James 4:1-3: The Reality of Fights and Quarrels and God’s Solution

James 4:1-3: The Reality of Fights and Quarrels and God’s Solution

 

v.1: What causes fights and quarrels long you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

v.2: You want something but you do not get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

v.3: When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James one of the Lord’s brother, a pillar of the Church (Gal. 2:9), wrote the book that carries his name. He was the leader of the Jerusalem council (see Acts 15) and he was martyred in the early 60’s A.D. His letter is direct as he exhorts. Of the 108 or so verses, more than 50% are directives or imperatives. James’ words show a close association and familiarity with Christ’s teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.

He wrote as a Jew to the scattered twelve tribes of Israel (1:1). The letter is a piece of wisdom literature focusing on applied principles for every situation. James focused on an active, informed, intelligent faith.  He considered saving faith to be a working faith involving thoughts and desires that resulted in God-pleasing actions.  His focus was on faithfulness. James goes behind the visible works and actions and moves to thoughts and desires of the inner man and the faith that motivates a believer’s actions.

Prior to chapter 4, James had discussed wisdom in light of interpersonal relationships that were or had turned sour. People including Christians in homes and in churches don’t get along. Among sinners, even saved ones, fights and quarrels are a reality – too many and too often. What is a person to do? James addressed God’s answer in James 3:13-4:3. We will concentrate on James 4:1-3.

One person can thrive on strife. He seems to appreciate chaos and confusion (Proverbs 6:14, 16-19; 10:12; 12:20). That person takes no time to do a self-generated spiritual inventory (assuming he is a believer) via Hebrews 4:12.  He fosters more turmoil and never faces his role in producing the unrest. He is too busy fighting – defending himself and retaliating.  For whatever reason, self has taken center stage but so often that fact is denied (James 3:13-17). James calls him a trouble maker.

Another person attempts to avoid conflict at all cost. He is a peace lover and not a peace maker. He, too, is a troublemaker. He must have peace however defined for whatever reason. Again self takes center stage. Peace defined his way becomes a way of life in which he defends and seemingly protects himself.  However, in both scenarios problems are not resolved, differences of opinions lead to disagreements, and disagreements to conflict – fights and quarrels. God is not honored in the home and in the Church.

In the two instances cited above, the problem is not communication. The people are communicating – sinfully. The problem is people and their relationships with God and with others. Problems with people are problems with God who gave the people. James captured the heart of the dynamic of conflict (fights and quarrels) in James 4:1. The terms James used for fights and quarrels covered the whole spectrum of personal relationships that are not God-honoring. The terms speak of large conflicts such as world wars and small ones such as hand-to hand combat and guerilla warfare.

James is speaking to believers. Apparently the congregation was handling problems in the same manner as the culture was doing – sinfully thereby dishonoring and disrespecting God. God’s people were not loving one another as they had been loved by God (John 13:34-35; Rom. 5:6-10).

In verse 1, James wrote from the reality of sinners living sinfully: you are fighting and quarreling. What is the source? James had each member of the congregation to look within. James made it clear that the conflict – words, facial expressions, and even fists – were fruit. Fruit gets everyone’s attention but it is the expression of the person’s heart motives.  The inner-man activity of each person’s heart expresses itself. James summarized this expression in its many forms as self- grasping and self-exaltation spurred by “I wants” and “I deserves” (see James 3:14, 16). James clarified his diagnosis in James 4:1. Conflict is one of choice that initially occurs in the person’s heart. The choice is between pleasing God and pleasing self. The choice is between self-pleasing and God-pleasing. Post-fall, every person is bathed in feeling-orientation, experience, and or logic divorced from God’s word that leads to a “me-first” approach to relationships. The person is for me, by me, to me. Conflict is the result.

For the believer, he has been changed. His heart is bathed in the word of God via the indwelling Holy Spirit. He has a relationship with Christ. He has a new motive for life: pleasing God because He deserves it. The believer grows in the area of putting off self-pleasing by putting on God’s pleasing. Harmony and graciousness are the result.

James goes on to say that one of the consequences of this root-fruit activity is impotent prayer and continued strife. (v.3). God hears and answers all prayers. Prayers of those who are unreconciled to God and others grieve God and the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:31-32). Praying rather than being actively engaged in humbling oneself are stench in the nostrils of God. The prayers are selfish and lead to and maybe a friendship with the world (v.4). James terms this adultery. James does not want his people to waste prayer nor to grieve the Holy Spirit. Rather he wanted his congregation to please God and enjoy its fruits.

 

Application:

  1. How would you summarize James’ message in verse 1?
  2. List unreconciled relationships in order of priority. Read Philippians 2:3-5 and write how it fits with James’ teaching? How will you begin to put others first?
  3. Have you wasted prayer? If so how can you recapture God’s goal for prayer?
  4. Read James 4:4-10 for God’s solution.

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I-IX

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part I:

Meaning of Come and the Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

How do Jesus’ words strike you?  Are they simply another invitation? What significance do they have for Jesus’ audience, for you, and for others? To answer these questions, we must have an idea of the meaning of the word come.  Moreover, we must know the Speaker, why He spoke, and His audience.

The word (deuro) used here in Matthew 11 is also used by Jesus in Matthew 4:19 and 19:21 and by the master in Matthew 22:3-4. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus called to Peter and Andrew to come and they came. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus made the same call to the rich young ruler who rejected it. Jesus’ call is not simply a call to enter into the kingdom of God. It is also a call to enter into Jesus’ school of discipleship. The call is to and for salvation and for growth in holiness as one saved. The term carries the idea of here, hither to this place. It is used only for a calling or an invitation and for encouragement to heed the call. Movement and a decision for that movement from one place or time are involved.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus is the Caller or Inviter. There was urgency, necessity, and compassion in Jesus’ words. Jesus knew it was a matter of life and death, now and eternally.

The context of Matthew 11:28-30 help us answer the opening questions. Matthew 11:28-30 is preceded by two major sections with two basic concepts. The first is recorded in 11:20-24. Jesus denounced the unrepentant people in the cities of Korazim and Bethsaida, cities in Israel where most of His miracles had been performed. As a result the people had witnessed His power, authority, and loving concern but they rejected Him. He pronounced a woe on those cities. The people had seen with their physical eyes and heard with their physical ears but not heard spiritually – with their hearts. They did not believe. Jesus delivered a telling accusation: if He had demonstrated Himself to the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon as He had to Israel, those two cities would not have been destroyed. What a stinging rebuke to a self-righteous people! Jesus claimed that He saves Gentiles and their repentance is accepted by Him. The bulk of Israel thought that they did not need Christ, the Gentiles, and Christ’s way – repentance. The call to repent was the way to come to Christ. Israel rejected the Way and the way (repentance) of and to the Way!

Jesus was speaking to the covenant community – Israel (Matt. 11:1). Both the lost and the remnant were present in the audience (see John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:36). Jesus knew Israel’s history. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel professed (Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 512-53). As a whole, the nation was a rebellious, idolatrous, prophet-killing people following in the footsteps of their forefathers. Yet through the ages Israel had denied this pattern. Israel had failed to repent despite the voices of the prophets throughout the ages; the ministry of John the Baptist, the penultimate prophet; and the presence of Jesus, the ultimate Prophet and the miracles He performed among them (Matt. 11:7-19, 20-24). The response to John and Jesus was characteristic of Israel’s patterned disdain for God’s voice through the prophets.  Jesus condemned Israel; Israel had not changed.

The spiritual leaders had rightly understood the horrors of the exile. But they denied the nation’s history and role in bringing God’s rightful judgment. They wanted God’s blessing and did not want another exile. They knew that God demanded lawkeeping and assumed that lawbreaking – disobedience – led to the exile. In response, they devised their own game plan by becoming their own lawmaker, lawgiver, and lawkeeper. They added rules and regulations to the Law of Moses. Their laws and their interpretation took precedence over God’s law.

They hoped to keep the law in order to avoid another exile. Their goal was to keep out of an exile. They were more interested in no exile than in pleasing God. But it was their law by their power and wisdom. In doing so, they functioned as the ones who “called the shots.” They were competing with God. They established their laws as they fenced God’s law. They functioned as if their laws were more important than God’s and their efforts more important than Christ’s, the true Messiah. Personal lawkeeping designed by the spiritual leaders was the standard of the day. This system with its resultant mindset and lifestyle was the mechanism by which the spiritual leaders ruled the people. It appeals to proud people. Jesus drew the contrast between God’s law and the traditions of men. He condemned the leaders for breaking God’s law, the very law that they claimed they were keeping (Matthew 15; Mark 7). Their lawmaking and lawkeeping became the standard for the people. The people seemingly accepted this way of life (John 9:22; 12:42-43).

 

Application:

  1. 1. What is the significance of Jesus’ call?
  2. What is the background of it?
  3. What was Israel’s history in regard to heeding the words of the prophets?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part II:

The Context of the Call

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

To help understand the significance of Jesus’ calling we must understand the context in which Jesus gave it. We know that Jesus was the Caller, Israel was the audience, and one of Jesus’ purposes was to draw Israel’s attention to their dire circumstances. By dire Jesus meant more than physical enslavement by the Romans. Two concepts preceded the record of the Jesus’ invitation: the need for repentance which was covered in the first blog (Matthew 11:20-24).

The second concept is recorded in Matthew 11:25-27 which was a prayer-conversation between Jesus and the Father. These passages teach the necessity and authority of Scripture. Jesus taught that biblical truth is supernatural in its origin and in its application. God is the Revealer and His Son and Scripture are God’s personal, powerful, and purposeful self-revelation (John 14:6; 17:17). Supernatural truth trumps manmade teaching regarding God, man, his problems and solutions, life on earth, and life after death. God, not the Pharisees, was the source of truth.

Jesus acknowledged that Israel’s response was partially understandable. God had chosen to hide spiritual truth from some, if not most, of them (Matt. 13:13-15). Spiritual things are understood only through the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-68; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). The disciples and the people, both saved and unsaved, did not understand because they were ignorant. They did not have an understanding of salvation and life after salvation because they did not have a proper understanding of self and God. Therefore, they embraced the religion of the spiritual leaders. Or perhaps they were both ignorant and arrogant. Most had had no inside-out change of regeneration. Both groups of people viewed self and God only through the lens of the physical, material, natural, and temporal. They looked for a “physical fix” to a presumed physical problem.

They are several reasons to explain why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders of the day did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. We do know that God had preserved His remnant and they did come. All the people heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as initially proclaimed by John the Baptist and later Jesus (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

Scripture tells us that the majority of Israel did not heed Jesus’ call because they did not believe they needed to come (Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and had their own rest. Most of Israel hadn’t had a spiritual awakening. They were theologically dense and even hardened. As a group and individually, they had physical eyes but they did not see and they had physical ears but did not hear. Their senses were trained for and by self-pleasing and self-worship. Jesus came to His own people but His own did not receive Him (John 1:5-9). For whatever the reasons, the people of Israel as a group were children of darkness and they loved the darkness (John 3:17-21). They accepted the teaching of their spiritual leaders. Consequently, they were on the throne depending on their own lawmaking and lawkeeping. Jesus’ first coming ushered in a more fully defined clash between two world systems and their opposing worldviews. The Israelites had zeal for themselves and their self-made truth but not for Christ. In fact, they had disdain for Him and desired to distance themselves from Him.

In spite of the people and from a desire to please the Father, Jesus offered Himself to His own. What would it take to motivate the people to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and lawkeeping and His covenantal trustworthiness. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from themselves and their sin and sinfulness. Many wanted relief from the Romans. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and law-keeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders. What did they think? What would you think? They crucified the Messiah the only real hope and help!

 

Application:

  1. How do you respond to the offer of a Person by a Person to come to Him?
  2. Who was the offer to?
  3. What was the context of the call to come?

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part III

Jesus the Caller

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

The mantra come to Jesus is a common one especially in the evangelical world. However, the call of Christ to come to Him is more than a gospel call. It focuses not simply on salvation but life after salvation as well. The truth of the matter is no one can come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of this radical change that is done by the Holy Spirit within the person.

Jesus the Caller called the people to come to Him. Their response was a top priority. The response to the call necessitated movement by the people from one position to another. Coming to Jesus means moving from self, from Satan, and from sin. It means moving in faith and trust to Christ.  In John 6:35, John recorded Jesus’s words:  I am the bread of life.  Jesus offered Himself and He described Himself in terms of substance and sustenance. He is and He gives. Jesus promised that whoever comes to Him will never go hungry and whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty (6:35, 51-54). By the use of these metaphors Jesus explained that He is offering Himself which may have reminded the people of David’s words in Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good …,. Jesus explained that the act of coming to Him means believing in and trusting in Him. Jesus knew that everyone is a truster – he trusts in something.

Man was designed by God as a faith-based being.  God is the object of saving faith and self is the object of non-saving faith (Gal. 2:20). Jesus taught that believing and trusting Him and in Him meant that the person would no longer trust in self. Self-righteousness, self-dependency, self-sufficiency, and self-justification would be replaced by a God-wrought righteousness and right standing before God. These legal activities are due to God’s counting Christ’s lawkeeping to the account of the believer. Christ’s righteousness and God’s judicial action based on Christ’s work as messiah is in contrast to a man-generated standing before God on the basis of the keeping of a man-made law.

Throughout the gospels, the call and the invitation come to Jesus focuses on saving faith and its use (faithfulness). Literally, saving faith means to believe into. It has several elements: acknowledgement of certain facts about self and God, acceptance of those facts, and resting upon what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and to the person. Resting means that the person relies on biblical truth as his guide and his explanation for living as a God-pleaser, Further, resting means trusting God rather than self (Proverbs 3:5-8). Trusting is always linked to obedience. Jesus is not speaking only of salvation. As before, His call is not simply evangelistic. He spoke to a mixed audience, saved and unsaved. Jesus focused on both salvation and life after salvation. The people were hurting but were ignorant and arrogant.

At Jesus’ first coming He ushered in a new creation. A new world order and a new mode of existence were established at His first coming. Jesus was the beginning installment and partial fulfillment of that which was promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 11; 35; 40; 41; 43; 49; Jer. 23; 30; 31; Mic. 4; 5; 7; see Matthew 22:1-14).  More was to come!

In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke in relational terms and continues to this day. Jesus asks, and even commands, people to stop, look, and listen. Someone and something else is greater than they are. Jesus spoke about a supernatural awakening. Jesus came to His own but His own did not receive Him because they loved the darkness (John 1:3-5, 9-11; 3:17-21; 7:7). Jesus offered Himself and an insight into the “deeper” things of life. There is nothing deeper than the Triune God, Who He is and how He works.

Jesus knew that these people were heavy burdened. Jesus’ call to come was urgent, merciful, and compassionate. He gave the ultimate contrast: Himself vs. the Pharisees. He contrasted Himself and His teaching with the spiritual leaders and their teaching as the one motivating factor in coming to Him. He was a teacher of God’s truth, meek and humble; the spiritual leaders were teachers of man’s “wisdom,” proud, arrogant, and fault finders. Recognition of this contrast and the futility of self-trust were to be major motivating factors for coming to Him. Sadly, many, if not most, did not get it. Such is true today.

What would it take to motivate the Israelites to come to Him? The answer is rather simple. They must change their view of God and themselves. They must change their view of Messiah. This required regeneration (John 3:3-8). Jesus made clear that the teaching and example of the spiritual leaders was not God’s way. It burdened the people (Matt. 11.28-30). God’s way was through the Messiah – dependence on His lawmaking and His lawkeeping. The people were interested in relief and rest but not from their self-orientation – their sin and sinfulness. They wanted relief from Rome and a return to a high standing before the world. Rather, Jesus set forth Himself and His lawmaking and lawkeeping in contrast to the spiritual leaders and their teaching.  Sadly, as a nation, they persisted in their rebellion and they crucified the Messiah! (Acts 2: 23-24; 4:27). They traded a lawbreaker, Barabbas, for the Lawmaker and Lawkeeper. To their shame and misery, they attempted to keep self on the throne.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the phrase come to Me?
  2. How is it possible to come? See John 6:35-45.
  3. Why would anyone not come to Jesus and why would someone come to Him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Mathew 11:28-30: Part IV

The Audience and the Yoke

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Throughout the gospels, Jesus preached and taught truth. In Matthew 11, Jesus emphasized a twofold truth: the people (and you) are heavy-burdened and God has answers. The burden of carrying one’s sins, the guilt and the consequences of sin and sinning, weighs a person down. Man was never designed to be his own savior. At creation, God created Adam and Eve dependent beings with only one source of truth and strength – the Triune God. After sin, self took center stage and with it rebellion. As a consequence, personal lawkeeping and self-trust became a way of life. However the burden and cost of personal lawkeeping becomes very great. People try to rid themselves of the burden of self-righteousness and the resultant heavy burden of guilt that accompanies auto-soteriology (self salvation). They ignore their true condition and their impotence. They blame shift or assume a victim mentality. They may increase their works and or they may attempt to medicate it away. Or they change the rules and the laws as the Pharisees did. All of these activities only lead to further bondage which is usually denied by the lawkeepers.

In Israel, the people were in exile. The exile was twofold: physical and spiritual. Israel was under Roman domination, prisoners of Rome, and in bondage. Of major importance was their spiritual exile. They were not in the physical wilderness as were their forefathers, but their hearts, as were the hearts of their forefathers, were far away from God (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:1-4; John 5-8; 1 Cor. 10:1-14).

Jesus highlighted the fact of Israel’s continued ignorance and arrogance in such passages as Matthew 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:30-31; 10:10. Jesus did not come to the righteous and healthy but to sinners. Most of Israel did not think they were sinners so they denied that they were sick spiritually. They believed that they did not need a doctor, certainly not one who confronted them about their idolatrous self-pleasing which was manifested as self-trust, self- dependence, and self-sufficiency. Rather, a radical change was needed but as long as reliance on personal lawkeeping was taught and accepted, Jesus, and His lawkeeping, would not be accepted. Israel needed a true Messiah but Israel refused to believe that fact about them and thus they refused to hear the truth about Jesus and His mission.

The people were both myopic and blind. The activity of personal messiahship was and is fostered by sinful teaching so prevalent in Israel then and now throughout the land. The people listened to the spiritual leaders who apparently tickled their ears but laid heavy burdens on them (Matt. 23; John 9:22; 12:42-43). They prided themselves on self-effort and seeming self-gain. The leaders and the majority of the people believed that what they taught and were taught, and what they were doing was good and proper. The teaching – yoke and burden – of personal lawkeeping was done out of sense of pride and the false hope of refuge. It was fostered by sinful teaching about God and self and was alive and prevalent in Israel. The false teaching that man, in his own strength, can make himself acceptable to God was a burden that the people were never intended to bear. Personal lawkeeping per say would not prevent another exile.

Paul, a Jew of Jews, taught that Israel had a real zeal for the law and personal lawkeeping (Rom. 10:1-4). Paul had been under the same mindset (Phil. 3:3-6).  But he learned, practiced, and taught God’s answer. It was not self and personal lawkeeping that was the truth. Rather it is Christ by His lawkeeping alone through faith alone by grace alone through the Holy Spirit that is truth. Paul was entrusted with a ministry of the Word which he gladly accepted (Rom. 1:16-17).

Coming to Jesus requires a proper understanding of self and Jesus. Many people were coming to Jesus, but too often, it was simply to get (John 6:26). Yet, Jesus offered something that was in contrast to the spiritual leaders. He offered Himself. He was not a user of people. He gave a free offer of contentment and satisfaction that Matthew termed rest (11:28-30). A correct view of self forces one to look outside of self and one’s own lawkeeping. However, simply looking outside of self may not supply the answer that gives you rest. Rather, Jesus gives the answer in John 8:31-32: truth sets you free and Jesus is truth (14:6).

The yoke and burden of the Pharisees meant my lawkeeping is in my strength, by my standard, for my benefit, and for my glory. They were own their lawmaker and lawkeeper. They did not need a savior – they had one – themselves. They wanted release from physical bondage and they wanted a God who would bless them. They entertained no personal or corporate spiritual bondage. There was no need for release from spiritual captivity.

Luke 4:18-22 records Jesus’ inaugural public sermon in the synagogue. In it, He included His mission. Israel rejected Jesus’ claim to be the true and only Bondage-Breaker. Consequently the mantra from Israel was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination. In the meantime, they functioned as religious people based on their understanding of truth. Such was the story of the rich young ruler. In contrast, coming to Jesus requires a proper view of God and self. Further, it requires a proper view of Christ and His lawkeeping. In the end, it is resting, trusting, and obeying God simply because God is God.

 

Application:

  1. How about you: do you have an idea of what it means to come to Christ?
  2. Here in Matt. 11:28-30 it means to reexamine your standard for thinking, desiring, and doing what you do and the means of trying to achieve it. Write out some of your checkpoints and your source of them.
  3. Are you heavy burdened? How would you define those terms and what is Christ’s answer? Compare your checkpoints with God’s word and write out what you find.
  4. Please read Ps. 34:8; Isaiah 55:1-3 and compare them with Jesus’ invitation here. What do you learn about Jesus and yourself?

 

 

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part V

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Matthew 11:28-30 contains both a warning as well as an invitation. Come, as previously discussed, is movement away from something to something. Jesus knew that the people had excuses/reasons for not coming. Therefore Jesus warned them about the yoke that they ignorantly and arrogantly were wearing or carrying. He invited the people to make an exchange – His yoke for the yoke of the spiritual leaders.

What is this yoke that Jesus spoke about? In the Jewish literature, yoke represented the sum-total of obligations which a person must take upon himself as a result of the teaching and traditions of the rabbis. Yoke, then, is the system of teaching by which a person is to abide by. Later in Matthew, Jesus termed the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees as yeast (16:6, 12).

Jesus was not through with His instructions. He warned the people to be on guard not only for the yoke and the yeast (teaching) of the Pharisees but their hypocrisy. In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus termed the yeast of the Pharisees hypocrisy. In Mark 8:15, Jesus warned the people regarding the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. I suspect by yeast that Jesus indicated their hypocrisy.

In Luke 12:1-2, the phrase be on guard addressed proper thinking about God, self, and the spiritual leaders and their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. Hypocrisy is looking good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble and denied that fact. They reasoned that personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them. They had no reason to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other person, seemingly a typical Jew.

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is habituated and patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring an initial change. John called this the new birth or more accurately the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8). After salvation, dying to self and hypocrisy requires not only saving grace but sanctifying grace as well.

Jesus summarized His meaning of teaching (yoke and yeast) and hypocrisy (yeast) in Matthew 5:17-20. Christ taught that unless a person’s righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Righteousness may refer to a right standing which is earned or that which is inherent in the person. Or the term may refer to right living however defined. Jesus was teaching an important truth: entranced into the Kingdom was top priority. The Pharisees taught that their righteousness – right standing and right of entrance into God’s favor – consisted of their personal lawmaking and their lawkeeping. In their scheme, self-righteousness was measured by and gained through personal lawmaking and lawkeeping.

Some recent theologians have emphasized that Pharisee’s form of religiosity was not so much to earn a place in the covenant community as to maintain it. Personal lawkeeping was needed not so much for membership in the covenant community but to maintain a person’s position and membership in it. In both schemes, the emphasis was on personal lawmaking and lawkeeping. In the religious system of Jesus’ day, the person functioned as his own messiah. Jesus was not needed. In the system of Jesus’ day and those who discuss the so-called New Perspective on Paul, self-righteousness trumped the righteousness of another person including Christ which was credited to another’s account for salvation. Therefore Israel did not need a Savior, certainly not one like Christ. While some people may have appreciated the miracles, the general view of the day was to heck with Christ. They reasoned that they needed another type of messiah – one who would lead them out of physical bondage. They assumed their spiritual condition was healthy.

 

Application:

  1. Define the yoke and yeast of Pharisees. Give the reasons it was/is so pernicious.
  2. Give examples of self-righteousness (see Luke 18:9-14; The Rich Young Ruler; Phil. 3:3-6). Give reasons it is so God-dishonoring.
  3. What was the hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VI

The Yoke and the Yeast

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy was Himself – the Truth – which John expressed as the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly because it is a habituated, patterned self-pleasing. It takes a supernatural act of God in the heart of a person to bring a change. John calls this the new birth or better the birth from above – by the Holy Spirit (regeneration: John 3:3-8).

Paul also took up the yoke of false teaching (see Romans and Galatians).                                                                                                                                                                                                            Abraham had a similar adventure with lawkeeping. In Romans 4:1-3, Paul wrote that Abraham sought truth on the subject of lawkeeping and justification (right standing before God as Judge). Abraham learned that justification by works is unbiblical. It is no match for a saving faith-received justification through grace by faith alone following regeneration (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). In Romans 10:1-5, Paul addressed the subject from another angle. Paul gave a correct view of Israel. Israel had zeal for the law and lawkeeping but this was woefully inadequate and inappropriate. It was not simply a quantitative issue regarding the amount of lawkeeping.  It was far more substantial. Jesus and Paul were touching the heart of the matter- the heart. Israel had such a high view of themselves as lawmakers and lawkeepers that they did not need anyone or anything else. In contrast, Jesus and Paul taught that there must be zeal for God’s lawmaking and zeal for Christ’s lawkeeping rather than for one’s personal lawkeeping.

The call to come to Jesus was and is more than an invitation. It was an exhortation to a people in the throes of bondage. Scripture presents this bondage in a number of ways. In the case of Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus had drawn the contrast between Him and His teaching and that of the spiritual leaders of the day and their teaching. The contrast involved more than simple teaching and doctrine. Jesus contrasted Himself as a Person and Teacher with the spiritual leaders. The people bore a heavy, impossible load.  But both the people and the spiritual leaders were blind and oblivious to their own hardness of heart. Peter drew a similar contrast in 1 Peter 5:1-4. He gives the proper manner for shepherds to shepherd God’s flock.

Christianity is a works religion but the works are not personal lawkeeping as the source of salvation or sanctification. Rather, Christianity focuses on Christ’s lawkeeping of God’s laws and the person dependence on Him and His lawkeeping. Lawkeeping is an expression of one’s salvation. Paul thanked God for His perfect, good law (Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11) and for Christ’s perfect obedience – His perfect lawkeeping (Rom. 3:21-26; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). In the Pharisees’ scheme, self-righteousness trumped Christ’s righteousness. God was not needed to give the law and Christ was not needed to keep the law. They had Moses and what he gave and they had their man-made traditions (John 5:45-47; Matt. 15:1-6; Mark 7:1-5).

Sometimes Christians fall into the same deceptive, God-dishonoring trap when they set up unbiblical checkpoints. One more good work and or one less bad work is hoped to correct the balance-beam so that good outweighs the bad. The truth of the matter is that one sin – the one sin in Adam – so pushes the beam so far down that only divine intervention can change the scales. Therefore no one can or desires to come to Jesus unless his heart has been supernaturally, miraculously, and radically changed (John 3:3-8; 6:35ff, 60-64). Coming to Jesus is a personal choice only as an expression of what God in Christ by the Holy Spirit has done in and for the person. Coming to Jesus is a result and proof of the radical change in a person’s heart. In terms of life after salvation, coming to Jesus is an expression of growth in Christ which pleases the Triune God. Growth in personal holiness and Christlikeness is testimony to what one is in Christ – union with Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit. For the believer, personal lawkeeping is not a burden or even a demand, but a blessing and privilege. It is not to earn but to testify and to please God. It is done as a child of the King to God, for God, in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. What is your understanding of salvation and sanctification?
  2. What is your understanding of the Law and lawkeeping?
  3. Articulate the yoke and yeast of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day.

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VII

Reasons for Not Coming and Rest

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light;

 

            Come to Jesus can occur only if you have some but proper knowledge of who God is and of yourself. That knowledge is imparted by the Holy Spirit as a gift and blessing. Come to Jesus requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. They are to put on God-pleasing God-dependence. In order for this to occur, people need an inside-out, supernatural and miraculous operation resulting in a new heart. Only the believer has the capacity to think, desire, and act as God-pleaser for His sake and His glory. Throughout His ministry, Jesus presented the what and the how of denying self. He taught and practiced self-denial. For Christ, denying self meant pleasing His Father in lieu of Himself. In his gospel, John reiterates the truth that Jesus the Son of God was discipled by the Father with the goal of pleasing Him (John 4:31-34). That goal motivated Him to the cross and beyond.

A critical question that requires an answer is: why won’t people come? The answer is a matter of life and death, salvation and condemnation. There was a marked disconnect between what Jesus knew and what Israel knew as a nation. It is critical to remember that Israel of Jesus’ time was following the footsteps of the forefathers (see Acts 7:37ff, 44ff, 51-53). Several reasons can be given as to why the people did not come but they can be summarized as ignorance, arrogance, or both. The people spearheaded by the spiritual leaders and their religious machine, even juggernaut, did not think they needed to come. Perhaps they did not know how to come. The people had heard the call come to me as given here and earlier as repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is here as proclaimed by John the Baptist. We should not limit the non-coming to the spiritual leaders. In general, the nation as a whole was apostate. However, God’s remnant was present in Israel and they did come.

Scripture tells us that Israel as a nation did not come because very few believed that they needed to come (Matt 9:12-13; 12:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10). Seemingly they were comfortable and they rested in self.  Most of Israel had not experienced a spiritual awakening. They were children of darkness and theologically dense. They had physical eyes but they did not see and physical ears but they did not hear. Their senses were trained for self-pleasing and self-worship (Heb. 5:11-14). Jesus had come to His own people, but they did not receive Him – they rejected Him (John 1:5-9).

Jesus described the people as weary and burdened. They were on the treadmill of human effort. They must churn out works and manipulate the rules or be buried in the realization that they can’t measure up. In response to the exile and an earnest desire to avoid that experience, the spiritual leaders changed the standard by establishing their own – the traditions of men. The spiritual leaders had placed on themselves and the people a constant maze of legalistic contortions of keep and do (Matt. 23:4-7; Luke 11:46; 18:9-14). Rule and regulation-keeping functioned as acts of obedience but according to human tradition and human effort. These acts were to outweigh acts of disobedience. Paul followed this same philosophy until he was saved (Phil. 3:3-6).

The spiritual leaders and the people of Jesus’ day were not different from the people of today. So many people practice the balance-beam theory of acceptance before God in salvation and sanctification. The people depend on their own efforts, merits, and achievements to get ahead and to find acceptance. They never do and they never will. But those facts don’t stop their efforts. Jesus knew that!

Jesus is the Knower. He knew the people and their anguish and misery. All believers should draw strength and hope from the fact that Jesus knows and has answers. He described the condition of those that He offered the call and invitation – they were weary and heavy burdened. What was happening to these people? Jesus was not referring to physical problems and physical labor. Jesus was describing a way of life that centered on self for self by self. That way of life was associated with the onerous burden and weight of personal lawkeeping and the constant drive to “measure up.” The people had bought into the false teaching of the Pharisees. Personal effort was mandatory and sufficient to gain and prove a special provision before God. Rather, the law of God was not the problem. The problem was fencing of God’s law in an effort to keep the law for personal gain. The spiritual leaders established their laws in an attempt to keep God’s law in their own strength. The fallacy of constant, perfect or semi-perfect lawkeeping remain today as a symbol of man’s ignorance and arrogance.

Christ makes a promise – the gift of refreshment.  Christ was addressing the sin of self-righteousness with its ignorance and arrogance. Jesus was giving the people a theological lesson.  He was teaching them about Himself and themselves.  Jesus was addressing an age-old problem: how do you get right with God? Some answer by saying there is no God or they are not sure that there is one. So what is the big deal? Others view true religion as doing it yourself. This is a self-righteousness religiosity or moralism. This was introduced in the Garden at the fall.  Many deny their inability choosing instead to believe in themselves. Being on the self-righteous merry-go-round keeps a person stuck on himself and away from God. A proud person steps onto and stays on the merry-go-round of earning self-worth. Pride and ignorance keeps him on it. Grace is God’s gift and ticket off the merry-go-round. This applies for both salvation and sanctification – growth in Christ.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on works? Are they are blessing or a curse? See John 14:15, 21, 23 and 1 John 5:3 to help you answer.
  2. Read Philippians 3:3-6, 7-11: describe how Paul answered the works question.
  3. Read Philippians 2:12-13 and 2 Peter 1:5-10 and write out how they fit into Jesus’ call? What changes do you need to make in your view of the law and law keeping?

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part VIII

Come

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

Coming to Jesus involves and requires denying self. Deny self what? All people are to put off or replace self-dependence, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation. As I have written, in order for this to occur, people need an inside-out operation resulting in a new heart. The Bible speaks of this as regeneration (John 3:3-8). In Matthew 11, Jesus presented the essence of denying self. Denying self means accepting and applying what He taught which was from above and true. Jesus’ origin was heaven and so, too, was His teaching. Denying His teaching is denying Him. It seemed ludicrous and counterintuitive for people to embrace Jesus and His teaching. The Israelites thought they only needed physical freedom and if Jesus could not obtain it for them, they would remain on the lookout for someone who would. In the meantime, they had themselves. For the people, physical problems and their solutions were keys. They conducted their lives as if the physical trumped the spiritual. The people saw no connection with the physical and the spiritual.

As we have discussed Jesu s warned the people to beware of the leaven/yeast of the Pharisees. This leaven/yeast was both their teaching and hypocrisy: personal lawkeeping of their own law in their own strength for their own benefit. They were their lawmaker and law keeper. There was no spiritual need and consequently the mantra was: we need our kind of messiah. He is one that will release us from physical domination of Rome.

Jesus warned the people to be on guard regarding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1-2). The phrase Be on guard is addressed proper thinking – about self and the spiritual leaders as well as their teaching. Hypocrisy is pretend. It is play-acting such that the person is not the person he appears to be. Hypocrisy is deception and dishonesty. Ironically, the true hypocrites charged Jesus with deception which attested to their pride and deception (John 6:41, 52; 7:5, 12, 40-43, 47, 52; 8:48, 52-53, 57). The spiritual leaders and their followers were in serious trouble. They denied that fact. Personal lawkeeping had worked just fine for them so they reasoned that they did not need to depend on another’s lawkeeping especially someone like Jesus. Jesus looked just like any other Jew. He had no personal pedigree and He was considered a loser.

Hypocrisy involves trying to look good on the outside but the inside is cold and hard (Matt. 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). Jesus’ answer to hypocrisy is the same as that for false teaching: Himself. He is Truth.  John expressed this in John 8:31-32: the truth will set you free. Jesus’ statement indicates that every person outside for Christ is outside of the truth/Truth and is in bondage.  Israel was following its history of bondage. Personal lawkeeping when it is a way of life does not die quickly. Again, it requires a supernatural act of God in the heart at salvation and the believer grows in Christlikeness (John 3:3-8; Phil. 2:12-1`3).

The gospels also warned the people to be aware of the yeast of Herod (Mark 8:15). What was his yeast? Herod Antipas was an evil, fearful person. He had beheaded John the Baptist simply to look good before his friends (Matt. 14:9-10; Mark 6:16). Herod hoped to see Jesus perform (Luke 23:8). He made a connection behind John the Baptist and Jesus but he desired to kill Jesus (Luke 9:7-9; 13:31; 23:8). Herod was guilty and on the run from God as taught in Proverbs. 28:1. Herod lived by a now, material, earthly philosophy – for me, by me, to me, and now. Herod’s leaven was little different from that of the Pharisees. Self and hypocrisy took center stage

Come to Me should have been music in the ears (and hearts) of the people. Believing – saving and sanctifying faith – is a most wonderful thing. It is a gift. It ushers in a true conviction of self as a sinner, sin as rebellion against God, and the beauty and majesty of God in Christ via the Holy Spirit. The work of the Triune God ushers in salvation and continues the believer along the path of growth in Christ. Christ intended those truths to be a blessing then and now.

 

Application:

 

  1. What is your leaven?
  2. What is your response to it?
  3. Compare 1 Peter 5:5-7 with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30: what are the similarities?

 

 

Come to Jesus: Matthew 11:28-30: Part IX

Conclusion

 

  • 28: Come to me, all who weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest;
  • 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
  • 30: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

 

In this proportion we read that Jesus issues an invitation. The invitation is for people to come to and unite with Him. He offers Himself and their burden. Their burden was themselves and self-righteousness. Jesus knew His people. By design, He was speaking primarily to Jews. He knew that they had been exposed to a false gospel. They were being taught that salvation and sanctification was for self-righteous people which were the proud, few, and hard-working people.

The spiritual leaders thought they knew the consequence of falling short of God’s law – the exile. So in order to “improve” their chances of keeping His law and avoiding another exile, they introduced hedges or fences that assured themselves that they could keep the law. However, the law was not God’s law. It had been manipulated by men so that I real sense it was “keep-able.” The spiritual leaders and people were not concerned about God and His law but about self and their law. They exchanged the truth of God, His lawmaking and lawkeeping, for a lie – their lawmaking and lawkeeping (Rom. 1:18-23). They hoped against hope to prevent the consequences of failing to keep the law. But the law was not God’s law. They became a law unto themselves: they set the law, determined obedience or disobedience, and determined their reward. They lived based on externals. They did not need a spiritual savior or messiah. They had themselves. They only needed physical relief.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were following the footsteps of their forefathers. This external way of life was not new to the Jews/Pharisees. Israel had a long history of idolatrous activities and killing the prophets. The prophets had warned against religious externality (Isa. 1:11-15; 44:3; Jer. 6:19-20; 7:20-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:7; Hosea 6:6; 1 S 15:22-23; Ps 50:6-14).  Now Jesus, the ultimate Prophet came to His own and offered a new way of life through Him. Jesus ushered in a new creation and believers were to be new creatures. Jesus understood what the people refused to understand and acknowledge. They were heavy burdened. They had no rest. The daily grind of personal lawkeeping was (and is) tantamount to a boulder around one’s neck. It takes an increasing amount of energy to keep going. There does not seem to be light at the end of the personal lawkeeping tunnel.

Jesus speaks to the people as the beacon of hope, the living water, and the light of the world. He simply says come and offers contrasts in Matthew 11:28-30 to help motivate the people to come and enjoy. Jesus contrasts Himself and His teaching with the Pharisees and their teaching. Jesus was not simply offering the gospel. His call was a call was to a new way of life and a new existence. He called the people to change their whole approach to God and themselves. That was the only way that the people would rest – on the earth and ultimately in heaven. Getting saved and living as one saved were included in Jesus’ call. Salvation and sanctification both involve a right view of lawmaking and lawkeeping and a right view of God, self, and grace.

 

Application:

  1. Do you hear the call? Do you heed the call? Give reasons.
  2. What does heeding the call look like in your life?
  3. How does 1 John 5:3 fit into your answer?
  4. How does Psalm 34:8 fit into your answer?

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part A-C: Does God give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part A: Does God give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (NIV)

The title is intended to pique your interest. Some have written that God does not give you more than you can handle and others have said that he does. How do we resolve this seeming dilemma? The statement: God does not give a believer more than he can handle, addresses two players. Do you see them?  One is God and the other is the believer. The phrase makes a statement about God and about the believer. The statement is a reiteration of the non-negotiable truth that God is good, purposeful, and powerful. In a nutshell he is in control with a purpose – for his glory and the good of the believer. Because God is sovereign he is trustworthy. He is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper extraordinaire. From God’s perspective he will never exceed your spiritual IQ. Too often the believer may feel God has. That is part of the believer’s problem because a person’s thinking and wanting are linked to feelings. In reality, the Triune God has provided more than enough in His indwelling Holy Spirit and the believer’s union with Christ so that the believer never has to be “under the circumstances.” Rather the believer adopts and acts based on God’s perspective. Paul expressed this truth in our passage (1 Cor. 10:13), and such passages as Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9, and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. God always provides a way of escape in every situation (1 Cor. 10:13). The way of escape is not necessarily out of the situation but often, it is remaining in the situation but God’s way. That way is thinking, wanting, and acting according to biblical truth as the believer uses the situation to become more like Christ.

How is it that God will never exceed a believer’s spiritual IQ? God had an original design. It was for his children to be in his presence eternally. In order for that to occur, the believer is to grow in Christlikeness. Christ is the only one in whom God was well-pleased. Growth in Christlikeness honors the Godhead and it is best for the believer. However, the truth be known, too often, relief and happiness is the believer’s main focus rather than growth in holiness.

God possesses personal and intimate knowledge of himself, his creation, his creatures, and his children. He knows what the believer needs in order for the believer to fulfill the eternal design of the Godhead. From eternity past, God chose people for himself to be holy and blameless – like Christ (John 6:37-43; Eph. 1:4). In a nutshell God’s choice means that believers are chosen in Christ though the Holy Spirit in order for them to become more like Christ. The believer is the most changed person and he is to be the most changing person. What God has done in eternity will not be thwarted in time and space by God or the believer. Rather he has ordained all that comes to pass for his glory and the good of his people (Job 42:8; Isaiah 41:10-14; 43:13; 46:10). Therefore, God will not burden his people with “something that they can’t handle.” God’s providential control is geared toward manifesting his glory and achieving the believer’s good.  But what does that mean in the everyday existence of the believer? In answering that question, it would be wise to consider if God gave Christ more than he could handle. Obviously the answer is no. The basis for no is the Intratrinitarian relationship.

The other player is the believer. The question, does God give the believer more than he can handle, moves to the heart of the matter, the heart, or the motivation center of every person. The question forces the believer to ask himself from whose perspective he should consider. The question not only addresses God, his providence, control, and provisions and resources but also the believer’s view of God, self, and God’s providence and control. The question focuses on an issue of theological importance: is there any event in the believer’s life that is too much for him to handle? Before you answer the question, please define handle. What does the term mean? Biblically, to handle something means to use the situation (event) as God intended – to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Handle refers to fruit bearing, becoming like Christ in the situation. Handle is a short, six-letter word but it carries quite a theological punch, even a wallop. It focuses on God and the believer in the midst of troubling times.

God is in the business of growing his people. He expresses his desire and expectation by a vine illustration which goes back to the Old Testament. The house of Israel and the men of Judah were Yahweh’s vineyard and garden of delight (Isa. 3:14; 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21; Ps. 80:8-16). In the vineyard was the vine – Israel. Israel was to bear fruit but she did not. John 15 picks up this theme. Jesus is the true Israel, the true vine. Jesus was what Israel was not. He was the restored Son Israel and the true Vine who bore good fruit (John 15). God expects and equips his people to bear fruit. John wrote that love of God meant commandment-keeping (obedience) and that God’s commands are not irksome or burdensome (1 John 5:3). As it was for Christ, obedience is always to be associated with trust. Trust and obedience equate with love and love results in trust and obedience. The three are linked and in fact inseparable (John 14:15, 21, 23). So should it be for the believer. However, too often the believer considers the events of life (actually God’s providence) apart from what he is in Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Such is the underlying dynamic in such states as depression, anxiety, and fear. The believer feels as if he is on his own, alone and without resources and without God. In contrast, Jesus knew who he was (his identity), his origin (from heaven), and his destiny (to heaven). He had a good handle (no pun intended!) on the big picture. Consequently, Jesus was able to put God’s providence – the events in his life – in proper perspective. He used God’s providence for his own growth as he grew as the Messiah (Luke 2:40-52; Heb. 5:8). He was the true fruit-bearer. Therefore he is the true Vine. So, too, is the believer to bear fruit by staying connected to the true Vine. The believer can always use the events in his life the way God intended.

With that introduction we will take a closer at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and in particular chapter 10.

 

Application:

  1. Define handle.
  2. What does the word refer?
  3. How do you answer the question: does God give the believer more than he can handle?
  4. What is the basis for your answer?

 

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part B: Does Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

A brief look at some features of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians will help us correctly understand the Holy Spirit’s message through Paul to the Corinthians and to all believers throughout the ages. Paul ministered to the gifted but sin-laden, strife-filled, side-choosing Corinthian Church with the full force of biblical truth. The motif Paul chose was one of contrast. He contrasted the theology of the cross with that of the wisdom of the world. This letter is one of application in the context of a contrast: the wisdom of the world vs. God’s wisdom as portrayed in the wisdom of the cross (summarized in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Paul had ministered in Corinth for some 18 months. He had one major purpose in writing. He addressed the people in order to resolve a number of serious problems that resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, and self-exalting individualism. Many were controlled by I want and I deserve (James 4:1-3). Many, perhaps most, of the Corinthian people were convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people. This resulted in factionalism, division, and strife. Sinning sufferers and suffering sinners abounded.

There was no growth in Christlikeness but growth in self-pleasing. God’s honor was at stake and the good of the people was being threatened. Left to themselves, the people were following in the footsteps of their forefathers. The activity of growth in Christ – progressive sanctification – was being stilted. In the context of the letter Paul wrote in chapter 10, verse 13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (NIV)

This passage has been a blessing to Christians over the years. It was intended to be a blessing to the Corinthians as well. Many have commented on the passage and written on the subject of hope. A logical question arises: why is this passage in its context such a hope-engendering passage?  Hopefully (no pun intended!) all would agree that the passage is hope-engendering. We must remember that biblical hope is the only true hope. A succinct definition of hope is found in Romans 8:24-25. Biblical hope is the confident expectation that God says what he means and brings to pass all things for his glory and the good of his people. God makes promises and keeps them. God is trustworthy. He is to be trusted. At regeneration and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, God has made believers his children and fellow heirs with Christ. They were rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom AND themselves. He gave them a new label, a new identity. In principle, they are a God- trusting people. Failure to trust God is a control issue. Everyone is a truster from birth. The issue is the object of that trust. The person trusts God or  something else, most likely himself.

Hope is similar to faith (Heb. 11:6). Each is characterized by someone who believes, trusts, and hopes. Each has content. Each has an object. Every person is a truster and a hope-er. The key is the object and content of the trust and hope. In every situation the person expresses his faith and trust and his hope. He will prove himself faithful and hopeful to God or to self.

How should we understand our passage? We begin with the context. Paul ministered to a patterned, proud people. They experienced hard times which are actually God’s providence. They had been sinned against and they had sinned against one another. Strife was rampant in the congregation. Sinners and sinning was the environment of the day as manifested by the presence of sinning sufferers and suffering sinners.

Paul opened chapter 10 by calling on the Corinthians to remember relationships, past and present (v.1-5). He did not want any one ignorant (v.1). Ignorant of what, you might ask. In verses 2-5, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s supernatural activity in closing down one relationship (Israel’s to Egypt) and opening another one (Israel’s to Moses and Moses’ to Israel). Yet, Paul goes on to tell the people that the Israelites did not get it. In a like manner the congregation in Corinth was not getting it. Self-pleasing was rampant. People were hurting. They did not like their circumstances (God’s providence), they did not like each other, and they did not like God.  Actually they were living the lie. God was faithful but they were not. Paul called on the congregation to look to the faithfulness of God in their situation and actually do a spiritual inventory (Heb. 4:12; 2 Cor. 13:5). Paul was interested in a growing, God-honoring congregation. He called on the people to look to God. He made the same appeal as he opened the letter (1 Cor. 1:11-17).

 

Application:

  1. Using Romans 8:24-25, define hope. Compare it to the Spirit’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:6. What do you learn?
  2. What were the Corinthians to handle? How were they to do it?
  3. What was preventing them from handling God’s providence including being sinned against as well as their own sin?
  4. Where was their theology incorrect and what did it lead to?

 

1 Corinthians 10:13: Part C: Does Give the Believer More Than He Can Handle?

Verse 13 highlights the unfaithfulness of the Corinthians and the Israelites and highlights God’s trustworthiness. It has been said that the passage applies mainly to those sinning and not necessarily to those who are suffering. I find that an interesting dichotomy. The Bible pictures people as sinners and sufferers. Even the non-sinning Christ experienced much turmoil and hard times during his lifetime. All people live in God’s world and are subject to God’s providence. God is faithful no matter the event or situation and no matter the role of the individual in the event. It is people who prove unfaithful. In fact God’s providence is the context in which he displays his love, mercy, and trustworthiness. Those words seem so strange and counter-intuitive when God’s providence includes a tsunami of unpleasantness and hard times. From the believer’s prospective the mountain can seem so high, the hole so deep, and the tunnel so long. The believer sees with physical eyes and he doesn’t see God or God’s provisions. He considers himself resource-less. The believer is in danger of living the lie. The real question is not God’s faithfulness – his power, goodness, and purpose – but the believer’s trusting and trustfulness.

God’s providence may include events not of the person’s own choice. I see patients with various rheumatic conditions that came about in God’s providence without any contribution by the person. God’s providence also includes the believer being sinned against. However, he may have sinned against the other person initially or in response. Such was the case in the Corinthian church. Sinners and sufferers abounded.

No matter. The question remains: does God overextend his people? Does he go beyond the person’s spiritual IQ and capacity? Sometimes a person may find himself in a situation and attribute it to “life” rather God’s providence and say that I can’t. Is that a valid response? When the person cries out that the mountain is too high, the hole too deep, and the tunnel too long, from whose perspective is the person speaking? The passage makes clear that God is faithful. Amen! A person may doubt God’s faithfulness but he should draw strength from the truth about God and himself. The passage tells us that there are things God will not allow (see the Lord’s Prayer). He will not let any believer be tempted beyond his capacity. Paul’s spoke of the capacity to honor God by pleasing him rather than self. The believer is never without the resources that would force him to say he can’t respond to the situation in a God-honoring manner. God-honoring thoughts, desires, and actions are possible and expected by God no matter his providence. This is heavy theology. Therefore, if a believer does sin and functions as if he is “under the circumstances” it is because he failed to acknowledge his identity in Christ and failed to utilize God’s provisions: his relationship with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and saving and enabling grace to motivate him to grow and change in the situation. Wow! Again this is heavy theology. I hear it often: I am not Paul and I am not Christ. Both are true statements but they have no significance when it comes to the believer growing and changing. God in his providence may keep his people in their particular situation. Such is our God. Some of these situations are not pretty and in fact are unpleasant, burdensome, and even horrifying.

Let’s move to verse 14 of chapter 10. It is rather simple and direct: flee from idolatry. Some relate the passage to what has gone ahead. If we limit idolatry to the worship of physical objects I think we have made a mistake. Verse 14 is similar to the ending of 1 John (5:21). John and Paul give the same message. Idolatry must be seen as self-worship. People are idolaters from birth as unbelievers. Idolatry is manifested as self-worship in both believers and unbelievers. Such is the temptation when any believer is faced with unpleasant situations. John Murray called these God’s frowning providences.  In them and in response, the believer will choose between pleasing and honoring God and pleasing and honoring himself. Even Jesus was tempted to place self over his Father by pleasing himself rather honoring and pleasing his Father (Heb. 4:15).

God’s grace is needed in order to respond in a God-honoring way in every act of God’s providence. We need to guard against the idea that there are small and large providences and therefore, a person only needs grace when he determines his resources are non-existent or he is overextended. Paul gives a commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul knew God’s providence was behind his physical malady. Paul had no doubt that God was in control and the Deliverer. Paul prayed for the removal of his malady. God said no and God gave his reason. Simply, Paul was to depend on God and not self. Paul was encouraged not to be an idolater. In response to God’s explanation, Paul produced good fruit. He cried out to the trustworthy God that he had described in 1 Corinthians. It is interesting that he did not pray for grace! He prayed for more frowning providences! He wanted what God wanted for him rather than relief. Paul wanted what every believer should want. Paul followed Jesus’ example. Both knew God’s game plan (Paul imperfectly) and both wanted to be part of it. Wow and amen! The believer is to imitate both Christ and Paul in every act of God’s providence. God does not and will not forsake his children.

 

Application:

  1. Describe your view of God especially his trustworthiness. How does the hymn, It is well with My Soul, fit your view?
  2. When you “feel” overwhelmed record your thoughts and desires about God, self, others, and God’s providence.
  3. What changes do you need to make in order to be a godly truster and hoper?

1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians 3:12-14, Part A-C: The Past: Friend or Foe?

1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians 3:12-14, Part A: The Past: Friend or Foe?

The past is an interesting term. This seemingly simple four-letter word conjures up thoughts regarding its meaning and systems of addressing it. The term is generally defined as what or even who went before. The past deals with that which has existed or has taken place in a period before the present.                  The past has a time reference. It refers to something that existed or occurred previously. The word indicates something which is no more. The event and the situation are no longer current since they existed in the past.

Yet, the past carries significance for many people. Sometimes, the past has to do with the present. For some people the past is the present or at least determines the present. They base their conclusions on experience however troubling they may have been. However, the past is not the key. It is one’s response that is the key. Too frequently, the past event or person is entangled with one’s perception of it and subsequent response or responses. Terms such as recall, remembering, and memories come to the fore. It is as if a person is his past to such a degree that the past controls him or her.

Everyone has a past. In fact most people personalize the past using such terms as my past or your past. People acknowledge an experience or time frame prior to their present. From the womb to the grave, everyone has a past. The past has several aspects:

  • An actual fact
  • Perception of that fact whether it be a person, an event, or a situation
  • The now: you then and now
  • God, now and then (this fact is often misunderstood or not considered.)
  • There is a response often expressed in terms of feelings but which is directly linked to thoughts and desires.

How are you doing with your past? Does the Bible offer any direction on the subject of the past? Most certainly it does! Depending on your view of the past addressing or handling the past should follow a tried and proven principle exemplified by Christ’s mediatorial work before the cross and while on the cross. Christ redeemed his time on earth. Jesus used what was bad – humiliation – for good – to please his Father by saving a people for himself. That is one lesson of the cross. He endured the shame and pain of his humiliation for the gain – the joy set before him (Heb 12:1-3; Phil. 2:9-11). The joy was return to heaven as the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords in the very presence of the Triune God.

In like manner, the believer is to redeem the past whether the past seems to represent the good, the bad, or the ugly (Eph. 5:15-18). He is to use past events to become more like Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Let’s be clear. The last sentence may seem like a theological mountain that cannot be climbed if the past is a burden to you. Yet there is hope in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35-39).

Everyone has a past and everyone has memories of it. Memories are thoughts that focus on actions perhaps taken against you or for you and your actions in return. Actually the past is a reality that has been perceived and reevaluated often on a continuous basis into the present. The results can be gratifying or frightening. How are you doing with your past? How does God want you/us to consider those events now?

There are several non-negotiable truths that will aid a person to redeem the past.

  1. Everyone has a past but they are not their past.
  2. God is powerful and purposeful controlling all things for his glory and the good of his people.
  3. The past is actually a product of God’s control since he is Lord of lords and King of kings. This is his world as Creator, Controller, and Sustainer.
  4. God is in your past because he ordained all that comes to pass. Therefore a response to the past is actually a response to him – for or against him.
  5. A response to the past is a response to others and circumstances that God has brought into your life. Your response reflects your view of God’s power and goodness.
  6. A response to the past reflects your answer to the question: did God make a mistake?
  7. A response to the past flows from thoughts and desires developed in the past and influences your present response to the person and or event from the past.

Two passages (1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians 3:12-14) help us understand and apply the above non-negotiable truths in order to think about and handle or the past God’s way. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul taught an immutable truth: never forget the past (notice the cognitive and thinking term forget). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul encouraged the congregation to forget what is behind and push on – endure.  These two truths are not contradictions. They express the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s revealed truth. Rightly understood they help us to handle the past God’s way.

 

Application:

  1. How do you define your past?
  2. Read 1 Tim. 1:12-16 and Phil. 3:12-14 and write down the context for each passage and Paul’s goal in presenting seeming contradictions.
  3. What was Paul to remember and what was he to forget?
  4. What do your learn about God, yourself, God’s control, and others?

1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians 3:12-14, Part B: The Past: Friend or Foe?

Timothy, a trusted disciple, was one of Paul’s closest co-workers who accompanied him on his missionary journeys. Paul considered Timothy his spiritual son (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1). Paul, the fearless one and lover of the Lord, was ready to pass the baton to Timothy. The work Paul had begun must go on. However, Paul knew that Timothy was fearful (1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Cor. 16:10-11; 2 Tim. 1:7). Because of that fact, Paul opened his first letter to Timothy with the exhortation to uphold sound, hygienic, healthy doctrine. He made a similar admonition to the Ephesian elders. They were to be beware of false teachers within the church (Acts 20:28-31). The admonition and exhortation to guard the flock continues until Christ returns. False teachers abound.

Paul’s exhortation regarding false teachers and their teaching was given in 1 Timothy 1: 3-7. He followed this exhortation with teaching on the law in verses 8-11 which is summarized in verse 8: the law is good if one uses it properly. Paul had been a false teacher as described in Philippians 3:3-6 (see Acts 9, 22, 26). Note well that Paul’s description of himself dated back to his birth. Paul had been born a rebel and lived as one until that day on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He had prided himself on his pedigree, position, and performance. He considered himself a lawkeeper par excellence. He was stuck on himself for the use of a non-biblical standard as his law and for his own law-

keeping. Working righteousness his way for his own glory had been upper most in his thinking and wanting. Under the godless but ignorant assumption that he did not need a Savior, he functioned as his own savior!

In 1 Timothy 1:12-16, Paul as a believer drew entirely different conclusions regarding his past than as an unbeliever. He acknowledged he had a past. In verse 12, in spite of his past, he joyfully and humbly thanked God for saving him, strengthening him, appointing him to the gospel ministry, and counting him faithful. In verse 13 he recounted his past: he had un-confessed sins: he had sinned against God, the Church, and individuals. He was a blasphemer (sinned against God) and a persecutor and violent man (a murderer, he sinned against others). Paul never forgot his past. Rather, he came to appreciate and rejoice in the fact that in spite of himself God saved him, let alone placed him in ministry. His past was a stepping stone for Paul to truly appreciate God’s supernatural activity in his life.

He realized that when considering his past more was at stake than simply acknowledging himself a blasphemer, murderer, and angry man. Rather since birth he had been a self-pleaser! After his conversion, Paul was able to accurately identify his previous habitual, patterned sinfulness of self-pleasing. He came to realize that he had acted as his own lawmaker and lawkeeper. These insights are similar to David’s experience as captured in the opening verses of Psalm 51 (v.1-5). Both Paul and David knew that they, and every sinner, have patterned self-pleasing since the womb. The self-pleasing manifests itself in a variety of ways throughout life. For David the immediate issues of manifested self-pleasing were adultery and murder. For Paul it was attacking God and the Church.

Paul was now in love with God. He could not get enough of him (see Philippians 3:7-11). Since Paul properly understood God and himself, he was able to properly address his past. In 1 Timothy 1:14, Paul lauded God as the abundant Grace-giver as evidenced by Paul’s union with Christ and salvation. Paul was a redeemed man!

At the height of his exhilaration and as an encouragement for himself and his son Timothy, Paul wrote in verse 15 what he called a trustworthy saying: Jesus came to save sinners and he, Paul, was the chief among them. Wow!  How could that be? What did Paul mean? Remember that Paul was encouraging timid Timothy because God’s work must go on. At least one way to understand this passage is from a relational aspect. Paul came to realize that one reality of the present, daily life and life after death was a personal encounter with God, the just Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 14:10, 12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Paul knew that he would stand alone before God and could not blame others as causative or instrumental in his rebellion. He could not claim to be less of a sinner than others (see Matt. 5:17-20; Luke 18:9-14). Previously, he would have pleaded his case based on his presumptuous, self-styled righteousness. But he had been stripped of his arrogant unbelief and was joyfully grateful. Now, he relied on the perfect life and perfect death of Christ and his shed blood. Paul never forgot his past but rightly understood it as one redeemed by the blood. Therefore, he was able to:

  • grow in his repentance and in humility for his patterned ignorant and arrogant rebellion against Christ;
  • increase and intensify his gratitude for who and what he was in Christ;
  • strengthen his resolve to minister truth to himself and others simply because God deserves it;
  • work heartily unto the Lord in whatever circumstance God placed him knowing that God is glorified and others, including Timothy, are to be blessed.

 

Applications:

  1. Paul was a sinner from the womb. Compare 1 Tim. 1:12-16 and Ps. 51:1-10. What do you learn and how will you use that information daily?
  2. Write out the ways that you have used your past to help you grip God’s goodness and greatness (Ps. 34:8)?
  3.  Describe your past from your perspective and then from God’s. How do they compare?

1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians 3:12-14, Part C: The Past: Friend or Foe?

The apparent “other” side of the coin regarding the past is given in Philippians 3:12-14:

v.12: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ took hold of me.

v.13: Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

v.14:  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a warm letter, one of joy and thanksgiving. But he included a warning. He was imprisoned and he urged the people to consider things from God’s perspective – he was in chains for Christ’s sake (1:12-13). Also, there was division within the local church that displeased God (4:1-2).

He began chapter 3 with a catalogue of who he had been (v.3-6) and his remarkable transformation and desire to have the full experience of who Christ is and the incomparable delight of being in him (v.7-11).  In verses 12-14, he declared a certain ignorance and enthusiasm for God’s providence and control even though he was in prison. In verse 12, Paul wrote that he had a taste of the “good life.”  Paul had a taste of the fullness of life that comes only from being in Christ. He wanted to know that more and more. He had progressed in his Christian life as he attested in verse 12. He knew and relished the fact that he had been placed into Christ. He was changed from a radical rebel and self-pleaser to a new creation desiring to grow in Christlikeness (2 Cor. 5:14-17). He had the correct view of his past and of himself. Yet, in verse 13, he expressed the reality of growth in Christlikeness. Paul was one who had become (he had been placed in Christ). But he realized he was still one who was becoming (to be more like Christ). He had changed but was still changing.

How did Paul function in the role of becomer/becoming and changer/changing? As he had done in previous epistles, he alluded to the athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:8; 4:7-8). There are many metaphors for the Christian life (life after salvation) one of which is a race (Heb. 12:1-3; James 1:12). God put every believer into the race when the Holy Spirit operated on him giving him a new heart. Once the spiritual surgery is performed, the person is a new creation. Therefore, he is expected to and has the capacity to function as a new person. Paul joyfully pictured himself and the believer as one who is to run the race God’s way, for his glory and the good of the person. Paul had not yet arrived but that fact created excitement. More growth in Christ by the Holy Spirit was a wonderful motivation and encouragement to use the past in the way God intended.

Paul forgot the past. Paul viewed himself radically different. That which he had considered wonderful and gained in his own strength – his pedigree, position, and performance – he now counted as loss, dung. He put aside the past way of thinking and wanting by putting off his previous mindset and putting on a growing appreciation of what he was in Christ (Phil. 3:7-11). The accomplishments of his past done in his own strength, he now considered worthless. What was real and significant was God’s work in him and others. He saw beyond himself.

Paul also forgot the guilt associated with his past sinfulness and resultant sins. Rather he remembered he was forgiven in Christ (Rom. 8:1; 2 Peter 1:9). Paul had tasted the depth of his past sinfulness. Therefore he began to savor the height, the width, the length, and the depth of God’s love and his saving and sanctifying grace (Eph. 3:17-21).

In verse 14, he summarized Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 John 3:1-3, and Colossians 3:1-3. There is a goal and a prize for those who run well and finish the race. The runner must keep a proper vertical focus, an eternal perspective, a right view of God’s good control and purpose for all things, and a proper interpretative grid. Scripture is that grid in lieu of experience alone, feelings, and thinking divorced from biblical truth. The runner will lose ground if he constantly looks backward, for what was behind. No matter the past – being sinned against or sinning in response – Paul encouraged the brothers to keep focused on the finish line by focusing on what one is in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus did, and so should believers. Paul did not mean that restoring relationships, repenting when proper, and performing spiritual inventories were not necessary. By all mean no. He did mean that the past was not to be an anchor and a burden that would occupy his goal of pleasing God and growth in Christlikeness. Someone who has not resolved the issue of God’s goodness, power, and control will always envision the past as God’s mistake.

The goal is to know Christ in all his fullness and that comes only as a God-pleaser. The ultimate prize is being in the eternal presence of God which began at the time of the believer’s conversion. Endurance by way of the perseverance of the saints gives the believer a taste of heaven now (1 John 3:1-3). Godly endurance is accomplished as you use your past God’s way for his glory and for your growth in Christlikeness. See Part A of this series for seven non-negotiable truths and Part B for four musts that help you redeem the past and thereby honor God.

 

Application:

  1. How are you doing as you run the race?
  2. How has your view of the past influenced your view of God and self?
  3. Describe your past in terms of the good, bad, and the ugly. Use 1 Timothy 1:12-16 and Philippians. 3:12-14 to aid you to use the past God’s way. Record your answers.

2 Corinthians 5: 20, Part B: Be Reconciled

2 Corinthians 5: 20, Part A: Be Reconciled

The Doctrine of God’s Great Exchange

 

Be reconciled are Paul’s words to the Corinthians in the context of forgiveness and restoration in the Church body. Those words are found in 2 Corinthians 5:20: ….We implore on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Paul implored the Corinthians to be reconciled to God. These are strong words. The word translated implore is parakaleo. It is a broad-scoped word pregnant with meaning. It carries with it the idea of moving someone from one mindset or position to another. It indicates a coming alongside of. It is a motivational and relational term. It pictures the work of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the second Paraclete the same kind as the Son (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Paul’s purpose in writing was manifold. It was a personal letter to a Corinthian that had been steeped in strife, divisions, and disunity. They had chosen sides and attempted to jettison God and biblical truth. Paul called them to repent and they did. Paul’s ministry in this letter was one of comfort from the heart which he gave by using suffering-comfort and trouble-joy motifs (see John 16:20-22). He wrote in order to protect God’s name, protect his own person and ministry as God’s agent, and bless the Corinthians as they put on fruits of righteousness. Paul and his ministry had been attacked. Therefore he defended his ministry, his motivation, and his message. He had God on his side.

Paul closed chapter 5 with the Holy Spirit’s teaching on the doctrine of reconciliation (see Rom. 5:11; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:21-22). The preceding verse strikes at the heart of a wrong view of self and the whole self-esteem, self-love camp (verse 15). A right view of God, self, and others is instrumental for having a proper view of reconciliation. The next two verses (v.16-17) focus on the proper and improper standards for evaluating self and others. Again, a wrong of self is an enemy of heeding Paul’s command in verse 20 and for appreciating the good news as given in the doctrine of reconciliation. Verses 18-20 help Paul focus on his ministry- the message and the motivation. The Corinthian congregation had come a long way (2 Cor. 2). From division and strife and they had embraced Paul’s teaching. They were not the same people they had been. Paul, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, saw fit to give clear teaching on the doctrine of reconciliation (v.18-20).

Paul’s command in verse 20 creates a number of problems. What does the word mean, who is to be reconciled, and how will reconciliation happen? We often hear the word reconciliation when we encounter relationship problems. Relationship problems develop because of people in the relationship. Broken relationships are the result of broken, sinful people. What is the Holy Spirit through Paul teaching us? Answering the question requires some knowledge of Paul the person.

Post-conversion, Paul was a servant of Christ, an apostle, and saved sinner. Pre-conversion, Paul based his identity on his pedigree (ethnic background), his performance (his personal lawkeeping and works), and his position (he was a Pharisee). Philippians 3:3-6 captures Paul’s pre-conversion mindset.  Paul records one result of this mindset in 2 Corinthians 5:16. Paul wrote that he had regarded Christ from a worldly, secular viewpoint. Basically Paul considered Jesus a man who was a threat to Judaism and his way of life. For Paul, the only logical thing to do was to destroy Christ by destroying His people.

On the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26), Paul was radically and supernaturally changed (regeneration). Not only was he changed, he was changing (life after salvation – sanctification). Paul, as are all believers, was in the new creation and was a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). John 1:1-9 expresses the old existence – Jesus came and He was rejected. The mindset of the Israelite focused on the nation and the individual person. The old consisted of the guilt and pollution as a result of being in the first Adam and the futile mindset and lifestyle as a result of God’s judgment. Moreover, Israel was conducting itself in the same way that their forefathers had. Israel was a land of idolatry. They rejected and killed the prophets as they waited on their kind of messiah trying to earn continued membership in their community. All sinned in and with the first Adam. Misery, darkness, and deadness filled the earth. God counted what Adam had done God to every person who was born of ordinary generation.  As a result a state of alienation and enmity existed between God and man. The creation groaned under the avalanche of the old but it looked forward to the new creation (Rom. 8:18-23).

 

Application:

  1. The second letter to the Corinthians was personal and intended to be a comfort. Paul knew the people were estranged from each other and thereby from God. Reconciliation was in order. Paul gave the command in verse 20.
  2. What must you know about the doctrine?
  3. Who is the Reconciler?
  4. Who is to be reconciled?
  5. What is the intended result?
  6. The message and motivation of Paul’s ministry had not changed. How does the doctrine help confirm that truth?

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 5: 20, Part B: Be Reconciled

The Doctrine of God’s Great Exchange

 

One aspect of the new creation is God’s reconciliation of Himself toward man through the blood of Christ. Believers are no longer in Satan’s family and kingdom – the old is gone the new has come. They are sinners, but saved ones who are children of God rather than children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). Previously, believers were self-pleasers by capacity, inclination, choice, and habits. Now they are God-pleasers in principle although not so in practice. Paul knew and personally experienced the radical and supernatural work of redemptive grace. As one reconciled by the Reconciler (God), Paul was humbly overjoyed and amazed. He embraced the Father’s call for him to be involved in the ministry of reconciliation.  This call includes all ministers officially and all believers unofficially. Every believer is involved in the ministry of reconciliation.

The word groups that translate reconcile are found predominantly in Paul’s writings (Rom. 5:10-11; 11:15; 1 Cor. 7:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:21-22) and also in Matthew 5:24 and Acts 7:26. Reconciliation always has a Godward reference. God is the subject (Originator/Initiator) and man is the object/receiver. The basic idea of the word is “change” or “exchange.” It is a relational word indicating that hostility, enmity, estrangement, and alienation have been exchanged. As a result, hostilities have ceased; peace and rest have been established.

The Bible recognizes and marks out fallen, unsaved man as God’s enemy. It describes this state of existence and God’s alienation from man in various ways: unsaved man is defiled, is a debtor who fails to acknowledge that fact, is engulfed in darkness, and is dead to God and pleasing Him but alive to pleasing himself. As a result of Adam’s sin an God’s judgment, there is an unsurpassable distance between God and man. Reconciliation presupposes divine separation and the great distance between God and man. The five “D” (defiled, debtor, darkness, deadness, distance) summarize the bad news and emphasize the old creation – the old mode and realm of existence of the cosmos, the Church, and the believer. Fallen, unsaved man is an enemy of God and God actively opposes his enemies.

God has a problem. It is man and His relationship to him. Man has a problem – himself and his relationship to God. Man can’t get away from God. If a change in God’s relationship to people is to occur, something radical must occur. It did! God must do the changing but He could not stop being God – holy, just, righteous, love, and merciful. How was it possible for God to be just and wrathful and be love, light, and life? Romans 3:21-28 answers the dilemma in terms of justification. The Justifier remained just by justifying on the basis of Christ’s work. Christ righteous lawkeeping and perfect death was counted to the believer. Therefore God considers the sinner not guilty and not condemned. In 2 Corinthians, Paul follows the same line of reasoning: the Reconciler remained just by reconciling.

God changed His relationship to man. There was no change in God’s essence. He remained true to Himself. God is the Reconciler. Man does not reconcile himself to God. He does reconcile to others. God reconciled Himself to His people (2 Cor.5:18: all this is from God who reconciled the world to himself through Christ.). Reconciliation of God to His people is the product of a grand and great exchange resulting in a change in God’s relationship to man and mankind. God is no longer man’s enemy and the believer can and will relate to God as his friend.

Reconciliation is a reality because God did not count Adam’s first sin and the believer’s own sins to the believer’s account. Rather, as described in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Christ who was not sin nor could he sin, was made a sin offering and a substitute for the believer. Christ offered Himself to God. Christ’s death and its acceptance by the Father removed the ground of God’s alienation in respect to God’s people (Rom. 4:25). This redemptive act, foreseen in the Old Testament, means that the believer is reconciled by God to God and is called to think, desire, and act as one reconciled to God by God.

 

Application:

  1. Summarize the doctrine of reconciliation as taught in Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Ephesians 2:16, and Colossians 1:20-21.
  2. Based on this doctrine, what do you learn about God and self?
  3. How was your enmity toward God demonstrated before salvation?
  4. How do you function as His enemy post-salvation? What is your response?

 

 

2 Corinthians 5: 20, Part C: Be Reconciled

The Doctrine of Exchange

 

Christ’s first coming ushered in a new mode and realm of existence. The new had come and the old had gone (2 Cor. 5:17). Cosmically, corporately, and individually the new had come. As a result, the Church and believers have a radically different sphere of reality and existence.  Christ’s death removed estrangement, alienation, and enmity between God and man (2 Cor. 5:20). Based on the finished work of Christ described in verse 21 and the Holy Spirit’s application of that work (1:22; 5:5), there was and is reconciliation.

The root word in the Greek New Testament means to exchange, to change, or to transform (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21). Biblically, reconciliation means enmity was replaced by friendship, estrangement by fellowship, hostility by peace, and separation by union. The question is who is the reconciler? It is God. His alienation from sinful, fallen man is holy and justified because of Who He is – the just Judge of the world – and because of whom man is. Sin and sinners are the problem.  After the first sin in the Garden, alienation occurred. As a result, God exiled Adam and Eve, not simply out of the Garden, but out of his presence.

The mode whereby God reconciles Himself to believers is given in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ, who was not sin, had no sin, and would not sin, was made sin. He, the Lamb of God, was made a sin offering by God, for God, and to God. He was a substitute for the believer and the Church. He stood in the place of His people and received the full wrath of God. Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection is the great reconciling event. The cross removed the ground of God’s alienation in regards to sinners. This redemptive act was foretold in the Old Testament (see the book of Leviticus). On the basis of Christ’s finished work, God reconciled Himself to every believer. The believer is reconciled by God to God. Therefore due to what has happened to every believer, Paul issues an altar call if you will. He calls the Corinthians to be reconciled! They are to think, desire, and act as one reconciled to God by God because they are!

Paul wanted the Corinthians to appreciate full weight of enmity with God in order to more fully appreciate the beauty of the great exchange. Every believer should come to grips with the full weight of God’s enmity with mankind in general and with every unbeliever. God did not save His friends or good people. Noon likes the bad news. Mankind was estranged, not simply out of sight and out of mind. Rather every person was destined to eternal alienation. God wanted nothing to do with anti-God, self-loving and self-worshiping people. Yet He did.  Through the redemptive work of Christ God reconciled Himself to fallen mankind and in particular those who would be believers. A changed relationship occurred because God loved the unlovely (Rom. 5:6-10).  God did this by removing the basis for His enmity. The righteousness of Christ – His perfect lawkeeping and perfect death – was applied to the sinner.  The sinner’s record is changed. Reconciliation is twofold. It arises from God through Christ and the Holy Spirit so that the barriers to fellowship existing in the sinner are removed. In addition, not only is hostility and enmity removed, God has established a growing intimacy with the believer.

The only humble, logical response by the believer is to heed Paul’s call:  Be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Paul knew the vertical controlled the horizontal. Since God had reconciled Himself to the believer, the believer, out of awe and gratitude, will function toward God and fellow believers as one reconciled. The believers at Corinth needed to hear this aspect of the good news. Relationship changing and building was ushered in by the Triune God Who is the Reconciler. The believer is called to function as a reconciler. An appreciation of God’s enmity, the cost to remove that enmity, and the cost to replace God’s enmity with fellowship and intimacy will motivate the believer to heed Paul’s cry. In that forgiveness and reconciliation are similar.  To understand God’s forgiveness and God’s reconciliation means that a believer has a proper view of himself and the bad news. Those who have been forgiven much and reconciled much will love much. When that happens, churches, homes, and personal relationships reflect God’s forgiveness and reconciliation. God is glorified and the cause of Christ is advanced.

 

 

Application:

  1. The great exchange summarizes the doctrine of reconciliation. Before you became a believer, how was your enmity toward God manifested? Include your thoughts, desires, and actions.
  2. You are now reconciled: how are you living out God’s restored relationship?
  3. How have your thoughts and desires about yourself, God, and others changed since you became a believer?

1 Timothy 1:12-16: One View of Self and Others

View of Self and Others: Man is a Seeker

Introduction

 

The concept of self-esteem (also termed self-love, self-worth, and self-confidence was a topic deluxe. Books and articles were written about it. The subject cropped up in the store, on the TV, in the newspaper, in the classroom, and from the pulpit. Everyone seemed to be intrigued in finding and capturing one’s self esteem. It was a must. Some of its glitter has fallen off and the topic is not so earth-shaking. Still people, all kinds, seem to be searching and wondering about their self-esteem.

The word esteem simply means regard, respect, value, and prize. So in essence people wonder what value they have or how valuable they are. They want to know how they are to be regarded by themselves and others. Some in the social sciences use the term positive unconditional self-regard as if it is an integral part of a person or should be. Closely behind these queries is a demand that others give a person the regard he thinks he needs and deserves. People are fixated on how others view them. This demand is driven by the person’s own idea about his presumed value. Their judgment is measured according to a standard. The standard is usually one the person imposes on himself and on others. Often the standard is a non-biblical one.

What underlies the question of worth and value is identity. People are asking who they are and secondarily, what makes knowing the answer so important. We must have a standard to correctly understand nay topic including this one. Mine is the Bible. The Bible addresses the issue of self–esteem from the aspect of man’s identity, origin, destiny, and purpose. It assumes that God is, the Creator and Controller, and that man a creature made as God’s image.

Further, the Bible teaches that God made people searchers/seekers. Initially in the Garden prior to sin, Adam and alter Eve had a singular focus: fellowship with God as His. They were to seek as privilege and duty deeper intimacy with God. Sin changed their perspective of God and self. Man continued to be the image bearer of God but ere radically changed. They turned inward to deadness and darkness. Self and worship of self through others, things, and even God became a way of life.

Unless a person is regenerated – receives a heavenly birth, he will continue to seek but not God (John 3:3-8). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus taught the disciples that everyone is a seeker and there is to be only one priority in life for every seeker. Every person is to seek first and foremost the kingdom of God. Jesus came to do His Father’s will. Jesus knew Who He was, His purpose, and His destiny. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus calls all people to follow and imitate Him. He is ultimate one who is the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3). Jesus was rich in the Holy Spirit such that He humbled Himself, became man, lived and died perfectly, and went to hell on the cross (Isa. 11;1-5; 2 Cor. 5:20-21; Phil 2:3-5, 6-8). Not everyone can or desires to seek Christ and His kingdom and family. Only those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit will seek God and His kingdom (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Those who aren’t continue to seek their own kingdom and compete with God. God does not bless His competition (Isa. 42:8; 48:8-11)

In the Matthew text, Jesus gave His disciples, and all believers, an identity and marching orders. They were and are His. By the act of regeneration through the Holy Spirit, the believer is rescued from one kingdom and family and placed into God’s family and kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13-14). Therefore, every believer has a God-given identity and label by and through the supernatural act of regeneration. God also gave every believer, and the Church, a life-long task: growth in Christ individually and corporately through preaching, teaching, and applying God’s truth (Eph. 4:11-14). The task is duty but more – it is privilege and blessing (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4). The task can be accomplished because the believer and Church have a proper vertical reference (man to God). As a result, thoughts, desires, and actions change toward God, self, and others (2 Cor. 5:9; Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The logical response for any believer is: Wow. The wow is a reflection of his identity in Christ and God’s redemptive program throughout the ages. Jesus simplified life for all believers (Matt. 11:28-30). Biblical truth does that by setting the person free from himself, sin, and Satan (John 8:31-32). Conversely, sin, error, and falsehood complicate life.

 

Application:

  1. From Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7 what is man?
  2. From Genesis 3:23-24, what happened to Adam and Eve and all mankind? What were the results?
  3. What is Jesus teaching about man in Matthew 6:33? Does man ever cease to be a seeker?

 

 

View of Self and Others

Paul’s Perspective: 1Timothy 1:12-16

 

In 1 Timothy 1:12-16 Paul clarified the concept of self esteem. In verse 15, Paul wrote: here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. What does Paul mean by that statement? What is he teaching about self-esteem?  Is he really the worst of sinners? If so how?

Many attempts to explain this verse have been made. It is an awesome statement that bears much thought. Certainly Paul is referring to an identity (chief of sinners) based on a standard (God’s truth and law). He made a conclusion about himself, the law, and God after considering himself light to who God is and His law. He concluded that: I am a sinner; I am the chief of sinners. How was it possible for Paul to know (as opposed to feel) his status? Simply, Paul is speaking of the bad news that he gave in verse 13. He was a murderer blasphemer, and a violent man. Does Paul mean because he did such bad things that he is the chief of sinners? I don’t think that is the whole story. Paul is giving us a bird’s eye view of a proper self assessment – a proper self-image according to Romans 12:3-8.

Paul knew the truth taught in Romans 5:12-21. He knew that he was a sinner by virtue of being in Adam. He agreed with David as given in Psalm 51. Man, in the womb and at birth, is a sinner. He doesn’t become a sinner – he is one. Paul had done his own thing for his glory. He had created his own world – a virtual reality. He was a religious zealot (Phil. 3:3-6). He had prided himself on himself – his person, progeny, and performance.

A radical change had occurred in Paul and consequently his life. God in Christ by the Holy Spirit snatched Paul from darkness, deadness, and defiance and placed him in light, life, and submission. Paul had met the living God. Paul had been judged in Christ as not guilty and positionally holy. He was a child of the King. God met Paul in a special way on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26). But all believers meet the living God by faith.

Paul is teaching that the only judgment that counts is the one that God makes of individuals (1 Cor. 4:1-5). At regeneration, Paul was alone before God. He had no one by which he could compare or contrast himself. It was him before God – mono, mono – Coram Deo – before the face of God. Paul’s assessment of himself was the only conclusion he could and should have reached. He was the chief of sinners. Paul could make that assessment only if God through His Spirit had regenerated/saved Paul from himself, Satan, and hell. Paul had a new heart and new eyes, the eyes of saving faith. Paul’s conclusion is the only conclusion any growing believer can make it.

Paul esteemed/regarded himself correctly. He agreed with God’s assessment (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 1:30). But he made another assessment. He was something in Christ. Out of Christ, he was for self, by self, and to self headed for misery in the life and hell in the next. In Christ, he was something. He was still a seeker. But he had a new identity. As a child of the King, he concluded that he was to be useful in God’s kingdom.   He was able to reassess God as powerful, generous, and gracious based on the re-creative work of salvation in spite of who Paul was. The assessment is given in verses 12 and 16 of 1Timothy. Paul was amazed. He was saved from something and to something and placed in a position of true service to the Lord. He was saved from God (as Judge), from himself (as a God-hater and seeker of his own glory), from Satan (as deceiver, the ultimate seeker of his own glory), and from sin – its guilt and power.

Paul was saved to a life of God-pleasing. He was placed into full-time ministry. His honest appraisal of himself and of God was in line with God’s guidelines. The results of his appraisal were not a “downer” for Paul. It was wonderful news. Self-esteem was never an issue. A correct view of self followed a correct assessment and view of God. A correct view and assessment of self is always vertical and before God. The assessment  led Paul to exclaim not only that he was chief of sinners but that he had been supernaturally and abundantly showered with grace upon grace (1Tim. 1:12, 14). So it is for believers throughout the ages. Paul had a proper view of himself because it followed God’s view of Paul.

 

Application:

  1. How about you: what is your assessment of yourself and on what basis?
  2. Like Paul, have you linked the bad and good news of the gospel together for your good and the glory of God?
  3. By looking at his past, Paul grew in humility, gratitude, energy, and compassion for others. How are you doing in those four areas?

 

View of Self and Others

Psalm 8

 

Everyone has an idea about himself and others. Because man is the creature placed and dwelling in God’s world, man has some idea of himself. After sin and God’s judgment, man’s assessment of himself, others, and God is flawed. Man gives himself an identity or he receives it from someone else. Labels are significant. The one doing and receiving the label are instrumental in any discussion of self-esteem.

At creation, man was made in God’s image and he was identified by God as an image bearer of God. This set man apart from all other creatures. The psalmist was thoroughly amazed. Psalm 8 was authored by David as were almost all the Psalms in Book I of the Psalter (Pss. 1-41). The theme of book I is confrontation during the rise of the Davidic kingship. King David pointed to the greater David, Jesus Christ. David, as was Christ, was the Triune’s God’s agent for establishing the kingdom of peace and righteousness. As recorded in John’s gospel (1:1-11), both King David and King Christ encountered hostility and conflict. They were treated more like enemies than kings.

How did Christ conduct Himself during His life on earth? Christ had one goal: to please His Father by glorifying Him. Jesus knew Himself. That was never an issue. How did David conduct himself during these times? What was his focus? Was he concerned about his image and worth or did he seek the Labeler of all men? Psalm 8 helps to answer those questions.

Psalm 8 is one place in Scripture that outlines David’s passion for the greatness of God and man’s place in God’s universe. David began and ended with God (v.1, 9). In verse 1, David praised God who is Lord. He is David’s and Israel’s Lord and Lord of the universe: O Lord, our Lord; how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Imagine David as he is on the run taking time to rest. He looked up as he must have done as a shepherd lad. In response, David made simple but profound statements of truth (v. 1-3). God was real, mighty, and powerful. David used the word majestic to describe God and His creative work. These passages (v.1-3) remind us of God’s encounter with Job, a man of God (Job 1-2, 38-42). God used Satan as His instrument to demonstrate the beauty and steadfastness of His salvation. Job I his misery and wonder, Job was not satisfied that he was saved. His circumstances seemed to indicate that he was out of favor with God. Job demanded that God explain Himself. God never did but Job received something better – a piece and understanding of God that he had never had. God called for Job to sit and be silent. He then re-presented Himself as Creator and Controller of the universe. God paraded out the majesty and greatness of His creatures. Job got the message. God is God and he is not. In response to this newfound understanding, Job repented and functioned as a priest for his three wayward and misinformed friends (Job 42).

David seems to follow that same outline. David begins with God in verses 1-3. He catalogues some of God’s perfections: majesty, glory, Creator, Controller, and Judge. For David, God was like no other Being. Don’t miss that fact. Certainly God was not man. David then moves to man in verses 5-9. When David viewed and pondered all of creation he asked: what is man that God was mindful of him (v.4)? God had created and placed in the heavens a picture of Himself – His majesty, vastness, control, concern for beauty and detail, and power. David turned to himself and asked: what about man? Was David inquiring about man – his worth, significance, and self-image? Absolutely not!

Initially, David looked at nature and said wow. Then he looked at mankind and wondered how it was possible for God to remember and care for mankind (Ps. 144:3-4; Job 7:17-18). David tried to reckon God’s ways in relation to man. David’s focus was not only on man but on God. God did such a great job with the vast creation why would He would remember man and care for him.

David could not get enough of God and the attention and care He placed on man. David acknowledged and somehow experienced his insignificance but it was in light of God’s presence and greatness. David was in awe – he wondered and pondered but he couldn’t understand why God would care for the insignificant. This is God’s way (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). David concluded that because of God’s greatness and majesty, God gave insignificant man a place a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor (v.5). God had plans for mankind – its salvation which would magnify and the name of the Triune God.

God gave man significance but it was significance defined by God and done God’s way (1 Cor. 1:30). The significance was not inherent in man. In verses 6-8, David explained God’s gift to man. David referred back to the Garden of Eden and Genesis 1:26-31. Man’s original position was one of king. Man was to function as God’s king in His kingdom. But man was to be a king God’s way for God’s glory.

David had a proper view of God. Therefore he had a proper of man. David was interested in God’s view of man and its significance in the life of David, of Israel, and of every believer. Please remember that Jesus Christ, the greater David, was concerned with protecting, honoring, and preserving God’s image than being recognized and worshipped as God (Phil. 2:3-5, 6-11). God’s image was the key for King David and King Christ. Concern about self must follow biblical guidelines. The believer starts with God then moves to his position in Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and as a child of the King and a member of God’s family and kingdom he lives as a freed man. He is still a slave but unto righteousness (Rom. 6:16-19).

 

Application:

  1. David’s view of man and himself was subservient to his knowledge of God as Creator and Controller. David goes back to Genesis 1:26-28. How does your view of Genesis influence your view of labels and identities?
  2. Creation pointed to man’s place in God’s universe. What do learn from Romans 8:19-22?
  3. Seeking one’s worth is the wrong search (Matt. 6:33). God has given the believer a new relationship, a new identity, a new family, a new kingdom, a new capacity, and marching orders. If you are a believer, ask yourself and record the reasons you are dissatisfied with God’s work in and for you. How has your life been “better” as a result of your search?

 

 

Part I: Luke 24 From a Whole-Person Perspective:

What was the Source of Unbelief – Disbelief of the Disciples:
The Tension of Reason, Faith, and Feelings

Luke 24 records a variety of responses from various groups of people in various settings after Jesus’ resurrection: at the empty tomb, on the road to Emmaus, and behind locked doors. I present the material over three blogs.
The responses ranged from disbelief to excitement to joyful belief. What are we to learn? First, man is a whole person who thinks, desires, acts, and feels. These are linked. These four aspects of man should not be separated. Second, feelings, sometimes called emotions, are always the result of thoughts and desires. Feelings are never “just are.” They have an origin although at times their source seems remote. Third, vision, seeing, is both an inner- and outer-man activity. Fourth, only when a person’s interpretive grid has changed will he be able to understand and to be joyful God’s way in any and every situation. Fifth, faith, reason, and experience must be under the influence of biblical truth. Sixth, so-called emotional-packed words are used by Luke and the Holy Spirit throughout this chapter. The meaning of these words can be properly interpreted only in the light of each person’s thoughts, desires, and action or inaction.

The first group Luke discussed is the women at the tomb (v.1-12):
In verse 4 the women are described as wondering and confused. The women had doubts. They were perplexed and therefore hesitant. They reasoned according to what they saw. They reasoned that Christ was dead and in the tomb. Faithful and devoted, they were at the tomb early in the morning with spices in order to anoint a dead body. God had other plans for them. Two angels appeared. The women were intensely fearful and instinctively they bowed low. The angels asked why the women were looking for Jesus among the dead. The question cut to the heart of the matter – their hearts and a proper understanding of Jesus: His words and His mission. The angels highlighted Jesus as the Truth-teller. He accomplished what He prophesied. The women were exhorted to change their thinking – to remember. Their focus was on their understanding of the circumstances from their perspective. By remembering and reflecting on Jesus and His teaching, they changed their focus from self and the situation to Christ. They changed their thinking – they remembered! As a consequence, they were refreshed. Their unbelief and weak faith were changing to an informed, hopeful, and expectant faith. Evidence of this fact is given in verses 9-10. The women hurried back and told the disciples that Jesus was alive – He had risen! But the women and their message were rejected as Jesus had been. The reason given by Luke for the rejection: their words seemed like nonsense. The word in the original is used only here in the New Testament. It is used often in the medical literature. It refers to someone who is delirious – out of one’s head. After a proper correction, the women had it correct. Yet the disciples refused to accept their words. Much like Thomas in John 20:27-29 who lived predominately by his senses, Peter went to the tomb to see for himself. He was astonished – he left wondering and marveling (verse 12). Like the women, Peter had not remembered Jesus’ words.

Application:
1. The women were sincere. Was it informed sincerity?
2. What was the problem?
3. What was the angelic solution?
4. How did they respond?

 Luke 22:31-34: Jesus Christ – Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor

Luke 22:31-34: Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part A

The Pre-Resurrection Response of His Disciples

The Context

 

v.31: Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat;

v.32: but I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

v.33: but he replied, “Lord I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

v.34: Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today you will deny three times that you know me.”

 

In chapter 22 of his gospel, Luke recorded details of the meeting between Jesus and His apostles. Jesus had a great desire to celebrate and to eat the Passover meal with His disciples (v.14). It seems almost counterintuitive that Jesus would celebrate the night before He died. In verses 15-20, He instituted the Lord’s Supper and verbally inaugurated the new covenant. In verses 21-22 He announced the betrayal by one of His disciples. Jesus knew this action to be a partial fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Synonymously Jesus taught God’s good control of all things.

In the midst of trouble, Jesus declared Who was Boss. It is God Who determines all things for His glory and the good of His people. Jesus coupled God’s control with man’s responsibility when He said woe to that person who was to be His betrayer (22:22).

Luke recorded the disciples’ response in verse 23: they began to question who it was. Interestingly, and perhaps amazingly, Luke limited the discussion (if there was one) to this one passage. Immediately following the question, the hearts of the disciples were demonstrated in verse 24. They disputed who was number one! They were not referring to Jesus but to self. A somber, soul-searching moment turned sinfully ugly. Number One was before them and they failed to understand and bow the knee to Him. Yet in spite of them, Jesus redeemed the time and taught them that the true number one was the servant of others (v.25-27). Jesus followed with the prospect of a great blessing for them as God-trusters: membership in God’s kingdom as co-rulers (v.28-30). Jesus, secure in His relationship with the Father and confident in the Father’s purposeful omnipotence, then proclaimed to them Satan’s desires and Satan’s place in God’s economy.

These four verses give insight into Christ’s power, control, and faithfulness to God and the apostles. They outline Christ’s purpose as the Messiah and God’s Agent and the power of God to fulfill His purposes. It is in the context of His interaction with His apostles that Jesus demonstrates His authority, courage, goodness, and mercy. This portion of Scripture is not found elsewhere in the gospels. They give a view of Christ as noted above and they give a view of the apostles as a group of becomers who did not understand even at this late date. The take-away lessons are embedded in the text itself. The next blogs consider verse 31 (Part B); verse 32 (Part C), and verses 33-34 (Parts D-E). I close with John 21 which record peter’s restoration (Part F).

 

Application:

  1. Read Luke 22 to catch the flow of Jesus’ last hours with the apostles.
  2. The seriousness of what was transpiring was missed by the apostles. How can you tell?
  3. Jesus was in control but the apostles again failed to understand and to respond correctly to this fact. Circumstances were about to change. How did the apostles understand these changes?

 

Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part B

Cosmic Warfare

 

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat (22:31)

 

The double “Simon, Simon” has the effect of emphasis and deep concern (see Luke 10:41). You is plural and the word all has been added for emphasis. Jesus was speaking to all the apostles. He was exhorting them to take notice, to give ear to His words, and to give Him their full attention. They needed what Jesus was imparting to them.

Jesus summarized Satan’s activity by telling the group that Satan had asked, begged, and even demanded to have them himself. He claims them. The word translated as asked (beg or demand) occurs only here in the New Testament. The tense of the verb suggests the idea of making a claim for self. This demand harkens us back to the wilderness where Satan laid claim to the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 3; Luke 4). Satan offered to give the kingdoms to Jesus if Jesus would worship him – such ignorance and arrogance on Satan’s part! Satan owns nothing not even himself! He is a created being, God’s agent as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. He refuses to acknowledge this fact.

Jesus’ point is clear. God is in control. Satan has no rights. He does only what God has ordained and permits him to do. He must go to God for permission and even then his activity is limited (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). Luke is picturing the story of Job. Since the fall, Satan has refused to listen and to learn. In fact, he is unable and unwilling to do either (Romans 8:5-8).

Jesus did not deny the existence of Satan or his activity. Rather Jesus told the disciples that He gave Satan permission to do what Satan had arrogantly sought. The goal of Satan for all mankind is unfaithfulness to God. He especially desired the disciples to turn from God to him. The apostles and Job were prime targets because of the time Christ had spent with the apostles and God’s investment in them and Job. If they proved unfaithful, God would be unmasked as a fraud and no match for Satan.

Self-pleasing was and is Satan’s modus operandi. It was his way even as he was beckoned into God’s presence (see Job 1-2). It is still his way. Satan hoped to discredit God through Job and the disciples. He hoped Job and the twelve would demonstrate his patterned lifestyle by choosing to please self in lieu of pleasing God. As in Job’s case, Satan hoped to demonstrate that God was not a good Protector and Redeemer.

In the wilderness, Jesus was supremely faced with the tension between self-pleasing and God-pleasing. Throughout Christ’s life, He faced the temptation of covenantal unfaithfulness through pleasing Himself. So, too, now the disciples were facing the same temptation and decision. So, too, is it for every believer.

An essential feature of Satan is his refusal to bow the knee to King Christ as he desires to bring all men everywhere into his fold. He wants all mankind to think, desire, and act like him. Satan is self-oriented, self-serving, and self-worshipping. He is, by his very nature anti-Matthew 5:3 and anti-Romans 11:36.

Verse 31 leads us to ask what had Satan demanded from Christ and when did he make such a demand? From Genesis 3:15, we know that Satan is at war with Christ and Christ with him. Once removed from heaven, Satan proceeded as though he had a right to mankind. He has continued his war on God through God’s people. An attack on Jesus’ disciples was an attack on God. Satan considered all disciples pawns to be fought over and pulled into his kingdom and family. Chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job make this clear. Job was God’s exemplary son. This position made Job a special target. If Job failed it was because God failed as his Protector. Satan was after God through Job. In a sense, God’s name and glory were at stake. Such was the case with the apostles. Have them turn would destroy them and Christ’s name would be sullied. His mission would be an utter failure. Satan would have won the victory.

Please notice that the demand presented to Jesus by Satan assumed Jesus’ deity (James 2:19). Further, in speaking to Peter, Jesus equated Himself with God – because He is God! Jesus said that Satan’s target was not simply Peter but all the apostles. Satan had one (Judas), so he thought he may get more (John 12:1-6).

 

Application:

  1. What do you learn about the apostles?
  2. What do you learn about Satan?
  3. What do you learn about Christ?
  4. What do learn about you?
  5. Take those facts and develop a plan to strengthen yourself and your brothers and sisters.

Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part C

Sifting

 

 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat (22:31)

 

All the apostles were to be sifted. For believers, sifting is a certainty in a fallen world. The word translated sift refers to the violent, repeated, and swift shaking of wheat in order to separate wheat and chaff. Life in the fallen world is one of decion-making and choice. Sifting is pictured as separating the elect from the non-elect. Satan desired to have all mankind to be in his family and kingdom, enemies of God. Jesus made clear in verse 32 that what is His is His. He holds fast to His people. In His statement, Jesus also made clear that further times of testing were coming (John 15:18-21; 16:33). The sifting pointed to the larger cosmic battle between God and Satan begun by Satan’s initial rebellion and the rebellion in the Garden (Eph. 6:10-18; Job 1 and 2; Zech. 3:1-5). Each was followed by God’s righteous judgment and set the stage for redemption. Spiritual warfare is often fought by deceit and distortion of God’s truth.

Sifting speaks of the potential impact that God’s providence, often referred to as trials, have on individuals. The Bible speaks of the process of pruning in order to remove the dross from individuals (Isa. 48:10-11; Jer. 9:7; John 15:1-4; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Pressure from the outside squeezes the heart so that what is within will become manifest. The circumstances are NOT the cause of the fruit. They are the context for a person’s inner-man exposure. They do not determine the response. Only that which is present within the person will be expressed. If self-pleasing is within, it will come forth. A person’s inside-out response is in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions and is a response to God, the Giver of the situation.

In the present situation, Peter and the apostles would desert Jesus in spite of their denial as recorded in Matthew and Mark and Peter’s denial in Luke (Matt. 26:35; Mark 14:31). Why did the apostles desert Jesus for a time? There was much turmoil and chaos. Jesus appeared to be a loser. What were they to do? Where would they go? Perhaps they were offended by Him. There was fear of man which is actually self- protection which is a control issue. Self was uppermost in their hearts. Fear of God and fear of man collided. The desire to protect self and have life as they thought it should be had achieved lordship proportion in their hearts. For whatever reasons, their thoughts and desires motivated the disciples to disown Jesus. Yet, Christ did not disown them.

For the believer, trials bring the person face to face with pervasive satanic influence of self-pleasing that remains in every believer after regeneration. Some of God’s purposes in and for trials include purifying faith (1 Peter 1:6-7), maturing faith (James 1:2-4), and producing hope (Romans 5:1-5). In contradistinction, Satan hoped that a person’s response in trials would discredit God as the person moved away from God. Satan did not know God! Rather, Jesus taught that trials are intended by God to be used for the purification of the believer (James 1:13-16; 1 John 2:15-17; John 15:18-21).

The tendency of the believer to please and worship self is a legacy from prior membership in Satan’s family and kingdom and it must be replaced with pleasing God. This requires a growing love and admiration of God – His majesty, awesomeness, goodness, and power. In the Garden of Eden, God, the just Judge, pronounced a curse on all mankind due to Adam’s sin. Satan was God’s agent then and now. His influence continues within, even for the believer, and outside the person. The choice between pleasing God or pleasing self and Satan is before every believer daily. It was before Jesus 24/7. Jesus did not waver. He proved covenantally faithful.

Only the believer who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit can chose to please God. The believer is to grow in Christlikeness. He does that as he puts off self-pleasing and puts on God-pleasing. For him, pleasing God is more that duty – it is privilege and blessing. In a most powerful way, the apostles faced this choice the night before Jesus died.

 

Application:

  1. Cosmic warfare: have you captured the extent of God’s rescue of you and all believers in Christ through the Holy Spirit? See Colossians 1:13-14.
  2. Give reasons for your answer and list changes in thoughts, desires, and actions that you think are needed for you as a result of a changed view of God and self.

 

 

Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part D

Christ’s Intervention and Rescue

 

but I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (22:32)

 

In verse 31, you is plural because Jesus addressed all the apostles. Here in verse 32, Jesus singles out Peter. At the Lord’s Supper and just several verses before, Jesus had praised all the apostles for their faithfulness (Luke 22:28).

In one sense Jesus’ prayer mentioned in verses 31-32 was an interesting one because the apostles had God the Giver of faith in front of them and they had His gift of saving faith. The Giver and the gift were not the problem. It was the receiver of the gift. The disciples would fail that night but they would prove faithful followers of Christ and would ultimately gain the prize of Christ Himself. They came to know Christ in a way that they had not. In that sense they were like Job as described in Job 38-42. Job had a personal encounter with God and was changed forever. Similarly, after the crucifixion the apostles except one came to know Jesus and desired to be like Him in thought, desire, and action.

The apostles’ faith was to be informed, intelligent, growing, and aggressive. But at this juncture, it was not. The apostles still did not get it. That was their pattern. They thought as almost all of Israel did. They thought in terms of an earthly kingdom, an earthly messiah, and earthly peace, refuge, and comfort. In reality, they desired heaven on earth but they had a wrong view of earth and heaven.

Jesus exerted authority when He said: I have prayed for you. Notice that Jesus does not ask the Father for Peter (and the apostles) to be freed from situations (some call these trials) in which allegiance and devotion to God or self is at the center. He did not pray for Peter to be removed from his God-appointed circumstances including the present one. Paul builds on this truth in several places including Romans 8:35-39 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. In Romans 8:35-39, Paul wrote that believers are more than conquerors – in trials, not out of them.

Jesus prayed for all of the apostles (John 17:9, 19-20). He prayed for them to be faithful disciples – and they were in time. In Luke 22, Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. He also prayed for all the apostles through Peter’s efforts in strengthening them. The word for fail used by Luke is a root for our word eclipse. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be hidden or concealed. For a time it was.

Jesus knew His apostles as “you of little faith” (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). He demanded, deserved, and designed His people for faithfulness beginning with their salvation.  Jesus knew that every person is faith-based and proves faithful to someone and to something. The disciples had to grow in godly faithfulness. God knew the apostles and the ultimate outcome of this testing as He did in Genesis 22. God knew that Abraham would prove faithful.

Jesus was teaching the apostles in the milieu, in the crucible of choice. Literally choice was a matter of life and death. Jesus prayed that the apostles would recognize and respond as if the object of their faith was God and pleasing Him was the only logical choice for them (Rom. 12:1-2). At the moment they failed – “O you of little faith. “ But ultimately, they proved faithful. God’s gift of saving faith and His grace of enabling faith was theirs to use. Ultimately they did use it – they did not fail or prove unfaithful.

Peter did turn around. The word that Luke used means to turn and to go in another direction. In the New Testament, it is used as another term for repentance which indicates an about-face after changed thinking and movement in the opposite direction. The term carries the idea of a person’s response to some event or activity (see Luke 1:16-17; James 5:19-20). Correctly, Peter did weep (22:56-62) as did David in Psalm 51. Both of these men grieved God’s way, were restored, and functioned as God’s men. They became soul- winners (John 21:15-19; Ps. 51:13; see Acts 1-12 and 1 and 2 Peter).

Jesus also prayed that Peter would demonstrate the fruit of repentance. One such fruit was strengthening the brothers. Jesus told Peter to strengthen them. The word Luke used for strengthen is powerful. It means to render steadfast, to resolutely hold fast, and to stay focused on the task at hand. Luke used this same word to describe Jesus’ determination to reach Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Christ intended Peter to be an anchor, a blessing, an encouragement, and a model for his brothers. And he was! Tough times were ahead for the apostles but God provided exactly what the Church and His people needed.

In his first epistle, Peter, probably remembering this experience, wrote about trials and their purpose (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13). He was an encouragement to his congregation and he continues to be one for believers today.

Jesus gave to Peter, and all the apostles, hope, comfort, confidence, and a preview of His priestly intercession (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). As Messiah, Jesus interceded for His people. He gave to them an insight into what it means to be justified before God. In Christ, Peter’s record and standing before God was clean and pure – like Jesus Christ Himself. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Peter, and probably all the apostles, were moved and acknowledged their sinfulness and nothing-ness before Christ (see Luke 5:8). On the other end of the confession spectrum, Peter, with the apostles looking on, declared Jesus to be the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-22). However, when faced with the choice of self-pleasing or God pleasing, the disciples chose the path of least resistance and pleased self. In contradistinction to Christ, they did not prove trustworthy. Yet, not even Peter’s denial could prevent or even circumvent what God was doing through Christ at the cross. Man’s sin does not negate God’s sovereign plan (Isa. 45:5-67; 46:10-11)

 

Application:

 

  1. Christ is High Priest and as such is the Sacrificer, the Sacrifice, and the Intercessor. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Col. 3:103; Heb. 8:1)
  2. Christ as Intercessor means that He pleads on behalf of His people.
  3. Jesus is the perfect High Priest forever:
  4. According to Hebrews 7:25 that means what? Jesus always lives.
  5. According to Romans 8:32-34 that means what? Jesus is in the right and perfect position to intervene for His people and He does.
  6. According to Hebrews 4:15-16 that means what? Jesus is the perfect High Priest who has experienced the fullness of the human condition but without sin or sinning.
  7. According to 1 John 2:1-2 that means what? Believers died to sin but not to sinning. Jesus is the believer’s lawyer in God’s court of law who has never lost a case because He points the Triune God to His finished work on the cross and in the grave.

 

Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part E

Peter’s Boast: Ignorance and Arrogance

 

but he replied, “Lord I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (22:33)

 

The heart is known only to God perfectly and the person imperfectly (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Hebrews 4:12-13). Peter did not get the big picture. He did not know himself or Christ. He denied his need for Christ’s intercession and instead he boasted in his own strength. Functionally, he said he did not need Christ’s prayers. How little Peter knew himself. How great was his self-confidence and how little he understood the power of grace and his need of it (Matt. 14:22-33). The disciples, including Peter had made their claim: we will not leave Jesus (Matt. 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31). Yet they did, although there is some evidence that some of the apostles were at the crucifixion (Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27).

Rather than a self-confident response, Peter should have prayed as did David in Psalm 139:1, 23-24. In the Garden, Jesus told Peter, James and John to pray and to be alert. Jesus encouraged them to pray but not for Him. Jesus encouraged them to take stock of what was happening and their need of intimacy with the Father by the Holy Spirit. They failed to make provisions and bask in a sea of grace (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46).  They failed to ask for wisdom (James 1:5-8). However, Jesus knew His people. In Luke 22:32, Jesus did not leave praying in their hands. He went straight to the Father Himself. What an amazing and comforting thought that Jesus intercedes for His people in spite of them (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24).

 

Christ’s Lordship: Christ’s Rebuttal

 

v.34: Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today you will deny three times that you know me.” (22:34)

 

Jesus rebutted Peter. Essentially, He told Peter that he had eyes but he did not see and ears but did not hear. He told Peter that he was not ready. He had not denied himself his own self. Self – wants, desires, and thoughts – was still burdened with me-ism.. Peter was not 100% committed to Christ. Rather, Peter had accentuated himself and thereby depreciated and denigrated Christ and the cross. Here was another opportunity for Jesus to declare get behind me Satan after Peter’s satanic counsel of no cross (Matt. 16:23). Yet embedded in Christ’s warning and prophecy was Jesus’ commitment to His Father, to Peter, and to all His disciples: I have your back Peter.

Peter’s words were quite a turnaround for Peter and contrasted with his words recorded in Matthew 16. There Jesus referred to Peter as the rock. Peter had professed Jesus as Christ, the Son of the living God. One can ask where was the effect of that profession at the Last Super (Luke 22:54-61)? Peter had a problem of starting well but ending poorly. All believers have the same experience. Self will continue to get in the way until Christ comes again. Yet God calls us to put off self and put on Christ because in principle these have already been done for you in Christ (Rom. 13:12-14; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).

At the time of the denial, Peter refused to bow the knee to King Christ. Yet Peter came to his senses when he heard the rooster. He remembered the rooster “talk” and he knew the rooster was speaking to him. He burst into tears. The term for wept refers not simply to the physical shedding of tears but refers to inner-man angst and agitation within. He had sinned and at this point he did not have a solution. In one sense he was in the same situation as Judas had been – sin, seemingly without a solution. Both were filled with remorse (Matt. 27:3-5; Luke 22:60-62). Judas was sorrowful but he did not repent. He relied on his own efforts and shed his own blood. He killed himself. Perhaps he thought his blood was worth more than Christ’s. Peter wept from the inside-out which was in keeping with godly sorrow which leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-11). It is interesting that Peter depended on Christ’s shed blood before the resurrection and before his restoration. John records Peter’s restoration in Chapter 21.

 

Application:

  1. The ultimate choice is pleasing self or pleasing God by becoming more like Satan or more like Christ. List your self-pleasing activities and reasons for them.
  2. List your God-pleasing activities and reasons for them.
  3. How have you experienced God – His goodness and His beauty (Ps. 34:8)? Reread Luke 22:31-34 and record how the passage helps you grasp God?

 

Luke 22:31-34 Jesus Christ: Rescuer, Intercessor, and Victor: Part F

John 21:15-19: Peter’s Restoration

 

The disciples had been taught the necessity and value of repentance. However, Peter did not have access to Christ. Peter was in the courtyard and His Savior was in the courtroom on trial for him! He carried this sin until after the resurrection and his restoration. We are not told of his burden of un-confessed sin. But I suspect he knew Psalms 32, 38, and 51. The soon-to-be crucified and resurrected Christ sustained Peter even though Peter and the rest of the apostles were still reeling and leaving. Christ eventually restored Peter and we suspect all of the apostles. What a restoration that was for Peter (John 21)!

John recorded the three times that Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him (21:15-17). Each time he reassured Jesus that he did. Each time, based on Peter’s testimony, Jesus commanded him to feed and love the flock. What a contrast Jesus was drawing! The choice was clear: forsake Christ for self based on one’s own understanding and wants or abide in Christ by denying self. Evidence of choosing Christ would be reflected in Peter’s response to God’s people. Peter did feed and take care of the flock. In this way, Peter imitated Christ as he grew in Christlikeness. Jesus fed the flock with His blood. His feeding of His people was done prior to the cross through the prophets and the priests in the Old Testament, at the cross, and continues after the cross by the Spirit and the completed canon. Feeding the sheep is part of the continued ministry of Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit, initially through the apostles. It continues today through the Church, ministers, and individual believers (Eph. 4:11-14).

Peter had to wean himself from self before he could properly shepherd God’s flock (1 Peter 5:1-4, 5-7). This was Christ’s way. This is the way of the cross. The first and second letters of Peter are examples of the fruit of Peter’s restoration and God’s grace. His reference to Satan prowling as a roaring lion should be understood in the context of the constant choice of pleasing self or pleasing God (5:8). Peter’s early life as an apostle, his pronouncement of Christ as the Son of the Living God, the claim and failure the night before Jesus’ death, and his restoration bear witness to the importance of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer. Acts 2-12 record how Jesus used Peter and the other apostles to minister and build His Church. They had learned their lesson well which was evidence of God’s gracious answer to Jesus’ prayer as recorded in Luke 22. The moment-by-moment choice between pleasing God or self began in the Garden of Eden and will continue until Christ returns.

 

Application:

  1. Contrast Peter and Judas: how were they similar and how did they differ?
  2. Jesus went to the cross in order to please God (Jesus 4:31-34). This desire and motivation led Jesus to the cross and on the cross. How do you judge this desire in you and why is it there?
  3. Peter had learning to do: thoughts, desires, and actions needed to come under the Lordship of Christ. What expedited Peter’s growth? See Acts 2.

Biblical Heartburn

Biblical Heartburn, Part A

Luke 24, Acts 2, 5, 7

 

When is the last time your “heart burned?” Interesting question and I am not referring to physical heartburn. Rather I am referring to an inner-man response. We hear of violence in the United States and around the world. Our hearts may burn with zeal, passion, and or concern. Your heart may burn – being moved within – when you come face to face with tragedy, death, or some other situation. Suffice it to say, God made man a sensual being who thinks, desires, acts, and feels. How should believer think let alone feel, about those situations associated with burning hearts? We are talking about a physical sensation but generated from within the inner man – the person’s heart. Biblically the heart is the heart of the matter (Prov. 4:23). It is where a person thinks, desires, plans, reasons, and purposes. It is the real you, known imperfectly by you and perfectly by God. It is the target for the Holy Spirit’s regenerating and illumining work.

When was the last time your heart burned within? Go with me to the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). Remember the story. Post-resurrection, Jesus joined two disciples. They walked and talked together for some distance (24:13-24). The two disciples were clueless as to the identity of the person who was with them and asking them questions. Jesus challenged them and referred to them as foolish and slow of heart. They were not with it! He then explained (exegeted) the whole of Scripture – what had been prophesied and what He promised (24:25-27).  Early in his gospel, John wrote that Jesus had come to exegete – make known – the Father (1:18).

After the Lord Jesus had prayed and they ate together their physical and spiritual eyes were opened (24:31). They fully recognized and knew Jesus as Jesus in contrast to verse 16: they were kept from recognizing Him.  Jesus vanished and the two disciples exclaimed in unison that their hearts burned within – they were greatly moved or unsettled in the heart. Fire had broken out within. When did it begin? It began when Jesus opened up the Scriptures to them – truth, both written and Living Truth – came alive and resonated within. Spiritually their heart was touched by truth and the Truth-teller. Their spiritual eyes were opened as their physical eyes had been (24:31). What did they see? They saw and heard a Person and Truth – Jesus Christ. They had a sensual experience. But because they were believers they had a suprasensual experience (2 Cor. 5:7). They saw Jesus but they embraced Him as truth. Their view of Him and themselves had an changed radically and forever.

Many people had the same experience at Pentecost upon hearing the truth of Jesus Christ and themselves (Acts 2:37:… Brothers, what should be do). They were cut at and in the heart. An awakening had occurred. This awakening led to changed thoughts, desires, and actions. In response, they asked Peter what they should do. They were unsettled and they knew they had unfinished business to address which they did (Acts 2:38-41).

Yet others are moved in an entirely different direction when they encounter truth (Acts 5:33 and 7:54). Upon hearing the truth of the gospel by the apostles, members of the Sanhedrin were furious and wanted to destroy them. Luke, in Acts 7:54 described a similar response to the preaching of the Word. Stephen gave the crowd a history lesson and as a result their hearts were moved – stirred within. When the crowd heard the truth about God and themselves they were so pierced to the core that they murdered Stephen.

Burning hearts occur in the context of the presentation of truth about God and self. The truth and the Truth always elicit some type of response. In Luke and Acts the truth was Christ crucified and resurrected. This truth addressed both personal and national or corporate well-being. In response to the truth, believers and soon-to- be believers understand and they rejoice. The disciples in Luke 24 spread the good news (24:33-35).  They were changed.  Those in Acts 5 and Acts 7 did not appreciate truth about Christ and themselves. The two are linked. The people responded by removing truth so they thought. The Sanhedrin censored the apostles to no avail (Acts 5:33, 40-41). The apostles rejoiced that the cause of Christ had been advanced and was advancing (5:40-41). In Acts 7, the crowd totally rejected the truth about Israel and themselves. They chose to silence the truth-teller.

 

Application:

  1. What is your source of truth and how do you use both the source and the truth?
  2. What is your response to truth?
  3. Truth and falsehood is around every person and in every person even the believer. The truth will set you free (John 8:31-32). What is your response to both of those statements?

 

Biblical Heartburn, Part B

Luke 24, Acts 2, 5, 7

 

Hearts are moved because the whole person is moved. Every person has presuppositions and a framework that lead to thoughts, desires, and actions. Every person brings thoughts and desires to every situation. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had a changed heart by virtue of regeneration. Yet they were still slow of heart. They were sluggish and the fire only smoldered. Faced with the living Word and after some delay they responded appropriately. The fire was hot within and they acted accordingly.

The same intensity of heart motivation was present in the people in Acts 5 and 7. However the burning within their heart erupted from the exposure of their wicked hearts. They exposed themselves – anti-God and pro-self – and their mantra followed: kill Jesus and kill anyone associated with truth.

Presented with biblical truth, the response of the group in Acts 2 differed completely from the response of the people described in Acts 5 and 7. In Acts 2, the people had heard truth proclaimed. Their response was submission, seeking, and turning to God, the truth-Giver (Acts 2:38-41). In Acts 5 and 7, the people rebelled, turned further from God toward self and Satan because they loved the darkness (John 3:17-21; Rom. 1:18-23). Hearts must be prepared by the Holy Spirit. When it is and truth is presented, hearts burn out of a sense of the greatness and holiness of God Who stoops to meet mankind in His Son by the Holy Spirit. He saves sinners in spite of themselves (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:6-10).

How does a person properly manifest a burning heart when confronted by biblical truth? This person must be a believer or soon-to-be a believer. For the believer, the same question can be asked as: how does a person keep his way pure (Ps 119:9-12)? Both are the result of the Holy Spirit’s activity as the believer uses the word and truth that is hidden in his heart. Believers must and will develop zeal for God and His word. The two are linked. A high view of God leads to a high view of His Word and vice versa. It is a matter of life and death.

Psalm119:9-11 tells us how. The person hides or places the Word in his heart. On the road to Emmaus the truth must have been there but it was not readily accessible. The connection between truth and life was not yet realized. At regeneration, the Holy Spirit started a fire within every believer.  He indwells every believer so that the believer can and does think God’s thoughts and desires God’s desires enabling him to please God. Truth is never neutral. Since God is truth, His word is truth, and the truth sets you free, facing truth in whatever form is never neutral (John 14:6; 17:17; 8:31-32). As we saw in the book of Acts, people respond to truth and hearts burn properly or sinfully.

A properly burning heart moves the person away from self and misconceptions about God, self, others, and God’s providence. It moves the person toward God and His word. How does the believer hide the word in his heart (Ps. 119:9-11). How does he develop fear of the Lord? Consider these points as daily activities with the goal of developing a properly burning heart.

  • Read and recite the Word;
  • Mediate on and memorize the Word;
  • Verbalize the Word audibly and inaudibly;
  • Personalize the Word – answer the question: how do certain biblical principles apply to you in your situations;
  • Actualize the Word.  The Word of God is to be used – applied it to daily life.  It is to be used to fulfill the two great commandments: Matthew 22:37-40.  Love of God and love of neighbor flows from a rightly motivated and stimulated heart by adding fuel to the fire.

Truth is to be used. Read and recite the Word throughout the day – have it readily accessible. Memorize it and mediate on it until it becomes part of you. Verbalize it in word and song. Speak God’s Word to yourself as you develop fellowship and intimacy with God. Speak it to others so that you comfort others as you have been comforted (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Simply bless others as you have been blessed by intimacy with God through His Word and Holy Spirit. Thanksgiving for Who God is and what you and the Church are in Him is crucial.

Personalize the Word so that you have a piece of it. Psalm 34:8; 119:99, 105; and James 1:22-25 speak to this fact. Tasting God is experiencing Who He is through the gift of saving faith exercised and the gift of understanding Him in His word (Ps. 34:8). The Word is a lamp and light not only for the way but also for the one who walks – the walker (Ps. 119:99, 105). The blessing comes in the doing (John 13:18; James 1:25). The Word filets the heart of the believer but God always provides the proper closure (Heb. 4:12). The Word is the Holy Spirit’s tool to expose and close every believer. God never loses a “patient” during His heart surgery.

Lastly, actualize the Word – use it – apply it in your daily life as you grow in Christlikeness. Enjoy that growth individually and corporately. Without truth, growth will be stifled (2 Peter 3:18). Truth and zeal are always linked – one without the other leads to dead orthodoxy or a feeling-dominated Christianity. Neither honors God.

 

Application:

  1. Do you have biblical heartburn? Why and why not?
  2. What truths do you have at your ready when faced with God’s providence often termed hard and good times?
  3. What are the results of applying those truths?

 

All Are Theologians: What Kind Are You?

Hebrews 4:14-16: Part A

All Are Theologians but What Kind?

 

v.14: Therefore since we have this great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess.

v.15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.

v.16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need.

 

Man is created in and as God’s image and is therefore a dependent, relational, rational being. Every person has a relationship with God and beliefs about Him. This non-negotiable truth flows from the Creator’s design and indicates that everyone is a theologian. What kind of theologian a person is depends on his view of the Triune God, his view of a proper relationship with him, and his view of himself. For the believer, knowing Jesus is fundamental to being and functioning as a godly theologian.

Knowing Christ means knowing who Jesus is and what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do. Knowing Jesus is more than simply knowing facts about Jesus ad even history. Biblically knowing Jesus is relational and involves a change in trust in self to trust in the Triune God. These are profound theological issues which demand proper answers which have profound consequences.

Not only is every person a theologian but life is theological. Every person lives in or out of a proper relationship to God and to neighbor. His theology is expressed by what he professes to believe and how he functions. A person’s theology and function will be predicated on truth or error.  Since Jesus is truth, he is the only theologian to imitate. He declared and promised that truth will set a person free (John 8:31-32). A question arises: has he made good on his proclamation?

God’s Word, the Bible, is God’s powerful, purposeful self-expression. In it, by it, and through it, God reveals himself – his thoughts and desires – for his glory and the believer’s good. Among other purposes God’s word is intended to help the believer function as a good theologian. One place to turn to help the believer gain wisdom for that endeavor is the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews is addressed to a Jewish congregation which was experiencing non-physical persecution. Some of its members were reconsidering whether they should remain in the Christian faith or return to Judaism. In other words, they were considering the cost of standing firm in their new beliefs. They were engaged in a theological conflict and were considering what kind of theologians they should be. Functionally, they asked: was Christ’s relationship with them, and theirs with him, worth the trouble? In essence, they asked if Christ was worth their allegiance.

The author of the book of Hebrews continually set before the people that it was not only dangerous to go back but also foolish to return to Judaism (see chapters 2, 6, 10). How did the author motivate his people to function as good theologians? He did it in several ways but primarily by showing them that “Jesus is better than…”: he is better than the prophets (1:1-3), the angels (1:4-2:18), Moses (3:1-4:13), and Aaron and the Levitical priesthood (4:14-7:28). The author demonstrated that Christianity is far superior to Judaism.  The statement is an interesting. As God’s image bearer, all persons are religious beings. They think, desire, act, and worship. Religion is embedded in the very fabric of every person. The real issue is whom will you worship. That issue is always by the person who depends on any number variables. In the final analysis, he decides based on what he thinks is right (he is a rational, thinking being) and how something feels (he is an emotive being). Every person brings his own religion with him. Every person post-fall is anti-God and pro-self. These two inward motivations control his thoughts, desires, and actions in in varying degrees. Unless God changes the person from the inside out, every person will be and function as a poor theologian. Such is the case with Satan.

Christianity is not simply another religion. It is the truth about God, man, the world, morality, rationality, and worship. It is the truth about origins:  God is eternal and man is a dependent creature and image bearer of God. Christianity explains man’s identity (who he is), man’s purpose, and man’s destiny. It begins and ends with the Triune God who established theology and sent his Son as the Theologian par excellence, and who with his Son sent the Holy Spirit to bring all things into proper focus.

 

  1. The congregation addressed by the author of the book of Hebrews was in a theological battle. Define it.
  2. What information did the author give the congregation to help them develop as godly theologians?
  3. Read Hebrews 4:14-16: mediate on the truths in the passage and write out how its truth was to be a blessing to the congregation and to God’s Church now.

 

 

Hebrews 4:14-16: Part B

All Are Theologians but What Kind?

 

v.14: Therefore since we have this great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess.

v.15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.

v.16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need.

 

Hebrews 4:14-15 is an especially important passage in helping all believers function as good theologians. It begins a section from 4:14-7:28 that highlights the superiority of Jesus as a Person and His ministry in contrast to Aaron and the Levitical    priesthood. What do we learn about this High Priest? The author emphasized the reality of Christ the Person and his Messianic function as Prophet and Priest. Jesus is the final Prophet, the One who the prophets and the apostles said He was (Heb. 1:1-3). Jesus was the fulfillment of the Levitical sacrificial system. The Levitical sacrificial system and the high priest played a major role in the Old Testament theology and pointed to the true sacrifice – the Lamb – and the ultimate High Priest – Jesus Christ. Sins and people were forgiven in the Old Testament but not because of the blood of blood and goats (Heb. 9:11-17, 24-28; 10:1-4). The blood of bull and goats pointed to the blood of the Lamb. The Levitical priests did not and would enter into the heavenly sanctuary and they did not sit down at the right of the Father (6:13-20). Rather, they “traveled” only into the Holy of Holies once per year, never sat down, and made sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people (Lev.16; Heb. 10:1-4).  Jesus had no sin and required no sacrifice. He was both the Sacrifice and the High Priest.

In verse 14 of Hebrews 4, the author wrote that Jesus had gone through and into the heavens – the true and final tabernacle. Jesus was the true Traveler. Hebrews 4:14-16 is a type of commentary of Jesus’ words recorded in John 14:1-3 to the apostles. Jesus’ words were intended to help the apostles function as good theologians. So, too, were the Holy Spirit’s words penned by the author of the book of Hebrews. Therefore the members of the congregation were to hold fast to their faith – its profession and expression (6:18-20).

Jesus entered into the heavens and is seated in the place of exaltation and of intercession. Yet he is still working even now (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). His priesthood never ceases. His priestly work as the perfect sacrifice has been completed, but his priestly function of intercession is ongoing. His prophetic work has been extended by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus does not leave his people.

In verse 15, the author wrote that Jesus not only understands but has experienced the human condition. The term sympathize derived from the Greek word here caries the meaning of a similar experience or knowledge of it. It is more than simply a feeling word. Jesus was experiencing the human condition, not simply circumstances. He defined the human experience as the tendency to self-pleasing. Throughout John’s gospel is the refrain that Jesus came to do his Father’s will and to please him. Jesus did not fail as the first Adam did. Jesus had no sin and committed no sin but he was constantly faced with the tension between pleasing self, using his power for his benefit vs. pleasing his Father as the faithful Son. One might say that Jesus was tempted by Satan at the beginning of his earthly ministry to deny the living God. The time in the wilderness was a recapitulation of the serpent’s attack of God via Adam.

Jesus, the second Adam and last man, faced the temptation of being covenantal faithful or unfaithful throughout his life. Would Jesus stay with God’s program as the Triune God had agreed in eternity past or would He opt out to please himself by using his power for his own pleasure? The answer is and was NO! Jesus remained faithful to His Father choosing to please Him (John 4:31-34). Since believers are new creatures in Christ in the new creation that he ushered, they are called to imitate Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Believers are called to, and are enabled to, function as good theologians. The ultimate good theologian is one who pleases the Father because of who God is thereby becoming more like Christ out of gratitude, respect, duty, blessing, and privilege.

 

Application:

  1. Write out your theology: its basis and its application.
  2. Who takes center stage; you and self-pleasing or God and God-pleasing?
  3. What falsehood do you need to put off and with what biblical truth do you need to put in its place in order to function as God’s kind of theologian?
  4. How does the passage (Hebrews 4:14-15) enable you to get victory in the midst of trouble?

 

Hebrews 4:14-16: Part C

All Are Theologians but What Kind?

Christ our Faithful High Priest, Theologian par excellence

 

v.14: Therefore since we have this great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess.

v.15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.

v.16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need.

 

The book of Hebrews can be summarized by saying it is a book that stresses the non-negotiable truth that Jesus is “better than”: the prophets (1:1-3), the angels (1:4-2:18), Moses (3:1-4:13), and Aaron and the Levitical priesthood (4:14-7:28). In a word, Jesus is GREAT. The word great implies he is in a class by himself (sui generis). He is not great as if there are other gods and beings in the race with him. Rather, fallen man is a god to himself and attempts to create his own world as a truth-suppressor and truth-resistor (Rom. 1:18-23). Christ is greater than any system of priesthood, any person (such as a high priest), or any sacrifice because he is God and the High Priest and the Sacrifice. But His greatness and superiority did not exempt Him from the temptation of being covenantally unfaithful. As the second Adam, he was tempted in various ways and by various beings, to use his power and position for his own gain. In fact, his God-ness and greatness guaranteed that he would be tempted. His failure would prove that God could not be trusted and was a fraud. Such was the case with Job. Satan sought to trash God through Job.

The fact that Jesus is the Incarnate God – God in the flesh – tells us something about the Triune God. The fulfillment of the Triune’s God redemptive purpose and plan for salvation hinged on Jesus Christ and his perfect, active obedience and lawkeeping leading to the cross AND on his perfect death on the cross. Therefore, Jesus became one of us –he took on human flesh (Hebrews 2:10, 14-15). Man sinned and only God could save. Christ was both God and man without conversion, change in composition, or confusion of either of the two natures – one person and two natures. Christ was the only perfect Person whose sacrifice would gain victory over sin, Satan, and self. Only then would the Triune God be glorified and God’s children receive earthly and eternal benefits.

As a point of application, even if you feel (more accurately think) no one “has been there,” rest assured Christ has and he understands you and your situation. He has lived in your shoes so to speak. Since Christ has gained victory for himself and the Triune God, he has gained victory for believers. He expects and desires all believers irrespective of God’s providence (so often call life and events) to live as a victor as only those in Christ can (Romans 8:35-39).

As a Christian, you are in Christ and Christ is seated in the heavens at the Father’s right hand as the exalted Son of God (Col. 3:1-3). These are marvelous truths. Jesus entered into the heavenlies into his exalted position of Lord and King. He is King and is reigning although it does not appear that is the case (Heb. 2:8-9). Christ is still functioning as the believer’s intercessor.  Christ entranced into the true holy of Holies means that real help is no more than a prayer away. Christ is interceding for his people and woos them to boldly draw near to God’s throne of grace (also Hebrews 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22). Christ is the tried and true Helper who sent another Helper of the same kind as he in the Person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13).

The repeated call of “drawing near” in the book of Hebrews emphasizes its priority, the sincerity of the One who is calling, and the resources and the help that he provides.  The author of the book of Hebrews was piling up blessing after blessing based on who Christ was and is and what he is doing and will do. He defined Christianity in such a way that only the fool would seek to be his own god and deny that fact.

Ask yourself as the author did to the congregation, how you can neglect such a great calling (Hebrews 3:1; 4:1; 10:19-25)? The simple answer is you can’t but sadly believers do. God has invested himself in and for every believer in spite of the believer. God brings his people into his presence and Jesus led the way. He is there awaiting his people (John 14:1-3; Heb. 12:1-3). If you value being in God’s presence, the truth of Jesus as a Person, what he done, where he is, and who he has sent you will be motivated to approach the throne of grace and draw near to God (Heb. 10:19-22). If you don’t, search your heart as to the reasons.

 

Application:

 

  1. What is it that you truly need?
  2. How do you know?
  3. What does Hebrews 4:14-16 say that you can expect from Christ and why?
  4. What qualifies Christ to make his invitation to come boldly to the throne of grace?
  5. Daily, you have two choices: “go it alone” or come. Study Galatians 5:16-18 and Matthew 11:28-30 (see the blog: Come to Jesus). How will decide? What are the results? 6. Use Hebrews 4:14-16 to help you put the above passages together. What is the result?