A Worker, a Worshiper, a Wrongdoer, and a Witness

January 10, 2020 at 10:48 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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At the end of John Chapter 11 the Sanhedrin had issued an APB for Jesus. They wanted to put Him to death, but if they could get it done before the Passover, they believed that a great crisis could be averted and they could return to the status quo: hireling business as usual. Six days before the Passover, Jesus was celebrating the resurrection of His friend Lazarus with the rest of Lazarus’s family, his sisters, Mary and Martha.

There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

John 12:2-4

Here are three key people at this supper: Martha, who was characteristically busy; Mary, who – also characteristically – was in a position of shameless worship; and Judas, who is mentioned – again characteristically – with an editorial comment about his treachery. These are Judas’s first recorded words in Scripture:

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

John 12:5

This puts a figure on the description of “very costly” in Verse 3. One hundred “pence” (denarii in the Greek) was a year’s wages for a typical hired worker! It’s hard to miss the idea that Judas was very interested in money. His first recorded words are mentioned above. His last recorded words were:

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

So, at the supper in John 12, we see a worker (Martha), a worshiper (Mary), a wrongdoer (Judas), and a witness (Lazarus):

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

John 12:9

We sometimes admonish people who beg off when it comes to vocal evangelism, chiding them that the witnessing method known as “lifestyle evangelism” is not enough, but here it does appear as if Lazarus was more of a “lifestyle” witness… as opposed to a “deathstyle” witness which he had been the day before! As Christians, we are called to witness verbally (primarily) and nonverbally (secondarily), but Lazarus can be excused for not being more vocal since Jesus Himself was there in person!

Ruling out Judas, the wrongdoer, and looking at the other three highlighted characters, which one are you? Are you a worker: somebody who stays busy doing practical and needful tasks for the sake of Christ and His people? Are you a worshiper: someone who expresses your love for Jesus openly, and longs to have a sense of being in His presence? Are you a witness: somebody whose words and actions show that Jesus brought you out of spiritual death into spiritual life? Hopefully, we would be a combination of all three.

The purpose of this supper was to celebrate Lazarus’s resurrection, but:

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

John 12:10-13

This was very unusual, and was the first time Jesus had allowed a public ceremony or proclamation about His mission, purpose, and true identity. He did it in order to fulfill prophecy. “Hosanna” meant “save now.”

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118:22-26

Jesus allowed everyone – His followers, the patriotic and excited bystanders, the Jewish religious leaders, and even the Romans – to believe that He was on the verge of being crowned King and challenging Roman authority in Jerusalem, because this would bring about His sacrifice as the Passover Lamb at the perfect time.

And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

John 12:14-15 (“As it is written” refers to Zechariah 9:9.)

Finality, Forgiveness, Faithfulness, and Forgetfulness

January 2, 2020 at 11:36 am | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

Luke 16:20

The account of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, is often described as a parable, although it is entirely possible – and even likely, given the details – that it is a true story.

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

Luke 16:21

These were two very diffent people: one on top of the world, and one at the bottom.

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

Luke 16:22

Lazarus, upon his death, went to be in the joyful presence of the Lord.

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Luke 16:23

The rich man was not yet in the lake of fire, but was still in a terrible hopeless place reserved for those who die without trusting Christ.

And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Luke 16:24

This shows the reality of eternal conscious torment.

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Luke 16:25

Hell is a place of remembering.

And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Luke 16:26

This is no purgatory. Once a person is sent to hell, there is no escape.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:27-31

The fact that the physical resurrection from the dead of a fellow human being will not convince those who have rejected the Biblical truth about Jesus would be demonstrated when another Lazaurus was in fact raised from the dead.

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

John 12:9-11

There seems to be a lot of yelling going on in Luke 17 (vv. 1, 13, 15, 21), but this is the point when Jesus began teaching the Disciples privately, rather than the multitudes openly, and He stressed the importance of communicating His message accurately.

Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Luke 17:1-2

Forgiving those who who have offended us can be difficult, but we need to remember to be like Jesus.

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Luke 17:3-4

Gullibility is not the goal, but restoration is.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Luke 17:7-10

We do not impress God with works. That is one reason that faith is so important in our relationship with God. Even if we did everything “right,” we would still be unprofitable because we would not be adding anything TO God. We would not be making Him better. This does not mean that we should not attempt anything great for God. It means to, by faith, attempt all sorts of great things in the name of God and have faith that He will accomplish them Himself.

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

Luke 17:11-14

By law the lepers were required to present themselves to the priests. Their acting upon faith is when Jesus chose to heal them.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Luke 17:15-19

Do not forget to be thankful. Do not forget to glorify God.

From Dark Death to Living Light

October 10, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus, having learned of a contingent of gentiles who wanted an audience with Him as He made His way to Jerusalem with His followers and those waving palm branches, began to explain that His death would be the necessary fulfillment of all that He came to do.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

John 12:24

A kernel of wheat – a seed – must be buried away, in the dark, alone, in order to fulfill its purpose, and in its “death” it brings forth not only new life, but “much fruit.” This is a key New Testament theme, present in the Old Testament, but now revealed in a greater light. In order to bring forth fruit to the glory of God, followers of Jesus must die to self, both at the moment of salvation, and in ongoing service throughout our lives.

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

John 12:25

It’s not that we hate life itself; it’s that we hate the life that our flesh considers “ours.” We receive a new kind of life – eternal life, “God life” – that is directed unto the service and glorification of God, and the service of others, not self-service. This way, people will recognize God’s greatness and goodness in deeds that He inspires and empowers us to do. This hearkens all the way back to John 3.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:19-21, emphasis added

It also foreshadows Ephesians 2’s great statement spelling out the distinction between working BECAUSE OF salvation, rather than working FOR salvation.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

John 12:27

This sounds similar to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.”

Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

John 12:28 (emphasis added)

“Father, glorify Thy name.” This should be our prayer in even our most extreme trials.

God had already gloried His own name through Christ, primarily through His miracles, and, secondarily, through Christ’s perfect obedience and consistent attribution of His own actions and words as being the same as God’s actions and words. “I will glorify it again” points directly to the Cross.

The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

John 12:29-30

The people did not have ears to hear God’s voice. It sounded like thunder, reminiscent of God’s revelation at Mt. Sinai:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

Exodus 20:18-19

This was also a fulfillment of several prophecies throughout Isaiah about God increasing the inability of people who would reject His servant to hear or understand His Words and His teachings, which prompted the Holy Spirit to cause John to close out Chapter 12 with a theological treatise on the cause of the people’s unbelieving response to three-plus years of Jesus’s hands-on in-person ministry, miracles, and manifestation among them:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

John 12:37, emphasis added

Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

John 12:44, emphasis added

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

John 12:46, emphasis added

Loving to Serve and Serving to Love

February 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Luke 10:38-40

Both Martha and Mary were doing something good, but one was doing something better and one got bitter. The attitude of Mary of Bethany when it came to worship was focused on Jesus’s feet.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:32

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

John 12:3

On all three occasions there was a smell associated with her worship: food, death, and perfume. This reminds us that our worship is described as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Are you more like Martha or more like Mary? Are you more of a worshiper or a worker? Working is very important. Christians ought to be the hardest-working people around, but that does not always equate to the “busiest” people around. Do you have a personal, private prayer time? Do you have a personal, private devotion time? Don’t get these backward: you don’t serve Christ so you can be a good worshiper; you worship so you can be a good server.

In Christianity our activity does not determine our identity. Our identity determines our activity. Why does it work that way? Because worship produces love, and love is the right motive for service. As a parent it is part of your job to play with your children, but hopefully you don’t just play with them because it’s part of your job. Hopefully you enjoy it, too. What are your children’s favorite snacks? Do you give them snacks merely because it’s your job to feed them? Or do you enjoy providing them with the snacks that will make them happy? When your children are sick do you take care of them because it’s your job, or do you actually enjoy caring for the children you love and trying to ease their suffering? When you serve someone you love, it can be difficult, but it is also a treat. When you worship God more, you will love Him more.

The Trap of Loving Life

May 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 4 Comments
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Double-minded, unstable people foolishly and sinfully cross boundaries and live in lawless rebellion. They also don’t know when to be serious. Samson’s name meant “Sunny” or “Son of the Sun,” which would have been fitting given his calling by God, and the dark days in which he lived. Samson was supposed to be a light, and it was a serious responsibility.

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Judges 13:5

Instead of being serious, though, Samson was often more of a joker. Although he did harass the Philistines and act as a thorn in their side for 20 years, and, although his mission was only to “begin” the deliverance of the Jewish people from the Philistines, he spent most of his time getting into – and getting out of – trouble of his own making. Samson (until right at the end) appears to have placed more value on his earthly life than on his opportunities for making an eternal impact. He devoted an inordinate amount of his energy to making jokes, playing games, chasing women, and having fun.

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

Titus 2:6-7

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Titus 2:11-12

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Psalm 2:10-11

When my oldest daughter was very small her favorite book was called The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Because I had to read it to her over and over so many times I eventually memorized it. The line from the book that always comes to mind when I study the account of Samson is, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSIttDE-THA5BuGx9rcfsDsEt3hmQAxnBjdRqPA6_MMz0ZZxfhphg

Samson loved living, but he seemed to lack a sense of how to rein in his impulse for fun. When you study his life, it seems like he never did anything just ordinary. Everything he did was either a tremendous miracle or complete foolishness. Do you know someone like this in your church? Oh, like Samson, he can testify that the Spirit of the Lord did something great in his life, and at times he seems like the most spiritual person in the world. He’s up in front of the whole congregation, celebrating, laughing, dancing, slapping backs, shaking hands, and kissing babies – for about two weeks. Then his whole life is suddenly in shambles. He splits up with his wife, or he’s struggling with addiction. Somebody looked at him crossways in church, and he went from total victory to total defeat. It’s just that we see it on a grander scale in the life of Samson.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope you have a great time in church – and when you’re not at church. I hope there’s a sincere smile on your face and a bounce in your step. But I also hope that when it’s time to be serious – when it’s time to dig in and do the work of the Lord that isn’t always done right up in front of everyone else – that you’ll be sober and steadfast and even (oh no, get ready to call me a legalist or a Pharisee) serious.

Samson loved life, which sounds positive, but we have to be careful not to love life itself as a substitute for the Giver of Life.

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

John 12:25

Light Is Stronger than Darkness

December 16, 2011 at 11:38 am | Posted in Biblical Light, II Corinthians, John | 8 Comments
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When we find ourselves in darkness, and that darkness is scary, inconvenient, depressing, frustrating, or confusing, our minds turn immediately to a simple solution: Turn on the light.
The world in which we live, spiritually speaking, is often dark, disturbing, and dismaying. Therefore, it is crucial that we have a dependable source of light. Jesus says:

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

John 12:46

It is difficult to make a room totally dark. Even with the lights all turned off and the windows covered, one little ray of light shining from under a door will soon begin to illuminate the darkness. A tiny spark will, if only briefly, totally defeat the darkest dungeon. The same is true with Christ. His light is stronger than all the powers of darkness.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 4:6

Light Measures Time

November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Biblical Light, Jeremiah, John, Salvation | 2 Comments
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We live in a day and age of clocks. From our wristwatches to our cell phones to our bedside wake-up alarms to our on-screen television programming guides to our vehicle radios to the flashing signs in front of banks and churches, everywhere we go, we are reminded of the time. However, even without mechanical timepieces, we would still have a pretty good idea that the day is over when the light fades. We count weeks and months and years by how many times the sun has risen and set. Therefore, when it comes to spiritual reality, God has made light to behave in such a way as to remind us that our time and opportunities in this world are coming to an end.

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

John 12:35-36

In an attempt to defeat the darkness which ends each and every day of our lives we have come up with many ways to “light up the night.” However, batteries in a flashlight will run down eventually. The wax which feeds the wick of a candle will burn down in time. Even long-lasting light bulbs and tubes of fluorescent neon are not eternal. There is only one Light which shall shine forevermore.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 1:9

Jesus, the Light of this world, has already finished the work of redemption, and He has made it available to unbelievers for a limited time only. Will you receive the Light which shall give you comfort, peace, beauty, and joy in the world to come? Or will you cling to the temporary false light of the here-and-now, which will one day burn out, leaving you in an eternal darkness from which there shall be no escape?

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

Jeremiah 13:15-16

Warning Sign #6: Visualization Techniques

July 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John, When Good Preachers Go Bad | 13 Comments
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The false teaching of the prosperity gospel is partly about greed. Therefore, if you expect the prosperity preacher to talk about “claiming” and “grabbing” and “seizing” you will not be disappointed. Whether it’s good health, popularity with the world, or just plain old filthy lucre, though, the prosperity preacher knows one thing:

You have to see it before you reach it!

Good Preacher Going Bad

Speaking “words of faith” are all well and good. But if you’ve been speaking to your checkbook, your doctor’s appointment book, and your Facebook for a long time, and you still don’t have as many dollars, healings, or shallow friends as you would like – it just may be that you are not “visualizing” hard enough!

I have heard visualizing techniques attributed to all sorts of Biblical characters – from Abraham to Jabez to David to Zacchaeus. To be fair, Zacchaeus did seem to be a little (no pun intended) bit of a visualizer.

“See there!” says the prosperity preacher, “The Bible does teach that we are supposed to see what we want, and then reach for it!”

Not so fast. Zacchaeus had a desire to see, alright – but a desire to see what… or should I say Whom?

And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

Luke 19:3, emphasis added

Despite what the prosperity teacher tells you, remember: Our help comes from seeing Jesus – not the personal comforts we can concoct in our own imaginations.

So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

John 6:19, emphasis added

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

John 12:21, emphasis added

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Hebrews 2:9, emphasis added


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