Jesus

Tuesday Devotional: Philippians 2

bibleRead Philippians 2:1-11

This is not about you.  Unity with Christ means that the spirit of extreme selflessness has taken up residence in your life and in your spirit.  This is the frontline in the battle between your sinful nature and the spirit of the living God.  We would rather talk about the things we want to talk about.  We would rather engage in the activities that we are most interested in.  We would rather eat the food that most pleases our palate.  We would rather put our self first–all the time, every time.

But this is not about you.  Counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you have signed your name on the spiritual dotted line of the New Covenant that agrees and declares this is no longer about you.

The blessings of Jesus follow after complete submission to the name of Jesus.  How can we think that we can receive the blessings of Jesus while living completely in contradiction of the spirit of the very same Jesus?  Delusional.  Deceived.  This is not about you.

Jesus did not come as a conquering King to rescue you.  He came low and disgraced so that he could pay the debt of your sin to forgive you.  Jesus is the living embodiment of selflessness and submission.  This is Jesus and this is his Gospel.  This is not about you.

HE forgave you. HE dwells in you. It is all about him.  He is the Christ.  He is the Lamb.  He is Jesus.  Jesus is now your meaning of life.  Jesus is now your passion.  Jesus is now your prize.  Jesus is now the center of your everything.  This is not about you.

Beware of the spirit in you that attempts to credit, glorify or promote the self.  This is not of God and this is not worthy of Jesus.  There is nothing about the Christian life that elevates the self.  He must become greater and we must become less.  Anything different is not the Gospel and must be revealed and rebuked for what it is.  A lie.  Your life is now hidden in Christ, the light of the world.  Hidden.  Unseen.  Unnoticed.  This is not about you.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 8

bibleRead 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A reborn spirit is a giving spirit.  The spirit of Jesus gave everything he had to the point of death.  Therefore, with the spirit of Jesus living in us as a new creation, we are aligned with and we manifest his sacrificial love in our own lives.  Christian giving can be reduced to doctrine and it is indeed a requirement for a Christian to give.  However, the giving heart and the Christian life need more than doctrine.

Just as the law was merely an instrument used to teach Paul that he was a sinner because he could never follow the commandments, so is the doctrine of the gospel to us.  Rebuke the religious spirit that reduces the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to simple dos and don’ts.  Jesus shows us the way but only by the power of the Holy Spirit in us can we ever manage to follow the way laid out for us.  Christian, you give because God gave everything to you.  He gave his son, for you.  Christian, you give because in Jesus you have an eye for need.  You seek out need and you desire to see a need fulfilled.  You have been abundantly blessed and you rejoice in the blessing of others.  Christian, you give because what you own or possess is not your own.  No matter how hard you have worked for it.  Ultimately, your possessions are investments.  They are anointed and Holy loans.  God has given you what you have so that you can reinvest in the kingdom of God.  Not the kingdom of you.  Christian, you give what you have with confidence that God knows your heart.  He knows how much and how little you have.  He knows how much is easy and how much hurts.  He knows how much you promised to give and how much you are recalculating and reassessing not to give.  Christian, remember that you are working with God.  Not against him.  You are working toward a beautiful investment and profit for you and the eternal kingdom of our living God and to the name of Jesus.  Remember that when you pray in confidence that the sovereignty of God over your unpredictable future is good, so is His sovereign goodness over your finite and often limited amount of money and things.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 6

bibleRead 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

“Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor.6:7-8)

 What do you think you deserve?  What do you think you’re entitled to?  What do you think people, society or the world owes you?  In knowing our sinfulness by claiming unity with Christ, how dare we Christians assume such self-importance.  Jesus warns us to count the cost of becoming a disciple and a Christian and part of that cost includes being wronged, cheated, persecuted and killed.  This is our lot.  This is our portion.

But in the end, this is not about you.  This is never about you.  This is about him and his name is Jesus.  You weren’t wronged, you were convicted and by the grace of God, forgiven.  He was wronged.  The only perfect man of all creation, the beloved son of the living God was wronged.  Your suffering is real and Jesus never taught that living in this world would be easy.  However, your suffering is not like his suffering.  It will never be like his suffering.  To know Jesus is to first identify with his death as payment of the debt and death you deserved and deserve.  He saved you.  Not because you were owed it or deserved it.  You are justifiably pronounced guilty and deserving of death without the blood of Jesus.  You are not owed anything except the just penalty for your daily sins.  However, thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.  It is because he was wronged, cheated, persecuted and murdered so that you never have to live as a slave to such things.

You will experience all that Jesus did but never to the extent he did.  Being wronged and cheated is not fun, easy or something that will ever lose its sting.  But in Jesus the sting will no longer feel like death.  In Jesus the sting of death has been overcome forever.  Have you been wronged?  Have you been cheated?  Look unto the Christ.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look unto his suffering and be united with him in the suffering that he took upon himself for you.  You have Jesus.  Nothing in this world is of any more worth than him and you can never lose him.  He is eternally yours and therefore in your time of suffering ask our Father to give you the faith that proudly proclaims that you will choose to lose ALL things in this world for the name of Jesus.

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 6

bibleRead Romans 6:1-14

A new creation is not the same thing as a new chance.  A new life is not an enhanced or slightly modified version of your old life.  New is completely new.  To be a new creation is to carry within you the spirit of Jesus Christ.  His nature confronts and aggressively opposes the sinful nature of your old self.  A new creation does not seek justification for sin nor does it seek to provide refuge for it.  The new creation hates sin!  Do you hate sin? Are you ready and willing to fight the recurring temptations of the sinful nature of your old self?  Or, are you apathetic and quick to celebrate the benefits of Christ’s grace and forgiveness for you before lifting a finger to oppose what you naturally should, if indeed you are a new creation?  The new creation is not subtle.  The new creation is of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit and therefore is one of power.  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit warring with your old self?  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit lifting your weak and feeble spiritual arms in order for the battle to carry on, allowing victory to be proclaimed for you and for Christ?  Is there power in your faith?  A new creation cannot be without it.  The lack of power in your walk with Jesus Christ begs the question, “Do you know that your savior liveth?”  To know that Jesus has saved is to know that your sinful nature has been uncovered and pronounced guilty, but by the grace of God has fallen on the head of the savior, Jesus Christ.  To know that Jesus lives is to know that the nature of your old self has no more power over you.  You no longer serve the flesh but Jesus.  You are no longer mastered by sinful desires, for your Master has liberated you from the oppression of the old self, inaugurating the way of righteousness, truth and holiness in the name of Jesus Christ.  Cry out to God for newness!

Tuesday Devotional: Acts 8

bibleRead Acts 8:26-40

A relationship with Jesus is one of ongoing inquiry and curiosity.  We are repeatedly confronted with questions concerning his sacrifice, his teaching, his person.  Yet, it seems that for as many questions with comfortable solutions, more questions arise, and our search to know more continues.

The Christian’s pursuit of knowing does not arise out of a desire to arrive at a singular conclusion, thus completing our search.  Our pursuit is a result of looking upon something that we cannot look away from.  The glory of pursuing the living God is unlike anything we’ve ever known.  It surpasses what we know to be beautiful and forces us to redefine the word beautiful itself.  Love is redefined.  Peace is redefined.  Hope is redefined.  Victory is redefined.  You think you know, and you think you know, but then you realize that you will never fully know until you are with him, made like him in a place where there is nothing but him.

Protect and defend this childlike nature that persistently asks why and how.  We were designed to learn, but we were ultimately designed to learn about all things in order to increase our love for our creator.  To learn with any other motive or objective leaves us with information that we cannot take with us when we part from this world. Any knowledge but this will, over time, wither and fade just as the grass and the flowers of the fields.  Knowledge is of this world, but truth is eternal.  Open up the scriptures seeking to behold the glory of the Son.  Seek to know truth and the truth will set free: not because it is moral, virtuous or logical, but because truth itself is embodied in the physical manifestation of the living God in Jesus Christ himself.

Tuesday Devotional: John 9

bibleRead John 9

John 9:31

“We know that God does not listen to sinners.  He listens to the godly man who does his will.”

 

Why does God engage with us?  When we are so are egregiously out of line in our defamation of His holy name.  When we are so frustratingly obstinate in our refusal to obey his will.  When we so easily dismiss the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ in order to justify our own self-righteousness and promote our own self-worship.  Why does God continue to engage within us?  What does a Holy God have to do with sinners?

Bacteria and a sterile environment cannot coexist.  Darkness cannot mingle with the light.  Sinfulness is a direct affront to holiness.  Why does God engage with us?  What the healed blind man spoke is true.  God in his righteous majesty is not expected or required to listen sinners like us.  Yet he does.  Why?  He listens to THE godly man who does his will.  And who has ever done his will in a way that honors the holiness of the living God?  None but Jesus.  Without the sacrificial lamb you have no chance.  There is no hope.  It is finished resulting in your eternal separation from the Father.  Yet, because of his wounds and by his blood it is finished resulting in an entirely different and far more miraculous way.  The condemnation of your sins is finished.  The punishment for your iniquities is finished.  The fear of death is finished.  Hallelujah!  It is by Jesus you have been saved, transformed, healed, welcomed back.  There is none but Jesus.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Luke 17

bibleRead Luke 17:4-10

The commands of Jesus are sweet but they must always bring us to cry out to God, “Increase our faith!”  The commands of Jesus are beyond what we are capable of achieving.  His ways are higher than our ways.  The commands of Jesus are not comfortable and they do not fit nicely and neatly with our way of life.  The way of Jesus is Holy and we are sinful.  These two natures are incompatible and contradictory to one another.  This is what we face when we read the words of Jesus and receive His proclamation over our lives.  We are called to enter the narrow gate.  We are called to count the cost.  We are commanded to die to self.  We are commanded to repent and submit our lives to the authority of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We are commanded to be reborn and to be transformed in the likeness of Jesus Christ.  We are commanded to leave everything and to lose everything of this world in order to receive and possess the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.  We are instructed to believe that with faith in Jesus even the most daunting and impassable obstacle in your life can be moved.  Believing that we can live the life Jesus commands us to live requires a faith that can only be revealed through faith in Jesus and by receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.  Beware of living a life following Jesus where you never utter the words, “Increase our faith.”  We cannot follow Jesus without pleading every day for God to increase our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christians who are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled require faith and more of it that in Jesus all things are possible.  Heavenly Father, increase our faith!

 

The Resurrection: Saul to Paul

empty-tomb

While the debate concerning the identity of Jesus Christ as God himself as historical fact or fiction will forever continue, the figure of Paul is much less easily argued against. Paul comes down to us from the 1st century as a real man who wrote real documents, who preached faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Paul is a historical figure: very few people will object to that statement. However, while some attempt to legitimize the life of Paul and reject the life of Jesus, a closer look at the life of Paul will lead to the truth that Paul cannot exist as history presents him without the existence of Jesus as history presents him as well. The life of Paul without the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not worthy of anyone’s study. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul is simply another Jewish Pharisee destined to be remembered only by his family, friends and colleagues. As we have it, with the resurrection, the name of Paul is possibly the second most important name in human history, second only to Jesus himself. The reason Paul is worthy of anyone’s study is because of his radical transformation on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:1-22

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Over the course of three days, Paul transformed from Saul of Tarsus, a fiery Jewish Pharisee, devoted to the destruction of the Christian heresy, to Paul the Apostle, preaching the good news of Christ and changing the course of human history through his many missionary journeys, church planting and frequent correspondence with the early Christian Churches, comprising more than two thirds of the entire New Testament. We must ask the question, why?

Why would Paul suddenly change and become a member of the sect he was committed to destroy? Why would he forfeit his wealth and status to become poor and persecuted? Why would he endure hardships such as shipwrecks, stoning, floggings, imprisonment, and sickness for this heresy of Jesus Christ? Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the actions of Paul are those of a man gone insane. His transformation without the resurrection is unlikely and unreasonable. With the resurrection, the mission and promise of Jesus to Paul that he preach salvation in Christ to all nations, Jew and Gentile, suddenly thrusts the reality of Paul’s conversion into the reality of the Gospel, with the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day.

Tuesday Devotional: Habakkuk 1

bibleHabbakuk 1

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God is unbelievable.  The Bible is unbelievable.  The Gospels are unbelievable.  Jesus is unbelievable.  Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false,  but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes.  The Bible contains far more honesty than we like.  It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with.  It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.

The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires.  The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just.  Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it.  When we need instruction, He gives it.  When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it.  When we need discipline, He gives it.  In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering.  Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists.  Why?  If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?

The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only.  It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible.  As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm.  But let us never forget that suffering will persist.  Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase. 

But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to.  We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was.  Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm.  The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin.  It overcomes sin and suffering entirely.  Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O death, is your victory?”  God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped.  While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice.  The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world.  In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously.  The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.

 

The Resurrection: Tombs to Trails

empty-tomb

It seems that year after year as the Easter and Christmas holidays draw near, one predictably sees a program or two concerning the newly found proof or evidence of the “real” Jesus. While these newly found discoveries never hold up, a popular topic of research is the search for the physical body of Jesus Christ. While historians and scholars are more willing now than in the past to affirm the historical existence of Jesus Christ, without belief in the resurrection, one is left searching for the body of the man who was crucified on the cross and subsequently died. The mystery that will remain a mystery to those unwilling to accept the story of the resurrection is that the location of the tomb of Jesus Christ has been lost to history, and no one can conclusively establish where the tomb actually is.

This mystery is made even more profound when one considers the cultural traditions of the Jewish people regarding the burial of prominent public figures. Such sites are extremely important. The celebration and glorification of those figures after their death, and the memorial to them in the hearts and minds of future generations is an invaluable treasure to a culture that so often throughout history has had very little to hold onto. From to the Gospel narratives, we also know that the body of Jesus was not simply thrown into an unmarked grave to be forgotten by future generations. The body of Jesus was buried in the tomb of an upper-class Jewish citizen, Joseph of Arimathea. His followers knew exactly where the tomb was, and they visited the tomb after his burial.

Mark 15:42-47:

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.    

John 20:1-2:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 

Consider what a profound effect Jesus had on the Jewish people in general, for believers and non-believers alike. It is impossible to believe that if the life of Jesus did indeed end with his death on the cross, his followers not only defied their cultural practice of honoring the dead but more unbelievably, forgot the location of the tomb altogether.

While the tomb of Jesus has been lost to history, what has not been lost is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do have plenty of proof that almost immediately following the death of Jesus, the disciples moved their eyes from the tomb of Jesus to the trails yet to be blazed in his Name as they set off to make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The disciples viewed the tomb as trivial in the presence of the reality of the risen Lord, as well as the job that lay ahead driving them to spread the Gospel to those yet to have heard.

In the presence of the dead body of a prominent figure buried in a prominent location, the history of the Jewish people would lead us to believe that the tomb would not only be remembered and marked but that it would be celebrated and preserved. However, in the presence of the resurrected Christ, the tomb becomes nothing more than a stepping stone in order to reach the greater intended heights established by Jesus Christ that the disciples set off to reach. We all know the phrase “history repeats itself,” and we might expect this in the Jewish treatment of the tomb of Christ. However, in this instance, history did not repeat itself. In this instance, the disciples contradicted history and set off in a direction that would ultimately rewrite history.