Month: February 2018

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 58

February 28

law on hearts

The role of the Law in the New Covenant is one of revelation and responsibility. Not only is the Law the written statement of what God likes and dislikes, it reveals to us the very nature of God and how we can readily please Him. We are no longer bound to obey the Law because of duty, or because we want to avoid God’s displeasure or punishment.

The Law becomes imprinted and activated in the heart and mind of the New Covenant believer. The Law becomes something we want to do out of our love for the God Who gave so graciously in order that we may enjoy everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Law has moved from beyond the role of “rules of morality” and takes on the role of daily model for Godly behavior.

In the Law, we essentially find Christlikeness – and through a relationship with The Christ, we discover the ability to live as the Law fully intended. The Law of God reveals the perfect character of God and how that character may be applied in the lives of human beings. In The Christ, we are now able to live as God desires us to live… every day of our lives. The requirements of the Law have been fully met (through the life of Jesus) and now a new means of living is activated (through the death and resurrection of Jesus). That new means is what the apostle called “living by The Spirit.”

living by the spiirt

Jesus came to fulfill what the Law required – complete righteousness. Through Jesus’ fulfillment of perfect righteousness, a new Law has been placed in effect. It is the Law of the Spirit of life. Scripture teaches that the believer in Jesus is eternally bonded to Jesus, and now shares in how Jesus lived His life on this earth (without sin, fulfilling the Law’s requirements). Believers also share in what Jesus accomplished when He died in our place (the innocent and righteous… for the guilty and unholy). With His death and resurrection, a new mode of operation was set in place… which is the very foundation of New Covenant living. It’s centerpiece is the completed work of The Christ.

It is just as the apostle proclaimed:

romans 8 1-4

Jesus did not come to eliminate the Law – He came to fully activate the Law within the hearts and minds of those devoted to Him. Through our connection with Jesus, the “righteous requirements of the Law” are “fully met in us,” and will continue to be fully met within, and through, us… as we obey the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is at the core of living out the true Christian life.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 57

February 27

The prophet Jeremiah was inspired to record God’s promise of the New Covenant to His Old Covenant people: “”The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… “This is the Covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.” (from Jeremiah 31:31-34)

gods-new-covenant

The New Covenant promise is that the emphasis on outward observances of the Law will come to an end, and the Law will take up active residence within human minds and hearts. The Law will become the driving force behind how God’s people live their lives.

The tendency to look at the Law as outdated, or even as a means of bondage, just does not understand what makes the Law really important.

The apostle Paul was inspired to write, “What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the Law… So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… We know that the Law is spiritual…” (from Romans 7:7, 12, 14)

sin

The same holy and righteous God Who gave us the Messiah also gave us the Law. The very essence of the Law is a reflection, or revelation, of God’s Own nature and character. To eliminate the Law would be akin to eliminating the God Who gave the Law. This we cannot do – nor should we even consider doing. Under the Old Covenant, God gave the Law. Under the New Covenant, He set in motion His plan to fully activate the essence (or spirit) of the Law within His people.

As anyone who has ever received a “citation” for going just a few miles-an-hour over the speed limit knows… we all tend to react negatively to those who enforce the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. In the New Covenant, God removed “following the letter” of the Law and replaced it with “following the spirit” of the Law.

rom7-6bThis fact is reinforced by the apostle, “But now… we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (from Romans 7:6) The apostle was inspired to teach us that the Spirit of God is going to lead us in what He has revealed, and intended, all along. Following the Law, under the New Covenant, becomes a matter of desire and “want to” rather than a matter of obligation or duty.

The New Covenant believer now sets his or her heart on desiring what God desires – and those desires are revealed and recognized within the Law.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 56

February 26

Jesus came to bring Fulfillment of The Law

Law of Moses

While Jesus may have come to this earth to be the catalyst to the confrontation of false faith, He did not come to destroy, abolish, or undo that which was true. He came into a system formed on the basis of “the Law and the Prophets” – and rather than condemn this system as old and outdated, He confirmed it as essential to a true expression of faith. As Christians, we rarely appreciate the importance of the Law (God addressing His people about general moral principles; also known as the Ten Commandments) and the Prophets (God speaking to His people Personally; usually addressing their actions concerning the Law).

Christians tend to frequently stress the fact that we are not under Law but under grace (Romans 6:14-15). This is true. But in stressing this fact, we can easily neglect something very crucial to our relationship with God. In our proper emphasis upon the grace of God, we can improperly dismiss God’s Law. We can easily conclude that, with the institution of the New Covenant, everything connected with the Old Covenant was cast away as worthless… or just eliminated altogether. This is not true.

law-and-grace.jpg

Matthew’s gospel clearly records the words of Jesus Himself. He did not come to this earth to do away with the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law’s requirements – and to fully activate the Law within our hearts and minds. Jesus came to give the Law its rightful place in our lives. Even the very first Believers had no intention of leaving behind their Jewish roots. To the first disciples, receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior fully enabled them to live out their Jewish faith – not replace it.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 55

February 25

The kingdoms of men. Jesus confronted the individual kingdoms of men with truth in all its tenderness. His words and His actions proclaimed, and demonstrated, that being a servant/child in the Kingdom of God was infinitely better than being a “ruler” trying to “reign” over one’s own life and destiny. He brought the promise of hope, joy, and happiness (i.e. being blessed; see Matthew 5:3-12) and of having a significant purpose, in encountering the certain challenges of this life.

Of these individuals, seeking desperately to reign over their own lives, it was said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Jesus came and sought to be the compassionate Shepherd of their souls. He reached out to them, He touched them, He met them at their point of need – and He tenderly invited them to come and discover the riches of the Kingdom of God.

movedwithcompassion3.jpg

Fire!

Before we close our thoughts on the three kingdoms, one other note bears mentioning. Jesus exclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) Fire in the Scriptures almost always refers to judgment or purification. When Jesus mentions that He came to this earth to bring fire, He is expressing God’s Own desire to see His people purified of all religious falsehood and hypocrisy.

fire

By necessity, this must happen through great resolve. Those dedicated solely to God, and to His truth, are destined to go directly “against the grain” of this world’s secular and religious kingdoms. The ways of this world and the dogmas of false thinking and religion are not easily swayed.

Jesus came as the Initiator of dynamic change – but this change does not come without the promise of confrontation, conflict, and the necessity of refining fire. Jesus warned His disciples of this difficult fact: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven… Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10, 12)

Jesus came to this earth to lovingly confront sinners with the liberating power of the truth – but always in compassion. He also came to confront hypocrisy and false religion with the fire of truth. In Jesus, we see that both are required, and both are part of the divine character.

The Wonder of the Kingdom

Jesus came to set the wonder of the Kingdom of God in motion within our hearts and to be the Instigator of the confrontation of false faith on this earth. He did not come merely to initiate Christianity, but true Christianity, for this is what truly conveys and reveals the very heart of God. In Jesus, we discover that God is supremely dedicated to that which is absolute and true.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 54

February 24

The religious kingdom. Concerning the “kingdom” of the Jewish leaders, Jesus’ confrontation was the harsher side of truth. It was this kingdom that provoked His greatest passion and garnered His deepest indignation. This is somewhat surprising – and illuminating.pharisees1.jpgIt is surprising in the fact that these Jewish leaders were the moral stalwarts of society. When it came to issues of observable morality and righteousness, the Jewish leaders set the standard. Of all people on this earth, it would seem that these would be the people who would be the most pleasing to God. But, through the words and actions of Jesus, we see that this was definitely not the case.

 

It is illuminating in the fact that Jesus was so often observed in direct disagreement with most of what these leaders did – in spite of their apparent “right standing” with God. This tells us a great deal about how God is unimpressed by moral piety that does not resonate from a heart desiring to lovingly please God, and willingly serve others. In this, we discover that righteousness is not really right actions – it is actions that imitate and exhibit God’s own character, from a heart in love with God.

vs the Pharisees

So why was Jesus so confrontational with the Jewish leaders?

It was because they had been entrusted with upholding the truth and the purpose of being God’s people. They were assigned the responsibility of perpetuating the spirit of the Law, of portraying God’s nature accurately, and of keeping the heart of God ever before the people who were under their charge. At this, they failed miserably.

Through their actions and their leadership, they turned the One True God into a false god, by making Him out to be a god intent only on enforcing a plethora of moral obligations. They used the Law to beat God’s people into submission and to coerce the people’s obedience (often to seek their own personal “honor” and benefit; see Matthew 23:2-7!). Their offense was even greater because they virtually controlled the life (and religious practice) of every person within the Jewish community and culture. To be “Jewish” came to mean that you were required to “play the game” by the leaders’ demanding rules – or face the consequences of being an outcast from your own people.

pharisee judge

It was primarily this system, and this kingdom, that The Christ came to confront… and to be the catalyst for conflict and division. In the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim, the rules of the King are not meant to enslave subjects to the tiniest nuances of the Law, but to provide an enlightening guide into all the things which please God, and to provide revelation and insight into God’s Own heart and character.

The Jewish Leaders were so diligently dedicated to the Law of God that they had actually lost sight of the God Who gave them the Law. They had become blind to the One Whom they thought they were seeing so clearly (Matthew 15:12-14; 23:16-26). It should be no surprise that Jesus’ harshest words and actions were directed toward those who should have known better (see Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). In Jesus, we are seeing The One Who is Truth taking the battle to everything that is religiously false, hypocritical, and misleading.

The Kingdom of God is the proverbial line drawn in the sand. In Jesus’ day, those who would cross that line, and come to The Savior, would find themselves chastised, ridiculed, and outcast to most of what they had previously known and embraced. Jesus came to draw that line, and to be the One waiting with open arms on the other side.

lineinsand.jpg

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 53

February

Three kingdoms… plus one

When Jesus came to live among us, there were basically three different “kingdoms” at work in society.

One was the rule of the Romans – intent on conquering the world and bringing its inhabitants under the influence of Greek culture and values.

roman rule

A second kingdom was within the Jewish culture itself. It was the “kingdom” established by the Jewish leaders – intent on enforcing the letter of Jewish Law.

pharisees

The third “kingdom” was the individual “kingdoms” that existed within the hearts of every human being – intent on establishing and maintaining reign and control over their own lives.

Each of these “kingdoms,” by their very nature, were an enemy to the rule and reign of the One True King of the Kingdom that Jesus came to offer. The battleground was set.

The battle is eternally epic.

spiritualwarfare1

The Roman kingdom. It is most interesting, and revealing, that Jesus made no real attempt to confront or change the Roman “kingdom.” He never really directly confronted the secular world, nor its secular systems and values. Even when He had the opportunity to do so, Jesus did not seek to specifically confront the Roman kingdom (see John 18:33-37; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-4). Jesus made only the succinct claim, “My kingdom is not of this world… My kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

From Jesus’ attitude and actions, we learn an essential truth. The Kingdom of God was not established to attack the secular world directly (something modern Christianity seems prone to do). On the other hand, the Kingdom of God would become a focus of secular attack. History reveals, as the Roman rulers began to mercilessly persecute Christians, that the clash of kingdoms was unavoidable.

Every earthly kingdom (secular or religious), will eventually declare war upon the Kingdom of God. Scripture records that Jesus, and His kingdom, would be the indirect crux of this conflict.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 52

February 22

Jesus came to bring Division/Confrontation of false faith

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Jesus, Luke 12:51)

conflict.jpg

We do not normally think of Jesus in terms of bringing division, strife, or conflict. After all, He is the One Who came to bring “Peace on earth” and Who taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Luke 2:14; Matthew 5:9) But Jesus clearly indicates that conflict is one of the inevitable consequences of His coming. When we think about it, great figures in history often tend to be rather polarizing. This means that they either evoke great acceptance and devotion or great rejection and contempt. There is very little in-between. Why should the greatest historical figure of all time be any different?

So when we read: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “’a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ …I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Matthew 10:34-36; Luke 12:49; see also Luke 12:51-53)

fire on earth

Jesus did not come to this earth for the expressed purpose of creating or instigating conflict… but His coming made conflict inevitable. Jesus came as Light in the darkness. His very presence assured the shake up the natural status quo and struck at the core of everything false – most particularly religious falsehood. Jesus also came as Truth in the midst of deception and lies (John 14:6!) and truth by its very nature stands in opposition to all falsehood, even in it’s most minuscule forms.

The fact that Jesus wishes the “fire were already kindled” tells us that He welcomes the confrontation. Why would this be? Because truth always stands up to scrutiny… and truth must prevail by being heard, and tested against falsehood. Jesus came as Truth to a world blinded by falsehood, seeking to bring the Light of truth to those who needed its liberating power.

blinded-1.jpg

Jesus came to the kingdoms of men and espoused the kingdom of God. These two systems are almost always diametrically opposed to one another. They have different values, different practices, different goals, and different purposes. The kingdoms of men are a natural enemy of the kingdom of God. That which is in opposition always creates the opportunity for conflict.

Jesus tells us, this conflict is not only inevitable… it is necessary.

 

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 51

February 21

The message of redemption is not just that we are forgiven of our sins. Redemption is always from one state, or condition, to another – it is from something to something. We were not only sinners, but we were orphans and vagabonds in our sin. At the cross, and through The Christ, we are redeemed from slavery to sin, into the family of God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are afforded the opportunity to be children in God’s Own Household. “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12) And in 1 John 3:1 we have this wonderful affirmation:

Gods-children

God’s great hope in redeeming us is that we would take our new status to heart, and realize that we owe everything to our Redeemer. God’s great desire is that we would willingly, and without reservation, offer our lives to Him… so that He might do with us as He pleases (as we recall, this is one of the options whenever a slave is redeemed!). It is within the framework of choosing to yield our lives completely to God that we discover the fullness of what it means to be a child of God.

When we willingly become the servants of God, we personally discover the profound reality of the love of God and we personally experience His immense love poured out into our lives. In response to His provision of redemption, we come to Him, and offer ourselves as slaves.

But when we come and offer ourselves as His willing slaves, we find something even more amazing. He doesn’t just accept our servitude, He takes us in and makes us His Own children! This amazing love, that caused Jesus to personally suffer the punishment and penalty of the cross, is the exact same love that dominates His thoughts and attention toward us now.

How Deep the Fathers love

As the Scripture announces, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Jesus’ redeeming work is the timeless and classic example of these truths.

As Christians, we rejoice in the fact that Jesus came to this earth to be our Redeemer. In His redeeming work, we see that God is committed to whatever is necessary to meet our needs… and to demonstrate the depth, breadth, and height of His love to us. Jesus came as a servant, and His greatest service was to redeem us all from slavery to sin and death, to make a way for us all to become God’s very Own beloved children.

romans_8_39

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 50

February 20

The price of sin is costly. Redemption from the slavery to sin is even more so.

This was the lesson God had been trying to help His people to understand from the very beginning. Even when human beings first sinned in the Garden of Eden, God provided the “covering” for their sin.

Scripture says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Sometimes we can forget that a live animal was wearing that skin before it’s bloody death provided the skin-covering for Adam and Eve. All through Hebrew history, we see the price of blood (the innocent for the guilty) being paid to atone for the sins of God’s people.

lamb

Throughout the history of the tabernacle and the temple, one lesson was driven home time after time. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (from Hebrews 9:22; see also Hebrews 9:18-28 on the essential link between death and blood and the purification of God’s people.) No living object lessons are more vivid than the Hebrew Passover (as first commemorated and recorded in Exodus 12) and the Day of Atonement (as commanded by God in Leviticus 16 and observed every year as the most solemn of holy days).

yomkippur

God’s message to humanity is crystal clear. The cost of sin is exorbitant. Sin is utterly offensive to a perfectly righteous and holy God. There is an inordinate price to be paid for sin… and that price must be paid. Scripture drives home this central message…Sin deserves God’s wrath and sinners deserve to be punished for their sins.

But the love of God would not allow this to happen. God’s love compelled Him to make a way. Initially, this was through the sacrificial blood of animals. But eventually, He, Himself, would come to this earth and pay the ultimate price for mankind’s sinfulness. God took it upon Himself to take the sins of the sinner, and suffer the penalty of death, for that sinner. This is the glory and beauty of the cross. Upon the cross, Jesus provided eternal atonement for every soul that would embrace Him and His sacrifice. This is how the Redeemer-Servant redeemed His people.

By the blood

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 49

February 19

Jesus came to serve and to redeem us

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Jesus, Matthew 20:28)

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus… In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…” (from Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 1:7-8)

But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

galatians-4-4

The framework for Jesus’ words about giving “His life as a ransom for many,” is about servanthood. But it is no common servanthood. It is about the greater… serving the lesser. It is the master serving the servants. It is a lesson about Jesus’ own commitment to meeting the needs of humanity – as a servant is required to meet the needs of those he serves. Matthew records that Jesus’ Own mindset was that He came to this earth as a servant. And His greatest act of service was His act of sacrifice at the cross. It was on the cross, that The Great Servant became the Redeemer of every human soul.

Our

When it comes to thinking about why Jesus came to earth, our most prominent thought is usually found in this aspect of redemption. Scripturally speaking, “redemption” means that someone pays a price to purchase another person’s freedom.

The usual context of this usage is the redemption of a slave. The slave is in bondage to a master, and a redeemer comes with payment in hand to purchase that slave’s freedom. Once the price is paid, and the slave is redeemed, two things occur: 1) the new master declares that the “redeemed” slave is now completely free; and 2) the slave, in gratitude, may now choose to be indentured to the new master.

RedeemedIn redemption, we find the wonder and majesty of what Jesus came to this earth to accomplish. He came to a world completely inhabited by slaves (to sin and death) and He came to pay the price (or ransom) to set us ALL free. This redemption is offered freely to any who will receive it – but it does not mean that it was not without cost. The price paid was by the completely innocent, for the completely guilty. The ransom given was able to completely purchased the freedom of those who were entirely bound and enslaved.

The price paid was not just at the hands of indignant, violent men but was also at the Hands of a Holy God. When Jesus went to that cross, to pay the ransom for those He desired to redeem, He went there and accepted God’s righteous wrath and punishment for every sin committed, by every soul who ever lived. It was our punishment that was doled out to the innocent Jesus – and the punishment was terrible and mercilessly severe. Such was the depths of Jesus’ service to us…