Holding On

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  John 8:31

Christ is saying, ‘Many hear the gospel and stick with it because it’s useful to them.  They gain money, possessions, and honor from it.  Yes, dear friends, who wouldn’t want that?  That is why I teach that if you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples. There are only a few who hold tightly to the Word when there is a cross to carry.  Where can I find those who will stand firm?  Therefore, I say, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’

rock-climbing As I read this verse and Martin Luther’s thoughts about what Christ is saying, the idea of “holding on” really captured my attention.  When I think of that phrase, images come to my mind of people clinging to tree trunks in violent storms, of climbers clinging to a rock face for dear life during a challenging climb, or a toddler who feels threatened embracing the leg of his parent.

“Hold on” assumes something precious is at stake and would be forfeited if intentional clinging was forfeited. When I read John 8:31 with those vivid images in my mind I understand why the winds of suffering blow so hard against us in this life.  I sense that our sufferings are coming as the merciful wind of the Spirit pressing us to cling to what is eternally precious.  Beyond that,  the winds that cause us to hold on are the same winds that reveal which followers are true and which are false.

Murray_clinging_to_life_by_a_thread People would gladly believe in Christ if it meant becoming rich and acquiring a kingdom.  But if it involves suffering, then their faith is finished.  So Christ knows many of them won’t keep on following His teaching.  Remaining true to His teaching is rare, especially when evil winds blow.  Many become Christians and hold to the gospel in the beginning.  Afterward they fall away just as the believers in this passage did.  It’s similar to the parable about the seed that fell on the rock.  When the heat of the sun beat down on it, it withered and dried up (Luke 8:6).  But those who stick with the gospel are true disciples of Christ.” ((Martin Luther, Faith Alone, Zondervan, 1998, May 14 Devotion))

Nailed!

stations11 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.

Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins.

He canceled the record that contained the charges against us.

He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.  

Colossians 2:13-14 NLT

What record of charges is against me?

  • A record of infinite debt that I have amassed as one who daily breaks the perfect law of God.
  • An endless I.O.U. that I have no hope of being able to pay back — all I have to offer in payment is sinful self effort–which only increases the indebtedness.
  • A bill of debt with my signature at the bottom –  I cannot blame or accuse another–that means I have signed my own death warrant. (Romans 6:23)

How did what was nailed to the cross change things?

  • Jesus was nailed to the cross and was crucified – His death paid the sin debt in full. (Colossians 2:13)
  • Pilate insisted that Jesus’ true title be nailed to the cross.  God’s way of teaching that while it appeared Jesus was being shamed; He was actually being exalted. He is “The King of the Jews”. (John 19:19, Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 53:5)
  • God the Father nailed to the cross our record of charges. That record was destroyed–erased–blotted out–obliterated. (Colossians 2:14)

My sin–O, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole.

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!

 

from “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford

Jesus’ last words were “It is finished.

This phrase means, it stands finished and it always will be finished.

Like an artist completing a picture that He had begun in eternity past.  CrossSalvationHeavenWhen Jesus said “It is finished,” He meant the picture of redemption is now complete.

His sacrificial death was the final brush stroke needed to pay our debt–nothing more could be added to His finished masterpiece!

 

Christ Colored Lens

two-eyes (Small)Recently, I studied the Book of Hebrews with a group of women in my church.  Sometimes, when you lead a study you forget to reflect and think personally about how God’s Word is changing you.

This morning as I reflected on the 13 chapters of Hebrews, I realized God has taught me to look at my circumstances, my culture, and my future through Christ colored lens.

Here are some of the glorious truths that are newly precious to my heart:

  • God speaks to us through His Son Jesus (1:2)
  • Jesus represents God exactly (1:3)

christJesus provides the solution for my sin problem (1:3)

  • Jesus is supreme over all that is created (1:2, 4; 2:8)
  • Jesus authored–or pioneered my salvation (2:10;5:8-9)
  • Ignoring Jesus is ignoring salvation (2:3, 10)
  • Jesus is making me holy and is not ashamed of me (2:11; 10:14)

Jesus’ death defeated the devil and freed me from the fear of death! (2:14-15)

Jesus’ incarnation made it possible for Him to become a merciful and faithful High Priest who can help when I am tempted and in need. (2:17; 4:14-16)

  • Jesus is my destination and the source of perfect rest. (4:2-7)
  • The Word of God is my guidebook to spiritual maturity.  By constant use it trains me to distinguish good from evil  (4:12; 5:14;6:1)
  • Jesus is my anchor in heaven–firm and secure (6:19)
  • Jesus is praying for me day after day–how can I fail? (7:25)
  • Jesus is my guarantee that God’s standard of perfection has been met. (7:18-22)
  • Because of Jesus, my sins are remembered no more–ever–ever–ever (8:12;9:15)
  • Jesus has written His law on my mind and heart so that I am more inclined to care about what He cares about. (8:10)
  • Jesus’ sacrifice is the basis of my service — even when my conscience wants to accuse me of unworthiness (9:14;10:22)
  • With Jesus, believing is seeing! (10:39-11:1)
  • Jesus (Small)Jesus’ indwelling Spirit gives me "eyes" to see and believe the reality and activity of the invisible God (11:1-3)
  •  
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus,  I can face the future with hope regardless of my circumstances.  (11:13, 12:2-11)
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus, I can endure hardship sure that it is productive rather than destructive! (12:7-11)
  • Because of Jesus, I have entered a kingdom that cannot be shaken as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Roman, German, Japanese, etc. have been. (12:28)
  • Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever– there is no possibility of being disappointed in or by Him (13:8)
  • Jesus is a great Shepherd–He equips me–His sheep with everything I need for doing His will. (13:20-21)
  • Jesus is able to strengthen my heart for the journey of faith–it does not come by my efforts but by the sweet gift of grace

Hallelujah!  It is all about you Jesus!

Forgiving

We must always bear in mind that in the prayer that Jesus taught His followers we pray,

“Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors.”

There is the thought that the sinner seeking forgiveness must himself practice forgiveness.

Think about it: Each time we pray this prayer we are asking God to limit His forgiveness of us to the way we forgive other people!

Continue reading “Forgiving”

Time of Testing

“So, as the Holy Spirit says:
    ‘Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the desert,
    where your fathers tested and tried me
    and for forty years saw what I did.”

Hebrews 3:7-9 NIV

takingtest-JobTest I am constantly amazed at what God is willing to reveal about Himself and His ways. 

When I read these verses this morning I thought, “God is letting us know that He uses our resistance to turn the tables on us!”

When we feel so in control and get preoccupied with resisting, rebelling, testing and trying God’s patience—thinking that our wiggling and straining against Him will be allowed to succeed, He reveals that He is the One doing the testing!

Continue reading “Time of Testing”

Family Likeness

I began the day by reading Hebrews 2:10-18.  I lingered over these verses and was captured by the frequency of familial words that the author used and the theme of “family likeness” that he emphasizes.

  • bringing many children to glory (vs. 10)
  • Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. (vs. 11)
  • Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters (vs. 11)
  • I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters (vs. 12)
  • Here am I and the children whom God has given me (vs. 13)
  • the children share flesh and blood (vs. 14)
  • he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect (vs. 17)

post-68-1179042653I got a Christmas card with a family photo in it yesterday.  Casey’s first words when she saw the picture were, “Boy, Levi sure looks like his Dad!”

She was exactly right!  The little boy bore a striking resemblance to his father.  In fact, the word “likeness” means the quality of resembling, or corresponding to another. 

I was once again struck by the wonder of Jesus becoming like us in order to make a way for us to become like Him!  These verses even delineate what that means:

  • It means pursuing holiness–a life set apart for God’s exclusive use. (vs. 11)
  • It means being caught up in a life of worship. (vs. 12)
    • How cool to see that we sing because Jesus sings praises!
    • We proclaim God’s glory because our brother Jesus showed us that was what gives our life significance.
  • It means living by faith not sight.  (vs. 13)
  • It means making ourselves available to serve. (vs. 13)
  • It means sharing the suffering of others — identifying ourselves with them in order to help overcome freedom robbing bondage. (vs. 14-15)
  • It means helping those who cannot help themselves–not from a place of superiority but from a place of identity (vs. 18)

Amazing that Jesus was not ashamed to become like us. 

The word “like” means to be “suitable or agreeable to, to feel attraction toward or pleasure in, to wish to have.” 

Am I ashamed for others to see me agreeable to, taking pleasure in or wishing to have more of Jesus? 

If my “like” does not result in “like-ness” to brother Jesus…whose likeness will I bear?

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8:44)

The Final Word

christmasresized You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

Chorus

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.

Chorus

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Light became alive
And manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time
So we could understand.

Chorus

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

lyrics by Michael Card[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_idg5Xxy6kE&autoplay=5 5 1]