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It seems there’s enough going down in the world and among Christians that good words are in order. It’s all I can do to keep my sea legs steady and try to love those around me constantly and selflessly (oxymoron). Anything that passes beyond that in terms of perfecting my spirituality is out of reach for me now.
This verse struck me the other day:
Luke 1:45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Elizabeth, while pregnant with John the Baptist, spoke these words to Mary, pregnant with baby Jesus. Elizabeth was Mary’s older relative. Both of these women had believed the promise of the Lord, and we see them here rejoicing and fellowshipping with each other.
Zechariah had received the same promise as his wife Elizabeth but had not believed. At this moment, he was struggling with being mute, a condition inflicted on him by the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger to Zechariah, for having questioned the promise by demanding proof, or a sign, as though the vision of the mighty Gabriel were not sign enough! He missed the joy of belief.
Another example of one whose disbelief led to misery was Thomas, who refused to believe that Christ had indeed risen from the dead, just as he had promised he would. (See John 20:19-31)
Zechariah the doubter RECEIVED what was promised, and Thomas the doubter RECEIVED what was promised. What they lost was the peace, comfort, and joy of anticipating the promise’s fulfillment, because they didn’t believe.
When God promises, the promise’s fulfillment is not based upon our belief–it’s based upon the nature and character of God.
God had promised a Savior to Abraham. As a whole, the nation did not believe, neither prior to the coming of Christ, nor when he came. God kept his word. The disbelief of the majority did not stop God from keeping his word. What did happen is that the nation as a whole rejected the fulfillment of the promise. Those who believed received. Had not even one single person believed, God would still have kept his word. His promise is a promise. It’s our joy that gets shortchanged when we doubt.
So the point? Hang on to your blessing! Don’t let it slip through your fingers by doubting. The promise will be fulfilled. There’s great joy and hope in that. God will accomplish in our lives what he has said he would. In these rough times, hang on to your promise. God is bigger and stronger than all our fear, than all that surrounds us in these days.
No Virtue Will Get You In! No Defect Will Keep You Out!
Week 4: Spiritual Replaces Concrete
One of the great takeaway lessons we learn from John 3–Nicodemus–and John 4–the Woman at the Well–is that Jesus introduces a Great Shift–the Great Change–away from concrete interactions with his people (physical symbols and types) to spiritual.
This is one of the biggest differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus himself introduced this change, and we see it in both the account of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well.
The reason the Great Shift occurs with the advent of Christ at the beginning of the New Testament is that the Spirit of God in the later pages of the Old Testament had left the temple and never returned. John the Baptist predicts the return of the Spirit at the time of Jesus’s baptism, saying that Jesus would be the one to baptize people with the Holy Spirit.
Further, in the Old Testament, the Spirit dwelled first in the column of fire by night and cloud by day, which hovered over the Israelites in exile. It next dwelt within the Tent of Meeting, and finally, in the temple. All these are EXTERNAL to the human being. Humans did not have the Spirit of God living within them, and ever since Adam sinned, humankind had lost intimate contact with God and lived separate from him. This is why God needed to talk to his people with concrete, physical symbols–pictures formed by real, historic events. Humankind had become SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
In the New Testament, the promised Holy Spirit arrives, not to live outside humans in the spaces of inanimate objects, but to live within humans in the spiritual spaces of human hearts. This is an enormous change from the Old Testament to the New. It’s a change best described as new wine which no longer fits the old wineskins. (Luke 5:36-38) It is the change from CONCRETE to SPIRITUAL.
In John 3 and John 4, the main protagonists understand Jesus’s words in concrete terms only, that would be to say, in literal terms, using the word “literal” in its modern meaning of something physical, something which can be seen and touched.
- Nicodemus interprets Jesus’s words, “You must be born again,” as climbing back into the mother’s womb. (John 3:3-4)
- The Woman at the Well interprets Jesus’s words, “living water” as physical water that she could physically drink and therefore physically never thirst again. (John 4:10-15)
In both cases Jesus patiently explains the new spiritual meaning. He pours his new wine into their old wineskins. And as the text shows, he had more success with the woman at the well than with Nicodemus. The woman at the well understood, believed, and went running off to confess her new belief and her discovery of Jesus the Messiah to her fellow townsfolk. Nicodemus, on the other hand, needed more time.
And so we see that God is Spirit and truth, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
For more information on how the Gospel of Christ changes the concrete into the spiritual, read Does Paul Spiritualize the Concrete?: The Great Shift Exemplified in Colossians 2:8-3:4
Jesus Christ is the Full Expression of God:
Jesus Is God the Word — John 1:1, 14
Jesus Is God the Creator — John 1:3-4, 10
Jesus Is Life and Light — John 1:4-5, 9
Jesus Is God the Savior — John 1:12, 17
Jesus Is the BIG BANG of God ! Without Jesus, God would not be known — John 1:18
There is so much
to weep about in our world recently. Bad things happen as surely as night follows day. (John 16:33) It seems as though our country–along with most other parts of the world–has been experiencing one very long night. Will the violence and human pain never end? Yet for those who find their eternal hope in our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13), Scripture carries the promise of a bright day to follow each and every dark night: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” — (Psalm 30:5).”
Christians know this biblical promise of God is true, because Christ has already deposited within them the fountain of life and joy–his Holy Spirit (John 7:38; Ephesians 1:13). And this fountain of joy and life is eternal; it can never be quenched no matter how much external circumstances say otherwise. And so we sing–
” “Spring up, O well! — Sing to it!”
Psalm 30:1 A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.
4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
8 To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.∞
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
This is not a post about Omar Mateen.
Nor is it a post about what recently happened in Orlando, Florida.
It is a post about the dangerous love God expresses through his Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s dangerous love for humanity becomes more real for me as I consider the horrible actions of Mateen in Orlando. Some call what Mateen did an act of hate. Some say an act of terror. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was killed in a way not too different from Mateen’s victims. Jesus forgave his killers; God forgave them; We are also called to forgive our enemies. God’s love is dangerous.
If Mateen had called out to God for forgiveness, what might the Father of Jesus Christ have done?
This Is How Jesus Died:
- False Witnesses (Matthew 26:59-60)
- Condemned to Death for Telling the Truth (Mark 14:61-64)
- Spat at, Slapped, Beaten, Mocked (Matthew 26:67)
- Bound as a Prisoner (John 18:12)
- Abandoned by a Best Friend (Mark 14:66-72)
- Innocently Accused (Luke 23:4, 14)
- Condemned by a Mob (John 19:15)
- Falsely Accused Again (Luke 23:10)
- Treated with Contempt and Mocked (Luke 23:11)
- Declared Innocent by the Governor (Luke 23:4, 13, 22)
- Condemned Again by the Mob (Matthew 27:22-23)
- Scourged (beaten with straps) (John 19:1)
- Abandoned to Death by the Governor who Had Declared Him Innocent (Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:15)
- Nailed to a Cross and Crucified to Death (Mark 15:24; Luke 23:46; Luke 23:52-53)
- Mocked while Hanging on the Cross (Luke 23:35-38)
This Is What Jesus Did with His Killers
- Jesus Asked His Father to Forgive His Killers (Luke 23:34)
This is How Steven Died:
- A Follower of Christ (Acts 6:8)
- Innocent of All Crime (Acts 6:8-10)
- Falsely Accused (Acts 6:11-14)
- Arrested for His Religious Beliefs (Acts 6:12)
- Tried in a Kangaroo Court for His Beliefs (Acts 6:12-7:56)
- Stoned by an Angry Mob for Those Religious Beliefs (Acts 7:57-58)
- The Crowd Pledged Allegiance to Saul (Acts 7:58) Mateen Pledged Allegiance to ISIS
- Saul Gladly Received and Acknowledged Their Allegiance (Acts 8:1) ISIS Approved Mateen
This Is What Steven Did with His Killers:
- Steven Asked Jesus to Forgive His Killers (Acts 7:60)
Who Was Saul?
- A Leader Who Encouraged Hate Crimes (Acts 7:58)
- Saul Himself Performed Religious Hate Crimes (Acts 8:1, 3)
- Saul Traveled to Religiously Persecute Those of a Different Faith (Acts 9:1-2)
This Is What Jesus Did with Saul:
- Jesus Identified with His Persecuted Followers (Acts 9:4)
- Jesus Forgave Saul (Acts 9:15)
- Jesus Converted Saul and Appointed Him to Be His Chief Servant (Acts 9:15-20)
- Saul Served Jesus and Wrote 13 Books of the New Testament (The New Testament Contains 27 Books)
Why Is God’s Love DANGEROUS?
- God Loves His Enemies (Romans 5:10)
- He Sent His Own Son to Die for His Enemies (Romans 5:10; John 3:16)
- Jesus Commands His Followers to Do the Same (Matthew 5:10-11, 44; Luke 6:27)
A Recent Example of God’s Dangerous Love
While on a short-term mission trip with a small group from my church (Weekend Ministry in San Francisco), I met a homeless man who told me how the Ku Klux Klan had robbed his father of some land he had inherited, then beheaded his father in front of his mother, and finally burned his father on a cross. This man, gesturing strongly with tensed, cupped hands in front of his stomach, said, “There’s something in me that says to forgive.” That “something” is the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
For Further Study
There have been many Christian martyrs over the years, and there are very many today. Have you ever read biographies or accounts of those who die in hate crimes against their faith? The stories of their lives can be very humbling and also inspiring. Here are just a few easy links: