During this Advent Season, I’m reading “God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will be sharing some of the most important points from this book, points that really stood out to me. This week, I’ll be dividing the material into two posts, since it would be difficult to share all of the important points in one post.
GOD IN THE MANGER: REFLECTIONS ON ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, WEEK 1, PART 1
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor, theologian, and peace activist. He wrote without compromise about the Christian faith, as he stood against atrocities of the Nazi Regime. He was imprisoned shortly after Hitler’s cruel reign began in 1943, and was executed just weeks before the end of the war. God In the Manger was originally in German, and the version I’ve reading was translated by O. C. Dean Jr. and compiled and edited by Jana Riess.
Week 1 in this devotional focuses on the truth that Advent is A SEASON OF WAITING. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word, “adventus”, that means “arrival or appearance.” For Christians, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is a period of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ first coming as an infant, God in human flesh, also known as the Incarnation. It is also a reminder that He has promised to come again, this time as Conquering King.
In a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, as the holiday season was approaching in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
Since I have personally been in a season of waiting on God for several months for an answer to prayer, this week of devotions was encouraging to me. One quote from Day 2 especially stood out to me.
“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait… Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”
Waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers is in essence “hopefully doing without.” This was one of the most helpful quotes I’ve even read about waiting on God. God seldom moves in our timing, so waiting with hope and expectation is the key to not giving up.
In Week One, Day Three, Bonhoeffer explains that not everyone can successfully wait on the Lord. It takes a special kind of people, those who understand that they are poor and incomplete in themselves, waiting on the Holy One, the only Complete One, “God in the Child in the manger.” He is our source of strength and power to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
When Jesus came in Bethlehem, He came as the LAMB OF GOD who would take away the sins of all who placed their faith in Him. John 3:16, the best known Bible verse by most people, makes it clear that God gave His Son because of His love for those He created. All men and women, boys and girls, are offered this gift, but to receive it we must believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, will soon be coming a second time, as the LION OF JUDAH. Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions have been called the king of the beasts. When Jesus returns, He will come as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Hebrews 9:28 says this time He will be coming for “those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Does that include you?
Easter is the most important event in the Christian faith. Normally Easter Sunday sees church buildings filled, often with the largest attendance of the year, as believers gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.
The word “Easter” does not appear in the Bible, but what it commemorates is clearly Scriptural. Easter week is a time when Christians celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It begins with what we know as Palm Sunday, and event described in all four gospels.
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
John 12:12-15 has one of the accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’”
THE LAST SUPPER
The last supper that Jesus had with His disciples was His celebration with them of the Passover Feast. After partaking together of the Passover meal, Jesus initiated what we now know was the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” Matthew 26:26-29
Passover is the Jewish commemoration of God’s liberating the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, as described in Exodus 11 and 12. When Moses went to Pharaoh asking him to let the people go and Pharaoh did not agree to do so, God sent ten plagues against Egypt designed to make Pharaoh change his mind. The first nine did not change Pharaoh’s mind.
The final plague was the destruction of the firstborn of all the people and animals. The Israelites were commanded by God to take the blood of a one year old lamb without blemish and smear it on the doorposts of their houses. When God saw the blood, He would “pass over” that house.
The first Passover is described in Exodus 12:8. “They shall eat the flesh (of the Passover lamb) that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.” This was the night before the exodus from Egypt, and from the first anniversary of their deliverance from the slavery of Egypt the Jewish people have celebrated Passover in remembrance of God’s faithfulness to them.
1 Corinthians 5:7 identifies Christ as our Passover Lamb. He is the spotless Lamb of God, whose blood covers the sin of those who believe in Him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them.
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
After celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus left to go to Mount of Olives, to an area known as the Garden of Gethsemane. As was His custom, Jesus went to pray and His disciples followed him. This event is found in all four gospels, but Matthew gives the most detailed account.
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:36-44)
In this passage, we see the humanness of Jesus showing through. In His flesh, He did not want to go to the cross. But He was willing to do the will of the Father. Before He and the disciples were able to leave the garden, the story takes a major shift. It is now time to face the suffering ahead of Him. Matthew’s account closes with these words.
“Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:45-46)
Matthew closes his account with some of the saddest words of Scripture, “Then allthe disciples left him andfled.” (Matthew 26:56b)
What we know as Good Friday commemorates the day of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. On that day, the wrath of God against sin was poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, making a way for us to be forgiven and receive salvation. He became the final sacrifice for sins. The writer of the book of Hebrews summarizes it in these words, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 10:12).
Through Christ’s offering of Himself, the penalty of sin has been paid. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. It is available as a gift of grace to all who believe and receive forgiveness. And that’s why we can call this day GOOD!
In this time of “Social distancing” and “stay at home orders” due to the coronavirus, our Easter celebrations will be different this year. Most of us will not able to gather in our church buildings, but Easter will still be celebrated. Churches around the globe will be unable to meet in their buildings, but the church is more than buildings. The true church is made up of people, and as Sunday morning comes instead of being gathered in a few buildings we will be gathering in our homes.
While we may grieve that we are unable to celebrate the resurrection together this year, what will not be stripped away is the truth that we have a risen Savior. While we may not be able to gather in our church buildings, this year we will be the church scattered on digital platforms around the world.
When Sunday morning comes, I hope to be sitting beside my husband in our living room, watching the live broadcast of our church’s Easter service on my iPad. Then we will tune into a Zoom broadcast so we can spend Easter with some of our dearest friends, our small group from our church, separate for safety but together in Spirit.
No, this Easter won’t be like those in past years. But it will still be a time of celebrating our resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as we move forward into the next week of this season of social distancing and staying at home, I want to remember an important truth. If Christ conquered the grave, surely He has the power to conquer this tiny virus that has caused drastic changes in our lives for the last few weeks.
I also want to remember that neither locked doors nor overwhelming fear are an obstacle for our risen Lord. On the evening of the very first Easter, Jesus’ disciples were paralyzed by fear, hiding away in self-preservation so that the religious and government leaders who crucified Jesus wouldn’t be able to do the same thing to them. But Jesus came to them, through the locked doors and in spite of their fear.
John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Our risen Savior Jesus Christ is our source of hope and peace in a world filled with fear and anxiety, one that is groping in the darkness for peace! Let’s put our trust in the One who conquered death and rose again. And then let’s look around us where people are desperate for the peace and hope we have in Christ. We have the answer so many are looking for, and there is no better time than Easter to share it.
Jesus’ resurrection is our living hope. See this pandemic as an opportunity to move beyond the closed doors of our churches and share the Good News with those who have no where to turn for hope or peace in this pandemic. Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus and share the hope and peace we have in our resurrected Lord.
Linking up today with Five Minute Friday. Today’s writing prompt: WORLD
I woke up this morning with the following verses from Romans 8 on my mind, probably partly because I was reviewing them yesterday on my Bible Memory app. When we stand for Christ in the midst of a world that is hostile to His message, we will experience suffering.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:16-18 ESV
When Paul wrote these words, he knew from personal experience what it was to face opposition and suffering for simply sharing the message the Lord Jesus Christ had called him to share. Before coming to Christ, he had been one who persecuted followers of Christ, and now he was one of the persecuted. Sharing the good news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus does two things. It changes lives for those who believe, and it stirs up opposition from those who reject the truth.
As the Christian message in our nation becomes less and less acceptable, we need to be prepared for the fact that standing for Christ will sometimes mean ridicule, slander, and emotional pain in our lives. For some in our nation, it is now meaning loss of their businesses and even being put in prison for standing for the truths Jesus taught. But we need to learn to see that suffering in light of eternity. As Peter said in 1 Peter 4:6, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
Today, I want to encourage you to stand strong in your faith, to be a witness for Christ regardless of what it costs you. You are not of this world. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, you are now in a different kingdom… one that makes no sense to unbelievers. Opposition to the truth has been a part of the Christian life since the early church, and we live in a time where it is again becoming a fact we need to be prepared to deal with.
In a recent discussion in our iConnect Bible Study group at our church, we were reflecting on how blessed we are to be living during this time in history. Because Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, God with us, lived a perfect life, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, and was resurrected and returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven, life is entirely different for those who have placed their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.
Last week, our Thankful Thursday post was on one blessing that is ours because of the era in which we live, the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers, teaches, and guides us – and so much more. This week, I wanted to focus on another blessing we have thanks to the finished work of Jesus on the Cross and our salvation by grace through faith in our Redeemer.
This often forgotten blessing is spoken of in Matthew 2:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45, as well as referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10. And it marks the end of life under the old covenant and beginning of the new covenant of grace.
“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38 ESV
The curtain of the temple, also called the veil, was a curtain believed to be around 60 feet long and four inches thick (according to early Jewish tradition) and made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen (see Exodus 26:31). It’s purpose was to separate the part of the temple called the Most Holy Place, which held the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence – from the rest of the temple where men entered. This veil signified that man was separated by God because of sin. It marked the boundary between God’s pure holiness and the wickedness of mankind.
Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place, going through this curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Before entering, the High Priest was to bathe and put on special garments, then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family. The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. Then the High Priest was to bring two goats for the sins of the people, one of which was to be sacrifices for their sins and its blood sprinkled on the Ark. The other goat was used as a scapegoat, which symbolically carried on itself all the sins of the people and was sent out and released into the wilderness.
If anyone else entered the Most Holy Place, or even if the High Priest entered on any day other than the Day of Atonement, that person would immediately die. It yearly sprinkling of the innocent sacrifice’s blood on the bowl on gold lid of the Ark provided atonement for the sin of mankind for another year.
The size and thickness of the veil and the fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom make it clear that no human being could have accomplished this. It reminds us that in Jesus the final and full sacrifice for sin has been paid. And it also signifies the end of the Old Covenant of the Law and the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace.
Hebrews tells us that this curtain or vail was symbolic of Christ Himself, that the veil was representative of His broken flesh on the Cross.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 ESV
On this Thankful Thursday, I’m eternally grateful that there is no longer a heavy curtain separating me from the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful that Jesus, through His substitutionary death on the Cross, removed the barrier separating us from God. I’m especially thankful for His invitation to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.
“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. For 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. Let 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 ESV
I’ve been doing an in-depth study of the book of Acts, and today’s lesson was on the beginning verses of Acts 10, which focus on Cornelius. Luke, the author of Acts, describes Cornelius as “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God” (Acts 10:2), yet as the chapter continues we learn he was still a man who needed to hear and receive the good news of salvation by grace.
My Christian life began in a series of Methodist churches, so when I read the following quote by Warren Wiersbe comparing Cornelius to John Wesley it stood out to me.
“In many respects, John Wesley was like Cornelius. He was a religious man, a church member, a minister, and the son of a minister. He belonged to a ‘religious club’ at Oxford, the purpose of which was the perfecting of the Christian life. Wesley served as a foreign missionary, but even as he preached to others, he had no assurance of his own personal salvation.
“On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a small meeting in London where someone was reading aloud from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. ‘About a quarter before nine,’ Wesley wrote in his journal, ‘while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ The result was the great Wesleyan revival that not only swept many into the kingdom, but also helped transform British society through Christian social action.”
This is also a good description of my life. From the time I was a small child, I was in church most Sundays. But like John Wesley and Cornelius, while I believed in Jesus Christ, I did not trust in Him alone for salvation. My trust was in my good works. That changed when I was in my first year of teaching kindergarten, when my eyes were opened to the need to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross alone for salvation.
What about you? Are you like Cornelius at the beginning of this chapter, “a devout man (or woman) who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” (Acts 10:2 ESV) Are you a seeker or a true believer in Christ?
Salvation is by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. It is a gift of grace, based on what Jesus has already done.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
For the last couple months, I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s monthly Bible Reading Challenges to put together a weekly blog post, daily adding a brief reflection and graphic on that day’s passage. I still plan to continue doing this, but as I was reading today’s passage from the Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths and I felt compelled to go beyond my short entry for the weekly post and do a separate blog post.
Today’s Everything Beautiful passage is found in Acts 3:1-10 and tells of one of the miracles during the early years of the church. It took place at the gate of the temple that was called the BeautifulGate, probably so named because of it’s ornate decorations, but commentators are divided about the actual location of the gate. It was apparently one of the gates or doors through which the Jewish men who came to worship entered, but it’s exact identity is of little importance. The emphasis in this passage is on what happened here.
It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those who were entering the holy place.
Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. This morning, the words following the actual miracle stood out to me, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”
As I read these words, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that this was of great significance to this newly-healed lame man. So I did some research to confirm what I was sensing. If the lame man had never before been allowed to enter the temple, was this somehow a case of looking down on those who had less than perfect bodies? As a woman with a long list of chronic illnesses and disability as a result of an automobile accident and actively involved in ministry to others with chronic illness, this definitely had my attention.
Were the blind and lame restricted by God from entering the temple, forced to stay outside the temple gates because of their infirmities? Scripture does tell us (in Leviticus 21:16-23) that the blind and lame were excluded from serving as altar priests, presenting sacrifices and food offerings to God. But there are no specific verses that teach the physically disabled were to be banned from the tabernacle or temple. So we know this was not God’s plan.
Yet there are extra-biblical sources that seem to indicate this was common practice by the time of Jesus. The fact that the man was at the gate, which Peter and John were about to enter, and not inside the temple, seems to confirm this. If so, it came about either through Jewish tradition or the misreading of Scriptures such as Leviticus 21 and 2 Samuel 5:8, where David is quoted as saying on the day he was anointed as king, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the house.” But this could not refer to the temple, since it had not been built at that time, and in context doesn’t even appear to refer to the physically blind and lame.
We do know, according to Matthew 21:14 and other passages, that Jesus healed the lame and blind in the temple. This shows they were at least able to go into the court of the Gentiles, and it along with the many healings during His earthly ministry show us Jesus’ heart was to include those who were afflicted or disabled.
If the lame and otherwise afflicted were actually banned from the temple, as many believe, when the previously lame man who had been healed entered the temple with Peter and John he was probably as excited about this as he was about being able to walk. No wonder he was “walking and leaping and praising God!
Today, regardless of what was true at the time this miracle took place, we can be confident that chronic illness neither separates us from God’s presence not makes us unqualified for ministry. Jesus’ death and resurrection instituted a new way of life, a life described in Hebrews 10:19-20 as “the new and living way.”
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”
We are no longer under the law. We now live by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Romans 6:14 clearly states that we are not under the law but under grace. Why is this true? Because one of the things Jesus came to do was to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:18 ESV)
And that’s such good news that we, like the once-lame man of Acts 3, should be “walking and leaping and praising God!”
February, a month when my thoughts have been focused on love with both this True Love Bible Reading Challenge and the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book I Am Loved, is drawing to a close. But first, seven more passages to reflect upon God’s love for us and our appropriate response to that love.
Day 22 – Philippians. 2:1-11
Reflecting upon the love of God has brought encouragement, comfort and joy to our lives during this month. Today’s passage focuses on the ultimate picture of God’s love for us, as seen by Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross. God’s call to us in response is to have the same mind as Christ had, in humility loving others as He loves us.
Day 23 – Colossians 3:8-15
Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the first step in the process of our lives being transformed into the image of Christ. With the Holy Spirit within to empower us, we are then equipped for the disciplines of putting off the old self of our former manner of life, renewing our minds through the Word of God, and putting on the new self made in the image of God. We must put off (or put away) the practices that are rooted in sin, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to them. But to put off without putting on leaves a void. Replacement is a necessary part of transformation. Put off. Put on. Both are essential for us to be changed into the likeness of Christ. And the most important thing for us to put on is love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Day 24 – John 14:21-27
Loving God is closely linked with obedience to His Word. In these verses, Jesus made this truth clear to His disciples. And He also reminded them that the words they heard Him speak are not just His words, they were also the words of the Father who sent Jesus. Just as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), this passage tells us He only said what He heard the Father saying. Therefore there is no separating God’s Words – which we often think of as the Old Testament Scriptures – and the Words of Jesus which we read in the New Testament. If we truly love Jesus, our desire will be to obey all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament. But we also need to balance this truth with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness, with the fact that our obedience during our days on earth will never be perfect. As Beth Moore says, “Obedient lives are not perfect lives. Obedience does not mean sinlessness but confession and repentance when we sin.”
Day 25 – John 15:9-13
How does Jesus love us? The same way the Father has loved Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is deep, tender, sacrificial, eternal and unchanging. Jesus’ love for us is a clear reflection, a mirror image, of the Father’s love for His own perfect Son. What an amazing thought! The Father loves the Son so much that He “has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). The Father loves the Son so much that He “shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for Jesus is perfect love. And this is the same way Jesus loves us.
And the response Jesus asks of us? We are to abide in His love, having an intimate, close relationship, not just a superficial acquaintance. When we do this, two things happen. We find delight in keeping His commandments and His joy fills our lives. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we love others in the same way He has loved us, even to the point of laying down our lives for them.
Day 26 – John 15:14-21
In this next section of John 15, Jesus says to those who abide in His love, as seen by laying down their own will and walking in obedience to God’s will and ways, “You are my friends.” What is the difference between a servant and a friend? A servant doesn’t know his master’s business. He simply does what he is told. But to His friends, Jesus says, “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the ways the Father loves the Son that I listed above is by showing Jesus all He is doing. And if we are His friends, Jesus passes this information on to us.
So how do we know if we are living as a friend of Jesus? If we belong to Jesus, if we are His friends, there will be lasting spiritual fruit in our lives. And the primary fruit will be our love for one another. Plus an added benefit of this lifestyle: answered prayer.
Day 27 – 1 John 3:1-5
Sometimes I think we miss the fullness of all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Derek Prince has identified ten things from Scripture that Jesus achieved by His suffering and death on the cross. Today I’m just going to share three of those.
Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
He tasted death for us that we might share His life.
He endured rejection (because of our sins being laid upon Him) that we might have His acceptance with the Father.
When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we usually focus on Him paying the penalty for our sin that we might be forgiven. That is a major truth, one I am eternally thankful for. But I’m equally grateful that His death made the way for me to share His life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I am a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now I am one of God’s beloved children, fully accepted into the family of God. And that is good news today and for eternity.
Day 28 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Love is Who God is! God is the heart of true love. The characteristics of love are the characteristics of God. By knowing the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Son, we learn what love is all about. The characteristics of love are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us expressed to others. As this “Love Month” of February comes to an end, this is my take-away from this month’s study of LOVE. It’s what I want to remember when circumstances feel overwhelming, when I’m tempted to lose heart. God is Love, and because this is true I have hope for the future!
This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday, where we write spontaneously for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt this week is “why.”
Oh, how many times I’ve asked this question! Why, Lord, did you allow the accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me in a wheelchair?
Why, Lord, was our son David born with so many health problems? Why did You allow him to have such bad seizures as an infant that they left him with profound mental retardation and multiply health problems?
And more recently, why, Lord, did you allow David to get pneumonia during Hurricane Harvey, when getting the medication he desperately needed took days? Why did he end up in the hospital for almost a month and come home with even greater health problems than before?
Over the years, I’ve learned that these questions seldom receive an answer – other than, “trust Me.” God has taught me to stop asking why and instead come to Him in surrender, asking Him what He wants me to learn from the current circumstances.
This week, I found myself watching the news out of Florida and again asking why. But this week, different answers came. Why, Lord, did You allow this to happen? My child, I have no place in the public schools of America. You are seeing the results of this.
When I see events such as the murder of seventeen people this week by a young man who had made his desire to become the biggest mass murderer in a school known to many, even the FBI, and was ignored, I see a nation in desperate need of repentance. I hear God’s cry loud and clear to pray for our nation. I hope you will join me in this commitment.
During the Advent season, our focus as Christians is usually on the birth of Jesus Christ. But the Good News of Christmas is about more than His birth. Jesus came for a purpose, and that purpose can’t be separated from His coming. He came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can be forgiven.
But if we stop here when sharing the Gospel, we are missing the equally important second fact that is also a part of the Good News. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not still on the Cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, but His body is not still in the tomb. He arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore!
So why is it so important that we believe Jesus is the Risen Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He is who He claimed to be and that He accomplished what He came to accomplish.
Some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important:
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, as He claimed to be.
“(Jesus Christ) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:4 ESV
The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we are justified or declared righteous before God.
“It will be counted (as righteousness) to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:24-25 ESV
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that our sins have been forgiven.
“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” I Corinthians 15:16-17 NKJV
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He defeated death.
“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans 6:9 ESV
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our promise that those who know Him as Savior and Lord will also be raised from the dead.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ESV
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that we who have placed our faith in Him will one day stand in His presence.
“knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” 2 Corinthians 4:14 ESV
I am eternally grateful thank Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins through His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross. But I am also grateful that He is no longer dead. He is my RISEN LORD, and I hope He is your RISEN LORD also.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Savior as “one who saves from any form or degree of evil.” In the sense we are using Savior as a name of Jesus, it refers to the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sin available to us by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. Easton explains, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ secures to the sinner a personal interest in the work of redemption. Salvation is redemption made effectual to the individual by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The idea of a Savior isn’t unique to the New Testament. From the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin, God has spoken of Himself being our Savior. One of many verses from the Old Testament calling God our Savior is Isaiah 43:3, which begins with these word, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
Throughout the Old Testament, God delivered His people from perils when they walked in obedience to Him. But the promise of theSavior, of the One who would come to bring salvation from sin and restoration of relationship with God was still future.
From His birth, Jesus was identified as this promised Savior. When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field watching their sheep, this announcement was made.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 ESV
After His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus was recognized by the early church as the ONLY source of salvation.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV
Both Paul and Peter acknowledged Him as Savior.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 ESV
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter 1:1 ESV
While the price for our salvation has been paid, a response is required from us for Him to be our personal Savior.
“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42 ESV
I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior in 1971, when my eyes were opened to the truth that growing up in the church didn’t mean I knew Jesus as my personal Savior. If you haven’t made this decision, today can be your day of salvation. Listen to the following song, and then make wherever you are your altar of surrender to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.