Friday, April 19, 2013

We Are Family

“For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).

Since we know that Jesus is God then we know also that Jesus loves His family. But, if we truly know Jesus as He revealed Himself, then we also know that Jesus placed highest value in His spiritual family. It isn’t that He didn’t love His earthly family but His spiritual was motivated by the depth of His love. His spiritual family was made up of those who heeded His words, embraced His love and followed His direction. They were people who were united in their devotion to Jesus and His Father. His love wasn’t made greater because they listened to Him but it was engraved deeper into their hearts, and as a result, they were being transformed. The church today is the continuation of that family tree that has its roots in the truth revealed in His word.

Paul reminds us that the church is a family unit “having been knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2). He uses a form of the Greek word agape for “love” here to show that the love that binds us together is an acting love. What keeps the church strong is their willingness to serve, love and encourage one another. When we see a brother or sister in need, we unite as a group to bring strength to the individual. We do this knowing the church gets stronger when the struggling individual perseveres through the trial: “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). We are a caring group that is separated from the world because of our embracing our Lord’s love (John 13:34-35).

Our love for each other could not be complete without a deep down longing for Jesus’ teaching. Jesus came as One who had the mind of God and the heart to reveal that mind. He left the realm of heaven to come to teach us how to live as God’s chosen vessels. Remember, this world thinks we are all chosen vessels but the Bible shows us there are a certain group that continues to allow God’s love to mold them into His image instead of letting the world make us look like them. God’s plan is for His church to be cleansed for the work He has assigned them and without His cleansing one cannot be set apart for His work: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). Jesus used His words to reveal the mind of God to make known His purpose, power and presence in the church. When we love this teaching we make it our lives. And as we continue to grow and learn from our Master, we become more and more like Him every day. How can one not love His word knowing that it is preparing us for eternity?

The church on earth is known as His disciples. Disciples are people that learn. They deny what they once thought as truth and embrace the truth the Christ has revealed. They will not be persuaded by men, either by trickery or by force. Disciples have only one Master and that is Jesus. They know how important it is to live according to truth: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). Disciples need the love of Christ to survive. But to abide in that love they must stand against the trickery of people who have been deceived by the evil one who doesn’t want them to know the power of this love (2 Corinthians 4:4). True disciples give their lives to the cause of their Teacher, and that is to save the world from the hands of the accuser, who is trying to keep them from living eternally. Many in this world are disciples but only a few are true disciples of Christ. Only a few are willing to live and die for the purpose of saving souls.

In His Grace,

Friday, April 5, 2013

Night Walking

“So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night” (John 13:30).

As one reads John’s account of the gospel, the obvious is made clearer for us than if we were present at the time. Throughout the writing of John we can easily see Judas in the proper attire of his hypocrisy. But those who are with him do not have a clear line of sight into his intentions, except for Jesus. It is also true today as we can sometimes sit among hypocrites and never see their intentions until they reveal them in their actions. But Jesus knows our hearts and intentions.

Judas has just been identified as the betrayer after receiving a morsel of food dipped in the bowl of our Lord’s sauce. Once he has done this he has fulfilled the prophecy of Scripture (Psalm 41:9) as the one who will betray our Lord. It is at this time Jesus turns him over to Satan and tells him to carry out his act of betrayal without delay (John 13:27). As Judas realizes his cover has been blown, he exits the warmth of Jesus’ Light for the coldness of the world’s darkness. Many times we find ourselves at a critical time in our lives where we must decide whether we will continue in our discipleship and walk in the light or become like Judas and choose to leave Jesus for a walk in darkness. Let us learn from past experiences and make good decisions in the future.

Satan is described by God’s Spirit as the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) not because God wanted that but because man surrendered that power over to him in the Garden of Eden when he gave into Satan’s temptation. Satan still wanders this earth looking for souls to devour (James 5:8) and when we give into his evil deception of temptation we also choose to walk into his darkness. Please, do yourself a favor and remember that walking into darkness is always turning away from Christ: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God’s truth is the Light of Christ that is given to illuminate the path way to His eternal presence (Psalm 119:105). If we are going to remain on the right path we must keep our focus on the light of truth and not be lured away.

Through his grace and mercy God has called us to draw near to Him. The key here is that He has called us, not forced us, to make this choice. Whenever we set out to accomplish our own desires instead of the will of God, we have made the choice to leave the Light to walk in darkness: “But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's’” (Mark 8:33). Harsh words, it would seem, especially for a disciple who was just trying to defend His Lord. But sometimes harshness is the only way to get people to see the deceitfulness of Satan’s schemes. Peter needed a lesson that would sink deep into his heart so that change would be inevitable in his way of thinking.

One thing that we need to make sure we are extracting from both of these instances is the idea of free will. Both Judas and Peter were given the opportunity to repent. Jesus loved both of these men and gave each a chance to change their minds. Obviously, Peter made the right choice whereas Judas gave way to Satan’s deceit. Peter didn’t pay the price for sin but reaped the reward of repentance. He loved Jesus and listened to His word and allowed the truth to convict his heart. Judas on the other hand, did not listen and his heart was hardened by Jesus’ words. When Satan’s deceit is embraced it fogs our minds and causes us to make decisions that will cost us our relationship with Christ. But the good news is that Jesus will always give us a chance to repent and change the path in which we are walking. We must choose daily to walk with Him.

In His Grace,