Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Tag

Angels Unawares   5 comments

October 1, 2018

What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you or said to you? Why did this mean so much?

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We live in a pretty uncivil world these days. People just treat each other badly, often … in traffic, on social media, in the grocery store … it would be easy to get discouraged with the current state of affairs.

CoolerBut I’ve had lots of people do kind things to me and for me. Once when our family was going through a really rough time, I came home from work to find a cooler of Alaska wild-harvest products (jams, jellies, crabapple butter, and a raspberry and rhubarb pie) sitting on my front porch. Under the sweets was a caribou roast and a bag of potatoes with the dirt still on them. Twenty-four years later, I have no idea who did this. It wasn’t that we needed the food so much as someone knew we were having a hard time and they took the time to show me they cared. If you’re reading this, thanks for the cooler. We still use it on picnics.

I am an Alaskan woman which means I can change my own car tires and do simple auto repair because people (male or female) who can’t do that here end up dying of hypothermia waiting for rescue. Triple-A comes from Seattle, so that’s three days at 60 mph if the tow truck driver doesn’t sleep. We have cell phone service these days, but not everywhere. So skills are a necessity here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it when young military guys pull up behind my car on the highway and offer to “change that tire for you, ma’am?” I’ll compliment him on his skill and pull over at the nearest gas station to check those bolts are tight enough. Be grateful, but verify.

When I worked for an agency that was going through a rough re-organization, the Executive Director (who was not known for handing out compliments) said to me one day that he appreciated that I always kept a good attitude and never said “No, I can’t do that” without a good reason. That compliment meant a lot of me because I knew I’d earned it.

Hitch HikingI was one day sharing my concerns about my daughter’s gypsy musician lifestyle and one of the women in our Bible Study group apparently misunderstood what I was saying because she said “Isn’t it marvelous that she’s so brave and what a incredible testimony to how you and your husband raised her?” It was a different way of looking at the situation and changed my attitude toward Bri’s adventures. I am partially responsible for them because my husband and I raised her to be fierce and independent and comfortable with hiking in the wilderness with bears, so she’s not frightened by the highways and byways of America. I still worry about her (you never stop worrying about your kids, I think), but I now see her life as an adventure and believe that God has her back and will see her through many of the dangers associated with the life she’s chosen.

But the most heart-touching compliment I ever received wasn’t really a compliment. It was more like a prophesy. Several years ago, events caused me to decide to leave the church I’d been a member of for decades. I loved that church. That spiritual family had seen me and my family through some wonderful times and some hard times. It is still my heart-home. But the pastor at the time was insufferable and the other members were backing him up, so it was time to go. I made that decision on a Sunday morning just before church service. I was literally in the parking lot when I decided I couldn’t go in. So, I went to a gas station to buy a coffee and decide what church I would go to that day. My heart was breaking as I waited for the man in front of me to fill his coffee vase so I could fill my cup. He turned around and I smiled because I have a commitment to being civil with people in public and it wasn’t his fault I was sad. And these words came out of his mouth:

Bless you, my sister in Christ, for your value is far above rubies and you have come into this world for just such a time as this. Your feet are upon the mountain path and it looks scary now, but don’t you worry because He has your hand and will lead you home.

He was right. I did find another spiritual home. Ironically, I went to the church we are currently members of that first morning, but because we had several friends already at that church, we didn’t want to just make an easy choice. We wanted to be where God wants us to be. So we visited about 10 churches over the next couple of months, but we finally returned to the first church I went to that morning of the prophesy. And, while it isn’t like our old church in so many ways, the feeling of spiritual family has gradually grown so that when we were asked if we would come back to our old church after the insufferable pastor left, we decided it was best for us not to do that.

But how he knew my situation that morning — it was a pure God thing. I’ve since met him again. He’s a deacon at a local church and he says God gave him those words many years ago and he’s felt called to say them a couple of dozen times to various people for no reason that he has ever known. He has another one for men. It’s a prophesy of foresaying – speaking God’s word into the life of someone at that moment rather than some future event (foreseeing). It draws from four different Bible passages — it’s not new revelation. I probably already knew what he said, but I needed to be reminded of God’s word and he was there to deliver the message. He was quite blessed when I was able to tell him that his message was delivered to the right person at the right time that day. It gave him hope that he’s not just a crazy man spouting forth Bible verses to random strangers in gas stations. And here’s the rub — two seconds before he said those words, I had decided I was going to go home and not attend church that morning. Maybe that would have been a fateful decision. How that would have turned out, only God knows, but I suspect it wouldn’t have been healthy for me, which is why God arranged for me to encounter this angel unawares.

Storm Clouds Rainbow

We live in a divisive world full of people who backbite and strive to outdo one another, where civility is a limping, bleeding sacrifice to the tyrannical attitudes people hold toward each other. But there are a lot of bright spots if we keep our eyes open for them. Sunlight shines through the clouds and, even now, still creates rainbows.

Posted October 1, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What Is Love?   Leave a comment

Modern society will tell you that God is love and then go on to define love in very specific ways that justify their own deeds. What did Jesus, Who is God in the flesh to walk on earth among humans, have to say about love?

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

This is perhaps the most recognizable Bible verse in the world. There are two things modern man gets wrong about this verse. One — they really hate that God sacrificed His child for our salvation. They are actually angry with God for this. What they fail to understand is that Jesus is God. I don’t fully understand how it works, but Jesus made it clear that He and the Father are one in the same. God sent Himself to earth to die for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to Him. Why was that necessary? Maybe so the sinless spirit God could understand why human beings are so weak against sin. Or maybe to show us that frail humanity can stand against sin for 30-odd years and die a horrible death and still not sin. Or, maybe just to show us that He loves as THAT MUCH that’s He’s willing to endure anything so that those of us who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Because I am not a Bible translator, I’m providing the notes on this verse from the NET Bible.

Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant. 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, tekna qeou), Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

The other thing they get wrong is not to read the rest of what Jesus said. This was a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. It wasn’t a string of unrelated verses.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. John 3:17

During His earthly mission, it wasn’t Jesus’ job to condemn those who sin in the world. His job was to offer salvation through belief in Him e the world. If He’d stopped there, modern man wouldn’t have much to worry about, but Jesus had more to say on the subject.

The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. John 3:18

We really like the warm fuzzies of 3:16-17, but we really don’t like this verse because it creates choices. It demands choices. Believers in Jesus Christ as Savior are not condemned. Yay! That’s great! But what of the nonbelievers? I can almost hear Nicodemus asking that question. Jesus explained that their lack of belief condemns them. Jesus doesn’t need to do any condemning because they have made their choice to not believe in the name of Jesus

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but as God, He will judge the world and this will be his criteria.

Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. John 3:19-21 

At a prior point in John’s gospel, Jesus is identified as the light. Apparently Nicodemus knew this. The Light has come into the world, but instead of embracing the Light, people preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.

So what does that mean … their deeds were evil? Those who come to the Light (Jesus) are not afraid to be associated with Him because it is plain their deeds have been done in the light. This is evident because they are not ashamed of their deeds.

Again, the margin notes from the NET Bible are helpful.

sn John 3:16-21 provides an introduction to the (so-called) “realized” eschatology of the Fourth Gospel: Judgment has come; eternal life may be possessed now, in the present life, as well as in the future. The terminology “realized eschatology” was originally coined by E. Haenchen and used by J. Jeremias in discussion with C. H. Dodd, but is now characteristically used to describe Dodd’s own formulation. See L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 1:54, note 10, and R. E. Brown (John [AB], 1:cxvii-cxviii) for further discussion. Especially important to note is the element of choice portrayed in John’s Gospel. If there is a twofold reaction to Jesus in John’s Gospel, it should be emphasized that that reaction is very much dependent on a person’s choice, a choice that is influenced by his way of life, whether his deeds are wicked or are done in God (John 3:20-21). For John there is virtually no trace of determinism at the surface. Only when one looks beneath the surface does one find statements like “no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Love it that Jesus was God Who took on human form to live among us and to die for our sins so that those of us who choose to believe will not be judged, but will be saved from eternal condemnation. We can choose to reject Him, but if we prefer the darkness rather than the light, there are consequences.

Posted September 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Bearing Witness   Leave a comment

Contrary to what many want to believe about the Bible, Jesus did challenge sinners to live according to God’s principles and there are plenty of examples when you take the Bible in context rather than cherry-pick verses for your own ends. I believe that, as much as possible, we should take the Bible in context. Which means that I post long passages because you have to understand what is said in context with the general conversation in order to understand the message God is trying to convey.

In John 4, Jesus is passing through Samaria and he has an encounter with an unsaved, seeking sinner. The encounter is illustrative of how Jesus dealt with sinners and how we should as well.

John 4:5-26

Verse 5: Now he came to a Samaritan town called Sychar,near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his sonJoseph. Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, since he was tiredfrom the journey, sat right down beside the well. It was aboutnoon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her,“Give me some water to drink.” (For his disciples had gone offinto the town to buy supplies.) So the Samaritan woman saidto him, “How can you – a Jew  – ask me, a Samaritan woman,for water to drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) John 4:5-9

A couple of things to recognize in this passage. The Jews avoided Samaria because they felt it was filled with sinful people. The Samaritans were descended from Jews who had been left behind during the Babylonian exile. They had intermarried with the Canaanites and formed a Judaic cult. Jesus didn’t avoid Samaria nor did he “keep kosher” when he encountered the woman. The woman came to the well at noon, which generally flies over most people’s heads. She was there alone in the heat of the day. Women in Middle East culture, then and now, went to the well in the morning before it got too hot. They went as a group and it was a social time. This woman had been ostracized by the women of her village.

Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you wouldhave asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water? Surely you’renot greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you? For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and hislivestock.” 

Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.But whoever drinks some of the water that I will givehim will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternallife.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” He said to her, “Go call your husband and come back here.” John 4: 10-16

Jesus used everyday life as a springboard to talk about salvation. At this point, the woman is still thinking of physical water, but she may have had some idea that it was magical. She was intrigued and seeking the water of which He spoke.

But, notice that Jesus doesn’t say “Here you go, here is salvation, go off an enjoy a wonderful life just as you are living it today.” He certainly had the power to do that and He had done so with others in the past. But He didn’t do it with this woman because He knew something we cannot. Remember, Jesus is God. He knows the hearts of men and women. So, instead, He cut to the heart of the matter.

Before she could accept this living water, she had to acknowledge that she was outside the will of God. She had failed God’s standard.

The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully!” John 4:17-18

Jesus cut right to the chase. “You have sinned,” he said, “but at least you’re truthful about it.” Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did deal with people’s sins. He had the power and authority to judge her. He didn’t ostracize her. He was still a Jewish man speaking to her directly in the heat of the day and asking her for water in violation of Jewish ritual regulations, but He didn’t let her walk away from Him without her sins acknowledged.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountainand you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, womana time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in JerusalemYou people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spiritand the people who worshiphim must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24

Misdirection much? The woman didn’t want to talk about her sin, so she switched the channel to a theological argument. Where is the right place to worship? Should I be a Baptist or an Episcopalian? Jesus didn’t pursue the red herring. He answered the larger question about Who she should worship — the God of the Jews, Who is seeking true worshipers to worship in spirit and in truth.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming(the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” John 4:25-26

At this point the woman admits that she believes in the Messiah and expects Him to come and explain “everything” to them. In this, she sounds very similar to skeptics Christians encounter today who say our interpretation of the Bible is wrong and that when Jesus comes we’ll learn the “real truth”. To my ears, she seems to be simply trying to avoid the implications of His knowing about her sin and His correcting her theological errors, but Jesus again KNEW her heart and accepted what she said as a confession of God’s grace working there. Of course, Jesus knew what we cannot because He could actually know what was in her heart, but we could learn from that, to be a little less argumentative and a bit more discerning. Jesus then revealed Himself  as the Messiah to her.

You can (and should) read the rest of passage for yourself. I recommend the NET Bible online because there are notes attached to the verses that explain the passage. You can even explore Greek translation of the passage all within an online environment. So much easier to carry with me than Strong’s Strongest, a comprehensive concordance and a Bible dictionary, although I do now need to do weight lifting at the gym to make up for the lack of hefting those sizable volumes.

The disciples, who had gone into town to get food, returned. The woman left her water bucket and ran into town to tell people “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” In other words, she acknowledged that Jesus had revealed her sin and made a change in her life.

Believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that belief before others = SALVATION (Romans 10:10)

How do I know that the woman was really saved?

Well, how do we know about this conversation? The disciples weren’t there, including apparently Matthew who appears to have been the note keeper for the group. John says Jesus was alone, so John must not have been there either. Did Jesus tell John about it? Maybe … they were best friends …

… except this passage isn’t written in John’s style, though it appears to have been part of an early version of the Gospel of John, suggesting that it was part of the original manuscript. So where’d it come from if John didn’t write it?

The best guess comes from the style. It has lots of details — the well of Sychar, noon, she was alone, she left her water jar. Scholars say it was almost certainly written by Luke and for some reason left out of the Gospel of Luke. Maybe he didn’t learn the story until after he circulated the Gospel. The Gospel of Luke was written in the AD 60s. The Gospel of John was written late AD 70s, early 80s. That’s a long time to meet new people. It’s highly likely Luke and John met in Ephesus where there was a large Christian community in which John was an elder and from which John wrote his gospel. They probably knew one another well enough for John to borrow passages from him or for Luke to say, “Hey, I wish I could have put this into my gospel, will you put it in yours?”

So where did Luke get the conversation? He wasn’t an original disciple so he wouldn’t have been there. Any journalist worth her salt recognizes when stories come from interviews and Luke seems to have been a dedicated historical interviewer. He includes incredible details from Mary, the mother of Jesus, that none of the other gospel writers do. There are so many historical details as well. My guess is he interviewed this woman from Sychar and for some reason he didn’t include it in his gospel. He then had a conversation with John who remembered the incident at Sychar. Maybe Luke even read John’s gospel while he was writing it and said “Hey, when you were at Sychar, did the conversion of the townfolks start with Jesus talking to an immoral woman at a well? Well, I have that interview.”

Bart Ehrmann believes it shouldn’t be in the Bible since we don’t know exactly who wrote it and it’s in the wrong gospel, but ultimately, this passage should be in the Bible because it tells us so much about how Jesus deals with sinners as He draws us to Him. I can totally see Luke and John having that conversation. Jesus offers us something wonderful while also confronting us with our sin and requiring that we acknowledge that we’ve failed God’s standard. He doesn’t expect us to clean up before we can become Christians, but He requires us to acknowledge that we’re outside the will of God. This is the narrow gate that John will speak of in Chapter 10. Jesus is less than concerned about what denomination we choose to attend at, so much as that we worship in spirit and in truth. And if we acknowledge in the barest of ways that by grace we are starting to believe He might be God, He reveals Himself. Then He uses our testimony of our encounter with Him to draw others to Himself.

We know this woman was saved by her encounter with Jesus because she left her water jar (water is extremely important in a hot climate) and ran to give testimony of Jesus in the town, where she was ostracized. She was willing to be uncomfortable and to talk about her sin in order to tell people of this encounter.

You notice nobody was directly saved by her testimony? They were made curious and they sought Jesus for themselves. This outcast showed a change in her behavior and it caused others to want to understand why. If she’d gone back to her old life, she would have had nothing of value to say them and that might have prevented some from coming to Christ, but because they received their salvation from Jesus Himself, her future behavior had nothing to do with their salvation.

And that is what witnesses with Jesus is all about, to point the way to Jesus for HIM to bring them to salvation. It’s not about us. We’re the signpost pointing to the wonder, not the wonder itself. We need to recognize that and simply tell people what we have experienced.

I Tell You True Truth   1 comment

This is Part 10 of a series What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

John the apostle wrote his account of Jesus’ life decades after the events. What are termed the synoptic gospels had already been written and were in circulation. As an elder in Ephesus, John no doubt read one of the traveling copies. Why did John feel he needed to write his own gospel? There is a theory that Luke asked him to and there is some evidence for Luke’s involvement (I’ll get to that someday).

John may have been the last of the apostles still living by the time he set pen to parchment. The others had all died in persecutions. Although he wrote his gospel later, he had to have written before AD 79 because there is no textual evidence that he knew about the destruction of the Temple. He speaks of the Temple as though it still existed. So it’s about 30-35 years after the events he wrote of, but he had the other gospels to refresh his memory and Luke may have been there as well. Luke was not witness to the events of Jesus’ life, but textual critics say his gospel evidences the skills of a historian.

I suspect John had found something missing in the other gospels. The other gospels were not inadequate for their own purposes, but John had a somewhat different message. Thus, his gospel (while a book of history) is really a book of theology. It focuses less on details of where Jesus traveled when and more on what Jesus taught.

Thus the exact chronology of the gospel may not be wholly accurate and that’s why the gospel is not “synoptic”. It doesn’t matter because it is a book of theology and not a historical text.

At the age of 12, Jesus accompanied Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with them. When His family left for home, Jesus stayed behind, His absence unnoticed. When Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus, they found Him in the temple listening to the teachers and asking questions (Luke 2:46). It wasn’t long before they were asking Jesus questions, and they were amazed at His answers (2:47). Jesus was already an astounding teacher at 12 years of age, whose understanding of the Scriptures amazed Israel’s finest scholars.

Several years later, John the Baptist commenced his public ministry, proclaiming the Word of God and calling Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. The Jewish religious leaders took note of him and sent a delegation to inquire about his ministry and message. It is apparent that the Pharisees chose not to identify themselves with John and his preaching, as they refused to be baptized by him (Luke 7:30).

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, but not to talk about himself or Pharisaism, but to learn more about Jesus, His message, and His relationship with God. What does Jesus say about Himself? Nicodemus opened the door by assuring Jesus that he sees Him as a man with a mission and a message from God. All Jesus had to do is pick up from here and tell Nicodemus what His mission is. I think Nicodemus was surprised where the conversation ended up.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is [re]born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus began by indicating to Nicodemus that the words He is about to speak convey a most solemn truth. He uses an expression unique to this Gospel, which in the King James Version is rendered, “Verily, verily …”  In essence, Jesus said “This is true truth” and then He swept away all that Nicodemus stood for and demanded that he be re-made by the power of God.

Nicodemus’ brand of Judaism did not know anything of re-birth. Quite frankly, the Pharisees thought one birth of the “right kind” was quite enough.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit worthy of repentance! And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10, emphasis mine).

To many Jews, to be born a Jew was to be born into the kingdom of God. We know the Jews also believed that Gentiles are born “lost.” Even the Jerusalem church leaders had to be forcefully convinced that God had purposed the salvation of Gentiles (Acts 10; 11:15-18), and even then, the practice of many Jewish believers did not match their profession (Acts 11:19). Paul, likewise, hit hard at this point. All Israelites are not true Israelites (Romans 9:6). Those who trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for salvation are true Israelites, whether their racial origins are Jewish or Gentile (Galatians 3:28; 6:16).

I can imagine the shocked look on Nicodemus’s face when Jesus told him that his natural birth (as a Jew) wouldn’t save him, and that he must be reborn from above. The implication was (and remains) clear: Unless Nicodemus was reborn from above, he would not see the kingdom of God. Here was a man who thought he had reserved seats on the blue line of heaven. Jesus told him that he was not even going to get into heaven as he was. He first must be born again, from above.

And that, folks, is Jesus’ brand of true truth.

Part 9 – Secret Meeting

Part 10 –

Secret Meeting   1 comment

This is Part 8 of a series – What If Truth Went Viral. Check it out.

When Jesus began His public ministry, the people who heard Him recognized a difference between His teaching and that of the Jewish religious teachers. Jesus taught as one having authority and not as their experts in the law. Our Lord’s authority was bolstered by His healing of the sick and casting out of demons. More than that, His authority was evident in the impact His words had on His listeners. The experts in the law taught with great dogmatism (Romans 2:17-20; 1 Timothy 1:6-7; 2 Peter 2:18), but their message lacked the power of Jesus’ message. His teaching rang “true” to His audience.

Luke 5:17 records the Pharisees quickly take note of Jesus. In fact, Pharisees from the entire nation of Israel gather to observe His ministry and teaching. We know from Luke’s words that Jesus was performing miracles at this time. John’s gospel is not as chronological as the synoptic gospels, so we don’t know if this occurred before or after Jesus’ with Nicodemus, but it seems logical that Nicodemus would have sought Him out around this time. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Why at night? It may simply have been the only time that Jesus had for a private chat. Scholars have argued for centuries about whether Nicodemus’ original mission was on behalf of the Pharisees or if it was a private meeting for Nicodemus’ own sake. The Pharisees were hard pressed to speak critically of Jesus or His ministry. How could His teaching be criticized? How could anyone speak against Him when He performed miracles openly, and so many people were watching? Jesus made the Pharisees look bad, and there seems to be little they could say against Him. Later, they would throw caution to the wind because Jesus refused to comply with their rules and He didn’t have much good to say about them:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do this, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20).

Jesus performed His first sign at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, but very few even realized what had happened. The cleansing of the temple captured the attention of the religious leaders (John 2:18-22), while the signs our Lord accomplished in Jerusalem caught the attention of many others (John 2:23-25). Contrary to popular interpretation, the Pharisees were not the ones who caught the brunt of Jesus’ purge of the Temple. They were not the ones behind the merchandising which took place in the temple courts. The priests and Sadduccees were the hosts of the market. It’s entirely possible the Pharisees stood by as Jesus cleansed the temple, looking on with great satisfaction as the priests and Sadducees were publicly humiliated.

These events seem to have riveted the Pharisees’ attention on Jesus. One highly-impressed Pharisee who was named Nicodemus. As I said, scholars argue over why Nicodemus sought out Jesus. Some think he was there on behalf of the Pharisees, perhaps hoping to co-opt Jesus into their order. They suggest Nicodemus came with a memorized script, and when Jesus interrupted him, he was totally disarmed and disoriented and allowed Jesus to talk.

Other scholars hold the view that I do. Jesus was a virtuoso of sorts and Nicodemus had heard Him preach. He recognized His genius and wanted to understand this young man whom he admired. Nicodemus was an elite Jew – a Pharsee, a renowed Scripture teacher, and a member of the Sanhedrin — yet, when he heard Jesus teach, he heard the answers to questions that had bothered him for years. He watched the crowds as they listened to Jesus, and he knew he had never held the attention of an audience like Jesus did. Jesus spoke in simple terms, but His message had (and still does) great power. Nicodemus observed the miracles Jesus performed, knowing he had never performed so much as one miracle. By nearly any standard, Nicodemus couldn’t hold a candle to Jesus.

1 Now there came a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a member of the council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could do the miraculous signs that you do unless God were with him.”

Nicodemus could not overlook the weight of the evidence. His fellow Pharisees quickly found alternative explanations for Jesus’ success, but Nicodemus could not set aside his personal conviction that Jesus had some kind of divine mission, and that He possessed divine authority by which He spoke and healed.

I am now inclined to believe that Nicodemus volunteered to go speak with Jesus, but if he had a predetermined agenda for this interview, he never got to it. He simply told Jesus that, from what he had personally observed, he had concluded that Jesus had come from God on some divinely inspired mission. Nicodemus’ words evidence a great respect for Jesus. Nicodemus called Jesus “Rabbi,” which was the same title used to address Nicodemus, for he was a teacher of the law as well. He further referred to Jesus as “a teacher come from God.”

When Nicodemus spoke to Jesus, he does not say, “Rabbi, I know that You are a teacher who has come from God,” but rather “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” To whom is Nicodemus referring when he says “we”? It must be his colleagues the Pharisees (who, by the way, represented 1 in 5 Jewish men at that time). Was Nicodemus speaking for his fellow Pharisees here, expressing their point of view? Some scholars believe Nicodemus came as the official spokesman for the Pharisees and that it is certainly possible. However, it wasn’t the Pharisees’ style to act in such a secretive manner. In the cases above (John 1:19-25; Luke 5:17), the Pharisees made their moves very publicly, as if they intended to be seen. They wanted to be viewed as the accrediting agency for all those who taught the law.

So I think that Nicodemus was acting independently, without the sanction of the Pharisees. Why “we” then? I think there were other Pharisees, maybe not as brave as Nicodemus who stood behind him. We know from Acts that many Pharisees later became Christians. It’s also likely that Nicodemus thought in terms of his membership in the Pharisees. This explains Jesus’ answer that sought to show  Nicodemus that his system of religion does not, because it cannot, save anyone.

When you read the Gospels, you see Jesus returning the disrespect of the priests, scribes and Pharisees with a disrespect of His own. He refused to accept their authority over Him and He criticized them in harsh terms. Nicodemus sees another side of Jesus — the gentle teacher Who explains salvation to a willing pupil. Nicodemus came wanting to learn more from an inspired rabbi, but he was about to meet God Incarnate and learn a truth he was not expecting to learn.

Part 9

Bold Truth   2 comments

This is Part 8 of a series – What If Truth Went Viral. Check it out.

Digging through Jesus’ truth statements in John brought me to Nicodemus. When I opened a study guide to get help with the Greek, I encountered a surprise. A lot of our theology books used to belong to actual Biblical scholars or pastors who need the same help I need. When they trade up, sometimes we get their old books. This guide belonged to our friend Alan before it belonged to us and he had saved a newspaper article about a speech given by the president of a well-known university to a group of influential businessmen and civic leaders.

The president told of a recent experience which he, his audience, and the newspaper reporter found humorous. While shopping during the Christmas season, he happened to pass by a Salvation Army volunteer, ringing a bell for a “donation kettle”. As he paused to make a donation, the woman volunteer asked this educator: “Sir, are you saved?” When he replied that he supposed he was, she was not satisfied and pursued the matter further: “I mean, have you ever given your full life to the Lord?” The president told his audience that he felt he ought to enlighten this persistent woman concerning his identity: “I am the president of this major university and, therefore, president of its school of theology.” The lady considered his response for a moment, and then replied, “It doesn’t matter wherever you’ve been, or whatever you are, you can still be saved.”

The tragedy here is that both the seminary president and his audience actually thought his story was amusing. I know why Alan — who is coincidentally a seminary professor nowadays — used this article as a bookmark for the section on Nicodemus. Nicodemus was the equivalent of a university president, the “cream of the Jewish crop” — a Jews, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin (the highest legal, legislative and judicial body of the Jews), and a highly respected teachers of the Old Testament scriptures. One can imagine that if Nicodemus had been confronted by this Salvation Army volunteer, he would have thought—and said—just about the same thing as the university president.

Can you imagine being Nicodemus and having Jesus tell you that all of this is not enough to get you into the kingdom of God? That is precisely what Jesus told him when they met. Talk about camels being strained through the eyes of sewing needles! If a man like Nicodemus is not good enough for the kingdom of God, then who is?

That is the question, and Jesus has the answer, which John recorded for us. For everyone who has been taught that there are many ways to heaven … no, there are not … not according to Jesus. If you say you are a Christian, but do not listen to the message Jesus brought, then you need to examine your faith. Start by reading Jesus’ own words:

Now there came a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a member of the council. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could do the miraculous signs that you do unless God were with him.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus replied, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things? I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I have told you people about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God. John 3:1-21

Discussion to follow.

Part 9

Posted June 3, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

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Truth Precepts   3 comments

This is Part 7 of a series – What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

There are some basic principles to understand about God’s Truth

First – There IS such a thing as Truth. It has been recorded in God’s Word. It is a proposition that says truth (true truth) is to be the focal point of Christian lives and discovered in and through Jesus Christ. Contrary to the teachings and beliefs of human philosophers and occult religionists, Truth exists and we can put it into word, phrases, and sentences that make sense. Truth is recorded in God’s Word (John 17:17). We can find the answers to life’s questions in the Bible. We are to know the Truth and to live it.

Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mindyour whole beingand all your strength.

These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the roadas you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the door frames of your houses and gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 

By the way, this passage known as the Shema would have been a principle Jesus was raised to believe and to quote every day and He referred to it when speaking with the Pharisees and temple priests.

Truth is embodied in Jesus Christ (John 14:6) Only hours before His encounter with Pilate, Jesus had said, “I am the Truth.” In Him, we see the Truth of God walking in a human body (John 1:14,18). If you want to know Truth face-to-face you will find it in Jesus.

Second – Biblical Truth is objective. What Francis Shaefer called “true truth” is utterly unlike liberal, existential forms of small truths. Biblical faith teaches that the events recorded in the Bible are reliable historical facts. If you look at the apostolic sermons in Acts 7, 10 and 13, you find that the preaching of the apostles was grounded in the historical truths of the Bible and thus is consistent with the preaching of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament. The apostles were not mystics or philosophers. They preached and taught about God, who is, who acts, and who communicates through personal intervention in, and providential guidance of the history of human events. As the apostles recorded the gospel records, they were careful to stress the reality of what they were writing about. The life and works of Jesus actually happened.

Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginningSo it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know for certain the things you were taught. Luke 1:1-4

Luke was a doctor who traveled with Paul and then Peter and possibly John. He was a careful historian whose claims have been backed up by archeology. He never walked with Jesus, but there is evidence in his gospel of his having interviewed those who had, including Jesus’ mother, Mary.

Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

John lived and walked with Jesus and was witness to the events he recorded. He wasn’t trying to re-invent the wheel however. He was the last of the gospel writers. Matthew, Mark and Luke’s histories had been in circulation for several years when John wrote his. He didn’t need to record every event, though perhaps he recorded a few that the others had not.

This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written downI suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:24-25

Paul in teaching on the resurrection in particular, stressed the eyewitness accounts of it, and the importance of its factuality to the Christian faith.

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or theythis is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.

Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 1 Corinthians 15:1-14

Paul invited his readers to go find the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Some of them were still alive and there were many witnesses … including Paul. One of the requirements of an apostle was that he had seen Jesus resurrected. Paul qualified because Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. That encounter had so changed Paul’s life that he could not deny the truth. He went from persecuting the church to being its greatest missionary because the Truth had made Himself known to him.

Truth exists and it is knowable. None of us today saw Jesus when He was alive and it’s doubtful we have seen Him in resurrected form. But we have the histories recorded by those who did live through those events and we have the testimony of those who have accepted that truth.

Christian know the Truth and Jesus the Truth has set us free.

Part 8

Posted June 2, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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