Thursday, May 21, 2015

NTDS (76): Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

 Heb 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,… NIV

At first glance (pun intended), the phrase “fixing our eyes” may seem strange. It is not a common phrase but it is a good translation from the Greek. It captures the intended thought well. Some other translations say, “looking to” or “unto.” I don’t believe that does the text complete justice.

It is one thing to look at something; it is another thing to continue looking at it. That is the thought that is presented here. Another word you might use, would be “staring.” Strong’s Greek concordance says that it means to “consider attentively.” “Why,” you might ask, “is it so important to dissect this word so closely?” Read on to find out.

In verse one of this chapter, we are given a directive. It is to, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This can certainly be difficult for us. Think of how many things in our life easily distract us from following the Lord with all of our hearts.

The author puts these things into two categories:
1.  Things that hinder – This does not necessarily mean that they are sinful things. They are just things in life, that if we allow them to, can really distract us from our “race.” Things that we put above our devotion to Christ.
2.   Sin that entangles – These are areas of our life where we “miss the mark.” We actually do things that are against God’s laws and commands, even though we do not intentionally want to disobey.

The point is, that if we are to run our Christian race as if to win (1 Cor 9:24), we need to “put aside” the things that are keeping us from going “full speed ahead.” We are told to do this with perseverance (also translated endurance), meaning to endure trials and persecution and yet continue on.

This seems like a very difficult directive, but the author encourages us with a helpful exhortation. Keep your eyes “focused” on Jesus. He is the author of our faith. Think of what that means. You could say that He is the one who is writing our story. Literally the word means to be “first in rank or power.” He began your story.

It also tells us in verse 2, that He is the perfecter of our faith. This means that He is the “completer” or “consummator.” He will complete the story He began. Php 1:6 explains it this way, … “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So, we keep our eyes fixed on Him because He has promised to see us through to the very end of our race.

And we can have confidence that He is able to do that. The reason we can have such confidence is, that according to verse 2, He has already endured. He endured the suffering and shame of the cross! Verse 3 tells us to “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Jesus, who was able to endure so much, in order to give sinful man the opportunity to come into relationship with God, can certainly bring us through whatever trials we may have. So, as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we are encouraged to go on as well, knowing that He will provide all we need to continue running our marathon.

I want to encourage you to take a look at your own life and see what things may be hindering you in running your “race.” Are there obstacles in your way? Is there any sin in your life which has you entangled? It is hard to run a race if you are tied up. If so, it is time to throw it off, cast it aside. Then, when hardships come your way, “fix your eyes upon Jesus,” and be encouraged to continue in perseverance, the race set before you. It is a life that Jesus has called you personally to live and He will see you through to the very completion of it!

God bless you

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NTDS (75): The Radiance of God’s Glory

Heb 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. NIV

There are few verses in the Bible that contain more theological depth than Hebrews 1:3. Countless hours could be spent on this one verse, but I want to look at four truths that are essential to understand who our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, really is.It is helpful in this case to use the KJV to really grab hold of the beauty of this verse. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,” KJV

The first wonderful truth in this verse is contained in the word being. It is the word oon in Greek. The Greek scholar, AT Robertson says this about the word, “ Absolute and timeless existence.”  When people try to convince you that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God, this one word describing Jesus, destroys that notion. It is equivalent to the word Yahweh or I AM ( the always exis tent one)in Hebrew. It proves that Jesus was not created, He always existed, and therefore He is God!

The next truth we see is that Jesus is the radiance or brightness of God’s glory. The word used for brightness can either mean reflective or original light. In the case of Jesus, both are true! John 12:44-46,
 “Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

John 14:9, “Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

The brightness of His glory was revealed to Peter, James and John at the mount of transfiguration, recorded in Matt 17. Matt 17:2, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”  This was physical evidence that what this verse tell us about Jesus is 100% true! These men were eyewitnesses to the “brightness of His glory.”

The third great truth listed here is, that Jesus was an exact representation of God the Father. When you look at Jesus, you see God. Everything recorded in the Scriptures about Jesus, gives you a picture of who God is. As we look closely, we can see all of God’s nature and characteristics in Jesus and we can be sure it is an accurate rendering.

The last truth to grasp in this verse, is that Jesus is the one who holds everything together. Verse two of this chapter tells us that Jesus was the one through whom the universe was made. He is also the one who sustains His creation. The word for “sustains” can be translated uphold, carry or bear. That means that His creation will stand for as long as He wills it to.

We are told that He sustains creation by the power of His word. Just as he began creation by His word, he keeps it going by His word. It is by His word that all the physical laws of the universe that we observe, continue to operate properly. A cursory look at our universe would tell us that it had to be uniquely designed. One degree difference of earth’s tilt and we would be out of existence. A few miles closer to the sun and we would be ashes, a few miles further and we would be frozen. But by the power of His word, His creation stands. If at any time He chose to end the existence of the universe, He could do it by speaking a word. His word is all-powerful!

Oh the majesty and glory of our Lord Jesus! This verse alone, revealing these four great truths, should be enough to bring us to our knees in worship to Him. Those who lived with Him two thousand years ago, saw the perfect light of God. We see that same light through His word. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105). It leads us into relationship with Him. I pray you are fully surrendered Him!

God bless you


Monday, April 20, 2015

NTDS (74): Because of His Mercy

Titus 3:4-5  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  NIV

Because of His mercy. God saved us because of His mercy! These four words need to be repeated over and over again in our minds. He saved us because or as some versions translate, according to, His mercy.

Why is this so important to understand? It frees us from the bondage of works. It reminds us that there is no work we have ever done or could ever do that will save us from the judgment of God. Without God’s mercy, we would all remain in our sin.

It means that we do not get what we deserve. Rom 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…,” There is no doubt that because of our sin, our rebellion against God, we deserve to die. If we are depending on our works to save us, we are doomed to suffer God’s wrath. But, the second half of Rom 6:23 says, …”but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  The gift of life is given, because of His mercy.

The apostle Paul makes it clear in verse three of this chapter that we all lived in sin of one form or another. Titus 3:3, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”  I am sure you can see yourself in at least one of these descriptions.

He saved us, it says in verse 5, not because of any righteous act of ours, but only because of His mercy. It is because of that mercy that we should desire our lives be a reflection of His. We should be merciful as well. Does that describe you?

It is interesting that we are so often eager to obtain mercy for ourselves, but find it hard to grant mercy to others. However, Jesus said this, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matt 5:7) 
James tells us that being merciful it is a critical piece of evidence proving our relationship with Christ. James 2:12-13 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Peter says, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

How could we possibly be unmerciful people when we have been shown such great mercy? Because of His mercy, we should be quick to forgive and quick to show mercy to others. 

Jesus told a parable about a man who owed a king an enormous debt, one that he could never pay. The master showed mercy and canceled the debt completely. That man then went to another servant, who owed him a small debt and demanded immediate payment. Since the servant had no money, the man, showing no mercy, had the servant thrown into prison. Once the king found out what had happened, he called the man back. Lets pick up the story in Matt 18:32-35

 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

I think you can see the heart of God in this matter. We have been forgiven so much. God’s mercy on us is immeasurable. We are to called to be people of mercy as well. In our human nature, it would be impossible to show the kind of mercy that God does, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, all things are possible.

I pray that we, who are believers in Jesus Christ only because of His mercy, will reflect His glorious mercy to the world.

God Bess you


Thursday, April 16, 2015

NTDS (73): Hold Fast

Titus 1:9  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.  NIV

Titus was one of the apostle Paul’s companions, who had served with him on his missionary travels. He was now the leader of the churches in Crete. Paul’s letter to Titus is one that he could have written to any pastor or church leader today.

In verse 1 of this letter, Paul says that there is knowledge of the truth that leads to Godliness. Some false teachers, who had gained an audience in the church, were already distorting this knowledge. Paul is telling Titus to appoint elders in each of the churches in Crete and that one of the requirements for these men is that they firmly hang on to the truth of God’s word, encouraging people with “sound doctrine.”

This exhortation, important as it was in that time, could not be more relevant in today’s church. In verse 10, Paul says that during this time there were many “mere talkers and deceivers.” What a description of what is happening in the church today.

Though this was written to elders, who were the pastor/teachers of the time, it should be true for all of us. Each believer needs to “hold fast” to the truth that has been taught. Paul was speaking of the message that had been proclaimed by the Old Testament scriptures and by Jesus and the apostles. This of course, is what we have in the Bible. This message never changes. Beware of teachers who claim that they have “new insight, new revelation or new interpretations” of God’s word. Paul sums them up in Titus 1:16,
“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

Notice that when we keep within the confines of God’s truth, we can encourage others with that truth and refute those who oppose it. This is so important for us. We want to be able to encourage other people in their relationship with the Lord. We need to know His truth and apply it correctly in order to do that. All of us can be used in that way. You do not have to be a “leader” in the church to encourage others with the Word of God.

We should also be equipped to refute those who would distort His word for their own purposes. We must hold fast to “sound doctrine.” The Greek word used here literally means to “hold oneself opposite,” meaning opposite of those who teach false doctrine. It implies an “adherence to” or “caring for” the truth. That takes an effort on our part. We need study the Word ourselves and choose faithful teachers to instruct us. Teachers who do not stray from the truth laid out for us in scripture.

The great thing is that when we do this, not only are we able to encourage others, we are strengthened and encouraged ourselves. The more we study His word, the more we understand His love and grace. Nothing will encourage you more than that!
So study and learn His word. Hold onto it with everything you have. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you in your study. Don’t be swayed by anyone who does not hold to the message taught by Jesus and His apostles. It is the truth, it is inerrant, and it is infallible and reliable in every way!

God bless you,


Monday, March 16, 2015

NTDS (72): God Breathed

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  NIV

This simple verse seems to have caused a lot of debate in the church over the years. Some ask, what does all scripture mean since the New Testament had not been completed at the time of this writing? Is it only referring to Old Testament writings or does it include the words of the apostles? Others like to parse the Greek word for “God breathed” (theopnuestos). Since it is only used on this occasion, how should it be interpreted? When Paul wrote his letters, did he believe they were “God breathed” and on the same level with the books of the Old Testament?

These are legitimate questions to ask. What you believe about the Bible and its’ authority is critical to how you live your life as a Christian. We will not settle that complete debate here, but we may be able to see with confidence that all of the Old Testament scripture and what came to be known as the “canon,” which completes our Bible is exactly what Paul was referring to in this passage.

In Acts 17:11, Luke tells us that the Bereans examined the Old Testament scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. They were commended for this. In verse 12, it says that many of them believed. What that tells us is, that they must have confirmed the truth of Paul's teaching. It was confirmed by their study of scripture, which was already accepted as God’s written word.

The apostle Peter says this, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16) He is saying this to assure his readers that He is speaking the truth of God. He follows with this statement, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Peter is indicating that the teaching of the apostles always confirmed what God had already spoken and revealed through the prophets, therefore, it was from God. It may have seemed new to the listeners, since many of their views had come from rabbinical interpretation, which was not led by the Holy Spirit and often incorrect. That is why Jesus often began his teaching with the phrase, “you have heard it said, but I tell you.” His teaching was authoritative because He was and is the authority.

The apostles’ doctrine is authoritative because it comes from Jesus, not man! Careful study of the New Testament will prove that. Look at Heb 2:3-4
“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Not only were the apostles eyewitnesses of what Jesus said and did, they were given the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm their authority. The book of Acts verifies this.

We should be able then, to place complete confidence in the Bible and accept that what we have in our hands today,is the reliable, inerrant and infallible in its’ original text, Word of God. Therefore, we can agree with Paul that it is certainly useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Do you want to be equipped for every good work that God has for you? Study God’s word, allowing it to rebuke, correct and train you in righteousness. Sit under pastors who “rightly divide the word of truth” and be a Berean by thoroughly checking out what they teach.

Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your study of His “God-breathed” Word. Then you will say, along with King David, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord;teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees;I will not neglect your word.”
(Ps 119:9-16)

God bless you