God sets people free. The freedom he gives is from sin, from its guilt, from its ultimate consequence of eternal punishment. God is not interested in changing a person’s physical condition or social situation. What happens here on earth is for but a short time. His concern is to reconcile us to himself. This is what Christ accomplished on the cross. Continue reading
In the Pisidian Antioch synagogue, where Jews of the city met together, Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus and concluded with a warning:
“Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you:
‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish!
For I am doing a work in your days,
a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you’” Acts 13.40-41
Some preachers and missionaries hate to show weakness. They apparently believe it undercuts the message of God’s power in the gospel. They give the impression that they have arrived, in the spiritual sense, that they are nearly perfect, all the while using language of humility about how we are all sinners.
Perhaps they fear for their “jobs.” (Some people in full-time ministry are lackeys; some churches like lackeys.) Perhaps they fear showing vulnerability. Whatever their reasons, they do their Lord a disservice. They provide bad examples, because they put forward a false front. Continue reading
The apostle Paul wrote the letter of Philippians from prison. Joy is a keynote and often considered the main point of the letter. Not so noticed in the letter is how he emphasizes the power of God.
Paul begins the letter by expressing his confidence “that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1.6. We usually talk about what we must do to be saved. That talk is important and necessary. It must not, however, overshadow that the work of salvation is God’s. Continue reading
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53.10 ESV
Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant in terms of the people of Israel, of the remnant, and finally of a single person. He narrows the identification of the servant until he arrives in chapter 53. In this chapter, he reveals details of how the servant would suffer for the sins of others. Continue reading
When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead, but he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive—forever and ever—and I hold the keys of death and of Hades!” Revelation 1.17-18
These were some of the first words of the Lord Jesus to the apostle John when, on the Lord’s day, he found himself in the Spirit. John had already registered a word from God the Father, that he was the Alpha and the Omega, in verse 8. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega, the last. Continue reading
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John 1.14
Becoming flesh means that Jesus became a human being. He also was born according to the will of God and not by human means, John 1.13. He participated fully in human life. He lived among us and experienced all that people do—hunger, thirst, tiredness, emotions, suffering—minus one—sin. He was God and man at the same time. Continue reading
But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. John 1.12-13
Nobody is born, physically, as a child of God. It is not by human parents that someone is his child. We are not his children automatically. It’s a lie to say that we are all children of God.
This shocking truth ought to cause us to learn how to become children of God. If we are not, God gives us the right to become his children.
In order to become a son or daughter, it’s necessary to be born into the family. Jesus explained that birth into God’s family comes through immersion in water, John 3.3, 5. Since it is an act of faith, it is described in the above verses as being an act of receiving or believing in the name of Jesus. His name is confessed at the moment of immersion by the person being baptized. His name is pronounced over him during the act of immersion, Acts 2.38; 8.37.
We live in a world which rejects Jesus, John 1.10-11. The very word “world” means, in many biblical contexts, humanity in rebellion against God. Even the religions and denominations are a part of this rebellion, for they have invented their own system against God’s will.
The verse above begins with the word “but.” It means that although the world rejects Jesus, there will be some people who receive him.
Let us be certain that we are among the number of those who receive and obey him.
Creator God, I want you to be Father to me. I want to be an obedient child of yours. I want to be part of your family.
In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it. John 1.4-5
On earth, the sun makes life possible. Without it, everything would soon die. So we see the connection between light and life. In a similar way, as the light of God, Jesus brings life to man. This life is not physical, but spiritual and eternal.
Jesus as light shines in darkness. His light has the capacity of scattering the densest darkness. No person is unrecoverable. Jesus can save all. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven. NRSV translates the phrase, “of mankind,” as “of all people.” Nobody needs remain outside, excluded. Continue reading
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. —Col 3.1
When we obey the Good News, God places us together with Christ. In immersion, we are raised with Christ and he gives us life. In the verse above, Paul wants us to live up to the life which we’ve been given. This level is where Christ is, the level of God.
How do we seek the things above? The two chapters that follow develop the answer to this question. It requires a vigorous mind control, an unrestricted killing of all that belongs to the earthly nature. It is necessary to clothe oneself with Christ’s qualities, love above all. Continue reading