I had planned on reading John and Acts today, but as I was reading through John, I couldn’t get past the end of chapter three. It was like the Lord prompting me to tarry over this part of Scripture. Here’s the section He highlighted:
He who comes from above is above all, and he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who come from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness; and no man receives His witness. He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:31-36, NASB).
Join me and let’s take a look at this more closely.
“He who comes from above is above all.” When I thought about this, I was reminded of another passage of Scripture: “To whom will you liken Me that I should be his equal” says the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25, NASB). The One who comes from above is truly above all, and there is nothing we can compare to Him. His name is above every name, and every knee will bow to Him one day. Jesus once asked His disciples who people said He was. When we compare what the disciples said with the Isaiah passage, we realize how far off people really were. Jesus isn’t just some prophet or one “spiritual master” among many, as if someone could be like Him. Don’t let anyone tell you there is someone like Jesus. The Holy One is beyond comparison, and no one is His equal.
“He who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth.” We can see how different we are from the One who comes from above here. We are of the earth, created beings who have fallen from a state of perfection. After the Fall, our nature has lost its spiritual characteristics and became natural (also referred to as the flesh), and so we now think and act as those from the earth. Our life resembles the lyrics from a Harry Chapin song:
“My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, dad”
“You know I’m gonna be like you.”
(Chapin, 1974, track 1)
We are concerned about the things of the world, and looking for fulfillment, but not finding it on earth. We have lost our ability to hear and receive spiritual things.
“What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness; and no man receives His witness.” When Jesus told Nicodemus that a person must be born again, he couldn’t understand how that could be. After all, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (John 3: 4, NASB). Nicodemus couldn’t understand that the children of God are not born according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. He couldn’t receive what Jesus was saying. Now you can see why after Jesus would speak to the people, He would say “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Not everyone can receive what He says.
“He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.” When I read this, I felt led to look up the definition of seal. The definition that stood out to me was this: “Something that confirms, ratifies, or makes secure: Guarantee, assurance” (Seal def). The one who receives Jesus’ witness has confirmed, ratified, or made secure the fact that God is true! This is good, but it leads to a conundrum. If we cannot receive the things of God in our natural nature, then we will not understand how we have sinned against God, and we will not be able to come to a place of repentance. It would seem we are lost were it not for this one fact: He is the God of the impossible!
“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” In our natural self, we cannot receive the things of God as Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 2:14, but God has given all things into Jesus’ hands, and He has all authority. When God gives the Spirit without measure, it means Jesus’ has been given limitless power to reach the heart of the lost. His arm is not shortened that it cannot save! He intervenes in His great power and makes it possible for that lost soul to receive His word so they can repent. Without that intervention, it would be impossible for us to be saved. In conclusion:
“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
If you have not done so yet, please come to the Lord Jesus and receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Jesus has used the limitless power of heaven to bring you to a place of repentance. If you will confess your sin, He is faithful and just to forgive all your sin; He will abundantly pardon and make you into a new creation! Come and see that the Lord is good!
Sivan 20, 5778
Chapin, H. (1974). The cat’s in the cradle. On Verities and Balderdash. Elektra
Seal. (2018). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.meriam-webster.com/dictionary/seal
On Friday evening, March 30, 2018, it will be Erev Pesah, and Passover will begin. This celebrates the departure from Egypt and slavery and will last for eight days. Passover is also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In preparation for the Passover, Jewish families remove all leaven from their homes. This is an effort that goes beyond a normal cleaning:
Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land (Exodus 12:19, NASB).
A last search is made of the house before Passover, and any remaining leaven is burned, followed by reciting a declaration that all leaven has been removed. As I thought about this, I realized there is an application for us I would like to share.
The New Testament also has something to say about leaven and unleavened bread we should consider. First, unleavened bread is a type of those who are born again. Jesus tells us “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NASB). Before a person is born again, that person is like leavened bread. They have been leavened with malice, greed, idolatry, arrogance, hatred, strife, bitterness, rebellion and so forth. None of these things will ever make a person fit for God’s kingdom, and so the leaven must be removed. When a person is born again, the old leaven is purged, much like when all the leaven is removed from the house for Passover. Like the house is cleared of leaven and clean, the born again person also has their old leaven purged; they become like unleavened bread.
The problem is, we must guard ourselves to keep ourselves in an unleavened state. Leaven has a way of creeping back in if we don’t guard against it, and it only takes a little to do great damage. Paul addressed this in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover has also been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor 5: 6-8, NASB)
We all remember what Jesus warned the disciples: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16:6, NASB). And Paul was distressed that the Galatian church had become infected with the leaven of false brethren: “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” (Gal 3:1, NASB).
Leaven can sneak in many ways, such as the cares of life and corrupted teachers who seek to draw away followers for themselves. As a matter of spiritual housekeeping, we must make sure this leaven finds no home with us. We may not be conscious of any problems, but that doesn’t mean everything is alright. The Laodicean church thought they were fine, but they were unaware of their true condition:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Because you say ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. (Rev 3: 15-17, NASB)
We may fool ourselves about our condition, but not Him. We need His perfect eyes to search us for the leaven that may be hidden in our house so it can be removed. Remember, all it takes is a little leaven to mess things up, so get it out! Make your temple a “leaven free zone.”
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thought; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139: 23-24, NASB).
Shalom and blessings my brothers and sisters!
Nisan 10, 5778
I don’t know when it started exactly, but in my mind I keep hearing the words “love the right answer,” and I would like to share some thoughts with you about this. I think this is related to some online discussions that I have had and observed others participate in. I have been in talks with atheists and skeptics, and I remember that we should “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB). When Peter tells the readers to use “gentleness and reverence,” it means love the right answer.
I have seen plenty of exchanges online between believers and unbelievers, and sometimes I have to wonder if believers have forgotten that we need to include gentleness and reverence in our responses. If we start trading insult for insult, and evil for evil, how can we sow the good seed of the word of God? James tells us “And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18, NASB), and the Lord tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matt 5: 9, NASB). Being quarrelsome is like Peter taking his eyes of the Lord as he walked on the water. It doesn’t work. Love the right answer, and do your sowing in peace.
Loving the right answer must include the right response, even if it is something you would rather not do. I will take a page from my own life to show what I mean. When you have a family member that you love and want to spend time with, but their response is indifference and apathy, it can be a source of frustration and contention. It is natural that when you love someone, you want to be loved back, and if this doesn’t happen over a long period of time, it can be a terrible experience. I thought about this in connection to loving the right answer, and this came to mind: “if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5: 46-48, NASB). The right answer is to continue to love, even when that love is not returned. There will always be whispers from the tempter to give up and leave for greener pastures, but it is better to love the right answer, do the right thing, and stay true. You love the right answer when you do the right thing.
When we love the right answer, we are fair to everyone, even those who are in opposition. It can be easy to be unfair, when emotions are hot and strong, or when a group of people are despised by society (as tax collectors in Jesus’ day). The Bible tells us about the importance of fairness when we read “A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Proverbs 16:11, NASB). In apologetics, it means we must evaluate the arguments of those in opposition and represent them fairly. If we misrepresent their arguments or what they say, we are not being fair to them. In that case our balance and scales have become unfair, and that ought not to be. That is the wrong answer, and we should not love it. They may not agree with us, but they should have confidence that we will be fair. There is another application I would like to mention for the readers who may be teachers.
I taught first year composition at my university for a season, and whenever it came time to grade assignments, the thought of a just balance and scales would be on my mind. There were some papers in which I really had to struggle for what would be a fair grade, but I wanted each paper to be the product of a just balance and scales, so I would pause, pray, and ask for help in doing the right thing. This is what got me through my grading process, and I hope it will be a benefit to others as well. You love the right answer by being fair.
I would like to mention one last thing in closing to the Christian apologist. Make sure that your motives for defending the faith are right. Are you there to win an argument, or are you wanting to win a heart? If you want to win arguments, you may win the battle, but you will lose the war. People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. You love the right answer when you love those you are reasoning with.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13: 4-8, NASB).
Love the right answer and share it.
Lord, I realize I cannot do the work of changing hearts. You, and You alone have the power to give them ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand. Help me to decrease so that You may do Your work through me, and the people see You, not me. Have mercy on the people and forgive them. Open their minds to understand the Gospel so they may recover themselves from the snares of the enemy. I pray that they will be fruitful boughs in Your Kingdom, and that they will be worthy to walk with You in robes of white, and to be with You always. Amen.
Adar 4, 5778
I have been reading and responding to questions online from skeptics and atheists about God. I have tried to give reasons for the faith that I have, but I want to share something with you to encourage you to unleash your inner “defender of the faith” and change a person’s life forever.
I have seen many questions people ask about God and our faith such as: “How did God create everything in six days if science tells us the universe has existed for billions of years?” “Did Jesus really exist?” “How can a good God exist if there is suffering in the world?” “Is evolution real?” “How did life begin?” and so on. When you look at these questions, it can make a person think they must be competent in probability, physics, biology, evolution, astronomy, etc., just to get started. You could weary yourself with reading so many books. The very term “apologetics” can be intimidating to people. I am here to say, you don’t have to feel intimidated. You can still give reasons for your faith without a science background because not all people want answers based in science questions. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to their story, love them, and be Jesus to them.
I was recently reminded about the suffering in the world, and the need to bring people who are suffering the Gospel message. It reminded me of a testimony I had heard many years ago, and I never forgot it. It is the story of Margie Mayfield, who was abducted by Stephen Morin in San Antonio, TX. Stephen Morin had already killed several women, and law enforcement was out in force trying to find him. He told Margie if he was cornered by police, there would be a shootout and he would kill himself. He needed reasons for faith, and Margie gave him those reasons. They didn’t talk about difficult science questions but addressed the pain in Stephen’s heart. If God puts someone in your path to give reasons for faith, He will prepare you for it! Please click on the link below and listen for yourself about this amazing testimony in which we see the God of the impossible doing what is impossible. And be encouraged. As you yield to Jesus so He can work through you, you can help someone go from darkness to light and eternal life. You are the apologist.
Shevat 16, 5778
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42, NASB)
In a way, we all become like Martha during the Christmas season. It comes with lots of shopping and preparations for guests that will be arriving. When Christmas Eve/Morning finally arrives, everyone rushes to the tree to receive their presents, but this writer would like to ask, is this all there is?
The Savior came down from heaven in the form of a man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. And because of His perfect sacrifice, we now have access to the very Throne of God. When we think about these things, one would think that Jesus would be the focus of the entire season, but from this writer’s experience, He only gets a cursory mention (if any mention is made at all) before the wrapping paper starts flying off the presents. Is Jesus really the reason for the season?
When we open our presents, what are we really getting? Did Aunt Sally get her nephew a sweater in the right size this time, or did she remember to include the receipt so we can get in the exchange line later? Did your spouse get your subtle hints about what you want, or are they breaking new ground? Whatever is under the tree, it’s all material. It will wear out, go out of fashion, or break and be discarded eventually. Nothing material will ever endure, but that’s what we give each other anyway. As I said in the title, there is a better way.
What this writer is asking the readers to consider is doing Christmas, and every day of the year differently after this. Instead of looking to this temporary visible material world for presents, let’s look to the invisible world of the spirit which is eternal. You may say, “but we did a Christmas Eve service already,” but this is far beyond that. You might ask, what can we get from the invisible world of the spirit? Just this: His presence.
If Jesus really is the reason for the season, then get out of the shopping line with Martha and sit at the Master’s feet with Mary. Choose to be in His presence instead of focusing on presents. Jesus isn’t impressed that you were able to get your kids the most popular toy for this season, but what moves Him is when He sees the child He died for wanting to be with Him. Aren’t we forgetful hearers if we are focusing on presents when we could be in His presence?
I know this is a major paradigm shift, and we don’t do Christmas this way. But this writer feels the time has come to stop giving material things that wear out to receiving eternal things that never fade away. Jesus wants to spend time with you!! If you will decide with your family to come into His presence instead of focusing on presents, the smiles of heaven will be on your family. You have chosen the best part along with Mary, and it shall not be taken away from you.
God wants you to go deep with Him, but many people are content to stay in the kiddie pool instead of swimming in the deep waters of His presence. He longs for you to be closer to Him, and to show you great and mighty things you didn’t know. He wants to give you gifts: Peace that passes all understanding, love, joy unspeakable and full of glory, healing, and giving you beauty for ashes. These are found in His presence, and He invites you to join Him.
Be blessed my friends!
Chislev 20, 5777