“Fine Woven Linen, and Blue, Purple, and Scarlet Thread”

“…ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread,” Exodus 26:1.

“blue, purple, scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 36:37 NKJV.

Though we’ve mentioned these items in other posts, we want to look at just them in this post.  The linen was the main item out of which the tabernacle was constructed, but it was embroidered with thread of these three colors.

Now, what do, or could, these four items suggest when it comes to the study of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the tabernacle speaks in type and shadow?

Linen, blue, purple, scarlet?

With just a couple of exceptions in Paul’s writings, where do we find information about the Lord and His life in Scripture?

Is it not in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Why four?  Why not five, or ten or fifteen?

Because that’s what God wanted.

What is especially interesting about these four men is that each and every one of them was absolutely unqualified to write about the life of Christ.

God used them anyway….

Matthew, though Jewish himself, was a tax-collector for the hated Romans.  Jews would have considered him a traitor.  Yet God used him to write of their Messiah-King, who would deliver them from a far worse bondage than Rome.

Mark, that one who left Paul and Barnabas and their endeavors to go back home, was used by God to write of the Servant-Son, who finished what He started.

Luke, educated, polished, likely the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, but, still, a Gentile:  with no part in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.  Nevertheless, God used him to know and to write about the Ideal, the Perfect Man, sent not only to Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.

John, a rough-and-tumble fisherman, using simple grammar to tell his story.  Beginning students in Greek use his Gospel in their first attempts at translation.  Simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing truths which 2000 years of study have not yet begun to fathom.

If we adapt Pilate’s exclamation about the Lord Jesus to that hostile crowd prior to our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:5), we might come up with the following:

Matthew:  “Behold the Sovereign!”  He wrote to the Jews of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:   “Behold the Servant!”  To the Roman mind, which looked down on servants and serving, he wrote of Jesus, “the Servant of Jehovah.”

Luke:  “Behold the Sympathetic!”  He addressed the Greek viewpoint, present Jesus as Ideal Man.  As such, his is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  “Behold the Son!”  John wrote to Christians, to declare and defend “God manifest in the flesh.”  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and, [literally] God was the Word, emphasizing the deity of our Lord.

Boiling the distinctives of each Gospel down to one word:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s Authority.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18.

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s Activity.  He records only one instance of teaching and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s Availability.  Though there were times when Jesus withdrew from the crowds, yet, through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s Antiquity.  The prologue, 1:1-18, isn’t the only place where John states the eternal dignity and existence of the Word.  He quotes Jesus Himself as doing so.  In 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Unbelievers today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but those Jews who heard Him make that statement knew exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot – and that fact that He was telling the truth was why they couldn’t.
Ultimately, that’s why Jesus was crucified.  In the so-called “trials” of Him, all four of the Gospels record that the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, recognized what Jesus claimed:  Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:7.   And, apparently, one of the few at that gruesome and bloody scene who recognized the truth about Jesus was the Roman centurion, a pagan, who exclaimed, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.  The other notable witness was the thief who was converted at pretty much the last minute, Luke 23:42.

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Four men.

Unlikely men.

God used them.

God can use us.

Linen.  Blue.  Purple.  Scarlet.

Four colors.

Four Gospels.

One message.

One Savior.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

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Hebrews 2:1-4, …Listen Up!

[1]Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.  [2]For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, [3]how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, [4]God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (NKJV)

In chapter 1, the writer began by asserting that God has spoken, first by prophets and then by His own Son.  This post begins by linking 1:1 with 2:1, “God has spoken,…listen up!”

In this country, we live in a time of unprecedented rebellion against Christianity.  The unbeliever says that Christianity is foolish, not worthy of serious pursuit, and is a waste of time or worse.  It is for losers, for the ignorant and uninformed.  Indeed, it is even being labeled as “hate,”  and as such is to be rejected.  Even our President, in connection with the recent sociological flurry, has said that people need to “adjust their religious views” to take into account, and to agree with, the tremendous changes that have taken place recently, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, even Christians are guilty of some of this.  Leaving aside those who more or less might agree with the above paragraph,  a great many believe that Christianity is simply to belong to a certain denomination, or maybe to disregard any “denomination” at all.  It is to be baptized, either as an adult or an infant, or to take communion.  It is to speak with tongues or to have some other type of “spiritual experience.”  It is, as one lady said, “a warm feeling in my heart.”  It is a particular dogma or set of beliefs.  It is to walk an aisle and/or pray a prayer.  It is to do our best – live by the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule.

In answer to all these, some of which do have their place, we say that Christianity is what God says it is, not man.  It is not, and never has been, about what society thinks. Indeed, it is more likely to contradict what society says.  God say that Christianity is life, found in a Person, the Lord Jesus, and revealed in particular in the New Testament.

As we come to our text, we see two thoughts.  In this post, we’ll look at the first one.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.
2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:2-4.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.

a.  We are to heed the Word, to give more earnest heed to it.

This means to pay attention.  Perhaps James can help us here when he says that we are to be doers of the Word, James 1:22.  The Word isn’t given to us simply as information or so that we can argue about its interpretation.  While it does tell us things we need to know, it also tells us things we need to do.  And, in Hebrews, this “attention” is to be “abundant.”  One of the words translated “more earnest” means “superabundant.”  Not casual.  Not fleeting.  Not if we have the time.  Abundant.  Lots of it.  I believe there is coming a time in this country, and soon, when the Bible will be illegal.  It already is as far as government and education are concerned, but I believe this will be a complete prohibition and Bibles will be confiscated and destroyed – and likely, those who hold to it with them.  So we need to pay attention to it while we can.

Our Lord had something to say about this.  In Matthew 13, He spoke of a man going out to sow seed in his field, and of the growth which came from it.  He then likened that to those who hear the Word.  There were four results of the sowing – and there are four results of the hearing of the Word.  We’ll not go into it a lot, but only one of the four brought forth abundant fruit.  In one case, the devil came right away and took the word away.  I think most of the time he just draws our attention to something else.  I wonder if a preacher standing in the door as the people leave and tell him what a wonderful sermon it was – I wonder if he were to ask them what it was about, how many of them could tell him.  In another case, there was an initial reception, but some form of persecution took it away.  You know, persecution doesn’t have to mean death, it can simply mean derision.  This world has never thought a lot of the Word, even less so now, but there have always been those who have been opposed to those who believe and live the Bible. Or it could simply be that the old life is too strong.  The desires of our human nature are very strong and, if we’re not careful, can become our masters.  The third case failed because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches entangle the Word like weeds and choke its influence out.  Oh, there’s so much we could say about that one!

b.  We are to hear the Word, the things which we have heard. 

But make no mistake.  We are to hear the Word.  While the previous paragraph was against just hearing it, we do need to hear it.  We are to be students of it.  My wife worked with a gentleman who had been a church member all his life, and he was amazed that she had read the Bible through several times.  But he is not alone.

c.  We are to hold on to the Word, lest we drift away. 

There are two meanings to the word translated, “drift’:

1.  to drift.  “To go with the flow,” as it were.  One day, the pastor of the church in Florida where I was on staff, took us and his family to the beach.  I got onto an air mattress in the water and just floated there, enjoying the beautiful day.  After a few minutes, I looked up and, wow, I had drifted a long way away from where I started.  It’s a good thing the tide wasn’t going out, or I might still be out there!

The point is, if we don’t pay attention, if we just “float,” we are likely to wind up a long ways away from where we started.  We don’t mean to do it, we just do it.  The church has done that.  Things the world scorned in my youth are now accepted and promoted in the church.

2.  to leak.  This refers to a leaky vessel.  Aren’t we often like that?  How little of the Word we retain!

God has spoken…listen up!

I AM

On Easter, my wife and I attended our son-in-law’s church.  He was beginning a series on the “I AM” sayings of our Lord.  Because it was Easter, the message was about Jesus’s saying, “I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25.

Very appropriate.

His message inspired me to begin a similar series here on the blog.  However, I’m going to start with what I believe is the “I AM” that validates all the others and makes them true.  If it’s not true, then the others don’t matter.

That “I AM” is found in John 8:58.

John 8 records one of the frequent discussions our Lord had with the religious leaders of Israel.  This particular episode wound up with a heated exchange, at least on the part of the leaders, because Jesus seemed to be making light of their descent from Abraham, v.33-59.  This was something that was very precious to them.

We see this in Matthew 3:9, where John the Baptist told those who were coming to his baptism not to count on their descent from Abraham.  He said to them, “…do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

The climax of the discussion in John 8 is in v. 58, where Jesus exclaimed, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  However, those Jews who heard Him on that long ago day recognized what Jesus was saying.  No doubt, the verse we know as Exodus 3:14 came to their minds, where Moses was questioning God about being sent to Egypt to bring out the nation of Israel.  He finally asked God who he was to say had sent him.  God replied, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And He said. ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”

The Jews recognized that that was precisely, exactly, what Jesus was claiming:  that He was God.

He was I AM.

In John 8:59, that’s why they tried to stone Him – and why they couldn’t.

But that’s not the only time or the first time Jesus and the Jews crossed swords, as it were, over Who He was.

John 5:18 is the first record we have of such a discussion.  One of the things that really irked the Pharisees was that the Lord Jesus would not pay any attention to their views of how the Sabbath was to be observed.  I’m sure that Jesus healed and ministered to people every day of the week, but John seems especially to pick out things Jesus did on the Sabbath.

John 5 is the record of the man healed after 38 years of lying helpless.  Unlike modern “healers,” our Lord made no spectacle of His healing.  He had no advertising, sought no crowds, allowed no fanfare, but did His work and, in this case, was gone.  The man who was healed didn’t even know who Jesus was until Jesus found him later.

As this man was carrying the pallet on which he had lain for so many years, “the Jews,” probably the Pharisees, stopped him because he was “working” on the Sabbath.  They seemed unimpressed and uninterested in the man’s healing, but were focused on what they considered an infraction of the Sabbath.

John 5 seems to occur very early in the Lord’s ministry.  The Pharisees confronted Him about His own “working” on the Sabbath.  In fact, v. 6 says that they wanted to kill Him for doing so.  In v. 17, Jesus responds, in effect, that God, His Father, had been working until now, and now it was His turn.

V. 18 shows the Jews’ response to this:  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

The Jews understood quite well what the Lord was saying.

He was God – and they tried to kill Him for it.

John 10:31-39 records yet another time when the Jews tried to kill Jesus for His claims.  Without going into all the details, our Lord asked the Jews why they were trying to kill Him.  They answered, “…for blasphemy,…because You being a Man make yourself God,”  v. 33.

Unlike His modern detractors, these Jews clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God.

In fact, that ultimately was why He was crucified.

In John 19:7, which records part of the Jews’ skirmish with Pilate over what to do with Jesus, they said, “We have a law, and according to our law, He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

That is, the Jews were saying to Pilate that Jesus didn’t just claim to be related to God, as believers might say that they are “the children of God,” but that He was God.

The God Who is the I AM.

As He hung on the Cross, the chief priests, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Jesus:  “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, because He said, ‘I am the Son of God’,”  Matthew 27:43.

Perhaps you’ve seen that movie in which the Hulk confronts Loki.  Loki is outraged that the Hulk isn’t giving him the homage that he requires.  He shouts at the Hulk, “Enough!!  You cannot treat me like this!  I am god!”  Then he disappears from the screen.  The next thing you see, the Hulk has him by the heels and is slamming him into the roof of the building they’re on.  He does this a few times, then holds him up and looks at him.  Then he slams him a couple of more times, and leaves him crumpled on the roof.  As the Hulk stomps off, he mutters, “Puny god!”

Now I am in no way comparing the imagination and special effects of Hollywood with the reality and horror of the Crucifixion.  But our Lord’s enemies, in effect, were saying this of Jesus:  “Puny God.”

After all, though He had claimed to be God, yet here He was, hanging on a Cross.  To their way of thinking, that wasn’t how God would act!

How little they understood of what was going on!

There were some there, though, who did have an inkling of who the Lord was.

In Mark 15:39, after witnessing all that went on, and probably having seen other crucifixions as well as the crucifixion of the two men with Jesus, the centurion, who was possibly in charge of the crucifixion detail, said of Jesus, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Then there was the repentant thief who called Him, “Lord,” Luke 23:42.

Luke 23:50-54 records Nicodemus coming to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus.  We fail to realize the significance of what Nicodemus did.  We just see him asking for a body, but the truth of the matter is far different.  It was Passover time and those who had been ceremonially defiled by touching a dead body were forbidden to take part in the Passover.  To knowingly defile oneself was even worse, Numbers 9:6-14, esp. v. 13.  In effect, because Nicodemus – as well as Joseph of Arimathea – knowingly touched the dead body of Jesus, he forever put himself under a curse if Jesus isn’t who He said He was.  It was all or nothing as far as Nicodemus was concerned.

Then there’s John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Not “a god,” as false cultists and others teach, but God.

The “I AM” of the Old Testament.

Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, taught that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God.  The word translated “robbery” could be translated “selfishly clung to.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus thought equality with God was something to be grabbed, as it were, as cultists teach, as if it weren’t already His, but that it wasn’t something to be held on to.  That is, the Word laid aside His dignity and rights as God to come to this earth to die as Man.

It is clear that the New Testament over and over testifies to the deity of the Lord Jesus as well as to His humanity.

If He wasn’t, and isn’t, God, then nothing else about Him matters.

 

March Memories: The Third Genealogy.

[As we continue in our March Memories post reprints, I’ve become impressed with the necessity of emphasizing the unique person of the Lord Jesus.  Islam is resurging, and it views Jesus as just another prophet, important though He may be in their view of things, but nevertheless much inferior to their own prophet.  Certainly not God, nor did He die on the Cross.  And much of professing Christendom denies His deity and His redemption.]

Most people know of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  the Abrahamic and the Davidic.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty, though both genealogies trace Jesus back to King David.  Luke’s genealogy is longer, some 75 generations, and goes through a different son of David all the way back to Adam.  This is Mary’s genealogy.

That’s two.  Where’s the third one?  I really hadn’t thought about it quite like this until recently, like this morning.  Perhaps in the strictest sense, it isn’t a genealogy, and yet it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, words so simple that beginning Greek students translate them in their first attempts at translation, – in a few words, John expresses truths that 2000 years of Church history haven’t begun to understand.

“Now, wait a minute!”  Someone who might knock at your door will say, “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no “the” in front of God in the Greek, so John was saying that Jesus was ‘a’ God.”  They also teach that the “beginning” John wrote about was when God created the Word, or Jesus.  He was the beginning, and then He created all the rest.  They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they will say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was the first thing created by God, and He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god”?

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”   There’s no article – no “the” – in front of God.  In the Greek language, there is no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – either.  As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, John couldn’t have written, “The Word was the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father were the same, and the Oneness folks, who deny the Trinity, would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Word and the Father are distinct from each other.  They aren’t just different “manifestations” of the One God.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a” god.  What kind of “god” is He?  How many “gods” are there, or is He the only one?

They answer that by saying that Jesus was an angel, and in the OT, angels are called sons of God, Job 1:6.  He is, therefore, rightly called son of God.  It’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this, then, put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he wrote, …to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’  The expected answer is, “There are no angels to whom that was said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness once told me, “Jesus is that angel,” and then quoted this verse to me.  He completely missed the point of the verse.  That is not what the writer was saying.  The Father was not speaking to ANY angel in that verse!

In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say, But to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  The New World Translation (NWT), the JW Bible, has it, “God is your throne forever and ever.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t even make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but do they believe that Jesus is sitting on God’s lap?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of You, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Note the presence of the article with God in this verse:  “the God”.  The contrast between Jesus and angels couldn’t be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, Hebrews says, Let all the angels of God worship Him.  Even older versions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, in newer editions, it’s changed to “Let all the angels of God do obeisance to Him,” but even then, it translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only “one God”?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about.  A cube is the best one I know.

A cube has length, width and height, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes.  It’s just one cube.  The length isn’t the width or the height, the width isn’t the length or the height, and the height isn’t the length or the width.  And the cube doesn’t “manifest” itself as height one day, width another day, and length yet another day, as some try to teach that the One God manifests Himself differently at different times.

The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist in the one cube at the same time.  Like His creation, God is, if you will, three-dimensional:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit.  The Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  The Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting together as the One God.

The Word was God.

One final thought on this.  Some folks say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, but the people who heard Him say in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” understood that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.

This is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time….”  It’s rooted in and grounded firmly on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that He ever existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him, and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison.  The Word was God – the Word became flesh.  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can refer to eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it was not God. There was a time, however, when the Word became flesh.  Matthew and Luke gives us a glimpse of that time.

The Word became flesh.

Four words.

The Word became flesh.  Four words.  Describing an event which has no parallel in human history.  Psalm 113:5, 6, says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?

The Lord God “humbles” Himself even to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our books, our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or books or church], but I don’t think we understand even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation,” to use the theological term, as a newborn understands about its mother’s agony in bringing it to birth.  How can we?

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor….  The Lord didn’t come to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace, although those places would be mere shacks compared to what He was used to.  He came to live a relatively minor, troublesome, province of Rome.  Except for one incident, He was unknown for nearly thirty years, and in the last three, “fame” was fleeing, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He might as well still be dead.  Indeed, much of the world thinks that He still is.  Even if people class Him with the religious leaders of this world, they are more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was.

And is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….
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(Originally published March 12, 2013.)  edited.

Life’s Hardest Lessons

Our “education” doesn’t end when we finish school, whatever level that may be.  I sometimes joke that I’ve learned the most from that school whose colors are black and blue. 🙂  I seem to keep getting set back a grade, though, because in some things I never seem to learn.   This world isn’t the only one which believes in “continuing education”.

The most difficult lessons are about something the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV),

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

Spurgeon had a tremendous sermon on this text, and if I still had it, I would be tempted  just to print it, even if it is twelve pages long.  He’s not to be blamed, though, for the thoughts which follow.

There seem to be two “grades,” if you will, in this school.  These are found in connection with the word, “rest.”

In the first grade – would that it were that simple because that was where we learned the ABC’s and 123’s – in the first grade, our Lord says to “come” and He will give us rest.

This, I believe, is the “rest” of salvation.

With this phrase, I don’t mean that there is something “more” to salvation, that is, the “rest” of it.  Perhaps I should have said, “the rest which comes from salvation.”  There are those who look for something more, some experience, some emotion, something… beyond “salvation.”  They look for the “abundant life,” as if eternal life itself isn’t enough.  They want a “second” blessing, as if we haven’t already received every spiritual blessing in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:4.  They just feel that something is missing.

Nor, by this phrase, do I mean that we can “kick back and take it easy;” we can just “rest” and goof off.  We’re on our way to heaven.  Saying this, I DON’T mean that we somehow have to work our way to salvation, or that we even can do such a thing, though our Lord does address those who labor and are heavy-laden. 

No, no, I believe He’s talking to those who “labor” in the shackles of sin, though modern “wisdom” has lessened that thought to a mere “addiction.”  They are “heavy laden” with the effects of their lives: disease, poverty, crime, violence, to name just a few.  Just in passing, though I’m not really railing against “evil Joe Camel” or “Demon Rum,” but how much do you suppose an average person spends in a year on tobacco or alcohol?  In a life?  I don’t know, though I suppose someone has figured it out.  But at $5 or so a pack for cigarettes – and a pack or two a day?  No wonder folks are “poor!”  And that doesn’t figure in the cost of alcohol.  Or the price of a “fix.”

Even for those who aren’t one of “them,” life apart from the Lord Jesus is expensive. How much will some pay for “success,” however that may be defined?

What will they pay for “stuff?”

No, no, our Lord talks about “rest” because the work of salvation is done.  When He cried out on the Cross, “It is finished,” He didn’t mean there was something left for us to do to “complete” salvation.  He lived the live we can’t live; He died the death we can never die – the only life and death which can satisfy God’s law and justice.  That work is forever done.

Some people look to the “merits” of saints to help them out.  Beloved, there’s only ever been One Who had any merit to begin with, let alone have any “left over”!

To “come” doesn’t mean to walk an aisle or pray a prayer or do any of a hundred other things religion says to do.  It means to believe, to trust, to “rest” on Christ, Who He was and what He did for sinners like you and me.  To rely on Him to the point that if He were to fail – and He can’t!  He won’t! – there’s no other hope for us.

Because, apart from Him, there IS no other hope!

However, there is another word our Lord uses.  He said, “Take.” 

This, I believe, is the “rest” of submission. 

Oh, that word raises the hackles.  It makes us arch our back and spit like a cat.  There are whole bunches of religious people who oppose this idea with all their might.  And these aren’t just “liberal” folks; they might otherwise be very “conservative”.  They might even “believe the Bible from cover to cover.”

I spent several years among them.  Saw perhaps hundreds of “professions,” but only handfuls who were ever baptized or joined a church.  But they were “saved” because they had “prayed the prayer.”  Or so it was said.  I really don’t know in any particular case because I can’t see the heart.

But I do believe that there will be multitudes who will “weep and wail” at the judgment because they did what some preacher or soul-winner or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whatever told them to do, only to find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.

The “yoke” speaks of service.  It was put on the neck of animals so they could pull a plow or some other item.

All of us have a “yoke” of one kind or another.  But our Lord tells us to take His yoke, to serve Him, not sin, nor self, nor stuff.

It amazes me even after several years of study and writing, etc., that even in the middle of writing this very post, I saw something I can’t say I had really noticed before.  In reading over our Lord’s words, I was struck that there was a third thing He told us to do.

He said to “learn” from Him.

There are multitudes who are “Doctors” or “Masters” of some particular branch of learning.  And I am not against “formal” education.  I have a degree, though not as exalted as those.

Ah, but to learn from Christ Himself!  And not just about Him!  How I would love to have been with those who sat at His feet or those on the road to Emmaus who listened to Him and who testified later, “Did not our hearts burn within us, …while He opened the Scripture to us?” Luke 24:32.

But why Him?

“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”….

Yesterday was Christmas.

Today – not so much.

The wrapping paper has been picked up and put in the trash.  All the food has been put away, though I fear the scale might tell us we put too much away!  In the retail world, this is a very busy day, with gifts being returned and exchanged, and with all the “after-Christmas sales.”

The nativity set probably still sits there, sharing space with a tree and ornaments and decorations.

Christmas was yesterday.  (Sounds like the title of a post.)

In a few days, there will be a New Year, the ball will drop in Times Square, and life will go on.

Will the lesson have been learned – the gentleness and meekness of Christ?

“Very God of Very God.”

Born a Baby.

In a feeding trough.

Probably not….

But there’s another reason “why Him”?

“My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” 

So much easier than that burden you’re carrying right now.

The world looks at Biblical Christianity as a terrible thing.  I had a man tell me that God  forbids all the things we want to do.  That’s because they’re bad for us, now and forever.

So, why do that?  Why “come”?  Why “take”?  Why “learn”?

Because we will “find rest for our souls.” 

The most popular drugs are tranquilizers.  One of the most common ailments is stress.  That’s because this world has no resting place.  There’s nothing that really can say, “That’s enough.”  There’s always another dollar, another pleasure, another rung on the ladder, another “thing.”  We need this year’s model; last year’s model isn’t any good any more.  We have been taught to believe that “new” is “improved.”  That it’s better.

But it wears out or becomes old itself.

Only God’s blessing, in Christ, in new every morning, Lamentations 3:23.  (You might take note of the surrounding verses and chapters in this short book.  It isn’t about “health and wealth” or any of the other things our modern superficial spirituality looks for.  It is about trusting God when everything around us says, “Why?”)

Oh, there’s so much more I could write.  So many things.

But I don’t know you, my dear reader.

I pray the Spirit of God will do that which I cannot, and find you wherever you may be in life and make you a student in the School of Christ, that One Who alone has the words of eternal life, John 6:68.

May God add His blessing, for Jesus’ sake.

The Baby at Bethlehem.

I belong to a facebook group where there’s been a rather spirited and lengthy discussion going on about celebrating Christmas.  There are earnest people on both sides of the question. Though I personally don’t like all the trappings that obscure the true meaning of Christmas, I have no problem with celebrating His birth.  Apparently, some do.

I thought the best post of them all was by a person who included a cartoon.  The cartoon showed the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph and the Baby, but also showed Santa, a chair, an elf and lights and a camera.  Santa has his arms outstretched, but Mary is holding Jesus away from him, and the caption, which I have altered slightly, has her saying to Santa, “Why in the world would we want a picture of Him with you?”  I’d have included it here, but my low-tech mind hasn’t figured out such high-tech thingys.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  Perhaps some of you who have been with me for a while will find the rest of the post familiar.  Though not completely copied, it is taken from a post published last year at Christmas.

In all the celebration of Christmas, even with the nativity sets included, have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord Jesus is the only historical figure who apparently never grows up.  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday, which is how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about his being remembered.  It was very short, yet it was from the standpoint of his life, not about his birth.  And yes, I know there are those who deny the Lord’s historicity.  Not interested in that here.

Someone commented to me that we do celebrate Jesus’ death at Easter.  That is true, for without Christmas there would have been no Easter.  Still, we don’t normally associate those two events, His death at Christmas or His birth at Easter.  When we observe the birthday of any other figure, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc., we talk about what they did, not so much about their births.  Only Jesus stays in the manger on Christmas day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Could it be that nobody’s threatened by a baby?

True, Herod was, but his was a unique case.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way.  They have no real interest in the youngster, no responsibility toward him or her.  He certainly poses no threat to them.

What about the Baby in Bethlehem?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now there weren’t ignorant pagans in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  They were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  After all, they were the chosen nation.  No other nation had ever enjoyed that privilege.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they had to repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

Jesus told them that unless “their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the Pharisees especially were looked up to as the height of virtue and righteousness.  And there were good Pharisees, who lamented the “street-corner Pharisees,” as much as our Lord, who scolded them more than once for their hypocrisy.  Still, the idea that something more than what they had was unthinkable.  After all, they were the guardians of Israel and her heritage.  No wonder they perceived Him as a threat to them and to their way of life, cf. John, 11:48.

Even though Jesus was mostly against the leaders of the nation, it  doesn’t seem to have taken long for them to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20; John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat for folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way.

But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, then He’s a threat.  People don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told they’re sinners and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love”, not righteousness, about a “better place”, not that other place.  They want “health”, not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

The Seriousness of Christmas.

This will probably be the next to last post until after Christmas.

Though it’s almost the last, I hope it’s won’t be the least.  It’s about something which will still be here long after the tree is down, the lights and ornaments are put away and the Santa figures and snow men are stored back in the attic or shed.

It’s about what the angel told Joseph after it was discovered his affianced wife was pregnant,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins,”  Matthew 1:20, 21.

Christmas is about salvation.

“He will save His people from their sins.”

Some folks focus on this statement, which they see as an indication of what might be called the definite purpose of salvation.  They will always emphasize that Jesus died to save His people.

Others, with what they consider a wider view, proclaim  “Whosoever will”.

Both are true.

Neither of them, in and of itself, is the Gospel.

You see, the Gospel isn’t so much about “who,” but “how.”

Even the salvation of “whosoever” is limited to those who believe.

And even that is limited:  “whosoever believes in Him..,” John 3:16.

And how does He “save His people”?  Through faith in Himself.

Yes, but can’t God just “forgive” sin?  After all, He’s a God of love.

True, but He’s also a God Who is holy, righteous and just.

His holiness requires absolute perfection in our dealing and views of Him.  His righteousness demands absolute perfection in our dealings with ourselves and with others.  His justice says there are consequences if we fail in any of the areas.

In other words, He requires perfection in life.

And who of us can truthfully say that we haven’t failed – times beyond counting?

Regardless of how we may dress things up or explain them, the sad truth still is, We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

But because God IS also a God of love, He sent His Son to remedy that situation.

His Son, Jesus, was born as a helpless babe, in order that He might grow and develop and mature and experience everything there is to life.  The fact that He never drove a Chevrolet or had a facebook account has nothing to do with it.  These things, and all the other modern “conveniences,” are secondary to life, which has to do with how we react to ourselves, to others and to God.

He’s the only One who could truthfully say, “I always do those things which please Him,” John 8:29.

That goodness of life, that righteousness, is what we need if we’re ever to stand uncondemned before God.  I used this phrase in talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, but I may as well have talked to the chair he was sitting on.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  During our conversation, he told me that he thought he had a pretty good chance of making it to Paradise.

I was talking with a young lady and I asked her if she loved the Lord with all her heart, mind and soul.  She replied with an emphatic, “Yes, I do!”  I resisted the temptation to tell her that when she got to heaven, she could go up to the throne and say, “Move over, Jesus.  Now there are two of us.”

It’s sad that we can think that we’ve “got it,” when we don’t even come close!

All that we have is unrighteousness.

Sinfulness.

Even our best is bad.

Isaiah 64:6, though it’s Israel’s lament, could just as well be ours, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.  We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 

“Our righteousnesses” – those things we think are on the positive side of the ledger, the “good” we do, are just like “filthy rags” in the sight of God.  These were menstruous cloths, or the rags a leper might use to dress his sores.  Not very pretty, but graphic.

And we all know that we really have very few “righteousnesses” when it comes right down to it.  If our “best” is this foul and disgusting in the sight of God, what must our “unrighteousnesses” be??

I’ve made the comment before that Jesus is the only historical figure who’s never allowed to grow up.  He’s always viewed just as “the babe in the manger.”  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday – that’s how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about the observation of the anniversary of his death.  It was a very short item, but it still was from the standpoint of what he had become, not just that he was born.

Somebody made the point that we do celebrate the death of Christ.  That’s true, but still, the two events aren’t really connected in our minds.  We normally don’t think of His death at this time of the year and we won’t think of His birth next Spring.  And what happened between those two events is just as necessary as the events themselves.

What happened was His life – that perfect, sinless, righteous life.

That life we can never live ourselves.

And yes, He died.

Though He had no sin of His own, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

I don’t even know how to do justice to that verse!  It says that Jesus took to Himself all the foulness of sin, all the filth of sin, that leprous cloth, that menstruous cloth, as if it were His own, and God treated Him as if it were His own.  Jesus felt the full weight of the wrath of an offended holy, righteous and just God.  We don’t ever think of God like that in our superficial and sentimental Christianity, but Jesus experienced every ounce of it for those for whom He died.

But just as there came a time for Him to be born, and a time for Him to die, so there must come a time when we, too, must come, not to that cradle, for there is no salvation there, but to the Cross.  It is only there that our sin question will find an answer.

The Apostle Paul answered one such individual, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

“To believe” means “to trust,’ to so completely trust that if He were to fail – and He cannot! – if He were to fail, there would be no other escape from our sins.  There IS no other escape!

“That we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

There are two sides to the coin of salvation.  One side is that Christ took our sins.

The other side is that God gives us Christ’s righteousness.  He imputes it to us, credits it to our account.  This is called justification.  In addition, He treats us as if we were righteous, just as He treated Jesus as if He were sinful.  The work of the Spirit is to show some evidence of that righteousness in our lives, lives which show conversion, no matter how imperfectly it may show.  This is called sanctification.  Paul wrote that we are God’s workmanship, Ephesians 2:10.  The Spirit’s job is to make sure that we look something like it.

Oh, that today, God might do His work through the Holy Spirit, that there might be some, perhaps even you, who come to Bethlehem to find that One Who was born in order that He might live and die for sinners.

Christmas is serious!