It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

One Work

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-12)

As I was growing up, I was taught about the 3 works of the church: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. I’m not intending to talk against this, because those are the works the New Testament congregations were involved in doing. As you read about the local churches in the book of Acts and in the letters, you see the churches carrying out those works.

However, today’s thought is to help us remember not to compartmentalize things in our mind, always trying to keep these works in separate boxes. These works are all connected. When you help/visit a widow and minster to her needs, you are doing benevolence, of course. But are you edifying at the same time? Yes, she is edified, you are encouraged and built up by her faith and trust in Jesus, and maybe the person you took with you to visit that person is encouraged as well. Are you doing evangelism in this work, too? What about the widow’s neighbor who notices what you are doing? Is it possible that you are preaching Jesus by your labor of love for the widow? It’s not only possible, it is exactly what you are doing, according to Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35)

As a congregation takes care of its own (benevolence), it displays the love of Christ to the world (evangelism), and builds up the brethren (edification).

As you look at the verse at the beginning of this post (Ephesians 4:11-12), you see that elders/shepherds, evangelists and teachers are given by God to “equip” the brethren to serve, so that the body of Christ can be built up.

It’s one work.

Moving in Two Directions

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:7-8)

In this passage we see the Lord and the Devil moving in two different directions. The Devil is fleeing and and Lord is drawing near. This explains why the Devil flees, because God is coming!

We see all the Devil is doing in this world, and what he has done in our own lives, and he can be pretty scary. He is described in Scripture as the adversary, the prince of the power of the darkness, the enemy, the accuser of our brethren, a dragon, a serpent, a lion, the god of this age, the evil one, the father of lies, a murderer, the tempter, and the ruler of this world (Matthew 4:3; 13:38-39; John 8:44; 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9-10).

When I think of a lion, a ruler, a god, and a dragon, the thought of those beings fleeing anything is foreign to me. But when the Lord is coming, that great dragon and roaring lion runs away! The Devil is powerful, he has brought the whole world under his influence (1 John 5:19), but He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

If you submit to God, resist the devil, and draw near to God, the Lord promised two things: He would come near, and the Devil would run away. That’s a promise. God doesn’t lie. Sometimes we get too caught up in the power of the Devil and forget how much more mighty the Lord Jesus is.

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
(1 John 3:8)

A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.

In Me You May Have Peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

I was thinking about this verse this morning. There are two “in’s” in this passage:

  • In the world you will have tribulation.
  • In Me you may have peace.

How do those two concepts coexist? Tribulation, meaning we are under pressure like grapes being crushed to produced juice. That is what happens to us in the world, according to Jesus. But then he also says that we can while under pressure and anguish have peace.

“In Me you may have peace.” We are physically located in the world, but our hearts and relationships are tied to the eternal Christ. This is how Jesus slept in a boat on the storm. He was physically located in the storm, but His heart was resting safely and quietly in the Father.

I really need this right now. Maybe you do, too. May we come to Christ and to His words (and to His people) for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that only comes through Jesus Christ.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27)

 

A Lesson From Aaron Feis

Aaron Feis, as many of you may have heard, was an assistant football coach who died this week while shielding students from the gunfire. He ran toward the danger to help save the students. Jesus told us about how great a love it is to lay down your life for others (John 13).

Here is an excerpt from CNN about this incredible man who died saving others.

(CNN)Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by the assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Feis was among 17 people killed when a former student armed with a rifle opened fired on campus, unleashing a massacre that stands among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player who was close with Feis, said he heard the coach shielded three girls from gunfire.
“That’s Coach Feis,” Haab said, describing the educator as selfless, approachable and friendly.
“(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible,” Haab said.
Haab last saw Feis Tuesday morning in a school hallway, he said. They talked “about normal stuff,” like work and football.
“I’m glad he didn’t suffer that much,” the teenager said. “It’s sad because it’s not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that’s for sure. Football definitely won’t be the same. We’re definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/football-coach-florida-school-shooting-trnd/index.html

 

Committed Thomas

Doubting Thomas. We’ve probably all heard that term. Even people who aren’t Christians use that term to describe someone who is skeptical and needs evidence.

Thomas was not with the other 10 apostles when Jesus first appeared to them the day of His resurrection. It wasn’t till 8 days later that Jesus appeared to the 11 and turned Doubting Thomas into Believing Thomas (John 20:24-31). This is where we sometimes talk about “Absent Thomas” and what he missed out on because he wasn’t there.

But rather than talk about Doubting or Absent Thomas, I’d rather think about Committed Thomas today. Even when Thomas didn’t understand exactly what Jesus was doing, he was still willing to follow. Committed Thomas wanted to follow Jesus, but he just didn’t understand where Jesus was going.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

Committed Thomas wanted to follow Jesus, even if it meant dying for Jesus. When Jesus wanted to leave the safety of beyond the Jordan and travel to Bethany (near Jerusalem) in order to raise dead Lazarus, the disciples knew how dangerous that would be. Thomas led the group in support of going with Jesus.

So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)

Indeed, Thomas sought for affirmation and proof, and he wanted to understand, but Jesus gave him that evidence, didn’t He? Many other followers of God in Scripture come to mind that asked for confirmation and evidence, Gideon being the first one that comes to mind. Gideon was given reassurance and proof repeatedly by God. Gideon is highlighted in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith. We are no different from Gideon or Thomas, we all need that divine blessed reassurance once in awhile.

Jesus didn’t give this kind of evidence and affirmation to the Jewish leadership. They asked for a sign, and He told them they were a wicked and adulterous generation (Matthew 12). He may have rebuked His disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16), but He still gave them the evidence so they would believe. The hearts of the disciples, unlike the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees, were committed to following Jesus.

Thomas most likely died a violent death for Jesus and the gospel. Yes, he was at times “doubting” and “absent,” but we see his true heart as fully committed to following Jesus.

Have You Seen God?

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?

May God be seen in us today.

Misplaced Compassion

“When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.  When His disciples James and John saw, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’  And they went on to another village.”  Luke 9:51-56

Do you see the compassion of James and John in this passage?  You think I’m crazy, right?  This passage is all about James and John bringing down judgment and their failure to have compassion.  But consider why they got upset in the first place.  Is there any indication that James and John were violent, spiteful men?  I don’t believe they made a habit of walking around, looking for offense, so they could “justify” human BBQs.  So what caused this strange and irrational response to the Samaritans?  I think there are two prominent elements at work here.

First, we know there is a long history of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans and the Jews did not hide their feelings of superiority.  But second, and most important, James and John had a deep love, respect and loyalty towards Jesus.  In fact, I believe their fiery reaction is driven by compassion for Jesus.  After all, this is their Teacher, their Lord, the Messiah, and He is being treated with such disrespect.  Who among us wouldn’t feel compelled, even obligated, to defend Jesus from such an insult?  But in their compassion for Jesus they fail to recognize the purpose and motivation of Jesus.

Friends and brothers, far too often this happens to us.  Our loyalty to a teaching or a political ideology and our disdain for the perversion of the opposing viewpoint can blind us to the purpose and motivation of Jesus.  We can stand firmly on the “truth” of God’s word, calling down fire from heaven to destroy all those who stand in opposition and completely fail to recognize that God intends His word to heal and to save.  I believe most of us are driven by a sincere love for God but we succumb to the temptation to “fight fire with fire” and end up “returning evil for evil”.

If we are truly disciples of Jesus then we will consider how He reacted to the sin and perversion in His world.  Of course He didn’t shy away from the truth and, at times, He was confrontational but it was always driven by His desire and purpose to save men’s lives.  Can we say the same about us?  When I post that political article on FB or I respond to that “ignorant” comment, am I trying to save men’s lives?  When I defend my viewpoint or attack false teaching, is it for the purpose of saving the lost?  To my shame, the answer is often “no”.  We can be “right” and still be so very wrong.

Ultimately, Jesus let the opposition have their way.  He allowed the darkness of mankind to overwhelm the Light of the world.  He endured the most unjust and wicked trial the world has ever seen and He “opened not His mouth”.  When He was confronted with venom and hatred and malice He showed compassion and mercy saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  And what was the result of such selflessness?  What did Jesus hope to accomplish?  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32)  I submit to you that the “drawing” power of the gospel is the mercy and compassion of our Lord.  The humble submission of Jesus to His accusers and abusers is the very thing that continues to call men out of darkness and into the light.

There will always be a need for bold preaching.  We will always have the opportunity to stand for truth and oppose false ideals and doctrine.  But when we follow the example of our Lord, and we are driven by mercy and compassion, we will experience something amazing; we will see men drawn to Jesus.

Greater is He who is in you

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4-6).

It may seem like evil is winning. We may groan, cry and sigh like Lot did over Sodom (2 Peter 2:8). Tears may flow down our eyes as they did for David and Jeremiah because people do not keep God’s law (Psalm 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1). Just as Elijah was tempted to despair, thinking he was all alone, we might begin to feel the same way (1 Kings 19).

Greater is He who is in you

In all of this, however, we must call our minds back to 1 John 4:4. Satan is not winning…Christ is victorious. The wickedness and evil people around you will not overwhelm and conquer you because God is in you. He is greater. God is greater than Satan. Do not despair. Please do not throw your hands up and ask, “What’s the use?”

If Jesus Christ lives within you, then you are overcoming the world. You can overcome the temptations of this world through Christ. With His strength you can withstand the blast of Satan’s blows. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper…” (Isaiah 54:17). The Devil has thrown everything he has at God’s people and yet we still stand, because Jesus promised it (Matthew 16:18). Christ’s power, not our own, is working.

As I have heard many preachers say over the years about the book of Revelation, “I have read the end of the book and Jesus wins!”

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).