Thursday, September 29, 2011


(frenemies are enemies who act like your friend)

If Jesus is the servant and friend of God, and Jesus is our Savior, how can we know if Jesus will always be there to be the centerpiece of our salvation and experience of eternal life?  If, somewhere in the vast breadth of eternity Jesus separated Himself from God, would we lose eternal life?  John 17:3,
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:23-23,
I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
What would happen if, down through the ages, Jesus grew tired of his place and decided to turn his back on God? Ever heard of anything like that in scripture?  It calls into question the kind of being Jesus is. Is Jesus God Himself or some lesser deity or angelic in nature? Can angels and other beings turn their back on God? Why, yes - and they have! This is the original example, Ezek. 28:12-13, 14-17
You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, the garden of God....  You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.  You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.  By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.  Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.
Judas was another instance.  John 13:21-22,
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”  Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
It happened to King David.  Ps. 55:12-14,
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; Then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.
What's to say that Jesus wouldn't do that one day? God had invested Satan with a lot of power and influence.  We say "it was pride that was Satan's fall," and it is.  Pride is a one-word answer for believing that power and influence comes from ourselves, and our status stands independent of others because by nature we possess goodness and life. It is a false belief. How can pride be overcome? We need the kind of Savior who is eternally faithful to God.  We need Him to remain subject to God meanwhile gathering a people from the earth to save from death and sin. We need one with the character of God Himself, to remain faithful and have the integrity to never turn his back on God. Jesus presents this argument to the Jews as their tool of discernment for whether He is the Christ and the Son of God, John 5:41-47,
“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.  I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.  How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?  Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Apparently the depraved heart of man loves the concept that men are sole originators of anything that brings life.  But Jesus says in a way, "The message hasn't changed. It's just that I'm manifesting it in the flesh." Those who already "identified" God properly from the Old Testament have no trouble "identifying" God in Jesus Christ.

The heart of God is that He is not alone in Himself. All those who come in their own name and their own message should receive a red flag of alert. God never has to speak for his own credibility and reputation. Even if he was robbed all of humanity's praise, the rocks would cry out.  God always uses another to testify of his own credibility and reputation. He uses the context of observable relationship in action to prove His identity. If the Father can be manifested in Jesus, the Father need not say a word.  That's why the Son has such a critical role with the Father - because he isn't here to testify of Himself, or to do His own will or to seek His own glory. He is here to gain all those things for the Father. Jesus is completely empty of Himself. But: that doesn't mean that Jesus isn't gaining glory and His own interests while here - because everybody should gird themselves - the Father is doing that very thing for the Son right now in front of everybody's faces - and this is the point of sermons given by Jesus such as John 5:22-38,
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.  For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.  There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.  You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.  But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.  And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.  But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
There is no gaining of relationship going on here for Jesus.  Jesus was not becoming the Son of God when he was ascended, nor when he was resurrected, nor when He was baptized.  Jesus Christ has always been the Son of God.  A Son is one who reflects the will of the Father, and it is this character that He had from eternity which allowed the Father to describe the accomplishment thus far to his revealing in the Jordan River: "This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased."  The defining distinction of a "son" is that he is in constant Spiritual need from God (Rom. 8:14).  This is why Jesus, though he had all "accomplishments" as the lofty Son of God, remained completely self-less. John 6:57,
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
Sons are not those who lose God and regain God like human beings do in their fallibility.  There is only one kind of "gaining" Jesus ever demonstrated, which is daily provisions for Spiritual life. The relationship has been established in eternity long before Jesus put on flesh.  It's only that now it is unfolding before us in the Gospel of John.  Jesus' state of abiding in God is pretty much the conversation of all doctrine in this Gospel, and everything to which He is inviting God's people in this Gospel.  It is the means by which there is, and will be, any such "thing" as eternal life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Savior, the Abider

Today begins a new series on the theme of abiding with God; essential to the doctrine of the gospel.  We recently read about Martha and Mary, whose faith was challenged to identify God-with-us, and in that post we touched on the invitation God gives to the church corporately to identify themselves as abiders.  We read about Joseph and his persecutions for manifesting God-with-us, and before that we read how identifying believers firstly as abiders with God protects God's flock from sectarianism and grows the Kingdom of God.

Why does abiding matter?  I will give a three-part response to frame its necessity.  (I am trying a new way of breaking posts into more edible sizes.)  After that I will exegete various passages excluding the Upper Room Discourse from the Gospel of John (chapters 1-12).  I am hoping a steady approach will spark some interesting thoughts from readers.

All posts under this theme will be under the label of this introductory title "Our Savior the Abider."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ignore-Accuse Prison

(transitioning on the theme of "identity" from the Gospel of John)
What is the "Ignore-Accuse Prison"?

This describes Joseph's sufferings in the book of Genesis.  The "ignore-accuse prison" was Joseph's lot in life for thirteen years.  Those he relied on would not let him fulfill the call God made on his life in the family, or in the community.  When he was interacting, he was quickly accused.  When he was taken into custody, he was quickly silenced.  Joseph would have loved to perform what God set before him, and at the same time quickly resolve relational strife, but he could not have both immediately.  Accusing and ignoring kept him isolated from those who could potentially defend and help him.  Nevertheless they could not restrain God's plans, only help fulfill them.  

Resentment snowballs. A little resentment within his family turned him into a slave, and once he was presented as a slave in Egypt, it was easy to indict him as a criminal. But Joseph never deserved slavery or prison.  Nevertheless he's fruitful in his place of affliction.  Everything he does prospers in his hand, because God is with him.  In fact God blesses the whole prison because of one God-fearing man.

From the outset Joseph's greatest devotion was to God.  His family was a close second.  Joseph's relationship with his brothers is highlighted in scripture at the moment Joseph ran to his father to tattle on them (Gen. 37:2).  His brothers hated him because he cared more for his father and more for doing what was right than maintaining the status quo.  When he told his brothers that God had chosen him for his zeal, they turned intolerant.  The truth of the matter is, God chose Joseph to go places and do things that few are presently prepared to undertake.  And that should have been okay, but obtaining Joseph's silence at any cost began to look like the better choice.  It grieved him deeply to lose his brothers' acceptance for the sake of what is right.  When the stranger asked Joseph, "What are you seeking?" he could not have been more transparent -- "I am seeking my brothers" (Gen. 37:15-16).

Later in Egypt, Potiphar's wife was captivated by appearances.  When she couldn't wield power over him in his subordinate position in the house, she wielded it by expelling him from the house.  She had no tolerance for his success which she knew came from the one true God he constantly spoke about.  She conspired to overpower him not only by falsely accusing his actions as criminal but also by belittling his ethnic disparity; "See, he has brought in a Hebrew to mock us" (Gen. 39:14,17).  She was proud of her people and her gods.  The package deal of Joseph-and-his-God were just a little too intimidating.

Joseph's God was not only present but armed with recompense.  (He is the same today, blessing those who mourn.)  Those who saw what Joseph could do did not know how to keep him down to size.  They didn't want Joseph's ministry to compel them to engage God.  They tried to sequester him within the ignore-accuse prison, but God only blessed him more.  His favor was so obvious to everyone, it no longer made sense to constrain him.  Joseph was released, of course, by the testimony of a lowly cupbearer.  By then God had invested him with enough resources to bless an immeasurable number of people.

Joseph must have harbored a wide range of emotions toward the cupbearer.  For two years he knew what Joseph was capable of doing but did not vouch for him.  Surely Joseph's "companions" were disappointment, anger and hurt.  Would the cupbearer ever come through?  Hope in God sustained him through the years.  When the cupbearer finally spoke out about Joseph's capacity, all his bitter feelings were replaced with overwhelming gratitude.  The cupbearer set Joseph free at great personal risk to his own reputation.  Potiphar was the Captain of Pharaoh's guard and had Pharaoh's trust.  The cupbearer had himself spent time in the Captain's jail where he had met Joseph, and Potiphar had set his course with Joseph when he chose to defend his wife's reputation.  Potiphar must have been incredulous as Joseph was brought forth.

Joseph's favor was readily apparent to everyone.  For the small handful who betrayed him, the obvious flair for success God gave Joseph was tantamount to proof not only of Joseph's innocence, but the supremacy of Himself as the only Living God.  Like the cupbearer, God gives an identity as one who is fully accepted and entitled to participate.  His betrayers follow the cupbearer's example and begin a process of healing and restoration in Joseph's life.

Are You in Ignore-Accuse Prison?

Are you repeatedly accused?  Are you typically ignored for some odd reason?  If this seems to be your lot in life, what have you contributed to your own ignore-accuse prison?  Have you been like everyone has at one point or another: prideful, selfish, or sinful?  What does Scripture say?  1 Pet. 2:19-20,
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
If you have been accused and ignored for doing wrong, God is your redeeming "Joseph."  He uses your evil for His good and will eventually set you free through the Holy Spirit.  1 Pet. 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
If you have been accused and ignored and yet are innocent, you are "Joseph" to your brothers.  God uses their evil for your good and will set you free also.  1 Pet 4:12-14,
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Prisoners who hunger and thirst for righteousness have a cupbearer!  His name is Jesus Christ.  He is the Savior of everyone in captivity - deserved or undeserved.  He promises to bring to light whatever you've done in the Holy Spirit.  In the meantime, ask God to bless you like he did Joseph.  God will grow you into a fruitful branch through faith.  Your present imprisonment will make righteousness come alive to many more eyes than you will ever know.  1 Pet. 4:19,
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Jacob's Blessing 
Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.

The archers have bitterly grieved him,
Shot at him and hated him.

But his bow remained in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father
Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

Gen. 49:22-26 
May we through patient endurance obtain similar favor from the LORD when the sons of God are revealed; and praise the Son of God from whom we receive so great a life!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Learning Life

Getting life from God's Word is vastly freer than anyone's formulation of how to get it.

"The trees of the LORD are full of sap" Ps. 104:16
Mary was a young woman famous for learning at the feet of Jesus.  She makes it sound easy.  For me learning has not always been easy.  When I was a teenager my parents had big expectations that I do well in college and outside of school I was subject to daily studies and written and verbal comprehension tests.  I didn't handle it well, and as I grew up my attitude toward learning worsened.  I felt so much pressure that by the time I found my own place on campus in college, I remember opening up a textbook and I could not even read a sentence.  I just stared at the page.  All I felt was stress when I looked at a book.  I graduated college without reading for tests with a 2.4 GPA.

In spite of near failure at college it was in that time that I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  After graduating I accidentally joined a cult who told me I was not saved.  I needed to find truth in the Bible for myself.  I spent the next three years trying to understand the nature of baptism and salvation.  I thought I had answers on paper.  However I got something more out of all that searching.  It was by the life-giving experience of receiving love and restoration through His power and presence in His Word -- I noticed -- I finally enjoyed learning.  Jesus changed me!  For years I failed to identify who He is in relation to me and what it would do to me now.  Why didn't I perceive what He was going to do?  Later I went into the pre-nursing curriculum for a year and everything was different.  I studied anatomy and physiology and got the highest score in about half of the exams.  My attitude toward books transformed in the turning leaves of scriptures.

Mary had a true love for Jesus and meditated deeply before Him.  She was praised for choosing the "better" thing in receiving the truth, because it was better than her sister Martha's attempts to earn God's intimacy through works. She attempted to be a captive listener, but I wonder if she really believed what she "learned." When their brother Lazarus died in John chapter 11 I would have thought that Mary would be first to understand that Jesus wants to give life right now, not just final resurrection from the dead. Mary didn't greet Jesus when He arrived "too late."  She was only grieving.  Consequently Jesus did not test her faith.  She sat on the sidelines as an onlooker.  Though Mary failed to anticipate what Jesus was going to do, she was so grateful afterward she poured all her wages on His feet. She finally identified Him correctly; that believing in Jesus was the same as believing in the presence of God.

To Martha's credit, she was a woman of action and she rightly interpreted Jesus through those lenses. Now she understood what Jesus would do for her and she applied her less-intensive base of scripture to trust in God's power. "But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You," she said to our Lord (Jn. 11:22).  If the Father has given Himself to Jesus, then Jesus has given Himself to us.  Jesus' rebukes always fell to strengthen Martha: "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" (Jn. 11:40).

Jesus prayed out loud so that all would believe that the Father has sent the Son.  It is through this amazing abiding relationship that Jesus showed He was God's only begotten heir, the first of many sons to come (Heb. 1:2, 2:10).  Jesus was God and also With God from eternity and He came to us as such (Jn 1:1).  When he prayed concerning Lazarus to the Father He showed us the intimacy of the Trinity and therefore displayed how approachable He is to us all.  Identifying with another is integral to the image of God.  When we identify with one another in the Body, we imitate Christ (1 Jn. 4:17, 5:1).  We reflect Christ's image of the God-Man who was identified as With God; we also see the glory of God in our circumstances (Jn. 17:22-23; 14:13; 15:7-8).

Believing in Jesus is to trust Him to affect me because of who He is. Though I regret my GPA I have lasting joy over God's life-giving transformation in me.  He will continue to do wonders I don't even dream of asking if only I abide in greeting Him and His people.  He has glorified Himself in this small way of granting a love to learn.  I believe that those reading here can identify many of their own experiences of Jesus giving life.  Whether you are like Mary and are praised for learning or like Martha who was ready to see God's power, may we continue as one Body to encourage each other when in our human imperfections we miss the holy mark of receiving life right now by eyes of faith.  God is with us -- grow deep.

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