Thursday, August 11, 2022

What's In a Name?

     There was a time when I did not like my name.  As a child, it just didn't seem catchy enough to me and I often asked my mother why she gave me the name "Barbara".  The only option for nicknames were "Babs", "Barb" or "Barbie".   Plus, the name "Barbara" just sounded so formal.  Thankfully, I grew out of that stage and pretty much went by "Barb" in high school and college and later on, used my full name.  Isn't it funny how we tie certain things to a name?  We either like a name or dislike it based at times on our experience with someone who carried it.  When it comes to our Savior, though, He makes clear exactly who He is in the Gospel of John, and the Pharisees along with some of the Jews sought to kill Him because of what He declared.

     In Exodus 3:14, God told Moses what to tell the people of Israel when they asked who had sent him to them:  "I AM WHO I AM".  "I AM", therefore became the sacred name of God known to His people.  John's Gospel recounts seven statements made by our Lord where He uses this sacred name for God in describing who He is and why He has come.

     His first statement comes in John 6:35 where He tells us "I Am the bread of life"....this is just after the feeding of the 5,000 which supports this claim.  The miracle is meant to make us aware that Christ is our provision.  We will never hunger nor thirst again when we belong to Him.  This is not meant in the physical realm but in the completeness of our soul and our eternal destination.  Likewise, when we take communion, we feed upon the representation of His body and blood given for us which further confirms this description of our Lord.

     Jesus tells us in John 8:12; 9:5 "I AM the light of the world..."  This pronouncement comes when He heals a blind man.  Restoring sight to someone who has never been able to see is like opening a whole new world to him.  As Christians, we know this to be true when we become believers.  Before our belief in Christ, we are spiritually blind.  We stumble through life walking in darkness.  However, when the Holy Spirit regenerates us, we are able to see clearly who we are and who Christ is to us.  He opens our eyes to understanding the truth.  He is, indeed the "light on our path and the lamp to our feet."

     John 10:7,9 tells us that Jesus proclaims Himself to be "the gate" and "the door" to the sheepfold.  Of course, the Jewish people understood that there was only one gate where the sheep would enter to be safe, and the proclamation of Jesus meant that He is the only way to have a relationship with God.  There is no other.  Faith in Christ, repentance of our sins and trusting in His finished work on the cross is the only means of salvation.  This leads to His next description.

     In a passage from the same chapter (John 10:11, 14), Jesus says:  "I AM the Good Shepherd".... indicating his love and protection for all who believe.  Each time I read this, I am reminded of Psalm 23 which begins with the words:  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  This is such a blessing to reflect on the fact that here Jesus is telling us of His constant love and care.  All we have to do is remember how David (the shepherd boy and King) protected his herds from bears and lions.  He defended them with all his might and so will our Lord.

     Following this proclamation, Jesus tells us in John 11:25:  "I AM the resurrection and the life..."  This statement is made just before the Lord raises Lazarus from the grave.  What power in His words when we consider this miracle of restored physical life and yet, we see Jesus, our Savior, being raised from the dead as well.  He promises that if we believe in Him even though our body dies we shall live with Him eternally in heaven.  This promise and proclamation should bring hope to all believers more than any other.

     However, Jesus is not done revealing Himself to us because in John 14:6, He tells us:  "I AM the way, and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  Once again, He makes clear to us and the world that He is the Creator of life, He has the truth and He is the only way to a relationship with the Father.  There is no mistaking His statement.  While other religions may claim they offer a way to heaven, Christ makes it clear that He is the only way.

     Finally, in John 15:1, Jesus says:  "I AM the true vine..."  and we are the branches when we belong to Him.  The Father prunes the dead branches away but when we are connected to Christ, we will produce good fruit.  Jesus is our sustainer of life and we need to be attached to Him so we can thrive, grow and learn.  What a blessing to know that He provides for us all we need for life and godliness when we are attached to Him!

     Throughout the book of John, Jesus makes it clear that He is God incarnate.  He is fully human and fully divine and our minds have a hard time comprehending this; yet, we know it is true.  For this reason, the Pharisees and some of the Jews tried to find a way to kill Him.  Even when they succeeded in putting Him to death, He arose as He said He would completing the work for our salvation.  What this means to us is that we can trust in His name and wait with expectancy for His return.  His new covenant made in His blood for us is a sealed promise by God that when we put our faith in Christ alone, we have the promise of everlasting life in His presence.  Think on this and read these verses with new eyes that you may be encouraged today!  Selah!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Compromising the Truth

      I ran across a meme the other day on Facebook.  I don't know who created it but it said so much that I wanted to share it with others.  The central truth found in this meme is something we all need to seriously think about in this age in which we live.  

     He did not compromise truth or soften it in any way, but proclaimed the life changing way to salvation.  When God regenerates a heart, He replaces the stony, hard, sin-filled heart with a new one of flesh that desires to live for Him.  In other words, once we come to faith in Christ, our lives should reflect a new worldview as revealed in God's Word.

     In confronting sin, one of the best examples is the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11).  The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to test what Jesus would say concerning this woman.  According to the Law, she should have been stoned to death for her sin.  However, Jesus turned to them and said, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (vs.7b).  At this, they began to walk away for they knew they were also sinners.  Jesus lifted her up, saved her life and gave her the "Good News":  "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (vs 11b).  This wasn't just a physical rescue.  Our Savior did not leave her where she was at nor did He in any way excuse her sin.  He lovingly told her to go and sin no more. An encounter with Christ brings about change in our lifestyle, our friends, our actions, our thoughts....or it should.  However, if we try to compromise with the world and excuse sin (as laid out clearly in the Bible), we are not being faithful to the truth of God's Word and His call to make disciples of all nations.

      A verse I never understood until now is found in Matthew 10:34:  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."  He goes on to say that it will bring division even in a family when a person becomes a follower of Christ.  John MacArthur in his study notes on this verse says:  "Though the ultimate end of the Gospel is peace with God, the immediate result is frequently conflict.  Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships, persecution, and even martyrdom" (MacArthur Study Bible ESV pg 1377).  Why is that?  Because we are aligning ourselves with the truth found in Jesus Christ and in His Word.  Christian beliefs stand in opposition to this world system and call for a life far different than one which revolves around "me" and what I want.  Christ came to give us a new life through His sacrifice on the cross where our sins have been imputed to Him.  We are to be a new creation according to 2 Corinthians 5:17:  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!"  We are not to live only for ourselves any more but for Him to bring glory and honor to His name.

     Dear ones, the world wants us to compromise our faith so we can fit in better with our culture.  There are some who have followed this siren's call in order to keep the peace.  However, God calls us to live in holiness according to His standards as found in the Word of God which is our foundation.  Just as Jesus did not leave the woman to live in adultery by blessing her and sending her back to live in sin, so we must share the truth of Christ's love with others so their lives will be delivered from sin as well.  It can be costly, painful or hard at the time, but the results of our faithfulness is to one day hear our Father say:  "Well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:23).  Selah!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Don't Be Deceived

     Magic shows are fun to watch, but we know from the start that there is some sleight of hand or movement undetected by the audience that makes it seem real.  Perhaps we enjoy being fooled.  However, when it comes to our walk with Christ, we are warned to be on our guard.  There are false teachers, philosophies, and "empty deceit" just waiting to snatch any listening ear....even Christian ears.


   This point is driven home as I watched "The Truth Project" for the sixth time on a Wednesday evening.  Del Tackett, the tour guide, in this wonderful teaching series pointed out that even Christians are capable of being deceived by the ideas promoted in our world.  He pointed to the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians (2:6-8):  "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."  Unfortunately, the Church at Colossae as well as in Galatia had been dealing with false teachings that pulled them away from the truth of the Apostle's instruction.  They lost sight of true doctrine.  This should not surprise us because from the beginning of the church until now there have been many strange teachings, philosophies, and ideas that have crept into the body of believers.  Instead of believers influencing the world, we are more often influenced by them and accept as truth something which God has not condoned. 

     Sources of disinformation abound today now that we have electronic devices which can connect us instantly to ideas, theories and philosophies which may have no basis in truth.  Even in Paul's day, word could travel quickly in a village simply by passing a story on.  Today, however, we have instant messages that travel the globe in a click of a button.  Instant information, though, does not equal godly wisdom.  According to Paul, we need to be careful to walk in Christ daily...that is...His Word of truth.  His teachings (doctrine) should be close to our heart so that we are not deceived when someone introduces a "new understanding" on an issue to the church.  If we are rooted and established in our faith following the Apostle's teaching, we will not be easily led astray.  

     Paul echoes his teaching of being prepared in his second letter to the Corinthians 10:3-5:  "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...."  We are in a battle....a war of ideas in our present world.  Our fight is against arguments, opinions and ideas which try to distort God and His Word.  As Ephesians 6:12 tells us:  "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  This verse is more relevant today than ever.  We live in a time of spiritual confusion and darkness.  This is why we need to be prepared by putting on the full of armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and make certain that we take every thought captive to Christ.

     Knowing that it is possible for us to be deceived as we walk in this world should encourage us all to be students of the Word....both Old and New Testaments.  God's Word does not change nor can we pick and choose what we want to obey.  His truth sets us free and creates in us a new heart and mind in Christ.  Therefore we must make certain we are  "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith".  Don't let the enemy steal your joy or deceive you with worldly philosophies and ideas.  This world is passing away but God's Word will stand forever.  While magic can be fun to watch, we all need to live in the real world founded on the rock of Christ and the Bible.  With the Lord, there are no tricks but abundant life.  Selah!