Monday, October 31, 2016


The last time I spoke to you, I talked about the first of seven “I Am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. That was about Jesus saying he was the bread of life. Today, I want to talk about the second of those sayings: I Am The Light of the World”. So, let’s look at John 8:12. (Read it)

When I was in college, the Baptist Student Union director used to take me with him when he preached at little churches in the area. He once said “I know you are used to 3 points and a poem, but I have 9 points and a duck story”. I am a lot like him. 

But today I will spare you 5 points and only give you 4 instead of 9. And instead of the duck story, I made up an illustration for you. 

Today I want to talk about: (1) the context; (2) the claim of Jesus; (3) the command of Jesus; and (4) the consequences. 

The Context

The context here is the Feast of Booths. You might know it as the Feast of Tabernacles. It called the Israelites to spend a week remembering the journey of their ancestors from Egypt to Canaan. That observance lasted for a week. It is described in Leviticus 23. 

Over the centuries the Jews added a few things to the celebration. One was a ceremony called “The Illumination of the Temple”.  At the first of the week, the priests lit large lamps in the court of the women outside the temple. They burned all night long. They lit up the whole area.  If you will, they turned darkness into light. 

This is the context for Jesus’ claim.

The Claim of Jesus

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

As we talked about last time, when Jesus says “I am” at the beginning of his claim, he echoes the words of God in Exodus 3:14. There, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush. God identified himself to Moses as “I Am Who I Am”. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the words are the same as here where Jesus says “I am”. Jesus is claiming deity. He is claiming to be God. 

Jesus also said he was the light of the world who could lead men and women out of darkness. He was saying, these lamps are nice, but they will burn out and leave you in darkness. Only I can give you light forever.

Darkness is a physical reality. You see it every night. But in the beginning, that is all there was. Look back at Genesis 1:1-2. (read it) the earth was completely dark in the beginning. God changed that. How did he do it? He spoke it into existence. (Gen. 1:3) And, this was before the creation of the sun and moon. God lit up the world. 

Who did this? Jesus did it. The same Jesus giving this sermon at the temple. John 1:3 tells us “all things were made through him and without him was not any thing made that was made”. 

But darkness is also a spiritual metaphor. It symbolizes the lack of spiritual understanding and, ultimately, the lack of eternal life. For example, Romans 1:21 says sinful people became futile sin their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

We use this metaphor today. Horror movies happen at night. Vampires come out only at night. The good folks try to survive until daybreak. Darkness is where evil resides.

Jesus said he is the light that can lead us out of darkness forever. Only Jesus has the power and authority to change us from creatures of darkness to creatures of light. We will not walk in darkness if we have the light of Jesus.

Jesus also says this light is the light of life. Jesus not only gives spiritual understanding, he gives spiritual life. Only Jesus can give us eternal life living in God’s light. 

The Command

The command of Jesus is to follow him. He said “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness”. The word for follow was originally used in the context of a soldier following his leader into battle. The soldier went wherever the leader commanded, no matter how hard or dangerous it was.

It Jesus’ time, it was also a picture of discipleship. In those days, a teacher would travel around teaching in various places. His disciples would follow him everywhere he went, hearing him, learning from him and obeying him. When Jesus called his 12 disciples, he said simply “follow me”. 

Here is the thing, though. Following means giving up everything else that might be more important to you than Jesus. Peter and Andrew left their fishing business to follow Jesus. Matthew gave up his job as tax collector. Nothing was more important to them than following Jesus. 

Why was Jesus more important to them than fishing? Because they believed he was the one who could bring salvation to his followers. When Jesus asked them if they would abandon him as others did, Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God”. (John 6:68)

Jesus issues the same command to each of us today: follow me. He calls us to believe he is the Son of God who died for our sins and to begin a life of learning about him and obeying him. 

The Consequence

Jesus made an offer of salvation conditioned on a demand for discipleship. That called for a decision. There really is no neutral gear with Jesus. You follow him or you reject him.

Way down in verse 30, it says “As he was saying these things, many believed in him”. They believed his claims, the followed his command. Believing Jesus to be the Son of God who offered them salvation, they received him and followed him. 

Sadly, the passage shows us that the Pharisees rejected Jesus. They basically called him a liar. They challenged him on legal grounds, saying he witnessed to himself and the law required two witnesses. That is a distortion of the law. Two witnesses were only required in a legal setting. 

No matter what Jesus said, they came back with arguments. The fact is, they did not believe in Jesus. They rejected him. Their arguments were just a cover for their unbelief. Since they did not believe, they waned to discredit Jesus with their arguments. We see this today as well from non-believers. Atheistic historians, philosophers and even some who call themselves theologians try to discredit and demean Jesus. 

The end result of this is that Jesus is still Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior, who will reign forever and ever. But unbelievers, like these Pharisees, will not participate in that glorious reign. They will instead remain in darkness forever; not here, but in the place of punishment we call hell. In fact, Jesus called it the “outer darkness”. There is no light of life there. 

The Illustration

Suppose that we are all in a completely dark room. It is like Carlsbad Caverns when they turn out the lights. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. I know; I tried.

Suddenly, a door opens to reveal a room next door, full of light and beauty. The door closes, but we realize a light remains. It is Jesus. He is not carrying a light; he is the light. He glows with glory.

Jesus says to us, follow me and I will give you the light of life. You will never be in darkness. He opens the door and many of us follow his light to the door and enter the beautiful room.

However, some of us doubt. We ask “how do we know he is telling the truth?” We say “what right does he have to tell us what to do or where to go”. And that group stays in the dark room.

The door to the room of light closes and it closes forever. Those who follow Jesus live with him in the room full of light forever and ever, enjoying fellowship with him and each other, marveling at the beauty of the room and praising Jesus for leading us there.

The rest stay in darkness forever, cursing the darkness, having no hope of deliverance and suffering for eternity. 

So, what will you do? Follow Jesus into light and life? Or stay in darkness forever? 

The choice is yours. 

My prayer is that you will follow Jesus and join him for eternity. 

Thanks and Godspeed. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beginning His Ministry

After Jesus’ baptism and temptation, he began his ministry. He returned from the site of his baptism to Galilee. Galilee was the northern part of Israel. He went to different towns and spoke in their synagogues. He began to develop a reputation as a great teacher. The news about him spread throughout the area. (14) He was “glorified by all”. (16)

Jesus went in the power of the Spirit. (14) Jesus was conceived by the Spirit and the Spirit descended on him at his baptism. The Spirit then worked to give him power to preach in a way that got the attention of people. He was full of the Holy Sprit according to Luke 4:1. He had the fullest measure of the Holy Spirit, who worked in Jesus powerfully.  

After developing this reputation, Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth, the town where he grew up. (16) People still knew him there. He was the precocious boy who stayed in the temple to converse with the scholars, he was the boy who grew in favor. In addition, he was now somewhat famous. Everyone loves a local boy or girl who becomes famous and then returns home. That was the case here.

On the Sabbath, then, Jesus went to the synagogue. We see here something about worship in the synagogue. There was reading of scripture as part of the service. It was a custom to have a visiting person who was respected to read. So, the ruler of the synagogue pulled out a scroll and handed it to Jesus to read. It was a scroll of the book of Isaiah. (17) That tells us the reading that day was planned to be from Isaiah. Jesus found what we know as Isaiah 61:1-2. He stood out of respect for the Word and read it. 

A little side note is that the scrolls contained no chapter and verse markings. In fact, they contained no punctuation or spacing. It was not easy to find a particular passage unless you were very familiar with the scroll (or the Holy Spirit led you to it). 

This passage is about the Messiah or Christ. It is written as if the Messiah were speaking. It told several facts about the Messiah. These are:
  1. The Spirit of the Lord would be upon him;
  2. the Lord anointed him;
  3. He was anointed to:
    1. proclaim good news to the poor;
    2. to proclaim liberty to captives;
    3. to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind;
    4. to liberate those who are oppressed; and
    5. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  

The year of the Lord’s favor refers to the Jubilee. It occurred every 50th year. You can read about it in Leviticus 25. It was a great day for the poor. Slaves were  set free, debtors were release from their debts, lost property was returned to the original owners. 

Messiah would bring a super Jubilee. 

The Jews in the congregation knew this passage. They knew Jesus was a respected teacher. Since there was also much speculation around this time as to when Messiah would come, they were very interested to hear what Jesus would say about the passage. And so, “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him”. (20) 

After reading, Jesus sat down. This was the normal posture of a teacher at the time. Sitting actually was a sign of his authority. He began to explain the passage to them, saying “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. (21) 

Jesus was anointed. He was chosen by God to be the savior and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus would preach the gospel, especially to the poor. That does not mean he favored the poor over the rich, but that he would preach it to them and not overlook them as many did. 

Jesus would liberate those who were captive to sin, he would not only restore physical sight but open spiritually blind eyes to spiritual truth and light. He was, and is, the light of the world. He would liberate those oppressed by demons. We will study several accounts of Jesus’ battles with demons.  And he would proclaim the time of God’s favor, when all who believed in Jesus would be free.

At first people marveled at his speaking. (22) Then, as they realized he claimed to actually be God’s anointed one, they began to get concerned. Then they got angry. They said “is not this Joseph’s son”? (22) In other words, how can he claim to be the Messiah when we saw him grow right here in our town. We saw him born to this poor laborer and under questionable circumstances. How dare he claim this?

Jesus replied to this by quoting a proverb (physician heal yourself) that meant, show us what you can do to prove your claim. We heard you did miracles at Capernaum, do them here if you are the Messiah. 

Jesus, of course, did not do tricks on demand. He did tell them he expected their reaction, saying no prophet is accepted in his home town. (23) Jesus had preached God’s word to them. They now were accountable to God for it. It is the same way today. The Word is preached. We are accountable for it. He has given us enough to believe. 

But then Jesus went on. He began to speak of God’s care for the Gentiles. Jews of that day had lost sight of God’s desire to bring the Gentiles into his family. They called them “Gentile dogs”. They thought God’s only dealing with them would be for them to serve the Jews in the new kingdom.

But Jesus pointed out that God had always cared about the Gentiles. He gave two examples from Scripture. First, he said there were may widows in Israel during the ministry of Elijah, but God sent Elijah to take care of a Gentile widow in Sidon. We call her the Widow of Zarepath. (26) You can read that story in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Jesus gave a second example, this time from the life of Elisha. He said there were many lepers in Israel, but God had Elisha cleanse Naaman, a Syrian general.   You can read this story in 2 Kings 5:1-24. 

The widow and the general had a trait in common besides being Gentiles. They were believers. The widow had to believe God’s promise through Elijah before she received the miraculous provision. Naaman had to believe God’s word through Elisha before he received healing. Jesus was calling those in Nazareth to believe. 

At this point, the congregation had progressed from wonder to fury. They literally ran Jesus out of town. They tried to throw him off a cliff. But Jesus was able to walk right through the crowd and away. We see several times in Jesus’ ministry where his “time had not come”. This was one. He will not be harmed until it is time for him to be arrested and killed. 

Jesus escaped death. But they remained dead in their sins. 

This is true for all who reject Jesus. When the gospel is preached, we either receive him or reject him. Those who receive him receive eternal life and are brought into God’s family. Those who reject him face eternal punishment for their sins. 

Receive him today if you have not done so. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016


The Genealogy of Jesus

Jesus, at this time, was about 30 old. (23) Luke, before recounting any stories of Jesus’ ministry, first set out Jesus’ genealogy. He established who Jesus was in human terms.

If you grew up in a church or stayed in the same community for a long time, you are familiar with this. My mother sang in the choir and sang solos in church. I was often known as Bernice’s boy. When we lived in a small town and my father was the work supervisor of many of the men there, I was known around town as Kenneth’s son.

In contrast to Matthew, who traced Jesus to Abraham, Luke traced Jesus' line all the way to Adam. I like that Jesus, the Son of God, is a descendant of Adam, whom Luke calls the son of God. They both had only God to claim as their father.

There are many people in this line we know nothing about. They lived and died and nothing that they did was recorded. Yet, each was used by God to bring the Christ. All through history, God used men and women to accomplish his plan. He uses us also, whether we are aware of it or not.

LUKE 4:1-13

Before Jesus began to teach and preach, he faced 40 days of temptation by the devil. This was God’s will and intent or plan. He was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. It was God’s will that Jesus become hungry and weak and face temptation in that state. Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will.

As Jesus set out on his ministry, right at the beginning he was tested at the point of his mission: would he stay true to his call to be the suffering servant and not give in to the easy path.

Luke specifically puts the temptation of Jesus in parallel to the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness after they left Egypt. You can read about their journey in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament. Israel often complained during the journey. They complained of lack of food and water. They complained about danger from enemies. In each instance God provided for them. But rather than ask and trust, they constantly complained.

They also rebelled against God. After several smaller rebellions, they refused to go into Canaan (the Promised Land) because the people there were tall. They did this despite the fact that God had defeated the Egyptian army to protect them.

Both Israel and Jesus were in the wilderness and both were tempted at the point of their trust for God. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, reflecting the 40 years of Israel. But Jesus prevailed where Israel failed. Jesus is the true Israel of God.

Jesus responded to each temptation by quoting the word of God. his is a good example for us. He believed God. He believed in God’s word and he stood on it. He was tempted for the whole 40 days, but did not yield. (4:2)

The first temptation regards physical need. Jesus was hungry. (4:2) He had been in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. He was likely physically weak and exhausted. Satan tempted him to turn stones into bread.

Jesus came to live as a man, subject to all of the temptations men and women face. Hebrews 4:15 calls Jesus “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”.

It was also a temptation to show who he was. The devil said “if you are the Son of God”. He wanted Jesus to show his divinity by a display of divine power. He questioned whether Jesus was the Son of God and dared him to prove it.

God had already declared Jesus to be his son. Remember, at his baptism, God said “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased”. (Luke 3:22) Satan is questioned God’s word.

This is exactly what he did to Eve in the garden. He said “did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1) Satan does not really have any new tricks. He constantly tempts us to doubt God’s word.

Why would this creation of bread from rocks be a bad thing to do? It is because Jesus came to do the Father’s will. He did not want Jesus to perform miracles for his own satisfaction. He wanted Jesus to trust him to provide for his needs. Matthew’s version of this event shows that the Father did meet Jesus’ needs, sending angels to take care of him. (Matthew 4:11)

Jesus obeyed by saying “Man shall not live by bread alone”. This is a quote of a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3. The rest of the statement is “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Certainly anyone with Old Testament knowledge would know the rest of the quote and Satan appeared to know it as well.

The context of this statement, a statement of God to Israel, was that he wanted them to obey all of his commandments and trust in him. Israel had trouble remembering this, but Jesus did not.

By answering Satan with a quote about man, Jesus refused to consider Satan’s questioning whether Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus knew he was, he believed the Father’s word and so he answered as a human being, identifying himself with us. Because he was tempted as a human being, we can trust him to help us in our temptation and trial. Hebrews 2:18 says “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”.

The second temptation is the shortcut. (4:5) Jesus came to establish his kingdom so that it would spread over the whole world. It would take his own suffering and death. It would also take the suffering and death of countless followers.

All of that could be avoided by accepting Satan’s offer of all of the kingdoms of the world. Although always subject to God’s sovereignty, mankind’s sin gave Satan power on earth. Jesus even called him “the ruler of this world”. (John 12:31)

Satan did not offer Jesus anything to which he was not entitled. He had the right to the kingdom. But, it was not to be brought about in this way, the easy way.

All Jesus had to do was worship the devil. He could have a kingdom without the cost of suffering, but not the kingdom of the Father. Additionally, he could not bring salvation to humanity if he took the devil’s way.

Jesus responded by quoting the commandment to worship only the Lord. Jesus referred to Deuteronomy 6:13. The cost of Satan’s offer was bowing to the lordship of Satan. Satan has for a long time wanted God’s power and authority. He was thrown down from heaven for this desire. Jesus, however, obeyed God by refusing to worship anyone else.

We also must worship God and accomplish God’s will God’s way. Churches are often guilty of pragmatism. Pragmatism means doing what works. That is usually measured in terms of numbers. Installing a flashy program or a rock star speaker are practices of pragmatism. But we are called to worship the Lord as the Bible prescribes, to preach the word, baptize and observe the Lord’s Supper. We make disciples this way. And it is important that we worship only the Lord God, not our success or attractiveness. It is about God’s glory, not our own.

The third temptation was for Jesus to test the Father, forcing him to protect Jesus. Satan said prove you are the Son of God by jumping off the highest point of the temple. And this time, Satan quoted scripture to Jesus. He quoted Psalm 91:11-12.

But, Satan twisted the meaning of the scripture. Those verses did not say to do dangerous things and force God to deliver you. They said, because you have put your faith in God, he will protect you and guide you.

Jesus again responded with scripture, saying “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test”. Again, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6, verse 16. The context of this verse was Israel demanding that Moses give them water and questioning whether the Lord was with them. They did not trust the Lord.

I remember watching a television preacher who was talking about God’s promises. He said you had a right to those promises and you could order God to perform them and God had to do it. I was horrified. God’s promises are statements about his character. Those who love him and trust him can count on him to do what he says he will do. We do not have a right to test God or demand of him. He is God. We are not. We trust him to do what is best.

After failing to cause Jesus to sin, the devil left him for the time being. Remember, Jesus relied on God’s word to defeat the devil. We may also. That is why the whole armor of God includes the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. (Ephesians 6:17) James 4:7 tells to resist the devil and he will flee from us. We resist him by relying on God’s word.

I would never advise combatting the devil in your own strength. Instead, meet every temptation, every trial, every suffering with the word of the Lord. Read and memorize scripture to prepare you for this.

By resisting Satan, and relying of the word of God, Jesus demonstrated his character as God’s anointed one, the Christ. He would trust the Father and do his will. He would resist shortcuts, grandstanding and personal aggrandizement. He would embrace obedience, suffering and shame for the sake of our salvation and the glory of the Father.

Not only did Jesus demonstrate that he is the true Israel, he also showed he is the second Adam. The first Adam was tempted, but in a perfect garden, not the wilderness. He was tempted by the devil, who questioned God’s word to Adam. Adam succumbed to temptation. He sinned, and he led all of humanity out of the garden and into the wilderness by his sin.

Jesus, the second Adam, was tempted in the wilderness, hungry, alone and tired after 40 days of suffering, yet resisted the devil and his questioning of God’s word. By doing so, he brought us out of the wilderness and back into paradise.

This is not an original thought of mine. The great English poet, John Milton wrote about it long ago. His first book length poem is entitled “Paradise Lost”. It is the story of Adam’s disobedience bringing death into the world. HIs second poem is “Paradise Regained”, the story of Jesus regaining what Adam lost.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When Jesus Comes Again

When Jesus Comes Again:
A short, but good, summary for your perusal.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Seeing God in Creation

Having spent a week in the Rocky Mountains, I am reminded of the glory of God’s creation. The first thing we learn about God from the Bible is that he is the Creator. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible reminds us of this all the way through, ending with Revelation 10:6, which refers to God as the “him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it…”

The creation also tells us something about the Creator. Romans 1:19-20 says “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world…” The majesty of tall mountains of stone reveal God’s eternal power. As powerful and majestic as the mountains appear, they remind us that the one who created them is more powerful and majestic. They could only be created by one who is divine.

The beauty of God’s creation tells us that God’s plan for us is beautiful, not onerous. God could have made the earth uniform and plain. Instead he made it diverse, intriguing, and beautiful. When we order our lives under his   lordship, his sovereign rule, we will see this beauty, his beauty, in our lives. We know this is true because Revelation shows us that the end of all things will be a place totally under the rule of the Lord and that place is beautiful. It is peaceful and restful.

May you see God’s glory today and experience his peace. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Blessing of the Word

After Malachi there was no prophetic voice for over 400 years. In other words, God did not speak a new word to his people during 4 centuries. As we have seen in our study of Luke, John the Baptist was the next prophet to speak for God.

Fortunately for us, God has spoken, caused his word to be written, and preserved it for us. We believe the cannon is closed; there are no new books and no new word from God. That is because Christ is the final word. "In these last days, he has spoke to us by his Son". (Hebrews 1:2)

While there is no new word, there is a final word. It is a sufficient word. It is all we need for "life and godliness". (2 Peter 1:3) And every day we may pick it up and read it to learn about God. Every day we may find his wisdom, his strength, his comfort and his salvation.

There is no silence for the followers of Jesus. We have his word, we have the Holy Spirit to guide and illuminate us and we have the love of God upon us.

Our blessings are great.

The focus of the Old Testament is God’s covenant with Israel. God dealt with his people through prophets, priests and kings. 

The focus of the New Testament is the appearance of the Messiah or Christ inaugurating his kingdom and establishing his church. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thoughts on the Trinity

"No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One.

Gregory Nazianzus

Sunday, October 09, 2016


Are You The Christ?

John’s popularity and authoritative preaching made people wonder if he was the Christ. John denied it. In fact, he said he was unworthy even to untie the straps of Messiah’s sandals. (16)

That saying does not mean the same for us as it did for them. In that day, a teacher’s disciples would do everything for him. But there was one thing they were never required to do: untie the teacher’s sandals. That was considered degrading.

Yet John said he was unworthy to do even this degrading task for Christ. John was saying, not only am I not the Christ, he is so superior to me that I am not worthy to do even the most degrading task for him.

John was humble. Yet, Jesus said of him that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist”. (Matthew 11:11) If John was the humble, we certainly should be humble.

Consider something even greater. Jesus, the most worthy of all men, did not have his disciples untie his sandals. He did more than untied their sandals. He washed their feet. It was such a menial, degrading task that Peter tried to prevent Jesus from doing it to him (John 13:1-20) Peter said “You shall never wash my feet”.

Jesus served his disciples as an example to show that we should serve each other. There should be no celebrities in the church. There should only be servants.

John also pointed out the differences between himself and Christ. First, he said Christ was mightier than he. And he was. Christ healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed storms and forgave sins.

Second,  while John baptized with water, Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. (16)

Christ would, and will, baptize all who believe in him with the Holy Spirit. Each believer would have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

But those who reject Christ face judgment. Baptizing with fire is a symbol of consuming fire. John emphasized Christ’s power to judge, saying Christ had the winnowing fork in his hand. This is the instrument used to separate wheat from chaff.

The wheat is a symbol of those who believed in Jesus and followed him. The wheat is gathered into the barn, a symbol of receiving eternal life. The chaff represents those who do not follow Christ. For example, Psalm 1:4 says “the wicked are no so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away”. In our passage, John says they are burned with unquenchable fire. In other words, hell is their final destination.

John was saying I can call you to repentance but Christ can call you to account.

Israel as a nation faced judgment at the hands of the Romans because they as a nation would not repent. This is the ultimate curse of the covenant. God said, ultimately, if Israel does not repent and turn to him, He would destroy them. Individuals faced the fires of hell because they would not repent and follow Christ.

John’s preaching brought many to repentance. But it also led him to trouble with Herod. John condemned the action of Herod in marrying his brother’s wife Hernias. So, Herod put him in jail. (18) Preaching the truth can get you into trouble.


The Baptism of Jesus

Luke does not give the baptism of Jesus as much attention as some of the gospel writers. But he tells us that Jesus was baptized and he shows it to be an event participated in by all of the persons of the Godhead. It was a Trinitarian event.

Jesus went into the water to be baptized. Afterward, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And lastly, the Father spoke from heaven and said "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased".

The heavens opened and the Spirit descended. (21) The Holy Spirit resided in heaven except when sent to earth on certain occasions. He had not yet been sent by the Father to dwell on earth. That would not happen until Jesus ascended.

The descent of the Spirit shows that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah.  Remember that Christ means anointed one. He was anointed in the sense of being chosen by the Father to be the redeemer. He was also anointed by the Spirit.

In his baptism, Jesus is declared to be the anointed one and physically anointed as well. Peter later preached that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. (Acts 10:38)

We also see a fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1, which says "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him".

Interestingly, this is a physical manifestation of the Spirit. The Spirit descended in “bodily form”. That form was like a dove. (21) John saw this and understood it to be the Spirit. Others may have seen it also.

The declaration of the Father shows that Jesus is following the Father's plan, for the Father is well pleased. It also shows that he is the Son of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 2:7: "I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, You are my Son; today I have begotten you".

Why was Jesus baptized? It was not as a sign of his repentance, as he had nothing for which he needed to repent. He did not have a sin nature. He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Rather, Jesus submitted himself to baptism to identify with sinners. Thus he began the process that would lead to the cross. There he identified with sinners in the ultimate fashion, taking our sins upon himself and dying for them on the cross.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Take It To The Lord - Isaiah 37

When Israel was threatened with destruction by the commander of the Assyrian army, King Hezekiah took the matter straight to the Lord. (Isaiah 37) He went to the temple to pray and he talked to God’s man, the prophet. 

The Lord’s first words, spoken through the prophet Isaiah, were “Do not be afraid”. He went on to tell Hezekiah how the Lord would take care of the problem and protect Jerusalem from destruction.

The enemy told Hezekiah he could not trust God because he was not sufficiently powerful to defeat the Assyrian army. But Hezekiah did trust and the Lord did defeat the Assyrians.
Many of us have, or will, face adversities to powerful for us to fight. Sometimes it seems that temptation to sin is so great we cannot possibly prevail. Illness may scare us. Politics and government seem out of control or under the control of the evil one.

There are two questions you must answer. First, does God care about me? Second, does God have the power to deliver me?

One reason we have all the stories of the Bible are to show his people he cared. God protected Noah and his family from the destruction of the world by water. You likely will not face an issue that overwhelming. God delivered Israel repeatedly. All of these stories tell us of a God who cares. And, in case you did not get the point, Peter tells us specifically, to cast our anxieties on the Lord because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

The Bible also resonates with demonstrations of God’s mighty power. He created all things. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt. He defeated the Assyrian army. Knowledge of God’s word is knowledge of God and his mighty power
I can never say “I know what you are going through” even when I sympathize with your struggles. But I can say I know God. He cares. He is powerful. You can trust him.

Sunday, October 02, 2016


John Begins His Ministry
Luke 3:1-22

Several years pass between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. Jesus was 12 in chapter 3. We know John is less than a year older than Jesus. John now begins his ministry, leading us to assume he is a grown man, maybe 30 years old.

Luke says John began his ministry in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius. Tiberius reigned beginning in 14 A.D., so these events occurred approximately in 29 A.D.

Again we see Luke giving detailed historical information. He told us Pilate was the governor of Judea, Herod the tetrarch of Galilee and the high priest hood was shared by Annas and Caiaphas. (2) Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D.

Annas was high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. The Romans deposed him, interfering in Jewish religious matters. He was still alive and influential at this time, however, and was referred to by the title at times. In America, we will address a former president as “Mr. President” in similar fashion. Caiaphas was the actual high priest at the time of John the Baptist, serving from 18-36 A.D.

(Below is a famous bronze of John by Rodin)

In this year, the word of God came to John in the wilderness. This means John acted as a prophet. It had been approximately 460 years since God had sent a prophet to speak to Israel. This increased the anticipation in Israel that something special was happening.

John had been in the wilderness, but now began to travel up and down the Jordan River preaching. (3) He preached a message of baptism for repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

This was not a baptism of profession of one’s faith in Jesus as savior. It is an act of getting ready for the appearance of Christ (Messiah), getting ready to receive him. They needed to repent. John’s baptism was a sign they had repented.

One way we know this is Paul’s encounter with the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19:1-6.  He asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They said they had not, and did not know about the Holy Spirit. They told Paul they had been baptized with John’s baptism. Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”

These disciples had repented of their sins and believed Christ was coming. When Paul explained to them that Christ had arrived, they believed and received him as savior. They received the Holy Spirit. Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus.

Luke shows us that John’s preaching is a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5 and quotes it. (4)  John’s role was to tell people to prepare the way of the Lord. He is the voice crying in the wilderness. The Jews should repent of their sins and remove all obstacles to the coming of the Lord in salvation. They would “make his paths straight” and see the “salvation of the Lord”. (3:4-6)

There is a kingdom aspect to this prophesy and its fulfillment. When a king intended to visit a place in those days, he sent a herald to the place in advance to tell of his coming The citizens would then build a nice, smooth road for him to travel on. They "made his paths straight". Isaiah's prophesy envisions an even grander project: valleys are filled, mountains and hills are made low, the crooked road made straight and the rough places made smooth." It is a project worth of the king of kings.

And the angel Gabriel told John’s father he would “make ready for the Lord a people prepared”. (1:17)

John’s preaching also fulfilled that last words of Old Testament prophecy. In Malachi 4:5, God said “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Repentance and getting right with God leads to Godly family relationships. Alarmingly, the last words tell the Jews that failure to repent will lead to utter destruction.

When John asked the question “who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”, he is referring back to God’s threat of destruction in Malachi. John followed Malachi’s warning that failure to repent will bring destruction. That is what he meant by the axe being laid at the roots of the trees.

John also anticipated their counter argument. They would say they were descendants of Abraham and so they were already members of the kingdom of God.  But John told them their racial heritage will not save them. God could make all the descendants of Abraham he wants. Similarly, you are not in Christ’s kingdom today because your parents were Christians. You must personally receive Jesus as Savior and Lord to obtain eternal life.

After rebutting the argument, he returned to the threat of judgment. He said the axe was already laid at the root of the trees. This is a metaphor that means the destruction of Israel is imminent if they do not repent. This destruction actually happened 40 years later when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

John also used the metaphor of fire for judgment, saying every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (9) Jesus would later use a similar metaphor speaking of a vine and branches.

When the people asked what should they do, they were asking what are the fruits of repentance we should bear? And John gave them a list.

First, the “haves” were to share with the “have nots”. He spoke of clothes (tunics) and food. (11) Those who had more than the essentials should share with those who did not have the essentials.

Second, he addressed the tax collectors. He told them not to collect more than they were authorized to take. (13) Tax collectors often got rich by collecting more than the Romans levied and keeping the overage. That is why Zachaeus pledged to return money he had wrongful taken after he became a follower of Jesus. (Luke 19)

Third, he told soldiers not to extort money from people with threats. Instead they were to be content with the wages they were paid. (14)

John’s authoritative preaching made people wonder if he was the Christ. John denied it. In fact, he said he was unworthy even to untie the straps of Messiah’s sandals. (16)

He pointed out the differences between himself and Christ. He said Christ was mightier than he, and, while John baptized with water, Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. (16)

Christ would, and will, baptize all who believe in him with the Holy Spirit. Each believer would have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

But those who reject Christ face judgment. Baptizing with fire is a symbol of consuming fire. John emphasized Christ’s power to judge, saying Christ had the winnowing fork in his hand. This is the instrument used to separate wheat from chaff.

The wheat is a symbol of those who believed in Jesus and followed him. The wheat is gathered into the barn, a symbol of receiving eternal life. The chaff represents those who do not follow Christ. They are burned with unquenchable fire. In other words, hell is their final destination.

Israel as a nation faced judgment at the hands of the Romans because they as a nation would not repent. This is the ultimate curse of the covenant. God said, ultimately, if Israel does not repent and turn to him, He would destroy them. Individuals faced the fires of hell because they would not repent and follow Christ.

John’s preaching brought many to repentance. But it also led him to trouble with Herod. John condemned the action of Herod in marrying his brother’s wife Hernias. So, Herod put him in jail. (18) Preaching the truth can get you into trouble.