Jesus is the Greater Savior

“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again, “I will put my trust in him.”

And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:5-18

We live in a world fascinated by saviors. Every summer the masses cram into cinemas with bubbly drinks and buttery fingers to watch the next Marvel or DC hero duke out good versus evil. Yet no superhero or man in human history can touch Jesus’ feat.

Jesus was the founding member of the Universe Club. He was there. He spoke the universe into existence. He was not only the founder of creation, he was also the founder of salvation for all mankind (v.10). Wow. The always existing God stepped into time and skin to sacrifice himself for man’s greatest need: the curse of sin (vs.7-8).

What did you do to deserve such a heroic salvation? Not a thing. For a moment, think about all that Christ did for you. He became a man “becoming a little lower than the angels” by taking on human flesh like yours (vs.9, 14). He took your place on the cross. He tasted your death and curse. He restored your relationship to God. He led the way to your salvation through his suffering (v.10). He became your brother and sanctifier (vs.11-13). Ultimately, he succeeded where you failed (v.15, 17-18). And that’s a very good thing for if he didn’t save you nothing you do could save yourself.

Compared to Jesus all comic book characters or nonfictional heroes are piddly and have imperfections. Jesus is the perfect real-life Savior who he deeply cares for the downtrodden, distressed, and destitute (vs.5-6). No other Savior can fulfill the promise that Jesus can by becoming the curse for sin. He is truly heroic. That makes him your great Savior and worthy of your trust.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What makes Jesus the founder of our salvation?
  • How is our salvation made perfect through the suffering of Christ?
  • Why was it necessary for Jesus to come to earth to become your Savior?
  • How can Jesus free you from the fear of death? Or help you when tempted?
  • How does this passage funnel glory to Jesus the great Savior?
  • How can you make yourself lesser and Jesus greater? (Mt. 18:1-6; 23:11-12)
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Jesus is the Greatest

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Most letters start with a greeting like “Dear Bob”. Not the letter to the Hebrews. The very first lines of this letter declare the greatness of Jesus Christ being greater than any other person, prophet or spokesman for God.

In this short salutation, the author describes Jesus in all his greatest. He is greatest in at least five categories. First, Jesus is the heir of the universe (vs.1-2a). He owns it all and oversees it all. Second, He is the Creator (vs.2b, 3b). He spoke world into existence and he holds it all together. Third, he is the radiance of God’s glory and shows what God is like (v.3a). Fourth, he is the greater sacrifice (v.3c). Fifth, he is seat at the right hand of God. He is in a position of power and authority (v.3d). He rules and reigns. In all five categories, no one compares or outshines Jesus.

If Jesus is greater than any other thing in the universe, if he created everything and holds it together by the power of his word, if he is the final and once-for-all sacrifice for sin, then he greater than any other thing in this life.   Jesus is the true GOAT; greatest of all time.  He won’t settle to be less than your greatest.

 

Questions for Reflection

What makes something or someone great? How does Jesus blow the roof off greatness?

What about the open verses of Hebrews separate Jesus from every other man who has ever lived? Which of the five categories wows you the most?

How does looking at Jesus as the greatest help cure spiritual apathy and discouragement?

How does God speak to us through Jesus? In what ways does Jesus show you what God is like?

What things do you often make greater than Jesus?

Take these verses and make a prayer to Jesus.

Jesus, lion and lamb

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Let’s say that the end of your life was in front of you. You knew it wasn’t years or months or weeks or even days, but it was hours, and your life would be over. You knew you were going to die, and you were right on the threshold of death, and it was going to be a painful, brutal, difficult, tortuous, public, shameful death. What would you be thinking about? What would you be talking about?

In Luke 22, Jesus is hours away from of His own murder. It is the dark season of His life (cf. v.53). He’s going to die soon. He knows it. And what does He talk about? What is He thinking about? The Scriptures. What gives Him confidence, what gives Him courage, what gives Him clarity? It’s the Scriptures.

One of the statements coined from the Protestant Reformation was tota sola Scriptura. It’s a Latin phrase that means all of Scripture is alone our highest authority. God’s Book is better in every way than every other book. His Book is a perfect Book. Even the best books that men write don’t compare to the book that God wrote. Scriptures are the standard to measure other books.

Now, what Jesus is going to do in Luke 22 is give a test in tota sola Scriptura. And He actually begins in Luke 22 by referring back to Luke 10. Remember, the person of peace passage, where Jesus told his disciples not to take anything, but rely upon God for provisions as they journeyed from town to town? Now Jesus will say something interesting almost seemingly contradictory,

“35 And he said to them, When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, Nothing. 36 He said to them, But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors. For what is written about me has its fulfillment. 38 And they said, Look, Lord, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.”

Well, which is it, Jesus? Pack supplies or don’t pack supplies? Be ready or don’t be ready? Wear shoes or don’t wear shoes? Pack weapons or don’t pack weapons? Which is it? It all depends on the mission. Jesus says, “On this mission, take nothing; on this mission, take everything.”

On a side note, as I read this I thought, “What does ‘sword’ mean?” Well I looked it up in my super nerdy Bible dictionary and “sword” means sword. Certainly, Jesus didn’t say pack a weapon. Oh, but he did. Fourteen verses later, Peter is going to grab a sword and will cut a guy’s ear off (v.50). Ironic?

Commercial over. The truth is, sometimes you should raise money. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should pack supplies. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should defend yourself. Sometimes you shouldn’t. Sometimes you should rely solely on God your provider. Sometimes you should have a plan and be prepared. It all depends on the mission. So, consider what God is calling you to in that moment.

Jesus is going deeper than talking about material you need for you mission, but the mindset you have while on mission. In Luke 10, Jesus encourages His disciples to be like a lamb and let God be your shepherd who provides everything you need. But in Luke 22, Jesus encourages the disciples to be tough. Not just Ford tough, but ninja fighter tough. Get your supplies, money secured, boots polished, sword in sheath, off to conflict, kind of tough. Tough like a lion.

There is no contradiction between Luke 10 and 22. Jesus is both lamb or lion. When you read through all of Luke you see that Jesus is lamb and lion or both at the same time. Check it out:

Luke 4: Jesus is tested by Satan and uses the Scripture to His defense. He’s LION.
Luke 5: Jesus heals a paralytic and leper. He’s LAMB.
Luke 6: Jesus heals man with withered hand despite the religious critics. He’s LAMB and LION.
Luke 7: Jesus heals servant girl and widow. He’s LAMB.
Luke 8: Jesus casts out legion. He’s LION and LAMB.
Luke 9: Jesus feeds 5000. He’s LAMB.
Luke 11: Jesus preaches the woes. He’s LION.
Luke 13: Jesus heals disabled woman. He’s LAMB.
Luke 14: Jesus heals man on the Sabbath despite religious critics. He’s LAMB and LION.
Luke 18: Jesus lets the children come to Him. He’s LAMB.
Luke 19: Jesus confronts money changers in the temple. He’s LION.

Do you see a pattern here? Jesus is tough and tender. He is servant and sovereign. He is lamb and lion.

Back to the Reformers tota sola Scriptura. The Scripture is about totally about Jesus. All the people, stories, and principles are part of the subplot connecting to the main storyline of Jesus’, the Savior of the world. The Book doesn’t make any sense unless it’s all connects to Jesus.

On Sunday, I was had lunch with Mark and his family. They’ve lived in Africa for over two decades. There youngest son was born there and is now a young man. Mark shared how his first few years in Africa were tough, but as he saw the Word of God transform lives he has become more tender to God’s calling him there. He’s seen many Muslims respond in faith to the Book that points to Jesus from beginning to end.

In Luke 22:37, Jesus says. “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’” He quotes Isaiah 53:12. Jesus says the the whole book is now being fulfilled in His life. He came fulfilling everything that is written in the book that God wrote. Even on the brink of torture and death Jesus understands He is to fulfill what God has said. He came as the lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. And He has promised to come back as the Lion of Judah to restore the world. The Book says so. Tota sola Scriptura.

Questions for Reflection: How has Jesus made provision for you in your life? How does the fulfillment of the cross make provision for your sin? In what ways do you lack nothing and have everything? How does your worldly perspective affect your view of provision? In what ways have you submitted to the truth and power of Scripture in your life? What does it look like for the Scripture to be your tota sola Scriptura?

why did Jesus die?

Jesus lived to die. Jesus was a man on a mission. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh so that He would become the complete and perfect God-man. His death is incredibly important.

Without the death of Christ man cannot live (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17) Christ died to save lost and sinful me. Christ died to save sinful man from their hopeless state (Romans 3:21-26). In other words, Christ died in my place to satisfy the wrath of God on me in order to declare me innocent even through I was guilty (justification), He died to buy me off the slave market of sin (redemption), He died to make me friend even when I was an enemy (reconciliation), and He died so the Father would see me through the righteousness of Christ. Christ paid the penalty that He did not owe so that I might be freed from a penalty that I owed but could not pay.

Without the death of Christ He would not have glorified His Father (Luke 22:41-42; John 6:38; 17:1-5). Jesus was obedient to His father and did what He was commanded to do—be the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial promises and became our suffering servant (Isaiah 53). The death on the cross is what God wanted and the cross was the means by which Jesus glorified His father. Jesus Christ glorified God the Father in both His life and in His death.

Jesus lived to die. Without His death I could not live, forever. Without His death i could not glorify the Father. But Jesus did die, therefore I have eternal hope of glory. Thanks be to God.

For more, check out this video by Thabiti Anyabwile:

what is your response to Jesus?

If you were to ask any person on the street, in the office cubicle next to you, or lunch buddy across the table if they know who Jesus is they would probably give you a satisfactory answer. However, if you were to probe around a little deeper and see if they really know Jesus, you might find out that there are many opinions on why Jesus came and how he deals with sin.

Pretenders, Posers, Rationalizers or Overcomer

There are many ways people respond to sin. Sin is deceptive. Sin lies to us, but it never quite follows through with what it promises to give. Therefore, the world is full of pretenders, posers and rationalizers who are still attached to their sin like an impenetrable umbilical cord feeding off its lies. How can I detect if I have been deceived by sin? Have you ever thought recently? “One sin is not going to hurt,” “I can hide my sin and know one will know,” “It is okay since everybody is doing it,” “It’s not my fault,” “It can’t be sin if it feels so right,” or “I’ll just sin, and ask God to forgive me later.”[1]

These are common lies that pretenders, posers and rationalizers sing as their rock-anthems, but they are lies from the pit of hell and they will keep them in hell. How do we stop believing these lives and begin living in truth? What is the right response to sin and the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do I finally get on the road to overcoming nagging addictions, sin/confess cycles, and secret-closet sinfulness?

The 2-Pronged Response: Repent & Believe

Jesus began His ministry by preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [Mark 1:15] In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am the way. I am from God. I have fulfilled all the ancient prophecies. I am your promised Messiah who has come to forgive your sins. Trust me and turn from your sins.”

Throughout the OT, God and His prophets called people to believe in Him and repent of their sin. In the NT, the apostles called people to turn from their way and follow the way of the cross. Like Paul, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” [Acts 20:21] Repentance and Belief go together like green on grass. They are both distinctive of true followers of Christ.

You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith

Faith is more than a cool 80’s song. Faith is not something you can simply muster up in your inner self through a mystical experience. You cannot buy it from the convenience store or put it on your North Pole wish list. Faith [and repentance] is a gift of God.

Faith is an active dependence upon the promises of God [Romans 4:18-5:1; Hebrews 11:1ff]. Faith is a belief in what you know to be true. People do not normal give themselves to something that they think is untrue. I believe the gospel is true and Jesus is the only Savior for man; therefore, I am all-in and no-holds-bard to following His way. I believe that if Jesus does not save me, I will die. I believe that I have no other hope but in Him. Salvation begins by believing Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He did, “For what does the Bible say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:3ff]

U-Turn or Burn

Repentance is a turning—from sin to the way of the Savior [Acts 11:18]. Repentance is not, “I will try harder or do better.” Repentance is not feeling really sorry or shedding a few tears over your sin; however, grief and guilt can lead to repentance [2 Corinthians 7:8-13]. Peter preached in his first sermon, “Repent and turn to God so your sins may be wiped out.” [Acts 3:19; cf. 26:20]. Repentance is changing your mind from living your way back to living God’s way. Repentance is a spiritual U-Turn.

What happens if I do not repent? “… Unless you repent you will perish.” [Luke 13:3] Jesus is saying, “Unless you turn from your sin you will go to hell.” [Romans 6:23] The alternative to not turning from sin to God is hell fire and brimstone. The Bible says we are like branches and Jesus is the Vine, “Every branch in Me [Jesus] that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away” [John 15:2] and, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” [John 15:6]

God is serious as a heart attack about sin. Sin is like the fat that clogs up your arteries, and repentance is the surgery that lets the blood flow again. This is how serious God is about sin, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” [Matthew 5.30] Sin is very serious and must be amputated radically before it kills you [James 1:12-15].

In summary, Repentance and faith go together like white on rice. You cannot have one without the other, or at least for the truly authentic follower of Christ. If you are really sorry about your sin you will do whatever it takes to make it right. The biblical way to make it right is by believing Jesus is the only forgiver and repentance is the means to forgiveness. The Bible is clear that Jesus came not only to save you, but also to change me from the inside you. Repentance is not as an excuse to live as you want, but as you were designed.

Quick Q&A on Repentance:

What should I repent of? [Colossians 3:5-9; Ephesians 4:17-31; Romans 1:28-32] One must repent of sin: pride [position, prestige, power], overindulging pleasures [immoral sex, substance abuse, stuff], and ungodly priorities [others, God, yourself].

How do I know if I have truly repented? According to 2 Corinthians 7, I grieve over sin [9], I am disgusted by sin [11], I am reconciled toward other people [11], I am having revival toward God [11], and I am looking forward not backward [8-9]. Also, I will perform the works in keeping with repentance [Acts 26:20; Luke 6:44; 3:8]. These fruits do not cause our salvation, but can give confirmation to it.

Why isn’t repentance easy? There are many reasons: It is humbling to submit to another authority. We love our sin too much. We do not have faith that God fulfills His promises. We do not like to experience grief [2 Corinthians 7:8-13].

What if I have already repented and I still struggle with sin? Repentance does not necessarily mean an immediate stop to sinning. It means I am taking sides with God not my sin. You chose to do war against sin rather than letting it rule you [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Temptations are still a part of this life, but in Christ we can have power to overcome.

What is your response to Jesus? Repent and Believe or remain dead in your sin [Mark 1:15].


[1] Adapted from the booklet How to Get Right With God. James MacDonald, Walk in the Word. Arlington Heights, IL. 2000, 4.

the uncool Jesus

Is it politically or even spritially correct to say that I don’t like Christian bookstores? Marketing the Christian faith is silly. Do you think Jesus could imagine His image of clothing, bobble-head doll, iTunes, a superstar Broadway show, and crucifix’s. Nothing fires me up more than a walk through a over-advertised faith-based bargain bonanza. I admit I am quite biased and bruising in my characterization of Christian bookstores, so please forgive me if you are offended. However, I did buy a worthwhile book at a Family Christian Bookstore last week.

Here is my point: Quit trying to make Jesus hip. He wasn’t cool back in His day. Many followed Him because of His miracles and teachings, and like He said, “Not all follow me because they are believers.” [John 20:24-29; Luke 14:25-33; Luke 9:23-27, 57-62] Today, a plethora of books by cool pastors or popped-collar authors are portraying Jesus as fashionable and palatable for the masses. The billboard of their message states, “Hey, check me out, if I am cool, Jesus is too.”

Jesus is uncool. He challenges your status-quot. He convict us of sin. He rocks the religious. He baffles those who bank an afterlife on their own merits. He infuriates those who demand rights. He belittle the sacred systems some establish. He was a revolutionary that didn’t do what the people demanded. His way was a paradigm shift. He was simple, common and if He were in today’s world would be a guy who would have hung drywall in new housing developments. He was friends with the losers, infected, handicap, psychotic loonies, IRS agents, and women of the red-light district. He probably had dirty feet, coarse hands and olive colored skin. He made people feel awkward, enraged and overwhelmed. Jesus was beaten up by bullying mockers. He was killed by people who thought they were cooler than Jesus and his claim to save them of their sins.

I am convinced Jesus is the sweetest, but I do understand to many He is the smell of stench [2 Corinthians 2:14-16].

can you rewind the tape please?

I used to live with my grandparents during my elementary years. I remember my reward for good behavior was a trip with grandma to the mall and visit to McDonalds. Now McDonalds back in the day was not like the massive metro-play-lands that they are today. It was just a sit-down meal in a box with a toy, commonly known as a Happy Meal. I would always get the fish filet, fries, with orange High-C. I loved those Happy Meals with grandma.

The Bible talks about another Happy Meal [John 6:1-14]. Jesus had performed a fish filet and French fry Hebrew Happy Meal miracle for 5000 people. His popularity was at an all-time high. After this miracle everyone wanted to crown Jesus King [not the burger King, v.15]. Jesus had something else in mind. How about taking a boat trip? What? So Jesus’ 12-followers boarded a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum and Jesus meets them later taking a stroll on the water [6:16-24].

Meanwhile all the people who received the Happy Meal were looking for Jesus. What about another free meal? The crowds caught up with Jesus on the other side of the sea. Jesus was not looking to draw a big crowd. When crowds showed up Jesus would get all OCD [Operation Crowd Deduction]. Jesus says something really strange, “I know why you are here. You want another free meal.” [6:25-26] I could imagine what the disciples were thinking, “Jesus cool it. You got all these crowds captivated and you go ahead and say something crazy like this?” Jesus continues to talk about food, rather spiritual food and what really matters is relying on eternal food that on He can offer [6:27-29]. This brings about some serious questions in their minds:

“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [6:30-31] This brings up a Hebrew History 101 lesson. Do you remember the Sunday School lesson when the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and God miraculously feed them? The manna miracle proved to the Jewish people that Moses was their leader. The people were making the same connection with Jesus, but wanted more proof. However, Jesus was not interested in being some miracle producing David Copperfield, rather he answered their doubts and corrected their wrong thinking [6:32-33]. Doubts or questions either draw us to God or away from Him.

Jesus now gets controversial by removing the cape from a Jewish superheroes: Moses. And makes one of the most radical claims of all that either labels Him a lair, lunatic and/or Lord: He says He is the cosmic carbohydrate [6:35]. The disciples must have thought He flipped out. He even goes on to say cannibalistic things like, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Surely Christ’s career is over.

Sometimes it would be nice if life and God’s plans were recorded on DVD. Could I have season 8 please? There are times when watching a movie that I miss an important line or did not completely understand something. It is easy to rewind and replay. At times you want to fast forward to the good part. What happens when God does something you do not understand? What on earth are you doing here God? How should we respond?

Don’t press pause [6:60]. Don’t get all bent out of shape over unanswered questions. For Jesus’ followers it was a tough day. They had a lot of questions. I have felt like that after reading some of Jesus’ words. Pausing in our questions and doubts can handicap us. If you are in a boxing match and you pause for a moment you will become a TKO. Why pause? Is it because you do not want God to look under your hood and see all that is broken?

Don’t push eject [6:66-67]. Many bailed on Jesus even after they saw His miracles and heard His teachings. They were not ready to commit after counting the cost. Stay to the course.

Press fast forward [6:68-69]. Look ahead. Consider the long-term benefits of following Christ: Life eternal. What are the alternatives? “The only thing more difficult than having a personal relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship”—Phillip Yancey. Is it a personal relationship? Yes, really personal.

Press rewind. Look back. Remember what God has done. He has a proven track record. For Peter the changes were dramatic—from fish to following Jesus. What is your story? How has God changed your story? [ie. David; 1 Sam.17:37 & Ps.77:11-12]

Push play. Press on. The best remedy for questions and doubt is “faith.” In the boxing match and blows to your faith, when you are against the ropes faith is the where we can regain strength. Sometimes God and our faith are difficult to understand. Like many who have gone before you and will come after have said, “God this is hard for me to accept, but I have faith you are who you say you are and you will do what you say you will do because you have already done so much.”

Does God really care for me? Even when my life seems to be falling apart? He cares more about me than I care about myself [1 Pt.5:7]. During my freshmen year of college I had major doubts. Why am I here? Does it really even matter? I have distant friends, my grades are collapsing, my family is splitting again, and God seems distant. I was to the point of taking my own life to escape the misery. I was at a crossroads: I am either going to throw away my faith and life or come running to God. I had a heart to heart with a professor. In that moment, my pride crumbled, I didn’t have the answers. I wept in relief, broken before God. God has given us the church to encourage our faith, to ask questions to one another and build on our faith.

two words

lion and lamb

As you think about Jesus, what two words would you use to describe Him? What if the character of Christ was reducible to two ingredients? John 1:14 says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Could it be that “being like Christ” can be summarized in these two words? He was “full of grace and truth,” not 50/50, 60/40, 80/20, but 100/100. What would it be like if Jesus was full of grace and no truth? Or full of truth and no grace?

In the gospels we see Jesus living out this grace and truth in His ministry. He is both Lion and Lamb. Some were drawn to Him and repelled by Him because of His characteristics of grace and truth. If we offend EVERYBODY it is probably because we speak truth without grace. Have you known people like that? When we offend NOBODY it to probably because we are watering down truth for grace. We need both. We need 100% of both.

I do not play a guitar, but I am aware that if the strings are loose the guitar sounds awful. It the strings are too tight they can break or cause discord. The same with grace and truth; the “music” of the gospel message is when there is perfect tension between both.

TRUTH

One of the biggest complaints about Christianity is that it is a bunch of rules [do’s and don’ts]. Yet Christianity is not about what we should avoid, but about who we should embrace. If we talk about do’s and don’ts more than Jesus our view of truth is out of whack.

Truth is like a guardrail that protects us from plunging off a cliff. I remember the curvy roads as we drove through Rwanda. There were no rails on these steep jungle cliffs. We even saw a few places where people drove over. We had a lot of faith in our speedy driver. A smart driver doesn’t complain about the guardrails because they protect. The guardrails of Gods Truth are not to punish, but to protect.

It is not arrogant to believe that Jesus is the Truth [John 14:6]. It would be arrogant if we had come up with it, but we didn’t. we’re just repeating what Jesus said. It’s not arrogant to repeat what the Bible teaches. Arrogance is when we try to tailor truth to our preferences.

You may not be the most popular person for it, but be a person of truth. Tell people about Jesus and His teachings. The best way is to live it.

GRACE

The song Amazing Grace was written by John Newton. Before he wrote the song he was a captain of a passenger ship. The ships passengers were slaves. He would acquire his slaves from Africa and transport them to America were the slaves were sold like animals at the State Fair Auctions. Radically God changed his life. He went from abusing slaves to pastoring and opposing the slave trade.

Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

When John Newton was 82 and near death he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” That is Truth mixed with Grace. Grace is no excuse to sin. Grace reminds us of what our sin has freed us from. It empowers us to say no to sin and hello to Christ.

I am a wretched sinner. I’m not so good after all. I do not deserve God’s love and forgiveness. I deserve much worse. God’s grace is amazing when I realize who I am and who God is. Without Truth we lack conviction [No truth = no need for salvation]. Without Grace we lack compassion [No grace = no hope for salvation]. What we need are people of truth and grace.

real questions: kill Jesus?

Ned Anzers: Did Jesus have to die? And why did Jesus have to die?

We often forget that these questions were posed the day Jesus died (Matthew 27:37-43). That horrid Friday afternoon Jesus was taunted and mocked before his death to come down and save Himself. Yet Jesus did not come down. He died that day.

There are 2 possibilities of why Jesus didn’t save Himself, either He could not or He chose not to do it. Which you believe depends on who you think Jesus is. This is what I believe:

1.  Jesus could have saved Himself.

Jesus could have stopped His arrest (Mt.26:52-54). During His earthly ministry Jesus did chose to save Himself multiple times from death. He escape from kill-hungry mobs: throw Him off a cliff (Lk.4:28-30), stone Him (John 10:39), and strangle Him (Jn.7:30), but no one could touch Him for it was not time…He would disappear into the crowd.

2.  Jesus chose not to save Himself.

Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing that His enemies were there ready to kill Him (Mt.16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). In fact, Jesus knew the kind of death He was going to face (Ps.22:7-18) This prophecy was given hundreds of years before there was such a thing as the Roman crucifixion.

3. Jesus chose to die as the ransom (Mt.20:28).

When we hear the word ransom we think of hostages being held captive by bank robbers or terrorists. They have a note demanding payment or the hostages will die. In the days of Jesus it was similar. Ransom was often paid to release people from slavery. All because of sin I am guilt as charged.

The verdict: sin (Rom.3:23)
The sentence: death (Rom.6:23).
The prison: hell
The Judge: God (Rom.5:8a)
The Ransom: Jesus (Rom.5:8b)

How is Jesus death a ransom? Jesus came to release us from spiritual slavery. Sin has a serious price tag. No amount of money or stockpile of good deeds can meet the demand of the ransom. Jesus death paid my ransom. A sinful man cannot die for another sinful man. But Jesus was sinless. Jesus took my place. He chose to die for those who hate Him. Sometimes we wish God would just keep out of our business, but God made our sin His business. It was something He was born to do. He lived to die. Jesus was the perfect plan to pay my ransom: God’s justice demanded a ransom (punishment for sin), and God Himself is the ransom (payment for sin).

real questions: prove it?

Ned Anzers: God if you are real…why don’t you prove it?

If you were to draw a picture of God what would He look like? No one really knows what God looks like. Billions of people down through history have tried to paint God in the shape of an animal, as fire or water, in the stars or sun, as distant gods, inner gods, peaceful gods or fearful gods. Some even say there is no God. Almost everybody has a different view of God from each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if God decided to reveal Himself once and for all? Imagine what it would be like to see God, talk to Him, touch Him, sit down and eat with Him.

Jesus says something very amazing.

“Any one that has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:1-14) Many thousands of people saw, touched, talked and ate with Jesus. They kept record of it so that people would know that God does exist. As we read the Bible people tell us over and over again, “God does exist. We know because we met Him.”

Couldn’t these people make this stuff up? Jesus never claimed to be God, did He? In fact…

Jesus claims to be God more than once.

Jesus claimed to be equal with God got people mad (John 10:30-33). He also puts Himself on equal terms with God:

  • John 8:56-58 (Ex.3:13-14) “I AM.”—Jesus claims God’s name as His own.
  • John 8:12; 9:5 “I am the Light of the world.”
  • John 6:35, 48 “I am the Bread of Life.”
  • John 15:1 “I am the True Vine.”
  • John 10:10-11 (Ezek.34:11,14) “I am the Good Shepherd.”
  • John 11:25 “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
  • John 14:6 “I am the Way, the True, and the Life.”

These are stunning words from Jesus, but they are also dangerous words. It would be like going into Ross Aid Stadium and saying I am a Badger fan.

Anyone can claim to be God, can’t they? Yes. Muhammad Ali said, “I have wrestled with an alligator! I tussled with a whale! I handcuffed lightning, threw thunder in jail! Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick! I am the greatest!” Ali knew that if you are going to talk this way that you better back it up or else you will be the laughing stock of the world.

Jesus did what He said.

He controlled the weather (Luke 8:24 “stopped a storm”, handcuffed lighting and threw thunder in jail)

Impressive, but that couldn’t it have been a coincidence? Sure. Yet everyone around Jesus agreed that He did amazing things. He feed 5000 people with a boys school lunch box, He walked on water, He cured sickness, paralysis, blindness, deafness, and brought the dead to life. When Jesus walked the earth, it was as if He owned the place. Well, He did create it (John 1:1-4).

Couldn’t He have tricked people into thinking He was who He was? What Jesus did were not tricks. There was no David Copperfield or CGI. Jesus enemies could not expose Him as a fraud. Jesus did not use His power for wealth, status, or fame. In fact, Jesus was prophesied about hundreds and thousands of years before He was born (where He was born, how He would die, etc.). He fulfilled every prophecy.

Jesus did what He did to prove that God exists.

When Jesus walked the earth that He proved God is real.

innkeeper

This is a monologue, which could be performed around Christmas time. It is about one of the least talked about characters within the Christmas story. He certainly is not the most important, but I often wonder what he must have thought of this glorious event:

Yes, sir, here are your extra towels (hands couple a set of towels).

No, I am sorry we do not have a hot tub.

Wow, what a day. This census that Caesar asked for is really good for business!(Yawn) I think I am going to head to bed.

(laying down) Oh, this feels so good! The bed is so…

[Knock, Knock]

Who could it be at this time of night? Hello?

Yes, it is late.Nice to meet you, Joseph.

No, we are all booked up. I am sorry you didn’t make any reservations. You might want to check the Motel 6 down the street…they always keep their lights on for you.

Oh, you already checked?

I understand you have traveled a really long way (from Nazareth) and that you are tired, but I am sorry we do not have any room for you here.

I see that your wife is pregnant. She looks like she is ready to pop. I am sorry, did I say that out loud?

Ok, I think I might have a place for you to spend the night, but only tonight. It is all that I got…Out back I have a cave and in that cave there is some hay and a feeding trough. You can make use of that area tonight. Don’t tell the Bethlehem safety Council, ok? I am sure it wouldn’t pass inspection. You can sleep tonight for free. Please, be quiet. Most of our guests are sleeping.

Yes, you are welcome.Good night.Hmm…what an interesting couple. What a polite man. They look so young to be having a baby.

(scratching eyes) Now my bed is calling my name. Ahh…I love this new Temper-Pedic mattress.[Knock, Knock] Cant a man sleep in peace?

Yes, how can I help you?You are shepherds. I am sorry we cannot let you in our inn. This is a civilized place. If others knew you stinky, dirty guys were here I would surely lose customers. Plus, we do not allow pets in the rooms. Your sheep would need to stay outside.

Oh, you don’t want a room. Well, fine. Why did you wake me up then?

You are looking for a baby? I don’t know of a baby…wait…I just sent a couple out back. The woman looked very pregnant.

Yes, they are from Nazareth, how did you know?

You saw angel?

Are you sure? I am sure you get a little loony after being in those fields with sheep all day and night. I am sure it gets a little lonely too. But, angels? Now, that’s funny!

Ok, ok, I guess you guys are pretty serious. The young family is out back in the cave. You can leave your sheep there too, it is a perfect place for animals. Please, keep them quiet. I wouldn’t want to be a baaaaaad host now.Good night gentlemen.

Talk about a strange night. Shepherd coming to Bethlehem because angels old them too. Crazy, shepherds!

Alright, now…Oh, that’s great. Boy, she snores really loud.

[Knock, knock]

Goodness! That’s it. This has got to stop.

(frustrated) WHAT DO YOU…want?

Oh, please forgive me your majesty’s. What can I do for you? What pretty gifts you have. No, I am sorry our royal suites are taken. I can make sure we have something available right away tomorrow!

You are not looking for a room?

You mean to tell me for 4 months you have been walking across the countryside following a star? You call yourselves wise guys? Sounds crazy if you ask me.You come to seek a baby?

Ok, follow me.

Hello, Joseph.You have a baby? Already? That was quick! I guess your wife really did have to pop. You have a son?

Congratulations.

He is so quiet.

Why are the shepherds worshipping the baby? (looks left)

Why are these wise men bowing down too? (looks back)

They are bowing down to the baby?Oh, my, oh, my…You are the One I heard about in Sunday School. It is true. At my inn! It is the LORD. You are the LORD! (worships himself)

follow the LEADER

Remember the game you use play in elementary school Follow the Leader? It was the activity where you would follow or mimic another student in class and doing whatever they would do no matter how strange or crazy it got..

Leaders are everywhere! They are at school, church, work, TV, sports. But are they all worth following?

A leader is “One who provides guidance and direction for others.”

You follow someone or something. Who or what would that be? How would you describe their leadership? How does their leadership help you? Does their leadership hurt or hinder you? There are many leaders around us. They lead us in many different ways. Some good and some bad.

As Christians, do we need a leader to follow? Yes. As we will look at in a moment God always leads His people through the Holy Spirit. As a Christian I need Some-ONE to LEAD me.

The disciples sure felt their need for a leader when Jesus told them He would be leaving them (Jn.16:5-6). Jesus told the disciples that the Father would send them “another Comforter” that would be with them forever (Jn.14:16) and would “guide” or lead them (Jn.16:13). Isn’t it good that Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to lead us and not let us wander around aimlessly?

God has always be concerned about leading His people down through history…

How did God lead? (Ps.136:16; Ex.13:17,21) He led His people.

How long did God lead His people? (Ps.48:14) To the end, until death.

Where did God lead His people? (Ps.5:8, 25:9) He led them in truth and righteousness.

What is the character of one who follows the Lord’s Leadership? (Ps.25:9) Meek & humble, willing to follow.

The Holy Spirit is the main leader in the church and the Christina life today. since, this is the case, shouldn’t we find out more about His leadership in my life? Let’s look at some principles of the Holy Spirits LEADING…

Principle One: The Holy Spirit will always be consistent with the teachings of Christ (Jn.14:26) – The H.S. will never do anything contrary to what Jesus taught.

Example: To say you have not been led to share your faith with a friend is to contradict Christ’s words to Go and Preach the Gospel (Mk.16:15)

Principle Two: The Holy Spirit’s leading will be in agreement with the whole of God’s Word. – If it were not so we could not trust Him since He is the author of the Word (1 Pt.1:21).

Example: To say that you have been led to date a non-believer to evangelize him/her contradicts the message of 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Don’t be yoked to an unbeliever”. The H.S. would not lead in this way.

Principle Three: The Holy Spirit’s leading is known in a way He exalts Christ (Jn.16:14). –Whatever we do under the leading of the Spirit should point others to Christ (Jn.15:26).

Example: A preacher on TV says you can get rich if you pray or denies the deity of Christ cannot be led of the Spirit because his message exalts man, not Christ.

Principle Four: The Holy Spirit’s leading will be in opposition to the World and all that is worldly. – He would never led you into sin because it is His plan to keep you from it (1 Cor.2:12; Rom.8:3-4).

Example: To claim the Holy Spirit led you to a drinking party or to have intercourse with your date is not the leading of the H.S. (1 Thess.5:22)

In conclusion, there are many leaders you can follow. Some good, some bad. But none better than the Holy Spirit. Who will you seek to follow? Who will you not follow? What will that cause you to do or not do?

Good questions to ask yourself:

How will this decision/activity be consistent with the teachings of Christ?

How will this decision/activity be in agreement with the whole of God’s Word?

Will this decision/activity exalt Christ?

Will this decision/activity lead me into worldly activities?

mirror mirror on the wall

dscn0195.jpg

Mirrors reflect an image. Sometimes not always the image you want to see.

I suppose for centuries people have looked at themselves in reflective surfaces from the pond to a windowpane. Also, I suppose those same people have been disappointed with what they saw. Almost every time I look into the mirror I see something I do not like—physical flaws, mental abnormalities, and spiritual deficiency—all tainted by sin.

I am what I reflect. If I look at the mirror thinking, “Who is the fairest of them all” and all I see is myself…my existence is full of pride.

Not everyone sees himself or herself. Many see another person in that mirror. Maybe the dad whom they adore or hate, a celebrity they admire or seen in the last issue of Cosmo, or an imagined person one substitute the real thing. The image in the mirror is tainted by what they want to be and by what they are not. Their image is full of envy, jealousy.

Both of these mirrored images still leave a man empty and unsatisfied. Each time they rush back to the mirrored glass hoping for something more beautiful, but leave more depressed.

In Genesis 1:26-27 God declares that He made man in His own image. No wonder man is so empty and unsatisfied with his or her reflection because they are not reflecting the very image they were created to be and created to see.

When I stand in front of the mirror I shouldn’t see me, you or anybody else, but the very Creator of the universe.

I am the image of God in flesh and bones. I can manifest His dominion as I live in the freeing reality that I am His image. I do not have to cosmetically beautify myself or try to be someone I am not, but I must seek to shine the image of my God.

James 1:22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

sold out

Just the other day I was shopping at Wal-Mart specifically looking for some IBC Root Beer. I love that stuff! Right out of the bottle…it’s the greatest! I hope to believe there will be IBC in heaven someday (the Inspired Beverage of Christians)! Anyway… they were sold out. Can you believe that? My day went straight down the toilet bowl.

 

Why does something sell-out? First, something tends to sells-out because it is a popular item. I have to have the “in” toy at Christmas (Tickle Me Elmo) because “everyone has one”. It is popular and I will be popular for having it. Second, it is a great deal. Girls fall for this one all the time. Buy 3 shirts get a free lip balm. I have a grandma who is obsessed with QVC because they have such great deals. Third, it is needed. I am sure if we were experiencing the black plague we would need the medicine that would cure. Fourth, it is over advertised. One night a few weeks back I got really sick and could not sleep so I put the TV on. Within 30 minutes I was ready to call and order my Chia Pet, Hand-Clapper and Total Gym. I was sold-out to the good advertisements.

 

How else does someone or something sell out? Well, for many of the same reasons above. I am a Christian therefore I am sold-out to Christ. Being sold-out to Christ has its costs, commitment and control over my life. That’s what it means to be sold out to someone or something. We will look at each of these statements below by looking at the Scriptural example.

 

SELLING OUT FOR CHRIST HAS A COST

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask Me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, ” `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and `love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mt.19:16-22 (the Rich Young Ruler who had everything)

 

SELLING OUT FOR CHRIST TAKES A COMMITMENT

When Jesus saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow Youwherever You go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Jesus was a mover, looking for the movers)

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Mt.8:18-23

 

SELLING OUT FOR CHRIST PUTS CHRIST IN CONTROL

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father andfollowed Him. Mt.4:18-22

 

Why should someone Sell-Out to Christ? First, He is a popular item, His disciples followed Him to His death and beyond. Second, He is a great deal, those who believe in Him have Eternal Life. Third, you need Him. Like Medicine heals physical sickness, Christ wants to heal your spiritual sickness. Finally, He is over advertised. Christians have sacrificed their lives for Him, to get His message out so others would hear and believe. Are you sold out?