Humility, Holiness, Happiness, and Hypocrisy

December 31, 2019 at 1:58 pm | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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The events which took place at the so-called “Last Supper” are very different from what is portrayed in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the same name. Running through the conversation and the thoughts of Jesus and His Disciples was a theme of balancing interests: humility, holiness, happiness, and hypocrisy.

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

John 13:1

There is a big debate about whether the phrase “before the feast of the Passover” means before the food was actually served, or whether this scene takes place at a separate meal. The sign that Jesus’s hour had come was the requested meeting with the gentiles as Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. “The world” appears only twice in John Chapter 13, both times in Verse 1, but in Chapters 13-17 it appears 40 times, and is used to describe what Jesus calls His people out of, and to describe where Jesus calls His people to remain and minister. Christians should be IN the world but not OF the world. Jesus loved His Disciples “unto the end” in both senses: to the uttermost degree, and to the end of His earthly life which was right at hand.

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;

John 13:2

The betrayal of Christ was a conspiracy involving both Satan’s will and Judas’s will. Judas was not a helpless puppet. He intended to do something evil, but the Holy Spirit does not want the readers of John’s Gosple to get the idea that Jesus was fooled by Judas’s act the way everyone else apparently was.

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

John 13:3

There is dramatic tension here. The emphasis of functional control has shifted from the Father to the Son, so we would expect Jesus to deal with Judas in wrath and preemptive extermination at this point. Instead, in a mind-blowing display of humility and love, He did this:

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

John 13:4

This alone is shocking. No “free” person/dinner guest would dress down like this, much less a respected and honored rabbi, and MUCH, MUCH less the Messiah.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

John 13:5

The silence from 11 of the Disciples is instructive of how worldview-shattering this act was. There are no recorded instances in Jewish or Greek literature of a master washing the feet of a servant. Even Jewish slaves didn’t typically perform this humiliating task. The practice of foot-washing in a rural environment with unpaved roads and domesticated animals walking around everywhere was considered one of the lowliest, if not THE lowliest, of all menial tasks. 11 of the 12 Disciples were shocked into silence, but one of them eventually found his voice and (characteristically for him) spoke up.

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

John 13:6

There were no punctuation marks for grammatical emphasis in the original language, but the Greek construction itself places emphasis on “thou” and “my,” as though Peter couldn’t believe anything about this – from the role reversal to the outrageous degradation to which Jesus was voluntarily exposing Himself.

Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

John 13:7

This does not really indicate that they couldn’t understand the meaning of a selfless sacrificial act of humble (even this extremely humble) service, but that they couldn’t yet grasp what this act of sacrificial abasement and service was pointing toward: the Cross. Jesus’s actions were reminiscent of some of the Old Testament prophets and their “action sermons.”

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

John 13:8

This is where some sacramentalists get themselves in trouble, thinking that foot-washing is a sacrament or even an ordinance. Jesus was speaking figuratively about what this action sermon represented. It was not a petty threat to “let Me serve you, Peter – or else!” He was talking about having “a part” with God – an inheritance of eternal life with the Father – symbolized here by an act of cleansing that would be done with His removal of sin on the Cross, appropriated by grace through faith.

Peter understood enough to know that ANYTHING that would take away His “part” with God in Jesus, was something of which He wanted no part.

Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

John 13:9-10

This is a great picture of the once-for-all cleansing of salvation and the continual “foot-washing” cleansing of confession and repentance (I John 1:9).

For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

John 13:11

This refers to Judas, and reminds us once again of the amazing grace and humility of the Lord, who would stoop to wash the feet of His own betrayer, knowing full well what was in his heart.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 13:12-14

This is the second part of the object lesson. Nothing becomes Christian service quite like genuine humility.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

John 13:15-17

We can see the pattern and the order here: Humility must come first – the willingness to sacrificially serve – but holiness must also follow. There is an understanding that Jesus first served us, but not according to our selfish plans or wishes. He served us to make us holy. Make sure your service for others is directed toward making them holy, and that it does not compromise your own holiness. Then, from humility to holiness, comes happiness.

I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

John 13:18-19

Hyporcrisy is not part of the humility/holiness/happiness pattern, but it must be guarded against, first in our on hearts, then in the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ who we love.

Pulling on the Reins

December 20, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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We know from what is recorded later on in Jeremiah Chapter 26 that Jeremiah was arrested after the sermon or series of sermons that concludes in Chapter 10. In Chapter 12, after getting the revelation from God about the plot against him, he questioned God with a discussion of a problem akin to theodicy. Jeremiah wanted to know why God was allowing this to happen to him while the wicked wre prospering. Job, Habakkuk, Asaph (Psalm 73), and others had struggled with similar ideas.

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.

Jeremiah 12:1-3

Jeremiah could ask this honestly because God did in fact know his heart. If anybody had insight into God’s interest in the hearts of His people, it was Jeremiah. His error – partly – was that he knew God had tried the reins of the wicked and found their hearts to be wicked, and that He had tried Jeremiah’s reins and found his heart to be devoted. However, once reins are “tried,” that is when they can be trusted and used.

Jeremiah was praying about HOW he could get out of this instead of about WHAT he could get out of this.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:5

Jeremiah had shown himself true and passed the test, but the tests were also training for greater challenges to come. We never reach a plateau in our Christian lives. We are always called to higher service and greater levels of faithfulness.

Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.

Jermiah 12:10-11

God did not want Jeremiah to do what the people had done: get a blessing from God, take advantage of it selfishly, start believing it was an entitlement, fail to treat it as an investment-in-trust, use it up, then, having fooled themselves into thinking the goodness of it was self-generated or deserved, turn inward to find a replacement which would only point them back outward to anything but the real God.

Jeremiah (and God) Contra Mundum

December 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.

Jeremiah 11:11

Notice that the Lord did not say that He would only allow evil to come upon them; He said He would BRING it. The point had come where He would not even relent and hear their prayers.

Then the Lord also revealed the second conspiracy: a specific conspiracy hatched by the men of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home town, to kill him and to stop him from trying to interfere in their pagan idol-worshp, and from making it look like the priests of Anathoth were unpatriotic and on-board with this doom and gloom prophesying about the fall of Judah.

And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings. But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

Jeremiah 11:18-19

This revelation must have devastated Jeremiah, but he knew, even though the whole land was against him – even his kinsmen in his home town – that he was not “Jeremiah contra mundum.” It was really Jeremiah AND GOD against the world. When God is with you, you can defeat any enemy, overcome any circumstance, escape from any trap, get the victory over any sin, conquer any depression, bring forth joy and beauty and praise from any calamity.

But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.

Jeremiah 11:20

Pottery and Prayer Time

December 12, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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A potter would not be questioned for casting out marred clay. God should not be questioned for casting out unrepentant, unregenerate sinners, although, by His wonderful, matchless grace, and as a unique, omnipotent “Potter,” He is also free to “re-create” the clay – to make it something new. Either way, He is not unjust. Useless clay doesn’t “deserve” to be made useful.

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

Jeremiah 18:6-7

Jeremiah had repented of questioning God’s goodness, and was now fully back on board with God’s program, as God, through him, reminded the people for the umpteenth time that they had brought this on themselves.

Jeremiah began to pray imprecatory prayers in response to the plots and schemes of the nation’s leaders against him.

Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.

Jeremiah 18:18

They twisted his words in similar ways to what the Pharisees would try to do to Jesus centuries later.

Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them. Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.

Jeremiah 18:19-21

This is not a New Testament Christian prayer formula, but it was a God-pleasing prayer for an Old Testament prophet who was putting his own life on the line for people who refused to be helped, who wanted to shoot the messenger, and who hated God. We tend to express (or at least feel) angry and vengeful thoughts about people who get on our nerves, inconvenience us, or hurt us, while giving a pass to so much of the great evil going on in our world. Really, it ought to be the opposite. We ought to be indignant about the attacks on God, and to be longsuffering and forgiving about the personal attacks on us.

Was God Unfair to Moses?

December 9, 2019 at 11:43 am | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. He led them in the wilderness for 40 years. They were almost always whining, complaining, disobeying, griping, grumbling, and disobeying. They were ungrateful to God and Moses, even though they had been delivered, rescued, and given food, water, and safety so many times. Meanwhile, Moses, who they frequently wanted to stab in the back, even when he pleaded with God not to destroy them, made one little mistake, and God punished him by not letting him enter the promised land, and even showed him the promised land from the top of a mountain, so he could see what he missed out on right before he died! I have a hard time understanding the unfairness of this. Was Moses’s relatively small error really bad enough to justify what God did?

Answer: There are several issues to address here. First, let’s look at the incident to which you’re referring.

Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Numbers 20:1-12

On a previous occasion, when the people panicked about not having water, God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his special rod. Moses did so, and water came out. On this occasion, God gave Moses a different instruction: TAKE the rod, but SPEAK to the rock. Moses, no doubt frustrated and angry at the people because of their attitude and their accusations and their lack of trust in God despite all that He had done, and was doing, for them, “smote” (struck or hit) the rock, not once, but twice. Water came out, but God was not pleased. Because of Moses’s lack of belief in the necessity of following God’s orders precisely, and because of his failure to “sanctify” God (proclaim His holiness) in front of all the people, God decreed that Moses would not live to lead the people all the way across the Jordan River and into the promised land of Canaan when it was finally time for them to go.

Many Bible scholars have struggled with this incident, and with the temptation to see an overreaction on the part of God. God’s decision can be explained a number of ways. I’ll set forth just a few of them, without pretending to be an expert on the matter, of course, or even to have any great insight:

1. Moses’s disobedience was done in the presence of all the people, giving them a false idea of God’s holiness and the importance of obeying Him completely.

2. Moses made it seem to the people like he and Aaron were the ones doing the miracle (“must WE fetch you water out of the rock?”), rather than giving the glory to God. God will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8).

3. The New Testament would later reveal that the rocks that gave water during the wilderness wandering were symbols of Christ, Who would ultimately be and give “the Living Water” (I Corinthians 10:4; John 7:37-38, 4:13-14). Moses had already struck a rock once (Exodus 17:6). Now he struck a rock twice, as though Christ would need to be crucified twice (which is inaccurate and misrepresentative of the Gospel).

4. Moses’s disobedience was blatant and direct. God said to speak, but Moses struck. While we are prone to excuse Moses, and to recognize his anger as something we often see in ourselves when confronted with ingratitude and whining, God, Who saw Moses’s heart and ulterior mindset, saw it as “unbelief” – something perhaps more calculated than provoked.

I will admit that, even with all this reasoning factored in, our inner sense of “fairness” may still not be satisfied. However, it helps to remember that Moses was not the only one who did not ultimately make it to the promised land. All of his generation, save Joshua and Caleb, perished in the wilderness, although their descendants finally did cross over into Canaan.

Also, I doubt that God allowing Moses to see the promised land, but not enter it, was intended as a taunt. I imagine that Moses was thankful to even see his goal with his eyes before God called him to an even better home in Heaven. The Bible portrays this as more of a consolation than an additional punishment (Deuteronomy 34). In context, it seems like a blessing that Moses, while still in good health and spirits, got to finally lay down the burden of shepherding such a rebellious people, who, no doubt, would have continued to be more than a handful even in Canaan. And, as a side note, we DO get to see Moses with his feet finally standing in the promised land in the New Testament, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3).

Finally, while those explanations may not help our finite minds to understand exactly why Moses’s punishment seems so disproportionate to his crime, my brain always sends up a big red flag when I see the term “unfair” connected to God. Every breath that Moses took – and that every one of us takes – is an undeserved gift from God. We owe our very existence to him, and, from the moment of our conception, our whole experience is one of overflowing grace whether we recognize it or appreciate it, or not. Remember, Moses was a human being. A sinful and fallen human being just like me and you. The last thing we want from God is “fairness,” because, as the only image-bearing rebels and traitors in the universe, what we really “deserve” from God is eternal punishment and conscious torment. It is unwise to think our sin is “not as bad” as someone else’s (II Corinthians 10:12-13) or try to evaluate how, or in what measure, God should distribute His glorious grace and mercy (Romans 9:20-23; Job 38; Matthew 20:1-16).

A Good Story about a Bad Man

December 5, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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While Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15, is one of the easier parables to understand in terms of spiritual truth, the parable which begins Luke 16 is one of the more difficult.

And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

Luke 16:1-3

The attitude of the dishonest steward is the attitude of a thief: “What’s yours is mine, and I’ll take it.” Compare that attitude with the attitude of a selfish person: “What’s mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.” These both stand in contrast with the attitude of a faithful and wise steward: “What’s mine is God’s, and I’ll share it.”

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

What is our greatest treasure? It’s Christ and His Gospel. Treasure, according to the Bible, is to be protected and invested.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

I Thessalonians 2:4

If we think of life as a sporting contest, Christians are supposed to be the “players,” not the “scorekeepers.”

I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.

Luke 16:4-7

The point of this parable is not to justify the steward’s actions as righteous or moral or ethical. What he did was clearly dishonest and deceitful, despite the pragmatic result that he probably DID collect more of his boss’s debts with that method. From a worldly, common sense perspective, it was the “smart” thing to do.

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Luke 16:8-9

Jesus was not encouraging fraud, dishonesty, or mismanagement. He was making an argument from the lesser to the greater. We can learn from both good AND bad examples. From this story of an unfaithful steward, we can learn to:
1. Take advantage of our opportunities
2. See money or material wealth as a tool
3. Make friends by reaching out to others

At the same time we can learn NOT to:
1. Waste our opportunities
2. Worship money or material wealth (Make money serve you; don’t serve it.)
3. Forget to be faithful to God and the opportunities we already have

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Luke 16:10

Luke 16:10 is the first verse that my first daughter ever memorized. It is a good principle for children.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

December 3, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus continued teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

John 7:37

This may have been the eighth day of the feast, but most likely it was the seventh day when the lampstand was lit and the water offering was poured out.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 7:38-39

He continued using water to illustrate the eternal life that He grants, and now He associated the Living Water that only needs to be drunk once and then becomes an everlasting well in the drinker with the Holy Spirit Who would indwell believers after Jesus’s Ascension.

The response to this teaching was great speculation, conjecture, controversy, and confusion about Who exactly this Jesus was. Was He the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18:15, or was He the Messiah, the heir of David?

So there was a division among the people because of him.

John 7:43

This was very common throughout Jesus’s earthly ministry, not only in John’s Gospel, but in the synoptic Gospels, too. Jesus came to divide between the true and the false, the real and the fake, light and darkness, the devil’s kingdom and His Father’s Kingdom. Here, it provoked a decision to arrest Jesus.

Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?

John 7:45

These Levitical police officers were not Roman centurions. They were unaccustomed to using force in public, especially when the alleged perpertator could actually be the Messiah, or at least a bona fide prophet from God.

The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

John 7:46

Of course, Jesus was no “mere man.”

Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

John 7:47-49

The common people were looked down upon by the Pharisees for their lack of religious training or knowledge.

Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

John 7:50-51

Nicodemus was at least in favor of searching the Scriptures to gauge the truth of what Jesus was teaching. As Christians today, we have access to a fuller revelation of God in our Scriptures than Nicodemus did in his, and we must be even more scrupulous in applying them.


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