The Greatest

Mark 9:33 Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.

Philippians 2:5-7, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.   Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave…” (Bible quotes from HCSB)

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

I am a follower of Jesus Christ because He has purchased me (bought my freedom) out of the slave market of sin.  As my Master, Jesus compels me into His service; I am not compelled by force or by threats of violence, but by the power of His love (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 5:14-15).  As my Lord, Jesus commands me to take on His posture (“the form of a slave”) and become a servant (a slave) to others.

I was reminded of the above after reading Mark chapter 9 this morning for my devotions.  I took note that as Jesus walked down the road to Capernaum with his disciples (Wow!  Wouldn’t you give anything to walk the road with Jesus?), His disciples were engaged in a “Who’s going to be the big man on campus” debate.  Later, Jesus instructed His disciples (and us) to consider that greatness is not seen in how much status you have in the eyes of others.  Jesus taught His disciples that greatness in God’s kingdom is seen in how much you serve.  For when we take on the posture of slaves and serve one another, we take on the image of Jesus; and isn’t Jesus, truly, the greatest person of all.

Let’s be honest: we do not like being servants, and we especially do not like being called slaves.  However, Michael Card reminds us  (A Better Freedom) that the, “choice is not between slavery and freedom. The choice has always only been… whose slave will you be?”  Michael Card continues, “As Jesus had offered wisdom through foolishness, maturity through childlikeness, and wealth through poverty,”  Jesus’ followers understand that the only way to a “better freedom” is  to be found in slavery to Christ.

Card continues:

“In order to become rich you must become poor, (Lk. 12:33) in order to become mature you must rediscover your own childlikeness, (Mk. 9:36) in order to become wise you must embrace the foolishness of the gospel. (I Cor. 3:18) In Jesus, life comes through death (Jn. 5:24) and the only true freedom comes from slavery to Him. (I Cor. 7:22) He came to turn the world upside down, to shatter all our definitions and images, and to fulfill them. The fundamental mysteries of following Jesus are always rooted in paradox.”

“These are the harsh realities of faith in Jesus and if we are to be followers of him, in the truest biblical sense, we must give ourselves to understanding them.” (Michael Card, A Better Freedom)

http://www.amazon.com/Better-Freedom-Finding-Slaves-Christ/dp/0830837140/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462463648&sr=8-1&keywords=a+better+freedom

The Power of Delight

delight

Deuteronomy 30:19 says,

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life,

that both you and your descendants may live;

Several years ago some scorned our former President for offering what they deemed an overly simplistic answer to the question of why he committed infidelity.  Our President said that he did it because he “could.”

  •  “I think I did something for the worst possible reason — just because I could. I think that’s the most , just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. When you do something just because you could … I’ve thought about it a lot. And there are lots of more sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations. But none of them are an excuse … Only a fool does not look to explain his mistakes.” (taken from Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes interview with our President that aired on CBS June 20, 2004)

The truth is: we do what we do because we (sinful creatures) like it.  The question is: What do you like?  Trying to come up with a more philosophically deep or complex answer to the question of why we do something may beg the question, but it will not answer it.  Let me suggest that as simple as this answer may or may not seem, it is the only right answer.  We are as advertised in the Bible: sinful people that delight in fulfilling the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Or as Galatians 5:19-21 puts it,

19 Now the works of the flesh are clear, which are these: evil desire, unclean things, wrong use of the senses,
20 Worship of images, use of strange powers, hates, fighting, desire for what another has, angry feelings, attempts to get the better of others, divisions, false teachings,21 Envy, uncontrolled drinking and feasting, and such things: of which I give you word clearly, even as I did in the past, that they who do such things will have no part in the kingdom of God. (Bible in Basic English version)

The key to consistently living a God honoring life is not to suppress our delights, but to refocus our delights from that which is earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:15-17), to that which is truly, and eternally delightful.  When the apostle Paul commands the church to “Walk in the Spirit” and not in the “flesh”, he challenges us to consider afresh what it is we delight in.  If our delight is in the flesh (our old nature) we will chose to wallow in the “works of the flesh”.  If our delight is in the resurrection life that we’ve received through faith in Christ, then we will chose and relish in the “fruit of the Spirit”.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Against such there is no law.

What we delight in will determine what we do, .  If resurrection life is our delight we will crucify  “the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24)  I like the imagery that crucifying the flesh brings to our minds because it is a fitting image of what growing in the grace and knowledge of God looks like.  what makes crucifying the flesh, as opposed to simply killing it, a fitting image of spiritual development is because crucifixion was a painfully slow process by which the power of the flesh is broken and drained away.

Let me also suggest that our walking in the Spirit is more than an  “I”  will or will not chose to do this or that thing.  Walking in the Spirit is delighting in having intimate fellowship with God; it is relishing in the resurrection life of Christ that God has immensely bestowed upon us through our faith in Christ.  When our delight is resurrection life, than the fruit of our delight (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) will be seen is us, as Jesus Christ expresses His divine life through us.

God wisely created us with the freedom to chose, and freedom is what makes choosing to love God so delightful.  Our freedom to chose God is also what makes receiving His love so satisfying.  (By the way, here is a question for the deterministic out there: Do robots do not delight in doing what they are programmed to do, or find satisfaction in being made on an assembly line?  Just asking.)

I like Sweet and Viola’s thoughts on this.  I have shared them with you below:

We have been given God’s Spirit, which makes Christ “real” in our lives.  We can actually now, as Peter puts it, “participate in the divine nature.” (see 2 Peter 1:1-4)  How, then, in the face of so great a truth, can we ask for toys and trinkets?  How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual “thingies”?  We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life, a life that has passed through death–the very resurrection life of the Son of God Himself.  How can we not be fired up?

There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus, and learn how to impart an implanted Christ.  The former only ends up in failure and frustration.  The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying.  We stand with Paul–“Christ lives in me”–and we aspire with him to “have the mind of Christ.”  Our life is Christ.  In Him we live, breath, and have our being.  What would Jesus do” is not Christianity.  Christianity ask, “What is Christ doing through me … through us?  And how is He doing it?”  Following Jesus means to “trust and obey,” as the old hymn goes.  But faith and obedience to Christ isn’t self-effort.  It’s responding to God’s will and living by His indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

Doing life together with Jesus is a coauthored narrative process filled with many points of crisis.  But the imaginative, tension-filled process of engaging the crisis is what makes a story interesting.

Every crisis raises relational issues: Will you try it and handle it yourself?  Will you find a new partner?  Or will you and Jesus tackle the crisis together?  In tackling the stuff of life together, you’ll see that your relationship with God will deepen.

In pondering Christ, you find that you are in face living His life, and God is living yours.  Christ in you and you in Christ.  God doesn’t lead you through phases or steps.  He draws you to Himself in continuous motion.  What we often have viewed as stages of phases may be a change in music.  But the point is never the music.  It is the dance.  The music is often part of the dance.  But sometimes the most beautiful dance is the one where you and your partner make up the music as you dance together. (Jesus Manifesto, p. 68,69)

live-with-passion

Hello Christian

I am a christian

Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

 1 Peter 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

According to a December, 2012 Gallup poll, 77% of Americans say they are Christians. (an ABC News poll said it was 82%, but let’s not quibble.)  However, in the 1st Century this term was rarely used to describe the followers of Jesus, and by taking note of the few places in the Bible where this term was used we can discover why this term was not a common designation for religious people, but a special term used to described true followers of Jesus Christ.  Let’s take a look.

First, followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in Antioch by non-believers after they observed their faith in action (Acts 11:26).  So, what did the non-believer see?   They saw a faith that brought historic enemies (Jews and gentiles) together; coming together because their love for the LORD, and their love for each other caused them to form one church (the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:4-6)).  Likewise, after hearing Paul give an impassioned defense of the gospel, even defying imprisonment or death to do so, king Agrippa exclaimed, “You almost persuade me to become a   Christian” (or a radical follower of Jesus Christ).  Lastly, Peter admonished the believing community to follow the Lord even to the point of suffering and hardship, saying;

  • “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Peter 4:16)

So, what does the term “Christian” mean?  Let me suggest to you that the term Christian, used in context, means that the persons thus labeled “Christians”  are distinctively surrendered to, and passionate in love with Jesus Christ (or as Keith Green would say, “Bananas”).   I like the way J. I. Packer identifies a “Christian” below.  Packer writes:

What is a Christian?  He can be described from many angles, but from what we have said it is clear that we can cover everything by saying: he is a man (or woman) who acknowledges and lives under the world of God.  A Christian submits without reserve to the word of God written in ‘the Scripture of truth’ (Daniel 10:21), believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands.  His eyes are to the God of the Bible as his Father, and the Christ of the Bible as his Savior.

If asked, Christians will tell you that the word of God has both convicted them of sin and assured them of God’s forgiveness.  A Christian’s conscience, as Luther observed, is captive to the word and will of God.  Lastly, as noted by the psalmist, Christians aspires to have their lives line up with the Word as “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

“O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!”

“O let me not wander from thy commandments.

” “Teach me thy statutes.  Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts.”

“Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies.”

“Let my heart be sound in Thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:5, 10, 26f., 80).

Christians, like Abraham, believe the promises of God,and are looking “for a city “whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10)”.  And the precepts of God’s word guide Christians as they live their faith day by day.

The Christian knows that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly things) will work together for their good because their sovereign God is in control of their circumstances, and He is doing all things for His eternal glory, and their eternal joy; as it is written:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The Christian is an independent person; a person that doesn’t just have a religious bracelet on their wrist that reads “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do), but they seek to consistently live by faith the WWJD life.

Why does this suggested description the Christian fit so few of us who profess to be Christians today?  I found it profitable to ask my conscience this question, and to let it tell me the answer.  You will too.  (adapted from J. I. Packer’s, Knowing God)

Christian Praying

Are We Servants or Slaves?

Serve-One-Another-e1363895842157

Galatians 5:13 ¶ For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Amazingly, one of the most controversial sermons that I ever preached was based on this verse; particularly the phrase that says, “through love serve one another.”  What made this message so controversial (to some) was when I asked my Christian brothers and sisters this question: “Would you rather be a servant or a slave?”  To which, virtually everyone in the audience answered that they would rather be a servant.  No one wanted to be a slave.  Therefore, when I suggested to by fellow Christian “servants” that the word “serve” in the original language of the N.T. conveys not the image of a servant but the image of a slave, many in the audience got uncomfortable; some even got a little mad.

Let me suggest that the reason being slaves to one another make us feel uncomfortable is because of the different way in which we view the status of a servants and slaves.

  • Servants work for wages.  …………….  Slaves work for free
  • Servants can chose where and for whom they work ,,,,,,,,, Slave have no freedom and are bound to their master’s service
  • Servants retain a sense of personal pride or dignity ………  slavery is considered undignified and beneath us

No one wants to be a slave; even the founders of the United States-a slave owning country at the time-recognized:

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

The idea of becoming a slave is abhorrent to us.  However, becoming a slave was not abhorrent to Jesus, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.” (see Philippians 2:6,7 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible)  Therefore, if being a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and if growing in our Christian faith means being transformed in to the image of Jesus Christ, than as Christians the image that we must bear is not the image of the self seeking, self promoting, self absorbed, and the selfish; all of which are characteristics of the old man, but not the new man that God has created in us (Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-9).

The image of Christ is a selfless image that loves with no strings attached, that serves without seeking the reward and the applause and the thank-yous of others (our reward is awaiting us in Heaven, and our applause will come from God when He says, “well done, you good and faithful slave”).  The image of Jesus is the image of a slave, as it is written:

Philippians 2:1-8 ¶If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death– even to death on a cross.

Get Wisdom!

wisdom seeker

Yes, “Wisdom is the principal thing”, and true wisdom is not found in books, discussion and focus groups, gossip columns, Google searches, or Wikipedia. Furthermore, wisdom cannot be found in religion.

True wisdom can be found in the person of Jesus Christ; as it is written:

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

With this said, read the biography of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson below. Dr. Wilson was a brilliant man, who found true wisdom, not in academics, but in Christ. Enjoy.

Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was fluent in 45 languages and dialects, including all of the Biblical and cognate languages, such as Hebrew, Greek, Babylonian, Phoenician, Coptic, various Aramaic dialects, French, German, and so forth. 45 languages and dialects in all.

Wilson could already read at the early age of four, and by the age of five he had read, among other books, Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies. Wilson graduated from Princeton University at the age of 20, and he read the New Testament fluently in nine languages by the time he got to seminary. He had memorized the entire New Testament in Hebrew, along with portions of the Old Testament, and it is said the he could recite the New Testament in Hebrew without missing so much as a syllable.

Dick Wilson demolished the critics of his day, especially the likes of the heretic S. R. Driver and the Graf-Wellhausen School. Wilson’s major publications, in which he not only annihilated the liberal critics, but also fortified the foundations of the study of the Old Testament with brilliant elucidations and conclusions, like nobody before or since, were, The Scientific Investigation Of The Old Testament, Is Higher Criticism Scholarly, Studies In the Book Of Daniel (a two-volume masterpiece, and THE classic defense of the book of Daniel), and a host of papers and treatises in various publications. An example of Wilson’s genius and scholarship can be seen in this short paper — The Veracity Of The Old Testament — which delivers conclusive evidence for the accuracy of the foundation and transmission of the Hebrew Text.

Wilson became the leading professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he spent many years defending the Bible against all comers, as well as turning out students with a sound foundation of rare learning. Nearing the age of seventy, Wilson nevertheless produced a stirring moment for his students when, after a dissertation on the complete trustworthiness of Scripture, the renowned scholar said with tears streaming down his face —

“Young men, there are many mysteries in this life I do not pretend to understand,many things hard to explain. But I can tell you this morning with the fullest assurance that:

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so!”

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise

A Priceless IPO That You Can Buy Without Money or Price

Psalms 19:7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

Last Thursday Alibaba was introduced to world of finance with much fanfare, as Panos Mourdoukoutas notes, “Anyone following Alibaba’s (NYSE:BABA) debut on Wall Street this week cannot help but be impressed by the buzz it generated among institutional and individual investors, as the stock rocketed higher in the first day of trade.” (Forbes Online, 09/20/2014)  What is so good about Alibaba?  Well, to many investors Alibaba is the next best thing to offer investors an avenue to enormous profits and earthly riches.  However, as good of an investment Alibaba may be, if you are one of the fortunate investors to strike it rich through this investment, when you die, how much of your earthly wealth will you leave behind? And more importantly, “when you pass from earth into eternity, how much of your treasure will you take with you?”  The answer to the first question is, “all of it.”  And the answer to the second question is this; if your treasure was only material, then you will take nothing with you.  (supposedly these were questions being asked after the death of J. D. Rockefeller)

Now if you will, imagine what would be the price of an IPO that promised to give “new life to the soul”, to give wisdom to the foolish”, to make “glad the heart”, to give “light to the eyes”, and it was always “clean”, “true”,  and “full of righteousness”  (quotes are excerpts of Psalm 19 from the Bible in Basic English)?  Wouldn’t this product be priceless?  Yet this is exactly what the Law of the Lord is guaranteed to do.   Nevertheless, the LORD beckons us to come and buy it without money and without price. (Isaiah 55)

What grace the Lord has bestowed upon us in giving us the Bible; it is the only infallible source of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding on earth.  Read it!  Feast on it!  And if you make it your aim in life to both know and to do it, God’s word will positively change your life forever.

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8 He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints.

Read Me Bible

He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

scourging_lg

cru·ci·fy

ˈkro͞osəˌfī/

verb

past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified

  1. 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved the impact that taking the Lord’s Supper has had on me. As a boy, and a young believer, I would hold the small cup of wine in my hands before drinking it and solemnly think of the sacrifice that Jesus laid before the Father as an atonement for my sins.

Author Michael Card (A Violent Grace) calls us to reflect on the tremendous display of God’s redeeming love toward us by experiencing the agony of Christ suffering through the power of our imagination.  Card writes,

Josephus (First Century Jewish historian)revealed the ferocity of Roman flogging when, commenting on the fate of a prisoner of the Jewish War, said that the man was lacerated to he bone with scourges.  In face, the only stipulation Roman law made was that a man would be flogged until the flesh hung from his back.  The blows fell until the skin split open and the muscles were severed; until ligaments tore and bone chipped.  Some men were disemboweled.  Many did not survive.

To intensify the suffering of the victim, flogging always preceded a crucifixion.  As an unintentional mercy, it could hasten death when it resulted in a massive loss of blood.

Imagine it with me.

Jesus is standing there stripped, shackled, and alone in the circle.  The legionnaire steps forward, opens his reach, and begins.  The scourges hiss through the air in a wide arc and sink with a thud into Christ’s skin.

The crowd howls.

The scourges rise again and again in the soldier’s fist.  And fall.  And rise again.

Soldiers sneer and spit.  The scourges hiss and thud into purple flesh.  Blood flows.  God’s chosen people scream for more.

The tormentor grunts and sweats, but keeps reaching back for that terrible, wide arc.

Jesus crumples.  Guards rush to jerk Him to His feet.  The scourges rise again, and fall.

Look!  The righteous anger of God, diverted for all time, is pouring down on this man, His Son.

But the fault is mine, and I must look away.

It is one think to speak in theological terms about an obligatory sacrifice for a fallen world.  It is an entirely different thing to stand in the presence of brutal men and their instruments of torture and try to watch, realizing that Jesus endured all that and more for you and me. (Michael Card, A Violent Grace, p. 65-66)

When I partake of the communion elements, I cannot help but think to myself, “Why did He do it.”  “Why would God’s Son die for a miserable, evil, and undeserving sinner like me?”  The only answers that I have ever come up with, and the only ones that have ever made since, are these: 1) Jesus loves me, and 2) God is gracious.

Romans 5:6-8  ¶ For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare towd how die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.