Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.11

Matthew 26:45
“Here comes my betrayer”

John was startled awake by the sound of his Master’s voice. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me one hour?” John heard Jesus say. Young John had leaned himself up against a tree and the exhaustion of the day had over taken him. The cool almost wet breeze had lulled him to sleep.
The Lord seemed almost faint with sadness or fear, John couldn’t tell which but he had never seen him like this. Jesus dropped to his knees again to pray and John gasped at what he saw. As the moonlight shown on his Master’s face John could see what looked like drops of blood like sweat on Jesus’ face. Jesus placed his head to the ground and seemed to be shivering. “Abba, Abba, take this cup from me, but not as I will but as you will.” Jesus Muttered.
John’s eyelids again began to fall. “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” Jesus yelled. John burst out of a deep sleep once again to see Jesus standing over him. “The hour has come, look the Son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go!”
Here comes my betrayer!”
Young John leaped to his feet to look in the direction Jesus now pointed to see a small company of soldiers with torches headed their way. Once they came to where Jesus stood Judas emerged from between them and kissed the Lord on the cheek. John saw Jesus looked into the eyes of Judas with an expression of sorrowful anger. He then looked onto the soldiers. “Who is it you want?”Jesus asked. “Jesus of Nazareth” The soldier at the lead stated.
“I am he!” Jesus replied while advancing toward them.
The soldiers nearly fell backward at Jesus’ advance and willingness to be arrested. “If you are looking for me then let these men go.” Jesus said. The soldiers moved to bind him. Just then Peter unsheathed his sword and swung cutting the ear from the high priest’s servant. Jesus brushed aside the attempts to restrain him and stretched out grasping the place where the man’s ear had been and restoring it fully. “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” The Lord yelled to Peter.

Young John felt his heart torn from him as his greatest friend and his Lord was bound and taken away like a common criminal. It was happening just as Jesus had told them it would. Would he now really be killed, as he had said? Would he rise and be glorified, as he said he would? And just what did that mean, would he see his beloved teacher ever again?
John had been trying to decipher what the real meaning was behind these words since his Master had first stated them. He had asked many questions but Jesus would not reveal it plainly.
When would the new kingdom come? When would his Lord vanquish his enemies and be King as scripture foretold? Young John wept…..

We, as Christians, are a people that speak often of love but often we are referring to a love that rests very contingent on our own feelings. We all know and agree we are to “Love your neighbor” we agree even that we are to “Love our enemies.” But do we recognize love as more than just a feeling, something to be enjoyed and to enjoy with others? Do we see that love is not about how we feel when we are doing it or about whether we feel like doing it at all? The Bible and the Lord tells us and He shows us here that love is a Command with a capitol C. Actually it’s the Lord’s central command.
The Lord tells us it’s the way people will know we are His disciples and He tells us that God is not in us if we can’t do it.

How many of us have actually loved our enemies? Not just tried at work or in life to get along with them but actually Loved them. When have we ever prayed for someone that is trying to get us fired, or speaks terribly about us to others, or someone that has injured us or a family member? Most of us, if we are honest, will admit that we don’t. Why don’t we? Because we don’t feel like it.
The language used by God in the Old Testament and in the New is such that it leaves no loopholes, no misunderstanding, and no excuses. Are we to obey our feelings, our comforts, or God?

Here the Lord submits entirely to the Father’s will, many of us speak of how Jesus died for us, and He did, but He first died for the Father. His great love with the Father as being an eternal member of the trinity, lead Him to come here to this sin filled place we call earth, lead a sinless life for thirty-three years, and finally give Himself to the scourging post and the cross to not only pay for our sins so that we may have access to the Father and be saved but ultimately so the Father’s righteousness would be upheld.
The blood soaked cross is the greatest symbol of not only love but obedience to that love that has ever or will ever be known to mankind.

What does this example really mean for us His disciples?
I think it means we are to reach out to those we might not normally associate with, to those we feel uncomfortable around, even to those that have harmed us. It means we are to push far past our own boundaries of comfort and preference to give the unconditional love of Christ. Many search for the will of God for their lives but one aspect of that will can be answered very quickly and easily with the Bible. The Father wills that His love, His righteousness, and His glory would be known to the ends of the earth. Meanwhile we have people we work with, people in our family, and people all around us that need to know and do not and we often shrink back at the thought of us sharing it with them, why? Because it would make us uncomfortable, because we don’t feel like it.
If we are to call ourselves disciples, if we are to cover ourselves in the righteousness of Jesus and have joy in the sacrifice he chose to give us here in Gethsemane as He sweat blood but still said “Thy will not my will be done” shouldn’t we be compelled to share what has been done for us, shouldn’t we then strive to break free from our comforts and feelings in order to live by the very real commands of the Father and the Son?
Shouldn’t we put ourselves aside ignore our selfish feelings and place the commands and the love of Christ at the forefront of our lives letting that lead us?
What will it be like the day we stand before Jesus the man, the very real flesh and blood Lord that we can reach out and touch, the very real God/man we profess to follow? What will it be like as we see the spear mark in his side, the healed holes in His hands and feet? What will it be like to gaze upon the bodily physical evidence, as Thomas did, of the sacrifice made for you and for me?
To look upon the Lamb that was willing to put Himself aside to bear the wrath of the Father?

If we work hard at living a life to please ourselves this moment may be crushing even terrifying for us but if our hearts and our lives have been lead by His commands and His sacrificial love this moment will be filled with a glory and joy that will cause us to sing out as we hear those precious words from our Lord, our Teacher, and our Savior.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Friday, August 5, 2016

The feet of Jesus

Luke 10:38-42
At the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

As we read through this portion of scripture we can imagine Martha here running back and forth, her hair has gotten out of place, and her face is painted with an expression of serious determination. She’s got sweat running down her forehead. She is busy! Meanwhile her sister has parked herself on the floor before the Lord to listen to his teaching. Martha’s frustration no doubt had been growing for some time before she finally had enough, throwing politeness out the window she confronts the Lord as if to say “Why are you letting her get away with this?” I mean after all these things need done, these tasks need completed, this work is important!

Life is often handing us an endless to do list, we think we are nearing the end of the list and realize it’s grown in length yet again. As we focus on these tasks they seem to get magnified in our mind, there importance grows and soon we can get frustrated with those around us for not seeing the pressing importance in these tasks, this stuff we think must be done, but just how important are these things really?

We can become so swept away in life’s pressures we loose track of who gave us life to begin with. Martha here has needlessly sacrificed the opportunity to be at the Lord’s feet for the task of making him dinner. She has made the making of dinner more important than her all important guest! I can’t help but wonder if Martha many years later thought back on this all important opportunity with sick regret that she hadn’t cherished this time with Jesus rather than fill it with the menial task of making dinner.

In the Gospel of John chapter 1verse 1 John tells us  - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Here John says that Jesus is the Word of God.
Mary could see that nothing else in the world could be more important than to sit and listen to the teaching of Jesus the very Word of God. We can’t sit at the physical feet of Jesus like Mary here but we can still sit and absorb his teaching. We still have those words and teachings here for us today more than two thousand years later in the New Testament. I think we can often take that for granted in our busy lives much like Martha here in this situation.

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus speak of scripture over and over again, he uses it to point out prophesies that told of his coming, he uses it in arguments with the Pharisees.
Even Jesus, the Son of God, used scripture to defend himself against Satin while being tested in the desert. So it’s easy for us to see that scripture was of very high importance to Jesus.

We can then read of the many times the apostles also went to scripture throughout the book of acts and in all their letters. We see the disciples introduce scripture saying “it is written” this phrase is peppered heavily throughout the New Testament over and over again. Scripture, being the written Word of God, seems to be ever present on their minds and a central part of their lives  .

The Psalmist says in psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

So we can see that Jesus holds the knowledge of scripture to a very high importance. The Psalmist says we need to store it up in our hearts and these men that called themselves Disciples of Christ, no doubt, constantly used scripture in there everyday life as Jesus certainly taught them to.
Mary here thinks taking the time to be taught by the very Word of God is even more important than feeding Him, and Jesus says she is absolutely right.

How do we see it? 
Where is reading the Word of God in our list of priorities today? How much time do we spend at the feet of Jesus?
When we start our day are we too engrossed in our morning tasks, to sit and take in the Word of God? As we come back home do we flip on the television looking for it to provide us with rest?
Maybe we fire up the sweeper and the dishwasher thinking only of our to do list?

The Word of God sits waiting to be used by the Holy Spirit

Hebrews 4:12
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The text sits there like any other inanimate object, still, silent but this great text lives and breathes just as the verse says, much like a living breathing person you can take it at face value with a short superficial inspection or you can choose to get to know it and in getting to know it the Holy Spirit will use it to help you get to know the Lord we serve.
Much like the verse here states, reading it is not like reading any other book, the Holy Spirit within us seeks to use those God breathed words to bring to light the condition of our hearts and to instruct us on the spiritual growth we so sorely need in our lives

This book has gone up against some of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds we humans have had to offer and proven itself over and over again, and why wouldn’t it, it is the very voice of God, and what do we do, we relegate it to our spare time, we give it five minutes of our time here and maybe ten minutes of our time there, taking bits and pieces of truth never fully grasping the entirety and wholeness of what the text seeks to tell us about ourselves and about God.
Many of us in our society today are willing to commit whole years of our lives to a University for the study of a subject that will render us a few decades of financial rewards but rarely think of committing a fraction of that time to the study of Gods Word that will impart to us teachings that if applied to our lives will render rewards for an eternity. And will also equip us to impart Gods love and truth to others who would remain lost without hearing it.

Men and women have been martyred for centuries to bring us this incredible text. Many men were martyred in the effort of bringing it to us translated into a language we could all read. They knew how gravely important it was for each person to be able to read this book for themselves and cared so deeply for the Word of God and there fellow man that they were willing to give everything.

One these men William Tyndale stood before a Roman Catholic Clergyman and said- “If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!
William Tyndale was publicly executed for being the first to print the Holy Bible in English. 

This book is so powerful many countries, even today, have banned the Bible. Christians even now smuggle the text into those places under threat of imprisonment or even execution because like Tyndale they know how vital it is to have the opportunity to read it for themselves. We can all so easily forget and take for granted just how expensive and powerful this book really is, just how sought after it is even today in places not as free as ours, and just how eternally important it is as well. It often sits in our homes collecting dust while many would give a finger or even an arm to have it.

This text tells those of us that profess to follow Jesus Christ that we have been adopted into a family. In getting to know this book we get to know our Father and our Brother who is also our Lord.

Much like a blind man that might feel a face over and over again, tracing and memorizing it with his hands to get a better picture of what that person looks like in his mind. We must search the scriptures again and again gaining a better picture of our Father and His perfect will. How can we know the God we serve if we do not spend time allowing Him to speak to us through His holy Word? How can we be equipped to spread his Word or give witness for our faith if His Word is not on our lips and in our minds? How will we properly defend ourselves, as even Jesus did against the lies of the evil one if the Word isn’t stored within our hearts?
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
The Word of God tells us that a time will come when those even in the church will not listen to the truth and will seek out false teachers that will no doubt seek to twist or eliminate the Word of God. It could be suggested that that time is here or has at least begun for sure, but how will we know when the Word of God has been twisted, how will we know if it’s been changed or even removed if we do not know it? We the family of God are the guardians that have been entrusted with this great treasure that so many have paid so dearly for us to have.

We can all sit and conjure up in our imagination what God might be like, but we must know who He really is in truth not in fantacy.
The lost souls of this world are conjuring up Gods right now that sharply disagree with what this book says about who God really is.
Some dangerously think and proclaim a Loving God would never judge and others would sadly say He is a judge with no Love at all, and still others that He doesn’t really care either way.  The one true God has spoken to us in this text telling us who He is. We have the opportunity to speak for God by using this, His own words; surely this is why He has gone to such great lengths to see that we each have it.

We can tell the suffering about 2 Corinthians 4:17
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
We can tell those that have lost all hope in themselves and in the world that there is something far greater to put our hope into Luke 1:37  tells us- For nothing will be impossible with God.” 
We can tell those that think they have gone too far for God to ever forgive them about Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God the Father has given us His truth that tells us of His Love, Grace, and Strength. His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Master, tells us in John 8:31 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Many of us that claim discipleship haven’t even begun to take in His teaching, how then can we hold to it?

The next time we look at our Bibles let’s imagine Mary there kneeled at the feet of Jesus the Word of the Living God. Let’s start, one day at a time, “choosing what is better” as Jesus tells us here. Let’s make our time with Him, our time in His Word, top priority over all the toil and tasks that seem so important. Let’s let the business of the world around us fade into silence as we sit and take in the all important word of our Father.

One day we will all take our last breath in this world and it will not be the toils and tasks that made our lives worthwhile but how we lived this life by God’s Word and the time we spent at the feet of Jesus.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd