Category Archives: Jesus

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Luke 21:29-33   And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Signs.  We’re all looking for signs.  The same was true in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees, the Saducees, the disciples, the crowds, all looking for signs and wonders.  They wanted signs that Jesus was really the Messiah, we want signs that He’s really there.  They wanted to see miracles, we pray for riches and fortunes.

But Jesus was hesitant to gives signs to the people, even His own disciples.  Even the famed “wars and rumors of wars” warning wasn’t so much of a sign as it was Jesus making a point that they weren’t signs of the end.  This, He said, was only the beginning. He was telling them that they should always be ready for His return, at all times.

Mark 13: 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

There are some actual signs that Jesus tells of (Mark 13:24-27 for example), but He encourages His followers to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  “As soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near”(Mark 13:28).  He tells them, and us, to interpret the signs appropriately.  Do not look at the fact that this world is passing away and despair over it.  It’s a sign that the Son is returning.  Don’t lose hope because these things are happening, because they need to happen.  It’s all the more reason TO have hope!

Worthy to be praised

Psalm 145:3  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Nobody’s perfect, right?  Nobody is truly worthy of being praised.  Well, not exactly.  There is only one who is worthy of all honor we could possibly ever give Him and then infinitely more.  The God of the universe, our Father, is worthy to be praised.

It’s not all about what He does for us – for that we give Him thanks.  No, what we praise Him for is simply who He is.  Just His character alone makes Him worthy of worship.  So who is He?

He’s the beginning of all things, the eternal Creator, the sovereign and omniscient Lord who calls, commissions, protects, and provides.  He’s omnipotent and omnipresent, the first among equals in the Trinity, knowable and yet unknowable, a place to find refuge and comfort.

He’s our portion, our treasure, our Father who adopts us into His family, so good and great and just that He disciplines us for our own sake.  He makes no mistakes, shapes all things and brings all things to completion.  He’s a holy judge who is patient and rules out of love.  He is awesome.  And He is worthy of all praise and honor and glory – forever and ever.

Only He satisfies

Psalm 90:14  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Where do you find pleasure?  There are so many places in this world to look for fulfillment, but only one satisfies.  The things of this world are vain, fleeting, finite, and altogether incapable of filling the void in our lives.  They are limited and we’re just left wanting more, which leads us to continually search for that “one thing”.

The Psalmist knew the key to true joy that satisfies.  The Lord’s love endures forever, it doesn’t fade, it doesn’t rust or wear out, it won’t leave us.  We can be glad all our days if the place we look for fulfillment is in the Lord.  In fact, this joy does not have to be sought.  It’s a byproduct of seeking God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).

When we prioritize God first, He adds to us blessings beyond what we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and the things this world has to offer seem like nothing in comparison.

 

New Law or Gospel Freedom?

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.  Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28).  Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more.  And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.

 

That you may know

1 John 5:13-21   I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

What do you believe?  Where do you put your trust?  You may say that you believe Jesus has the power of eternal life, but if you don’t act as though He does, you’re not really believing.  John didn’t write his first letter to non-believers so that they would see the truth about Jesus.  He wrote it to Christians, so that they would actually believe what they say they believe.

It’s one thing to have the belief that Jesus died for your sins, one thing to go to church and fellowship with other Christians.  But it takes more to actually live it out.  If you know, without a doubt, that Jesus saves, then don’t ever worry about whether you’re forgiven.  If you know it to be true, don’t act timidly when He calls you to do something.  If you know He has all things in His hands, act like it.

John made this point by bringing prayer into the discussion.  True belief brings confidence and boldness.  Are you praying with confidence that God can answer you?  With boldness that He will hear you and give you your requests?  Pray in His name, according to His will, and He is able to provide all things.  There’s nothing He can’t do.  Do you believe it?

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

1 John 5:6-12  This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Are you ever afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone?  Are you ever timid to tell what you’ve seen and heard concerning the Son of God?  Don’t feel too bad, you’re not alone.  But we’re all called to share the Good News.  It’s our job to proclaim it to all the world.  But there’s more good news, the results don’t all rest on us.

The thing about being fearful when it comes to witnessing is that most of the work is actually done by the Holy Spirit, not by us.  There’s no reason to be shy about sharing when we realize that we’re just a vessel used by God to reach other people with His message.  He works in the heart of the person who hears the gospel and He works in you and me when we’re telling them.  The Spirit testifies and He does it in the hearer and through the teller.  Does that make you feel more at ease?

When you submitted your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit made His home inside you and you are a walking, talking testimony for Jesus.  The Spirit declares the Good News.  We just need to be available to make it happen.  There’s no need to be afraid.  It’s not all up to us how things turn out.  It’s just our job to speak up and let the world know that Jesus is the hope for all mankind.

Overcoming the World

1 John 5:1-5   Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world.  And what is it that comes from faith?  Good works.  A natural response to faith is obedience.  When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do.  If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.

This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world.  Are you overcoming the world?  Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world?  What does it even mean to overcome the world?  Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?

Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives.  We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim.  Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.

But we’ve been equipped.  We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do.  That’s what obedience is.  It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal.  Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do.  And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do.  Then the next.  Obedience is a lot like walking.  It’s one foot in front of the other.

Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle.  The odds are in your favor.  You can’t lose.

The Word of Life

1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

The natural response to the joy we receive in Christ is to share it.  How could we, knowing that we have experienced new life in the Son of God, keep that to ourselves?  We should be overflowing with joy, ready to burst if we don’t share it.

John was among the apostles who walked with Jesus while He was here on this earth.  He writes in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor that he wants them to share in the fellowship he and others have with God through Christ.  He proclaims all he witnessed with his own eyes, all he heard with his own ears, so that the joy of others might be made full.  He’s not willing to keep it all to himself.  What he was sharing was life.

Jesus is the Word of life and He made Himself known to mankind.  John was there when Jesus was present in the flesh, God incarnate sharing life with other people.  John knew that real life is in Jesus and in this he found his joy.  He also knew that his joy would be made all the more complete if he told others about the Word.  Notice his motive explained in verse 4, that “our” joy may be made complete.

Jesus is life.  If you’ve experience new life in Him, share it with everyone around you, so that they will have joy AND so that your joy would be made more complete.  If you haven’t experienced the life-giver, why not seek Him out?  Find out what this life is that others are talking about.  Ask God to reveal Jesus to you and make Him real to you.  He will.

Awe: God in the flesh

Colossians 1:15-20  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Can I be honest with you all? Sometimes I forget what it’s all about. I have this habit of making my life about me and when I do that I get things all twisted. It’s no wonder I sometimes lose my awe for God. I’m focused on myself.

The thing about this world and this life is it’s all about Jesus. If you want to have joy, look to Jesus. If you want peace, look to Jesus. If you’re looking for healing, look to Jesus. If you want to know God – look to Jesus. He’s the image of the invisible God. Everything God the Father wanted us to know of himself, He revealed in the Son (Hebrews 1:2-3).

With everything going on in this busy world, it’s far too easy to get lost in the wrong stuff and forget what really matters. All things were created through Christ, for Christ. It doesn’t matter what people think of you, it doesn’t matter what you have or where you live. What matters is Him.

Take some time and reflect on who Jesus is – God in the flesh. Just think about the fact that the Creator of the universe came down into humankind and revealed himself. You will be in awe.

Awe: What God has done

Psalm 103:1-5  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Even if God had never done a single thing for you, He’d be worthy of your praise. Just His characteristics alone are something that brings us to a place of awe. But He has done so much for you and for me that we can’t neglect to think about those things and stand in wonder.

Maybe you’re racking your brain, thinking, “What has God done for me?” If you have to ask, it’s a good indication that you’ve lost your awe for Him. Think back into the past, look at where you are in the present. Is your heart beating? Are your lungs breathing in air? That, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. There’s so much more though.

His love for you knows no bounds. The Creator of all things provided a plan for your redemption, rescue from your ultimate demise, and a way to adoption into His very own family. He sacrificed the greatest treasure in all of heaven, His own Son, for your sake, that you might be in a right relationship with Him. Think on that. Mediate on that. How do you feel about it?

When we lose our awe for the Lord’s greatness, it’s worth looking back and taking stock of all the things He’s done, not the least of which is the provision of salvation for our souls. He refreshes, comforts, guides, loves, and shows limitless grace. How can we not be amazed when our eyes are open to such things?

If you’ve lost your awe, pray. Admit to Him that you need to regain that sense of awe and ask Him to reveal himself. That’s a prayer that never goes unanswered. Search the Scriptures. Look at all He’s done for all of humanity. He is truly awesome.

What are some things you can share from your own life experience that have you in awe of God?