Archive for January, 2021
“Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me. The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which He was speaking” (John 13:21-22).
To dismiss Judas as an aberration among the disciples is a error in judgment; depriving one the opportunity to consider the equally tragic ways we betray Jesus each day. Each of the disciples were, themselves, wondering if they might be the one (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19) and, indeed, the hours following would bring their own forms of betrayal. The line between who loves Jesus and who betrays him is often clouded. If it had not been Judas it could just as easily have been me or you.
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The true quality of a person’s faith is measured not by religious performance but the fruit that is borne out of one’s daily life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are far sweeter expressions than the bitterness of a religious countenance.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by the nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9).
“Tribulation” comes from a word indicating tremendous pressure. For the followers of Christ, it is the pressure to remain quiet or, worse still, to compromise the historical and grammatical understanding of the biblical text for the sake of cultural accommodation. To stand firmly upon a faith rooted in historic biblical teaching, one runs the risk of being called “a hater” or intolerant. Yet, how much must I hate someone to withhold the truth of Christ? Should they not have the same opportunity to know the redeeming mercies of God, as did I?
“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6).
That we are in the last days isn’t determined by the current events headlining the daily news. From a biblical perspective, we have been in the last days since the Day of Pentecost, when God poured out his Spirit (Acts 2:16-17). The events of history that the last days prognosticators and doomsayers have deemed as “signs” of Christ return—wars, natural disasters, terroristic acts, economic crashes, pandemics—these are but the chaos of a broken creation. While everyone else is troubled and frightened by the “signs of the times,” we are to be a settled and reassuring presence as we fearlessly wait upon the only true sign that will be given—the return of Christ.
“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many’” (Matthew 24:4-5).
The warning is against gullibility; to have a constant, unceasing awareness of those who would seek to mislead you in these last days. The word “mislead” emerges from the same Greek word from which we get our word “planet” or a “wandering object.” While the greater majority will, in fact, wander away, we are to maintain theological sanity and not give audience to those pretending to have the answers to “when” and “what” regarding the return of Christ.
“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age’” (Matthew 24:3)?
The “when” of the disciples’ curiosity arises from Jesus’ comment regarding the destruction of the temple (v.2), which history records as having occurred in 70 A.D. The remaining “what” is in regard Christ’ return and the end of the age. Having already rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees upon their request for a sign (16:1) when he, himself, is the fullest revelation of God that heaven has to offer, Jesus informs his disciples that the sign of his appearing will be his appearance (v.30); and that the only ones to hold forth great signs are false Christs and false prophets, who do so for the purpose of misleading (v.24). What Jesus offers, instead, to his disciples then and now is a series of admonitions, not to solve our curiosity but make us more cautious and alert as to how we shall then live.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant’” (Matthew 20:25-26).
To those upon whom the church is to be built (all disciples), the charge is to take all our ambitious desires, that are by nature self-serving and self-promoting, and to redirect those energies toward an unprecedented objective of serving others. To give oneself as a servant, slave, and ransom is an organizational model having no secular counterpart. Only eyes for the Kingdom will develop a heart for the lowly.
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God” (John 3:17-18).
The mission of Jesus wasn’t to bring judgement but salvation. That salvation is offered to all, brings forth judgement upon those who refuse it. Thus, the often raised question of how a loving God could condemn someone is itself an uninformed query since the scriptures make clear that the final judgement imposed by God is of our doing, not his.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).
One of the most effective weapons the enemy uses against the children of God is to attack our sense of worth; constantly bringing to mind our failures and deficiencies. The appropriate response is to stop viewing oneself through the eyes of our own self-esteem and start seeing ourselves through the eyes of God’s love. It is a transforming perspective.
“And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers” (Matthew 20:24).
Don’t think the ten so noble that theirs is a righteous indignation. They have revealed enough of their own self-serving attitudes, in other contexts, to suppose that the outrage is more about having been “beat to the punch.” Their jealous greed has been exposed; that James and John might obtain something they, themselves, desired. I hope you are not disappointed. Where people are involved, conflict is inevitable. If the twelve disciples could not get along perfectly, even while Jesus was in their very midst, it certainly offers us reassurance as his imperfect church. That the church has survived and performed its missional task for 2000 years, despite disciples like us, bears continuing affirmation of its divine origin.