Posts tagged Jesus
Part 2 – The Guidance of the Holy Spirit
There was once a woman who, when she woke up each morning, consecrated the day to the Lord as soon as she woke. She “would then ask Him whether she was to get up or not,” and would not stir till “the voice” told her to dress. After getting out of bed, as she went dress, she would ask the Lord whether or not she should wear each article of clothing, and very often the Lord would tell her to put on the right shoe and leave off the other; sometimes she was to put on both socks and no shoes; and sometimes both shoes and no socks. It was the same with each article of clothing, until she was dressed and ready to face the day – Ray Strachey, Religious Fanaticism
Last time, we explored the truth that, as our baseline and groundwork in our walk with God, we need to believe and have faith in the fact that He promises guidance and wisdom in our decision-making processes. We defined decision-making as the ability to arrive at a decision after due consideration of all the factors involved. And, we discovered that wisdom is from God. In general, Scripture teaches that wisdom is the quality of knowledge, discernment and understanding characteristic of God Himself, a gift of the Holy Spirit, and that which enables the planning and successful achievement of a desire goal. Remember, James says:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6, NIV
Since God promises that He will provide wisdom and guidance, and since we have faith in that promise, it remains for us to discover how He goes about giving that guidance and wisdom. This time, we are going to talk about the Holy Spirit and what He does in the process of guiding us.
Look at the story at the beginning of this article. How does the Holy Spirit guide us in our decision-making process? Should we follow the example of this woman and completely unplug our own brains and will from the process?
The answer is, of course, no. God does give us the Holy Spirit to guide us, but this doesn’t mean that we should not use our own critical thinking skills to reach decisions and try to determine what God’s will is in a specific situation.
Let’s look at an example from the Bible. We are going to examine Acts Chapter 15. However, before doing so, it would be good to have some background information on what is going on prior to this.
Acts 10 – Peter receives a vision from God that shows him that the Good News of Jesus should and must be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. As a result, he goes to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, and his household receives salvation and the Holy Spirit comes upon them in a way that is visible to everyone there
Acts 11- The church in Jerusalem, consisting of Jewish believers, criticizes Peter for associating with Gentiles, something that Jewish people were not supposed to do. Peter explains his vision and what happened when he did preach to the Gentiles, and the church recognizes that God’s plan of salvation includes Gentiles as well as Jews.
Acts 15 – Some Jewish converts to Christianity go to Antioch, the epicenter of Gentile Christianity, and tell them that they had to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas argue against this and eventually end up going to Jerusalem in order to get the question of circumcision answered. While there, some Pharisee believers assert that all Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep all of the OT law. When the apostles and church leaders meet about it, Peter argues that his vision shows that God does not require Gentiles to follow OT law, calling it a “burden” and a “yoke” around their necks, and even points out that the Jewish people were unable to follow the requirements of the law.
As a result of Peter’s testimony, and Paul and Barnabas’ accounts of what had happened with their ministry, the church leaders decide not to impose circumcision and other OT laws on the Gentiles, instead telling them to avoid certain practices that would hinder their fellowship with Jewish Christians and, in the case of sexual immorality, outright sin:
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Farewell. – Acts 15:22–29. NIV
In determining the role of the Holy Spirit in the decision-making process, we need to focus in on verse 28. It says, that it seemed good both to the Holy Spirit and to them that they should do the following. It never specifically says that they heard an audible voice from the Holy Spirit telling them to write down the words of the letter, though it is possible that He worked that way. Instead, they say that their opinion of what requirements were necessary was in some way confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Essentially, they reasoned out the proper response based on prior experience based their knowledge of God’s will revealed in Scripture and through the testimony of others and that this process was aided and, in some way, confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
Remember, according to what we concluded in our last study, God promises that He will guide us and give us the wisdom and insight necessary to follow His will and make wise decisions. Well, the way that He makes good on this promise is through the Holy Spirit. A quick study on the works of the Holy Spirit includes literally dozens of different tasks He undertakes and things that He does in the world and in the life of Christians. Some examples of these include:
He gives assurance of salvation for those who are followers of Christ (Rom. 8:14-16)
He directs and empowers believers in their working in God’s will (1 Cor. 12:3-7)
He gives a sense of peace and contentment to His children regardless of their life circumstances (Rom. 15:13)
He inspires our praise and worship of God (Eph. 5:18-20)
He prompts prayer and intercedes on our behalf to God (Rom 8:26-27)
He enables us to live holy lives (sanctification, Gal 5:22-23)
He enables us to understand and apply the truths of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:12-16)
He convicts us of our sins and the reality of forgiveness available in Christ (John 16:8-11, Eph. 1:17-18)
He guides groups and individuals facing challenges, decisions, and difficulties (Rom 8:14, Gal 5:18)
He forms and guides the church (1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:3-4)
Basically, it is only through the Holy Spirit that we have knowledge of God’s will and His purposes in the world and in our lives. So, we can see that it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit, through His actions in the world and in our lives, that God fulfills His promise to guide and enable us to make wise decisions. The rest of this study will focus on specific ways that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s direction and will and brings wisdom into the lives of His people. The specific avenues we will discuss are going to be how the Holy Spirit works through Scripture, prayer, advice from other believers, and life circumstances, as well as understanding how easy it is to misinterpret our desires for God’s will. We need to ask ourselves some questions about the Holy Spirit and our understanding of Him in order to have success in this study:
1. Have you ever recognized or felt the Holy Spirit influencing your decision-making process? What did that look/feel like?
2. Based on the biblical concepts we explored, is it reasonable to expect the guidance of the Holy Spirit to take the form of the woman in the story? Why or why not?
3. In studying Acts 15:1-21, what are some of the methods that the Holy Spirit uses to reveal the will of God in a Christian’s life?
God promises to give us wisdom and guide us in the decision-making process towards His will and purposes. He does so, for those who have a relationship with Him through Jesus, by giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us and to guide us to an understanding of Him. It is vital, however, that we learn how the Holy Spirit communicates and works in our lives and that we learn to recognize when that communication and guidance is occurring. The remainder of this series will explore these needs in more detail.
So here we are at week two and I’m excited to dive into this week’s subject: sanctification. This is one aspect of the Gospel that has been burning like a bright light in me lately and is something that has become such an essential understanding in my walk with Christ. I’ve been so humbled by the Holy Spirit lately in my study of this and working out of it in my own life. It’s yet another big subject but here’s a few things I want to highlight and point out to you about sanctification.
And a quick note to everyone who reads my amateur posts: Thanks for reading. I know this isn’t the most sophisticated or the most cutting edge but thanks for reading as I’m figuring this stuff out along with everyone else.
Now, let’s sink in to sanctification.
Defining the terms.
Sanctification/sanctify/sanctified are some words you hear around churches that are sometimes spoken of but it’s one of those things that’s either assumed that everyone knows what it means, it’s misconstrued or it’s ignored. For a long time I had a basic understanding of the word as it somehow applied to me, the Holy Spirit was involved and it’s a good thing. Honestly, I didn’t know much more than that.
So what I’ll do now is give you a breakdown of the word and then we’ll discuss another definition according to Romans 15.
The straight-up breakdown of the word Sanctify is this:
Sanctify comes from two Latin words: sanctus which means holy, and ficare which means make.
So then, sanctify means ‘to make holy’.
Now I could go on for quite a bit about what the word holy means but I’ll make it quick and define it like this: being pure, as Jesus is pure; sinless, without blemish, clean, undefiled.
And we’ll leave it at that for now.
I think a good and simple definition of sanctification, according to Romans 15, is this: ‘obedience to Christ’. Now, for me, that’s not always the easiest thing to do in the world and I think I could probably say the same for you. Sometimes I find myself commiting the sin of all sins: putting things where God should be. Paul explains in Romans 1:21-25 that this is our sin beneath all sin. Putting creationwhere Creator should be. The word for this is idolatry; and it’s not just worshiping some little statue or wood carving, it’s worshiping anything but God. We often think that places of worship are ones that religious groups meet but in reality a movie theater can be a place of worship. So can a strip club you patron at or a soup kitchen you volunteer for. You can worship pretty much anywhere and you can just about worship anything but the question is what will you worship? What is worthy of your affection? You’re only here for moment and you don’t want to waste it, right? Perhaps we’ll discuss that more in a coming post in this series but for now let’s keep going deeper into sanctification. By now you’re probably asking the question..
Why is sanctification so important?
I think we Christians often times get very exasperated when people question why we do certain things. That is partially why I started these posts. I want you to really understand what has happened to you in a way that’s both easy to understand but difficult enough to challenge you to study it for yourself so that when that friend of yours that’s been coming with you to those Bible studies finally wants to talk about Jesus and how they can know Him, you’re a little more prepared on explaining a few things. You won’t have all the answers but you might help them get started on the journey towards those answers. With that said, let me tell you why I think Sanctification is great and really important.
- Sanctification is part of the Gospel.
Like all parts of the Gospel, it’s integral. One does not work without the other. They are all connected in such a way that if you displace one brick, the whole house comes down.
- Sanctification allows us to take up the Great Commission.
Being obedient means you will do what Jesus commanded us to do and continues to demand of us at the end of Matthew 28:19-20. The great commission is our goal as the Church, to preach the Gospel wherever we are. This means boldly proclaiming it to those who haven’t heard it’s message that there is freedom for those in Christ.
- Sanctification is an integral part of the greater works.
So if sanctification is of great importance for us in taking up the great commission I believe that being sanctified by the Holy Spirit is integrally part of the greater works that Jesus spoke of in John 14:12. Before Christ’s death all that the prophets and priests could speak of was a promised ransom of a coming Savior. But now as we all stand on the other side of the Cross we can speak of a King that has already shed His blood for us. Therefore the sanctifying of our souls by the Holy Spirit empowers us to go forth and proclaim this Gospel message to set the slaves free. Oh what a happy song it is that we can sing to this world, that there is hope worthy of your very life.
- We’re helpless without sanctification.
Without the Holy Spirit working on the inside of us to make us more like Jesus then how shall we do these greater things? How shall we do mighty exploits for God? Shall we lean on ourselves? We, who are prone to forget the Gospel? Certainly not. But with the power of almighty God living on the inside of us? What He has commanded us to do becomes possible. As St. Augustine says, “Give what you command, and command what you will.” Meaning that we ask God to give to us what He has commanded, and even as He commands it as such, He also wills it to be so.
- Sanctification humbles us.
Knowing that we are a work in progress means we may have great compassion for those who are struggling in sin. When your brother falls it doesn’t mean you look down at him but you extend your hands in help and prayer, knowing that you both have your pitfalls but through Christ you may overcome them all. What an encouragement!
How can we be sanctified?
I really love quotes and phrases. Sometimes remembering a phrase or two can really get an idea stuck into your mind a lot easier than perhaps a whole book about the subject. But one small phrase may become your life’s motto. One of my favorite quotes is a paraphrase of Romans 8:13 by a Scottish preacher that lived during the 1600’s.
Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.
As Christians, being made new creations in Christ, we loathe sin. It tastes like hate and smells like slavery. Yet, here we are. Human beings that are prone to forget the Gospel and place some thing where Jesus should be. So how will we ever kill our sin? How can we become more like Jesus? Is it by doing something? By using our faith? By not doing certain things? Truly, the short answer to this question is: by the grace of God. But I think it always good and right to go deeper on such things if we can.
One of my favorite definitions of sanctification is from John Piper. He explains it as such.
Sanctification happens when the gospel preached and the Spirit poured out meet with power in the human heart.
So then when we are being made Holy this happens by listening, remembering, reading, discussing and praying through the Gospel and as that happens God is pouring out His Holy Spirit in such a way that He is empowering us that we may overcome our flesh in such a glorious way that slowly we are being changed from the inside out in such an effortless way that when we look back at our lives in Christ we can see the amazingly good and gracious hand of God moving in our hearts so that we are reminded that this was not us but the Holy Spirit coming into our lives with great power. Such great power that sin in our life is being killed in a way that we could never have done alone. That is amazing! That God knows our weakness and gladly beckons us to lean on Him. He knows that what he commands of us is impossible without Him and so He has made a way for us! This is the Gospel. This is what Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection are all about.
So here’s some practical things the Scriptures tell us are things that we, as followers of Jesus, want to do.
If there is one thing I’m sure of it is this: I benefit more from reading the Bible for 10 minutes in the morning than reading a whole theology book for the rest of the day. Sure theology books are fun to read (at least for me) and help you understand the Scriptures and I am a big fan of them, but there is nothing quite like directly reading the inspired word of the True God. Make sure you always have time during the day that you are disciplining yourself to the reading of the Scriptures and not just the latest and greatest from the Christian Bookstore (which is not to be discounted, either).
One thing that I love doing is reading through a chapter or two of an epistle or a passage in the Gospels and simply pray through the verses. Starting at the beginning of a chapter and when I feel inclined, stopping and praying over what I just read. Perhaps they are not applicable to your life at that very moment but it’s also a great way to remember where friends, family members or others you know may be in need of prayer.
It’s always a great thing when you have good Christian friends with whom you can get together with or give a call too and just talk about Jesus. Or perhaps a Biblical principle that you aren’t understanding or having trouble submitting to. I’m very glad to know good friends whom pray for me and speak into my life in such a way that we can converse openly about Jesus and humbly point out to the other person areas which they might be in sin. Not in a way of condemnation but in a way that points them back to Jesus.
Humbly sharing the Gospel with those who have not heard it reminds us of why we so desperately need Jesus. As we explain the Creator, God and His character and show them their need and the answer to their problem being Jesus, we find ourselves built up in our own faith in Christ. Not only has this message of Grace saved me personally but it’s also saving people globally. Sharing reminds us to be thankful for those who shared with us. To our parents who introduced us to the Gospel or that friend who kept pestering us until we finally went to church or that preacher that told us that there was a way out; a trapdoor in a world full of misery.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:27-31 ESV)
In 1989 photographer Andres Serrano debuted a collection of his known as Piss Christ. Piss Christ featured a depiction of a crucifix hanging on the cross submerged in a vial of urine. Serrano’s art was well received and even won a tax funded award of $15,000. Though the art was controversial there were no riots, and no deaths because of it. Given the recent attacks on U.S. Embassies by people outraged over a negative depiction of Mohammed it is important to realize why Christians do not act out in such a way when our Savior is mocked. Truthfully we must turn to the example of Christ in how to deal with mockery and I hope this article glorifies Jesus over Mohammed.
A Personal Jesus
Jesus came as a real man. Jesus opens up for the opportunity to be mocked. Jesus predicted he would be mocked in Psalms 22 “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:7-8 ESV) How can Christ be mocked if he is all powerful? And why wouldn’t God crush all who mocked him? The truth is God suffered mockery in order to complete redemption. Let’s say the richest man in the world payed the debt owed by the worst criminal. Some may admire him, but if it cost that rich man everything people would doubt his decision and may indeed end up mocking him. It makes no sense to the rulers of this world for a high man to make himself low, or for the strong man to make himself weak.
In this way Islam reflects some of the main tenets of this world: if you are strong and you lose strength there is something wrong. In contradiction to this Christ says that the strong man is made weak, and the high man is made low. He himself, the best man, the true God, laid his life down on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice was made once for sinners who would believe, and now those who do believe are made strong and high. Yet in their holiness and power, they are again called to follow their Savior and glorify the Father through the Spirit by laying down their strength and power to serve others, love their neighbor, and baptize disciples.
If Christ had not become man and lived a man’s life the example of what it would look like to lay down your life would not be reflected in Christianity, but because we have heard with our own ears the intent of the Savior in glorifying the Father in humility we can indeed complete that task through our belief, faith and repentance. (more…)
Hallowed Be Thy Name
“And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6, ESV)
When I say Oreo, what is the first thing that you think of? Is it a cookie, with an intensely good filling and a mediocre outer layer of chocolate(ish) wafers? The name Oreos is hallowed throughout much of the modern world. God’s name is also hallowed. His power can be seen all over the world. While people may call His power by different names, the bible says that God is active in every aspect of our lives. The point of creation is to glorify God. When Jesus prayed, “Hallowed be thy name.”, He was praying that the name of God would be glorified in His creation.
How God Automatically Glorifies Himself In His Creation
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1, ESV)
God’s has glorified Himself in His creation. Take a second and think about all the things that people take for granted. We take for granted the forces that bind our cells together. We take for granted the sun, a mass so large that it could engulf us a million times over. We live in a universe so vast that it could, hypothetically go on for all of eternity. Yet it seems to the goal of humanity to minimize the glory of God into acceptable concepts, like eternity and infinity, so that we may understand His glory through scientific means.
How You Glorify God
Look around you. If you are in any area surrounded by people you will see between three and ten advertisements for different products. Sitting at a computer you can see advertisements for DELL, Intel, and Windows. While online we are bombarded with images that advertise a multitude of products, all trying to make their name known. One way that God makes Himself known is through His followers. The change that happens in the hearts and lives of His followers proclaim the glory of God. The way that believers can reflect the glory of God is by talking about the good things that He has done in their lives and continuing to follow and submit to the things that God is doing in their lives. God’s glory will be reflected across creation no matter who is living and how they act, yet God uses people and nature to make His name glorified.
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9, ESV)
There are several stories in the bible that are just glossed over. For instance, Hosea married a prostitute, yet when reviewing most Sunday School class curriculum, one rarely finds mention of this story- even though it takes up a whole book of the bible. The story of the Roman Centurion is one such story. A centurion was a commander in the roman army, much like a sergeant or corporal in today’s armies. The Centurion was a Roman, detested by Jews. So why is this man’s faith admirable? Well to understand the risk that the Centurion took, we must understand where he was coming from.
“When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.” (Luke 7:3)
While it’s now considered insensitive to think of a race as inferior, it wasn’t so Jesus’ day. The Romans were superior. They had greater armies, greater technology, and greater populations and lands. They acted as though they were the superiors: They lived in the finest houses, took the best looking Jews as slaves, and were able to abuse Jews as they saw fit.
As the Jews were not Roman citizens, they didn’t have access to the civil laws that were customarily given to Roman citizens.
Being Roman meant you had a lot of Roman pride. You were a citizen of the most powerful nation on the earth, and it was expected that you would be very proud of your heritage. Roman culture was to be held high above the customs of the lands that Rome conquered. A decent Roman would have nothing to do with the pathetic cultures that surrounded him or her.
Roman soldiers were a whole new class of ugly. Watching Easter Passion Productions gives you a rather tame view of these men. Many Roman soldiers were from the Italian Peninsula, and hated leaving the comforts of their home. Some were mercenaries, hired to keep the peace. Regardless of that, these men were nasty. They would rape the Jewish women. They killed, and no one gave it a second thought. They would steal, sometimes out of need, and other times out of desire. They drank, and drank excessively. They were pigs.
A Good Man
“And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” (Luke 7:4-5)
This man was good. He was not like the soldiers around him. We can assume that this man was more like the idealistic representations of Roman soldiers that we’ve seen in the movies: Probably a large man, with a lot of difficult decisions to make, and yet he has built a synagogue for the Jews. We can tell that he is a peace loving man. We can tell that he is a compassionate man, because he is asking Jesus to heal his servant.
Not Even In Israel
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9)
The thing to learn from the Roman Centurion is that there is no such thing as an untouchable. It was culturally unthinkable for a Centurion to seek out a Jewish carpenter and ask Him to heal his servant. He was willing to risk his reputation because he had faith in Jesus. How much are we willing to risk to come to Jesus and ask for His help? Is it our reputations? Our lattes? Our iPods?
This Roman centurion was willing to give it all- but not for himself.
For a friend.
And that’s what made him more faithful than anyone in Israel.
“Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him.” Proverbs 14:2, ESV
Jesus walked with integrity all the time. There was not an instant in which Jesus changed into a state that was imperfect, rather he kept in perfection as his father called him to do. As any Christian would tell you this is not an easy thing to do. Christians in this world experience imperfections. We sin and we must repent. However in the church there are some sinners who are devious. They walk in ways that do not reflect Christ. When they are caught in sin, if they are caught, they make a big show of repentance but never actually transform. This is very dangerous.
This has been a huge struggle for me personally. It has been said that my grandpa, who was a salesman his whole life, could have sold ice to Eskimos. I inherited that capability. I can look people in the eyes, connect with them, and get them to like me if I want. However this is sometimes a veneer rather than myself. I can easily walk in deviousness, distracting people from my sins. This requires much repentance and honesty.
The reason why honesty is so essential in church is that dishonesty creates a false religious standard. Walking in uprightness leads to humility as repentance becomes necessary because of sin. It is easy to look your sin in the eye when it is obvious to everybody. He who walks in deviousness conceals his sin, so others are lured into thinking he or she is perfect. However this is not the case and it sets a false standard. Say the woman in deviousness reads one author, others may think real religion is found in that one author. Say the man doesn’t listen to certain kinds of music, others might think that real religion is found in that legalism. This is false.
Real religion is found in Christ who exchanges our dirt for his righteousness. If you are walking in deviousness forsake that dead lifestyle and start walking upright in fear of the Lord. Please pray for me as I continue to walk upright, that the Lord would strengthen my spine. Let us grow in repentance together as the church universal.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.(ESV)
During the sermon on the mount when Jesus showed us how to pray he starts by addressing God. He could have started with a different word such as King, Creator, Lord, Judge, Savior. But he starts with a more personal note, Father, the picture this paints for us sheds light on how prayer works. If you ever watch a child after they learn something new often their reaction is to run home and tell the parents all about it. The parent already knows that a caterpillar becomes a butterfly but they listen lovingly to their child inform them all about it. In the same way when we pray to God we are like a child running to their parent. He already knows our praises, our thanks, confessions, petitions. But prayer isn’t for his benefit it’s for ours. Like the parent, God listens to us because he loves us. And because the problem of sin is taken away we can run to the God who created the universe and call him Abba, Father.(Galatians 4:6)
“And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” (Mark 1:19-20, ESV)
John the beloved lived a life customary of that of a Christian. He suffered greatly, but was also blessed in his ministry. John began his spiritual journey on a harbor in Galilee and finished his journey in Ephesus, the same place that was written to by Paul in the book Ephesians. It is believed that John was one of the youngest disciples, and that he was also one of the disciples that was the closest to Jesus. John wrote five of the sixty-six books of the bible. He wrote one gospel, the epistles, and Revelation, the book of the bible describes the full glory of Jesus and things that are to come. John the beloved was the first living man to see Jesus both fully crucified, and fully basking in heavenly glory. In essence, John lived a full life.
John the Disciple
John’s gospel is unique. John places a great deal of emphasis on the personality and feelings of Jesus. John includes narratives such as the “wine into water” miracle that is not found in any other gospel. John’s relationship to Jesus is one of friendship. This gave him a unique view into what Jesus felt and why He reacted how He did.
John learned a lot from Jesus. He passed out bread and fishes that had miraculously been multiplied to feed the multitudes. He saw Jairus’s daughter raised from the dead. He feel asleep in the garden of Gethsemane. While it cannot be proven by scripture, most biblical scholars agree that John was one of the disciples who went to check the empty tomb. John was instructed by Jesus, led by Jesus, and loved on by Jesus.
John’s book emphasis love between believers. On top of correcting different churches doctrine, John also emphasized that a community of believers was essential to a Christian’s spiritual prosperity. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John all emphasize different themes of Christian community.
The last book that John was inspired to write told the end of the story. Revelation is a prophecy about how the story of humanity will end. John was the very first living man to see Jesus in all of His glory. John saw the beast, the angels, the saints singing and praising the Lord. He saw all that would happen, and that in the end, how all the believers would go to be with the Lord.
What does your relationship with Jesus look like?
John enjoyed physical community and interaction with Jesus Christ. To John Jesus was the Savior, but He was also a compassionate and loving friend. John and Jesus ate together, walked together, joked together, and worked together. John served the Lord Jesus Christ, but he also played and hung out with Jesus. A funny, if not extremely corny, Youtube video is “Jesus Is My Friend.” This entire song is dedicated to the fact that Jesus is my friend, and that I have a friend in Jesus.
Is Jesus your friend, or is He a tyrant that you fear will strike you with a lightening bolt the next time you sin? Friends rarely, if ever, strike friends with lightening bolts. As John has recorded, there is an eternity of suffering awaiting those who do not repent of their sins. The people who do not repent are not friends of Jesus. They are His sworn enemies. Yet, those who repent of their sins become friends of Jesus, and while they should respect His power, they should not fear that He will smite them from the face of the earth.
Jesus wants to see you grow in your faith. He will instruct you like a good friend will. He will encourage you when you are weak, but discipline you when you do not recognize your error. John got this level of personal treatment physically, but we today experience that level of friendship through the Holy Spirit.
This post was originally published January 2010. It was intended to be part of a 10 part series. Only five were published and we are now back to finish what we started.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.” (Mathew 6:9-13, ESV)
Over the next few weeks we are going to dissect the Lord’s prayer from start to finish. This prayer is what Jesus used to instruct the original 12 disciples on how to talk to the Father. This prayer is guideline on what to ask God for, and what a Christian’s mentality should be towards God.
A Word On Prayer
I would like to stress the point that prayer should not be ritualistic, and should definitely not includepassionless chants. Prayer is personal or corporate communication with God. Prayer, like human communication, has several different forms such as petitions, thanks, laments, and just catching up.
Prayer should not be formal or pompous. It is important to remember that God is our Father and we should talk to Him as such. I have never said thee or thou to my earthly father, so I see no reason to use such language with my Heavenly Father. God is not interested in banter, and He knows your heart. Putting up a front to Him is useless and disrespectful.
This series is designed to assist you in your prayer life. We pray the ideas you read in these articles will strengthen your personal relationship with God.
The authority of scripture goes beyond other religious texts. It’s not just that the Bible is more authoritative than the Quran or book of Mormon. Rather the law of God, as revealed in scripture, is more authoritative than those we talk to, associate with, and go to for advice. The law of God is a standard of grace which offers us a greater way of understanding. It also offers us something you can’t mine from anywhere else in the world: righteousness. For all the great things that the world has it cannot offer us righteousness.
Let me ask you something: under what circumstances have people come back to life? Has it been because of their great wealth? Has it been because of their scientific knowledge? Has it been because of their great families? What brings men from death to life? Truly there is only one man who has walked this earth who has controlled the realm of life and death. This man is Jesus Christ. He followed the law of God in every way and was counted as righteous and he was given righteousness.
Psalm 1 is a celebration of this fact:
(The righteous man) is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
(Psalm 1:3-4 ESV)
The wicked cannot face the judgment of God and in the end their ways lead to death. Consider today what kind of sins we are allowing to control our lives. In what ways do we listen to the wicked counsel of the world? How do we neglect the law in pursuit of the ways of this world. This is the greatest part about Christianity: you will not be able to keep up constantly with the law (which leads to life). Christ already did that. The life of the Christian is spent keeping the law out of love for Christ, repenting of sin, and rejoicing in the glory of the completed work of Jesus on the cross.