining stunts growth in Christ. The crux of the matter centers on the simple fact that grumbling and complaining demonstrates one’s view of what it means to be a child of God. The believer is God’s child and that fact should usher in an attitude of joyful contentment. Some may think that is heavy theology given their circumstances.

If one does not hold his membership in God’s kingdom and family in high regard, it is because he does not hold God’s Fatherhood and Christ’s Brotherhood in high regard. Grumbling and complaining then becomes a patterned way of life. It attacks God and His control. The grumbler and complainer voices his displeasure at the way God is running the world, lives the lie, and holds membership in God’s family and kingdom in low esteem. At the moment of grumbling and complaining, the beauty and privilege of being God’s child plays no role in his thoughts, desires, and actions. Membership in God’s kingdom and family is a supernaturally wonderful thing but the grumbler and complainer functionally denies that truth.

 

Application:

  1. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and catch a glimpse of the beauty of your changed family and kingdom status. Describe its significance.
  2. Reflect on the bad news (what you were in self and Satan), the good news (what you are in Christ) and the cost to God for that transfer. How do those facts stimulate you to a proper view of God, others, circumstances, and yourself?
  3. Mediate on Ps 34:8 (come and taste and see that I am good) and 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
  4. The next time you are tempted to grumble and complain recite and apply Psalm 34:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and Philippians 2:14-17 to yourself and your situation. Record the results.

 

 

Philippians 2:14-18: Grumbling and Complaining: Part II

God’s Antidote:

 

Paul has made clear that there is to be no grumbling and complaining by the Christian and within the Christian community. These are stout words. They seem impossible to understand let alone apply given people and circumstances. Some background regarding the letter to the Philippians is in order. Paul is the author of letter which he wrote from a Roman prison during his first imprisonment. The greatest missionary was “tied up” seemingly out of commission.  But he considered himself a prisoner of and for Christ (1:7, 13, 17). Circumstances did not dictate truth. The God of circumstances did. In verses 12-18 of chapter 1 he explained his thought processes.

The letter is a letter of joy and thanksgiving for their partnership with him in the gospel ministry. At the same time, he had a concern for unity (1:27-2:5).  Paul encouraged the people to preserve biblical truth and to persevere in the application of that truth (1:9-11).  In that way they would participate in the living Christ and imitate Him (Heb. 12:1-3). Love, knowledge, and discernment were to be properly linked. When they are, the people would not jettison themselves from the living Christ and their union in and with Him. The congregation would rejoice in their oneness in Christ and with each other. Paul had a concern and desire for the Philippians to live as faithful children of God individually and corporately. To that end, he addressed the issues of unity and disunity.

Paul described the proper approach to life in Philippians 2:14-16 which was to do everything – all things – without grumbling and complaining. The term and concept everything is all-encompassing. It covers every aspect of life especially body life. Paul is not simply calling for a type of obedience. He is speaking of a mindset that gives rise to faithful service in the Kingdom.  The service is summarized in one word – love (John 13:34-35). The command to love is not new and it begins with the household of God (1 John 3:23; 4:7-12, 19-21). This mindset is the mindset of Christ (Matt. 27:12-14, 34-44; 1 Peter 2:22-23; 4:19).

You could summarize Paul’s exhortation as: put on the mindset of Christ. This is exactly what he wrote in Philippians 2:3-5. The continuing and end result of no grumbling and complaining is growth in Christlikeness and the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan as expressed in Ephesians 1:4 for the believer and in Ephesians 5:27 for the Church. Paul is speaking of progressive sanctification of people who were tempted to be pro-self and anti-God. Most would say this description is of the world. The world is less a place and more of an anti-God, pro-self mindset (1 John 2:15-17). The Church and believers throughout the ages are faced with a crooked, perverse, evil, adulterous culture. There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). Sadly, the Church can look so much like the world. God’s people have retained and display the image of Satan rather than the image and mindset of Christ. Paul called for the people to whoa themselves.

What is the put on or replacement for grumbling and complaining? It is not simply a new behavior. Behaviors and actions root from somewhere. They have a source – the heart (Prov. 4:23). At its root grumbling and complaining is dissatisfaction with God and His circumstances – His control. Dissatisfaction flows from a wrong view of God, His providence, and self. Unless the person changes his view of God and self he will continue to be a patterned grumbler and complainer even if it is only within himself.              Paul preceded this call to cease and desist as grumblers with the call to work out solutions to their problems (2:12-13). Other people were not the problem. Paul pointed to each one – YOU are the problem.  Paul would not have written verses 12-13 if they did not have everything needed for life and godliness. They had the provisions to think, to desire, and to act according to biblical truth.

Armed with the simple but supernatural truths is and should be a strong motivator to trust, hope, and obey. Sandwiched between verses 14-16 which call the people to stop grumbling and complaining is another pillar of truth: the believer is a shining light in the darkness and deadness of the world of anti-God, pro-self people (v.17-18).

You might say that Paul is speaking metaphorically of a whoa sandwich. The whoa is the middle portion and is given in verses 14-16.  The ends of the sandwich are given in verses 12-13 and in verses 17-18. Paul reminded the people of life after salvation which included working to bring unity to themselves and the congregation. In that way the Church and believers would not only imitate Christ but also Intratrinitarian activity.           On the other end, the Church is a shining light. But the true Light entered into the world and came to His own He was rejected. Therefore, the Church can expect the same response when it is imitating Christ. The Church is light and must function as such (Eph. 5:8-14). The Philippians needed to remember their position in God’s economy and God’s provision for them. So, too, is the Church.

Although Paul does not spell it out in these terms, a person is not a grumbler and complainer when he rejoices and is thankful for Who God is and what He has done. That is the thought content continued in Matthew 22:37-38 expressed in a different form. Matthew 22:39-40 summarized the believer’s relationship to others – he is to love the brethren in tangible ways. Both of these activities are predicated on a changed view of self, God, and others. When that happens contentment comes from simply pleasing God. That was God’s original design for man at creation.

 

Application:

  1. What is the anti-grumbling/complaining sandwich?
  2. What biblical truths underlie putting off grumbling and complaining?
  3. What are the put ons for grumbling and complaining and how would each look in the life of a believer? Remember to discuss changed thoughts and desires, as well as actions.

 

 

Matthew 7: The log and the Speck in the Context of Relationships

Matthew 7: The log and the Speck in the Context of Relationships

 

God created man a relational being – vertically (to God) and horizontally (to others). Man also has the capacity to love himself. In another blog I discuss this triad. Jesus captured these non-negotiable truths in Matthew 22:37-40 (my paraphrase: as a whole person, thoughts, desires, and actions, the first commandment is to love God with everything you have, and the second is like it – love your neighbor). Man was intended to live with others and relate to them in a God-honoring way. Post-fall, concern for self and self-absorption became mankind’s patterned lifestyle.

Man is a sinner even if he is saved. As a result, people sin against others and people are sinned against. Therefore, relationships are affected. Misery and strife, within and without, are often the order of the day. Issues, when considered from a biblical perspective are trivial but not at the time. These issues by God’s providence often expose the fragility of some relationships both horizontally and vertically. Yet relationships are not the problem. Relational problems are people problems – one or all parties. Gathering and interpreting facts and responding to them and the person are part of the dynamics of personal relationships.

God expects and has equipped believers to love one another. Love of the brethren marks a person as a disciple of Christ and is to characterize God’s church (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:7-12). Matthew 7:1-6 gives insight into an aspect of relationship building. It focuses on the proper manner of judging. It gives direction as to how to develop and grow God-honoring relationships.

In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus taught that it is easy, even “natural,” to wrongly focus on another’s sin. Because of a wrong focus and as a consequence of the wrong focus, you, the “judge,” will neglect doing a spiritual self-inventory. Effectively, you will avoid judging yourself. Functionally, you are more interested in attacking the person and his sin (your speck) rather than focusing on you and your own sin and sinfulness (your log). This is easy to do especially if the sin against you is great or considered great by you.

These verses teach that each person has a log and a speck. Your sin is your log which prevents you from seeing clearly his sin (your speck) as well as your sin (your log). Your speck is his sin because it is his. Jesus makes the all-important point that there is no such thing as big and little sins or little and big sinners. Forgiveness and reconciliation for sin and personal sinfulness require Christ’s shed blood.

Wrongly focusing on the other person’s sin (your speck) will functionally hinder you from addressing your log. As a result, no meaningful growth in Christlikeness will occur in you or in him. Individuals and relationships will not mature. Church life will be stalemated and strife will be the order of the day. It is not a pretty picture (see Gal. 5:13-15; James 4:1-3).

It is easy for you to take your eyes off self because of your improper self-reference. It is easy to fail to look up to God because of an improper vertical-reference. When you do your emphasis (“eyes”) is on the sins of the other person (improper other- reference). As a result, relationships will dishonor God; there will be angst in the soul because you are functioning as a hypocrite (the hypocritical judger) rather than a fellow brother-sinner. Moreover, the cause of Christ will be harmed (John 13:34 -35).

Every sin has a vertical reference – it is a sin against God. Your sin (your log) required a just God to demand full payment. Jesus paid it at the cross. Many sins have a horizontal reference – against another. Sin separates – you from God and others. Your log is your sin and must be dealt with before God and before you address the other person’s sin against you – your speck. Jesus is not teaching that believers should ignore another person’s sin. He is putting things in proper perspective. Jesus exhorts you to be as aggressive about your own sin (s) as you are about being sinned against. As you address your sin you will be growing in Christlikeness and you will be in a better position to receive truth and to minister truth to the other person.

In these verses Jesus calls his people to judge but to begin with self (the log). As you move to the other person, always remember that the one who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 18:21-35). Love begins vertically but is expressed horizontally – to spouse, family, and enemy. The minimum that what “love looks like” is a willingness and eagerness to forgive (Mark 11:24-26).

 

Application:

 

  1. Relationships are to be God-honoring. Are there any of your relationships that are not?
  2. Search for your log: what did you do or not do that made it easy for the other to sin?
  3. If there are sins you committed, repent of the biblical principle violated, the pattern if appropriate, and the excuses for the sin including slowness in repenting.
  4. Seek to clear the bar that separates you from another believer and leave the results to God.

 

 

Luke 17 and 1 Thessalonians 5: The Joy of Thanksgiving                                

Luke 17 and 1 Thessalonians 5, Part A

The Joy of Thanksgiving                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Believers are called to be thankful people. What is a thankful person? It is one who says thanks! He is grateful for something. What is that something and what are the ways to say thanks? Saying thanks must begin vertically – Godward. All things flow from God’s sovereign hand.  Every person’s time is in God’s hand (Job 14:5; Ps. 31:15). That fact is often denied or rejected when a person is faced with the loss of a loved one.  An equally often denied truth, if not overly at least covertly, is God’s good, purposeful control. Some tines believers function as if God should treat them better than He did His Son! God and His providence whether pleasant or not is the object of the believer’s response. Thanksgiving is the proper response because God acts in the best interest of Himself and His people. That latter statement is often misunderstood and neglected. Thanksgiving too often focuses on the gift given rather than the Giver.

Saying thanks may be in words or deeds or both. Gratitude is a duty and a command but more importantly, it is also a privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3). Paul wrote: Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you (1 Thess. 5:18). The object of the gratitude is God and not necessarily what is given. God has a purpose for everything He gives. Paul closed his letter by reminding the Thessalonians that God had changed them through regeneration. As saved people believers are the most changed people AND they are to be the most changing people. Therefore they are to be the most thankful people. Paul expected God’s people to be quick to acknowledge God’s presence, power, promises, plan, purposes, and provisions. These six words must be understood under the rubric of God’s control, power, faithfulness, and goodness. God is good and all that He does is good. He is forever and always faithful and trustworthy (Psalms 100:5; 119:68).

Luke takes up the matter of thanksgiving in Luke 17:11-19. You may know the story. Jesus first came to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). His intention was to bring all His people into His kingdom but He had an order of priority (Isa.42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32). He began with Israel.

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He had kingdom business there (Luke 9:51). As He entered a village, He encountered ten men with leprosy standing at a distance. The leper was considered unclean. In the Old Testament, the leper was put outside the camp and in Jesus’ time he was quarantined. Lepers were considered unfit, social outcasts, and exiles (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-4; 12:14-15). Jesus in the Gospels used leprosy, a physical condition, as a description of sinful man’s unclean and putrid heart.

The ten men were apparently of mixed nationality which was not uncommon in the area where two provinces met. Their condition bound them together in spite of their national rivalry. Samaritans were Israelites who lived in the northern kingdom and inter-married with Gentiles after the Assyrian invasion. They were rejected by the Jews in the intertestamental period. Perhaps the most notable enmity in the land of Israel in the first century A.D. was the bitter animosity between Judeans and Samaritans. By including a Samaritan in the group of lepers Jesus transcended the racial and religious boundaries of the times. He put both the Jews and the Samaritans together as fellow Israelites (see Luke 10:25-37). In doing so, Jesus overturned the prejudices of the first-century Jews and Samaritans toward each other and ultimately toward God. However Jesus’ teaching was concerned with more than religious discrimination. Jesus emphasized grace and not position, pedigree, and performance (see Phil. 3:3-6). Each person cried out to Jesus for healing. As a group they we bound together as needy people. Only one learned the proper definition of needy and thanksgiving.

 

Application:

  1. A common problem joined ten people and all ten looked to Jesus. What does that action say about the people and about Christ?
  2. Thankfulness begins vertically. Give reasons.
  3. Explain the statement: healing is both spiritual and physical.

 

Luke 17 and 1 Thessalonians 5, Part B

The Joy of Thanksgiving: Saying Thank You and for What

 

Luke described the lepers in a familiar position: they stood at a distance (in contrast to Luke 5:12-16) as they cried out to Jesus. The cry was one of strength and confidence much like the cry of Jesus on the cross as He breathed His last (Luke 23:46). The lepers expected Jesus to help – to have pity on them. They were asking for mercy not a handout. Grace and mercy differ in that mercy focuses on misery and the consequences of sin and its relief, and grace looks more at the guilt of sin and forgiveness. Jesus directed them to the priest. All ten left and presumably headed to the priest. Jesus would not have sent a Gentile to the priest.

Verification of cleansing, but not healing, was required by law (Lev. 14:1ff). The word for cleansing is katharizo. In the New Testament the removal of leprosy is called cleansing and not healing (Matt. 8:3; 10:8; 11:5; Mark 1:42; Luke 4:27; 7:22; 17:14, 17). The removal of diseases is spoken of as iaomai and therapeuo which emphasize healing, most often of the body. We get such words as therapy and therapeutics from the latter word. The concept of cleansing should return all Israelites to the book of Leviticus. Daily, the Israelites were faced with the admonition to be holy as I am holy and to distinguish between unclean from clean (Lev. 10:11; 11:44-45; 15:31). Entering into God’s presence required cleansing and purification through the shedding of blood by way of the sacrificial system and by an ordained priest. The system pointed to Christ, the true Israel, the true Priest, the new Temple and Zion, and the true Sacrifice.

Ten people left unclean and headed to the priest to meet the requirements of the law. All were cleansed but only on returned to Jesus. The nine missed the real issue: a new system of reality and a new mode of existence had come on the scene in the person of Christ. His healing ministry was a sign for all to see. This person was not your typical Jew. They miss the reality of Jesus and His ministry because they missed the condition of their hearts which was self-focused. Jesus was presenting Himself as the better way.

All ten were blessed but only one truly understood. Thankfulness may have been a motive for all ten to go to the priest but they missed the big picture – the Cleanser Himself. The Samaritan, the one on the “wrong side of the tracks,” knew the object of his gratitude. He had been blessed by the Blesser. He went, not to the priest, but to Jesus. He was more concerned with praising God than with showing himself to the priest. Jesus acknowledged the Samaritan’s faith and its expression. Jesus told him that his faith had made him well. The word for well is sozo a common term. It means to save or to deliver; the word refers to both physical and spiritual deliverance. The Samaritan had proven faithful. His faith was active and vibrant.

The Samaritan showed spiritual maturity; the others did not. Why? The nine lived according to their own law-keeping and ritual-keeping. They did not grasp their real need: a Messiah Who kept God’s law perfectly and would die a perfect death because He was the perfect sacrifice. They did not grasp the significance of the old creation which was steeped in foolishness, personal law-keeping, and misery. Biblically, the nine Israelites were much like the spiritual leaders and the people of today. They knew nothing of their deadness and darkness and consequently failed to grasp the light and the truth – Jesus Christ and His love. They rejected Christ as the God-man. In contrast, the despised Israelite got it. He was a man of gratitude for the gift and the Giver.

 

Application:

  1. Develop a thank list.
  2. Observe your priorities: do they begin with you, others, or God?
  3. How are you like the nine and how are you like the one?
  4. What must you do to grow as a thankful person?

 

True Liberty: John 8:31-33

True Liberty: John 8:31-33

Discipleship

 

The 4th of July is here. What a great day! On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the people of America independent from the British colonies. Two days later there occurred another historic day. On that day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence – freedom from tyranny and foreign oppression. For Americans who cherish freedom, July 2nd and the 4th are tremendous, even mind-boggling days.

As good as it is to be an American there is something better. The Bible, the only true answer book, gives what that something is. One of the Bible’s main subjects is freedom and God is the Provider of true freedom. The Bible begins with God. It teaches that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1-2; Ps. 102:25). The universe is His (Pss. 24:1-2; 50:8-12; Acts 17:24-28). The Triune God sent the Son in order to redeem His creation and His people (Luke 4:18-22; Rom. 8:18-21). That is true freedom. Creation and redemption are linked.

What was the cost of that freedom? God sent His Son to die for unworthy, undeserving, and rebellious sinners (Rom. 5:6-10). God saved His people from Himself as Judge; themselves as self-pleasing enemies and rebels of God; from sin – its power and penalty; from misery in this life and an eternal destiny in hell; and from Satan, the father of lies and liars. Setting the captives was a divine program with stupendous results!

The Bible declared that the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32 speaks of true freedom: To the Jews who believed in him, Jesus said: If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. What wonderful words of comfort but also challenge. The phrase believed in him referred to those people who had made a formal profession of faith. Jesus clarified what He meant by the phrase believe in Him with the words: If you hold to my teachings. His disciples cherish and hold on to Christ and His teachings not simply speak words or perform ritual service. Jesus adds more clarity to true discipleship. His disciples know the truth and the truth sets them free.

Apparently there were Jews who believed in Christ (v.31). That sounds like a good start! The words indicated that they believed that they were freed people – truly liberated. Jesus went on to explain that the test of a true profession was endurance – holding fast to Jesus, the Person and His words. That explanation did not fit with the Israelites’ concept of freedom. They thought the only slavery that they had was physical – bondage to Rome.

Early in His ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Liberator of His people (Luke 4:18-22). In His inaugural public sermon, Jesus claimed that He would pay the ransom price and set prisoners free. Freed men – those saved – would not return to a patterned life style of self- pleasing in its many forms. Rather, true disciples hold to Christ and live as changed people – thoughts, desires, and actions directed toward loving God and loving neighbor. The statement by Jesus strongly indicated that the believer, and only the believer, has the capacity and will to shed his sinful patterns of self-pleasing and replace them with patterns of pleasing God.  Self-pleasing is out at least in principle and is replaced by the practice of putting God and others first (Phil. 2:3-5). A person who claims he can’t help but please himself and that he can’t stop sinning in various ways is in serious trouble.  If he is a believer he denies the reality of his blood-bought freedom and he denies the true Liberator, His Person and work.

The words by Christ in John’s gospel describe the means of true freedom: the truth will set you free refers to a person – Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and His word John (17:17). The truth will set you free because the believer is now united to Christ through Christ’s union with him through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Every believer is in Christ – united with Him – and has been bought with a price. Jesus paid it all (John 19:30).

The next question is free from what?  The Jews missed the point (v.33). They denied both their physical and spiritual bondage. Even though under Roman rule, they claimed they were Abraham descendants and were slaves to no one. They concluded that they did not need a Messiah like Christ. Physical relief was all they needed and wanted.

In fact, every believer has been freed from the power of sin (slavery to sin and patterned sinfulness through personal lawkeeping) and the penalty of sin (condemnation and hell). The believer has been rescued and supernaturally transferred from one dominion to another. The believer is no longer a slave of unrighteousness but a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-19). This blood-bought freedom at least means the believer has the freedom, the capacity, and the desire to please God and put off a return to the foolishness of anti-God self-pleasing, self-trusting, and self-righteousness. The believer can and will embrace the joy of salvation and trusting God rather than self (Prov. 3:5-8). The dog who returns to his vomit has not really changed; so, too, the fool who is still a fool returns to his folly of self-pleasing (Prov. 26:11). This is true of the unbeliever all the time and the believer some of the time. Yet, the believer, having been set free, lives out that freedom daily by relying on Holy Spirit-guided and Holy Spirit-directed concrete, specific biblical principles. The believer lives as a changed person because he is – the truth has set him free. He knows it and he functions as if his freedom is real because it its!

 

Application:

  1. What truths do you know about yourself and Christ?
  2. How do you cherish your freedom?
  3. How and why are you applying them and what are the results?
  4. What truth do you need to help you change your view of God, self, and others?

 

 

 

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment: The Road to the Cross

 

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment, Part A

The Road to the Cross

 

Satisfaction is an interesting term. It conveys contentment and pleasure that occurs after someone completes a task that often may require effort, skill, and or endurance. Some people may describe the term satisfaction as feelings of happiness based on what they did and accomplished or based on what someone else did for them. The Bible teaches that satisfaction and its fellow followers – pleasure and contentment – is the result of completing a task that pleases God. In the Old and New Testaments, it carries the idea of being filled up (Ps. 103:5, 13; 107:9; 147:14; Matt. 5:6; 14:20; 15:37; Luke 6:21). Those who have the proper appetite and have the proper menu will be satisfied. Only believers have the proper menu. Sometimes they desire something else other than what God wants and pleases Him.

Jesus had the proper appetite and menu. Not only that, He had the proper attitude.  John 17:4 (I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do) is part of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. The night before His death, Jesus stepped away from the apostles to commune with the Father. The prayer is usually divided into three parts: He prayed for Himself (v.1-5), for the disciples (v.6-19), and for believers (v.20-26).

Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51; 12:49; 13:32), the place where He would ultimately confront the religious leaders and the ethnic nation of Israel. He was bringing to an end the old creation and the old way of existence. He instituted the new creation by opening the age of the Kingdom of God which was marked by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In this Garden of Gethsemane prayer, Christ presented the gospel in a personal and visible form. He was both the holy, harmless, undefiled Lamb of God who was condemned and sacrificed in Jerusalem and He was the scapegoat who was crucified outside of Jerusalem (Leviticus 16).

The Father had given Jesus a work to do and He joyfully accepted it (John 6:37-43; 17:4). In eternity past, the Triune God willed that the Father gifted Jesus with His people, that Jesus would purchase God’s people by His perfect life and death, and that the Son would receive the Father’s gift. Throughout his gospel, John wrote that Jesus came to do His Father’s will. John 4:31-34 is one such place. Jesus enjoyed pleasing the Father. Pleasing the Father was not simply duty and obedience for Christ (Ps. 40:6-8). John 4:31-34 tells us that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was nourished in His whole person to please His Father which carried its own comfort and strength. The more Jesus pleased the Father the more He enjoyed it. At the well, the disciples thought in physical terms. This was a typical of thinking pattern for them which would soon change (se John 20 and Acts 2). Jesus knew and the body was designed for the intake of food. Generally, food for the body produces satisfaction. Jesus would not deny that fact. However, Jesus focused his disciples on something of far greater substance. He did not denigrate the satisfaction that occurs when the body is fed and watered. Rather He built on the well-known pleasure that comes from the physical. He moved passed the physical and elevated pleasing God to the highest level of satisfaction and contentment. Jesus drew courage, endurance, and wisdom from His relationship with the Father and as He pleased the Father (John 13:17; James 1:25). Pleasing the Father was based on the Son’s relationship to the Father and vice versa.

Application:

  1. How does John define satisfaction? See John 4:31-34
  2. The apostles may or may not have heard Jesus’ prayer. If they did, what do you think was their response?
  3. Satisfaction is relational. Explain.

 

John 19:30: Satisfaction and Contentment, Part B

The Cross and Beyond

 

In John 17:4 Jesus used the past tense as He prayed to the Father. Jesus interpreted the cross as having already occurred when He prayed that He had completed the work that was given to Him. In His prayer, Jesus looked forward as if the task had already been done. Such confidence! On the cross, Jesus looked back to the Garden of Gethsemane and then proclaimed: It is finished (John 19:30). What Jesus had said was done in John 17:4 was now a reality. The initial culmination of the eternal plan of redemption was now done. Jesus looked ahead as well as backwards. The physical act of crucifixion and death were completed at that time. Pleasing the Father was Jesus’ prime motivation. Christ kept His word as the Father kept His promise in Christ by the Holy Spirit (John 6:37-43; 2 Cor.1:20-22).

Jesus had been given a great work AND Jesus completed that work. Jesus was not disappointed. He was genuinely satisfied. So was the Father. In Romans 8:33-34, Paul emphasized that both God and the Son were satisfied. As a result, no charge or condemnation will be brought against any believer at any time. Moreover, in Romans 4:24-25, Paul declared that by the resurrection the Father was completely satisfied so that the indebtedness of God’s people had been paid in full.

What is your response to Christ’s completed work AND to His satisfaction for a job well done as expressed in John 19:30? What is your response to the Father’s satisfaction? If Christ’s atoning work is finished and accepted by the Father, then trusting Christ and His law-keeping seems most logical and God-pleasing. What folly and arrogance a person displays when he depends on his own lawmaking and lawkeeping rather than Christ’s.

Most people don’t think in terms of their own lawmaking and lawkeeping. By those terms I mean the person’s actively setting up checkpoints for him and others in order to gain something. Matthew 6 is a description of the Pharisees’ lawmaking and lawkeeping. Giving, prayer, and fasting were high on the list of their “religious activities.” Jesus reversed their manner and motivation for these lawkeeping activities. Others live by I want and I deserve. Their goal is to get. Others kept track of what they do for others as a point of honor. Others seek approval, power, position, possessions, and performance again to get. Lastly, some may think one more, one more sermon, one more nice word, or one more delivery to a sick friend earns them something. Good works flow from a relationship but they don’t make the relationship.

The issue of control is paramount. You can live the lie that this is your world made by you and purchased by you. Satisfaction will never come, only bondage. You can live out of the truth that this is God’s world and the believer is God’s child bought with a price that was accepted by God. There are no strings attached. The now-believer so deep in debt and previously as an unbeliever without the will, desire, or ability to pay has had his debt paid in full. John 19:30 is Jesus’ testimony that pleasing God was His goal and motivation. He was pleased. So should every believer.

If you are a believer, stop and focus on the truth that you had a debt of infinite degree without the desire, capacity, ability, or resources to repay it (Matt. 18:21-35). How do you respond? Many deny the truth of their indebtedness and bondage. Such was the case with the first servant as recorded in Matthew 18. His is one example of much spiritual blindness! Also look at Luke 18:9-14 and Jesus’ conclusion regarding the Pharisee and the tax collector. Paul had set up unbiblical checkpoints and his desire to keep them drove him to persecute and kill (Phil. 3:3-6).

Then turning point in human history is summarized in Jesus’ statement: it is finished. Those words are music in the ears of the believer. God in Christ saw fit to pay the debt for every believer. To the degree that the believer acknowledges his debtor-status is the degree that the believer rejoices with the Triune God for a job that was well done. The believer depends on Christ’s lawkeeping rather than his own. He rids himself of unbiblical check points. As a result the believer follows Christ setting his face toward heaven. He runs the race as Jesus did: with a proper vertical reference and an eternal perspective (Heb. 12:1-3; Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The believer is a victor but only in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

 

Application:

  1. Mediate on the finished work of Christ: what do you learn about the Trinity, about Christ in His humiliation and His exaltation, and about yourself?
  2. Jesus worked the work that the Father had given Him: your work as a believer is to grow in Christlikeness. How are you doing? Give reasons for your answer.
  3. Consider your own unbiblical checkpoints. Make a list an replace with pleasing God which every believer can and will do. Regard on life is simplified.

 

 

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth

 

John 4:20-24:

v.20: Our fathers worshipped on this mountain but you claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem

v.21: Jesus declared: Believe woman a time if coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

v.22: You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

v.23: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are they kind of worshippers the Father seeks.

v.24: God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.

 

With these words Jesus concluded His discussion with the Samaritan woman. She had an understanding of spiritual issues based on her theology. She knew that the Messiah was coming and when He comes He will explain everything (v.25).  Jesus seized the moment and revealed himself to her as the Messiah (v.26).

What is happening here? It is something radical and drastic. In a different form Jesus repeats Mark 1:15: …The kingdom of God is near… The Kingdom is Jesus himself and the way His people relate to Him is part of kingdom life. Jesus ushered in a new mode of existence, a new reality. Jesus proclaimed that the time has come. The fulfillment of the ages was at hand in Christ by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-3; Gal. 1:4; 4:4-5).  History was marching along on God’s timetable.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He touched on the topic of worship. Honor and worship is due God simply because God is worthy and man is a worshipping being. The Old Testament affirmed the proper worship of God by focusing on a locale, the Temple, and God’s presence. Pagan religions had their pantheon of gods that allegedly paroled and controlled their locale. Thus, local deities were established and worshipped. The worship was to a physical god in a physical manner and always to get some favor or to avoid its supposed wrath.  In the book of Deuteronomy these pagan practices were condemned as Israel was about to enter the Promise Land (12:1-4).  Rather worship shall be in the place of the Lord’s choosing in contrast to pagan worship (12:5-7). The site, the where, of worship was important to Moses and to the Holy Spirit.  However, the how of worship, an attitude of joy and devotion was to be an integral part of worship (12:7).  Lastly, the what of worship was outlined (12:15-19).  The people from the heart were to present their sacrifices as an extension of themselves to the Lord as an acceptable offering. In this way the people would enter into God’s presence and live.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He declared the essence of true worship which had been prefigured in the Old Testament. The declaration was based on the reality that God is Spirit and that the Holy Spirit had come and was coming in a fuller form. In due time, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2). Both Christ’s and the Spirit’s coming created a different realm of existence for the believer. The Holy Spirit equipped and enabled Jesus to do His work and He equips the Church and the believer to do their work. This includes the proper worship of God.

In John 4, Jesus declared the reality of true worship in His encounter with a Samaritan woman.  Jesus approached worship in the same format: where, how, and what. The venue of the discussion was in itself incredible. A woman and a Samaritan were considered second class citizens and not worthy of fellowship. To drink water from her hand was thought unclean by the Jews – contamination!  During Jesus’ conversation with her she demonstrated her moral impurity. Jesus confronted her and she attempted to turn the subject of the conversation from her to another subject. She chose worship (4:20-24).

Jesus seized the opportunity which was part of God’s providence. He reiterates one of His purposes in coming: worship would be to one God with one motive for the right reason according to the Spirit. Truth and knowledge were to be wedded in worship (v.22).  The woman had made worship according to a place the central fact. She spelled out the issue as one of understanding according to the Jews or the Samaritans. She had missed the importance of a universal church – Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16). In verses 20-21, Jesus gives the women a choice: to believe Jesus or continue in unbelief. Jesus went on to explain that she misunderstood the where of worship as she has defined it. It is not a place issue and it is not a Jew or Gentile issue.  Worship is based on true knowledge and she did not have that knowledge (v.22). As He will explained, if one has the Being and person of God wrong, then worship will be wrong.

Jesus moved to the what and to the how of worship. First, worship is based on the knowledge that God is and that He deserves worship from every creature. Second, God is Spirit and He deserves worship His way and with a right motivation (v.23-24). Third, Jesus declared the presence of true worshippers with His coming. True worshippers were present in the Old Testament. But with Jesus’ coming a radical change occurred. The flood gates of God’s revelation were opened. What had been hidden in the Old Testament was now revealed. After the Holy Spirit was poured out, there would be greater clarity of God and worship through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Jesus ushered in a new existence for His people and for His creation.  The old was going and the new was being ushered in. Part of the new knowledge was the reality that God is spirit (v.24). Because He is, worship must be spiritual.  God is a living Spirit, a living Being in contrast to the dead objects such as a tree-deity, a stone-deity, or a mountain-deity. God’s essence is Spirit. Therefore God must be worshipped spiritually.

 

Application:

  1. Consider the where, how, and what of worship. How do you apply those concepts today to your life?
  2. What is the significance that God is Spirit?
  3. God is looking for true worshippers. Where will He find them and how will he know?

 

 

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth: Part B

In Spirit

 

In Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritan woman and to believers in all ages, He taught basic principles regarding God, worship, and worshippers. In His conversation with her, He met her where she was in terms of theology and its application. She had a wrong view of worship because she had a wrong of God, herself, and others. She could not live and worship any way she chose.

She asked where true worship would be conducted and she gave two options (4:20). Jesus told her she was wrong on both counts (4:21). He then clarified that the true worshipper has proper knowledge of God and worship (4:22). In verse 23, Jesus drops a time-bomb. The hour is now that true worshippers have no specific ethnicity and they are to worship God in spirit and truth.  What hour is Jesus speaking? Jesus refers to His Messianic coming. The fullness of time is now – Christ has come, the new exodus of God’s people from darkness to light is in progress, and the Holy Spirit will soon follow in His fullness (Rom. 1:1-4; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:9-10; John 20; Acts 2). In verse 24, John declares that God is Spirit. Because He is, worship is to be in spirit and in truth.

Jesus gave the woman a twofold truth about God and herself. She was a worshipper as are all men. There is true and false worship and true and false worshippers. Since she is a worshipper by God’s design and God is to be worshipped His way for His glory, true worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth.

By worship in spirit, Jesus may be referring to the inner person – the heart. Or He may be referring to worship that is Holy Spirit-informed, Holy Spirit- directed, and Holy Spirit–energized. Or He may be referring to both. It is thought-provoking to consider the fact that Jesus chose the subject of worship as the means to present himself as the Messiah. Jesus met the woman where she was. She brought up the subject most likely to deflect conversation into her own life. She received more than a theology session. She received Jesus. He revealed himself to her because He was in the Spirit and He was truth.

Only the believer can worship in spirit. All men are spiritual beings, image bearers of God. At the least, that fact means that man is a religious and worshiping being. He does and will worship. He worships the God of Scripture God’s way or he worships a god that he has created in the way that he thinks gives him the most advantage. Only the believer has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This indwelling brings God into a Father-child relationship with the believer and the believer into relationship and communication with God. The believer’s union with Christ makes all the difference in terms of living including worship. The believer is able to think God’s thoughts about himself and God. He is able to desire what God desires for God and for the believer. True acts of service to God and to others will follow. The believer knows God because He is known by God. The believer has been changed inside-out and has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Christianity is an inside-out religion that moves out from the heart. For the believer, the activity of the heart should be manifested by concrete God-honoring-thoughts, desires, and actions. The externals are manifestations of a changed heart and should be true expressions of love of God and others (Matt. 22:37-40). Externals are important because they can be a barometer of the content of one’s heart. Heart allegiance and devotion to God and for God whether in a worship service or in daily life is in part what it means to worship in spirit.

Worship in spirit is predicated not only on what man is in relationship to God, but more so on who and what God is. He is Spirit. The very essence of God is that He is Spirit. This point stresses the fact that He is unique and distinct from all other beings. As Spirit, He is immaterial and invisible. He is not composed of parts. Therefore, God cannot be discerned by the bodily senses. Since God is Spirit, He must be acknowledged and worshipped in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God is Spirit demands that a person be changed by the Spirit and begin to know God as He truly is.

Worship – corporate and individual in and out of church – must be actively dependent upon, regulated, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Only then will worship be from a heart of love and faith to the true great God out of reverence for Him. Because God is Spirit worship must in accordance with the reality that He is Spirit. Man is body and spirit – inner and outer man, a duplex being. Man has a body but God has no body. Throughout history and today, idolatry is alive and well. Generally idolatry took the form of the worship of some physical object. The object was something that the people experienced with their senses:  they could see, touch, taste, and feel it. The idolater was at home in his world giving honor through ritual to himself as he did homage to this physical object. The believer no longer is a purely sensual being. He interprets what he takes in with his senses through saving faith (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7, 9).  He is what I call a suprasensual being.  Since God is Spirit, the believer will and must know and worship Him from a heart changed and growing by the Holy Spirit.

There is one God and only one form of worship – from the inside out according to biblical principles.  At the well, Jesus gave a theology lesson with God as the subject. God is not limited to any one place. He is Spirit and dwells everywhere. God seeks out true worshippers is tantamount to saying God seeks and saves those who are lost (Luke 19:10). God keeps His children and they develop as true lovers and worshippers of God.

 

Application:

  1. What does it mean to worship God is spirit?
  2. What are the reasons given for the call to worship in spirit?
  3. How is it possible for the believer to worship in spirit?
  4. What is necessary for a person to worship in spirit?

 

John 4: Worship in Spirit and in Truth: Part C

In Truth

 

In His ministry to the woman at the well, Jesus has taken the opportunity to teach her, and all believers, the truth about God and people. He meets this woman where she was in terms of her relationship with God. She needed the Spirit and she needed truth.       The woman had some idea of revelation. She acknowledged Jesus a prophet (4:19). She knew God deserved to be worshipped and that Scripture promised a messiah (4:20, 25). The where, how, and what of worship she missed because she did not know God.

Jesus began the theology lesson with knowledge in order for the woman to get the big picture. He taught that God’s revelation is progressive, expanding, and culminates in Jesus – His person and work. Jesus was about to fulfill what the Triune God decided in eternity past (John 6:37-43). Jesus presented himself to her as the Messiah (4:26). In that light, God dwells with His people and they dwell with Him. Locale is not the issue.

However, coming into God’s presence and remaining alive and well was a major concern for the Israelites. The Old Testament taught that to see God meant death (Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Ex. 33:20, 23). Entering into God’s presence and living was a question that was answered throughout redemptive history since Genesis 3:15. Jesus and the Holy Spirit progressively revealed God’s answer. Fellowship with God was His initial design but sin and God’s judgment entered the picture. God established the sacrificial, ritual system in the Old Testament by which a privileged high priest once a year could enter God’s presence and offer a sacrifice for himself and the people. The people could know if the sacrifice was acceptable if the priest returned to them. This system pointed to Christ as the High Priest who entered into the Holy of Holiness once and completed the task of atonement. The Old Testament gave insight into what was coming in Christ as revealed in the New Testament.

Worship in the Old Testament was God-ordained. It was robed in ritual, ordinances, and ceremonies which pointed to Christ. At the cross Christ, the privileged High Priest, entered the Most Holy Place and offered His shed blood as the atoning sacrifice. His resurrection confirmed that the debt God’s people owed to God had been paid in full. After His Ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church and His people. Without the Holy Spirit’s coming, Christ’s meditorial work (redemption accomplished) would have been for naught. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic of the new kingdom.

The Spirit is also the Spirit of truth and the new birth (regeneration). Jesus is truth (John 14:6) and His Word is truth (John 17:17). True worship is based on a proper knowledge of God, worship, and the person – the worshipper. True worship stems from one’s union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. True worship, both individually and corporately, is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions.

The Spirit was working in the Old Testament. While glorious, His fullness had not come until Pentecost. The Old Covenant while glorious gave way to the more glorious New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6-21). A fuller knowledge of who the Triune God is takes the person back into eternity, pushes him into the present, and motivates him to look forward.  The Triune God is the true God of His true people. God was and is calling His people from every tribe and nation.

True knowledge of God compels a believer to assign to God that which is His. It is to give God full worth-ship.  Knowing and growing in the knowledge of God’s true worth-ship is part of worshiping in spirit and in truth. Knowing God and enjoying Him is the duty, privilege, and blessing of every believer. True knowledge of God always leads to true knowledge of self. Truth sets a person free when that truth is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it is not truth (John 8:31-32; 14:6, 16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13).

In corporate worship, God is present with His Church. The special presence of God is also a privilege and blessing as part of the New Covenant. The Triune God is the audience as believers worship Him in spirit and truth. Every believer is able to relish the time he has with his God, not only in private and individual worship but also corporately as a church family. Corporate worship is the highest expression of worship and is a duty, privilege, and a blessing for God’s covenant people (Ps. 100).

 

Application:

  1. What is your understanding of John 4:20-24?
  2. The believer and the Church are Spirit-filled: what effect does that fact have on your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. What will you pray for when you ask the Holy Spirit’s blessing on your private and public worship service?