Archive for November, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

November 27, 2009

“We are not illegitimate children,”  They protested.  “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Jesus said to them,  “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God an now am here.”  John 8:41b, 42.

 Jesus set out to wake them from their stupor and found some pretty grouchy people, unwilling to wake from the dream they had of themselves.  They had witnessed the miracles, the teaching of God’s love and character, yet they wouldn’t submit to the price they needed to pay to continue in the light.  Here they are claiming God as their own Father without any real awareness of what it meant to be His son or daughter.  If being physical descendants of Abraham didn’t make them his children spiritually, then calling themselves the children of God wouldn’t make it so either.  Something was missing.

“Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say.”

They clung to their interpretations of God’s Word so hard nothing could make them hear the truth.  It’s like they had stuck their fingers in their ears and began singing,  “La, la, la, la, I can’t hear you” as loud as they could to shut out His words.  To hear meant they would have to obey.  Jesus reveals the root problem of their spiritual deafness:

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Ouch!  Ever hear of diplomacy, Jesus?  What are you trying to do, drive them to kill you?

Every time I read these passages it seems to me He’s actually pushing them to crucify Him.  His arguments push all their buttons without cushioning the blows.  Yet what other choice does He have?  He spent nearly three years being subtle, careful to demonstrate the power of God and rightly dividing the Scriptures so everyone who heard would see the light, and it got Him nowhere with these people.  They wouldn’t listen when He told them the hard truth of God then, to back off now would be foolish.

By calling the devil their “father” Jesus reveals their motives for not wanting to hear what He has to say.  They preferred their fantasy constructs to real truth.  The story of God held little interest to them, for what they wanted was the story in which they triumphed over every obstacle to gain personal glory and power.  Knowing truth made no difference if they weren’t going to be able to be the heroes of their own stories.  What they rejected from Christ’s teachings was the one little morsal of truth on which the rest of salvation hinged:  it wasn’t their heroic efforts or mighty deeds which impressed God but the humble realization they were powerless to do anything for themselves in this regard without Him.  Total dependence on Jesus is the only way possible for us to find salvation or freedom from death.

“Can any of  you prove me guilty of sin?”

These people who had believed in Him knew His character, work and words were above reproach…it’s why they followed in the first place.  What turned them off is their misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of ingesting the Son of God.  They couldn’t get past Jesus’ demand that they eat His flesh and drink His blood, nor did they grasp the spiritual nature of that command.  Their minds were so focused/consumed by the lies of spiritual grandeur they blinded themselves to their need for reconstruction.  Nothing will wake a person up to their condition if they continue to take the drug of pride.  It washes away the ability to see ourselves as lost to truth without intervention.

Not one of these men could prove Jesus guilty of sin.  Blasphemy was a convenient excuse to shut Him up.

Why were they so quick to pick up stones at the end of His speech to them?  They wanted to silence His voice so badly they would have used any excuse to kill Him.

In our walk with God do we shut out truths we find unpalitable?  Do we shut ourselves off from light because it hurts our eyes to look?  Are we willing to break the mirror of truth because it shows we are not the fairest in the land making a lie out of the fantasy we’ve built up about our own value?

Our value comes from the fact God loves us, sent His Son to save us; it has absolutely nothing to do with how cool we are.  The reality of those who find Christ and those who reject Him couldn’t be more different than total light and total darkness.  When we walk into the light through the power of Jesus, we see ourselves for who we really are without any airbrush tricks to soften the blow.  At this point we have two choices:  hide our eyes by running back to our dank, dark little caves or falling into the arms of the one who brings us out of such misery.  Make no mistake the end of all rejection of Christ results in misery. 

On the other hand taking our eyes off ourselves brings joy unlimited, if our focus is, of course, Jesus.  We can find no contentment with our spiritual eyes turned inward; no peace when we are worried about our own; no joy or love of life unless we turn our eyes to Jesus.  He is our peace.  He is our joy.

Belief in Every Tense of the Word

November 25, 2009

Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said,  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I never noticed before who Jesus was addressing in this famous passage. 

The first sentence of our quote applies to those putting their faith in Him or who came to belief and trust in His message and person.  The first phrase in the second sentence, on the other hand, begins a discussion with those who had believed Him at one time.  The rest of chapter 8 is devoted to this discussion with Jesus on the offensive and these Jews defending their defection.

Remember the Apostate verse back in chapter 6:66?  I said then and I believe now it was no accidental numbering in John’s gospel or as a reference in Revelation.  The identity of the one who becomes the man of perdition, the antichrist and beast of the end times prophecy will be one who rejects Jesus as God incarnate come to save the world from sin.  Daniel claimed he would think to change times and laws.  To change times would probably indicate years, since Daniel used the word “time” to equal a year in his prophecy, that would make sense here.  So the apostate will change history to his liking and adjust times to fit his need.  Then changing laws would be easy because there would no longer be a sense of final ultimate authority in the Word of God.  Thus he could arrange truth to his preference.

Though prophecy is not our subject, it’s good to make sure we grasp who we are studying here.  Jesus was addressing the very crowd who deserted Him earlier, if I get the reference right, which means He was reaching out to them, trying to shake them awake.  But they refused to listen on the basis that their preconceptions were tried to the limit and they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go beyond them.  I believe their very words were,  “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?”  Meaning themselves, of course.

Since they could not accept Jesus for who God sent Him to be, they became sons of perdition, relatives to the man of perdition.  Their father was no longer Abraham or God but Satan himself, for the Accuser set out to murder the Son of God from the very beginning, according to Jesus (see 8:44), and they were simply imitating his means of conquering the world.  They refused Jesus because He didn’t come in a form to their liking, grasp Scripture to their way of thinking or bring hope for their personal glorification.  In rejecting the Son of God, they inadvertently rejected God Himself, since the Father sent the Son on the mission to earth in the first place.  To reject the messenger by default rejects the Sender of that message.

What Satan hoped to accomplish or still hopes to win puzzles me because the created cannot win against the Creator; it’s a logical impossibility.  Sin in its basic form is simply rejection of God, and since God is the originator, Creator, Sustainer and essence in all things, denial of Him is plain insanity.  Therefore we can conclude that Satan drove himself to madness by wishing for the impossible.  There is no way for him to be Creator of the universe or of himself, so there is no way for him to be God.

The message contained in the passage above, however, is about truth in its purist form.  My concept of living is to be truthful with who I am and accept the truth about others willingly as well.  Yet, if I’m honest with everyone (including me), my perception, bias and preference of what the word “truth” actually signifies doesn’t match up to what Jesus meant in His declaration above.  Truth is more and less what I believe it to be.  It cannot save us, unless we know truth as a person in Jesus Christ.  It cannot set us free unless it is accepted through the Son of God.

Looking at the parts of the statement we get a word equation of sorts, which goes something like this:

Holding to Jesus’ teaching = being His disciples = knowing truth = freedom.

So, first we have to stick to His teachings to even be His disciples, then and only then can we know the truth which sets us free.  Said another way, only submitting to the discipline of the truth Jesus teaches can we be set free from being slaves to sin and become family again.  We who sin are slaves to sin; but if the Son sets us free to be family, we are guaranteed not only freedom but to belong forever to His family, which means eternity.

Those who had believed in Jesus might have been Abraham’s descendants genetically, but they weren’t his family in spirit or character.  They plotted to kill Jesus as a heretic, something Abraham would never have done.  Their own ancestor begged for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared with heavenly messengers even though he must have been aware of the sheer evil of the place, yet his heart was given over to love for them anyway—a characteristic he learned from his Master.  Those of his bloodline didn’t possess the heart Abraham displayed.  To them the Gentiles were a scourge and the scum of the earth.  Instead of reaching out to heal they resented, grew bitter and fought their rulers.  Abraham would have befriended and eventually influenced them in some way as he did Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Jews were to be witnesses of God’s power, justice, mercy, grace and love to the world.  They failed to do any of these things by worshiping the created instead of the Creator, only in Jesus Christ did God fulfill His command to the Hebrews.  Through Him the world found the perfect example of who God is.  Knowing Jesus means we have held on to His teaching.  Knowing truth means we must know Jesus.  Being free comes from being His disciple.

 

What Jesus Meant By That…

November 18, 2009

They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father.  So, Jesus said,  “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.  The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.  Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.  John 8:27-30.

The presence of God evidenced itself in Jesus’ life and actions.  The signs for knowing Him were all there for anyone to see if they wanted to, however, few really did.

Why?

The presence of sin.  Its influence and effect on the mind leaves us blind to its very presence so that people see what they want or have been conditioned to see.  What do we want to know for sure?  That we are valuable.  But that desire to be valued manifests itself in a variety of ways when sin enters the picture.  John wrote another letter in the NT which answers our question pretty well.  We find it in 1 John 2:15-17,  Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Do you see the contrast given here?  The world and its desires pass away but those who do the will of God last forever.  If we let the desires of sinful man, which means we buy into a thing or a host of things not matching up to God’s desires, then our perception of truth will be altered and we will see God’s truth as a hinderance to our desires.  The lust John mentions is not merely indicating sexual desires but an overwhelming craving for whatever we see around us.  As for the boasting John points to, it subtracts God from its equation, which makes it godless in intent though not may be necessarily in content.  In other words, we can boast about seeing God’s great wonders as if they were a boost to our own greatness rather than praising God for creating them.  Since He created everything, everything we see is holy, but if we misuse it or extract Him from nature as its source, any boasting we do about it is godless.

A couple of verses before our key text above Jesus answered the question weighing on the minds of the Pharisees.  “Who are you?”  they asked.

“Just what I have been claiming all along,”  Jesus replied.  “I have much to say in judgment of you.  But He who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.”

Jesus all but hit them over the head with His identity.  He rarely came out and said,  “I am the messiah” but He pointed to the prophecies, Law and His own works to reveal what they needed to know.  They refused to acknowledge Him as anything but a hindrance to their agenda, especially once they saw He wasn’t onboard with what they had in mind.  Jesus’ teaching didn’t focus on Himself as Messiah, but the whole of truth.  He wasn’t interested in self-glorification, for His mission was to save mankind and turn our hearts back to God.

Though Jesus could have spewed judgment out on His detractors, He restrained Himself for the sake of following the call of His Father.  Look at the text again and see the statement of “I have” in contrast to “But He who sent me is reliable” then recognize Jesus gave us a hint as to what God wanted Him to do.  These sentences contrast each other, for though Jesus had things to say in judgment, His Father gave Him a different agenda.  This fulfills what He said to Nicodemus a few chapters before where He claimed,  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

Do you see?  Jesus is telling the Pharisees the very same truth.  His mission was one of salvation not condemnation.  He could have slapped them all down with guilt and judgment but trusted His Father instead to know what needed to be done.

If our God and Savior kept the goal in mind at all times, refusing to be led astray by seemingly important arguments or theological rabbit trails, what should His followers do?

Once More

November 12, 2009

Once more Jesus said to them,  I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin.  Where I go, you cannot come.  John 8:21.

The Jews’ immediate reaction, of course, was to think of the worst thing Jesus could do to make Himself completely unavailable to them.  Last night as I thought about this text, I wondered what their teachings were on suicide because that was their first thought when He proclaimed they wouldn’t be able to find Him,  “Will He kill Himself?”  Considering the common perception of it when I was young, suicide was an unpardonable sin since the person committed self murder and would never be able to repent from such a crime.

If the Jews felt the same way about suicide, then Jesus saying He would be somewhere they couldn’t access Him meant that special place of hell where those who kill themselves go, or may be it just meant hell itself.  The point is, of course, they completely missed or ignored the last part of the sentence “…you will die in your sin” which would have put them beyond anyone else’s reach for all eternity.

But Jesus won’t let them off the hook on this one because the truth He had to say was far too important to let it go.

“You are from below; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Pretty blunt, don’t ya think?  Yet they wanted Him to clarify even further, which was simply a ruse to denounce Him to the public as a blasphemer.  I’m starting to get the picture here that Jesus never named Himself as the Messiah precisely because He knew these people would destroy Him moments after the words were out of His mouth.  Which is strange, really, since self-proclaimed messiahs were cropping up constantly in Israel at that time and no one bothered to go take them down.  Instead, He made them focus on the miracles, His blameless life and every other shred of evidence from Scripture they all knew identified the Messiah’s work and character.

Yet they refused to believe, not out of lack of evidence, mind you, but from lack of desire.  The more I read their objections, the more I come to the conclusion these men didn’t want to be saved from sin but exalted as a nation to rule over the world as it is, with just a little sin to keep it interesting.  In other words, they wanted what they considered the “gross sins” eliminated but were more interested in power than true righteousness.  The church has been the same, for the most part, down through the ages.  We want sin dealt with in what we consider its distasteful forms but wouldn’t mind keeping those we don’t think are harmful around.  In our own country we argue for the American Dream as if it’s something God gave us and holy.  I’ve heard plenty of pastors stand for “America the way it used to be” pointedly ignoring the oppression of other races, the inequality of classes and sexes, and host of other social norms that hurt and isolated people from God because of a poor perception of the gospels.

D. James Kennedy and Focus on the Family fought politically for a return to old-fashioned American values without ever acknowledging that these self-same cultural norms allowed for pretty messed up thinking about sex, religion in general and race relations.  But argue for the tradition these men will, either ignoring the downside or being ignorant of what they’re saying.  The world hears the message of these preachers of “traditional” values as a call to go back to slavery and oppression, though I doubt any of them mean that when they are speaking.  I know James Dobson condemns oppression and hate speech on his radio show, but calling for a return to the 50s ethics is not a call to wisdom but ignorance, social facades and a host of lies we told ourselves during this period about who and what we are.

The message of Jesus never meant to combine world government with Christian values because they were and always will be incompatible in their goals.  God will rule the world sans sin and evil as an option.  Human “supremacy” will go away in the light of God’s take over of everything.

Jesus didn’t come to judge humanity Himself but to save it.  Yet the Word He spoke and work He did left little room for wiggle room away from the contrast between God’s Way and human desires.  By shining a light in our dark cave of human interest Jesus automatically pronounced judgment on our thoughts and actions by default.  The Father used Jesus’ example and mission to throw a light on the world of His own people, the children of Israel, to display to all who wanted God that nothing less than a supernatural intervention could change the nature of humanity.

Then Jesus goes prophetic,  “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.  The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”

They wouldn’t recognize Jesus until they crucified Him, though they still wouldn’t grasp God’s message—or, if they did, they would rebel against it in favor of their own interpretation.

Take this as a cautionary tale:  Don’t cling to our own understanding so hard that we refuse truth when it hits us square in the face on any level.

This Breaking News

November 11, 2009

Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that God sends His rain on the just and unjust alike.  In other words He blesses us whether we are open to Him or not; whether we accept Him or not; whether we receive His blessings or not.

This doesn’t mean He forces us to receive what He gives.  On the contrary God’s love rains out the blessing equally, it is a sign of our openness to Him how much of it we receive.  If I believe everything in the world has a sinister twist, I will see God’s blessing as a double-edged sword. 

Cynicism has no place in the attitude of gratitude.

We are called vessels for a reason.  All of us are designed to be filled with God to overflowing.  Yet only some of us open ourselves up to God completely, most others partially or not at all.  Those who open up to God completely receive the blessing to overflowing and begin raining on other lives within their spere of influence. 

Those partially open fill up slower and many times envy those who’s lives are overflowing.  The partially open people think somehow God is playing favorites, though it’s not true.  He doesn’t play favorites amongst His children because He loves them all equally—the just and unjust alike.  The only difference between those who fully receive God’s giftings and those who don’t is their level of trust and willingness to open their hearts to Him.

Those closed off to God merely hear the rain pounding on the outside of their lid.  Some might have so many layers of stone (refer to Ezekiel 18) between them and God they don’t even hear the rain pouring down from heaven.  What gets into their cup only seeps in through cracks found in their self-sustained armor—depending on its “weather” tightness.

God wants to bless us and give us everything of Himself.  We don’t have to pray for the Spirit to “rain on down on us” because God sent the Spirit to the world long ago.  It isn’t a matter of us begging God to bless us, as if He’s needs wheedling or persuasion, but one of us begging Him to open our hearts to receive what He’s already giving.

What brought this to mind was a worship set I did this last weekend.  We sing about “Holy Spirit rain down…” like somehow our request will open the floodgates of heaven, when all along God is raining down the showers of blessing and we are either too blind, deaf or closed off to sense it.  So our spiritual condition is nothing more than our own ability to receive God.  If we’ve only made enough room in our spiritual house for Him hang in the living room or kitchen, that’s all the blessing we’ll be able to hold.  If we open the whole house to Him, every area will be blessed with His presence, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is life, joy and freedom.

As the father of the  demon-possessed boy begged Jesus,  “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”  Instead of persuading God to bless us, may be we should pray for a receptive spirit, open heart and willingness to house the Holy One, for this is where the blessing lies in its totality:  the presence of God.

Timing is Everything

November 10, 2009

He spoke these words near the place where the offerings were put.  Yet no one seized Him, because His time had not yet come.  John 8:20.

Validation

November 9, 2009

The Pharisees challenged Him,  “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

Jesus answered,  “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I come from and where I am going.  But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.  You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.  But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone.  I stand with the Father, who sent me.  In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid.  I am one who testifies for myself, my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”  John 8:13-18.

For years, as I’ve read this passage I found it strange that in just a few short conversations earlier, Jesus seemingly invalidates His own testimony here by saying,  “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”  The Pharisees were quick to point out the seeming inconsistency of His rhetoric but blind enough to miss the context of the previous statement, which concluded this way,  “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that His testimony is valid.”  (John 5:31, 32.)

What else can we conclude except that Jesus is speaking of the Father.  He set the Pharisees up with their own litmus test for Him, then shot them down with the proof using the very evidence they wanted so very badly to deny.  Jesus’ miracles spoke loudly for supernatural help on His behalf.  Try as they might the leaders were stymied in their efforts to disprove Jesus’ claims and I think they became so obsessed with their goal they lost sight of commonsense.  If they wouldn’t accept the supernatural testimony the miraculous power Jesus demonstrated, then He would appeal to a human named John the Baptist, which met the criteria the Law requires.

Yet these men still refused to give in and sidestepped His victory by bringing up the circumstances surrounding His birth.  In these post-modern times we lose sight of what a scandal it was for Mary, Jesus’ mother, to be pregnant before the marriage officially consummated.  The Pharisees weren’t appealing to the known father figure in Jesus’ life but slyly intimating it could be anyone as well as Joseph.  “Where is your father?”  they asked Him.  Jesus threw their obvious ignorance back in their faces, though I don’t think they accepted it graciously, by saying,  “You don’t know me or my Father…”  I bet this puzzled them because it was assumed His parents were Mary and Joseph, or some other man unknown to them protected by Joseph’s noble act.  Since Joseph married her, however, the evidence pointed to him as the most likely candidate.

His miraculous ability should have kept them at bay, warning them off the hunt and quieting their objections.  Instead they pursued a course of open debate and challenged Him again and again.  Their efforts to discredit Jesus constantly landed them in the mud, yet they didn’t waiver or give up the charge.  Their arguments always centered on the only thing they accepted as true:  physical reality.

Why?

Why was it so important to defeat Jesus?

Mom used to say,  “If you could find a good reason for sin, you could excuse it.”  Paul dispels any excuse for humanity in Romans 1 by listing all the evidence of nature, natural law and Jesus Himself.  I don’t think in the scheme of things these men were as blind as they pretended to be—at least some of them.  I believe they were so blinded by ambition that any challenge to their ultimate authority and unquestionable place in the light set their teeth on edge.  How can I come to such a harsh judgment of their motivations?  They crucified Jesus for one; then at the martyrdom of Stephen they put their hands over their ears and yelling at the top of their lungs rushed him and began stoning him.

Don’t be blind to the nature of sin.  It motivates, captivates and demonstrates its heart time and again, though we ache to find an excuse or explanation for its behavior.  No such luck, folks.  The logic just isn’t there anywhere.  The leaders were possessed by blind ambition and self-glorification to the extreme where they killed a non-violent man for no other reason than that He bothered them.

Jesus led no insurrections, no call to replace the leadership, and not once did He even suggest a take over of Rome or the Jewish government through either Himself or His followers.  The Father testified His favor by giving Jesus an undefeated record in every debate as well as miraculous power to back it up.

Tell me, if you saw a man healed who’s limbs seconds before were twisted, bare bones with skin on them and unusable, stand up and walk, would you not be a little awestruck?  Absolutely!  Now take that several steps further to Lazarus who was dead 4 days before Jesus even got there, an unmistakable death for the historians who might suggest the man was merely in a coma.  Martha objected to rolling the stone back because of the smell, which probably leaked around the seal, testifying to the corruption happening inside the tomb, giving further testimony that Lazarus was dead. 

Jesus called him out of the tomb in front of a crowd of witnesses—even some from the Sanhedrin.  The evidence of this miracle was so convincing the Jews decided to kill Lazarus as well.  This is madness not mistaken theology, misplaced zeal or ignorance.  The only thing that drives a person to this level of insanity is a challenge to their own power over their world.  These men realized quite succinctly that Jesus was irrefutable and concluded (wrongly) nothing but death would remove Him as a problem.

It’s important to note Jesus’ argument about the source of their two perspectives.  He told them,  “You judge by human standards…” which is an identifying declaration not a guess or assumption.  In this one phrase He set up a contrast between Himself and His detractors in which they were judging by limited spiritual insight into the source of His life, family and mission.  In identifying the source of their grasp of truth He by default named His own.

It’s also vital to not pass over too quickly phrases or statements He makes because by doing so we can miss important truths.

“I pass judgment on no one.”

He could, and if He did, His judgment would be on the mark, but His mission to earth was not to pass judgment but to reconcile men to God.  His mission is our mission; His calling, our calling—except for the part about being God, Savior and the sacrifice for sins.  We are ambassadors of reconciliation, of peace on earth, good will toward men.  Any other agenda has been tagged on as an addendum or amendment by humans.  There is a Day for judgment set at the end of earth’s history with sin where God will judge all things, but for now all judgment is reserved for the Day.  Which means, then, the only judgment we can render anyone is to identify what displeases or pleases God.  Everything else is outside our jurisdiction or mandate. 

Jesus didn’t stand alone in His mission or grasp of human nature.  The Father stood with Him through it all, giving Him supernatural insight and wisdom to handle these things.  He demonstrated that God’s mere presence in the heart of the believer confounds all the wisdom of the world.  In the end, every argument will be answered and they will have no other way to fight back except to resort to violence.  It is always the way of those bound to human ideals and reasoning, for if they cannot defeat truth by standard human methods (rhetoric, “logic,” shouting someone down or social pressure), they choose violence.

So what does this mean for the believer?

By the process of elimination our last resort is to shake the dust of their town or home off our feet, retrieve our blessing and move on.  The only time we use violence is in the defense of the helpless, weak or oppressed, which even then needs to be a prayerful decision as to whether we will accomplish the desired outcome or not.  I would say most of the time our choice of preference is to shake the dust off and move on.

Here we also have a decision to make:  Will God’s Word in Christ be our first and last line of reasoning and defense or will we attempt to create a hybrid theology out of it by combining it to human values?

The Light of the World

November 4, 2009

When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said,  “I am  the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John8:12.

This is a promise from the God we serve.

Yet it is also a challenge in which we hear the Son of God telling us if we have the guts to walk in the light, our warts, cuts, bruises, and general imperfections can be seen right along side our growing spiritual health.  In other words the light becomes to us a double edged sword by allowing us to see where we are going and the joy set before us on the one hand, but showing up our imperfections and diseased condition on the other. 

Still that truth only covers the first part of the promise.  The second is much more hopeful:  “…but will have the light of life.”

When the light reveals who we were, are or have become, our best response is to look that truth square in the face without wavering…although, I think flinching a few times might be unavoidable.  However, only in the light can we actually see well enough to know where we are wounded, broken or torn; gifted, good, and courageous.  In essence the surest way to find healing and life is to walk in the light.

Duh!  right?

Not so fast, high beam! 

Most of us resist the light to one degree or another.  Think about it this way:  the pride of life is a form of darkness, so anyone who looks down on others has stepped into darkness, for one cannot follow God and still remain condemning, the very nature of it displaces God.  Paul claimed What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  1 Corinthians 5:12, 13a.  Why would he say it this way if being judgmental weren’t a problem of self-idolatry?  The only form of judgment we aren’t allowed is that of the salvation status of others, though we can usually read the signs in a person’s spiritual condition.  The mere fact we jump so quickly to judge one another without first considering God shows how little we think of Him.  Ours is not to condemn anybody but to judge the actions of those who claim the name of Jesus, as to whether they meet His standard or not.

A truth that is slowly dawning on me in the light of Christ’s grace and acceptance is the fact that we fear not only our weakness but our strengths as well.  Paul told the church of Galatia that no one should think of themselves more highly than they ought to, which means to me we are to value ourselves,  just not above what God designed us for…community.  Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves.  What does this mean if it isn’t pointing out we should love ourselves as well.  Equal love.  Our self love should never overshadow our love for others; our love for others should never overrule our love for ourselves.  All this is kept in balance by being centered on Jesus.

Look at our text again because the phrasing is important.  Jesus said,  “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.”  Why?  Jesus is the light of the world—even more than that great yellow ball in the sky is.  If we get technical about it (and we will), our sun shines precisely because Jesus is the light of the world.  It is He who keeps the stars in their place, of which our sun is merely one of billions.  It is He who gives the energy it takes to continue burning year after year, eon after eon.

But there’s more.  John claimed in the first chapter, In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  So, exegetically speaking, what is the light of men?  Life itself, which has its origins in the Son of God who is the essence of life.  Life gives light to darkness; life is the source of light; light is what allows creation to see.  Without light there is no awareness of our surroundings, although the gift of hearing might suggest something going on, but without the light we can’t know what it is.  However, it is the sheer force of life that gives light to the world, not some cosmic nova going all bright and shiny.

Those who struggle with the pride of life yet submit to still follow Jesus will know the light of life.  Those who fall on their faces every other step but remain true to Jesus will know the light of life.  Those trapped in darkness who give themselves over to the light every time they find themselves held by chains of the past will know the light of life.

Our job in this world is to become the ministers of reconciliation, bringing peace between humanity and the God we serve.  Our fight is not one of domination but of reconciliation.  We are on a peace mission, ambassadors of the King of kings.  What do we offer?  What every human wants, life in the form of light through Jesus.