Compromise Isn’t Always Good

Revelation 2

12“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one who has a sharp two-edged sword:

13“I know that you live in the city where that great throne of Satan is located, and yet you have remained loyal to me. And you refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers. 14And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15In the same way, you have some Nicolaitans among you—people who follow the same teaching and commit the same sins. 16Repent, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:12-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Though the book of Revelation is filled with figurative language describing apocalyptic events that will occur in the future, the first couple of chapters describe real events that were happening at the time the author penned his words.

In chapters 2 and 3, John is instructed to write down messages that were to be delivered to 7 different churches. These were real churches and the messages were a combination of praise for the things they were doing well and rebuke for those things they were failing to do as true followers of Jesus.

In this passage of Revelation, John is writing to the church at Pergamum. The people in that church had done some things that were worthy of praise, most notably, they had remained loyal to Jesus despite cultural pressures that existed in their city.

But there were some things that were not pleasing to the Lord. The text calls them complaints. The biggest issue in this church was that they were compromising on their moral values, particularly in the area of sexual purity.

The Lord references two obscure biblical characters to lodge His complaint. He mentions Balaam as well as a group referred to as the “Nicolaitans”.

Balaam was a prophet whose story is found in Numbers 22-25. Balak, the king of Aram had seen the vast people of Israel encamped near him and he sought the help of Balaam in bringing a curse upon the Israelites. The short story is that even though the king of Aram offered up an incredible amount of riches in exchange for Balaam’s curse, Balaam only blesses the Israelites instead.

A quick reading of the story might lead one to conclude that Balaam was a good guy who followed the Lord’s leading. However, we find out in subsequent chapters that even though Balaam did obey the Lord by not cursing the Israelites but blessing them instead, he also conspired against the Israelites by suggesting to Balak a way to do an end around God’s blessing of his people.

It was Balaam who suggested to king Balak that Israel would easily defile themselves if their men were encouraged to pursue foreign women as wives. Balaam knew that these men, in their physical lust, would forsake the Lord and worship the gods of these foreigners. Though Israelite men were forbidden to sleep with foreign women or take them as wives. Balaam urged Balak to take this course anyway, knowing that it would be the first step to leading the whole nation away from the Lord.

The other group also referenced in this passage is the Nicolaitans. This group was not praised and there are at least two passages that reference this group and warns about them.

So who are the Nicolaitans and what was wrong with their doctrine?

Most of what we know about the Nicolaitans is from early church fathers who wrote that the Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolas, who taught a doctrine of compromise.

One view is that because it was mentioned in Acts 6:5 that Nicolas was a proselyte from Antioch then he must’ve had a background in the occult and pagan religions. It’s speculated that he taught that one did not need to relinquish all ties to former religions when coming to Christ. He, and his followers, had one foot in Christianity and another foot in the world.

In other words, pagan practices were not discouraged or spoken against and therefore, there was a compromise of character and conduct that didn’t match Jesus’ teachings and the expectations of the early church.

One thing we know for sure, the church at Pergamum was rebuked because of their compromise in the sexual area. The Lord cites the example of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the Israelites by enticing them to fall into sexual sin, as well as the example of the Nicolaitans, who according to this passage, committed the same sexual sins.

Many commentators believe that the 7 churches in these chapters, though real churches, are also representative of all churches throughout the ages. In other words, every church will generally resemble one of these churches in terms of the issues it struggles with.

We live in a culture that is very progressive in its views of sexuality and sex. Just about nothing is off limits any more. And some of these sexual views have crept into the church so that many Christians are no longer holding fast to traditional biblical views on sex and sexual immorality. In short, we are seeing quite a bit of compromise.

I recently wrote about “The Recipe for Salad Bar Religion”, in which I looked at a passage from 2 Kings 17 that showed that the people who had been transplanted in Jerusalem were taught how to worship the Lord but they never forsook their old worship practices. Hence, their understanding of God was simply added to the pantheon of religious views and practices they already held.

In a way, this is the problem for the church at Pergamum and for us today. We have some doctrinal views about God and Jesus and particularly salvation that we hold to but when it comes to our daily practices, we often adopt the practices of the world. We therefore end up with a faith in which we appear loyal to God intellectually and doctrinally but in our daily practices our lives often are more reflective of the culture around us.

The message Jesus has for us today is the same message He had 2000 years ago to the church at Pergamum. The Lord may well tell us the same thing He vocalized to His people then – that He is glad we are remaining loyal in the midst of a wicked culture but He is upset with how easily we compromise our moral standards, particularly when it comes to the area of sexual fidelity.

Reflection

What are some moral areas in which you see Christians compromising today?

What are some of the ways you see the culture influencing Christians to compromise regarding their views and understanding of sexual immorality?

How would you summarize the biblical view of sex and sexual immorality to a new believer? What scriptural references would you use to support your views?

What steps can you take to ensure that you are not rebuked by Jesus for compromising your moral values?

 

Photo by Joshimer Biñas from Pexels

Can a Person Love Jesus but Hate His Followers?

1 John 4

7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.

9God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.

13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.

18Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. 19We love each other as a result of his loving us first.

20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? 21And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too. (1 John 4:7-21, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“I love Jesus….I just don’t like His followers!”

Have you ever heard someone say something like this?

This sentiment, that Jesus is cool but his followers aren’t, has become widespread, especially among young adults (those classified as Millennials and Gen Z), who, according to Barna research, are leaving the church in record numbers.

What is going on?

There are a number of reasons why young people are leaving the church. According to Barna, some of the reasons include: seeing the church as too shallow, experiencing the church as being over-protective and fearful of everything outside the church, seeing the church as not being in touch with real-world problems, and viewing the church as being antagonistic toward science.

Whatever the reasons that might cause a person to step away from the church, is it legitimate to “love Jesus, but not His followers”?

Not according to John.

In my last post, I shared some thoughts from 1 John chapters 2 and 3, in which the author shared that one of the marks of the God-follower is love for one another, specifically, love for other Christians.

This issue of loving one another must be a big deal to John because in the next chapter, he once again exhorts his audience to love one another.

The reasons he gives in chapter 4 are as follows:

    • God is love
    • If we say that we are “in God”, then His love should be in us and it will be perfected (made complete) within us
    • Hence, those who say that God is in them should be loving because God IS love.

This line of reasoning lays the foundation for John’s final point, in which he states:

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?

The bottom line is that one cannot claim to love God (or Jesus) but hate His followers. It’s an oxymoron because God IS love and therefore, if we love God, we will love His children (other believers).

Additionally, John points out, we’ve been commanded to love our Christian brothers and sisters.

So the idea that we can love God (or Jesus) but no love his followers doesn’t compute and reflects a fundamental lack of awareness of what the Christian life is all about.

We are living in perilous and confusing times. Unfortunately, churches aren’t always as reflective of Jesus as we might like. Sin has a way of ruining our expectations, unfortunately.

But the solution isn’t to bail on Christ’s church because it is filled with sinners who are a constant reminder of our need for Jesus in the first place.

As difficult as it may be, the solution is to find some other Christ followers and begin to live out the command to love one another in the context of an authentic community.

If this kind of community doesn’t exist then there is nothing stopping you from creating that kind of community.

One of the interesting arguments for the triune nature of God is the fact that He is a God of love and that His loving nature has been expressed for eternity in the context of a trinity of relationships. In other words, if the nature of the Godhead is singular, how would it be possible for love to be expressed as there would be no object for that love?

A similar line of reasoning could be expressed here. If a fundamental characteristic of the Christian life and knowing God is loving one another, how can that love be expressed in isolation?

It can’t.

Hence, the idea that one can love Jesus but hate His followers or one can love Jesus without being a part of a church community is not biblical. This issue is so important that John spends a major portion of his first epistle reinforcing this concept that Christians are to love one another….and that’s not possible if we are not in community with them.

Reflection

Do you know some people who claim to still be Christians but no longer are connected to a church? If so, what are the reasons given for why church is no longer a part of their Christian experience?

What response would you give to someone who says they love Jesus but they cannot be a part of His church because of all the hypocrites and scandals they see in the church?

How can the church address those who say that the church is either not concerned with or is not effective in dealing with real-world problems?

What steps can you (or a person you’re advising) take to be a part of the kind of community where the command to love one another can be freely expressed?

 

Original Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash (edited photo by Dave Lowe)

 

How Can You Know if You’re Really a True Christian?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1 John 2

7Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

9If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. 11Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.
(1 John 2:7-11, NLT – emphasis added)

1 John 3

11This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?

18Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:11-20, NLT – emphasis added)


The Daily DAVEotional

How can you know for sure if you’re really a Christian?

Perhaps you’ve grown up going to church and you can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Or maybe you drifted away from God but have recently turned back to the Lord and you’re wondering if God still accepts you.

John’s short letter of 1 John is packed with a number of “identifying markers” that are good indicators that you are indeed “in the faith.”

In 1 John chapters 2 and 3, John gives another of his litmus tests that are designed to give his audience confidence that they truly are a part of God’s family.

In this particular passage, John says that the proof “that we have passed from death to eternal life” is our love for other Christians.

John’s argument can be summarized as follows:

    • We’ve been given a new command to love one another
    • This command to love is based on the example of Jesus, who demonstrated his love by dying for us
    • Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness, so living for Jesus is “living in the light”
    • Since Jesus died for us (all of us), it means he loves us (all of us). Therefore, to be living in the light of Jesus means we should love people as Jesus loves

The real litmus test then is how do you think and feel about other Christians? Do you love them as Jesus loves them? John says that those who say they love God but hate their Christian brother or sister is “living and walking in darkness.”

Darkness is always used by John in reference to sin or disconnected fellowship with God. Hence, the person who says they love God but hates their fellow Christian, for whatever reason, is not connected to God.

John takes the illustration even further when he says that “Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” OUCH!

So one of the identifying markers of a true follower of Christ is their love of other Christians.

Yes, I know! Some “other” Christians are not easy to love. Perhaps they share different political views than you or they’re involved in activities of which you don’t approve. Maybe they just have an annoying personality that rubs you the wrong way.

Regardless, John’s logic is irrefutable: Jesus loved us all, which is amazing because we were not very lovable. In fact, Jesus loved us in spite of the fact that our sin made us his enemies.

Since Jesus is able to love “the unloveable”, we should be able to as well, since we have His Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we should demonstrate love to everyone, even those whom we might consider “difficult to love”, for whatever reason.

Our ability to love other Christians is an evidence of God’s work in our life and provides strong evidence that you really are a part of God’s eternal family!

Reflection

If someone were to come to you with doubts about whether or not they were genuinely a Christian, what would you tell them? How would you go about helping them to affirm their place in God’s family?

John specifically talks about our need to love other Christians. Why do you think he emphasizes the need to love other believers but doesn’t mention non-believers?

Some people are easier to love than others. What are some possible reasons why you might be challenged to demonstrate “love to some people?

John urges us to “really show it [our love for others] by our actions.” What actions show love to you? What are some actions you could begin to implement in your spheres as a means of demonstrating love toward other believers?

Suppose someone says to you, “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand his followers.” What would you say to this person? Do you think this person can be a Christian? Why or why not?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Who’s Your Daddy?

John 8

31Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone on earth. What do you mean, ‘set free’?”

34Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. 37Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts.38I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

39“Our father is Abraham,” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were children of Abraham, you would follow his good example. 40I told you the truth I heard from God, but you are trying to kill me. Abraham wouldn’t do a thing like that. 41No, you are obeying your real father when you act that way.”

They replied, “We were not born out of wedlock! Our true Father is God himself.”

42Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to do so! 44For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you don’t, it proves you aren’t God’s children.”

48The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

49“No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God wants to glorify me. Let him be the judge. 51I assure you, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say that those who obey your teaching will never die! 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Are you greater than the prophets, who died? Who do you think you are?”

54Jesus answered, “If I am merely boasting about myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who says these glorious things about me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55but you do not even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But it is true—I know him and obey him.56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

58Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” 59At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.
(John 8:31-59, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In 2004, after two consecutive outings in which the rival Yankees had roughed up Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, the future Hall of Famer quipped,

“What can I say? I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”

From that moment on, whenever Martinez took the mound against the Bronx Bombers, the fans would chant, “who’s your daddy?” as a means of heckling the oft-dominant hurler.

The phrase, “who’s your daddy?” has come to be associated with dominance over an opponent and is often expressed as a way to mock or ridicule.

In John chapter 8, Jesus doesn’t use the phrase, “who’s your daddy?” with His audience, but He does bring to the attention of His listeners that they are under the ownership and influence of either one of two possible “father” figures.

As was often the case with Jesus, many of those who followed Him never really believed He was God’s Son. Despite the many miracles Jesus performed, His sinless lifestyle and His authoritative teaching, there were many skeptics who were simply looking for a reason to prove that Jesus was the religious charlatan they always had believed Him to be.

This group of people had already made up their minds about Jesus and nothing that Jesus could say or do was going to change their view of Him.

In this chapter, Jesus has another such encounter with the crowds, in which Jesus states that those who truly want to be His disciples will obey His teachings and “the truth will set you free.”

Some in the audience take issue with Jesus’ verbiage, claiming that they have never been slaves and therefore have no need to be set free and also appealing to Abraham as their father.

Jesus’ spiritual message is obviously lost on these folks but Jesus uses this opportunity to explain to his challengers who their true father really is.

According to Jesus, those for whom God is their father are characterized by this one quality – an openness for truth. Those who oppose truth cannot be from God and God cannot be said to be their father because God is a god of truth.

Jesus then explains to his critics that even though they technically are descendants of Abraham, they don’t follow his example, because if they did, they would not be seeking to kill Him simply for telling the truth.

When His enemies continue to resist and argue, Jesus brings the hammer down, telling them that the reason they can’t understand what He’s saying is because they are unable to do so, “For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.”

This exchange between Jesus and His adversaries underscores a critical question – what happens when a person is confronted with truth that contradicts their current understanding?

For those who claim to be followers of God, Jesus says that they will be open to the truth that confronts them, recognizing that all truth is God’s truth because God is a god of truth.

Those who resist God may employ any number of strategies and tactics to hold on to their preferred narrative. One such tactic is to employ confirmation bias, which is to take in only information and facts that support your preferred narrative while discarding anything that would challenge it. I wrote about a biblical example of confirmation bias here.

Another tactic is to place oneself in an echo chamber, which is the scenario in which a person surrounds themselves only with people who agree with you and who don’t challenge your thinking, even when you’re wrong. I wrote about an Old Testament Echo Chamber here in my previous post.

Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. He states clearly that those who reject the truth that is right in front of them are not God followers. Instead, their father is the devil, who is the father of lies. The reason people reject God and resist truth that plainly points to God is because they are under the influence and authority of Satan, who owns them and is thus, their father!

So, who owns you? Is it God or is it Satan?

Or to put it in today’s vernacular, “Who’s your daddy?”

Reflection

What are some examples from your own life where you or someone you know has rejected plain truth in order to preserve their own personal viewpoint?

None of us really like to be wrong. So the idea that we might resist new information that would challenge our thinking is not reserved for just some people but is a struggle that any of us can have. What are your typical responses when one of your views is challenged?

How do you handle personal feedback and criticism? What factors make it harder to digest? What circumstances might make it easier to handle?

What steps can you take to ensure that you are one of Jesus’ disciples who obeys Him and is open to truth instead of being one who claims to follow Him but is actually resistant to truth?

 

Photo from TheLowedown Collection on Topps Bunt21 (a digital card collecting app available in the App Store or Google Play store)

Two Opposite Pictures of Leadership

Mark 10

35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36“What is it?” he asked.

37“In your glorious Kingdom, we want to sit in places of honor next to you,” they said, “one at your right and the other at your left.”

38But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39“Oh yes,” they said, “we are able!”

And Jesus said, “You will indeed drink from my cup and be baptized with my baptism, 40but I have no right to say who will sit on the thrones next to mine. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41When the ten other disciples discovered what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. 43But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. 45For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:35-45, NLT)

2 Samuel 11

1The following spring, the time of year when kings go to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to destroy the Ammonites. In the process they laid siege to the city of Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

2Late one afternoon David got out of bed after taking a nap and went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4Then David sent for her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. (She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period.) Then she returned home. 5Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent a message to inform David.

6So David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” 7When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. 8Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. 9But Uriah wouldn’t go home. He stayed that night at the palace entrance with some of the king’s other servants.

10When David heard what Uriah had done, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter with you? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”

11Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and his officers are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I will never be guilty of acting like that.”

12“Well, stay here tonight,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance.

14So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17And Uriah was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. (2 Samuel 11:1-17, NLT)

Philippians 2

5Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. 8And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. 9Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Today’s installment of the Daily DAVEotional includes 3 related passages that all appeared in the same daily reading based on the Grant Horner Reading Plan, which I’ve mentioned a number of times, including here, here and here.

Amazingly, these 3 different passages from different parts of the Bible provide an interesting commentary on one another, starting with the passage in Mark.

In this passage, Jesus is teaching His disciples a lesson about leadership. It actually starts in the verses prior to what I’ve listed here, when Jesus is talking again to His disciples about His death.

Immediately after this, James and John approach Jesus and instead of asking follow-up questions regarding what Jesus has just said, that He’ll be betrayed and killed before rising again three days later, these brothers begin jockeying for key positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom.

The other disciples catch wind of what James and John are talking to Jesus about and while they are indignant externally, internally they are probably kicking themselves for being beaten to the punch.

Jesus sees what’s going on and, of course He knows what’s going on in their hearts and minds, so He takes the opportunity to share a lesson on leadership in God’s kingdom.

The headline is this: Leadership in God’s kingdom is completely opposite of what you’d expect based on leadership in the world.

In the world’s system, kings (and officials) act like tyrants, using their power to get whatever they want in whatever way they deem necessary.

The passage in 2 Samuel 11, which happened to be part of the same daily reading, provided the perfect biblical example to illustrate what Jesus is saying. King David is known as a good king and was even said by God to be “a man after my own heart.”  But even though David is a good king overall, he has some major flaws, and in this situation, he uses his power to get something he wants regardless of whether it’s wrong or who it hurts.

David sees a beautiful woman bathing and he desires her, so he has her brought to him and despite knowing that she is the wife of one of his elite fighting men, he sleeps with her anyway.

His indiscretion backfires when Bathsheba reveals that she is pregnant. In an effort to cover up his sin, David has Uriah recalled from the battle field, hoping that he will sleep with his wife and thus think that the child is his.

But Uriah doesn’t comply with David’s scheme so David sends him back to the battle field carrying a message with the very command that gets him killed. What is often overlooked in this passage is that by having the front line attackers pull back so that Uriah would be killed, the text says that others were killed as well. So David, by his tyrannical actions, ends up taking another man’s wife, and murdering several people in order to cover it up.

This is the kind of leadership we see in the world even today. Though we have few monarchies, there can be no doubt that even in our current system, elected officials often take special privileges and enact rules on others that don’t apply to themselves. We shouldn’t be surprised, however, because Jesus tells us that “kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the people beneath them.”

This is how most leaders think and act – the people under them are there to serve them and their needs.

But leadership in God’s kingdom is 180 degrees different than what we see in the world. In God’s kingdom, leaders are servants whose purpose is actually to serve those under them. It’s completely flipped!

The Philippians passage, also appearing on the same day, provides a biblical example of servant leadership that is perfectly illustrated by the life of Jesus.

Jesus’ leadership was characterized first and foremost by humility. As God, one might expect that Jesus would come and demand worship and the kind of allegiance and attention that royals traditionally receive.

But Jesus didn’t come and start exerting His power and authority in order to serve Himself. The text says He gave up His rights in order to serve others. Jesus didn’t demand the worship and the kind of attention and fanfare that He deserves but instead, He fulfilled a mission of service, namely, going to the cross to die for the sins of humanity so that we might escape eternal judgment and be reconciled to God.

This is the kind of leadership Jesus tells us that we, as His followers, should exhibit. It’s a selfless leadership. It’s not self-serving or self-promoting. It seeks the needs of others and puts their needs and welfare above our own. As I look around the current cultural landscape, it seems to me that we could use more of this kind of leadership and a lot less of the worldly kind of leadership.

Reflection

What are some examples you’ve seen of the kind of worldly leadership Jesus describes, where kings (and officials) seek to serve themselves instead of their subjects?

What are some examples you’ve seen of leaders who exhibit the kind of godly, kingdom-oriented leadership that Jesus says His followers should exhibit?

What do you think are some reasons that make this selfless, servant leadership that Jesus promoted so difficult for people, even those within the church?

What are some steps or actions that would make servant leadership more likely for those who are in positions of leadership?

If you are in a position of leadership, are you using your power and authority to serve yourself or others?

What do you personally need to address in your own life in order to become the kind of servant leader who emulates Jesus’ example instead of David’s example?

 

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Is Your View of Jesus Really that Important? (Part 2)

1 John 5

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

6This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:1-10, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

There’s a confusing passage of scripture in 1 John 5 that quite frankly, I’ve been in the habit of skimming over for years because I never really understood it and I didn’t have the patience, determination or even knowledge to know how to go about determining its true meaning.

I’m talking about this passage in 1 John 5:7, 8 which states that “there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

I couldn’t even begin to explain what that really meant, largely because I didn’t have a firm grasp on the larger context of the letter. But once you understand why John is writing his letter and what the background is, the meaning of this passage becomes more clear.

If you read my previous post regarding 1 John 4:1-6, you’ll know that one of the main reasons John wrote this letter was to address and refute a false teaching about Jesus that was circulating within the church.

This false teaching asserted that Jesus was just a man and “the Christ” was a spiritual entity who entered into the body of Jesus at His baptism and left just before Jesus was crucified. Hence, Jesus and the Christ were separate individuals, not the same person. John opposed this teaching so strongly that he not only labeled the teachers as “false prophets” but he referred to the teaching itself as “deception” and even “antichrist.”

It’s interesting to look at this passage from 1 John 5 and see that right off the bat in verse 1, John says that “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”

Notice that John affirms that Jesus IS the Christ. They are one and the same person. Humanity and divinity together, at the same time in the same person. John states that belief in this specific doctrine, that Jesus is human and divine at the same time, is essential to being “born of God.” (verse 1)

In verse 5, John once again affirms the divinity of Jesus as he states that the one “who believes Jesus is the Son of God” is the one who overcomes. Referencing Jesus as the “Son of God” is an affirmation of His divine nature.

But then we come upon the sticky passage, the one that’s talking about water and blood and the spirit and testimonies and witnesses, etc.

What’s he talking about here and how does this relate to anything he’s been saying?

As I mentioned before, these false teachers were teaching that “the Christ” descended upon Jesus (the man) at his baptism and left him just before the crucifixion. Hence, they were teaching that the person who was crucified was NOT the Son of God, but just the normal human Jesus.

John’s reference to water, blood and the spirit makes sense when you understand how he’s trying to combat the view of Jesus that was being promoted.

Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3? I wrote about this in a previous post here.

Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist. Immediately after coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Jesus and God the Father audibly affirms that Jesus is His Son, in whom He is well-pleased.

So the water in this passage of 1 John 5 is a reference to Jesus’ baptism, which happens to be the point the false teachers said “the Christ” overtook the human Jesus’ body.

The blood is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion, which marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry.

The Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit, who affirmed Jesus’ identity at His baptism.

By referencing water, the blood and the Spirit, John is directly refuting the false teachers by establishing that Jesus was the Son of God before His baptism AND at His death.

So John is saying that there are 3 witnesses that are all in agreement concerning the identity of Jesus. There is the water when Jesus was baptized and affirmed to be the Son of God, and there was the blood when Jesus was crucified and also affirmed to be the Son of God.

John continues by arguing that the law typically required 2 or 3 human witnesses to establish a fact. Since God is greater than humans, and He has given us 3 witnesses, or facts that establish the identify of Jesus as “the Christ”, and “the Son of God”, how much more should we believe Him?

John concludes by saying that if you do NOT believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you are making God out to be a liar because He has already provided evidence (testimony) to demonstrate this truth about the nature of Jesus.

Understanding and believing these truths is critically important because if Jesus was just a man when he was crucified, as the false teachers asserted, how could his death atone for the sins of the world? It couldn’t.

Good Friday would not be so good. It would be Bad Friday, or at best, Normal Friday because Jesus’ death would have accomplished nothing and it would have been so insignificant that we would probably not even be aware of it 2000 years later!


NOTE: Have you ever wondered what makes Good Friday good? I wrote about this in a previous post and you can read about it here.


Reflection

What do you think the term “Son of God” means? What does it communicate about the nature of Jesus?

If Jesus wasn’t God, how would that impact His mission to save the world from sin? How would you explain to someone why it is critically important for Jesus to be God if we are to have any hope of our sin actually being paid for?

Do you agree with the author John who says that in order to be “born of God” you must believe that Jesus is the Christ? Why or why not? What do you think it means that Jesus is the Christ?

What modern day examples come to mind that demonstrate a false teaching or understanding of the nature of Jesus?

 

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

 

 

Does Your Understanding Of the Nature of Jesus Really Matter?

1 John 4

1Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God. 3If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist. You have heard that he is going to come into the world, and he is already here.

4But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5These people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6But we belong to God; that is why those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. (1 John 4:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Does your theological understanding of Jesus really matter? Isn’t it enough to just believe that Jesus saves us?

With so many different religions and world views giving us countless versions and understandings of Jesus, perhaps you’ve heard this line of reasoning before.

If you read the New Testament, you’ll find that many of the letters addressed variant teachings regarding the person of Jesus. 1 John is one of those letters that deals with a teaching regarding the nature of Jesus that John refers to as “deception.” In this passage, John gives a litmus test to his readers to know whether a religious teacher is actually from God or whether they are a false teacher. John’s test involves examining the religious teacher’s view of Jesus against what he and the other apostles had taught.

The false teaching that was being floated around at the time was a concept that has come to be known as Docetism. That’s a big word but it basically means “to seem”. The idea was that the person we think of when we talk about Jesus was not a “normal” human being, at least not as we would normally think about it. Jesus “seemed” to be a person of flesh, but he really wasn’t.

This particular view said that Jesus and Christ were not the same person, but two different beings. Jesus was a normal human and Christ was the spiritual entity who was sent from above.

At Jesus’ baptism, the spiritual being known as “Christ” descended upon Jesus and occupied His physical body up until the point when Jesus was crucified. Hence, all the miracles and teachings were attributed to “Christ”, not Jesus.

So when you see all the miracles being done by this religious wise man, you can’t say that it was Jesus doing them. It was really “the Christ”, who was in control of the physical body of Jesus. Whereas traditional teaching on the nature of Christ taught that Jesus had a dual nature, being both divine and human, this teaching denied the humanity of Jesus. John staunchly refutes this view, even going so far as to calling it “antichrist”.

John counters this teaching in many ways throughout his letter but in this passage, he states that if a “prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God.”

Notice in verse 2 that John considers Jesus Christ to be one person. He doesn’t separate Jesus and Christ into two separate beings as the false teachers did. John’s view is that Jesus was divine and he became flesh. Therefore, the view that John and the other apostles taught concerning Jesus is that he was both divine and human at the same time.


In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God … So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.  (John 1:1, 14)


John then says that if a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. To acknowledge Jesus means that all of the miracles and teachings in the gospels are attributed to the person of Jesus who is the Christ (the anointed one). Remember, these false teachers attributed all of the miracles and great works to “the Christ” but not the person of Jesus, whom they viewed as a sort of bodily shell that the spiritual being known as “Christ” was occupying.

In short, this invasion of the body snatchers scenario, where Jesus’ body was invaded and occupied by some supernatural spiritual being known as “Christ”, was utterly false according to John.

According to John, denying Jesus’ humanity would put you in a category of false teacher and even “antichrist”. Similarly, denying the deity of Christ would be equally egregious in terms of contradicting the apostles’ clear teaching. Therefore, denying that Jesus was divine would also be false, deceptive and “antichrist.”

Hence, according to John and the other apostles, your understanding and view of the nature and person of Jesus is vitally important, regardless of what others might say today.

If you still doubt that our understanding of Jesus’ nature is crucial, remember that Jesus himself asked His disciples the all important question of “Who do you say that I am?” I wrote here about how it was important to Jesus that His followers understand His true identity and nature. He is not just a prophet or a good moral teacher. He is the Christ, the Messiah. He is God in the flesh, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Reflection

What has been your understanding concerning the nature of Jesus?

Why do you think the New Testament authors spent so much time refuting these variant views of the nature of Jesus?

What would you say to someone who said that it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus’ nature, the important thing is to believe that only Jesus can save? 

Jesus asks the most important question of those who would follow Him when he asks, “Who do you say that I am?” How would you answer that question?

 

Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

Walking in the Light Simplified

1 John 1

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
(1 John 1:5-10, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

The letter of 1 John contains the familiar light/darkness motif that John is known for in his gospel, in which the word “light” shows up 24 times.

John uses the idea of light to depict moral purity and absolute righteousness, whereas darkness refers to sin or unrighteousness.

In this passage, John declares that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all”, signifying that God is completely righteous and without sin.

John then proceeds to give some qualifications for how we, as believers, can experience fellowship with God. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Verse 6 says that we cannot experience fellowship with God if we are walking in the darkness. But what does that mean? Well, if darkness refers to sin and unrighteousness, then walking in the darkness must mean that we are walking in unrighteousness.
    • Verse 7 says that if we walk in the light then we WILL experience fellowship with one another and our sin will be purified by the blood of Jesus.
    • In verse 8, John tells us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves.
    • In verse 9, John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all sin.
    • Finally, verse 10 tells us that anyone who claims that they haven’t sinned is making God out to be a liar!

So what do these verses really tell us? It seems that if we want to experience fellowship with God then we cannot walk in unrighteousness, which one might conclude means that we cannot sin.

Yet verses 8 and 10 tell us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves and calling God a liar.

So if fellowship with God requires sinlessness, we are in trouble, because sinlessness is an impossible standard and John himself has said that we can’t claim to be without sin without deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.

So what is really going on here?

To answer this question, I want to appeal to a mathematical law known as syllogism.

The law of syllogism demonstrates the relationship between multiple statements.

For example, if “a” leads to “b” and “b” leads to “c”, then it logically follows that “a” leads to “c”.

Stay with me here because this isn’t as complicated as it may appear. Here is how this relates to this passage. Look particularly at verses 7 & 9.

In verse 7, John says that (A) “walking in the light” leads to “fellowship with God” and (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”

In verse 9, John says that (B) “confessing our sin” leads to “God forgiving our sins” and (C) “purifying us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that in both verse 7 and verse 9 there are two different actions (A & B) that both lead to the same result: being purified of our sin/unrighteousness. Here it is in simplified form:

    • (A) “walking in the light” leads to (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”
    • (B) “confessing our sin” leads to (C) “being purified from all unrighteousness.”

What does this tell us? It tells us that there is a relationship between “walking in the light” and “confessing our sins” since both lead to “our sin/unrighteousness being purified.”

So, do you want to experience fellowship with God? John says you have to walk in the light. But what does that mean? Fortunately, the law of syllogism helps us by helping us see how John defined what it means to walk in the light. It means that we are in the habit of confessing our sins and experiencing God’s forgiveness.

Walking in the light does not require some kind of sinless perfection, as John has established that everyone sins and we can’t say that we haven’t sinned.

Walking in the darkness means that when I do sin, I fail to confess it. As a result, I begin to live in rebellion towards God and I cease to experience daily forgiveness for my sins and shortcomings. The result of this is a lack of growth, as I wrote in my recent blog post “Why Some Christians Never Grow“.

Walking in the light simply means that when I do sin, I submit myself to God’s authority and I confess my sin. Confession involves agreeing with God regarding His moral standards. It also involves repentance, which is a posture of humility and openness to God.

The benefits of this simple habit of confession are enormous. We experience daily cleansing from our sins and we continue to experience fellowship with God and with other believers!

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the concept of “walking in the light”? How would you have described it to another person?

How important has the habit of confession been in your own spiritual journey? What makes it hard for you to confess your sins regularly?

What do you think are the connections between lack of confession and walking in unrighteousness? What are some of the reasons or factors that make it tempting for you and other believers to walk in the darkness instead of walking in the light?

John says in verse 6 that some people claim to have fellowship with God but they’re actually walking in the darkness. What do you think characterizes the lifestyle of this person? What does it look like to walk in darkness but claim to be in fellowship with God?

 

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

 

 

The Shortest, Yet Most Profound Verse

John 11

1A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2This is the Mary who poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one you love is very sick.”

4But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God. I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this.” 5Although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6he stayed where he was for the next two days and did not go to them. 7Finally after two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.”

8But his disciples objected. “Teacher,” they said, “only a few days ago the Jewish leaders in Judea were trying to kill you. Are you going there again?”

9Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. As long as it is light, people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10Only at night is there danger of stumbling because there is no light.” 11Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”

12The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, that means he is getting better!” 13They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was having a good night’s rest, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.

14Then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15And for your sake, I am glad I wasn’t there, because this will give you another opportunity to believe in me. Come, let’s go see him.”

16Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

17When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, 19and many of the people had come to pay their respects and console Martha and Mary on their loss. 20When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24“Yes,” Martha said, “when everyone else rises, on resurrection day.”

25Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. 26They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 28Then she left him and returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” 29So Mary immediately went to him.

30Now Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31When the people who were at the house trying to console Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. 34“Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Then Jesus wept. 36The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him.” 37But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Why couldn’t he keep Lazarus from dying?” (John 11:1-37, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

When I was a kid in Sunday school, we’d occasionally be challenged to memorize Bible verses. Everyone knew that the first, and easiest Bible verse to memorize was John 11:35, because it consisted of just 2 words and only nine letters. Jesus wept. Every kid knew that shorter verses were easier to memorize but of course, we missed the whole point of the exercise.

The point of Scripture memory isn’t simply to memorize a collection of words, as if to show off our amazing memory skills. The purpose is for the words to impact you in such a way that life transformation happens. Memorizing the truths of scripture trains our minds to think differently, and rightly, about God, us and the world around us.

As a kid, I didn’t think twice about that, especially when it came to John 11:35. I never thought about why Jesus wept or what that meant for me.

Now that I’m older and reflecting on this verse, I realize how immensely significant these two words are, especially for me.

The context, of course is the death of Lazarus. Jesus knew Lazarus was sick and He purposely delayed going to Bethany so that Lazarus would be dead when He arrived.

When Jesus arrives, He’s met first by Martha and then by Mary, both of whom are sisters of Lazarus. Both separately tell Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Martha and Mary both recognize Jesus as a person who is able to heal those who are sick and prevent death. They recognize Jesus as the Messiah but they don’t quite realize that Jesus has the power to bring the dead back to life.

What’s interesting to me about this passage is that Jesus, in His deity knew that Lazarus was dead even before He arrived in Bethany. And Jesus also knew that He was going to demonstrate His power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew the outcome, which would be glorious. So why does He weep?

The key, I think, is in the preceding verses where it says that Jesus saw Mary weeping and others wailing with Her. He was deeply moved by this and as a result, He weeps.

The impact of these two words is profound. First of all, it demonstrates that Jesus, in His humanity, identifies with people. Jesus sees the suffering and the grief of others and in His humanity, He experiences the same emotions we do. As a result, He is able to weep, just as we do. As God, He knows the outcome is going to be praise and exultation and glorifying God for the miracle of Lazarus coming back to life. Why weep when something good is going to happen?

But in His humanity, Jesus experiences what we experience, and He grieves with those who are grieving, despite the fact that He had arranged the situation to demonstrate His miraculous authority over death.

The second reason why this is profound is precisely because Jesus weeps. I grew up in an environment and culture where crying, especially by a male, was seen as weakness. Guys are supposed to be tough and nothing is supposed to affect us. We certainly don’t want to display emotions because that’s for sissies, at least that was the prevailing message of my youth.

Actually, one emotion was allowed, and that was anger. Tough guys are allowed to get angry because it shows you’re a person who is not to be messed with.

But Jesus stands that macho thinking on its ear by weeping at a grave site.

If Jesus can weep, so can I. I can be real and authentic and express my emotions because that is what real people do.

Even though John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, it just might be the most profound verse in all of Scripture!

Reflection

What do you see as the benefits of memorizing Scripture? What would keep you from making Scripture memory a part of your spiritual development training?

When you think about the verse that says, “Jesus wept” what thoughts come to mind? How would you have explained this to someone else who didn’t know or understand the person of Jesus? What new insights have you gained from this passage and this verse in particular?

What was the emotional environment like for you growing up? What messages did you hear from your family and the culture around you regarding displaying emotions generally and crying specifically? How does Jesus’s example affirm or change your view and understanding of the appropriateness of expressing emotion?

 

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

The Sabbath Smokescreen

John 5

16So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17But Jesus replied, “My Father never stops working, so why should I?” 18So the Jewish leaders tried all the more to kill him. In addition to disobeying the Sabbath rules, he had spoken of God as his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

19Jesus replied, “I assure you, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and tells him everything he is doing, and the Son will do far greater things than healing this man. You will be astonished at what he does. 21He will even raise from the dead anyone he wants to, just as the Father does. 22And the Father leaves all judgment to his Son, 23so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. But if you refuse to honor the Son, then you are certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

24“I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

25“And I assure you that the time is coming, in fact it is here, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26The Father has life in himself, and he has granted his Son to have life in himself.27And he has given him authority to judge all mankind because he is the Son of Man. 28Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to judgment. 30But I do nothing without consulting the Father. I judge as I am told. And my judgment is absolutely just, because it is according to the will of God who sent me; it is not merely my own.  (John 5:16-30, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this chapter, Jesus has an encounter with the leaders after he heals an invalid. A man who had not been able to walk for 38 years is healed and instead of praising God for this amazing miracle, the Jewish leaders are upset because the healing occurred on the Sabbath.

Have you noticed that the Jewish authorities are particularly hung up on the rules of the Sabbath?

There are a number of things going on in this passage that I want to draw attention to.

First, Jesus responds to their rigid understanding of the Sabbath by telling them that His Father is always working and so is He. What exactly does that mean and how does this response address the Jewish leader’s constant complaints about working on the Sabbath?

Genesis 2:2 says that God rested on the 7th day. The Pharisees obviously thought that meant that there was to be no activity (or work) of any kind.

But if that’s true then it would mean God is not active during the 7th day, which we are currently in, according to the Scriptures. Jesus contradicts this idea that God is not active at all while making the point that one is still allowed to do good, even on the Sabbath.

A second observation is that the Jews were not just incensed because Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. They were also upset that Jesus was making claims of deity. Their response in this passage clearly indicates that they understood Jesus to be making himself equal to God, which in their mind was a claim to deity.

It is very common today for people to assert that Jesus never made claims of deity. However, there are quite a number of passages that clearly demonstrate that Jesus believed Himself to be God and made claims as such. This is one of those passages. I wrote about another passage here.

Third, Jesus is explicitly teaching that the Son should be honored in the same way that the Father is honored. In other words, Jesus is worthy of worship. The law taught that only God was worthy of worship so it’s quite evident that Jesus is affirming that as God, He is worthy and deserves to be honored and worshiped.

Lastly, Jesus claims authority to judge and give life, two activities that are reserved for God alone.

There was plenty of evidence that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that He was God incarnate, but the Jewish leaders rejected all evidence that pointed to these facts, including the amazing miracles Jesus performed. Instead, these leaders got incredibly worked up over the fact that Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath. And this was not the first or last time they got twisted over this particular issue.

The reality is that the Sabbath issue was merely a smokescreen to conceal the hardness of their hearts. When a person’s heart is hard, no amount of evidence or reasoning will convince them that their preconceived position is faulty. Instead, they will reach for the most mundane and irrelevant issue and make that the central argument supporting their erroneous position.

Reflection

If you encountered someone who said that Jesus never claimed to be God, what would you say in defense?

Why do you think the Jewish leaders were so upset about the Sabbath?

When was a time that you abandoned reason and logic to support a faulty position simply because you couldn’t admit that you were wrong?

What do you think are some reasons why the Jewish leaders were so resistant to Jesus, even though their teaching and training should have prepared them for His arrival?

 

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash