For such a time as this

Esther 4:14  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Sometimes it’s amazing how things come together.  Our position in life, our finances, even our forgetfulness or laziness can all be used by God at the precise timing and for the exact purpose He has called us to. Queen Esther lived this out when she had been chosen as queen during a time of great struggle for her Jewish people. One of the king’s officials was trying to wipe out all of the Jewish population and Esther’s uncle urged her to make a plea to the king on their behalf.  In this time the king had to extend an invitation before anyone could enter into his court.  The uninvited could be punished by death unless the king extended his scepter to grant them immunity.

Esther was justifiably nervous to approach the king and face death, but her uncle reminded her that she didn’t just wind up in this high position.  It may very well be that God placed her there for the exact purpose of approaching the king to plea for the lives of the Jews.  It was no coincidence that she had been shown such great favor by the king.  Esther knew Mordecai was right and decided to make the move, knowing that she may die in the process, but confident that this is why she was there at this time in this place. The story ends well and Esther is not killed for entering the king’s court uninvited and her people are saved. What an amazing story and God orchestrated it all.

This can be the case in our own lives as we see things unfold one bit at a time to reveal a bigger plan.  It’s theses small things that are a testimony to just how much God is at work in our lives, using even the most seemingly insignificant details to bring about His purpose.  Don’t ever doubt that God is working in you and through you.  Sometimes even when He doesn’t let you know it, He’s doing something bigger than you could imagine in your life.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Who is Jesus?

John 10:14-15  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

You don’t need to know them, you just need to know Him.  Many Christians spend a lot of time on learning to discern spirits so that when the time comes they’ll know who it is that speaks to them.  The best thing we can do though, is learn to hear the voice of Jesus.

The Good Shepherd said that those who are of His flock know His voice, that all the rest are strangers and we’ll know not to listen to them.  The more time spent with Jesus, the more we’ll know His voice.  We won’t need to practice knowing other voices so as not to listen to them, we just won’t listen to them because they’re not Him.

Only one died for His flock.  Jesus laid down His life for us, the Son of God sacrificing Himself that those who belong to Him would know life.  He laid down His life on His own authority and He took it back up on His own authority.  That’s a voice worth listening to.

Consider others

Pride

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

When we’re prideful we can’t see past ourselves to meet the needs of others.  We view ourselves as the highest priority and we care very little what God wants of us or what others might be feeling.  But a humble spirit puts others first.

All around us are ads, people, groups, businesses and all other manner of communications telling us to put ourselves first and to basically forget about other people and what they want.  You’re #1.  You deserve the best.  But a follower of Christ, a person after His own heart, will not be able to do this without feeling a strong urging to do the opposite.  We’re called to put others first.

This can be taken to an extreme where the person seeking to put others before themselves actually neglects their own needs to their detriment. A balance has to be found though.  We do have things we need and we shouldn’t forget to take care of ourselves. But by considering others more significant than ourselves, we’re just reorganizing our priorities a bit. We’re more courteous, doing things like helping out where we see a need, even when it might make us late.  We’re willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of others.  We give our time.  This is humility and God honors it.

Jesus, the perfect Jonah

Who is Jesus?

Matthew 12:41  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The story of Jonah is one of redemption.  The prophet was sent to a people that God wanted to reach with His message.  Jonah’s dislike of the people caused him to initially refuse the assignment.  But as we know, he eventually did go and the people did receive God’s message of repentance through Jonah.  Despite their turning their hearts toward God, however, Jonah still refused to love these people.

Contrast this with the story of Jesus, who obediently went to the people God wanted to reach.  Unlike the Ninevites, these people rejected Jesus’ message and did not turn toward God.  And here, unlike Jonah, Jesus chose to love them anyway.  He came out of His love and He remained in His love.  Then, in the ultimate act of love, He died for those who had rejected Him.

Jesus was the perfect missionary.  He lived out a perfect life as an example and spoke with authority.  Though the people rejected Him, He fulfilled the call of Jonah, making Him the perfect Jonah.

Let another praise

Pride

Proverbs 27:2  Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips

So if pride is so destructive and humility is the way to go, how can we go about being more humble?  How can we act in a way that is pleasing to God and not so self-centered and prideful?  What does the Bible say about how to do this?

The book of Proverbs is loaded with advice on seeking wisdom and keeping away from a prideful heart.  One tip that more of us should consider in our daily lives is being more quiet about ourselves.  It’s ok to have joy about a job well done or to tell someone if you’ve achieved something.  This proverb doesn’t mean to never celebrate good work, it just means not to be the kind of person who constantly self congratulates.  Boasting is definitely prideful and should be avoided.  Leave it to other people to give you props.

But here’s the thing.  This isn’t all about actions and behaviors.  It’s not about just not doing something like boasting.  This is a heart issue.  Not being prideful doesn’t just mean don’t act prideful.  This is about having a humble heart before God.  He knows our innermost thoughts and condition, He knows when we’re showing false humility and when we’re truly humble.

So don’t brag about yourself, not just because you know not to act prideful, but because you want a soft heart that loves God and puts Him first.

 

Jesus, the perfect Moses

Who is Jesus?

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Long ago, God handed down the Law through His servant Moses.  We know the Ten Commandments but many more rules and regulations were established for God’s people – to show them how to be holy.  If one could keep all of the Law, they could be righteous.  The problem is, no one can keep all of the Law.  The Law does not have the power to enable us to do what it says.  It can guide, but its power ends there.

That’s where Jesus comes in.  He fulfills the Law because He’s perfect, but He also sets us free from the Law so that we don’t have to live under its burden.  Because He is righteous, we can be righteous through Him instead of through keeping the Law.  In Him we have forgiveness for the times we haven’t kept the Law because only one who has perfectly kept it has any right to grant that forgiveness.

His grace makes us free to obey out of love instead of obligation.  In fact, the more we understand His grace the more we want to obey.  The Law shows us sanctification, Jesus empowers us to achieve it.  He is the fulfillment of Moses’ calling – the perfect Moses.

God resists the proud, but…

Pride

James 4:6  But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

We’ve all seen the downside of pride.  The pain it can cause.  The alienation, the disappointment.  Pride can cut us off from God because the proud displace God in favor of themselves.  The proud make themselves into their own god.  This is why God resists them.  But there is hope.  There is grace.

Though God resists the proud, we find that He gives grace to the humble.  This doesn’t just mean that those who continually show humility receive grace.  God so freely gives His grace that even someone who recognizes their pride and turns to Him in humility can receive it.  He’s so willing to pour out His grace that He extends the offer to anyone that turns from their pride.

Humility is about putting God back where He belongs and ourselves back where we belong.  We’re not God and we do a good thing when we recognize that and admit it.  With God in the place of Lord and us under His authority, we’re able to receive the grace He offers.  Pride, however, won’t allow us to receive that gift.  Step aside!

 

Jesus, the perfect Adam

Who is Jesus?

Romans 5:18  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Adam, the first created man, was made to glorify God.  In everything he did from having dominion over the earth to naming every animal created, Adam was meant to be an image-bearer of God.  He was created in the image of God.

As you know, the story goes that Adam didn’t succeed at being perfect, holy, or righteous.  He, along with the first woman, Eve, introduced sin into the world.  They changed the whole story.  No longer could mankind live in harmony, in perfect communion with God.  The direct link between God and man was broken.

But Jesus also bears the image of God.  He wasn’t created, like Adam, He’s always been.  But where Adam fell short , Jesus succeeded perfectly.  Death came through Adam because he brought sin to humanity, but life came through Christ because He defeated sin and brought righteousness to humanity.

We needed one who had lived a perfect life free from sin to be our perfect sacrificial atonement for the forgiveness of our sins.  Jesus is that one, the one perfect image-bearer of God.  Because of Him, the image of God is us has been restored.  He is the fulfillment of Adam’s calling – the perfect Adam.

Pride will bring you low

Pride

Proverbs 29:23  One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

Pride is one of those things in our lives that can go undetected, unchecked, and unsuspected for a long time.  We may think we’re doing just fine by behaving the way we are, never even having so much as a hint that we’re being driven by our own pride.  Then it happens.

It’s interesting how much easier it is to see pride in someone else’s life than it is in our own.  When someone comes crashing down after they let their pride guide them in all their decisions, we have an “I saw it coming” attitude, but when it happens to us it’s always a surprise.  The old illustration of boiling a frog seems appropriate here.  If you put a frog in hot water, he’ll jump out, but if you put him in room temperature water and increase the heat little by little, you’ll boil him.  Pride creeps into our lives in this way, not all at once, but a little bit at a time.  One selfish decision leads to another and so on.

But it can’t go on forever.  Everyone who is led by their pride will eventually fall and when they do it would have been better for them to bring themselves down in humility than to face the consequences of their pride.  We have many chances along the way to check our pride and make sure we humbly put it aside.  It’s better to do it voluntarily than to be brought low without warning.  Following the example of Christ will help us in this endeavor.

Jesus, the high priest

Who is Jesus?

Hebrews 5:5  So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”

In the days of the Old Testament priests, a sacrifice was made on behalf of the people by the High Priest.  This would atone for their sins for the period of one year.  In this way the priest brought God and man together.

Jesus is the perfect High Priest because He serves as both the priest and the sacrifice.  He brings God and man together by the shedding of His own blood, not that of an animal.  The sacrifice of this perfect Lamb is once and for all, not just to atone for a limited period of time.

Jesus didn’t appoint Himself to the position of High Priest, but He’s the only one who can fill the role perfectly.  Unlike all other High Priests who had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as those of the people, Jesus can atone for our sins by offering His own life in the place of ours.  And that’s just what He did.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known