Posts Tagged ‘knowing Jesus’

Gospel of John: The Forerunner

December 25, 2014

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8 NIV)

It’s interesting (to me) how John the Writer felt the need to clarify John the Baptist’s role in the story. Why he addressed JB’s (John the Baptist) status as the forerunner is not stated but I do think inferred. JB developed a following–of which John the Writer became a part before switching to Jesus at JB’s suggestion–who were nothing if not loyal to a fault. John the Writer seems to be targeting these disciples of JB in order to point them to Jesus.

In ancient and fairly modern times all rulers used heralds to announce their approach to a town, city or area. The person would wear the colors or bear the mark of a herald on his garments to give instant recognition as to the validity of his words.

John the Baptist’s livery defied the logic of kings, eschewing pomp and royal crest in favor of the humble camel’s hair and leather. This is vital to our understanding of the nature of Jesus, whom we call King of Kings. Every nuance held significance whether large or small. Jesus came humbly therefore his herald should take on the same demeanor. It also follows that those men He chose as His disciples would also come from humble backgrounds.

I don’t think God despises the rich and powerful it’s just these people tend towards a mentality which preserves their wealth and power. A person fully formed by education, shaped by being born into wealth and authority, will struggle to submit to a teacher who doesn’t present himself/herself within the familiar paradigm. JB’s humility must have been chosen since his father was a priest of some influence, one who performed in the temple, therefore probably not extremely poor. Meaning JB wouldn’t have needed to live in the desert eating locusts and honey but could have followed in his father’s footsteps and become a political influence in Jerusalem if he had so chosen.

So JB’s humility was chosen to a purpose.

Just to be clear: Jesus and JB were cousins, had to have known each other, and at one time or another connected. Anyone who suggests they didn’t can’t read between the lines. Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, JB’s mother, when she started to show she was pregnant. Elizabeth knew her cousin was pregnant after first laying eyes on her. These two women were close enough that an apparently “immoral” Mary went to Elizabeth to escape local social problems.

Nowhere does the Bible connect JB and Jesus socially. Yet the fact that Jesus and JB were related cannot be ignored. Did they have some sort of pact because of their mothers’ visions for them? I doubt it. Our modern travel abilities blunt our understanding of the past and how easily distances of even ten miles or less were accomplished. When one is poor, walking provides the only means of transporting oneself between destinations, therefore anything not within the needs of providing for the home become vital only out of necessity. So any collusion between the two women would have been exceedingly ambitious and probably not really possible. However, if they were in cahoots, why would Elizabeth take a backseat role as far as her baby being the forerunner instead of the Messiah? Selfish people tend to be ambitious, ambitious people don’t take to coming in second.

JB chose the path of the ascetic which in his culture gave him a certain credibility right from the start. Anyone, be they poor or wealthy, gained respect by rejecting the trappings of normal life in favor of seeking God or their gods. When JB came preaching people came to hear him in droves because he was a force to be reckoned with in their culture.

The difference between what JB and Jesus presented and the rest of the world’s self-proclaimed messiahs came down to message: our heroes proclaimed life change through attitude adjustment; the latter proclaim their own self-interest in the guise of religious or power-mongering stump speeches. What JB began through his preaching and baptism ritual about changing one’s life and attitude Jesus expanded on.

Whether through studied understanding or Spirit-driven insight JB’s message set people up for Jesus’ life and teachings. His entire goal was to point people to the Messiah–so that through him people might believe.

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I Know You

July 28, 2010

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent me.  I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”  John 17:25, 26.

The “they” and “them” of this text is the disciples.  He’s saying something pretty profound about His knowledge of God and to whom He has revealed Him.

We need to make understanding the contrast between who knows and who doesn’t a point for reflection everyday, because the world doesn’t know God and really doesn’t care to.  I know even the world might object to this conclusion from the text, but watching it for so many years as I have, the truth is they don’t care really.  So many in the church (and I’m including all denominations by the way) don’t really know Him either and aren’t interested, it seems to me, beyond a basic salvation theme.

Jesus revealed the Father’s heart and made it known to His disciples, who then passed on that knowledge to us.  We, then, pass on what we know to others who are being saved.  It’s a ripple effect of the stone thrown in the water 2000 years ago, which means eventually all of us become pebbles in the hands of the Almighty being thrown in parts of the world pool where we make the most splash and ripples bless as many as possible.

The problem for many of us is we think witnessing comes down about quoting Scripture and door to door sales.  It’s these two methods or we get the brilliant notion a store front gospel reaches the world most effectively, along with all the window dressing and flashy lights.  None of this makes any difference in the long run since knowing God comes from spending time with His people, first, then in His Word of truth, second.  I know a lot of evangelists think it’s just about getting the crowds through the doors, but true evangelism is discipleship—disciple being the root of the word discipline, which despite its obvious twists in modern perception, means at its heart training in righteousness.

Becoming like God is not about our efforts to be like Him, study about Him or imitation of Him, but submission to the way He thinks.  In other words, we begin to think like Him only when we submit to His mind, then and only then do we become like Him through study and imitation.  Just as thought preempts action, so how we think preempts any attempt towards change.  The gospel speaks about changing the heart and that we have to put forth a super effort to do so; what we get wrong in this equation is not the end but the means of reaching that goal.  Our first job is to conform to the mind of Christ, which comes through submission, because only then can we live out how we think in the world.  The greatest witness of God’s mind will always be those those who demonstrate  it in their daily lives.

Think about how Jesus revealed the mind of God to the disciples.  Through teaching, certainly, but what did He do to reveal the Father?  Jesus came to earth in real time, with real human problems, emotions and options.  His daily routine is not talked about much in the gospels but we do know He traveled from place to place with His followers.  This means to me they saw Him when He was dusty from travel, smelled like a barn from sweat, probably swam in the rivers to clean up and wash the outer layer of dirt off, and generally did everything a normal person had to do in the world.  They knew when He used the outhouse, got something stuck in His teeth and whether or not He snored.

We don’t get to see all of these things, and if we did, it would be even harder for us to believe in His divinity.  Yet, where was and is the power of Jesus?  His word of truth revealed through the Spirit.  Elijah thought it was through miraculous intervention, thunder and lightning and earthquakes until God corrected his misapprehension in the still small voice.

The God who makes stars explode talks to us in a still small voice.  Why?  Why a stillness?

The Hebrews were terrified of God when He thundered from the mountain.  Smoke, fire, lightning did nothing to endear Him to them, so He chose to operate through other routes and reach us by unconventional means.  Jesus is living proof of this truth for He came not as a conquering hero but a carpenter from a small town with a bad reputation.

He knows God.  Keep this in mind when His teaching or example shows us something extraordinary or unexpected.  There’s a reason for all of Scripture, every story, every example of God working with mankind.  You or I may not get them all but they matter because they reveal something about God we need to know.  Jesus knew God and revealed Him to those who traveled with Him because they cared.  No one can expect to be given privileged information without the key to the person revealing it, which is trust.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  2 Corinthians 4:1-4.  Now you know why our unbelieving friends find the gospel so hard to swallow.  We also know why so many Christians follow cunningly devised fables.  The veil remains where unbelief resides and submission to the god of this world continues.

Don’t You Know Me?

April 5, 2010

Philip said,  “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered:  “Don’t you know me Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say,  ‘Show us the Father’?”  John 14:8, 9.

The Father and Son are alike.

This point should be taken to heart when reading the OT and NT for we seem to see two different Gods at work in these differing chapters of Biblical history.  God says of Himself,  “I am the same yesterday, today and forever…” so now we have a choice:  We can either call Him a liar then rant about how harsh He was in the OT times or we can search to find the message of grace in both places.

I guess what I’m saying is that Philip interpreted God by what he knew of Scripture as do we.  We take the presentation from another person’s perspective and forget to question their conclusions, which a vital mistake.  Sure there are plenty of examples of God dealing harshly with people, but before we think we can judge His actions, look at the circumstances surrounding His judgment.  I won’t go into all the specific examples where God destroyed whole nations or individuals to punish them for their sins because no matter how I present it, those who read will take what they want from it anyway.  My concern here is that if we plan to follow Jesus, we believe His words when He says,  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Do you believe the Father and Son are one?

If so, then what picture do you draw of God from Jesus’ portrait?

Do you see the Father as the disciplinarian and Jesus as the advocate pleading our case?

Here’s the truth of the matter:  All judgment has been given to the Son by the Father.  Jesus is called the only righteous judge and for good reason—He experienced life as we do yet without sin.  He knows our weaknesses and doesn’t fault us for our fallen nature only our failure to acknowledge Him as the Lord and Master of our lives.  That may sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t.  What it is, however, is a working method to solve an impossible dichotomy.  Our sin shouldn’t be forgiven at all but He worked it so we find grace, mercy and forgiveness, all of which bring renewal.

Jesus said the Father’s will is that Jesus will lose none of what belongs to Him.  That should point us in the right direction, for if this is the Father’s will, then we can know God’s heart towards us is the same as that of His Son, Jesus.  Do you see the connection?  By default God’s heart is salvation for those who rebelled against Him, though He won’t put up with everything humans do.

I have no other point to make today but this.  I want for anyone who reads this to reprogram their thinking of Scripture and recognize every incident in the OT where God worked with humanity or had contact with them was Jesus in His pre-incarnated form.

The Only Reason

April 1, 2010

The only reason I can see myself for who I am, whether it’s the sin I fail to run from or the triumphs that result from my choices is because the light has shined in my heart through Jesus’ Word.

I love Him because He loved me first; I love you because He filled my way, heart and life with His love.

I fail you because I first failed Him then myself.

The reason I have any good in me at all is because He lives in me.  The reason I know my sin or righteousness is because Jesus shines a light on it by His very presence.

The reason I can be forgiving is because I’m forgiven.

The reason I am merciful is because I’ve been shown mercy.

The reason I extend grace is because my Master extended grace to me.

In short:  Jesus is the reason I am who I am sans the sin; and the reason I am becoming a better man.

If You Really Knew Me…

March 31, 2010

Thomas said to Him,  “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered,  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”  John 14:5-7.

I’m gonna’ stop saying the disciples didn’t get it, because it sounds redundant even though it’s true.  Suffice it to say the discussion went according to plan, I guess, because through their incomprehension, Jesus answered a bunch of questions for us as well.  For instance, we would never have known God was preparing a place for us if Jesus hadn’t answered the question before it was asked, nor would we have understood how to get where Jesus would be waiting for us at the end.  We also wouldn’t know what the Father looked like if Jesus hadn’t told us, making it clear God could not be understood in physical terms but had to be seen within the character and work of His Son.

What occurs to me at the moment of this writing is that Jesus said something profound that we now just take for granted.  It’s one thing to acknowledge Him as the way, truth and life, another to know what is meant by that statement.  Let’s unpack it a bit.

Jesus told His disciples (found in Luke 14:27),  “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Where did He carry His cross? To a hill called “The Skull” because it was used to execute people who rebelled against the Romans—may be for its resemblance to one as well.  The point is He went to die first.

Okay, just so you know I’m not good at this dying thing either.  The first step to following Jesus is dying to our own willfulness.  If He is the way, that means His life is set up as an example of where we are to go and what we are to do when we get there.  The path to following Jesus begins with self-denial, which probably holds odd connotations for most of us, since many people have tried to explain what that means and we’ve ended up with everything from monastic living to people dying of starvation.

I take it to mean we deny the person we are in the world to become the person we were made to be in Christ.  We die to the worldly man or woman to begin a new godly life.  It’s the difference between living in color, black and white or shades of gray, our lives are made up of certain ingredients and whatever we nurture becomes the nature to dominate us.  Jesus calls Himself the “gate” the entry into life and eternity.  He designed the path, lived it then gave it to us as a means of being like Him.

When we say Jesus is the truth, we usually mean we believe in Him as God’s Son, the Messiah.  The significance goes a bit deeper and broader still, however, for if we believe He is the truth, then we accept what He said as true and therefore weigh all other “truths” against what He said.  The way the world is set up at the moment, this becomes rather dicey since we know the general consensus in the Western World is relativism.  Yet Jesus never gives us that out for He makes it plain there is no other way to life besides Him; all other “truths” must submit to Him or be considered lies.

Since He holds life within Himself, we might conclude this is all He means.  Most people stop at the point of animation and forget that God designed our psychological makeup as well.  This means to me He designed the variety of tastes, habits and enjoyments we take for granted as human nature.  These things purified by His blood and submitted to His teaching become set apart from the general consensus of the world view.

Look at it from a creation POV:  God designed man to be functional, social, spiritual and physical.  These official names simply become headers for a host of activities and processes that allow man to have a full “life”.  For instance, God designed that we should eat, yet He didn’t stop at mere sustenance but took it a step farther and gave us tastebuds.  Next, He gave us the ability to reproduce ourselves, then took it even further by making it a pleasurable experience.  Not only can we taste food but we can smell it, and we now know through scientific experiments that our taste buds are intricately woven with our sense of smell, which means part of the pleasure of eating is in the odor.  The sense of touch allows us to feel everything from a caress to the texture of fruit as we chew it—I especially love eating almonds.

Sights and sounds abound too.  When an advertiser or story teller wants to create a romantic feel in a scene, they add butterflies, sunlight and lazy rivers.  Everything is created for our enjoyment and we are created to enjoy these things.  Humans are about the only creatures that don’t have a mating season but actually have sex whenever the urge takes them (which for most men is more often than not).  So many things we do just for the fun of it and forget that God made these this life to lived that way.

My point is that we forget who designed the joys we find in life because we focus so much on the things going wrong in our lives.  It’s strange (though may be not for some who suffer greatly) that every day we wake up to breathe in air but find little joy in our existence.  Jesus came to change all that and to give us a new lease on life, one which would never die or go bad.  Yet the only way to find this joy is through His example (the way and life) and His truth (His teachings) for no one gets to the Father except through Him.

Who Knows Who

January 16, 2010

“I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  John 10:14, 15.

I find the wording here fascinating.  Did you catch it too?

Jesus put the believer on par with His Father in knowing Him.  Yet I don’t think He’s talking about the depth of knowledge here, rather He’s pointing to the fact of it.  Those who know Jesus recognize Him wherever they meet His influence.  In this way they are like the Father because they are aware of Christ at all times.

But who is the hired hand in this parable?

I don’t think it’s a God designated position by choice, instead the person chooses tending sheep as a throw away career.  In other words, they might be just about anybody who either falls into service in the kingdom or chooses it out of pressure or a desire for its fringe benefits.  These types of people don’t really know their own Master for they run at the first sign of threat to the flock.  The comparison couldn’t be more poignant for the leaders of Israel than if Jesus had spelled it out.  The leaders of Israel had no real knowledge (as a body of leadership) of God.  They bought into the Law out of self-preservation and ancestral loyalty.

What started this discussion?  The blind man’s healing.  Jesus is telling the leaders and Pharisees (who were an influential sect in Israel at that time) they were acting like hired guns, ready to cut and run at the first sign of real danger. 

So how does this apply to the man born blind’s situation?

As far as I can reason it out, they assigned the punishment for sin on people like to the blind man out of ignorance and getting an easy answer to a difficult problem.  Answering why there the righteous suffer alongside of the guilty gives any good theologian a headache.  Coming to a workable conclusion, even if it has holes we can see, is better than none at all.  Plus, the Ten Commands seemed to be saying just that anyway when it brought the sins of the fathers onto the children clear down to the third and fourth generation.  (See Exodus 20:4-6)  This command, though, focused on the sin of idols, which they took as a blanket statement.

The problem with the Pharisees’ (and others’) reasoning is they ignored Ezekiel‘s dismissal of their own conclusion in three places where he quotes God as saying,  “The man who sins will die…if his son repents and does not follow his father’s evil, he will not suffer for the father’s sins.”  (My paraphrase).  So why would they cop into such an easy out if this were true?

Simple:  they were hired guns.  They liked the esteem being in the public service brought them but they cared very little for the burden of humanity.  In other words, they were not of God’s heart just God’s chosen people.  Anyone who cops out of studying the Word in depth to find God’s heart will rely on extreme conclusions—or they will lean that way.  There are so many books written which address why the righteous suffer it’s amazing.  I mean just a simple study of the book of Job should send these Pharisees running for their pens to rewrite their commentaries.  Job suffered despite being found a righteous man.  There was no sin in his family he didn’t cover with a sacrifice nor was there any outstanding problem God needed to deal with in him.  The fact that Job learned humility and a greater trust in God through his experience didn’t mean that he was unrighteous by God’s standards.

Have you ever noticed children when they play always end up with a leader?  Depending on the nature of this child the play will be free or dictated.  The more power a child holds over the others the more whimsical their demands and harsh their judgments.  The saying  “Absolute power absolutely corrupts” applies even here because we cannot hold it without becoming drunk with it.  The Pharisees and leaders were in a position of being unquestionable by the common people.  The average person did not read in that era, though most men memorized a book of the law for bar mitzvah, they probably didn’t read on a regular basis.  The leaders could reveal or withhold information as they chose; emphasize this over that and generally dictate the game being played.

Jesus came to shake up this apple cart.  He goes onto say,  “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.”

The people from other “pens” must mean the gentiles, for Jesus reached out to them as well.  The thought of the day was that God would not even lift a finger to help a gentile unless that person converted to Judaism.  And that could be true, to a certain extent.  Jesus, on the other hand, came as an ambassador to reconcile all people to God.  The Jews were supposed to live as the priests of the nations, dispensing God’s message of grace, mercy, righteous living and justice to the world.  They failed to do this because they grew proud of their status as “the chosen people” and looked with disdain on the world around them.  The pendulum had swung from their past desire to imitate the other nations to thinking they were better than.

God didn’t look at the world that way.  His purpose for Israel wasn’t simply for them but a means of redeeming the world as whole.

The difference between those truly converted to the gospel and hired guns is the former take on the heart of God for the world in order to build God’s kingdom for eternity.  The hired gun does so build a kingdom for this world alone and cares very little about what comes after that.  Jesus, however, came to give us life to the full, and those who follow Him will grab this principle with both hands to dispense it to others being saved.  We will be like Him, have His heart in us and take on His purpose.

The Sound of His Voice

January 11, 2010

“The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  John 10:2-5.

I grew up with a fear of deception—make that borderline paranoia.  The denomination I was raised in protects its “truth” very carefully (and forcefully would be another understatement) to the point that I think some people in it worshiped the fundamental doctrines more than Christ or even God the Father.  I’m not criticizing the denomination itself because I also learned to know Jesus through some beautiful people in the local church and schools.

So many, both inside and outside the Christian faith, claim to long for knowledge of God, to know Him or Her and understand the purpose of their creation.  Our biggest obstacle to knowing God is which source material truly speaks His/Her mind.  Since I am a Christian and believe wholeheartedly in the message of the gospels, I will refer to the God I worship as the one for whom all are searching, though this may not be accurate in motivation as much as it is in theory.

How do we get to know the Judeo/Christian God accurately so that we can get a handle on what He wants?

By getting to know His voice.

That’s nice. 

So how do we get to know His voice?!?

By studying our source of His message.

The problem of understanding God, which then leads to knowing His voice, is that we have so many seeming contradictions in nature and the Word itself to overcome that we get confused.  Not to mention thousands of voices in this century and all through the ages writing, spewing and proclaiming opposed views of what it means to know Him.

At the council of Nice, back in the 4th century (I believe), they decided to go with known authors for the source material of what we call the “Bible” and reject any writings that were not supported by known authorities.  They chose first the gospels which we now read, the apostolic letters, then studied these to determine which of the OT writings were authoritative in eyes of the NT writers.  In other words, if the NT writers quoted from the OT source, they included the book in the canon.

I don’t know if they got it right or not, though I agree with the method of discernment.  What I do know is that what we call the “Bible” has a voice, a tone to its message and a sound if read out loud which comes from not only the message but the language as well.  Through the gospels, we get to know the Godhead by way of Jesus.  For example, later in the book of John Jesus tells Phillip,  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  Therefore we may conclude that Jesus represents the heart, intent and character of God the Father on earth.  This, too, gives us a grasp on the voice of God.

Our Shepherd’s voice can be heard throughout the history of Israel and the Christian church’s beginnings.  If we keep ourselves from becoming myopic (tunnel vision), we will hear the tonal consistency of the Scriptures and know the voice of God clearly.

I think being a musician makes me aware of tonal ambiguities more and the harmonic quality of how a thing sounds.  For instance, almost every entry I make on this blog is read aloud so I can hear how it flows rhythmically and in its tonality.   I also want each entry to have a coherent main point which is supported by the small rabbit trails I indulge in—like this one I’m writing.  Paul, when talking about tongues, speaks to the commonsense of playing an instrument clearly and with purpose so that those who hear won’t be bored or confused by its sound.

God’s voice in the Scriptures can sound confusing if one doesn’t take the time to know Him through the eyes of His Son, the only one who can truly interpret the Godhead’s purpose or intent.  Many times preachers or evangelists focus so much time on one aspect of God that people never understand the balance.  Like hell fire sermons, for instance, are preached to scare people away from the punishment to come.  We see the results of this in the fact that we know many a bitter non-believer.  On the other hand, merely focusing on God’s desire to save to the exclusion of His warning about final punishment leaves out a vital aspect to God’s message as well.

Without teaching the whole of the message, we don’t see God’s heart.  In fact, if I hadn’t courageously taken my reluctance in hand and read the book of Ezekiel, I would never have found the message of God’s heart about the lost.  When I read the words,  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD,  Repent and live!  in 18:32, then found the same message in other chapters, the way I heard God’s warnings about punishment and disaster changed.  The tone of His voice went from stern eagerness to fry us to a Father pleading with His foolish children to turn away from something dangerous.  The warnings of punishment are God’s last resort.

Looking at the history of Israel I see God’s patience and long-suffering work with them in their seesaw loyalty to Him.  It took almost a thousand years from the time they entered Canaan till they went into exile for them to be stripped completely of their homeland.  Even then God gave it back to them out of faithfulness to His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

If God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone, then His children must not.  The tone of a preacher that speaks more of the judgment of God to the utter disregard of God’s longing to save is out of balance and therefore just as bad as a lie.  On the other hand, if a preacher only speaks of God’s love without His discipline, he or she has repeated the same mistake as those who focus on hell-fire.  Half-truth is a lie of sorts, even if it is all true within the half that is spoken.  To me, speaking half of God’s message without the balance is like drawing a person’s face without features.

No, hearing God’s voice takes careful study as well as His children properly dividing the Word of Truth in not only their teaching but the way they live.

The Rules of Truth

September 25, 2009

“He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”  John 7:18.

Jesus takes the search for truth and works it into a small deductive rule:  If a man works on behalf of another, he has no reason to lie but speaks the truth of the one for whom he works.  On the other hand if he’s concerned only about his own honor, his motives are suspect, methods might be devious depending on the goal and truth subjective at best, fluid at worst.

 For instance:  Those who would like to be thought of as wise will do what it takes to sound wise or be seen as such.  I’ve noticed wisdom sets puzzles out for people to study and find the truth hidden there, but liars simply complicate the process by making it hard to reach the truth or find it at all.  Some proverbial wisemen take truth to be their own special form of wealth.  I know for some of us being ascetic appears to be selflessness, but in truth it can be a form of self-absorption and pedestal building all on its own.  Those who long to know search to understand and since they are on a mission on behalf of truth, they speak honestly about what they do and don’t grasp.  A person seeking their own honor finds anything that will work as an answer then throws half-truths in the mix to keep those who ask their advice off balance.  A liar keeps enough truth in their arsenal to hook the unwary into the falsehoods they are selling.

Jesus spoke the truth of God not because it was to His advantage but because He served the Father’s purpose.  Look at how He lived during His ministry.  He ate and drank, socialized and fasted, taught selflessness as well as economy, and generally affirmed all the Lord God created man to be by striking a balance between them.  When confronted with tithing, He made it clear it was important but included mercy, grace and love as equally so.  Contrary to some assertions Jesus was not ascetic or Nazarite, rather He took on the role as a rabbi, who would be set apart for holy use, but could still join in the community routines.

As I began thinking of this again this morning, I realized that Jesus didn’t necessarily declare a man’s mission on behalf of another based on truth but that the man who represented the other did so with integrity.  That in itself is quite a distinction, for a man of integrity may believe a lie or half-truth because he has no means of proving it to be anything else but true.  It can also mean that within a certain scope of education, cultural belief and a position where this “truth” has never been challenged, the man (or woman for that matter) never had the opportunity to question it.

John wrote three other letters that we know of and another book called “Revelation.”  In the first letter he writes to the church warning her to beware of deceptive spirits masquerading as authentic and he instructed us to test them.  What test could we give these spirits that would reveal their true nature?

The only one we litmus test we have available to us, the Word of God.  Isaiah 8:20:  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.  Which then means to me the Word of God, for the testimony is that of the history of God’s work in Israel as well as the prophets who called her out on the carpet for her sin.  Isaiah 8:19 takes it a step further to clarify who he’s talking about,  When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a  people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  Horoscopes, financial prophets and political pundits fall into this category as far as I’m concerned for they don’t speak according to the Word but reject it for the wisdom of mathematics, scientific research and “experts” who study trends.

As far as I’m aware most of what man calls “sound advice” mixes human interest sans God, which negates its validity to some extent.  We don’t have to be isolated or critical of every theory, discovery or truth which comes from the world, but we need to be skeptics of their motivations.

Jesus told the Jews just how to tell a man’s integrity:  He works tirelessly on behalf of another.  Jesus sacrificed all the Jewish tradition held dear for life and happiness to spread the word about a God who anxiously desired an intimate relationship with them.  He might have been wrong about His Father, but His integrity was true.  On the other hand, His miraculous power came from somewhere, therefore we must conclude the Father and He were partners in this mission, since Jesus would have no power at all (according to His teachings) unless God granted Him to have them.  He had the power to lay down His life but as part of that laying down of His position in heaven He became totally dependent on the Father for everything He did.

As should we…

Opening Eyes

August 13, 2009

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say,  “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.  John 6:14, 15.

Our view of God changes as we grow in the knowledge of who He is from His own perspective.  Our perspective or grasp of who God adjusts as we get to know His Word through Jesus.  I believe this is one of the reasons why many people can’t accept Jesus as the Anointed One or Savior because their ideas of who He is or can be are so fixed they refuse to adjust or change them to the reality He presents.

As in the days of Samuel and all those following until after the exile to Babylon, the Jews wanted a king to be like other nations.  It comes down to the same thing for almost everyone I know or have ever read about, we want to be original in some things but where power, prestige and honor come into the picture we will conform without ever batting an eyelash.  These people only understood a few things, but one that they really grasped was the significance of Jesus’ ability to feed them.  They saw opportunity flashing its undies at them and they decided to take hold with all their might.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t in the plan set out by God or His Son.  They wanted a king because that symbolized to them normalcy, whereas God made it pretty clear in the Law He had no desire for them have any other king but Him.  Remember Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well?  God desires worshipers who will do so in spirit and truth, which subtracts the physical ties we have to earthly priorities.

The people decided to take Him by force, which suggests to me Jesus wasn’t all that enthused or encouraging about the idea.  I wouldn’t doubt the disciples were ring leaders in the efforts as well, for they didn’t grasp the Savior’s mission any better than the multitude.  They still had their hopes set on an earth-based glory, where the Jews ruled the world and they doled out favors as they wished.

I’ve heard so many sermons chastising the disciples for their blindness and single-minded hope for the messiah.  Yet I don’t really think we today are all that different.  I don’t mean to harp on this point but our perceptions or preconceptions of Scripture are pretty staid, set and intractible.  No matter what Scripture says, we find a way to believe or get it to say what we want it to say.  Of course, we have to ignore other passages to do so, but what is such a little sacrifice for the greater good of our pet theories?

Jesus avoided their intentions by simply leaving the situation and going up into the mountain to pray.  I don’t know if He hid Himself or what to get away, but in another gospel it says He dismissed the people and ordered the disciples to cross the lake ahead of Him.  For some reason they all obeyed Him.

The lesson here again for me is several fold, of course, but one which stands out as important:  We must conform to Scripture to form our ideas of God.  Subtract our preconceptions from the mix wherever the truth shows them to be false understandings and finally give ourselves over wholly to the message of the cross.

Only in this way can we say we really know God or His Son.

The Witnesses

July 31, 2009

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.  There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that His testimony is valid.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.  Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.”  John 5:31-34.

The law states that a man must obtain two to the three witnesses besides himself to support his side of any story.  The Jews knew this and accepted it as par for course—in court.  Yet here Jesus gave them two witnesses they accepted as well as a third evidence as a witness in His miraculous power, and they refused them as insufficient.

Why?  What were they looking for that Jesus didn’t provide?  The common perception and hope of the Messiah for the Jew is cataclysmic change—a complete takeover and Jewish domination of the world.  When Jesus refused to become the conquering hero of the warrior David’s variety, they dismissed Him as nothing but a shooting star or flash in the pan.  The Jews would accept nothing less, in their opinion, than the conquering king.  In their eagerness for the Messiah’s reign they missed Him while looking somewhere else.  Yet what they thought of as less was more because their values were so skewed by human goals and wealth they couldn’t see the truth when it hit them right between the eyes.

It’s a continuous lesson for me to look at the evidence at hand where God works in my life.  Instead of expecting God to work according to my own desires and plans, I’m doing my best to learn His new perspective (which is really the original POV all life was created for) so that I might get in line with what these desires should be.  I’m not good at this anymore than other people but I refuse to give up just because I’m a fallen human being.

The trick to becoming like our Master is to turn our attention to Him in the everything.  It’s easy to say this, isn’t it, but much harder to want to do it, for we have so many things we let get in the way or want to for our own immediate gratification.  I know my saying this makes us sound cheap but the truth is we are…it’s not for nothing God called His people whores to sin.

Jesus used the testimony of three witnesses as it was established by the Law:  1) God the Father through the testimony of Scripture.  2)  John B.  3)  The miracles and teachings.

They dismissed them all.

Human nature hasn’t changed since their time at all.  O, what we focus on might be slightly different in make up but it isn’t really anything all that new.  We must ask ourselves what are we looking for or at so hard we miss the truth about Jesus?  What are we distracted by that can take our eyes off of the reality Christ longs to open to our eyes?