I just finished the book Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. I highly recommend it to you. His website is coldcasechristianity.com, or you can look on Amazon to buy it.
J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case detective who uses his skills to examine the “crime scene” to lead someone to making a “reasonable conclusion” that God exists, Jesus is real and the Bible can be trusted.
One article I wanted to share with you today is a blog post he wrote entitled, “Is Jesus Simply a Retelling of the Mithras Mythology?” Skeptics have made the case in books and in universities that Jesus was just a retelling of previous mythologies. These kinds of arguments can be devastating to a young college student who is not prepared to deal with such an attack.
Fathers and grandfathers, we know that our kids and grand-kids are being bombarded with all kinds of anti-god indoctrination through peers, media and academia. It is vital that we equip ourselves as much as possible to help lay the groundwork and foundation of faith in their hearts.
Detective Wallace is also coming out with versions of his books for kids.
As with any material, including my articles, please compare them with God’s word to make sure that what is being taught is from God.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:16)
The disciples did not understand these things…at first.
Jesus said and did a lot of things that the disciples just did not understand. There were also prophecies about the Messiah that these Jewish men were unable to connect to the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Many reasons can be found in the 4 gospels as to why they didn’t fully understand.
Part of it was poor teaching, wrong assumptions and false conclusions on the part of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 16:1-3; Luke 12:54-56). Another part was the mindset of the disciples themselves; they were at times setting their hearts on the things of the world (Matthew 16:23). Jesus, on more than one occasion corrected them for their slowness to believe and their hardness of heart (Mark 7:18; 8:17-18; 16:14; Luke 24:25). I’m so thankful in knowing that even with all of their “issues” Jesus was patient with them as they grew.
With time and events, though, and the working of the Holy Spirit, and the plain teaching from the Word, the disciples finally understood.
Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:22).
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He (Jesus) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).
And He (Jesus) opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).
They didn’t understand at first, but in time with God’s patient guidance, they understood. A dear friend of mine, Charles, who serves as a shepherd, showed me a passage years ago in connection to this concept.
Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you (Philippians 3:15).
We all begin our spiritual journey as immature babes and as babes our reasoning is sometimes way off base. Paul says that if we need growth, God will “reveal” that to us. I don’t believe that means God will give us some new truth that is not already revealed in the word, but with His patient guidance as we walk and grow in Him, He helps to open our eyes to see the truth that was always there in the Word in the first place.
You see, Jesus opened the disciples understanding to see what was already in the Scriptures for centuries. It wasn’t new truth, it was just that the light went on in their souls and they got it and believed. These new “revelations” were life-changing. They just had not seen it there and understood it until time and events had taken place to open their eyes.
It is the same for us today. There are things you can’t or don’t understand now that one day you will see. The same old truth has always been there, but maybe you just weren’t ready for it yet (for whatever reason). Thankfully God in His longsuffering and mercy gives us that wiggle room (as my mother-in-law calls it) to grow as Jesus did for His disciples.
Have you seen God? John was very plain in saying, “No one has seen God at any time.” Do you know what God looks like? Many have undergone the futile task of trying to imagine what God looks like. All kinds of paintings and sculptures have been done through the centuries, and those artistic works reflect the imagination of the artist. They do not reflect reality, because no one could even come close to describing the features of God. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). We see in Scripture that He has hands, eyes, and arms, but we also see God described as having wings. It is all figurative and descriptive.
We go back simply to the words of John, “No one has seen God at any time.” But then again, I ask the question, “Have you seen God?” I can with all certainty and conviction say most positively, “Yes!” I have seen God, face to face, because His image and heart is being reflected and lived out in His people.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:11-13).
“If we love one another, God abides in us.” Did you see that? God is seen in His people. Christ is reflected in His body. I often preach and discuss the concept of “putting skin on” these Bible concepts. I didn’t come up with that, God did. Notice how John begins his gospel account in chapter 1,
And the Word became flesh (put skin on) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18).
See that phrase again? “No one has seen God at any time.” But Jesus put skin on, He became flesh and we saw God in the flesh. When you see Jesus in Matthew through John, you see God face to face. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not only do we see God in the face of Jesus, we now see God in the face of the people who walk with Him. Jesus develops His heart and His love within His people and then we reflect the face and nature of God in our lives. We become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Have you seen God? Well, if you like me have experienced the love of God lived out among His people then you can shout from the mountaintops with all confidence that you have seen God.
So who will be seen in our lives today? Will people see God through us? Do they hear God when we talk? Are we reflecting the image and glory of God in our relationships?
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).
I’m looking outside the window this morning and seeing much more green today than before. It is just amazing how that happens. The Lord just turned on the green switch last night. Birds are singing and building nests in the trees. Spring flowers are coming up.
The promises that come with spring are so encouraging; God is making all things new again. Leaves will come back on the trees, fruits and vegetables will grow. New creatures will be born. The blossoms on the trees will spread their fragrant aromas. Spring brings such a hopeful atmosphere with it.
Take these opportunities to direct your children’s attention to God’s marvelous creation, and the amazing work He accomplishes every spring!
Consider also that during the springtime is when Jesus raised from the dead. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who said, “Behold I make all things new.” Just as spring flowers, baby birds and green grass are a testimony to God’s handiwork, even more so is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The very fact of Jesus’ resurrection serves as a promise that one day, God will truly make all things new. There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain because the “former things” will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). So as we see the Spring bring new life, we can comfort our hearts in faith that the God who made the robin and its beautiful blue egg will one day make all things new in heaven.
Yesterday, Anna and I heard an incredible sermon by brother Mike Sullivan in Lafayette, Indiana. Mike’s sermon came from Luke 7:36:50 which is the account of the sinful woman, Jesus and Simon the Pharisee. I don’t believe the sermon audio is available yet, but here is the link for the church’s sermon page for you to check later. This question of Jesus, “Do you see this woman?” is a question that would serve us well to consider.
For today, please take a few minutes to read Luke 7:36-50. Meditate upon what the Holy Spirit says here in the text. As you read it, think about two of the questions that Mike asked the congregation to consider:
Are you more like Jesus or Simon the Pharisee? How Jesus saw this woman was light years away from how Simon the Pharisee saw this woman. Simon saw a woman who disgusted him. Jesus saw a sinner who was deeply overwhelmed with gratitude and love because of His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Both men saw her sins, even Jesus said, “they are many,” (Luke 6:47). However, the two men saw her and her sins from completely different perspectives.
Are you more like the sinful woman or more like Simon the Pharisee? Simon saw in himself very little need for mercy from Jesus because he was self-righteous. The sinful woman clearly understood that she was unrighteous and in desperate need of the grace of Jesus. Mike made the observation that how we view the grace and mercy of Jesus is directly correlated to our love and devotion to Jesus. She “loved much” because she understood how much Jesus loved her first (Luke 6:47; 1 John 4:19).
Do You See This Woman?
A final thought for this morning comes back to one of the questions Jesus asked Simon the Pharisee. “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 6:44). Think of how Simon initially saw the woman. Sinful. Disgusting. Shameful. Inappropriate behavior in his house. Now think about how Jesus wanted Simon to see the woman upon second look. Also, consider how Jesus wanted Simon to see himself.
This is critical stuff, men. Let’s think about these things today.
Some are givers, some are takers…which one defines us? The passage we are going to look at today showed two very different agendas. The Jewish leadership was at the temple to take (steal, really). They had turned God’s house into a den of thieves, according to Jesus.
That day, Jesus restored the temple back to its original purpose. He drove out the corrupt money changers, and He began healing the blind and the lame. Children were running around praising Him as the Messiah. Because of Jesus, the temple once again became a place of healing, a safe place for the broken, and a haven of praise.
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES AND NURSING INFANTS YOU HAVE PERFECTED PRAISE’?”(Matthew 21:12-16).
Some Are Givers, Some are Takers
Because Jesus came to serve, the blind and the lame found a welcome place in the temple. When our attitudes at the church building are all “me-oriented,” then the broken will not come to us. We wouldn’t even notice it anyways, because if we are “me-oriented,” the broken can offer us nothing.
So, when we go to worship services this Sunday, what is our agenda? Do we view it like a movie theater, we pay some money, sit down and are entertained and then go our way? Is my expectation for a perfect service, flawless music, awesome sermon, and for everyone to treat me perfectly? Are we full of ideas and critical of how the doers are doing things? If so, that’s a taker’s attitude.
Or do we see this as an opportunity to serve and to help heal? Do we come with our sleeves rolled up and ready to offer our assistance? Are we on the search for the brokenhearted? Do you look for new faces? What about taking a young college student or a struggling mom out to lunch? Take note of that widow who faithfully comes every time the doors are open, but doesn’t say much. Build a relationship with that dear elderly brother or sister. Notice that preteen who comes with her grandparents that may seem a little distant. Try to create conversation and show her you genuinely care.
Jesus came to serve, the other Jewish leaders came to take. Let’s decide to follow Jesus’ example.
And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)
So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)
Twice in Mark chapter 10, Jesus asked this question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” It will be good for us to look at each situation briefly and learn a lesson for today.
The first time Jesus asked this question, it was of James and John.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:35-37).
What did James and John want? Power, position and glory. Jesus had to follow up with a lesson on humility and servanthood (Mark 10:41-45).
The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of a blind man named Bartimaeus. This man sat by the roadside begging.
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight” (Mark 10:46-51).
Bartimaeus knew who Jesus was. He understood by faith that Jesus was the Messiah and had power to heal. This man didn’t want power, position or glory, he just wanted to see. I find it amazing that others around him “warned him to be quiet.” He was not deterred nor would he be silenced.
Jesus knew the faith of this man and the condition of his heart. He “commanded” that Bartimaeus be called up to Him.
Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road (Mark 10:52).
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. Blind Bartimaeus “saw” something that even the 12 did not see: simple trusting faith combined with pure humility.
Be a Bartimaeus today. Don’t be a glory and position seeker, think of the basic, foundational needs you have that only Jesus can provide. Cry out and beg for the Son of David to provide those for you. Your faith will make you well, just as it did for Bartimaeus.
My mom would use this expression when we were growing up, and I’ve heard others over the years say it as well. “Don’t get too big for your britches.” It’s about humility and not getting so full of ourselves. Sometimes in life we are working the drive-thru at McDonald’s all the while acting like we should be the CEO.
For today, think of a couple of examples of young men who demonstrated that they were not too big for their britches. They had humility and a proper perspective of their roles.
David, as a young man, was anointed by Samuel and called by God to be the next king of Israel (1 Sam. 16). Yet, God did not walk David right into the palace and send King Saul packing. David had to play music to soothe a weak, godless and ineffective king (1 Samuel 16:14-23). He was also called to be Saul’s armorbearer, which means David went before Saul in battle (1 Sam. 16:21). Who is going to get killed first?
On top of that, while holding down those jobs, his daddy expected him to come back home on occasion to Bethlehem and take care of the sheep (1 Sam. 17:15). Then on his return journey to Saul, David had to become a messenger and delivery boy to bring supplies to his older brothers in battle (1 Sam. 17:12-20). Nowhere in that text do we see him having a sense of entitlement. We don’t see David whining about how his true talents and potential are not being used. He just did the job at hand. David wasn’t too big for his britches.
The other example is of Jesus when He was 12 years old. If anyone could be too big for his britches, it would be Jesus. He knew His role and His purpose in life, and stated that clearly to His parents in the temple in Jerusalem. However, Luke records this:
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them… And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:51-52).
Don’t Get Too Big for Your Britches
Today at work, remember this concept, men. Let’s consider the humility of Jesus and David and how they did the job before them. They did not get caught up in entitlement and an inflated sense of self-worth. Jesus still had to take out the trash and mow the yard, even though He was the Son of God. The Lord promises us that if we are faithful in the little things, He will bless us with greater things. But when we’re too big for our britches, we will never realize that blessing.
Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:18-22).
Here is a discussion that Jesus had with Simon Peter after the resurrection. Jesus taught Peter (at least) two very important lessons about following Him. Twice Jesus told Peter in this discussion, “Follow Me.” Let’s take a moment to see what following Jesus involves.
You follow Me
Following Jesus was going to cost Peter his life. This death, according to John, would glorify the Father (see also 2 Peter 1:14). Men, that is the same cost we must pay in order to follow Jesus. And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
Not everyone who follows Jesus will face the same trials. Peter was very concerned about another disciple (John) and how his life would turn out. What was Jesus’ response? “What is that to you? You follow Me?” We can get caught up in how our life is so much different than others, and that other Christians have it so much “easier.” Let’s keep in mind what Jesus said to Peter…“What is that to you? You follow Me?” Also keep in mind that you are probably wrong; that other person doesn’t have it “easier.” He or she has trials and adversity, too, those trials are just in different forms.
So, what about John?
Consider the apostle John, about whom Peter was so concerned. Did John face trials? He was beaten and imprisoned just like Peter was (Acts 4-5). His brother, James, was beheaded by Herod (Acts 12). John was persecuted and exiled to the isle of Patmos for preaching the Word (Revelation 1). Some members of congregations caused John a lot of grief and pain (3 John 9-10). I write these things down to say that everybody faces adversity and persecution for following Christ, it just may be in a different form that what you face. Regardless of what that other disciple faces or does not face in life, our responsibility is to follow Jesus.
While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples
Jesus’ mother and brothers were waiting outside to speak to Jesus. It is clear that at this point the brothers of Jesus did not believe Him (John 7:5). In fact, read Mark’s parallel account to the one you just read in Matthew 12. Mark points out that some of Jesus’ family thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21). They were trying to do an intervention! Jesus has gone looney and they needed to rescue Him from Himself.
In the midst of this scene, someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers were outside waiting to talk to Him. Note that Jesus stretched out His hand toward His disciples and called them His mother and brothers.
Disciples. The followers and students of Jesus are the ones who are the family of Jesus.
Here is more insight into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. As Jesus was still pointing to His “disciples” He said,
“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
So how do you know who are Jesus’ disciples today in 2016? Notice that the family of Jesus is one and the same as the disciples of Jesus. How do you know who is related to Jesus? We all have heard of or seen clips of those ridiculous train wreck talk shows where somebody gets DNA results back to determine who is the father of which kid. Well, our spiritual DNA test comes down to one simple question. Who does what God says? Men, it really isn’t any more complicated that that. If you and I are both doing what God says, then we are family and we are the disciples of the Lord.
We don’t identify God’s family and Jesus’ disciples by a sign on a building, but by the behavior of the people claiming to be followers of Jesus. Does their behavior match the claim? If so, they are family, and they are disciples.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).