Jesus asks the greatest of questions

by Tom Lathrop

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

Many people down through the ages have asked this question: “Who is Jesus?” It is the most important question there is. If you get this wrong, it has eternal consequences. Jesus asks the question of His disciples, wanting a personal response.

There have been a lot of different opinions on who Jesus is. Even in the field of religion there has been disagreement. But Jesus didn’t leave any room for discussion on this. It was important for His disciples to know and to confess who He was.

Jesus makes it clear who He is to all who really want to know. He is described as being the Word of God become flesh (John 1:1,14). He is the Creator of the world (John 1:2-3). He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is the great “I AM” of the Old Testament (John 8:58). The claims of Jesus' deity cannot be ignored.

The Jewish leaders understood Jesus’ claims, and several times they even took up stones to kill Him for blasphemy. Ultimately that is why He was crucified. Although they could find no sin in Him, His claim of deity was what motivated His cruel condemnation and death.

So Jesus thought it of eternal importance for the disciples to answer that great question: “But who do you say that I am?” The emphasis is on the “you” because it would be a very personal confession. Jesus was more interested in who the disciples thought He was than who others thought He was. You’d think they should be able to get it right.

Well it took a revelation from God the Father to reveal who Jesus was to them. Peter said it plainly: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” They were in the very presence of God the Son. Did they really understand what Peter said? Many times over did He prove it to them. We read about Him in the gospels doing great miracles and having control over the storms and seas and speaking the most profound words ever spoken in the history of the world.

The primary question for each of us is still: “Who do you say Jesus is?” Jesus makes it personal to you and me. The question begs a thoughtful, active response. Do you believe He is who He said He is… or is He a liar or a lunatic? If He is Lord, as He claims to be, have you received Him as your personal Lord and Savior? That is the big question.

He died for you personally. If you were the only person on the planet, He still would have died for you. That’s how much He loves you. This question cannot go unanswered or ignored. Who do you say Jesus is? He makes it personal and He takes it personally. You must not only believe, but you must confess Him before men.  

Jesus will reign forever

by Steve Mangle

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:30-33

History shows that in time, every earthly kingdom falls to another that rises.  No matter how great the authority, power, or influence of the regime or government, the rulers of our world are temporary.  Certainly Mary knew something of history, and assuredly she knew the Word of the Lord, prophesied through Isaiah some 700 years earlier:

 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  -  Isaiah 9:6-7

Mary’s baby was the fulfillment of that prophecy.  Her baby, Jesus, would be the ruler that would change kingdom history…he’d become the King over the kingdom and Ruler of the government that would never change hands, never end.  To set her hope in God’s promise, Mary needed to look no further than to the child she carried in her arms.

“But,” you say…“Jesus was rejected as the King of the Jews, and He was put on a cross and killed.  He never became the fulfillment of Mary’s hope.”  It is true that Jesus was crucified as the Scriptures detail, as history records.  But, Jesus was raised by the power of God, and He lives!  Scripture and history both proclaim this.  Yes, Jesus is alive.  Yes, Jesus will reign forever.

Want to know more about what the Scriptures reveal about Jesus and His reign?  

In Hebrews 1:3 we read that “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  Jesus is now in the position of rule and reign at God’s right hand in heaven.

In Revelation 5, it is the Lamb who takes the scroll and opens up the seals.  In verse 13 it is the Lamb of God who receives “…praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”  Yes, forever and ever!  Jesus Christ is this Lamb of God (see John 1:29).

In Revelation 22, Jesus says to John the apostle and to all who believe in him:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End…I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  The book of Revelation shows us the things that are and are yet to come.  Who is the King, the Judge, the Ruler of all things through all eternity?  It is Jesus Christ.

So, in who or what do you put your hope, your trust, your faith?  Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  For He will reign forever, and His kingdom will never end.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords

by Jim Low

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16

Revelation 19 describes the return of Christ to earth, a future time when He will put down his enemies and set up his Kingdom. This is not the Rapture of the church. There Christ comes in the air for his Saints; here He comes to earth with His Saints.

The description is awe-inspiring. 

The “Faithful and True” One arrives on a white war horse to conquer his foes. In righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire and on his head are many crowns. He has a name inscribed which no one knows except Himself, mysteries that no created being can comprehend. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood—the blood of his enemies, the blood of battles won. His name is called “The Word of God.” Accompanied by the armies of heaven and with a sharp sword in His mouth, He comes to rule and reign the nations with the fierce wrath of Almighty God (vv. 11-15). 

Then we read this: “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” (v. 16).

The One we celebrate in this Season of Advent is the Supreme Ruler; all others must submit to His reign.

Jesus Christ is King and Lord. Have you acknowledged Him for Who He Is? Don’t wait. Sooner or later, “Every knee will bow…every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

Jesus Christ is Savior. Have you trusted Him for what He has done? He humbled Himself and made the way for us to live abundantly and be with Him eternally. Acts 4:12 tells us that salvation can be found in no one else, “for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Fellow sinner, turn from the deception of self-sufficiency and trust Christ today! Heed Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 6:2, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Make this Christmas the first where you’ve understood and embraced its true meaning. The baby in the manger, born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit—He is Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior! Turn, trust, and then tell of His love!

Believers in Christ, let us magnify the Son of God who took on human flesh, lived in sinless perfection and, in an act of outrageous grace, died for you and me. Let us serve joyfully today, knowing that in Christ we will experience ultimate triumph tomorrow.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega

by Caleb Kim

"I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Revelation 22:13

In philosophy there is a particular study that focuses on the “nature of being” and existence called ontology. In this study, philosophers attempt to answer questions that are seemingly innate within humanity like: what can be said to exist?  Where/when did existence start? Can we know that God exists? Seeking the answer to the last question has led Christian philosophers to develop an argument for the existence of God called “The Ontological Argument.” I always thought that this argument was ironic, because in an attempt to prove the existence of the “Being that brought us into existence,” we formulate an argument. 

This being said, God in this passage claims something about Himself that is outside of the spectrum of time as we understand it. As humans we are temporal beings that operate within time and space. And here God claims something about himself that is telling of his ontology. God essentially says, “I AM being;" or in a different way, “I AM that I AM.” 

God’s statements about Himself being the “first and the last” are His way of telling us that He is outside of time. It is also God’s way of connecting us to the famous Old Testament passage in Exodus where Moses asks God to tell him His name. God responds saying, “I AM that I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you (3:14).’” Again, this statement exclaims the ontology of God as the one who “IS.” He is the deity which encompasses and creates existence as we know it. 

Not only does God encompass and create existence, but so does his Son Jesus. In the book of John there are seven “I AM” statements which describe Jesus’ ontology. The one that is  the most telling is in John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Some people think that Jesus never claimed that He was God; they couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is Jesus’ statement here a claim of deity, but it is a claim that declares that He is the only way to salvation. If this statement was so harmless, then what led the people of the day to pick up stones in an attempt to execute Jesus? Jesus’ claim was an ontological claim about His being. 

 Now, we need to understand that God/Jesus “encompasses and creates existence” to fully appreciate and understand God’s words in Revelation. The “Alpha and Omega” were a common phrase used to denote the whole of anything. Here, God refers to himself as the beginning and end of all things. He says I AM “who was, and is, and is to come.” This claim of ontology matches perfectly with God’s statement in Exodus. When Moses asks God what His name is he essentially says, “I AM existence” or “I AM the whole of everything.” This is because the statement “I AM that I AM” shows eternality. 

God is the starter, the sanctifier, and the finisher of all things for our good and His glory. For unto us, I AM was born in a manger. The creator of existence and being existed in child-like form. I AM, who existed outside of time and space, breached the barrier of time/space to come as a child to save the world. Before anything was, I AM.

Jesus is God with us

by Steve Grieme

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).'" Matthew 1:22-23

Many titles belong to Jesus. We remember the titles from Isaiah 9:6 when we are told Jesus will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In Isaiah 7:14 it is also prophesied that the Messiah will be called Immanuel. Immanuel, God with us.

When presidents and kings choose to visit ordinary people, their visits are usually highly scripted. They have their valets and attendants. They travel first class. They come dressed to the nines. Highly polished. Picture perfect. Cameras ready… That is if they come at all. 

When God, true royalty, traveled to earth to be with humanity, he did so without any first class amenities. The pre-existent God was now confined to flesh. The glories of heaven exchanged for struggles on earth. The attributes of God replaced with the limitations of man. What king would give all of this up to be with his people? What king would arrive and choose for his bed the smelly feed trough of indifferent animals? Why did he give up his royal rights? Why did he give all of his privileges away?

So, that he could give us the greatest privilege of all. Immanuel, “God with us,” came so that one day we could be with God. Though he was rich, he become poor, so that through his poverty, we might become rich.

Jesus sets us free

by Tom Lathrop

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Many of the inmates we visit at the county jail every month tell us that they are more free in jail than they are on the streets. That’s because the temptations and addictions that have enslaved them and caused them to be under the bondage of sin have been removed.

In the context of Jesus’ words about being set free, there were two things he mentioned that would set men free. Not only would the Son set us free, but Jesus laid the foundation for this freedom in verses 31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It is the truth of God’s word that can set us free. It sets us free by replacing the error in our worldly thought patterns with the truth of God’s word. But this freedom can only come in the context of being a disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple allows us to have the help of the Holy Spirit in gaining and maintaining our freedom from sin. Just reading the Bible doesn’t set you free. There must be a vibrant relationship between the disciple and his Lord. It is only the Lord who can truly set us free, but it occurs through obedience to His precepts and trusting in His promises.

The Pharisees did not understand the slavery that they were under. Jesus’ word had no place in their lives. They would not listen to Him or submit to His teaching. They even disagreed with Jesus that they had been enslaved in any way. How could they have forgotten over 400 years in slavery in Egypt and that they were currently under Roman oppression. Jesus was quick to point out that the worst kind of slavery is sin, and it’s something everyone needs to be set free from.

Jesus died on the cross to set us free from the penalty of sin. He paid the price with His own shed blood. When we trust Jesus as Lord and become His disciple, that freedom takes effect and brings about a spiritual peace that surpasses even our human understanding. Thus begins the process of our sanctification whereby we are being set free from the power of sin in our everyday lives as we abide in God’s word and follow His commands.

Ultimately we will be set free from the very presence of sin when we are glorified in our new bodies. What a joy this will be to eternally experience the absence of sin and the realization of God’s holiness and righteousness. In the present though, sin is deceitful; it crouches at the door; it’s pleasurable; and it’s enslaving; and through prayer we gain the help of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the word of God to keep us from the snares of our adversary. Have you been set free?

 

Jesus is the Savior of the world

by Jeff Moorehead

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14

Have you ever stopped to think which part of Christmas causes you to understand your great need of a deliverance?  Is it the decorations? Gifts? Songs? Food? Parties? Maybe the family traditions?  Christmas American-style is not designed to highlight our needs, but our wants and this can potentially cause you and me to miss one of the central truths of God’s Christmas story: deliverance.

  • The Apostle John tells us specifically that “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (I John 4:14)
  • The angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream that Mary would bear a Son and “He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
  • Gabriel told Mary she would be the mother of “the Son of the Most High” and she responded, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:4-47) 
  • Again, the angel of the Lord told some stunned shepherds that “in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10)

God’s Christmas message was loud and clear: He sent a Savior, One who would deliver us from sin.  But what does this mean?  It can be summed up in 16 words:

I need help: My biggest problem is sin according to God and it requires a deliverance.

Jesus came to help: God sent a Savior who by His perfect life and substitutionary death provided a dramatic deliverance from sin by giving us His forgiveness. (Col 1:13-14)

I cannot help myself: In my sinful condition, God says I am “helpless” (Rom. 5:6), “dead” (Eph. 2:1), “unable” (Rom. 8:8), “blind” (2 Cor. 4:4), “deceived” (Titus 3:3), “enslaved” (Titus 3:3), “futile” (I Pet 1:18) and a child “of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).  In fact, God says, “deliverance by man is in vain.” (Psalm 60:11b)

I must accept His help: Deliverance from the Deliverer isn’t automatic, but requires a willing heart to turn away from sin and trust in the only Deliverer, Jesus Christ.

Have you been delivered by the only Savior, Jesus Christ?  If not, put your faith in Him alone.  If you have, make sure your Christmas is filled with thanksgiving.

Jesus humbled himself

by Caleb Kim 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

Kenosis is a Greek word meaning “emptiness” or “to empty.” It is the word that theologians use to describe verse 7 when Jesus “makes himself nothing” or “empties himself” by taking on the nature of a slave/servant. Theologians argue that Jesus maintained his deity, so his kenosis was more of a self-renunciation of his powers and knowledge. Because of this, people continue to ask questions like “what did Jesus know,” “what did he learn,” and “could Jesus walk on water as a boy?” These childish questions miss the point of the kenosis.

God attempts to show us that Jesus humbled himself by giving up his powers/knowledge, and lived a human life on earth to die our death on the cross. If we look past this, we miss God’s message. Christmas symbolizes the incarnation, but also the kenosis. Jesus could have come as a man, a king, or anything that he wanted to. But instead, Jesus came as a baby slave, who had no majesty that beheld him. He emptied himself of any sort of prestige, power, or wealth. He emptied himself for our sake.

Jesus not only emptied himself, but he took on human flesh. He gave up prestige, and took on a stable; he gave up power, and became a slave; he gave up the wealth of eternity, and took on the will of a carpenter. Jesus gave up the power and perfection of God and took on the limitations and temptations of humanity.

The humility that Christ walked in on the earth is unparalleled, because it is impossible to replicate. The fullness of God within the emptiness of man. And though Jesus was always fully God and fully man, we see his humility and servanthood because he does not tap into his ultimate potential. The baby in a manger is not just a cute portrayal on a mantel piece; it is a cosmic injustice that the world will never see again.

As St. Augustine says so poignantly:

The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.

Though there are theological debates and many questions surrounding the kenosis, what we do know is the incarnation. Jesus came as a baby, fully human and fully God, and lived a perfect life until he died on the cross. The kenosis is the beginning piece of the redemptive plan of God to save the world. But the kenosis is not the point. The point is the gospel: “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!” He must first become nothing, to gain everything.

Jesus is a Gift beyond description

by Steve Mangle

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

When I was 10 years old, I was as excited for Christmas morning as I had ever remembered.  I’m not sure now, as I look back, what got me so excited for the morning to come.  Maybe it was because I asked Santa for a baseball mitt in a letter I wrote him.  Maybe I had been extra good that year and thought my attention to good deeds would bring me a bigger stack of presents.  What I do remember is how confused, even dumb-founded I felt when I rushed to the tree Christmas morning and found my name on a ‘Merry Christmas’ tag attached to a small guitar.  My mother asked “What do you think?”  I couldn’t figure out how to describe the gift I saw sitting there under the tree or how I felt about getting it.  I didn’t get what I expected, and though I knew what a guitar was, I was a piano player.  I was without words.  The moment was…indescribable.

Ponder the announcement from the angel to lowly shepherds on the hillside in Luke 2:11-12. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Here in the middle of the night, when the sheep were tucked together keeping warm, and the shepherds had themselves resolved that another night like always was upon them, the skies suddenly opened up.  Reading on,  Luke 2:15 says “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'”  It was a reasonable decision to go, whether compelled because of what they witnessed, or by curiosity.  Luke goes on in verses 16-18: "And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

After verifying that what was announced by the angel had indeed taken place, the shepherds then told anyone and everyone who’d listen what they had heard from the angel concerning the Child.  And what was the response by those who heard it from the shepherds?  Luke tells us that all who heard it marveled at it.  What does it mean to marvel at something?  It means that they were amazed, surprised, filled with wonder, maybe even stood in awe.  What were the people filled with wonder about; what did they stand in awe of?  Well, how about that the Savior prophesied long ago was…a Baby?  How about that the birthplace of the Savior was… Bethlehem?  That an angel announced the news?  That the angel told lowly shepherds?  That a multitude of angels rang out the loud praise ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” and the only ones with a front row seat were those same shepherds? 

How would you and I have responded to that announcement?  How would you have reacted when you went to the barn and saw the newborn baby boy?  Today, we know powerful truths about Jesus Christ:  that He is Eternal God, and that He is fully man; that He is the Eternal Judge, and that He lived on earth like us, even enduring every kind of temptation as we, but never sinned; that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, yet humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, for the payment of our sins.  The shepherds?  They didn’t know these things when they stood in awe and wonder at the manger of the Baby Jesus.  Yet they glorified and praised God, and we as well give thanks to God for His indescribable gift.

 And what about that guitar I received Christmas morning?  Well, by age sixteen, I had learned enough guitar chords to play reasonably well, and it finally made sense.  I couldn’t describe the gift of a guitar at ten years old, but what I had received led to many youth camp nights praising God with a guitar around the campfire.  Besides, there was no way to sling a piano over my shoulder.

Jesus is compassionate

by Lloyd Cherry

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. Matthew 9:36

The verse right before this says…. Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  

Matthew writes that Jesus was "moved to compassion" in his account of the two blind men who begged Jesus for mercy on the roadside.  He had compassion on them and proceeded to heal their sight upon their request.   Matthew 20:29-34

Mark records that Jesus was "filled with compassion" upon hearing the pleas of the leper begging to be healed.  “I am willing,”  Jesus said. "Be clean!   Jesus, in his compassion, responded and healed the man.  Mark 1:40-41

Luke tells of the incident where Jesus came across the funeral possession outside the town gate of Nain.  The widow had just lost her only son, and Jesus’ heart went out to her.”  He then proceeded to touch the coffin and raise back to life her dead son.  Luke 7:11-17

John says "Jesus wept" at the news from Mary, as she was weeping along with those around her over Lazurus’ death.  Subsequently, Jesus would raise Lazurus from the dead.  John 11:34-35.

Compassionate:  Having the disposition of pity; full of compassion; inclined to show mercy or pity, sympathetic.   (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary)   A suffering with another; painful sympathy; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration. Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded by love and sorrow; at least some portion of love, generally the pain or regret, or is excited by it.  (Noah Webster)

The "Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3) has perfect and endless love beyond our ability for understanding.  Fortunately for you and me, He loves us with this great capacity.  Fortunately for us, Jesus walked this earth as a man and was tempted in every way… yet was without sin.  And fortunately for us, he rewards those who diligently seek him.  We all are in great need of mercy and compassion.  Jesus knows and understands the struggles we go through.   With great compassion he healed the lame, mute, blind, and crippled (Mark 15:22-32).  With great compassion he raised the dead.  Would you and I be like the Canaanite woman, who asked  (Matthew 15:21-28) for mercy and compassion in her time of need? Would you and I heed Paul’s admonishment (Colossians 3:12) to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience in our relationship with one another?

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9

Jesus is full of grace and truth

by Jim Low

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

The glory of our Savior is shown in what He did and in Who He was. In His very essence He was (and is) “full of grace and truth.”

Jesus is Grace. He is the awesome, perfect and ultimate expression of grace.

How can we describe it? There are many definitions, none of which fully capture the meaning. But simply put, grace is God’s unmerited favor. A.W. Tozer said “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” John MacArthur goes a step further: “Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is ‘unmerited favor’; doing good to one’s enemies is more the spirit of grace.”

We who were once alienated from God are now part of His family because of this amazing grace! By grace we have been saved through faith (Eph. 2:8). What a gift!

Jesus is Truth. The incarnate Word of God, is the source and embodiment of all that is true.

Randy Alcorn says it well: “Truth is far more than a moral guide. Jesus declared, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man come to the father buy by me’ (John 14:6). He didn’t say he would show the truth or teach the truth or model the truth. He is the truth. Truth personified. He is the source of all truth, the embodiment of truth and therefore the reference point for evaluating all truth-claims.”

Truth is far more than facts. It’s not just something we act upon. It acts upon us. We can’t change the truth, but the truth can change us. To know Jesus is to know the truth that changes us—the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)!

Grace or truth? Which way do you lean? We find in Jesus, our Messiah, grace and truth in perfect harmony.

Lord, help us to recognized and appreciate that you are full of grace and truth. Help us to live in such a way that we reflect both to the world around us. In Jesus name!

 

Jesus gives abundant life

by Mike Strunk

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The gospel of John is a remarkable book about our Savior who offers so much and seeks our highest good. In Jn 4 Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again." (Jn 4:13) In Jn 6:65 He goes on to to say that no one can come to the Father except through him. Revolutionary, challenging, and fulfilling statements indeed.

Finally, Jn 10 opens with the teachers of the Law around Christ as well as many of his disciples. Jesus uses the word pictures of the shepherd and sheep to illustrate, teach, and convict.

Jesus describes himself as "the door of the sheepfold" or sheep pen. More than just the door however, our Lord tells them he is "the shepherd of the sheep." By listening to the shepherd's voice and passing through the door to pasture, Jesus promises life and life abundantly. (Jn 10:1-11)

What does it mean to have the abundant life? God helps us here in his word by contrasting "the abundant life" with that of the life dominated over by "the thief." The thief only promises to steal, kill, and destroy those lives in his domain and under his control. (Jn 8:44) When Jesus speaks of life in abundance he is speaking of "perisson," a Greek term meaning "that which goes way beyond necessity."

As James Boice so aptly put it, "The abundant life is, therefore, one in which we are content in the knowledge that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our needs, that nothing can suppress it, and that God’s favor toward us is unending."

We find God's abundance manifesting itself in spiritual rest and peace with God, guidance by His word, security in the midst of trials and temptations, providing for life's provisions, and the complete assurance of a heavenly home.

We find abundance in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

(Jn 17:3) So, when you reflect on the baby in the manger during the Christmas season..... Remember Jesus was willing to set aside the "abundance" of heaven to be born of a virgin so that we may become "rich" in Him and enjoy abundant, eternal life through Him. (Jn 20:31) Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest

by Caleb Kim

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Sympathy and empathy are similar terms, but are entirely different emotionally and practically. Webster says that sympathy is defined as: “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortunes.” This feeling is not an unloving one, nor is it one that should be frowned upon. Sympathy is hearing a sad story, and feeling bad for someone. It is saying ‘sorry’, when someone has a parent who dies. It can even come alongside someone in love, compassion, and encouragement. We sympathize with those that we do not share history.

Empathy, on the other hand, is shared experience. It is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” A person shows empathy when they show sympathy towards another while sharing the same experiences. Empathy is the nod of a man returning from war to a veteran who returned the year previous. It is the silence between two siblings as they cry over the loss of their parents. It is the “I’m sorry” of a friend who also miscarried their first child. Empathy creates an emotional bond between two people because of past experiences.

Jesus is our “Empathetic High Priest.” God did not feel sorry for us and remain in the heavens while we suffered in our sin. He was sympathetic to our case at one point, unable to “understand” and “experience” our temptation and sin. But God did not remain our “Sympathetic High Priest” interceding from afar. He became our “Empathetic High Priest” and came to earth experiencing our temptation and weakness. Weak and feeble; hungry and ignorant; incapacitated and alone.

When God promises that we can “overcome temptation,” he does not give empty promises from the clouds. He gives concrete promises through blood, sweat, and tears. We have an empathetic Savior who knows our needs. Jesus knows how we are tempted, tried, and persecuted. But he also intercedes on our behalf.

God is now able to empathize with all of humanity because he “has been tempted in every way, just as we are.” A man is able to cope with PTSD because of the support of veterans holding his hand; a women can find peace while in labor hearing the encouragement of her mother; and a student can be reassured during finals week because of a friend who took that same class the previous quarter. And we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence," because we have an ‘empathetic’ High Priest. Therefore, “let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” because we have a great empathetic High Priest.

Jesus fulfilled the Law

by Jeff Patterson

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18

Since the beginning there have always been laws. Even in the Garden God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree that was in the middle of the garden. So what does the law have to do with Christ’s advent? It is because the law is one of the reasons for which He came to earth. The Bible gives numerous purposes for the coming of Jesus to this earth. I have found at least twenty such reasons, but the first reason that Jesus gave for His coming was that He came to fulfill the Law. He expounds on this in the section of Scripture called the Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 5-7 our Lord corrects the wrong teachings of the Pharisees concerning the law. The Pharisees, who were beloved by the common man, equated their own pharisaical traditions with the Law itself. However Jesus, in correcting the people’s misunderstanding of the law, made it quite clear that He did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. It was a common belief back then that when the Messiah would come He would do away with the Old Testament Law and replace it with a new set of laws and ordinances. Jesus refutes this thinking; and in fact, He is quite emphatic that not the smallest jot or tittle, which are the smallest letters in the Hebrew alphabet, would pass away before being fulfilled. Christ’s coming does not cause the Old Testament to become obsolete, but rather the Messiah will “fill up the Law’s intent and show the goal to which it leads,” which is what it means to “fulfill.”

So why is this important for us today? A simple answer to this question is that without Jesus fulfilling the law, we would still be under the law and helplessly trying to work our way to heaven. By seeing that Jesus fulfilled the Law, we are enabled to see its relation to our lives today. For example, since Christ did not abolish the Law (in the sense that certain parts of it are cast off completely), then we can understand that even today God has a demand for atonement for sin. Now we obviously do not sacrifice animals today. Why not? It is because Jesus, who is the end of the sacrificial system, has come! Our Lord is the goal of the sacrifices, and now we obey our Father’s demand for atonement by approaching Him through the shed blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-18).

When we understand that Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the Law and the Prophets, we then are able to see the glory of Christ shining more clearly. Christ has a magnificent relation to all that was written in the Bible, which is not surprising because He is called the Word of God incarnate. All Scripture points to Christ, and He came to accomplish what the Law required. Let’s remember to praise Him this Christmas for coming to fulfill the Law on our behalf.  

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

by Steve Grieme

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Something deep within the human heart seeks peace. Few subjects are pondered more than what it will take to achieve peace. Politicians hold summits to negotiate treaties; they call for different gun laws, or various other solutions. As Christians, we proclaim the Gospel. Only through the Gospel can one find peace with God. Peace that comes because the Prince of Peace came.

In Isaiah chapter 2, there is a promise of worldwide peace when the Lord will come to Jerusalem. In Isaiah 9:6, it says the Lord will first come as a child and will be the Prince of Peace. Time and time again it is made clear there can be no peace without God. How can man expect to be at peace when he is at war with God? This explains the unrest today; as the world seeks to get along without Christ, the world will be without peace. There will not be worldwide peace until the Prince of Peace brings it.

However, for the individual living in a war-torn world there is a way of peace. This way was paved by the Prince of Peace. The prophet Isaiah also tells us the Prince of Peace was sacrificed for a humanity in constant turmoil because of her sin. Isaiah 53:5 says,

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.”

His sacrifice brought peace with God. Peace for the sinner who deserved to die was made possible by the Prince of Peace. Because he died there is a way of peace, and because he will come again, there will be worldwide peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Jesus is the True Vine

by Arthur Diener

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. John 15:1

Don’t let anyone tell you Christmas isn’t about gifts; it absolutely is! God started the whole thing by sending Jesus to earth to save us. The gift of His only Son is the best gift anyone could have given. Without that gift of God, we are nothing. John 6:44 says that no one comes to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father. Though the passage uses the word “drawn,” it really needs a better translation. “Drawn” is nice, but we should really be using the word “dragged” The Greek word translated as “drawn” is used in other places in the New Testament. Nets of fish dragged to shore, saints dragged before authorities, and a beaten Paul dragged out of a city. What we see are examples of something, or someone, being pulled under someone else’s efforts for someone else’s purposes. God’s gift to us is that He came to rescue us, then dragged us out of death into a relationship with Him, resulting in eternal life.

God not only gave us His Son, He gives us the faith we need to believe in Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We are given a way to be saved and the faith needed to be saved by grace. Before God starts dragging us, we aren’t even looking for Him as Romans 3:10-11 tells us, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’” And, the gifts don’t stop there!

When we are brought to a saving faith in Christ, we are attached to Him. John 15 describes Jesus as the Vine and God as the vinedresser. Connected to Jesus, and connected to life, we are able to produce much fruit (John 15:5)! That is not something we could do except through God’s many gifts. As branches on the Vine of the Most High, we simply have to let Him work through us. Devote yourself to God and then get out of His way! He has things He wants to do through you; don’t let fear or pride get in the way. What do we have to fear when we have the hope of eternal life ahead of us and the Holy Spirit within us? And, we were completely unable to save ourselves. We needed to be dragged by God to the foot of the cross, so there is no room for pride. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Grace of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus we can do amazing things! That is yet another incredible gift from an amazing God.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life

by Stephen Janho

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14: 6

“Go across the walkway into Macy’s and up the escalator. Go back into the mall, and it should be a few shops down on the left hand side,” directed the clerk with a peculiar look of uncertainty, “I’m not really sure, but I think that’s where it is.” Before I could say thank you, a customer in line awkwardly chimed in, “No no! I think you need to go to the other side of the mall. You are better off going out that exit to your car, driving around and then entering by the Sports store.” As I thanked everyone and turned to leave, an elderly women at the back of the store apparently sensed my apprehension. With bags strewn over her arms she stopped me as I walked by. “Sweetie, walk out of here to your left, the store is just four shops down on your right. I was just there to purchase something for my granddaughter.”

We live in an age of endless confusion over “the way to God.” Culture screams that there are many ways to God, and there is no lack of folks just like the customer in line who are shamelessly willing to offer the wrong advice with misplaced conviction. There are even trusted persons, such as the clerk, who you think would know the right way, but don’t. Then there was Grandma, the perfect example of a Christian ambassador. She had an intimate knowledge of where the store was because she had been there, and despite the opinions of others, she was willing to speak out of her experience to help me find the way. She was sweet yet confident, she was gracious yet poised. Most importantly she was holding a “Things Remembered” bag.

John 14: 6 wasn’t simply meant to be a “Christian Zinger” to all the worlds religious fallacies. Thomas asked Jesus how can we know the way? Jesus answered the question in a way that didn’t just give the answer because HE WAS the answer. The nuances in the original language of the text are clear. “I am” is to say that he is the source of direction, truth, and life. It is meant to help us see that access to God is only found in the person of Jesus. The implication is staggering. There is no other way to God than to know and be known by Jesus.

Do you know Him? The breather of the stars has called you out by name. He loved you enough to set his gaze upon you when you were hopelessly lost. He came in the flesh as ‘Emmanuel, God with us’ so that he could be the way, the truth, and the life for us. When you have encountered him and received the precious gift of faith to believe only in Him for your salvation, how then can you keep silent when those that pass you by are aimlessly wandering around looking for what they will never find on their own? If you know him, then you too should be sweet yet confident, gracious and poised, clothed in the evidence of his grace and ready to tell others of your experience with Him.    

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

by Jeff Moorehead

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." John 11:25

It doesn’t seem appropriate to talk about death during Christmas, yet the coming of Jesus Christ is a monumental statement about death that we all need to hear.

One of the first things we learn about our spiritual condition is that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins,” (Eph. 2:1) and it is clear we need a resurrection and some life.

One day during Jesus’ ministry one of His dear friends, Lazarus, died and He used this occasion to reveal a very essential aspect of His identity: He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus’ claim is astounding. He is talking about something that transcends the physical and highlights the supernatural. The resurrection and life we need as spiritually dead people is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

As the resurrection and the life, He can bring the spiritually dead to life (Eph. 2:5-6) and will raise the physically dead on the last day (John 5:21, 25-29).

Jesus’ kind of “life” is described as:

  • Full (John 10:10): He provides fullness of joy, purpose, and meaning.
  • Free (John 8:36): He sets us free from slavery to sin.
  • Forgiven (Mark 2:10): He releases us from the penalty of sin.
  • Forever (John 11:25-26): He gives us life everlasting.

Talk about some great Christmas gifts. Where else can you find these kind of lavish and generous gifts given to such undeserving people like us?

The apostle John sums up this truth best with these words: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (I John 5:11-12)

Christmas celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life!

 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

by Lloyd Cherry

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

Any shepherd who is a good manager always bears in mind one great objective. It is that his flock may flourish. The continuous well-being of his sheep is his constant preoccupation. All of his time, thought, skill, strength, and resources are directed to this end. Nothing delights the good shepherd more than to know his livestock are in excellent condition. He will stand in his pastures amongst his sheep casting a knowing eye over them, rejoicing in their contentment and fitness. A good stockman actually revels in the joy of seeing his animals flourishing.” A Shepherd Looks at The Good Shepherd and His Sheep by Phillip Keller

A bit further in developing this thought, Keller adds:

“…. Reflecting back over my own years as a sheep man, I recall clearly those happy, contented times when I literally reveled in the well-being of my sheep. Visitors would often remark how contented and flourishing my flock appeared. But only I knew how much work, effort, tireless attention, and never-ending diligence had been expended on my part for this to be possible. My sheep had literally been the recipients of my life. It had been shared with them abundantly and unstintingly. Nothing was ever held back. All that I possessed was in truth poured out unremittingly in order that we should prosper.”

These are amazing thoughts as we consider Jesus’ own testimony of himself as the good shepherd.

All the capacity of God has secured our salvation. It is kept for us. Jesus is our good shepherd. The Christian has eternal life now, and the manager who oversees our provision, protection, and health is good and perfect in every way. His love for us motivates his care over us. He never sleeps nor slumbers, and watches over us both night and day. He has promised never to leave nor to forsake us. We have been bought with a precious price – by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross at Calvary. The good shepherd has indeed laid down his life for his sheep. David boasted with great contentment, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want!” Be thankful today for such a great salvation and such a good Lord and shepherd of our lives.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

 

Jesus is the Door

by Arthur Diener

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9

Sheep have been a valuable commodity for centuries. While modern shepherds have the benefit of new tools and weapons to care for and protect their flocks, ancient shepherds relied on much more primitive means. Because sheep are relatively easy to care for and manage, and they provide valuable resources, it was not uncommon for ancient families to have their own small flock. Even in more urban areas, families would keep their flocks in a front courtyard area, oftentimes in a common pen where many families would leave their sheep with a guard overnight. The next morning, the shepherd of each flock would arrive and, after being recognized by the guard, call their flock away from the large group. The sheep would hear the call of their shepherd and follow, making the job of separating the sheep an easy task. This was a very simple process, if you were the shepherd.

Shepherding and sheep are used all throughout the Word of God to illuminate our relationship with God. Over and over, God is portrayed as our “Good Shepherd.” Psalm 23, most famously, describes God’s loving leadership as our Shepherd. Ezekiel 24 prophesies that a Shepherd will come to rescue His sheep, a prophecy fulfilled by Christ. In John chapter 10, Jesus talks about shepherding, adding to the litany of shepherding references in the Bible.

In the book of John, Jesus uses the imagery of a sheep’s pen, door, and shepherd to reveal a truth about Himself. The audience knew that the Old Testament referred to God as The Shepherd and were quite familiar with the care of sheep. Because of this familiarity, His statement carries much weight. In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus is saying that he is the way to salvation. Those in His flock have access to security and abundant blessing through the door that is Christ. Then, in verse 11 He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He is not just the only way to salvation, but He is the one who leads us there. Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah, the one who came to save us lost sheep. 

Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus came to be our shepherd, leading us to salvation through His sacrifice. In His death, our iniquity was paid for, the way to salvation prepared. Our duty is to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him.

Be encouraged not just in the security and freedom we have with Christ as The Door and our Shepherd, but in sharing the gospel of truth. John 10:3 says this, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  Those who are called by Jesus will come. We may or may not be witness to that moment, but we should always be faithful to share the gospel.