Jesus was also called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is the great message that comes to us from the first chapter of the New Testament. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. Along with the Name, Emmanuel, there is the better - known Name - Jesus. The Name of Jesus means “He saves” (Matthew 1:21,25). In the two Names - Emmanuel and Jesus, we have the Good News of our salvation. God has come to earth - that’s the meaning of the Name, Emmanuel. He has come to save us - that’s the meaning of the Name, Jesus.
The wise men did want to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:2). Herod said that he wanted to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). What a difference there is between saying that we want to worship Jesus and really wanting to worship Him. This highlights the conflict between false religion and true worship. Religion may say the right things, but, if we don’t really mean what we say, our words will not make any difference to the way we live. This kind of religion is worthless. What does God say to us about this kind of religion? - “God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod” (Matthew 2:12). God is still warning His people to steer clear of empty religion. When we come to the Lord, we must not come with empty words - words that we don’t really mean. Our worship is to shape our life. How is our worship to change our way of living? Real worship arises out of salvation. This is very different from religion. Religion says more about ourselves than it says about our Saviour. Salvation is not about us. It’s about Jesus, our Saviour. When He is the focus of our attention, we will learn to worship Him and live for Him.
As the story of Christ’s becoming one of us - His birth - moves on towards the story of His dying in our place - His crucifixion, the story of His baptism is a significant step forward. Jesus identifies with us. He stands in the place of the sinner. John the Baptist said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by You. Why are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus was doing everything that God required of Him - everything that needed to be done for sinners to be saved. The chief focus is on His death for us - “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We do, however, need to look back from His crucifixion to His birth and His baptism. In His birth, we see the sovereign purpose of God. In His baptism, we see the definite choice made by Jesus. In salvation, there is the work of God, and there is our response. God reveals Himself to us through His Son: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We respond to God’s revelation and redemption when we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we look away from ourselves - sinners - to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus' victory over Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4) must be seen in the broader context of His work of salvation. This was more than just a personal victory - a victory for Jesus. It was a victory for us. Jesus won the victory for us. He walked in the way of victory so that we might live in the power of His victory. After Jesus had won the victory over Satan, He called His disciples to Him - "Come, follow Me!" - and He sent them out from Him, empowered by Him, to be witnesses for Him - "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). His victory was more than a victory for His first disciples. It was a victory for all would become believers through their witness. This includes all of us, since each one of us has come to faith in Christ through the testimony of His apostles. When Jesus sent them out, He did more than send them. He showed them what they were to do (Matthew 4:23-25).
Jesus' words, known as "the Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7), need to be taken as a whole. We're not to pick out the bits that we like, and ignore the bits that we don't like so much. We're not to come, looking for "comfort" (Matthew 5:4), if we're not also seeking for "righteousness" (Matthew 5:6). We're not to look for peace, if we're not preparing ourselves for persecution (Matthew 5:9-10). We're not to read one verse, and say, "This is great", and then skim over the next verse, as if it wasn't even there.
We're called to be "salt for the earth" and "light for the world" (Matthew 5:13-14). How can we be "salt" and "light" in a world that has turned its back on the things that matter most in life? Can we do this by "setting aside Moses' teaching or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17)? No! Jesus says, "No." He says, 'This is what we must never do. We cannot preserve true Christian living, if we set aside the Word of the Lord. A stripped-down ethic, which changeable from one generation to another, is no substitute for a Christian that is grounded in the Word of God, which is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Who are we come to the Word of God with the attitude that we can decide that there are some things that are "unimportant" (Matthew 5:19)? When God calls something important, we must also say, 'This is important.' It's not to be changed because it doesn't fit in with our modern outlook. Sometimes, people disregard what God's Word says because they think that they have the right, to say, 'This is important. That is unimportant.' When we say this kind of thing, what are we really saying? We're saying, 'I am more important than God. I know better than God." Such an attitude can have no place in the hearts of those who want, through their lives, to "praise their Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
"You have heard that it was said ... But I say to you ... " (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34, 38-39,43-44). When we see the great contrast between what has been said in the past and what Jesus says to His generation and our generation, we must remember Jesus' words, "Don't ever think that I came to set aside Moses; teachings or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). What does Jesus mean? Clearly, He doesn't just repeat what's already been said. Jesus says, "I didn't come to set them aside but to make them come true" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus doesn't contradict the Old Testament. He brings out its deeper meaning. He reveals its fuller meaning. Jesus is expounding the Word of God. He enables His hearers to see things in a new light - but He doesn't do this by setting aside God's Word. The Word of God stands - for every generation. It is not to be tampered with. It's to be upheld. At the heart of upholding God's Word, there's a very real question we must ask, "What are you saying to us, Lord, here-and-now?"
Jesus speaks about prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), doing good works (Matthew 6:1-4) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). He emphasizes that we're not to be like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5,16). Sometimes, it is difficult to work out where Jesus is leading us. In Acts, there's a strong emphasis on God's people praying together. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of praying "in secret." Is there something about us that leads us in the direction of hypocrisy whenever we are praying with others? We find the same emphasis in Jesus' teaching about doing good and fasting. - "Make sure that you don't become like the hypocrites." When we move into the public sphere, we run the risk of hypocrisy. We must never forget this - and we must pray that God will deliver us from hypocrisy.
The values of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gospel values, Kingdom values are very different from the world's values. It's the difference between "treasures on earth" and "treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20). When we treasure the things of earth, we will worry about the things of earth. Jesus says that we are not to worry about these things. We are to have a higher priority than 'looking after No. 1'. We're to be concerned about "God's Kingdom and what has His approval" (Matthew 6:33). When the things that matter most to God are not the things that matter most to us, other things will take over our lives. What matters most to you? This is what Jesus is asking us. Are the things that matter most to God becoming the things that matter most to us?
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. We need both - holiness and love. We're not to be hypocrites who've given up on holiness. We're not to be content with keeping up appearances. We're to seek holiness of heart. This is the heart of holiness. We're not to be hypocrites who show no love for other people. How can we have much love for God if we don't have much love for other people? A life that's centred on ourselves is very different from a life that's centred on Christ. A life that's being shaped by Christ's love will be a life of receiving His love and sharing His love. He's teaching us how much He loves us. He's helping us to show His love to other people.
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. What will it mean to live a life that is becoming both more holy and more loving? It begins with being reached by the love of God and changed by the love of God. We cannot make ourselves more holy. We cannot make ourselves more loving. When we catch a glimpse of the great God, who is both holy loving, we see ourselves as we really are - sinners, and we also see the Saviour who is reaching out to us, the Saviour who can and will change us. How does he change us? He shows us our sin. He forgives our sin. Seeing our sin as it really is, we cannot be, like the Pharisee who looked down his nose at the tax collector (Luke 18:11). Seeing our Saviour as He really is, we know that there is hope for every one who comes to the Saviour. We have His precious promise - "I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me" (John 6:37). When the love of Christ reaches us, we rejoice in this: "Every offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." Thankful to the Lord for His love, which has reached us, we pray that His love will change us. We pray that we will become more like Jesus - more holy and more loving. We will say, 'Lord, Your love has reached us. May Your love change us. May your love inspire us to live a life that is pleasing to you - a life of holiness, a life of love.' We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by the Lord. Let us pray for His help. Let us pray that He will fill us with His love. This is where true holiness comes from. It comes from the love of God, reaching us. It comes from the love of God, changing us. The love of God - This is the real power that lies behind a life of holiness and love. We need more holiness. We need more love. These are not things that we can reach out and grasp for ourselves. We must always look away from ourselves to the Lord - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:12).
The choices that we make while we are here on earth will decide whether we will spend eternity with the Lord or apart from Him. This is the message of Matthew 7:13-14. "False prophets ... vicious wolves" will seek to lead us away from the Lord (Matthew 7:15-16). We must pray that the Lord will deliver us from paying lip-service to Him without living our whole life for Him (Matthew 7:21-23). How are we to live for the Lord? - We must hear His Word and obey it (Matthew 7:24). Obedience to God's Word begins with hearing His Word. Hearing God's Word leads to obeying His Word. May God help us to build on Christ, always receiving His Word as the Word that speaks to us with His authority.
In Matthew 8:1-17, we see Jesus' healing ministry. There are three miracles - healing people who were suffering from "a skin disease" (Matthew 8:1-4), paralysis (Matthew 8:5-13) and "a fever" (Matthew 8:14-15). After these three miracles, we have a more general statement about the ministry of casting out demons (Matthew 8:16-17). This is followed by Matthew 8:18 - "Now, when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He ordered His disciples to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee." Jesus was moving from place to place, taking His ministry to more people.
In Matthew 8:19-34, we learn about discipleship (Matthew 8:19-22), peace (Matthew 8:23-27) and deliverance (Matthew 8:28-34). How sad it is that this chapter ends with these words: "Everyone from the city went to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they begged him to leave their territory" (Matthew 8:34). If it had ended with the words, "Everyone went out to meet Jesus", we would say, "Wonderful! We want more of this." When this is followed by the sentence, "When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their territory", we sense that we are in the presence of something solemn, even something sinister. What we have here is the activity of Satan. Even when the Lord is working powerfully, Satan is also at work, seeking to hinder the work of God, creating resistance in the hearts of those who have begun to show an initial interest in Jesus. Satan gets worried. He does everything he can to prevent people moving from seeking to finding. Let us take our stand against Satan. Let us take our stand in the Name of Christ. Let us take our stand in the power of Christ.
We read, in Matthew 9:2, of the forgiveness of sins. This is followed, in Matthew 9:6, by the words that brought healing to the paralyzed man. When we read about Jesus' healing miracles, we must also remember the healing that comes to us through the forgiveness of our sins. The healing of our lives begins here. From this beginning - the forgiveness of our sins, we move on to the healing of our lives, which takes place when we look to the Lord to take the brokenness of our lives and put everything back together again. This is followed by Matthew's own story. He receives the forgiveness of his sins. From the conversion of Matthew, the message that comes to us is this: Jesus "came to call sinners" (Matthew 9:13). We come to Jesus - with our sins. We receive from Him - our salvation. At the heart of our salvation is this great message: God does more for us than forgiving our sins. He gives us new life - described here as "new wine" (Matthew 9:17).
In Matthew 9:18-38, we read about Jesus' healing ministry. At the end of Matthew 9, there's a reminder to us that the Lord's work is to be carried on by His followers - "The harvest is large, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest His crops" (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus wasn't saying, 'Look at what I am doing and see how great I am." He was saying, 'Look at what I am doing and learn from Me - learn how to see the crowds with compassion, to see them in their trouble, to see how helpless they are - "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). we are to be looking at Jesus and learning from Him. We are to be looking at the world and seeing how we can serve the world for Jesus' sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
"Don't go among people who are not Jewish ..." (Matthew 10:5). The time for reaching out to the Gentiles had not yet come. After Jesus' resurrection, the Good News of His love and His salvation were to be taken to "the ends of the earth" (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This ministry was to be carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit - "The Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you" (Matthew 10:20). This was to continue after Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:3). If we are to speak for the Lord, He must be our "Teacher" (Matthew 10:24). The Lord teaches us, and we are to teach others - "Teach and make disciples" (Matthew 28:18-20).
In Matthew 11, we learn, from Jesus the Saviour, about John the Baptist. From the warnings given by Jesus to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, we learn of the urgency of the Word of the Lord. The highlight of Matthew 11 is found in verse 28 - "Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."
"It is right to do good on the day of worship" (Matthew 12:12). Why did Jesus have authority over the day of worship? It was because of who He is. He is worshipped. Jesus fulfils prophecy (Mathew 12:17-21). He has authority over Satan (Matthew 12:28). The victory of Jesus over Satan becomes ours when we receive God's Word, with humble faith, as "the sword of the Spirit." This speaks of the work of the Spirit in and through the Word. The Spirit leads us to Jesus. He leads us out for Jesus. Jesus is risen from the dead (Matthew 12:40), Let us serve Him and be His true family (Matthew 12:50).
In Matthew 13, we see Jesus, the Storyteller. His stories are ordinary stories - with an extraordinary message. The stories are human. The message is divine. They are stories about people. They are stories about God. Following on from Jesus' parables, we have His return to "His hometown" (Matthew 13:54). The people were "amazed" at His teaching (Matthew 13:54), They did not, however, look for a divine explanation. They looked at Jesus in a human way. They said that He shouldn't be able to speak like this. They denied Him the right to speak with divine authority. They did not hear and receive what He said to them. What did Jesus say about them? "The only place a prophet isn't honoured is in his hometown and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57). What was the result of their refusal to recognize Jesus' authority? His power was not released among them: "He didn't work many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matthew 13:58).
Jesus the Saviour is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Jesus does more than providing physical food. He is the Bread of Life (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus has power over nature (Matthew 14:22-36) - because He is "the Son of God, Look, the Lamb" (Matthew 14:33). We look beyond John to Jesus. John pointed away from himself to Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus is our Saviour. Let us praise Him for all that He is, all that He has done for us and all that He has given to us.
The Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus with a question: "Why do your disciples break the traditions of our ancestors ...?" (Matthew 15:2). Jesus answered them with another question: "Why do you break the commandments of God because of your traditions?" (Matthew 15:3). Their question was shallow. His question was deep. They were concerned with external observance of human traditions. He directed their attention to something far important - heartfelt obedience to God's Word. We are not to honour God with our lips, while our hearts remain far from Him.
"Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" (Matthew 17:6). Even after there is divine revelation (Matthew 16:17), the influence of evil can be felt (Matthew 16:23). The warning - "Be careful! Watch out ... !" must never be forgotten. Satan is looking for an opportunity to leads us away from the Lord. We must hear what Jesus is saying to us about discipleship (Matthew 16:24), and we must commit ourselves to Him (Matthew 16:25). There is nothing more important than this (Matthew 16:26). If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must learn to live our lives in the light of eternity (Matthew 16:27). We are to seek revelations of God's eternal Kingdom, revelations which will send us back, from the mountain-top, to live each day for Jesus.
"They saw no one but Jesus" (Matthew 17:8). Everyone else is secondary. Jesus is the central theme. "Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:21). We must not think according to human expectations. We must let the Word of God inspire us to accomplish great things for God and His Kingdom. May we never forget to give great glory to God. "The disciples became sad" (Matthew 17:23), because they did not understand. What God gives to us is greater than we can imagine. Let us praise Him.
Learning from children and caring for children: This is what Jesus speaks about in Matthew 18:1-10. We should never act like we know it all, and have nothing more to learn. We should never act like we're a law unto ourselves. We must do all that we can to protect little children in a world that has so many dangers. We need little children. They have something to teach us. Little children need us. They need the protection that we, adults, can give to them.
"The Son of Man came to save the lost" (Matthew 18:11). In Matthew 18:12-13, Jesus speaks about sheep. He's really speaking about us. He is the Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep wander away from the shepherd. We wander away from the Lord. The shepherd looks for the lost sheep. Jesus has come to seek for us and find us. He brings us home to God, our Father. Through His saving grace, we receive new life - a life in which we rejoice in our great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He delivers us from the condemnation, which our sin has brought upon us. He brings us into the knowledge of His forgiveness. This Gospel of salvation changes us. It teaches us to live in the power of God's love.
Jesus speaks about "the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:12,23), "the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:14,24) and "eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). Jesus' way of thinking and living is so very different from the world's way of thinking and living. He challenges us to think His way and live his way.
"The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). This is the reversal of the world's values. This is grace - not works. The way in which grace reaches us is through Christ's death and resurrection (Matthew 20:17-19). When we hear the Gospel - Jesus "came to serve and gave His life as a ransom for many people" (Matthew 20:28), our eyes are opened to see who Jesus really is and to understand what He has done for us, and we follow Him (Matthew 20:34).
In Matthew 21:1-22, we learn that Jesus is a very different King from the kings of this world. He is the King of love. There is no tyranny, no dictatorship, no reign of terror. Alongside His love, there is His holiness. We see this in the cleansing of the Temple. He is looking for us to be fruitful. This is the lesson of the cursed fig tree. May God help us to be fruitful - in holiness and in love.
In Matthew 21:23-46, we learn that the authority of Jesus is heard in His words and seen in His actions. He speaks of grace. He lives by grace. Jesus is the foundation of our salvation. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, we are greatly blessed. What a great Saviour He is!
What variety there is in Matthew 22 - a story about a wedding reception, a question about taxes, the dead come back to life, love God and your neighbour, how can David's son be David's Lord? When we read the Gospels, we must allow the Lord Jesus to speak to us on all the subjects that He brings to us. We are not to select our favourite passages and ignore the other passages. If we only read the parts we like, we are not really listening to the Lord. He has so much to say to us. Lord, give us a listening ear.
In Matthew 23, we have a devastating protest against hypocrisy. What is a protest against hypocrisy? It's a protest for holiness. God is calling us to be holy. He is saying to us that we must never be content with hypocrisy. God has something better for us. The way of holiness begins with welcoming the Saviour. Our faith and life are grounded in Him - "Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39). Jesus inspires our worship. He gives us strength for living.
Why does Jesus speak to us about the end-times? - He is encouraging us to "endure to the end" (Matthew 24:13). We cannot endure to the end without the grace of God: "If God does not reduce the number of those days, no one will be saved" (Matthew 24:22). God's Word tells us that we are to "keep ourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). It also tells us that we are kept, in the love of God, by the power of God - the power of His love (Jude 24).
Jesus speaks about the end-times: "The earth and heaven will disappear." He also speaks about something that will never come to an end: "My words will never disappear" (Matthew 24:35). In all of life's changing circumstances, we must hold on to this great truth: God's Word is forever.
Whenever the end-times are spoken of, many strange things are said. People speak as if they know it all. The more they say, the more they show that they don't know it all. We need to make sure that we keep listening to what God's Word says to us. This will keep us from being deceived by people who make things up as they go along. The main thing that Jesus says to us is this: "you must be ready because the Son of Man will return when you least expect Him" (Matthew 24:44).
Matthew 25 begins with the words, "When the end comes" (Matthew 25:1), and ends with the words, "eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). Often, we might wish that this was all that the Word of God says about "the end" - "eternal life." This is not all that is said. Jesus also speaks to us about eternal loss (Matthew 25:11-12,30,41,46). The choices that determine eternal loss and eternal life are being made here-and-now. Each one of us must decide whether we will be like the wise bridesmaids or the foolish bridesmaids. By our way of life, here on earth, we will show whether we are "good and faithful servants" or "useless servants." Our response to the Lord will be seen in our response to other people (Matthew 25:40). Live for the Lord now. Live with Him in eternity.
"At that time, the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matthew 26:2). Jesus was not taken by surprise. He knew what He was letting Himself in for. He knew why He had come to earth. He knew what He had come to do. He knew the purpose of His life. "You will not always have Me with you. She poured this perfume on My body before it is placed in a tomb" (Matthew 26:11-12). Jesus was under no illusions about what lay ahead of Him. He had come to die. The time of His crucifixion was drawing near - and He knew it. Immediately after He speaks about His tomb, He speaks about the "Good News" being "spoken in the world" (Matthew 26:13). He knew the connection between the two - His death and the Good News. He died for us. This is the Good News of God's love.
In Matthew 26:14-35, we read about Judas, Peter and Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus - but Jesus knew all about it before it happened. Jesus knew what was going on behind the scenes with Judas. Peter denied Jesus. Again, Jesus knew that this was going to happen. Between Jesus' identification of Judas and Peter as the men who would betray Him and deny Him, there is the Lord's Supper. How wonderful this is - we hear about human failure (sin), and we also hear about our Saviour's sacrifice for the salvation of sinners.
"Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, let Your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Jesus was not just a passive victim of circumstances. He embraced the will of God, his loving, heavenly Father. He saw what needed to be done, and He said, 'I will do it.' He said, 'I will give Myself in death so that sinners might be forgiven and live eternally in the heavenly glory of God's Kingdom.
"All of this happened so that what the prophets have written would come true" (Matthew 26:56). "The Son of Man will be coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). Here, we have looking back to what came before and looking forward to what lies ahead. If we are to avoid becoming like Peter, who denied Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75), we need this big perspective on Jesus. He is much more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a good example. he came from heaven. He returned to heaven. He will come, again, from heaven. When we keep before our eyes what the Scriptures teach us about Jesus, we will not be taken in by those who reduce Jesus to the human level. We will, always by the grace of God, stand up for Jesus, lifting Him up as the perfect Son of God and the perfect Saviour of sinners.
"Thirty silver coins" (Matthew 27:3,9) - Jesus' enemies paid the price to Judas. Jesus paid the price for us. Thank God for Jesus. His sacrifice for sin was worth much more than the money paid to Judas by Jesus' enemies. His sacrifice of Himself for our salvation was the only way in which the price could be paid. Jesus took our sin upon Himself so that we might receive God's salvation - as a free gift.
"Jesus said absolutely nothing in him in reply, so the governor was very surprised" (Matthew 27:14). Jesus had not come to escape death. He had come to die. Pilate was surprised. He did not understand. This was not the normal response. Jesus could not be understood according to the thinking of other people. He was a special person. He had a special purpose. He was heading to the Cross. The place of His suffering was to become the place of our salvation. Thank You, Jesus.
"The release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus" (Matthew 27:20) - In this, we catch a glimpse of the meaning of Christ's death. The sinless Saviour dies for the guilty sinner. "He saved others, but he can't save himself" (Matthew 27:42. The two are connected. He saves others by sacrificing Himself. "My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?" (Matthew 27:46). This is Jesus, taking our place, bearing our sin. "The curtain in the temple was split in two, from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51). Notice the direction. The barrier to our coming into God's presence is removed from above. It is the work of God. It is His doing. Glory to the Lord!
Securing the tomb - That's what they tried to do. Raising the dead - That's what God did. "He's not here. He has been brought back to life, as He said" (Matthew 28:6). What a tremendous turnaround! What, to man, is impossible, becomes reality through the power of God. "Don't be afraid! Go, tell My followers to go to Galilee. There, they will see Me" (Matthew 28:10). The first revelation of the risen Lord - It's for His followers, but they're not to keep the Good News to themselves. This is for us. We're to bring Jesus and His love to more and more people. We do not go to people in our name. We go with the "authority" of Jesus, our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). He is with us "until the end of time."
“Good News” - “the forgiveness of sins” and “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:1,4,8). This Good News is centred on Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11). Jesus was empowered by “the Spirit” (Mark 1:12). He comes to us with “the Good news of God” (Mark 1:(14). He calls for our response - “Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Where does this change come from? It comes from the Good News. This is what changes us. By becoming Christ-centred (following Jesus), we become less self-centred and more other-centred. Jesus teaches us “how to catch people instead of fish” (Mark 1:17).
“He taught them with authority” (Mark 1:22). We need both - the teaching and the authority. It is the teaching that gives the authority. We are taught by the Lord. We speak with the authority that comes from this: God’s Word is truth. When we know that the revelation has come to us from the Lord, we are able to understand and communicate God’s Word of truth. This is not about our level of understanding or our ability to communicate. It’s about the Lord, making Himself known to us and enabling us to share His Word with others. What do we have to share with others? We have “Good News” (Mark 1:38-39). “People kept coming to Him from everywhere” (Mark 1:45). Lord, give us such blessing in our day.
Jesus brings us salvation - “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) - and He calls us to discipleship - “Follow Me” (Mark 2:14). We cannot be His disciples without, first, coming to Him for salvation. We must emphasize that salvation leads to discipleship. Our discipleship demonstrates the reality of our salvation. We must hear the words, “I’ve come to call sinners” (Mark 2:17) before we can respond to the call to live as “saints” (God’s people). By nature, we are not God’s people. Through His redemption, we become His people. We are redeemed through the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We are called to live in the strength of the Lord, walking with Him in the pathway of victory, “more than conquerors” through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
"New wine is poured into fresh skins" (Mark 2:22). New, fresh - This is the work of God. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves or give to ourselves. This must be done for us. It must be given to us. All the glory belongs to the Lord! "The Son of Man has authority over the day of worship" (Mark 2:28) - It's not so much the activity of worship that's important. It's the Saviour whom we worship - He's the One who makes worship so important. We worship Him.
"Jesus ... was deeply hurt because their minds were closed" (Mark 3:5). "Whoever curses the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He is guilty of an everlasting sin" (Mark 3:29). "Whoever does what God wants is My brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35). These are challenging verses, They call us to be open to the life-changing love of Christ, to draw back from the evil way of unbelief and disobedience, to allow the Lord to change us into "new creatures In Christ Jesus" and inspire us to live as "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Parables: Where does the understanding come from? It comes from the Lord. Before there can be "harvest" (Mark 4:29), there needs to be sowing (Mark 4:26). We are not to say, "This one is good soil. Here, there is bad soil." Following some parables, we have Jesus calming the sea (Mark 4:35-41) - "Be still" (Mark 4:39): This is the Word of the Lord. Where does peace come from? It comes from the Lord. It comes to us through His Word.
In Mark 5, we learn that Jesus is for everyone - a demoniac called Legion, a synagogue leader named Jairus, a child, a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years. The more we learn of Jesus, the more we learn that He is for everyone. Each of us needs Him. He comes to us at our point of need. He shows us how much we need Him.He reaches out to us. He draws us to Himself. He saves us. From whatever angle, we approach this chapter - Legion, Jairus, the child, the woman, the message is the same: Jesus is such a great Saviour!
"Their unbelief amazed Him" (Mark 6:6). The Lord has done so much for us. Why do we persist in unbelief? There is no real answer to this question, other than this: "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Our unbelief may be amazing. His grace is so much more amazing. it is also amazing that the Lord should choose sinners like us to carry forward His work (Mark 6:12-13).
"When Herod listened to John, he would become very disturbed, and yet he liked to listen to him" (Mark 6:20). There are people who like to listen to God's Word, but they refuse to be changed by God's Word. Listening to God's Word is of no value, if it doesn't lead to being changed by God's Word.
As we read of the feeding of the five thousand, our thoughts turn to the Lord's Supper - Jesus blessed the food, broke it and gave it to everyone. "All of them ate as much as they wanted" (Mark 6:42). In the Lord Jesus Christ - the Bread of Life, there is more than enough for everyone.
"They were in a lot of trouble ...because they were going against the wind" (Mark 6:48). We make a lot of trouble for ourselves when we go against the wind of the Spirit. John 3 and Acts 2 compare the Spirit to the wind. We need to go with the wind of the Spirit if we are to be blessed by the Lord."
They didn't understand ... their minds were closed" (Mark 6:52). Where does understanding come from? It comes from the Lord. How does understanding come to us? It comes to us when we open our minds - "Lord, show me what this means."
There's a huge difference between salvation through Jesus and the religion of the Pharisees. Jesus had this to say to the Pharisees: "You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions" (Mark 7:8). Jesus' words are a challenge to us - Will we stand on the Word of the Lord? or Will we let our own ideas become more important than God's Word? The woman who "happened to be Greek" (Mark 7:26) is a better example to us than the Pharisees. She's a woman of faith. Her trust is in Jesus. Faith brings blessing into our lives. Tradition sees no real need for a living faith - so long as we keep doing that have always been done. When Jesus is at work in us, He touches our ears - so that we may hear the Word of God clearly - and our tongues - so that we may not speak the Word of God faithfully and powerfully: "At once", following on from the touch of Jesus, "the man could hear and talk normally" (Mark 7:35).
What a difference there is between Jesus giving a sign and the Pharisees demanding a sign! Miracles are given when the Lord decides - not when we demand: "If these people are given a sign, it will be far different from what they want!" (Mark 8:12). A blind man came to Jesus. His sight Was restored - "He could see everything clearly, even at a distance" (Mark 8:25). The Pharisees couldn't see - "Don't you catch on yet?" (Mark 8:21). 'Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.'
A confession of faith in Jesus (Mark 8:29) is followed by a rebuke from Jesus (Mark 8:33). How did Peter get from confession to rebuke? - Satan slipped into his heart and mind, leading him away from the Lord Jesus. Did Jesus give up on Peter? - No! Jesus was still speaking to all of His disciples. He was speaking to them about following Him (Mark 8:34-38). Jesus was still including Peter among the three whom He chose to be with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). Was this the Kingdom of God coming with power (Mark 9:1). In one sense - No! There was - and still is - more to come. In another sense - Yes! This was real. This was God among them. This was life-changing. Years later, Peter recalled that he had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1;16-18). This was something special, something unforgettable. Was Peter made perfect on that day on the mountain? No! He failed the Lord at the time of crucifixion, but, again, Jesus didn't give up on Peter - and Peter was restored, and he became God's chosen vessel to bring salvation to 3,000 people in a single day (Acts 2).
The power of the Lord Jesus is seen in His miracles. It is the power of His love. His power is sen in His resurrection. This power is the power of life. Life triumphs over death. When we seek power for ourselves, we do not glorify the Lord. There is power in humility. We recognize that we are without power. We acknowledge that real power comes from the Lord. This power reaches out, though us, to others, when our actions show the love of Christ to them. We are to pray for the power of the Lord to be at work in us, keeping us close to the Lord. The way in which the Lord changes us:it starts from the inside, and works its way out, to shape our way of life.
"Don't let anyone separate what God has joined together" (Mark 10:9). "Don't stop the children from coming to Me" (Mark 10:14). In today's world, people often devalue the things that were very important to Jesus. When we speak about standing up for Jesus, we must remember that this means more than speaking His Word to others. It also means living by the values that Jesus held and taught. It will standing up for the things that matter - marriage is important, children are important.
"It's impossible for people to save themselves, but it's not impossible for God to save them" (Mark 10:27). "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). Salvation doesn't begin with us. It begins with God - "God so loved the world" (John 3:16). We begin with the eternal love of God. It leads to eternal life for us.
"Jesus was going to Jerusalem" - to be "betrayed", "condemned to death" and to "come back to life" (Mark 10:32-34). Hallelujah! What a Saviour! "Teacher, we want you to do us a favour" (Mark 10:35) - This sounds so self-centred. What does Jesus say about this? - "Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone" (Mark 10:43-44). How do we learn to live this kind of life? We learn it from Jesus - "The Son of Man ... came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many people" (Mark 10:45). "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Mark 10:51). Jesus asked this question in Mark 10:36. This time, the answer is for the glory of God - not the glory of man. Look at what follows this question - "Teacher, I want to see again ... Go, your faith has made you well. At once, he could see again, and he followed Jesus ... " (Mark 10:51-52). When we really begin to see things from Jesus' point of view, we will follow Him. We will look to Him in faith. He will make us well - "It is well with my soul." This will give us the strength that we need to follow Jesus.
"Hosanna!" (Mark 11:9-10) - This was a day of celebration, but the celebration didn't last long. The cursing of the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14,20-21) and the throwing out of the moneychangers (Mark 11:15-17) showed people that Jesus was different from what they wanted Him to be. We can't say, "This is what we want Jesus to be." We must let Him be who He is. "What gives you the right to do these things?" (Mark 11:26). Jesus has authority because of who He is. We recognize Him as the Son of God, and we live out this faith by submitting to Him as Lord of our lives.
In Mark 12, we see that much of Jesus' ministry must be understood within the context of conflict. The religious leaders were out to get Jesus, and Jesus didn't miss them when He spoke of their hypocritical religion. Mark 12 ends with a deeply moving picture of true devotion. It's a call to love the Lord with more than our words.
In Mark 13:1-2, Jesus speaks about the destruction of the Temple. In Mark 13:7, He speaks about "the end." There are events which point us to the end. These events make us think about the end. There's another "end" that we must think about - "the person who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). This is our own personal end. Beyond our personal end, there is the end which comes with the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 13:26-27). When will He come? - "No one knows when that day or hour will come" (Mark 13:32). What the Lord does tell us is this: Make sure that you're ready - "I'm telling everyone what I'm telling you. Be alert!"
What a difference there is between Jesus' enemies and His friends. "The scribes" wanted "to kill" Jesus (Mark 14:1). The woman worshipped Him. There is also the sadness of Judas. He began as a friend, and, then, he became an enemy. Even in the Passover / Lord's Supper, Jesus showed love for Judas. Sadly, it was love from which Judas "turned away." Whatever our past has been, Jesus offers a way forward, into a better future, with Him.
We already know about Judas - what He was planning to do. Of the other eleven disciples, Peter wasn't the only one who failed the Lord - "All the other disciples said the same thing as Peter" (Mark 14:31), and, like Peter, they let the Lord down. They kept well out of the way, making sure that they were not associated with Jesus. We see the same kind of thing in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus spoke to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? ... " (Mark 14:37-38), but it wasn't only Peter who was sleeping (Mark 13:37). Even after Jesus had said to them, "Stay awake ... ", they fell "asleep" (Mark 14:40). To each of us, Jesus says, "Stay awake, and pray that you won't be tempted" (Mark 14:38).
Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He was denied by Peter. Could Judas have been restored? From God's point of view, the answer is "Yes." The love of God was there - even for Judas. From Judas' point of view, the answer was "No." There was no turning again to the Lord in Judas' heart. In Judas' tragedy, we see (i) God is not willing that any should perish; (ii) many will perish because they refuse to return to the Saviour. Peter's story tells us of restoration. he failed the lord. He let his Lord down. His Lord lifted him up. Between the betrayal by Judas and the denial by Peter, there is Jesus' trial in front of the Jewish Council. They "condemned Him" (Mark 14:64). In doing this, they condemned themselves. They passed judgment on Him - but, one day, He will pass judgment n them: "You will see the Son of Man in the highest position in heaven. He will be coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62).
Jesus - the Saviour - takes the place of Barabbas - the sinner. Each one of us can see ourselves in Barabbas - the sinner for whom Jesus died. "He saved others, but He cannot save Himself" (Mark 15:31) - This is missing the point of Jesus' death. It was by sacrificing Himself that He saved others. We look at Jesus Christ, crucified for us, and we say, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"
Before we move on to Jesus' resurrection and His return to heaven, we must turn our thoughts to His death and His burial. The world doesn't want to hear about death, but this is something about which we must speak. There is no Gospel, if we stop short of Jesus' death, if we speak only of Jesus, the teacher and example. We cannot rush on to His resurrection - a message of joy - without speaking of His death. Resurrection has no meaning without death. The reality of Jesus' death is underlined in the description of His burial - "the body of Jesus ... Jesus was dead ... the corpse ... the body" (Mark 15:43-46). Jesus' experience of death was more than physical suffering. There was the suffering of the judgment of God upon our sin, as it was laid on Jesus - "My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?" (Mark 15:34). The answer to this question is "reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:21). As we read about God forsaking Jesus - because our sin was laid on Him, we must also see that the God, who forsook Him, as He hung upon the Cross, is also the God who raised Him from the dead. All praise and glory to the Lord our God, the God of our salvation!
"Who will roll away the stone ... ?" (Mark 16:3). "The stone had been rolled away" by God (Mark 16:4). What man cannot do, God has done! - Jesus "has been brought back to life" (Mark 16:6). "Shock and trembling overwhelmed them ... they were afraid" (Mark 16:8). This was the initial reaction. They came to "anoint Jesus." They didn't expect this. This was just the beginning. There were appearances of the risen Lord. "He did not look as He usually did" (Mark 16:12). There was something different about Him. He had moved beyond the life that He had known. He was on His way towards being "taken to heaven", where He would be given "the highest position" (Mark 16:19).
“You will know that what you have been told is true” (Luke 1:4). Historical truth underlies the spiritual truth through which the Spirit brings home to our hearts the meaning of the Gospel. Without the historical truth, there is no Gospel. The Gospel is not based on myth. It is God’s testimony to His truth: truth - unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. The historical truth of the Gospel is not something that we can set aside, as we search for some deep meaning, which is independent of historical truth.
“He will prepare the people for their Lord” (Luke 1:17). Before the people could come to Jesus, they needed to come to John. The role of the witness is to lead people to Jesus. They come to us with the question, “What do you have to say?” As they listen, they become less interested in what we have to say and more concerned with hearing the Word of the Lord. What is it that leads people beyond the words of man to the Word of God? “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:16).
We tend to think of Jesus’ birth as supernatural, and the birth of John the Baptist as natural. It should be noted that it’s in connection with John’s birth that the angel of the Lord says that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). John wasn’t born of a virgin - but his birth did have a supernatural dimension. In both births - Jesus and John, God was at work. He was carrying forward His plan of salvation.
The birth of Jesus and the birth of John are closely connected. God was sending His Son. He was also sending His prophet. The prophet should not be exalted too highly. His purpose is to exalt the Saviour. As we read about Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, we see that each of them gave glory to the Lord. "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:41). "Mary said, My soul praises the Lord's greatness" (Luke 1:46). "Zechariah began to praise God .... Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied" (Luke 1:64-67).
"The glory of the Lord filled the area with light" (Luke 2:9). "The shepherds glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard" (Luke 2:20). Our worship is an entering into the glory of the Lord. He reveals His glory to us. He calls us to glorify Him.
There is the recognition that Jesus was special - "My eyes have seen Your salvation" (Luke 2:30) - and the revelation that Jesus was special - "I had to be in My Father's house" (Luke 2:49). How was Jesus special? - He is our Saviour. He is God's Son. The revelation comes to us, and it draws out, from us, the recognition that Jesus, God's Son, is our Saviour.
We move from John to Jesus - from the prophet to the Saviour: In Luke 3, more is said about John than Jesus. It must, however, be very clear to all that the focal-point is Luke 3:22 - "You are My Son, whom I love, I am pleased with You. "Prepare the way of the Lord" - This was John's ministry. He pointed away from Himself to Jesus. He said, 'Jesus is superior to me. Look away from me. Look to Jesus.'
"Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). No wonder Satan couldn't triumph over Him! He was also filled with the Word of God. He knew the Word of God, and He knew how to use it. Satan was left with no alternative but to leave Jesus - but he would be back (Luke 4: 13). Satan knows that he cannot prevail against Jesus - but Satan won't take "No" for an answer. He keeps on trying - protesting against the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we must never forget is this: In our battle against Satan, we stand on the victory of Christ, the victory He won for us. Satan cannot prevail against Jesus. Jesus makes us "more than conquerors" in Him (Romans 8:37). Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
"The power of the Spirit was with Him" (Luke 4:14). "He spoke with authority" (Luke 4:32). "Demons came out of many people" (Luke 4:41). Authority over evil, power to triumph over evil - As we read about Jesus, it becomes increasingly clear that He is more than a prophet. He is "the Son of God ... the Messiah."
"Take the boat into deep water, and lower your nets to catch some fish" (Luke 5:4). We need to go deeper with God, if we are to bring others to Him. We see this in the ministry of Jesus - "Large crowds gathered to hear Him and have their diseases cured. But He would go away to places where He could be alone for prayer" (Luke 5:15-16).
"Praising God, he (the healed man) went home" (Luke 5:25). "Everyone was amazed and praised God" (Luke 5:26). One man praising God, many people praising God - praise leads to more praise. Personal praise and corporate praise - we need both: praise that arises in my heart when I think of all that the Lord has done for me, praise that grows stronger when I gather together, with others, for worship.
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? " (Luke 5:30). The Lord's Supper is for sinners. When we sit with the Lord, at His Table, what we're saying is this: 'I'm a sinner. I need a Saviour.' What does Jesus say to us? He says, 'Yes. You are a sinner - and Yes. I am your Saviour.' This is Good News - the Good News of salvation. Jesus says, "I've come to call sinners to change the way they think and act" (Luke 5:32). When Jesus calls us to Himself, He doesn't leave us the way He found us. He changes us - from the inside, to the outside.
The contrast between the old and the new - What are we to take from these parables (Luke 5:33-39)? In the spiritual life, it's the new life that's better than the old life. when we have begun to live the new life in Christ, the old life loses its attraction. We're learning to see things through the eyes of Christ - to desire more of Him, and less of the world, more of the new life, and less of the old life.
"On a day of worship" (Luke 6:1); "On another day of worship" (Luke 6:6) - What is worship? Is it going to Church? Is it singing hymns? Jesus says, 'It's more than that.' Everything we do is to be done in a spirit of worship. We can be too 'holy'? Note that "the bread of the presence" was eaten by David and his men" (Luke 6:3-4). Is God's presence found only in the Temple. Wherever we are, He is there. The healing of the man with the paralyzed hand (Luke 6:8) - Jesus didn't say, 'I can't do this. I should be worshipping.' Jesus healed the man. This was part of His worship. how fitting it is that, on "the day of worship", the Lord healed this man. The point is: We define worship too tightly if we think that we can't offer kindness to our fellow human beings because we're preoccupied with singing praise to God. Let praise be seen in the full range of our life.
"Power was coming from Him and curing all of them" (Luke 6:19). This is the power of God that changes people. What we cannot do for ourselves, He does for us. The Lord Jesus calls us to be "committed" to Him (Luke 6:22). Those who are committed to Him will enjoy His blessing - even when we face much strong opposition.
"I tell everyone who is listening" (Luke 6:27). The Lord speaks to us. We are to listen to Him. Without our listening to what He's saying to us, His Word will never really get through to us. We need both - His speaking and our listening.
"Everyone who is well-trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). This is not just about the education of the mind. It's about training for living.
"Good people do the good that is in them" (Luke 6:45). We need to be changed from the inside. We need to be changed by the Lord. "Change my heart, O God ... " How is our heart to be changed? We must build on the "good foundation" - hearing what Jesus says to us and obeying what He says to us (Luke 6:48-49).
There's a difference between the way other people see us - "He deserves our help ... " (Luke 7:4-5) - and the way we see ourselves - "I don't deserve you to come into my house" (Luke 7:6). In the searchlight of God's holy Word, we are taken more deeply into ourselves - seeing our sin as it really is. Jesus doesn't save us because we deserve to be saved. He saves us by His grace. He looks at us, sees what we're really like, and keeps on loving us. This is love, real love, the greatest love of all.
"Everyone was struck with fear and praised God" (Luke 7:16). Here, we see a holy combination of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, and the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. Fear of the Lord is not an end in itself. Through the fear of the Lord, we are to confess our sins and receive the joy of the Lord. This doesn't mean that the fear of the Lord is left behind. We carry the fear of the Lord with us - even when we are rejoicing in the Lord. It's the fear of the Lord which gives depth to our experience of the joy of the Lord. Without the fear of the Lord, our joy becomes superficial. When we are growing in the fear of the Lord, we become more aware of our sin and more deeply appreciative of His saving grace. Throughout our life of faith, the fear of the Lord calls us back when we are being pulled away from the Lord. Our obedience to the Lord grows as, with joy in the Lord and the fear of the Lord, we grow in our appreciation of His love for us and we are kept by His power, walking on the pathway of holiness.
"Whoever doesn't lose his faith in Me is indeed blessed" (Luke 7:23). Throughout life, there is a battle for faith. Who is it that keeps us in the faith? Is it ourselves? or Is it the Lord? In one sense, we are called to hold on to our faith. In a deeper sense, it is the Lord who holds on to us.
"He is far more than a prophet" (Luke 7:26). This is what Jesus said about John. How much more can we say this about Jesus - "He is more than a prophet." "Of all the people ever born, no one is greater than John" (Luke 7:28). If this can be said of John, how much more can it be said of Jesus.
"Your sins have been forgiven" (Luke 7:48). "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (Luke 7:50). At the heart of God's salvation, there is the forgiveness of sins and the peace of God. These blessings are received by faith. This is "the Good News about God's Kingdom" (Luke 8:1). When the Lord is crowned in our hearts as King, this is Good News for us because it means that the Lord's blessing is upon us. To God be the glory!
"So pay attention to how you listen!" (Luke 8:18). Listening is more than hearing. Spiritual listening is more than just listening, and then saying, 'That was interesting.' When we listen to the voice of the Lord, we are changed by what we hear.
"My mother and My brothers are those who hear and do what God's Word says" (Luke 8:21). There's a spiritual bond that binds together God's people. This bond is stronger than family ties. That's not to say that family ties aren't strong. It's to say that, in the fellowship of Christians, we are bound together at a deeper level than the biological connection.
"Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25). This is a question that Jesus still puts to us. Do we still believe that He is in control, even when it seems like He has fallen asleep (Luke 8:23)?"
"Why are You bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You not to torture me!" (Luke 8:28). Is this what we think of Jesus? - He's bothering us. This is what many people think of Jesus. Can they be changed? Can we be changed? - "Dressed and in his right mind, he was sitting at Jesus' feet" (Luke 8:35). What about the other people? - "The people were frightened ... they were terrified" (Luke 8:35,37). It's only by God's grace that we are taken beyond this initial reaction into a real trust in Jesus.
"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace" (Luke 8:48); "Child, get up! She came back to life, and got up at once" (Luke 8:54-55). When Jesus comes to us everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Life is new. The past is behind us. The future has begun. What is it that brings us out of our past and into the Lord's future? Jesus speaks about faith - "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 8:48); "Just believe, and she will get well" (Luke 8:50). This faith is not faith in ourselves. It's faith in Jesus. What we cannot do for ourselves, He does for us. This is the Gospel. It's not the Gospel of our faith - This is what I can do for myself. It's the Gospel of God's grace - This is what Jesus does for me. Faith looks away from ourselves. Faith looks to Jesus, and says, 'What a great Saviour He is!'
"Power and authority" (Luke 9:1) - "No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed ... victory comes from Me" (Isaiah 54:17). "Who is this person I'm hearing so much about? so Herod wanted to see Jesus" (Luke 9:9). There is no suggestion that Herod was about to become a believer. Nevertheless, we can read these words in terms of the way in which God creates a hunger to know more of Jesus, a hunger that can only be satisfied by our Saviour. We find Him, and we say, "He found me." He created the hunger, and He satisfies it. Praise be to His Name!
Ministry to the large crowds - "five thousand" (Luke 9:13), ministry to the small group - "His disciples" (Luke 9:18). As Jesus was exercising His ministry, He was looking beyond it to His death and resurrection (Luke 9:22), and He was looking further on to His return - His coming in glory (Luke 9:26).
"While Jesus was praying, the appearance of His face changed" (Luke 9:29). Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people. "Moses and Elijah ... appeared in heavenly glory" (Luke 9:29-30). "They saw Jesus' glory" (Luke 9:32). How can we remain the same when we catch a glimpse of God's glory? "This is My Son, whom I have chosen" (Luke 9:35). We are changed when we listen to Jesus. "They saw that Jesus was alone" (Luke 9:36). We are changed when we look to Jesus. Looking to Him and listening to him, we learn from Him. We learn to be changed by His glory.
"Everyone was amazed" (Luke 9:43). When we think of the Lord and all that He has done for us, we should be amazed at the wonder of His love for us. "Whoever starts to plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Being amazed at the love of God is not just a passing phase. It is to be something which grows as we continue our journey through life.
"Many prophets and kings wanted to see and hear what you've seen and heard, but they didn't" (Luke 10:24). We read about the prophet. We read about the kings. Sometimes, there were good times. Sometimes, there were bad times. Beyond all that we read about in the Old Testament, there is Jesus. He says to us,"He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He's greater than all the prophets and all the kings.
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). This question is asked to Jesus, the "teacher" (Luke 10:25). We must remember that He is more than our teacher. He is our Saviour. While the parable of the good Samaritan focuses on love for our neighbour, we must note that Jesus speaks, first, about love for God (Luke 10:27). The way in which Jesus speaks about love for God makes us feel hopeless. How can we possibly love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind? This leaves us deeply aware of our failure and our need of the Saviour. This brings us to hear another answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer is "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). When we come out of the parable of the good Samaritan, we meet Mary and Martha. We are warned that we must not concern ourselves with attempting to earn our own salvation. "Martha was upset about all the work she had to do." She complained that she had to "do all the work by herself" (Luke 10:42). With Mary, things were very different. "Mary sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His Word" (Luke 10:39). This, said Jesus, is "the only thing we need."Listen to Jesus. Hear His Word of salvation. Trust in Him. Be saved by Him.
"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). We cannot teach ourselves to pray. We can only be taught by the Lord.The spirit of prayer does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
"Because He is your friend and because you were so bold" (Luke 11:8) - not just "because you were so bold": first, it's "because he is your friend" - "What a Friend we have in Jesus ... What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."
"A stronger man than he may attack him and defeat him" (Luke 11:22) - the victory of Christ over Satan.
"Someone greater than Solomon is here! ... Someone greater than Jonah is here! ... " (Luke 11:31-32). Jesus is such a great Saviour. He is a "bright ... lamp shining on us" (Luke 11:36).
Jesus told the truth, and"the scribes and the Pharisees" didn't like it. They "held a terrible grudge against Him" (Luke 11:53). The truth of God will either make us or break us. Some people hear the truth, and they're set free to know, love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. Others are like "the scribes and the Pharisees" - "they watched Him closely to trap him in something He might say" (Luke 11:54). Lord, help us to receive Your Word - not to resent it; to heed Your Word - not to hate it; to love your Word - not to loathe it.
"At that time, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say" (Luke 12;12). We are not alone. Our words are not our own. The Holy Spirit is with us. He gives us His words.
"Be concerned about His Kingdom" (Luke 12:31). God is calling us beyond the concerns of this world. He's calling us to have a higher purpose and higher priorities.
God's Kingdom and God's Spirit - it's the Spirit who inspires us to live as the people of God, who are living for the Kingdom of God and waiting for the Kingdom of God.
"Lord, did You use this illustration just for us or for everyone?" (Luke 12:41). The Lord's Word was not just for His disciples. It's also for us.
"Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No! I can guarantee you that I came to bring nothing but division" (Luke 12:51). There are no shortcuts to peace. We must come by the way of repentance. Before we can enter into the life that is blessed by the Lord, we must hear His Word of warning that calls us back from the pathway that will lead us away from Him, the pathway which will bring no blessing to us. As we see the emptiness of life without Christ, we learn to look to Him for the life that is full of His blessing.
"So why don't you just for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:57). Authentic morality and spirituality - these are not just second-hand. The real thing must come from within. It's from the Lord - but it has to be real in us.
Jesus looked for a response from His hearers - Turn to God, and be changed in your way of thinking and your way of living (Luke 13:3,5); Bear fruit (Luke 13:6-7). The change, the new life, comes from the Lord. It's His power that changes us. What we can't do for ourselves, He does for us (Luke 13:10-17). His work in us has small beginnings, but it grows (Luke 13:19).
As Jesus comes near to entering Jerusalem, He speaks about entering the new Jerusalem. The people of the old Jerusalem are called to open their hearts to Him (Luke 13:24,340. This is not just about Jesus entering Jerusalem. It's about Jerusalem entering into Jesus. It's not just about things that happened a long time ago. It's about faith. It's about us. It's about Jesus, welcoming us when we come to Him. It's about Jesus, calling us to follow Him.
Reading about Jesus at a banquet, we think of the words of Song of Solomon 2:4 - "He sat me at his banqueting table, and his banner over me is love." These are words that make us think of Jesus, the Host at the Lord's Table. Jesus is not an invited guest. We are the invited guests. In love, He invites us to come. In love, He welcomes us. What great love! What a great invitation! What a great welcome! What a great Saviour! As we think of Jesus, inviting us to His Table, we rejoice in His love and we give thanks. Thank You, Lord, for Your love. It's the greatest love of all.
Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35). As we read on to the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15:1-32), we learn of grace. We must never forget grace. Our discipleship is grounded in God's grace.We are not saved because we are great disciples. We are saved because we have a great Saviour. When we sing, "How great Thou art", let us not think only of God's great power. Let us think also of His great love. This is what inspires us to follow Jesus.
What is most important to us - the things that will pass away or the things that will last forever? In Luke 16, Jesus challenges us to think about what really matters to us. Jesus gives us something to think about: Are we living for eternity? This is not a question that we can push away from ourselves. It keeps coming back to us. We must answer this question with our lives - not just our words.
"Give us more faith" (Luke 17:5). What does it mean to have more faith? It means more looking away from ourselves to Jesus. Our faith is not in ourselves. Our faith is in Jesus. "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:19) - It is faith in Jesus that makes the difference, not faith in ourselves.
"The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21); "When the Son of Man comes again ... " (Luke 17:26
We are to come to God with the humility that comes from knowing that we are sinners: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). We are to come to Him with the humility that comes from knowing that we are nothing and know nothing that really matters: "Whoever doesn't receive the Kingdom of God, as a child receives it, will never enter it" (Luke 18:17). We are to come to Him with the humility that knows that we need to learn, from Him, how we are to live our lives. This is part of what Jesus is saying to the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22). It may also be said that Jesus is showing us that we cannot save ourselves. We can only be saved by the Lord (Luke 18:26-27). This is salvation by grace. In emphasizing salvation by grace, we should make sure that we also emphasize that grace changes us.
"But they didn't understand any of this. What He said was a mystery to them, and they didn't know what He meant" (Luke 18:34). As well as physical blindness, there is also spiritual blindness. "Receive your sight! Your faith has made you well" (Luke 18:42). Jesus gave sight to the blind man. He opens our eyes. He reveals Himself to us. He is the risen Lord. When He comes to us in the power of His resurrection, we see what He means - He is our Saviour, and we follow Him and praise God (Luke 18:43).
In Luke 19, we read about the day a wee man met the Big Man - and the wee man was never the same again. What a difference Jesus makes. Jesus gave Zacchaeus a new stature - the stature of being a man in Christ, a man who was no longer lost, a man who had been saved by the Lord.
How do we serve the Lord? Do we bear fruit for Him? God is calling us to be fruitful in His service. We must remember that He is the King. We must remember what kind of king He is. He's the King of love. Fear will keep us from being fruitful (Luke 19:21). Love changes everything. When we appreciate the Lord's love for us, we will respond with love for Him. His love for us creates and inspires our love for Him.
"The Lord needs it" (Luke 19:31,34). The Lord doesn't need us - yet He chooses to "need" us. The young "donkey" (Luke 19:30,33) was chosen by the Lord. We have been chosen by the Lord. Before we ever thought of Him, He was thinking of us, loving us and calling us into His service.
"They shouted joyfully" (Luke 19:38). Where does our joy come from? - It comes from this: The Lord has come to us. He gives us His "peace." He leads us on to His "glory" (Luke 19:38). The Lord has called us to be a people of "praise" and "prayer" (Luke 19:37,46).
Jesus had enemies. They were God's enemies. They're our enemies. What does the Word of God say about them? They will be crushed. Why? - Because they refused to come to Jesus and receive His salvation, What does the Word of God say about Jesus? He's the "cornerstone of our faith" (Luke 20:17-18).
Jesus spoke with true wisdom, the wisdom of God. He was so different from the religious leaders of His day. They thought they were smart, but they weren't. "His answer surprised them, so they said no more" (Luke 20:26); "From that time on, no one dared ask Him another question" (Luke 20:40). Where did Jesus' wisdom come from? It came from this - He was more than "David's son" (Luke 20:41). He was "David's Lord" (Luke 20:44) - and He is our Lord. This is why He had the right to say, "Beware of the scribes!" (Luke 20:46). They were men-pleasers. Jesus lived for one thing only - pleasing His heavenly Father.
Jesus' words concerning His Return come to us from such a long time ago, yet they are still words that prepare us for His future. "The earth and the heavens will disappear, but My words will never disappear" (Luke 21:33). We must take time to read His Word. We must also "pray so that you have the power to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand in front of the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). Along with reading God's Word and praying, there is also to be giving (Luke 21:1-4).
Satan was working (Luke 22:3) - and so was Jesus (Luke 22:7-30). What does Jesus say about this spiritual warfare? He says this:"The hand of the one who will betray Me is with Me on the table. The Son of Man is going to die, the way it has been planned for Him" (Luke 22:21-22). Satan's schemes will come to nothing. God's plan of salvation will triumph over the schemes of Satan.
"Who is the greatest?" (Luke 22:24). This is a meaningless question. There is only one who can be called "great" - Jesus. In ourselves, there is weakness (Luke 22:34). Satan is stronger than we are. Jesus gives us His strength (Luke 22:32). He is stronger than Satan.
God's "will must be done" (Luke 22:42). Even when God's will is being done, there is the activity of Satan - "This your time, when darkness rules" (Luke 22:53). The honest verdict on Jesus is, "I can't find this man guilty of any crime" (Luke 23:4). "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Luke 23:21) - Awful words! Beyond the words of hostility, shouted by the crowd, there is the will of God and the love of God. Jesus is crucified, Barabbas is set free. This is grace. How wonderful this is! Jesus took the place of Barabbas. he has taken our place so that we might go to be with Him in his place.
"Father, forgive them ... " (Luke 23:34). The love of Christ is shining out to us from the Cross. "Jesus, remember me when You enter Your Kingdom" (Luke 23:42). By giving Himself, in death, for us, Jesus opened the door to God's Kingdom. What wonderful words of life - eternal life, He speaks to those who trust in Him - "I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Why are you looking among the dead for the Living One? He's not here. He has been brought back to life!" (Luke 24:5-6). The wonderful message of His resurrection is this - For Jesus, death was not the end. for us, death will not be the end. How re we to understand the Gospel story of Jesus, our Saviour? - We turn to "the Scriptures." We learn from "the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27,32). Our listening to the Scriptures and our learning from the Scriptures is set within the context of "praise and worship" (Luke 24:52-53).
"The Light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it" (John 1:5).
Jesus is the Light of the world. We are to be like John, who said, "Make the way for the Lord straight" (John 1:23). Like John, we are to say, "Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When we are faithful, we will see others being brought to the Saviour. At the beginning of their faith, they will be filled with the joy of the Lord. Like Jesus, we must teach them that there is greater joy, still to come: "You will see the sky open and God's angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man" (John 1:51).
There's a contrast between the two parts of John 2 - the joy of water being turned into wine (John 2:1-12), The seriousness of the money changers being thrown out of the temple courtyard (John 2:13-17). We need both - joy and seriousness; the joy that comes from knowing Jesus, the seriousness of commitment to following Jesus. The rebuilding of our lives comes from the resurrection of Jesus (John 2:18-22). This rebuilding comes to us when we seek to know the reality of the Lord in our lives. This reality comes to us when we seek to be real with God (John 2:23-25).
God's love sent God's Son (John 3:16). God's power brings the new birth (John 3:6-8). God's love and power flow through those who, like John the Baptist, give first place to Jesus - "He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance" (John 3:30).
"We have heard Him ourselves" (John 4:42). Conversion comes when we hear more than the voice of the messenger. We hear the voice of the Lord. This is real conversion. This is the new birth that comes from above.
"It was the same time... " (John 4:53) - 'That moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives": God doesn't wait for us to prove ourselves before He rewards us with His salvation. He gives His salvation to us when we put our trust in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is salvation by grace through faith.
"Jesus was the man who made him well" (John 5:15). What a great Saviour Jesus is! What the Lord does for us - it's for eternity. Jesus is more than a servant of God. He's the Son of God (John 5:19). "The Son gives life to anyone he chooses" (John 5:21). what a joy it is to know that we are not disqualified because of our sin. Our Saviour is greater than our sin. "The wages of sin are death. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Our sin closes the door of heaven. The Saviour opens the door of heaven for us.
Following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Bread of Life. This is not only about what happened a long time ago. It's about us. It's about here-and-now. Between the miracle and the Bread of Life, there is Jesus walking on the sea. Again, this is more than an ancient story. This is for us. Jesus is with us in the storms of life. At the end of John 6, there are the wonderful words, "Your words give eternal life" (John 6:68). Jesus can never be left in the past. He's for today. He's for us.
Jesus was so different from the religious leaders of His day. "Streams of living water" (John 7:38): This is what made the difference - the power of the Holy Spirit. They judged "by outward appearance." Jesus "judged correctly" (John 7:24). This was the work of the Spirit in Jesus. God is calling us to follow Jesus - living in the Spirit.
"Jesus said, I don't condemn you either. Go! From now on, don't sin" (John 8:11). We need to hear and say the things that Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. If we are to have hope for the future, we need more than forgiveness for the past. We need a sense of direction for our way of living, as we move forward with the Lord into His future. Forgiveness of sin does not lead to continuing in sin. It leads to departing from sin.
Jesus is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). Without Him, we walk in darkness. He brings us out of His darkness and into His light. He comes to our world. He comes from His world (John 8:23). He brings us into this world. we are still in this world, but we have been given a glimpse, a foretaste, of His world.
"The Truth will set you free ... The Son will set you free" (John 8:32,36). The Son is the truth. The Son speaks the truth. The Son lives the truth. He saves us. He shows us that we need Him, to set us free. We come to Him, our perfect Saviour, and we are set free from our guilty past - forgiveness - and His glorious future - eternal life.
In John 8:37-59, we see authenticity (Jesus) and hypocrisy (the religious leaders). Authenticity - This comes from God, our loving, heavenly Father. Hypocrisy - This comes from the father of lies, the devil. More authenticity, less hypocrisy - This is the way of Jesus, the way into which He calls us, the way we are to travel with Him.
"I do know one thing. I used to be blind, but now I see" (John 9:25). This is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a great Saviour He is! With Him as our Saviour, our eyes are opened to see - and live in a new and wonderful way.
Jesus is "the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). He gave His life for us. We see this in His crucifixion (John 10:11). He took His life back again. We see this in His resurrection (John 10:17-18). Through Jesus, crucified for us and risen for us, we have "eternal life" (John 10:28). Jesus is God's Son - and He is our Saviour (John 10:36). May God help us to proclaim Jesus through our whole life - not only our words. May we see a positive response to our witness: "Many people believed in Jesus" (John 10:42).
"Lazarus has died, but I'm glad that I wasn't there so that you can grow in faith" (John 11:15). "I am the One who brings people back to life, and I am life itself" (John 11:25). The Lord is working in us to strengthen our faith in Him. He is our living Saviour. "See how much Jesus loved him" (John 11:30). In the raising of Lazarus, we see more than the power of Jesus. We see the love of Jesus.
"It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed. Caiaphas didn't say this on his own ... he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. He prophesied that Jesus wouldn't die merely for this nation, but that Jesus would die to bring God's scattered children together and make them one" (John 11:50-52). A purely human analysis will never be enough. We need more than that. We need to see the spiritual dimension.
"The fragrance of the perfume filled the house" (John 12:3). Personal holiness is not something we can keep to ourselves. Its influence spreads. It affects other people - challenging them and inspiring to seek God and pursue holiness.
"At first Jesus' disciples didn't understand what these prophecies meant. However, when Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered that these prophecies had been written about Him. The disciples remembered that they had taken part in fulfilling these prophecies" (John 12:16). Sometimes, we don't realize what God is doing with us, until later on. Then, we look back, and we say, "Praise the Lord."
"Sir, we would like to meet Jesus" (John 12:21). Where do we meet Jesus? - "When I have been lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people toward Me" (John 12:32). When Jesus was crucified for us, He was showing us how much God loves us. At the Cross, we see the great love of our Saviour - and we see the great love of our heavenly Father. we get to know God through Jesus, His Son - and we know, in our hearts, that we are loved with the best love of all - the love of God.
"Believe in the light so that you will become people whose lives show the light" (John 12:35). What we believe and how we live - both are important. Where believing doesn't lead to living - this is being a secret disciple: "Many rulers believed in Jesus. However, they wouldn't admit it publicly because the Pharisees would have thrown them out of the synagogue. They were more concerned about what people thought of them than about what God thought of them" (John 12:42-43).
"I didn't come to condemn the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). Jesus came to be our Saviour. When, however, we reject His words, we place ourselves under judgment: "Those who reject Me by not accepting what I say have a judge appointed for them. The words that I have spoken will judge them on the last day" (John 12:48). Jesus opens for us the door to "eternal life" - but He will not force us to walk through the door to "eternal life" (John 12:50). He calls us to come. We must choose to come. Grace allows us the freedom to come to the Lord or to turn from Him. Grace gives us the strength that we need to step out of "the dark" and into "the light" (John 12:46). Jesus is the Light. He calls us on to better things than "the dark
"Jesus loved them to the end" (John 13:1). Jesus' love is endless love. It's everlasting love. It's love without limit. He never stops loving us. He keeps on loving us - to the end. "You don't know what I am doing. You will understand later" (John 13:7). We don't understand everything, all at once. The Lord is leading us step-by-step, into a deeper and richer experience of His love. We don't understand why the Lord loves us. We are sinful. He is holy. We don't need to understand His love. We rejoice in His love. "I'm telling you now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I am the One" (John 13:19). Jesus is not taken aback bu the turn of events. He knew why He had come to earth. He knew what lay ahead of Him. He looked beyond His crucifixion to His resurrection. Beyond the suffering, there was the glory. So it was with our Saviour, so it will be with us.
"Hurry! Do what you have to do ... Judas had the moneybag. So some thought that Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the festival or to give something to the poor" (John 13:29). Often, people don't see the full picture. They don't see behind the scenes. Jesus does. He understands. He knows that there is a spiritual battle going on, and He is with us. He gives us His strength.
"You can't follow Me now to the place where I'm going. However, you will follow Me later" (John 13:36). When we will be called home by the Lord is not in our hands. It's in the Lord's hands. We must entrust our eternal salvation into the Lord's hands. Jesus is "the sure and steadfast anchor of our soul" (Hebrews 6:19). The timing of our going to be with the Lord is not known to us. We don't need to know. All we need to know is this - When God decides to call us home, that is enough.
Jesus is the Way to the Father's House. Without Him, there is no going. He is also the Truth and the Life. Without Him, there is no knowing and no living (John 14:6). Everything is centred on Jesus. Once, we have taken our focus of attention off Him, we have lost our way. We are moving out of the light and into the darkness, and we have no hope for the future. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus.
"The person who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). We look at Jesus, and we learn what God is like. Jesus is the perfect revelation of God's character. In Jesus, we see God's love, holiness and power. Jesus was no ordinary man. He was more than the greatest man who ever lived. From the beginning of his Gospel, John stated the deepest truth concerning Jesus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
"They will do even greater things" (John 14:12). Jesus' ministry was limited to the land of Israel. Now, the Gospel has been taken to the nations of the world. what was started by Jesus has been continued by His people. Jesus was not part of the advance of the Gospel beyond Israel. The reaching out to the nations came after Jesus had returned to the Father. In His death and resurrection, Jesus, , laid the foundation for the Gospel going out to the whole world, but He did not remain on earth for a long time - to take part in bringing the Gospel to the nations. He left that to others. What a great privilege and a great responsibility! This great privilege was not given to Jesus. He never left Israel. Making disciples of all nations - This was the great responsibility entrusted by Jesus to His first disciples. This great responsibility has been entrusted by Jesus to every generation on believers, since His time on earth.
Jesus speaks of "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17), "the Holy Spirit" (John 14:26), "the Helper" (John 14:17,26). We need the truth of God. It's the foundation upon which we must build a life of holiness. We build a life of holiness on the foundation of truth, when we receive help from God, through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. Without Him, we cannot build on truth, and we cannot live a holy life.
"I have loved you the same way the Father has loved Me. Live in My love" (John 15:9). Love reaches us. Love changes us. Love does not from us to God. It comes from God to us. Once His love has come to us, there is love in our hearts for Him. This love - His love, reaching us and changing us, makes us new: "a new creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 5:17). His love, for us, leads us, in love, to serve others for the sake of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:5).
"In the world you'll have trouble - But cheer up! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Jesus speaks with realism. This realism is never pessimism. However dark our situation may be, the light of Christ shines more brightly. This is the basis of our joy. Our Saviour is greater and stronger than our enemy.
"Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth" (John 17:17). Jesus has already spoken about "the Spirit of truth, "the Holy Spirit." In our life of faith and obedience, we need both truth and holiness. God has given us His Word. Jesus is His Word. Scripture contains the words that make up the written Word of God. Through God's written Word, Jesus, God's living Word, guides us in the way of truth and holiness.
"Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to Him" (John 18:4). "Shouldn't I drink the cup of suffering that My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). "It was better to have one man die for the people" (John 18:14). God had a plan. For Jesus, it meant suffering. For us, it means salvation.
What a contrast there is between Peter and Jesus! Peter denies Jesus. Jesus is a faithful witness: "My Kingdom doesn't belong to this world ... My Kingdom doesn't have its origin on earth ... I have been born and have come into this world for this reason: to testify to the truth. everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Me" (John 18:36-37).
"Long live the king of the Jews" (John 19:3). He did live long. He rose from the dead. He is alive forevermore. This is more than "He said that He is the king of the Jews" (John 19:21). The resurrection was God's way of saying, "This is My Son." "He was declared the Son of God, This was shown in a powerful way when He came back to life" (Romans 1:4).
In John 19:28-20:10, we read about Jesus' death burial and resurrection. Without death, there can be no resurrection. Without resurrection, death is the end. Thank God for both the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.
"Mary!" (John 20:16). Each of us is called by name. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you" (John 20:21). Peace is not to be kept ourselves. It's to be shared. "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). These words were spoke by the man who has come to be known as 'doubting Thomas." The Lord brings us out of doubt and into faith.
In John 21, we see Jesus, caring for the gathered fellowship of God's people, and we see him caring for the individual, Peter, who was being called to be the leader of God's people. He teaches us to be fishers of men (John 21:6). He teaches us that serving Him arises out of loving Him (John 21:15-17). In John 21:24-25, we learn that this Gospel is based on "eyewitness" accounts. John tells us that what has been included in this Gospel is what God wanted us to know about Jesus. What we don't need to know has not been included in the Gospel.
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2,5,8,16) - This was the time for the fulfilment of promises made by Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 14:16,25; John 16:12).
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4,17-18,33,38) - God is doing a new thing. This far surpasses all that happened in the Old Testament. What had been promised is now reality. From prophecy to power - This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost.
Peter points away from himself to Jesus (Acts 3:12-16). What he's emphasizing is this - This is more than what I say about Jesus. It's what the prophets said about Him. This was God speaking through the prophets (Acts 3:18).
"The power of Jesus Christ" (Acts 4:10) - This is more than the healing of one man. This is salvation for all who come to Jesus, the Saviour (Acts 4:12).
"All the people were praising God for what had happened" (Acts 4:21). This wasn't praise for Peter and John. It was praise to God. We must learn to look beyond the servants of God to the God whom they serve.
The apostles pray for God's help (Acts 4:23-31). The believers share their property (Acts 4:32-37). The Lord is doing a mighty work among His people. At the heart of this work of God, there is "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31).
God was doing a mighty work - and He was protecting it. Satan was trying to destroy the work of God - but God was one step ahead of him. This work must go on. It must not be spoiled. Following on from the act of divine judgment (Acts 5:1-11), there was great blessing (Acts 5:12-16). The judgment came so that Satan may be prevented from having a mighty triumph over God's people. This judgment paved the way for the blessing. First, there was God's purifying judgment. Then, there was His abundant blessing.
"The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). "The men you put in prison are standing in the temple courtyard. They're teaching the people" (Acts 5:25). "Every day in the temple courtyard and from house to house, they refused to stop teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah" (Acts 5:42). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Lord moved forward. There was great boldness in preaching the Gospel. People were brought to the Saviour.
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5) - This is in relation to social concern. "Prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4) - This is not the whole service of the Lord. It lies at the heart of God's work, but there must also be ways of showing people that we care.
"Stephen spoke with the wisdom that the Spirit had given him" (Acts 6:7). This wisdom was grounded in the Scriptures (Acts 7), and it led to boldness (Acts 7:51). "His face looked like an angel's face" (Acts 6:15). "Look I see heaven opened and the same Man in the position of authority God has given Him ...Lord Jesus, welcome my spirit ... Lord, don't hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:56,59-60). "Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:55). What grace was given to Stephen! What glory is given to God!
In Acts 8:1,3, we read about Saul. This is the man who became Paul. When we read about Saul becoming Paul, we can only bow before God, and praise Him for His amazing grace - "To God be the glory! Great things He has done." In Acts 8:14,17, we read about Samaritans "accepting the Word of God" and "receiving the Holy Spirit." Our thoughts may turn to Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. Again, we praise God for His wonderful grace. May God help us to learn from the Samaritans - accepting the Word of God and receiving the Holy Spirit.
"The Good News about Jesus" (Acts 8:35), "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter ... His life on earth being short" (Acts 8:32-33) - Why is this Good News? How is this Good News? It's the meaning of His death that makes the story of His death Good News. "He was like a sheep that is silent ... He didn't open His mouth" (Acts 8:32). In these words, we catch a glimpse of the meaning of His death. He took the place of sinners. Why did He do this? - so that sinners might be forgiven. How does His death bring life to us? He bore our sins so that we might be set free from sin and its power over us. This salvation begins on earth. For the final fulfilment of God's purpose, we must look beyond this earthly life. We thank God that Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God ... takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
The conversion of Saul: What a turning-point this was - for the whole Church, and for the many people who would become believers through the ministry of this man, who was to become known as the Apostle Paul. From the very beginning of his new life, it was clear that the hand of the Lord was on Saul: "Saul spoke boldly with the power and authority of the Lord" (Acts 9:28). What blessing there was - "The number of people increased as people lived in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31).
What a transformation there was in Peter (Acts 9:32-43)! This is the same man who denied the Lord three times at the time of His crucifixion. Why is He so different now? - "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).
Cornelius has a vision (Acts 10:1-8). Peter has a vision (Acts 10:9-23). God was preparing Cornelius for Peter. He was preparing Peter for Cornelius. This was a real turning-point in the history of the early Church. The Gospel was received, for the first time, by Gentiles. This was a major step forward in the fulfilment of God's purpose that Christ be made known to all nations. Peter was playing a major role in carrying out God's plan - "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20).
"When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came to these people" (Acts 11:15). Human words, divine power: That's the way it was then. It is still that way today.
It seemed like Herod had the upper hand (Acts 12:1). Peter was in prison (Acts 12:5). By the end of Acts 12, Herod was dead, and Peter was preaching the Gospel and winning people for Christ (Acts 12:23-24). What a turnaround! What a God!
"Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13L9). Here, we have the explanation for the great change that took place in Saul's life. He didn't change himself. The Holy Spirit changed him.
"Brothers, if you have any words of encouragement for the people, feel free to speak" (Acts 13:25), "a man after My own heart will do everything I want him to do" (Acts 13:22), "the person you're looking for ... will come later" (Acts 13:25). Words of encouragement focus on Jesus, our Saviour. there is no-one like Him. He is more than " a man after God's own heart." He is our Saviour. None can compare with Him. The resurrection of Jesus - This was the heart of the apostles' preaching (Acts 13:30,34). Jesus has risen from the dead. Hallelujah! This is Good News. Believing the Good News, we are filled with "joy and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). The joy comes from the fact that the Lord has risen. The Holy Spirit's power is seen in the resurrection of Jesus.
The ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Iconium, Lystra and Antioch - "They reported everything God had done through them, especially that He has given people who were not Jewish the opportunity to believe" (Acts 14:27).
In Acts 15:1-21, we learn that free grace is also costly grace. God's salvation is His gift to us. Having received God's salvation, we are to walk in His way - the way of holiness. Teaching the Lord's Word and spreading the Good News (Acts 15:35) - Through this ministry, believers are encouraged and strengthened (Acts 15:32).
One door closes, and another door opens (Acts 16:9-10). Lydia - the Lord opened her heart, and she opened her home (Acts 16:14-15). The "evil spirit" recognized Paul - "These men are servants of the Most High God. They're telling you how to be saved" (Acts 16:16-17): this was Paul's great mission. When the question was asked, "What do I have to do to be saved?", he gave God's answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). "They met with the believers" and "encouraged them" (Acts 16:40). "He had discussions about the Scriptures with the synagogue members" (Acts 17:12). Here, we see twos sides of Paul's work - evangelism and encouragement.
These are still the heart of the work of God.
"There is another king, whose name is Jesus" (Acts 17:7). Jesus is more than just another king. He's the King of kings" (Revelation 19:16). When He returns, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:11).
In Berea, God was working mightily, drawing men and women to Himself (Acts 1710-12). There was opposition from "the Jews in Thessalonica", who went to Berea "to upset and confuse the people" (Acts 17:13). When God is at work, Satan will try to spoil God's work. Let us take our stand for God and against Satan. Let us be assured that, in Christ, we are on the victory side.
We hear the words of the song, "From a distance, God is watching us." Here, Paul tells us something else about God - "He is never far away from any of us" (Acts 17:27). Whatever else we may say about the greatness of God, we must also say this: How great is this: God is near to us.
"Paul devoted all his time to teaching the Word of God" (Acts 18:5). "Paul strengthened the faith of all the disciples" (Acts 18:32). The strength didn't come from Paul. It came from the Word of the Lord.
The ministry of Apollos paved the way for the ministry of Paul (Acts 18:24; Acts 19:1).
In Ephesus, God was doing great things through Paul, and Satan was doing all that he could to hinder the work of God.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" - This is what we see here: Eutychus falling asleep as he listens to the Word of God. Thank God - There is a greater Spirit than our own weak spirit. the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Praise God! Glory to Him!
Paul's message to the Ephesian elders: What a moving occasion this was! There was a real sense of the presence of God, as he gave to them his personal testimony. This is personal - but it doesn't draw attention away from the Lord to Paul. It directs attention away from Paul to the Lord.
As we read the story of Paul in Acts 21, there's a growing sense that this is more than the story of Paul. This is the story of God. It's God, working in Paul. It's God, working through Paul. In Acts 22, we have a great testimony from Paul. The Lord came to Him in power - and he was never the same again. The persecutor became the preacher.
From Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 23:11) for Christ - and not alone in this journey: "the Lord stood near Paul." What a difference this makes - "Don't lose your courage" (Acts 23:11). Human protection (Acts 23:23-24): There is more than that. There is divine protection. In Acts 24, Paul gives his testimony to Felix. He speaks with the power of God. In Acts 25 - 26, Paul stands before Festus and testifies to Agrippa. Again, he speaks with power - God's power. In Acts 27, we read about Paul continuing on his journey and being shipwrecked. "He spread the message about God's Kingdom and taught very boldly about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). Paul was faithful and fruitful in his day. May we be faithful and fruitful in our day.
"Good will and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be yours" (Romans 1:7). Here, there is an echo of the message of the angels at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:14).
"I long to see you to share a spiritual blessing with you so that you will be strengthened. What I mean is that we may be encouraged by each other's faith" (Romans 1:11-12). Paul encouraged them. They encouraged him.
In Romans 1:18-32, we have a strongly worded part of God's Word, which is unpopular in today's world. What right do we have to ignore what is said here? We say that we like Romans 1:16-17, and, then, we turn a blind eye to the verses that follow on from these great verses. Can we make any sense of this kind of selectivity, which chooses some verses for special attention and dismisses other verses as if they weren't even there? What we must say is this: "We have refused to use secret and shameful ways. We don't use tricks, and we don't distort God's Word" (2 Corinthians 4:2). That's what we don't do. what we do is this: "As God watches, we reveal the truth to everyone" (2 Corinthians 4:2).
"Don't you realize that it is God's kindness that is trying to lead you to Him and change the way you think and act?" (Romans 2:4). when it seems like God isn't there, we must remember this: He is in the background of our life. He has not abandoned His purpose of love. He loves us. In love, He is working for our good - to reach us and change us.
Each of us must choose how we are going to live. Will we stubborn and refuse to change the way we think and act (Romans 2:5)? or Will we listen to God's Word and do what it says (Romans 2:13)?
From conscience to Christ: Living with a good conscience is a good idea - as far as it goes. There is a problem with this. We cannot achieve a good conscience - not all the time. Sometimes, our conscience defends us. Sometimes, it accuses us (Roman 2:15). There is another message that comes to us, here, from Paul. His message is "Good News." He preaches "Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:16). In Christ, we have a Saviour, who took our sins upon Himself so that we might receive the forgiveness of all our sins. This is Good News!
Where does our "praise" - the praise that we seek - come from? Does it "come from God"or 2from people" (Romans 2:29)?
The Good News from God begins with bad news about ourselves. We need to be shown that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) before we can appreciate the Good News of salvation (Romans 3:24). "By grace you have been saved ... " (Ephesians 2:8-10) - This is what Paul is teaching us in Roman Romans 3:21-31).
Abraham had "faith" (Romans 4:3) - but this was not "something he did" (Romans 4:2). Faith is never understood as a work by which we earn God's favour. It is the way of receiving God's approval, but the real emphasis is not on ourselves but on the One in whom we trust - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
There's a great difference between a "gift" and "something that is earned" (Romans 4:4). Our faith receives God's gift. It doesn't earn God's reward.
"Faith" and "gift" belong together (Romans 4:15). Both faith and gift are contrasted with "law" (Romans 4:13-14).
Our faith is in "Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 4:24-25). The focus is not on our faith. It is on our Saviour.
God's love, Christ's death (Romans 5:8); God's glory, our eternal life (Romans 5:2,9-10) - This is the Gospel of God's salvation. The Gospel comes from God. The Gospel comes to us. His grace comes to us. The glory goes to Him.
Salvation has come to us "through the kindness of Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:15). There is only one Saviour - Jesus. There are not many saviours - each one saving himself of herself. Left to ourselves, we repeat the sinful and tragic story of Adam. Beyond the failure of Adam, there are "many failures" (Romans 5:16) - as each and every one of us chooses to walk in the way of Adam, going our own way rather than walking in God's way. We follow the pathway of the sinful creature rather than the holy God. Who can bring us back to God? - There is only One who can do this for us - "Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21).
The new birth and new life in Christ - This is the end of the old life. The old must die so that the new might come to life. From our viewpoint, there is a constant battle. From Christ's viewpoint, everything is seen in absolute terms - death to sin, life in Christ (Romans 6:10-11). We accept that there needs to be realism. Our redemption has a long way to go. We need more than realism. In Christ, we have full salvation. Let us keep on looking away from ourselves to our Saviour. and let the fullness of His salvation flow in us and out from us, and let all the glory be given to God.
The new life is to be lived. After speaking of God's gift to us - new life in Christ, Paul speaks about our responsibility to live the life we've been given: "Therefore, never let sin rule ... "(Romans 6:12). This new life is the beginning of "eternal life" (Romans 6:23).
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul continues to speak about the new life that we have received through faith in Christ. In Romans 7:7-12, Paul speaks about sin. We must never try to hide our sin or make excuses. We must confess our sin. Take it to Jesus. Let Him forgive our sin. That's why He died - for the forgiveness of our sins. In Romans 7:14-25, we see the contrast and conflict between God's salvation and our sinfulness. This continues throughout our earthly life - until our full and final deliverance.
Through faith in Christ, we are justified and sanctified. "There is no condemnation", and we have been given a "spiritual nature" (Romans 8:1,4). In Romans 8:5-9, Paul contrasts "the corrupt nature" and "the spiritual nature." The corrupt nature is ours. the spiritual nature is given to us by God. In Romans 8:10-17, the spiritual nature is summed up thus: it's "the Spirit" living in us. Our new life is life in the Spirit. We must never think of spirituality as if it is some kind of higher nature in us. It's the Spirit who has been given to us. In Romans 8:18-27, we read about suffering on earth, and we learn that this is not all that there is. God is leading us on to glory. "The One who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties" (Romans 8:37). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord is greater than all of them.
Our salvation comes from "God's mercy" (Romans 9:16). We were "not His people." Now, we are His people.We have come to know that He loves us. We have become His people (Romans 9:25-26). This is His doing. What a great God He is! He's the God of our salvation. All attempts to gain God's favour are doomed to failure (Romans 9:31-32). Salvation doesn't begin with "I." It begins with God. This is what Paul is saying when he speaks about "an approval based on faith" (Romans 9:30). Faith is the only appropriate response to grace. It's not something we have in ourselves. It's given to us by God. It's created by saving grace through the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In Romans 10:3, we see the contrast between our way of of obtaining God's approval and God's way of salvation. The first leads to failure. The second brings forgiveness. Faith comes ti us when the Gospel is brought to us (Romans 10:17). It's the Gospel that creates our faith. Jesus comes o us through the Gospel. He calls us to Himself.. He draws us to Himself. Our coming to Him in faith is only and always a response to His coming to us in love. In Romans 10:18-21, we learn that the Gospel of God's salvation reaches out beyond the Jews. It's for all nations. It's the grace of God. They weren't a nation. They didn't understand. They weren't looking for God. They weren't asking for Him. How did they find Him? It was by His revelation. His grace reached them.
In Romans 11:1-15, we learn that God's love is for all. There's not a competition between the Jews and the Gentiles. He loves both. In Romans 11:16-24, we learn that, in God's plan of salvation, there is no place for human pride. The Jews are not to despise the Gentiles. The Gentiles are not to despise the Jews. Both are to give all the glory to the Lord. "Glory belongs to Him forever" (Romans 11:36). When we consider the work of God in saving both Jews and Gentiles, we can only say this: "To God be the glory. Great things He has done ... "
There is, at the start of Romans 12, a pattern that is similar to the start of Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments). Before God says, "This is what you are to do", He says, "This is what I have done for you." Romans 12:1 speaks of God's mercy. Mercy - This is a one-word description of all the Gospel teaching that is set out in Romans 1 - 11. God has been merciful. Now, let us live for Him. The teaching concerning God's mercy is the foundation on which our life of faith is built. The transformation of our way of living begins with the transformation of our way of thinking. We receive the gospel teaching, and it changes us. Romans 12:3 speaks to us of the kindness of God. Romans 12:8 speaks to us of showing kindness to others. What we the "dark"have received, let us also give.
"Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good"(Romans 12:9). Love is not to be turned into a situation ethic. Love is to be practised alongside maintaining strong convictions regarding good and evil.
As I read, in Romans 13, Paul's words about "the government", I recall his experience of how he was protected by the law when he was sent from one Roman leader to another. The hand of the Lord was upon him - not just the hand of the law. Love sums up the Ten Commandment. It doesn't dispense with them. It doesn't mean that we now have a situation ethic, and we can set aside the Law of God. What it does mean is this: Our obedience to God's law is to be carried out in the spirit of love. It's not so much a legalistic way of living, in which the Law is the focus of our attention. We put Jesus at the centre of our life. We learn how much He loves us and He teaches us to love Him.Seeking to love the Lord, we see the Law of God through new eyes. It is no longer a taskmaster which batters us into unwilling submission. It is a guide that gives direction to our life of love for God and love for another. "It's time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark, and take up the weapons that belong to the light" (Romans 13:11-12). The call to "wake up" is based on the nearness of "salvation." We're not to hold on to the things that will have no place in the future which is coming - our eternal salvation. Preparing ourselves for His glory, we are to get rid of the things that hinder our spiritual progress towards our glorious, heavenly destination. God has given us His "weapons" - to arm us for our battle against the "dark" (Romans 13:12). It's better to "live in the light of day than to stumble around in the dark (Romans 13:13). We are walking in the light when we are looking to "the Lord Jesus Christ" and we're learning to "live" for Him and "live like" Him (Romans 13:14).
Have strong convictions about faith and life - "Anything that is not done in faith is sin" (Romans 14:23), but don't impose your opinions on other people - "Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don't get into an argument over differences of opinion" (Romans 14:1). What we may regard as weak may not be weak in the eyes of the Lord. Having strong views, while failing to recognize the differing views of others - Is this strong, or is there weakness in it? Does the ability to recognize the views of other people come from weakness or strength? There seems to be a strength, which combines holding our own view firmly and recognizing the right of other people to hold views than are different from our own - "All of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God. So let's stop criticizing each other" (Romans 14:12-13). We're not to give an account for other people. They must give account for themselves. As we seek to understand them, we will learn humility. We may not change our own view of things, but we will have learned to be more appreciative of those who disagree with us on one point or another. We will be open-minded without being empty-minded. We have reached conclusions of our own, but we have not adopted a know-it-all attitude, which conveys the impression that we're always right! We're to have faith in the Lord, but we're not to speak and act like we are God.
In Romans 15:1-3, we are called to care for one another because Christ cared for each and every one of us. In Romans 15:4-13, Paul speaks about Jews and Gentiles. He emphasizes that we are we are called by God to be united in Christ. In Romans 15:14-19, Paul speaks of his God-given ministry to reach out, with the Gospel, to the Gentiles. In Romans 15:20-33, we read about partnership in the Gospel. Paul has brought the Gospel of Christ to many people in many places. He goes to these people with the desire and prayer that they will come to Christ and enjoy "the full blessing of Christ" (Romans 15:29). In this work for the Lord, he faced opposition from "those ... who refuse to believe" (Romans 15:31). He asks for prayer that he will be "refreshed" with the "joy" of the Lord, and he prays that the Church at Rome will enjoy great blessing from the Lord: "May the God of peace be with you all" (Romans 15:32-33).
In Romans 16, there are many names. As we read these names, we are reminded that God knows each one of us by name. Each of us matters to Him.
1 Corinthians speaks "to people everywhere who call on the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2). In 1 Corinthians 1, our attention is drawn to Christ, He is mentioned in every one of the first ten verses of this chapter. The focus on Christ continues in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. He is much more important than the messengers who are sent to preach His Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we learn that the Gospel of Christ turns human wisdom upside down. Through the Gospel, we see things from God's point of view - not man's. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, we learn that all the grace comes from God, and all the glory goes to God.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we note the contrast between "persuasive intellectual arguments" and "spiritual power" (1 Corinthians 2:4). In 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, we read about a different kind of wisdom - the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, there's a contrast between "intellectual arguments" and "the Spirit's teachings" (1 Corinthians 2:13). In 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, we read about the difference the Spirit makes.
In 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, we are called to grow in Christ. When we are babes in Christ, we take our eyes off the Lord and pay too much attention to the preachers. We need to have our attention brought back to the Lord. He will start working in us so that we are changed by Him. May we learn to keep our spiritual focus on Him - and may we learn to give all the glory to Him. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, we learn that there is only one sure foundation for our faith and life - Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). In 1 Corinthians 3:16-23, we are reminded that, when we see things from God's point of view, everything is turned on its head.
In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Scriptures, the written Word of God - "you should learn from us not to go beyond what is written in Scripture." In 1 Corinthians 4:20, he emphasizes that "God's Kingdom is not just talk, it is power."
Even those who are "handed over to Satan" (1 Corinthians 5:5) are prayed for by Paul. His prayer for them is that they will be "saved on the Day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5). In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul teaches us that "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed" for us. We are called to celebrate His sacrifice for us - with "the bread of purity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). There is to be purity and truth in every part of our life - not just the appearance of purity and truth, when we come to the Lord's Table.
What we were before being saved by the Lord and what we are to become after receiving Christ as our Saviour - the two are to be very different (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We are not to doubt the power of God's grace to transform us - and we're not to abuse the grace of God bu continuing to live a sinful life, which brings dishonour to the Name of the Lord. Saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, let us walk with Him on His High Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8).
At the heart of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes these very important words - "I am showing you how to live a noble life of devotion to the Lord without being distracted by other things" (1 Corinthians 7:25).
"Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up. Those who think they know something still have a lot to learn" (1 Corinthians 8:1-2) - how much we love is more important than how much we know.
Winning people for Christ - this was the great goal of Paul's life (1 Corinthians 9:19).
In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we learn about the importance of learning from the written Word of God. If we are to stand firm in the faith, we need both the warning (1 Corinthians 10:12) and the promise (1 Corinthians 10:13). The warning exposes our weakness, and sends us to the Lord. When we come to the Lord, we find that He is waiting for us - waiting with His promise, waiting with His grace, waiting for us, waiting to be our God, waiting to lead us in the pathway of His victory, waiting for us to say, "To God be the glory!"
"Do everything to the glory of God ... I try to please everyone in every way" (1 Corinthians 10:31,33). Is Paul looking in two different directions at the same time? No! The glory of God comes first. What does he mean when he speaks about pleasing people? - "I don't think about what would be good for me, but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:33). People being saved, God being glorified - the two belong together. We are to seek both the salvation of sinners and the glory of God.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul emphasizes the importance of both the spiritual and the practical: the Lord's Supper is set within the context of Christian living.
The Spirit exalts the Saviour (1 Corinthians 12:3). Where the Spirit is at work, the Saviour is exalted.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we read about a love that is more than human love. This the love of God - the only love that continues forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Why did Paul write to the Corinthian Christians? This is what he tells us - "to help them grow, to encourage them, and to comfort them" (1 Corinthians 14:3). If believers are to grow in Christ, the message of Christ must be preached clearly. "So that you may help the Church grow" (1 Corinthians 14:12) - This is to be our aim in preaching God's Word. How can our preaching lead to spiritual growth? It needs to be clear - "if the trumpet doesn't sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). What is spiritual growth? In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul says this - "When it comes to evil, be like babies, but think like mature people." We don't need to know a lot about evil. we need to know that it is evil, and we need to see it as something to be avoided. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul emphasizes that spiritual growth is more than a private matter between each individual and God. We are to help each other to grow - "Everything must be done so that the church may be built up."
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul places great emphasis on Christ's death (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2). In 1 Corinthians 15, he places great emphasis on Christ's resurrection. Paul emphasizes both - the message of Christ's cross and the power of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Paul gives his own testimony - "He also appeared to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8).
First, there were the appearances of the risen Lord, described for us in the Gospels.
Second, there was an appearance of the risen Christ, which isn't described in any of the Gospels - "After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Third, there is Paul's encounter with the risen Lord. This was later on - "last of all", (1 Corinthians 15:8), .
When Paul uses the phrase, "last of all" to describe his own encounter with the risen Lord, he speaks with humility. Paul had missed the opportunity to become a believer while Christ was on earth. The other appearances came at the right time - the resurrection time. They are to be given a higher priority than Paul's encounter with the risen Lord. This may be reading too much into the phrase, "last of all", but it may also be suggested by the phrase, "born later than expected." It's possible that Saul of Tarsus knew nothing of the Lord while He was on earth. We don't know. It could be that Paul did know of Jesus, but he didn't respond to Christ's call until he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Paul had not been one of the original twelve disciples. He had not been with Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry. In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul says this, "I'm the least of the apostles. I'm not even fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted God's Church." Is Paul saying, "I had my chance, earlier on, during the Lord's earthly ministry, but I didn't take it. How great it is that the Lord gave me a second chance"? We don't know. Saul of Tarsus may have been among the crowds who heard Jesus teach. He may have never even heard of Jesus until the day that Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7). Whether or not Saul of Tarsus (the old man) had any knowledge of the earthly Jesus, we do know this: Paul the Apostle (the new man) was deeply aware of the grace of God, and he was profoundly grateful to the Lord.
From the human viewpoint, resurrection is impossible. What man regards as impossible, God has done - "now Christ has come back from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Our faith, the world tells us, is based on an illusion. God's Word says that it is based on the great divine fact - God has raised His Son from the dead. Thank God - our faith is built on a firm foundation - Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
We do not only look back. We look forward. We look back to Christ's resurrection. We look forward to His return, His reign and our redemption. Our redemption begins here-and-now. It results in the renewal of our life. The Lord is changing us as we learn to live in the light of eternity. He's making us more holy, more like Himself, the holy God.
The life that comes to us from heaven, the life that we go to in heaven, is so much better than greater than the the life that we have here on earth. God is calling us upward. We're heading for heaven. He's calling us on to glory. We're travelling to the glory land. In 1 Corinthians 15, we catch a glimpse of the glory of heaven. It's greater than we can put into words. It's greater than we can imagine. This vision of God's heavenly and eternal glory changes us here-and -now. It assures us that we have the victory in Christ. It makes our want to build our faith on Christ and live as His faithful servants (1 Corinthians 15:58).
"I have a great opportunity to do effective work, although there are many people who oppose me" (1 Corinthians16:9). Where there is opportunity, there will also be opposition. We shouldn't disregard the opposition, as if it wasn't even there. We should be aware of the opposition, so that we can take our stand against it, and for the Lord. We shall not be overcome by the opposition.
Receiving and giving - We receive from God and we give to others (2 Corinthians 1:4); suffering and learning to trust God (2 Corinthians 1:9). God calls us to live with God-centred holiness and sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12). This kind of life is based on the message which is true - "God's Son, Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:17-18). We live this life in the power of "the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 1:22).
"As Christ's spokesmen and in God's presence, we speak the pure message that comes from God" (2 Corinthians 2:17).
"We are being changed into His image with ever0increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
"Our message is not about ourselves. It is about Jesus Christ as the Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, we have the eternal perspective. Life on this earth is what we have here-and-now, but it's not all that we will have. We're looking forward to something more than this, something very much more wonderful than this, something more enduring - eternal life.
God has restored our relationship with Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). He has made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:19). What we were has been placed firmly in the past. With Christ, we step out into a new future. Our sins have been forgiven, and we have received new life.
"Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we do not act now, we may never act. Tomorrow may never come. There may never again be such a real opportunity to come to Christ. Miss this opportunity, and there may never be another. Do we ever really have anything else but now? The past has gone. The future is not yet. Now can be the day of salvation, but it can also be a day of judgment, a day when we move further away from the Lord, further on down a road that will take us far from Him. May God help us to walk with Him day-by-day, in faith, on the pathway of His salvation.
"Our lives demonstrate that we are God's servants" (2 Corinthians 6:4). This is more than paying lip-service to the Lord. We read 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 - "as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger", and we ask, "Where does this fit into prosperity theology? It doesn't. God's people have a hard time of it. What makes the difference is the presence of God - "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left" (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). It's God who turns our times into His times of blessing. This doesn't mean that we won't suffer. It means that, when we suffer, God will be there with us to touch our lives with His blessing. What's happening to us may be the last thing we want to be happening to us- and it may that we can do nothing to change it, but God is there with us, every step of the way. We need to learn to see life on two levels - "we're beggars although we make many people spiritually rich ... we have nothing although we possess everything" (2 Corinthians 6:10). What we see, on the surface, is not the full story. when God is at work, there's something else happening. Our God is leading us closer to Himself - even when our circumstances are threatening to tear us away from Him.
"We have a place for you in our hearts ... Make a place for us in your hearts too" (2 Corinthians 6:11,13). True ministry comes from the heart, and it reaches the hearts.
God has given us great "promises." What is to be our response to His promises? - "We need to cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, and live a holy life in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). "Open your hearts to us (2 Corinthians 7:2). We're to open our hearts to one another. "You are in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 7:3). The Lord has opened His heart to us. Touched by His heart of love, we are to love one another. There is human comfort, and there is divine comfort - "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him" (2 Corinthians 7:6-7). While we value the human comfort, we must never lose sight of the divine comfort: God is at work.
"They gave themselves to the Lord and to us" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Personal is not private. We give ourselves to the Lord. This is personal commitment. We don't keep ourselves to ourselves. We give ourselves to others.
"We intend to to do what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of people" (2 Corinthians 8:21). We're not to be 'so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly use.' Our attitude towards the Lord is to express itself in our attitude and actions towards other people.
"A demonstration of your love" (2 Corinthians 8:24). Love is more than something we talk about. Show love. Don't just speak about it.
"When you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things" (2 Corinthians 9:8). "In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval" (2 Corinthians 9:10). Spiritual warfare, spiritual weapons and a spiritual outcome (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) - We must keep on choosing the way of obedience, not the way of disobedience.
Boast of what the Lord has done and get his recommendation (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).
"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). We're not wrestling against flesh and blood. Satan is our enemy - but there's something we must never forget: Jesus is our Saviour, and he has won the victory over Satan. He won the victory for us. May god help us to take our stand against Satan, to take our stand upon the victory of Christ over Satan.
We are "weak" (2 Corinthians 11:30). The Lord is strong. This is something we must never forget.
"My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:8) - What a promise from the Lord! Satan is doing all that he can to pull us away from the Lord. God says, "My grace is sufficient for you."
We are to be changed in the way we think and live (2 Corinthians 12:11-21).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... " (2 Corinthians 13:13). This is more than 'the end' of the service. It points us to a salvation that will never end.
Galatians 1:1-5 - The call came from the Lord. He gives us salvation. He change us. All glory to Him. Galatians 1:6-10 - When "good news" is not GOOD NEWS.
Galatians 1:11-24 - Divine revelation - This is where Paul, the man 'with a message and a mission, came from.
Galatians 2:1-10 - Why did Paul take such a clear stand on the gospel of grace - "so that the truth of the gospel would always be yours" (Galatians 2:4). Galatians 2:11-21 - At the heart of the Christian faith as an experienced faith, there is this: "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). This is not my Christian life - a life that I live and, then, call it my Christian life, This is Christ, living in me. This is the Christian life. This is Christ, living out his life in and through my life.
Galatians 3:1-5 The teaching of Paul may be summed up in the words of Ephesians 2:8-10 - "By grace, through faith, for good works." Galatians 3:6-9 - "Scripture announced the Good News to Abraham ahead of time" (Galatians 3:8). We should never make too much of the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's perfectly clear that there are differences, but there is Good News in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's the same God. In the Old Testament, he's promising that Christ will come. In the New Testament, he's declaring that Christ has come.
Galatians 3:10-14 - The contrast between salvation by works (this never works!) and salvation by grace through faith (this does work - it's the work of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)
Galatians 3:15-18 - Looking beyond Abraham to Christ: When we read the Old Testament, we must always ask the question - How does this lead me to Jesus, my Saviour? Asking this question will bring the Old Testament to life.
Galatians 3:19-29 - The Old Testament prepared the way for the coming of Christ. We read of the things that happened in Old Testament times, and we look on to Jesus. In the Old Testament, we see God's work of preparation - preparing the way for his Son.
"When the right time came, God sent his Son into the world" (Galatians 4:4). Everything, in the Old Testament, was moving towards "the right time" - the time of fulfilment, the time when the time of prophecies would be fulfilled, the time of salvation. God gave his promise. God fulfilled his promise. This is the great theme of the gospel, as it looks back over all that went before the coming of Christ. We kook back, and we say, "What God has promised, God has given.
Galatians 5 - The life of works and the flesh is contrasted with the life of faith and the Spirit. Why go back to the life from which we have been set free? There's a better way - the way of Christ, our Saviour.
"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). We move on from 'God sent His Son' (Galatians 4:4) to the Son of God giving himself for us (Galatians 6:14). The gospel tells us that the Saviour came to this world, and it tells us why He came to this earth. Why should we glory in Jesus, our great Saviour? - It's because he has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. There is no other way of salvation. We must never settle for anything less than Jesus. We look at what he has done for us, and we say, "Glory to God!" Christ crucified - This is to be the centre of our life, the foundation on which we build.
"Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer" (Ephesians 1:3). This is wonderful!
Ephesians 1:4-6 - When we think of God's eternal love and eternal salvation, we give all the praise and all the glory to him.
"Through the blood of his Son" (Ephesians 1:7) ... "praise Him and give him glory" (Ephesians 1:12). "Through the blood of his Son" - This is why we "praise him and give him glory." Our salvation does not come from ourselves. It's not something that we achieve. It's something that we receive.
The Holy Spirit - God's guarantee of eternal glory (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Paul's prayer for the Ephesians - and for us (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Ephesians 2:1-10 - What a great statement of the gospel this is! It shows us what we have been saved from - sin; who we are saved by - the God of grace; how we are saved - through faith; and what we are saved for - good works (Ephesians 2:10) and the world to come (Ephesians 2:7).
"But now, through Christ Jesus, you, who were far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13) - This is the gospel of salvation. It fills our hearts with praise to God.
The "mystery" has been "revealed" (Ephesians 3:6). We affirm divine revelation, while recognizing that mystery remains.
"We can go to God with bold confidence through faith in Christ" (Ephesians 3:12).
Great love from God (Ephesians 3:18), great glory to God (Ephesians 3:20-21)
" ... live the kind of life that proves that God has called you" (Ephesians 4:1) - This life is the life "that the Spirit gives" (Ephesians 4:3).
"As each and every part does its job, Christ makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
"Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ" (Ephesians 4:32).
"Live in Christ as Christ also loved us" (Ephesians 5:2).
What a contrast there is between contemporary society and biblical living. Living according to God's Word will always bring us into conflict with the world, which goes its own way rather than the Lord's way.
"Once you lived in the dark, but now the Lord has filled you with light" (Ephesians 5:8). We are to live the new life, and not to return to the old life.
"Don't live like foolish people, but understand what the Lord wants" (Ephesians 5:16). "Wild living" must be left in our past, as we press on to a life that is "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) - a life of worship, thanksgiving and fellowship (Ephesians 5:19-21).
Ephesians 5:22-33 - Note how often Christ is mentioned. Everything is based on him.
"because you are Christians" (Ephesians 6:1); "Christian discipline and instruction" (Ephesians 6:4)
"Slaves ... Be as sincere as you are when you obey Christ ... obey like slaves who belong to Christ, who have a deep desire to do what God wants them to do" (Ephesians 6:5-6).
"Receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty armour that God supplies ... take up all the armour that God supplies" (Ephesians 6:10-11,13). The victory comes to us because the strength comes from God.
Ephesians 6:14-17 - What the world cannot give to us, God gives to us. Armed with his armour, we are "more than conquerors through his love" (Romans 8:37). We need not be defeated. We walk in the victory in the Lord.
"Pray in the Spirit ... pray that God will give me the right words to say ... pray that I speak about this Good News as boldly as I have to" (Ephesians 6:18-20).
Ephesians 6:21-22 - Thank God for his faithful servants. They may not be well known. That doesn't matter. What matters is doing what the Lord gives them to do.
It's not about getting a name for ourselves. It's about exalting the name of "God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 6:23).
Joy (Philippians 1:4) - This is more than the joy that comes from recalling happy memories. This joy comes from the Lord, who was in those happy memories.
The promise is given in Philippians 1:6, but there is also a command - keep on growing (Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18).
"in prison" (Philippians 1:13-14,17), "set free" (Philippians 1:19)
Great blessing here on earth, greater blessing in heaven (Philippians 1:23)
Believing in Christ and suffering for Him (Philippians 1:29)
If our life is to be changed, we must keep our focus of attention on Christ (Philippians 2:1-5).
A tremendous revelation of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord (Philippians 2:6-11)
Salvation is given to us by God. He is at work in us, but it has to be worked out by us (Philippians 2:12-13).
"You will shine among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life" (Philippians 2:16).
"Everyone else looks after his own interests, not after those of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:21). We're not to be like "everyone else." "Epaphroditus risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ in order to make up for the help you couldn't give me" (Philippians 2:25). "For the work of Christ" - we're to be like Epaphroditus.
"Be joyful in the Lord" (Philippians 3:1) - This is what Paul returns to in Philippians 4:4.
"Beware of dogs" (Philippians 3:2) - those who will take our joy away from us. They will lead us away from faith and obedience.
It's better to have Christ than to have everything else, and not have him (Philippians 3:3-11).
A call to press on to spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:12-16)
"We, however, are citizens of heaven. we look forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, coming from heaven as our Saviour. through his power to bring everything under his authority, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his glorified body" (Philippians 3:20-21).
The Lord is seeking to produce, in us, his love, his joy and his peace (Philippians 4:2,4,7).
Philippians 4:8-9 - This is a description of Jesus. It's a call to follow him.
"I know how to live in poverty or prosperity ... " (Philippians 4:12).
Christ is the true source of our strength. Nevertheless, we are helped by others (Philippians (Philippians 4:13-14).
"In a glorious way, through Christ Jesus, God richly fills our every need" (Philippians 4:19), and we say, "Glory belongs to our God and Father forever" (Philippians 4:20). Glory comes from God. Glory goes to God.
"Greet everyone who believes in Christ" (Philippians 4:21). "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (Philippians 4:24). Here, we read of both grace and faith. First, Paul speaks of faith, but the final thought he leaves us with is this - "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... "
"God's holy and faithful people ... who are united with Christ" (Colossians 1:2). It's from Christ that our holiness and faithfulness comes.
Before Paul asks, he gives thanks (Colossians 1:3-4) - asking and thanking (Colossians 1:11-12)
"The hope that is kept safe for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:5; see also 1 Peter 1:5); "the good news which is the message of truth" (Colossians 1:5; see also 1 Peter 1:22,25); this good new is producing results (Colossians 1:6-8; see also Isaiah 55:11)
God's salvation: it's all in Christ. Over and over again, this is emphasized in Colossians 1:13-29. "Our sins are forgiven" (Colossians 1:14) - This is God's way of dealing with our guilty past. "Christ living in you" (Colossians 1:27) - This is God's way of overcoming our present weakness."Giving you the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) - This is God's way of providing for our eternal future. All of this comes to us through faith in Christ (Colossians 1:23).
Pressing on to maturity (Colossians 2:6-7); complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10); Christ at the centre (Colossians 2:16-23)
A call for Godly living, Christlike living, Spirit-filled living (Colossians 3:1-17) - We are to be both "holy" (Colossians 3:12) and "loving" (Colossians 3:14).
Colossians 3:18-4:1 - The Word of God is to be applied to our lives. God has something to say to every one of us. His Word helps us to understand our situation in life. It helps us to live our life in a way that is appropriate for each stage in life and every situation in life.
When you pray, remember to say, "Thank you, Lord" (Colossians 4:2).
Opportunities for speaking the Word of the Lord (Colossians 4:3) and opportunities which arise from living for Christ (Colossians 4:5-6)
Tychicus and Onesimus (Colossians 4:7-9) - We need more people like them.
Colossians 4:10-14 - We read on down, through the list of names, and, again, we note the spiritual qualities of those who are mentioned by Paul: especially "Jesus, called Justus" - working for God's kingdom and providing comfort" (Colossians 4:11) - and Epaphras - praying intensely for growth into spiritual maturity and confidence in God's leading (Colossians 4:12).
In Colossians 4:15-16, we read about the church at Laodicea. In Revelation 3:14-22, we read more about what the Lord has to say to this church.
"Tell Archippus to complete all the work that he started as the Lord's servant" (Colossians 4:17). This is important. Starting well is good, but it's so important that we don't stop there. We are to keep on going, getting stronger in the service of the Lord.
"Remember that I'm a prisoner. God's grace be with you" (Colossians 4:18). Even in difficult times, God's grace is there for us, giving us the strength to say, 'This is the will of the Lord for me.'
"The good news comes to us not only with words but also with power" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where does this power come from? What is this power? It comes from God. It's the power of "the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). "You welcomed God's Word with the kind of joy that the Holy Spirit gives" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). From the power of the Holy Spirit comes the joy of the Holy Spirit. This is not a 'joy' that the world gives. It's the joy of the Lord. His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy is more than a passing emotion. It gives us the strength to "turn away from false gods to serve the real, living God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
"We don't try to please people but God" (1 Thessalonians 2:4). "You know very well that we treated each of you the way a father that treats his children" (1 Thessalonians 2:11). We must seek to please God,our heavenly Father, and we must seek to show his love to his children. How do we combine the two - pleasing God and showing his love to his people? "We comforted you and encouraged you. Yet, we insisted that you should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). His love reaches out, through us, to bring comfort and encouragement. His love doesn't leave us as it finds us. His love is always seeking to change our way of living, to make our way of living more pleasing to God. In love, God calls us to himself, and he sends us out to live for his glory.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, we read about the preaching of the apostles. It was more than the words of men. It was the Word of God. "This Word is at work in you believers." Our faith comes from God's Word. It's his Word that creates our faith.
Satan may make life hard for us, but he can't take from us our hope, our joy, our prize and our glory (1 Thessalonians 2:18-20).
We read about Timothy in 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3,5. At best, Paul and Timothy are faithful servants, We look beyond them to the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
God wants us to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7). We're not called to do this in our own strength. God gives us his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8). We are called to love one another. How do we learn to do this? We learn this from the Lord. He teaches us (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
Paul speaks of the return of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He comes"from heaven" to take us to be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). These are words that bring great comfort to us (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
We look back to the death of Jesus, our Saviour (1 Thessalonians 5:10). We look forward to the return of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12), Here and now, we must live the life of a believer (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22). We must pray for the Lord's blessing (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Without his blessing, we can do nothing that will bring glory to him.
What a contrast there is between God's salvation and his judgment. In 2 Thessalonians 1, we read about the glory of his salvation and the gloom of his judgment. Because of our sin, God's judgment is upon us. Thanks God - his Son, Jesus, our Saviour, is greater than our sin.
Sin will have its day, but, after that, there will be the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:3,8).
God, our Father, loves us. In his kindness, he has given us "everlasting encouragement and good hope" (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Why has he done this? It's his way of giving us encouragement and strength "to do and say everything that is good" (2 Thessalonians 2:17). All of these blessings come to us through "our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
"The Lord is faithful, and will strengthen you and protect you against the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3). This verse brings to mind the words Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is a great promise of God, a promise upon which we must take our stand - for God and against Satan.
"We lived a disciplined life among you" (2 Thessalonians 3:7). "Brothers and sisters, we can't allow ourselves to get tired of doing what is right" (2 Thessalonians 3:13). "May the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in every way" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
The law shows us our sin. It's the gospel that brings salvation to us (1 Timothy 1:8-11). In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul gives his testimony. He gives all the glory to God. At the heart of his message is this: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).
At the heart of the life of faith, there is to be prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-3,8).
"I want you to know how people, who are members of God's family, must live. God's family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15 How we live and what we believe are vitally connected.
We must be on our guard against those who teach false ideas about God. They lay the law upon us and know nothing of the love of God (1 Timothy 4:3). We must not listen to godless myths. The way we are to go is the way of godly living (1 Timothy 4:7). Our way of life is not to be shaped by ideas that are of this world only. We are to look beyond this world, to "the world to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Living a godly life isn't easy - "we work hard and struggle to live a godly life." This godly life emerges from our faith - "our confidence in the living God" (1 Timothy 4:18). Teaching and living are to go hand in hand (1 Timothy 4:12-13). What we teach and how we live - both are important.
Caring about people (1 Timothy 5:1-6:2): This is the way of glorifying God. How can we glorify the Lord if we don't care about his people?
Contentment (1 Timothy 6:6): Trying to get rich can lead to "a lot of grief" (1 Timothy 6:10). We find that the things of this world don't satisfy. Why? - Because we were created for something more than this world. We were created by God and for God.
God calls us to live "a godly life", which leads on to "everlasting life" (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
"The riches of this world" are not as important as many people think (1 Timothy 6:17). There is a better way of living - living for the Lord while we're on earth and looking forward to living with him when he calls us into his eternal kingdom of perfect love (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
We are to "guard the gospel" against "false knowledge" (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Our gospel testimony is to be given in the face of the challenge set for us by those who have abandoned and opposed the faith that is centred on Christ.
Here, on earth, we are learning to live the "life" of heaven (2 Timothy 1:1). At the heart of this life, there is prayer (2 Timothy 1:3). In our life, on earth, there will be "tears", but there will also be "joy" (2 Timothy 1:4).
"Fan into flame the gift of God" (2 Timothy 1:6) - see also Exodus 3 (the burning bush) and Acts 2 (the tongues of fire). Where does the burning flame come from? It does not come from the spirit of man. It comes from "the Spirit" of God (2 Timothy1:7). May there be less of the cowardly spirit, and more of the Spirit of power, love and good judgment.
By the "grace" of God, we have been "saved and called to a holy life" (2 Timothy 1:9). The Lord is leading us on to eternal life (2 Timothy 1:10). This eternal life comes to us from his eternal love (2 Timothy 1:9).
"I know whom I have believed ... he is able" (2 Timothy 1:12). If, by the grace of God, we are to keep on going in the way of faith, we need both sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
We are known to the Lord by name (2 Timothy 1:15-18).
"My child, find your strength in the kindness of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). We're called to be "good soldiers of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3). We are ti "always think about Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:8). Everything is centred upon Jesus Christ. When we take our eyes off him, we lose our way. When we keep our eyes on him, we will be confident of this - God is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). How do we keep our eyes on Jesus? "Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who is not ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly" (2 Timothy 2:15). When we look to the Lord, He speaks to us of his saving grace and his call to holiness: "The Lord knows those who belong to him. Whoever worships the Lord must give up doing wrong" (2 Timothy 2:19).
There's a great contrast between those who love the Lord and those who don't love him. The way of love for the Lord will never be popular in this world (2 Timothy 3:12). How are we to live a godly life? We need to build our life on "the holy scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). Why are the Holy Scriptures so important? We must answer this question in two ways- their purpose and their origin. They point us to Christ (2 Timothy 3:15), and they have come to us from God (2 Timothy 3:16).
"Christ Jesus will come to rule the world" (2 Timothy 4:1). He came as Saviour (John 3:17). He will come as King. "Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right" (2 Timothy 4:2). "Point out errors, warn people and encourage them" (2 Timothy 4:2). This is never going to be easy. "Be very patient when you teach" (2 Timothy 4:2). We need to be aware that we can't do everything all at once.
What people want to hear and what they need to hear are not the same thing. There will be times when we must choose to say what God wants us to say, even when we know that this is not what the people will want to hear.
"You must keep a clean head in everything" (2 Timothy 4:5). Don't be carried along by feelings. When suffering comes, look beyond it. Recognize that it's part of being the Lord's servant in a world that rebels against his word. "Devote yourself completely to your work" (2 Timothy 4:5). There must be no half-heartedness.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, we read about the fight and the race, the faith and the prize.
Paul looks beyond all the troubles of this earthly world. He looks on to God's "heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18). He looks forward, in faith, and he says, "Glory belongs to the Lord forever" (2 Timothy 4:18).
Paul ends 2 Timothy 4:18 with the word, "Amen", but this is not his final word. He still has more to say.
sends greetings to some people. He names them. People are important to Paul. After this, we have his last word to Timothy and the other believers - "The Lord be with you. His grace be with all of you" (2 Timothy 4:22). What a great word of encouragement!
"Tell the believers to live the kind of life that goes along with accurate teaching" (Titus 2:1) - "good character" and "well-grounded in faith" (Titus 2:2).
"Then no one can speak evil of God's Word" (Titus 2:5) - How we live affects how other people will speak of God's Word. We must seek to live in a way that will bring honour - not dishonour - to the Lord - "doing good things" and "speaking an accurate message" (Titus 2:7-8), "then those who oppose us will be ashamed because they cannot say anything bad about us" (Titus 2:8).
In Titus 2:9-10, we see, again, the connection between how we live and what we teach.
Believing the gospel is to change our way of living (Titus 2:11-12).
The gospel gives hope for the future and it changes us in the present. In Titus 2:15, we are reminded that we, who believe, are to be corrected, so that we learn to live God's way rather than our own way.
In Titus 3:8, Paul re-emphasizes the connection between believing and living.
"False doctrine" is condemned by the "actions" it produces (Titus 3:10-11).
In Titus 3:12-15, Paul continues to emphasize the importance of setting a good example and living a productive life.
"An appeal on the basis of love" (Philemon 9), "Out of your own free will without being forced to do it" (Philemon 14) - In these two phrases, we have the heart of the way in which the gospel comes to us and draws out our response. Love comes to us. Love reaches us. Love changes us. Love calls forth our response. This is because love touches our hearts. It does not leave us the way it found us. It makes us new men and women, men and women in Christ. Philemon 25 highlights the great theme of the gospel - "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The prophets spoke the Word of God. The Son is the Word of God. The Son is not only greater than the prophets. He's greater than the angels (Hebrews 1:4-14). Angels "are spirits sent to serve those who are going to receive salvation" (Hebrews 1:14),Today, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and apostles. We are to serve those who are going to receive salvation. This was true of Jesus. He came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). There's something different about Jesus. We are sinners who belong to the company of those who receive salvation. He does not receive salvation. He gives salvation.
Jesus came from being higher than the angels to being "a little lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9). This is what the apostle John speaks about when he describes Jesus as "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14). Jesus was "the Word" (John 1:1). He is higher than the angels. He was "made flesh." He has become a little lower than the angels. Why did Jesus come to earth? "Through God's kindness he died on behalf of everyone" (Hebrews 2:9). Jesus came to die. There is only one way in which we, sinners, can "escape punishment" (Hebrews 2:3) from the God of perfect holiness. This way of salvation comes to us through Jesus who has taken upon himself our punishment (2 Corinthians 5:21). The purpose of Jesus' death is more than the forgiveness of our sins. There is also this - "bringing many sons and daughters to glory" (Hebrews 2:10). "Jesus makes people holy" (Hebrews 2:11). Between the forgiveness of our sins and our entrance into God's eternal kingdom, there is the life of holiness. This is not something that we can achieve in our own strength. It is "Jesus who makes us holy." He reproduces in us his holiness. Our life of holiness, here on earth, is always less than it should be, but our life, here on earth, is not the end. Jesus leads us on to perfect holiness in God's eternal kingdom. With Jesus as our Saviour, we need not fear death. He has "destroyed the one who had power over death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Beyond death, there will be the completion of our salvation. While we are here on earth, there is the beginning of our salvation. Having received "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 2:17; Romans 5:1), we also receive "help" from him "when we are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).
"Look carefully at Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus is superior to Moses. "Moses was a faithful servant" (Hebrews 3:5). "Christ is a faithful son" (Hebrews 3:6). He is more than a faithful son. He is "the one and only Son" (John 3:16). There is no-one else like Jesus. We become God's sons and daughters through Jesus, but he remains the one and only Son. We are God's children by adoption. He has chosen us to belong to him. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Our adoption is in him. We are chosen in him. This is not our own doing. It is his doing. To him be all the glory!
In Hebrews 3:7-19, we read about the urgency of responding to the word of God. We must not turn away from the Lord. We must not rebel against him. We must turn to him and be renewed by him. God has a better way for us. he is the God of redemption. He is leading us beyond "the desert" (Hebrews 3:17). He is leading us on to "his place of rest" (Hebrews 3:18). For us, his place of rest is more than a place, here on earth. It is full salvation. It is the completion of our salvation. It is being with him forevermore. Is there anything more wonderful than this? It is there waiting for us, but we must make sure that we do not miss out on this blessing.
Beyond the shifting sand of the wilderness, there is "the place of rest" (Hebrews 4:1). We rest on the Lord Jesus, the rock of our salvation, the solid rock upon which our faith is built. Along with the promise concerning the place of rest, there is the warning - "The message didn't help those who heard it in the past because they didn't believe" (Hebrews 4:2). If we are to receive salvation, we must believe in the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ - "We who believe are entering that place of rest" (Hebrews 4:3). We must not ignore the word of warning - "Those who heard the good news in the past did not enter God's place of rest because they did not obey God" (Hebrews 4:6). When we hear the gospel message - "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31), we must obey this call to faith.The obedience, which follows on from this faith in Christ, must always be the obedience of faith. When God's word comes to us, it is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12). It has the power to change us. It makes new men and women in Christ. When we hear his word, we must not try to "hide from God" (Hebrews 4:13). We cannot do this. "We must answer to him", opening our hearts and lives to him. If we don;t do this, while we are here on earth, we will find that, when we meet him as our judge, "everything will be uncovered and exposed for him to see" (Hebrews 4:13).
Jesus is our great high priest (Hebrews 4:14). He is different from the Old Testament priests. They had sinned (Hebrews 5:3). He has not sinned (Hebrews 4:15). The honour of being the great high priest was given to Jesus by God, his Father (Hebrew 5:4-5). In Hebrews 5:6,10, Jesus is compared to Melchizedek. Hebrews has more to say about Jesus and Melchizedek. The key point is that Jesus is "a priest forever" (Hebrews 5:6). Jesus, the perfect Son of God, "learned obedience through his sufferings" (Hebrews 5:8). He entered into the full experience of obedience by submitting himself to the Father's will. The way of suffering, for Jesus, is "the source of salvation for everyone who obeys him" (Hebrews 5:9).
Immediately after mentioning Melchizedek, the writer says, "We have a lot to explain about this. But since you have become too lazy to pay attention, explaining it to you is hard" (Hebrews 5:11). He tells his readers, that "by now", they should be farther on the pathway to maturity (Hebrews 5:12). When he is speaking about maturity, he is not speaking only of understanding with the mind. He is speaking of "the experience" which comes to us when our "minds are trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14). Spiritual maturity is more than knowing a lot. It's about what we know changing how we live. In Hebrews 6:1, the writer insists that it's time to move on to deeper teaching. Once again, in his way of speaking about spiritual maturity, he emphasizes that spiritual growth involves more than understanding with the mind. We receive "God's "light", "the heavenly gift." We "share in the Holy Spirit." We "experience the goodness of God's word and the powers of the world to come" (Hebrews 6:4-5). Despite all of this, some "desert Christ" and bring themselves under God's judgment (Hebrews 6:6-8). Following these strong words of warning, he says, "Dear friends, even though we say these things, we are still convinced that better things are in store for you and they will save you" (Hebrews 6:9). He is not, however, encouraging complacency. In Hebrews 6:10, he speaks of the change in his readers' way of living. In Hebrews 6:11-12, he emphasizes that they must keep on going in this way of living for the Lord.
The writer then returns to the question of Jesus and Melchizedek. How is Jesus like Melchizedek? He begins with Abraham - "God made a promise to Abraham" (Hebrews 6:13) - before turning his attention to Melchizedek in Hebrews 6:20.While he speaks of Abraham and Melchizedek, his chief purpose is to point beyond them to Jesus, our Saviour. From "God made a promise to Abraham" (Hebrews 6:13), the writer moves on to speak of Jesus - "a sure and strong anchor for our lives" (Hebrews 6:19). What does he tell us about Melchizedek? What does this teach us about Jesus? He says that Melchizedek's name means "king of righteousness", and his title, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Jesus is the King of righteousness and the King of peace. The next thing the writer tells us about Melchizedek is important. "No one knows anything about Melchizedek's father, mother or ancestors. No one knows when he was born or when he died" (Hebrews 7:3). Following on from this, he says, "Like the Son of God, Melchizedek continues to be a priest forever" (Hebrews 7:3). In Hebrews 7:4, he write, "You can see how important Melchizedek was." What he really means is this: I want you to see how important Jesus is. In Hebrews 7:6, he points out the Melchizedek blessed Abraham, who had God's promise." Commenting on this, he says, "No one can deny that the more important person blesses the less important person" (Hebrews 7:7). Melchizedek was more important than Abraham. Jesus was more important than Abraham. Abraham received the promise. Jesus fulfilled the promise. What are we to think about Melchizedek? Was it true that no one knew anything about his birth or death? If, going beyond people knowing about him, we ask the questions, Was he born? and Did he die?, we may ask another question, Was this Jesus appearing to Abraham under the name, Melchizedek? Certainly, when we read that "priests" die and Melchizedek "lives" (Hebrews 7:8), we are coming very close to saying that this was an appearance of the eternal Son of God to Abraham. Jesus is described in terms of "a life that cannot be destroyed" - "a priest forever" (Hebrews 7:16-17). This quality of Jesus' priesthood - "forever" - is compared to Melchizedek - "you are a priest forever in the way Melchizedek was a priest" (Hebrews 7:17). Whatever we may think of Melchizedek, we must note that, after Hebrew 7:17, Melchizedek is never mentioned again. The writer is saying, "That's enough about Melchizedek. Let's talk about Jesus.Let's talk about the Son of God."
"Jesus has been given a priestly work that is superior to the Levitical priests' work. He also brings a better promise, from God, that is based on better guarantees" (Hebrews 8:6). The sacrifices, in Leviticus, had their value in preparing the way for Jesus' sacrifice for sin. Once Jesus had given himself for our sins, these sacrifices are no longer required. Why settle for anything less than the very best when you can have the very best? The Old Testament sacrifices belong to the time of promise. They point forward to something better. The sacrifice of Christ belong, there is our life of faith and obedience. s to the time of fulfilment. There is nothing better than this - Christ crucified, sinners forgiven.
In Hebrews 9:22, the writer says, "If no blood is shed, no sins are forgiven." He's looking beyond the Old Testament sacrifices to the Jesus' sacrifice of himself for us - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He speaks of the uniqueness of Christ's sacrifice for sin. "He has appeared once to remove by his sacrifice" (Hebrews 9:26). "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sin of humanity" (Hebrews 9:28). Following this emphasis on the uniqueness of Christ's sacrifice for sin, we have words of hope, words that point to the future: "He will appear a second time ... he will save those who eagerly wait for him" (Hebrews 9:28). The words, "eagerly wait for him", bring to mind the urgency with which the writer spoke in Hebrews 6. We are to be whole-hearted followers of Christ. We are to be deeply appreciative of what he did for us when he died on the cross for us. We are to look forward, enthusiastically, to his return. Between Christ's cross and his return, there is our life of faith and obedience. May we always be whole-hearted followers of Christ.
"Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus, we can now confidently go into the holy place" (Hebrews 10:19). The writer speaks much about the Old Testament sacrificial system, but that is not his great theme. He writes to exalt Jesus, to lift him up, to give glory to him. What the Old Testament sacrifices cannot do for us, Jesus has done for us. It is so important that we hold on to the truth of the gospel. There are those who have turned away from the Saviour. We must say, "No. We will serve the Lord." Even when so many are falling all around us, we must keep on living for the Lord (Hebrews 10:24). To do this in a way that brings glory to the Lord, we must continue in fellowship with one another (Hebrews 10:25). While we rejoice in the love of God, giving thanks for his great salvation, we must never forget his holiness - "Falling into the hands of the living God is a terrifying thing" (Hebrews 10:31). We dare not presume upon the Lord's blessing - if we are continuing in sin. God's word speaks to us of two ways. One leads to blessing. The other leads to judgment - "The person who has God's approval will live because of his faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him" (Hebrews 10:38). This contrast between the two ways is followed by these words: "We don't belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved" (Hebrews 10:39). It is the practice of faith which shows the presence of faith.
We are called to put our faith in Christ.Hebrews 11 tells us about the faith of Old Testament people. We look beyond them. Reading about their faith helps us to grow strong in our faith in Christ. In Hebrews 11:4, we read about the faith of Abel. We read about his "better sacrifice." Some sacrifices are "better" than other sacrifices. Christ's sacrifice is always the best sacrifice. It is the one sacrifice that brings salvation to sinners. In Hebrews 11:5, we read about the faith of Enoch. Here, we learn of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is now exalted at God's right hand. There is a difference between Enoch and Jesus. Enoch was "taken instead of dying." Jesus was taken into heaven after he had died for us. Before his resurrection and ascension, there was his crucifixion and death. In Hebrews 11:7, we read about Noah and his "ship." It was a ship of salvation. The story of Jesus is the story of salvation. The way of salvation for us was, for Jesus, the way of crucifixion and death, followed by resurrection and ascension. In Hebrews 11:8-12, we read about the faith of Abraham. Here, we catch a glimpse of the salvation God has provided for us through the suffering and death of his Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God is calling us on to "a place which we will receive as an inheritance" (Hebrews 11:8). It is "the country promised by God" (Hebrews 11:9) - "the city that God had designed and built the city with permanent foundations" (Hebrews 11:10). The description of Abraham's journey lifts our thoughts above earthly events. It gives us a glimpse of the heavenly and eternal glory which awaits us at the end of our journey of faith. To read of the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham is greatly encouraging because it helps us to turn our eyes on Jesus and see what he has done for us by providing for us such a great salvation.
"All these people died, having faith. They didn't receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced" (Hebrews 11:13). The faith of people, in Old Testament times, was a forward-looking faith. It looked forward to the time when God would send his Son, Jesus, to be the Saviour of the world. They were "longing for a better country - a heavenly country" (Hebrews 11:16). Jesus is the way to the heavenly country. He is the one who gives us eternal life (John 3:16). When they, and we, look to Jesus, we are looking beyond his first coming to earth. We are looking forward to his second coming and the glory of God's everlasting kingdom.
In the story of Abraham and Isaac, our attention is directed beyond them to God the Father and Jesus the Son. God did not only offer to sacrifice Jesus. He did sacrifice Jesus. He did this because he loves us. God did not only "bring back Jesus from the dead in a figurative sense" (Hebrews 11:19). He really did raise Jesus from the dead. There's a clear difference between the Abraham and Isaac story and the gospel story. Abraham was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but he didn't have to do this. God was more than willing to sacrifice his Son. There was areal sacrifice, a real death, a real resurrection and a real salvation.
In Hebrews 11:20-22, we read about Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. They are looking to the future. We note the increase of blessing. It begins with "Jacob and Esau" (Hebrews 11:20). It goes on to "each of Joseph's sons" (Hebrews 11:21). From there, it goes on to "the Israelites" (Hebrews 11:22). God's blessing doesn't stop there. With the coming of Jesus, his blessing reaches out to the whole world.
The story of Moses' faith begins with the faith of his "parents" (Hebrews 11:23). It is an active faith. They take action to protect their son. As we look on to the story of Jesus' early childhood, we learn of God taking action to protect his Son (Matthew 2). Moses may have lived in Pharaoh's palace, but he was not one of Pharaoh's people. He cold have lived a worldly life, but he "chose to suffer with God's people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little while" (Hebrews 11:25). We must lift up our eyes beyond what is happening to us on earth. We must look and catch a glimpse of the glory that is yet to be revealed (Hebrews 11:26). In Hebrews 11:27-28, we read about leaving Egypt and establishing the Passover. Leaving Egypt was more than a revolt against Pharaoh. It was a deliverance by God. In Hebrew 11:29, we read about god protecting his redeemed people. This is more than the protection of Moses. It's the deliverance of God's people. We see the same thing in Jesus. Protected by God, when he was a baby, Jesus became the Saviour, who brings salvation to the whole people of God.
In Hebrews 11:30-31, we see the grace of God and the power of God. The grace of God reaches out to "the prostitute, Rahab" (Hebrews 11:31). The power of God brings down "the walls of Jericho" (Hebrews 11:30). We need the grace of God and the power of God. The grace of God brings to us the forgiveness of our sins. The power of God leads us in triumph over our enemies. If we are to grow in Christ, there needs to be both tearing down and building up - tearing down everything that stands against God and building up everything that will help us to bring glory to God.
In Hebrews 11:32-38, we have a brief history of the Old Testament - a history of the suffering of God's faithful people, a history of their refusal to give in to God's enemies. this is an inspiring history. People, who ignore the Old Testament, are missing so much. In the Old Testament, there is so much to inspire us to face suffering with the confidence that God is leading us beyond our suffering to his salvation. In Hebrews 11:39, we have a summary of both Hebrews 11:32-38 and the testimonies of faith that come to us from Abel to Rahab (Hebrews 11:4-31). The writer leaves us with this encouraging message - "God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them" (Hebrews 11:39). How wonderful this is! We should not forget the words, "with them." God's work of salvation did not begin with the start of the New Testament. We build on what went before - his work of salvation in the Old Testament.
In Hebrews 12:1-3, the writer takes us beyond what he has written in Hebrews 11. He has given us "so many examples of faith" among the Old Testament people of God (Hebrews 12:1). Now, he comes to the explicitly Christ-centred nature of our faith - "We must focus on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). He speaks of Jesus' crucifixion and exaltation (Hebrews 12:2). He calls on his readers to keep on following Jesus - "don't become tired and give up" (Hebrews 12:3).
"God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him" (Hebrews 12:10). What a positive way of looking at our times of suffering. We look beyond what's happening to us. We catch a glimpse of the purpose of God - his plan to make us holy. God's concern is not only with making us holy, while we are here on earth. He is preparing us for his kingdom - "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28).
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). This is what gives us confidence that God will fulfil his eternal purpose for us. He doesn't begin a good work in us, only to leave it unfinished. He'll finish what he's started. We must always have this divine perspective. If we don't, we'll lose our way. The eternal Christ enables us to see our life in the light of God's eternal purpose. "We don't have a permanent city here on earth, but we are looking for the city that we will have in the future" (Hebrews 13:14). In this life, there are many disappointments. Many of them come from the fact that this world cannot satisfy us. God has created us for something more - "He has put a sense of eternity in people's minds" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
"The god of peace brought the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, back to life through the blood of an eternal promise. May this God of peace prepare you to do everything he wants. May he work in us, through Jesus Christ, to do what is pleasing to him. Glory belongs to Jesus Christ forever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
"The testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:3). We need this kind of outlook if we are not to fall apart when the testing times come. Will we be broken? or Will we be strengthened? These questions will be answered when we are tested. "If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you" (James 1:5). What is going on in my life? How am I to understand this? These questions go through our minds when our faith is being tested. What are we to do? We must take our questions to the Lord. He will not give us all the answers, but he will be there for us, assuring us that we are not alone. He is with us. Even when our questions remain unanswered, we must not blame God. He's not trying to catch us out and trip us up (James 1: 13). He's preparing us for "the crown of life" (James 1:12). We must pray that God will give us the strength that we need to hold on to this. Our moods are so changeable. Sometimes, we're up. Sometimes, we're down. Sometimes, we don't know what to think. We don't know what to make of it all. In times like these, there is something we must never forget: "The Father doesn't change like the shadows produced by the sun and the moon" (James 1:17). "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and should not get angry easily" (James 1:19). What is God saying to me about the testing time? This is what we must ask. We must not jump in with both feet, and get angry with God - "Humbly accept the word that God has placed in you. This word can save you" (James 1:21). God has given us his word, in our hearts, so that we might not sin against him (Psalm 119:11). God's word is not just something we can listen to. It's to be obeyed - "Do what God's word says. Don't merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves" (James 1:22). "God's perfect teachings that make people free" (James 1:25) - Many people think of freedom as something that comes to us when we assert ourselves against God. Self-assertion - How can this lead us into freedom? It was self-assertion that led our first parents into sin. Did it bring freedom? No. It didn't. It brought them into bondage. On that day, when they chose self rather than God, everything changed - but it did not change for the better. The story of self-assertion is always the same. It takes God off the throne. It puts self on the throne. This will not do us any good. It will do us nothing but harm. We must not speak about being free to do whatever we like., when God is saying to us, "There's a better way." What is the better way? It's the way of doing what God wants, and finding that we only become truly free when we say, "No", to self and "Yes" to God. How can this be freedom? We see that God knows better than we do. We think that we know what's best for us, and we get ourselves into a right mess. How can this be freedom? When we compare the two ways - the way of self and the way of the Lord, it becomes clear to us that the better way of living is the way in which we are learning to say, "Lord, Your way is better than my way."
"You are doing right if you obey this law from the highest authority: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself''." (James 2:8). We show that our faith is real when we live the life of love. The fact that we fail the Lord so often need not lead us to despair. If we have been touched, in our hearts, by his love, we will pray to him, saying, "Lord, teach us to love one another the way that you love us." We don't need to be perfect before we are accepted by the Lord. His love reaches us in our sin - but it doesn't leave us as we were. It changes us. Throughout our life on earth, God is reaching out to us in love - and he's changing us by the power of his love.
In James 3, James encourages us to speak wisely (James 3;1-12) and to live wisely (James 3:13-18). "The humility that comes from wisdom" (James 3:13) - This is so important if we are to speak wisely and live wisely. "God opposes arrogant people but he is kind to humble people... " (James 4:6,11). We learn to be humble before God and we become more loving towards each other. When we are learning to be humble before God, we are learning to see ourselves as we really are - sinners saved by grace. When we see ourselves in this way, we become more compassionate towards our fellow-sinners.
"Brothers and sisters" (James 5:7,9,10,12,19) - James addresses his readers as fellow-members of the family of God. He's speaking to us about how we are to behave as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what makes our way of life more than a human way. It is the way that is set out for us by God in His Word
"Kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:5) - Heaven is kept for us, and we are kept for heaven. The sufferings we experience here on earth highlight the greatness of God's salvation (1 Peter 1:6-7). There is continuity between the prophets and the gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12). God's Son did not come to earth as a bolt from the blue. The prophets had prepared the way for his coming. "Your minds must be clear and ready for action" (1 Peter 1:13). We are to feed our minds with the Word of God so that our lives will be filled with obedience to God. "Love each other with a warm love that comes from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22). The life of obedience to God is to be a life of love for one another. Our love arises from our "obeying the truth" - the "result" of our obedience is "a sincere love for each other" (1 Peter 1:22). The "truth" is "God's everlasting word", "the good news" (1 Peter 1:22,23,25). By the "everlasting" word of God, his word which "lasts for ever", we have been "born again" (1 Peter 1:23,25) into a new life which begins here on earth as a changed life, and which will continue in heaven as a life of rejoicing in the glory of God. When life isn't easy and our faith is being sorely tested, we must take care that we do not lose sight of "the salvation that is the goal of our faith" (1 Peter 1:9). When we keep our eyes firmly fixed on the eternal glory that awaits us in God's kingdom, we will be "extremely happy with joy and praise that can hardly be expressed in words" (1 Peter 1:8).
In 1 Peter 2, Peter speaks about spiritual growth. It is growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). This growth comes to us as we feed on God's word (1 Peter 2:2). This growth is more than knowledge about God's word. It's obedience to God's word - "So get rid of every kind of evil, every kind of deception, hypocrisy, jealousy and every kind of slander" (1 Peter 2:1). When we feed on God's word, we are called upon to come to Christ (1 Peter 2:4). As we keep on "coming" to him, we grow in him. We taste that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:3). We have been saved by the grace of God (1 Peter 2:9-10). We are called to live for his glory (1 Peter 2:11-12).
"Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval" (1 Peter 2:24). Redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, let us live for him. Christ is the foundation on which we build our lives. His gospel shapes our way of living. We see this, again, in 1 Peter 3:18 - "Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God." This is not only preaching the gospel so that people will believe. It's about applying the gospel to our way of living so that we will be changed. Immediately after speaking of Christ's death for us, Peter declares the good news of his resurrection - "His body was put to death but he was brought to life through his Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). The Spirit raised Jesus, and he empowers us.
"Speak God's words ... Serve with the strength God supplies" (1 Peter 4:11). Our service of words and actions is to be according to God's word and empowered by God's Spirit - and we must never forget this: "Glory and power belong to Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11). In our life of service to the Lord, there is to be both faith and obedience. We must "entrust ourselves to a faithful Creator", and we must "continue to do what is good" (1 Peter 4:19).
"God, who shows you his kindness and who has called you through Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you, strengthen you, make you strong and support you, as you suffer for a little while. Power belongs to him forever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10). Power belongs to the Lord, but he does not keep his power to himself. He give it to us. He gives the Holy Spirit to us. In the Holy Spirit, we receive the strength that we need to keep on going in the way of faith and obedience.
"Make every effort ... " (2 Peter 1:5-7) comes after "God's divine power has given us everything we need ... " (2 Peter 1:3-4). The gospel, which forms the foundation for our Christian living, is grounded in history. Peter tells us, "We didn't base our message on clever myths that we made up" (2 Peter 1:16). He says, "We were eyewitnesses" (2 Peter 1:17). Here, he speaks of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter says this about the meaning of the transfiguration - "So we regard the words of the prophets as confirmed beyond all doubt" (2 Peter 1:19). The words of the prophets were not only for their own time. They are for us. They speak to us as "Scripture", "given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God's direction" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Not all "prophets" speak from God and for God - "False prophets were among God's people in the past, as false teachers will be among you" (2 Peter 1:1). As Peter gives out the warning, he emphasizes that his judgment will fall on those who lead people away from him (2 Peter 2:3-10). There is, however, also a word of salvation - "the Lord ... knows how to rescue godly people when they are tested" (2 Peter 2:9). This word of judgment continues (2 Peter 2:11-19) - "Gloomy darkness has been kept for them" (2 Peter 2:17). In 2 Peter 2:20, there is, again, a word of salvation - "People can know our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and escape the world's filth." This is followed by a strong warning against going back to the world after coming to the Lord (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Between the "prophets" and the "apostles", there is "the Lord and Saviour" (2 Peter 3:2). He stands at the centre of everything in God's revelation. The prophets are important. The apostles are important. As we listen to the words of the prophets and apostles, we must pray that we will hear the voice of Jesus. Whether we're reading the prophets or the apostles, or giving our attention to the words of Jesus, we are given something to "look forward to" - "as you look forward to the day of God and eagerly wait for it to come" (2 Peter 3:12). The day of God will bring judgment - "Everything that makes up the universe will burn and melt" (2 Peter 3:12). It will also bring salvation - "a new heaven and a new earth - a place, where everything that has God's approval, lives" (2 Peter 3:13).
"The blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This is the gospel for every part of our Christian life. It doesn't only speak to us about cleansing at the beginning of our life of faith. It says to us, "The blood of Christ keeps on cleansing us from every sin."
"Don't love the world, and what if offers" (1 John 2:15). Cleansing means more than the forgiveness of our sins. It also means the purifying of our way of life. We are to be different from those who don't know the Lord. If we are to walk with the Lord, in true holiness, we must be aware of the pitfalls that lie ahead of us - "many antichrists are already here" (1 John 2:18) - and we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ who "has given us the promise of eternal life" (1 John 2:25). We will stand our ground in Christ, when we are assured of this. He is our faithful Saviour, and he gives us the victory over all our enemies.
We look forward to the fulfilment of our salvation - "when Christ appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Our salvation is always more than the forgiveness of sin and new life in Christ. This is just the beginning of our salvation. Beyond these blessings, there is eternal life.
What we believe about Jesus Christ is not an incidental thing. We cannot say that it all comes down to how we live (1 John 4:1-3). The faith changes the way we live. It teaches us to love like God loves (1 John 4:9-11) - "We love because God loved us first" (1 John 4:19).
We cannot dispense with the need for faith in Jesus Christ - "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" (1 John 5:1). Faith in Jesus Christ is not to be reduced to practising a love ethic. It should, however, be emphasized that real faith in Christ leads to a life of love - "Everyone who loves the Father also loves his children" (1 John 5:1). "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" (1 John 5:1) - The words, "born again", are not added to the word, "believer", to describe a certain k we can speak of kind of believer, a believer who is more deserving of this title more than other believers. God's word says that every believer has been born again. We should point out that there is a difference between a true believer and those whose profession is empty (Matthew 7:21). This does not mean that we can speak of born-again believers and other believers. That would be a contradiction in terms. If you are a believer, you are born again. While it is true to say that not all, who profess faith in Christ, are born again. What we can say is this: the change in our way of life shows the reality of the new birth. We are to obey God's "commandments", not as an attempt to earn salvation, but as a way of showing the reality of our new birth. "Eternal life" is not earned by us, through our doing good works. It is given to us by God - "eternal life is found in God's Son" (1 John 5:11-12).
"We love you because of the truth which lives in us and will be with us forever" (2 John 2) - The life of love comes from the work of God in us. The life of love "comes from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, who, in truth and love, is the Father's Son" (2 John 3). Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, is described in terms of truth and love. When the Lord is changing us, he gives us a greater love for his truth and a true love for others. If we are praying that we will become more like Jesus, we are praying that he will reproduce, in us, his truth and his love.
The importance of "love" and "truth" are emphasized in 3 John 1. It's not 'love is all you need.' It's love and truth - love, inspired by truth. The truth, which inspires, is the truth of God's love. This love has been revealed in history. We must stand on this truth, defending it against unbelieving attacks. How can we say that we have love for God, if we do not have love for his word? Love for his word means more than believing his word. It also means "living according to the truth" (3 John 4). Part of living according to the truth is "working together with others in spreading the truth" (3 John 8).
"Dear friends, I had intended to write to you about the salvation we share, but something has come up. It demands that I write to you and encourage you to continue your fight for the Christian faith that was entrusted to God's holy people once for all time" (Jude 3). Reading this, we wonder, "What kind of letter would Jude have written if something hadn't come up? Has he departed from his message of salvation? No! He takes account of the context into which he is writing. He emphasizes that the gospel of salvation is more than something that we, ourselves, believe. It is something that we must defend against the enemies of the message of salvation. The warnings against false teachers make up most of the letter (Jude 3-19). They give the letter a darker atmosphere than Jude may have, at first, intended, when he wrote, "I had intended to write to you about the salvation we share" (Jude 3). In Jude 20-25, there is a focus on salvation. This is not a detailed exposition of the gospel of salvation. We should note that, even here, there is an urgent call to win the lost for the Saviour (Jude 22-23). In Jude's words about salvation, there is an emphasis on both our faith and God's grace. He writes, "Remain in God's love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life" (Jude 21). This is a call to faith. Our faith is in the Saviour. It is he who gives us eternal life. When we are called to continue in the way of faith, we must focus our attention on the grace of God: "God can guard you so that you don't fall and so that you can be full of joy as you stand in his glorious presence without fault" (Jude 24). When we think of our salvation, we must never forget this: All the glory belongs to the Lord (Jude 25).
"This is the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1). It's one revelation. It comes from one source - Jesus Christ. It has one message - Jesus Christ. This book is not given to us to satisfy our curiosity about the end-times. It calls us to obedience. Those who obey this word from the Lord will be blessed by the Lord.
This revelation is not only for "the seven churches in the province of Asia" (Revelation 1:4). It's for the whole church - in every nation and every generation. The human writer is John. The divine origin is "the one who was, the one who is, the one who is coming" (Revelation 1:4) and "from Jesus Christ, the witness, the trustworthy one, the first to come to life, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5). We look beyond John, and we catch a glimpse of "the glory and power" of "the one who has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us a kingdom, priests for God his Father" (Revelation 1:5-6). Looking to Jesus means more than looking back. We are, also, to look forward - "Look! He is coming in the clouds. Every eye will see him ... " (Revelation 1:7).
"I am the A and the Z ... " (Revelation 1:8). "I am John, your brother ... " (Revelation 1:9). The divine and the human are set alongside each other. They do not compete with each other. This is not divine or human. It's divine and human - written by John, revealed by God. The two who are brought together - "I came under the Spirit's power on the Lord's day" (Revelation 1: 10).
The glory of the Lord was shining brightly - "His face was like the sun when it shines in all its brightness" (Revelation 1:16). In the presence of the Lord's holiness, we fall down (Revelation 1:17). Falling down and lifted up - This is our story, the story of sin, the story of grace. This is our experience, as we face Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified for us, the one who has risen for us (Revelation 1:17). In the presence of the Holy One -the loving Saviour, John received "a revelation, which was for sharing with others - "write down what you have seen" (Revelation 1:18). God speaks his word to us so that it can be shared with many.
The letters to the seven churches - Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-28), Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-27) - These seven messages have one thing in common. Each of these messages contains the words, "Let the person who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; Revelation 3:6, 13, 22), This is what the Lord is saying to his church in every place and every time - Listen to what the Spirit is saying to you. In each of these messages, the Lord speaks to "everyone who wins the victory" (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; Revelation 3:5,12,21). "Everyone who wins the victory" - This is for everyone. For everyone of us, there is the possibility of victory. We live between defeat and victory. We know what it means to be defeated. Our sin is always dragging us down. While we must face the reality of defeat, we must keep on believing that the Lord has a higher purpose for us. He's calling us on to victory. May our lives not be destroyed by our sin. May they be guided by God's grace. His grace is greater than our sin.
"I saw a door standing open in heaven" (Revelation 4:1). Who opened the door? Did we open the door? No! It was opened for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, heaven's door is closed to us. With him, heaven's door is open, and we can enter in. While we are here on earth, the Lord is preparing us for heaven. He's teaching us to worship him, to get ready for the heavenly celebration: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming" (Revelation 4;8). "Our Lord and God, you deserve to receive glory, honour and power because you created everything. Everything came into existence and was created because of your will" (Revelation 4:11).
What no-one else could do (Revelation 5:3), "the Lion from the tribe of Judah" does for us - He "has won the victory" for us. He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Now, he is "standing in the centre near the throne" (Revelation 5:6). He suffered for us. Now, he reigns in heaven - triumphant. The Lion became the Lamb. The eternal Son of God became our suffering Saviour. Now, we see him as the Lion - the King. We thank Jesus for what he has done for us - "You bought people, with your blood, to be God's own" (Revelation 5:9). We will join, with the heavenly choir, in praising him - "The Lamb, who was slain, deserves to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and praise" (Revelation 5:12), "To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the glory, honour, glory and power forever and forever" (Revelation 5:13).
When we read about "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), we may, too easily, jump to one side of what the Word of God says about Jesus. Here, we see another side, which we dare not ignore - "Fall on us, and hide us from the anger of the Lamb, because the frightening day of his anger has come, and who is able to endure it?" (Revelation 6:16-17). Saying this to "the mountains and the rocks" (Revelation 6:16) will not protect us from God's judgment. There is only one protection - the blood of Jesus: "They won the victory over the devil because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11).
"These are the people who are coming out of the terrible suffering. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). What a wonderful thing Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has done for us. What we could not do for ourselves, he has done for us - "What can wash away my sin? ... Nothing but the blood of Jesus." "He will lead to springs, filled with the water of life", and God will wipe every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17). As well as the forgiveness of sins, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the living water, who flows into and out from the heart of the believer (John 7:37-39). In God's everlasting kingdom, there will be no more tears - only the joy of being in the presence of our Saviour (Revelation 21:4).
God's people are called to pray (Revelation 8:3-4). There is much that challenges us. We feel like giving up on prayer. We read the words of Revelation 8:13 - "Catastrophe, catastrophe, catastrophe for those living on earth...", and our hearts are heavy. We wonder, "What difference does prayer make?" This is when we need encouragement. Will not things only go from bad to worse, if the Lord's people give up on praying. May God give us the strength that we need to keep on praying.
"At that time, people will look for death and never find it. They will long to die, but death will escape them" (Revelation 9:6). Sometimes, in our troubled world, people wonder, "What's the point of it all? Is there any point to it? Even when we don't know what to say to God, and we wonder there's any point in trying to speak to him about our troubled world, we need to keep on listening to the forward-looking words of Jesus: "Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father's house, there are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself" (John 14:1- 3).
"The first catastrophe is over. After these things, there are two more catastrophes yet to come" (Revelation 9:12). Sometimes, it's just one thing after another, something else that makes us wonder, "What's it all about?" It is important that we don't allow ourselves to get bogged down in negative thoughts about one catastrophe after another. We need to lift up our eyes and catch a glimpse of the glory that lies beyond the catastrophes - "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and earth had disappeared, and the sea was gone. Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven ... God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There won't be any more death. There won't be any grief, crying or pain because the first things have disappeared" (Revelation 21:1-4).
When our journey, through this life, seems like a long and winding road, may God help us to keep sight of the final destination - his glorious kingdom in which we will enjoy our full salvation, unspoiled by the sin which causes so much havoc in this present world. "The people, who survived these plagues, did not turn to me and change they were thinking and acting" (Revelation 9:20). In the immediate aftermath of a major catastrophe, there is a great turning to God - for a short while. It doesn't last long, then tings go back to 'normal' - until the next time. What are we to make of this? Deep down, people are aware of their need of God, but only in times of great catastrophes. When everything is going smoothly, God is forgotten. What are we to say about this? Are we to pass judgment on other people (as if we would never forget the Lord!)? Surely not! Surely, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the hard times as well as the good times, always praying that, in the trying and testing times, we will be able to speak the word of the Lord, to say with real conviction, "Thus says the Lord." If people are thinking that God has nothing to say to them, how much more will they descend into unbelief, if the people of God will not arise from the ashes of suffering and speak the word of faith, "This is the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord is saying to us at this time of much confusion"?
"The mystery of God will be completed, as he had made this good news known to his servants, the prophets" (Revelation 10:7). Mystery and good news - Are these two opposites?, mystery belonging to the mystics who have no answers when we come to them with questions, good news belonging to the evangelicals whose answers, sometimes, seem to come too easily and too quickly. Would it not be more biblical to see the mystery and the good news, standing side-by-side with each other? There is mystery, and there is good news. It's not one without the other. We do not understand everything. Some things are known only to God. We say this, but we do not stop there. God has spoken. Even when there are many questions that remain unanswered, we believe the good news that Jesus, God's Son, is Emmanuel - "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). What are we to say about the relationship between mystery and good news? - "I heard a voice from heaven say ... don't write it down" (Revelation 10:4). There are many things that have not been written down for us. God has chosen not to have everything written down for us. He has revealed enough for us to travel with him on our journey towards our heavenly destination. Beyond that, we must have faith in him, wondering why this, that and the other thing has happened, as we've travelled on our journey through this earthly life, yet content to leave the answers with him.
"It will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth" (Revelation 10:9). Bittersweet - Isn't this true of our life on this earth? Some things seem to be so "sweet", but they turn out to be "bitter." Other things seem to be "bitter", but they turn out to be "sweet." We need to take the "bitter" with the "sweet." Perhaps, the "bitter" will turn out to be "sweet." Who are we to say, beforehand, that this is going to turn out to be either bitter or sweet? We come to each new situation, in life, with one of two attitudes - pessimism or optimism. When pessimism reigns in our hearts, we come to a new situation with the fear that says, "This isn't going to work out well." Have we forgotten the God who is able to turn a bad situation into a good one (Genesis 50:20). Optimism can jump into new situations without any fear of what might happen - only to find out, later on, that things weren't all that they seemed. What are we to say about the way of pessimism and the way of optimism? What about the way of faith? What will it mean to have faith in the Lord? Sometimes, we have fears about the future, but we must not allow these fears to dominate our lives. Sometimes, we have big ideas about what we're going to do with our lives, but we need to be brought down to earth. How much of this is about me, and not about the Lord? It's about what I want - not about what the Lord wants. Perhaps, the idea of bittersweet has something important to say to us. If we think everything's going to be a bed of roses, we're in for a rude awakening. If we're always thinking, "Nothing ever works out right for me," we may find that we're in for some pleasant surprises. Faith is not about saying, "This looks good. That doesn't look so good." When we think like this, there's far too much emphasis on what is pleasing to ourselves. Faith is about pleasing God. What pleases God and what pleases ourselves can be very different things. Faith isn't about looking at what seems to be "bitter" and saying, " I don't want that." It's not about looking at what seems to be "sweet" and saying, "That's what I want." If we are being led by the Lord in the way of faith, we will see things differently. We will look at the "bitter" and say, "God can make that sweet2 - and, if it remains "bitter," he will give us the grace that we need to rise above unfavourable circumstances, and triumph through his all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
"At that moment, a powerful earthquake struck. one-tenth of the city collapsed. 7,000 people were killed by the earthquake. They gave glory to the God of heaven" (Revelation 11:13). When the foundations of our life are shaken, what happens to our faith? Does it die? Do we become so intimidated that we become silent disciples - terrified of speaking up for Jesus? or Do we give glory to God? Do we say, "I won't let this beat me. I will rise up, and, in the strength of the Lord, I will keep on walking with him in the pathway of victory"? Do we learn, through our times of suffering, to look beyond what's happening to us and see the glorious future God has planned for us - "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15)? May God help us to say, from the heart, "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun ruling as king" (Revelation 11:17).
"A war broke out in heaven" (Revelation 12:7). The conflicts we face here on earth are not the full story. There is more than just a human struggle. There is "the devil" (Revelation 12:9). The outcome of this battle is certain. "Satan" will be defeated (Revelation 12:9). How can the devil triumph over the Lord? He cannot, and he will not. Satan is having his day of rejoicing. There is no doubt about that. To deny this would mean walking about with our eyes closed. There is, however, something else we must not forget - What happens here on earth is not the full story. Here, on earth, we live in terrible times - "How horrible it is for the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to them with fierce anger, knowing that he has little time left" (Revelation 12:12). Time will run out for the devil - "Now the salvation, power, kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ have come. The one accusing our brothers and sisters, the one accusing them day and night in the presence of our God has been thrown out. They won the victory over him because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 112:10-11).
"The Lamb who was slaughtered before the creation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) - Christ's death on the cross of Calvary was planned by God from eternity. It expresses the eternal love of God. It fulfils God's eternal plan of salvation. When we read the history of salvation, we must look beyond the human story. we must learn to see the eternal love, the eternal purpose, the eternal God.
"The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion" (Revelation 14:1). Jesus, the Lamb of God laid down his life for our salvation. Now, he stands, in heaven, for us. What a great Saviour Jesus is. there was great suffering for our salvation. What a great salvation is given to us because Jesus suffered for us. As we look into heaven, we catch a glimpse of how great is our God, how great is his love for us, how great is his suffering for us and how great is the salvation that he gives to us.
in Revelation 15:3, we read about "the song of the Lamb." It's "the Lamb of God", who gives us a song to sing. It's the song of the redeemed. We have been redeemed through the shedding of "the precious blood of Christ." He is "the Lamb with no defects or imperfections." He is "the Lamb who was known long ago before the world existed" (1 Peter 1:19-20).
"They would not change the way they think and act and give him glory ... They would not stop what they were doing" (Revelation 16:9,11). Those who refuse to return to the Lord are persistent. There is a better way than the way of persistent rebellion against the Lord: "See I am coming like a thief, Blessed is the one who remains alert and doesn't lose his clothes. He will not have to go naked and let others see his shame" (Revelation 16:15).
"They will go to war against the Lamb. The Lamb will conquer them because he is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Those who are called, chosen and faithful are with him" (Revelation 17:14). There will be dark times ahead of us, but we must not lose sight of this - Beyond the dark times, there will be the victory of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He is the Lamb who was sacrificed for us. He is the Lamb of God who will triumph for us.
In Revelation 18:2, we read about the fall of Babylon. We look back to Genesis 11, and we see human pride being brought to nothing. What does God have to say about human pride? - "Pride comes before a fall" (Proverbs 11:2). This is a warning to all of us. We must humble ourselves before the Lord. Whenever there is anything good in us, we must learn to say, "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).
"Hallelujah!" (Revelation 19: 1,3,4,6). We have so many reasons for praising God. Especially, we praise him for Jesus. He is "faithful and true" (Revelation 19:11). "His name is the Word of God", and he is the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).
"The devil, who deceived them, who was thrown into the fiery lake of sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were also thrown. They will be tortured day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10). The victory of the Lord, the defeat of the devil - We look forward to this great day, when Christ is seen to be Lord, and Satan is brought to his complete downfall.
"Death and hell were thrown into the fiery lake (the fiery lake is the second death). Those whose names were not found in the Book of Life were thrown into the fiery lake" (Revelation 20:14:15). When we read about the victory of Christ we dare not assume that there will be salvation for all. For those who have rejected his salvation, there is the judgment of God. We must be zealous in encouraging people to flee to Jesus for salvation - "So how will we escape punishment, if we reject the important message, the message that God saved us?" (Hebrews 2:3).
What a glorious future lies ahead of God's redeemed people (Revelation 21:1-4). This is not our own doing. We don't create this future for ourselves. It is given to us by God. The Lord is able to speak to us of this eternal future because he is "the beginning and the end" (Revelation 21:6). "The holy city, Jerusalem, comes down from God out of heaven" (Revelation 21: 10). This the reversal of of the direction of the Tower of Babel - man rising up to God (Genesis 11). God 's way is always from above, from heaven, from God.. "The street of the city was made of pure gold, as clear as glass" (Revelation 21) - This is a picture of perfection. The city of God is not marred, in any way, by our sin. "The city doesn't need any sun or moon to give it light because the glory of God gave it light. The Lamb was its lamp" (Revelation 21:23) - Again, a wonderful picture of perfection. We have a perfect Saviour - Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Through his saving work for us on the cross of Calvary, which was followed by his resurrection, God's glory has been restored. The full revelation of God's glory will be seen when God's eternal kingdom is fully revealed. "only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter it" (Revelation 21:27). We will be there because of the Lamb of God - what He has done for us. Those who reject the Son of God, who is the Lamb of God, make a life-choice for all eternity. They choose to live without Jesus while they are here on earth. Their choice results in judgment. They will, because of their own choice be outside of God's kingdom.
At "the throne of God", there is "the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1,3). This is a reminder to every one of us that the way to heaven's glory is the way of the Lamb of God, who bore our sins on the cross of Calvary. It's because of what Jesus did for us that we will be with him forever. "Blessed are those who wash their robes" (Revelation 22:14) - How do we wash our robes"? We are washed in the blood of the Lamb. It's because of our Saviour's sacrifice for us that we have "the right to the tree of life and go through into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Apart from what Jesus has done for us, we have no place in the city of God.
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' Let those who are thirsty come! Let those who want the water of life take it as a gift" (Revelation 22:17). The Spirit speaks to the churches (the bride of Christ), and we are to speak the word to the world, calling upon men and women to come to Christ and receive salvation. While there is God's good news of salvation - this "gift" (Revelation 22:17), we must not forget that there is also a word of judgment: " I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy in this book: If anyone adds anything to this, God will strike him with the plagues that are written in this book. If anyone takes away any words from this book of prophecy, God will take away his portion of the tree of life and the holy city that are described in this book" (Revelation 22:19). Jesus says, "Yes, I'm coming soon!" May we reply, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).