The Competition

June 7, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I looked at the importance of the word “for” which begins the well-known verse, John 3:16. There is another “for” which continues building on these ideas in the next verse.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:17

In what sense will Jesus – Who we know has been given all authority in Heaven and in earth, including the authority (Matthew 28:18: “all power”) to judge and condemn (Acts 17:31) – not condemn? Answer: In the sense that those who do not believe on Him are condemned already.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

After cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and after His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside.

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:22

This makes it sound like Jesus was personally baptizing people, but:

(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

John 4:2

It seems likely that Jesus authorized His Disciples to baptize new converts, but did not actually do the baptizing with His own hands. The Apostle Paul often left the actual baptizing to others as well (I Corinthians 1:14).

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, fulfilled, but also exceeded, the Old Testament types which pointed to Him.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

John 3:25

Jesus had exceeded the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple water pots when He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had exceeded the Old Testament locations of worship as the meeting place between man and God as demonstrated when He cleansed the Temple. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the necessity of the water-spirit birth as He preached to Nicodemus. Now a specific group of Jews, possibly led by one man, questioned John’s practice of baptizing for ritual cleansing those who were already Jewish by birth, custom, and faith, and, as a part of their challenge, they saw an opportunity to try to drive a wedge of division between John the Baptist and Jesus.

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 3:26

The phrase “all men come to Him” is a provocative exaggeration. Obviously not “ALL” men were going to Jesus, nor had “ALLmen gone to Him instead of John, but the numbers were changing. Jesus’s ministry was growing and John’s was shrinking.

How competitive are you? Just as one spouse is often introverted and the other extroverted; just as one is often neat and the other messy; just as one is often extravagant and the other a tightwad: often the Lord will put together one competitive spouse and one who could care less about “winning.” Do you love to win? Do you hate to lose? Are you happy for others when they succeed where you have failed? Does it bother you that people might think poorly of you in comparison to someone else? Somebody thought that John the Baptist might experience a couple of these reactions when confronted with the rising influence of Jesus’s ministry over his, so they decided to confront him about it.

Competition is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Sporting contests just aren’t much fun unless both sides are trying to win – to beat the other side. However, as shown in I Corinthians, competition in Christian ministry can be a dangerous and damaging thing. Soulwinning is not a contest. Who has the “best” Sunday School class probably should not be a competition. But human nature, which since the Fall has a strong bent toward pride, likes to be first, to get attention, to get credit, to feel superior – so you can’t look at this group of Jewish instigators and think, “Did they REALLY suppose John the Baptist would be jealous of Jesus??” Even reading it today, we catch ourselves thinking that we couldn’t totally blame him if he was – but remember:

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 7:28

Jesus didn’t say this about John as a form of flattery. Here was John’s response to the suggestion that Jesus was better than Him:

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

This may seem to you, in the cold analytical light of merely academic Bible study, to be something of a “duh” statement. In a universe ruled over by a sovereign omnipotent God, OF COURSE we only get what He gives… and we don’t get anything He DOESN’T give us, but does this (true) maxim hold a central place in our minds “all day, every day?” Possibly not. Otherwise we would never get jealous, and we would always only rejoice when something good happens to HIM or HER, and something “bad” happens to ME. Jeremiah 9:23 and I Corinthians 4:7 remind us to ask: “Why do I glory in wisdom or might if they are only gifts?” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John 3:28

Although John was known as the Baptizer, he could call anyone who had listened to his preaching as a witness to answer the question: “What has been the main thrust of my ministry? What I am all about?” If honest, they would have had to answer that John’s main message was: “The Messiah is coming, and He’s now here, and I’m not Him.”

This would be a great motivation in our evangelism. Any time we go to visit someone who does not know Jesus we can tell them, “I’m the one who came to see you, but I didn’t come to tell you about myself, and I want you to meet someone else that I hope you will soon know, love, worship, and obey. You will like Him a lot better than me, and that’s exactly what I want!”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John 3:29

Can you imagine the best man at a wedding trying to steal the bride, or being angry once the couple says their “I do”s? John’s job was almost done, and he had done it in a great way. He had been successful. His mission was fulfilled, so he was full of joy. That’s why we mustn’t read the next verse as melancholy resignation:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30

John was not bummed out. He was stating a fact, and he was celebrating the accomplishment of a great momentous occasion.

Power Foretold and Prophecy Fulfilled

January 9, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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Before the Word revealed Himself in the flesh, God sent a forerunner – a witness – to illustrate, explain, and testify as to the significance and importance of the Light.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 1:6-7

The goal of John the Baptist’s mission was to bring about belief, but without supernatural intervention darkness lacks the ability to believe in light.

There is a certain poignant tragedy that the Creator would enter His creation, and that the creation would fail to recognize Him.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

John 1:10-11

Those who did not receive Him were His “own” in both senses: (1) the Jewish people; and (2) the people who would eventually believe, but did not at first believe. These people COULD NOT receive Him until He Himself gave them the POWER (the “right,” the “authority,” and the “privilege”) to do so.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:12

This power that was needed was the power to become His “sons” (“sons of the Son”) or His children. How do “sons” happen? They are born. Plenty of children existed who were born of the flesh and of the will of their parents, but the Word, the Light, and the Life was believed on, and received, only by those who were born of the will of God Himself.

Up until this point, the reasoning used in John 1 had been oriented toward a gentile (or “Western”) way of thinking. Now John began to appeal to the Jewish people, who were supposed to have an understanding that Old Testament history contained not only specific prophecies, but also TYPES, of a coming Messiah.

The following is a list of “types” from the Old Testament which Christ fulfilled in a greater way:

1. The Tabernacle:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

2. The preference of the second-born:

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

John 1:15

3. The Old Testament Law:

And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 1:16-17

4. Moses’s wish to see God (Exodus 33):

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:18

5. The prophecy of Malachi 4:5:

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

John 1:21

6. The prophecy of Isaiah 40:1-3:

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

John 1:23

7. The “Prophet” of whom Moses was the type (Deuteronomy 18:15):

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

John 1:25

8. The lambs from the account of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), the Passover:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

John 1:29-36

The Disciples understood – at least partially – these connections and revelations.

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:40-41

The Greatest Miracle

July 9, 2018 at 11:45 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Luke | 1 Comment
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John the Baptist received from his disciples some news about Jesus’s ministry.

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

Luke 7:18

John’s disciples considered themselves REformers (as opposed to the Pharisees who thought of themselves as CONformers, and Jesus’s disciples who were TRANSformers). John was doubting Jesus because he wasn’t seeing any reformation.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Doubting can be a sign of unbelief, but not always. You can still have faith in God but be perplexed over what He is doing. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubting is not always a sign of unbelief; sometimes it’s a sign that a man is thinking.”

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Luke 7:22-23

The Greek word translated as “offended” in Luke 7:23 is skandalizo, from which we get the English word “scandalized.” It was originally the word for the bait in a trap – the enticement to fall into peril. The Person and ministry of Jesus should cause us to stop and think – but not to stumble and turn away. Jesus stressed the miracles He was doing so that John’s disciples could see the “transformation” which happens to individuals rather than the “reformation” which happens to governments.

I think sometimes we do a disservice in making converts believe that they are joining a club rather than entering into a personal relationship with the Savior. Healing the centurion’s servant was a great miracle. Raising the widow’s son from the dead was a great miracle. But Jesus was about to do an even greater miracle. He was about to save a sinner. That’s the greatest miracle because it meets the greatest need: forgiveness. It accomplishes the greatest result: eternal life. It cost the greatest price: the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross.

Introducing God

November 8, 2017 at 11:11 am | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

Luke 3:1

The details found in the New Testament manuscripts really reinforce their historicity. Luke documented real people, who lived in a real time and real places, charged with real authority over real geographical provinces.

Luke Chapter 3 introduces us to the ministry of John the Baptist.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 3:3-4

John was the herald who went before the King, making proclamations about His coming, and making sure the metaphorical roads were smooth for His appearing. He was baptizing people in the Jordan River. It was the custom to baptize those who had converted to Judaism. This baptism symbolized cleansing from defilement and sin, which helps to see why baptizing those who had been born Jewish would have been so scandalous to the religious leaders. Many of the people who came to John to be baptized, and who responded to his message of repentance, were harlots, publicans, open sinners – the outcasts of society. They had been told that the Kingdom of God was closed to them, so you can imagine their enthusiasm when they found out it was open to them!

John addressed the religious elite who came out to see what he was doing, and he told them that they were like snakes. His biting comment was that even snakes will crawl into the river to avoid a fire!

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Luke 3:7-9

John did not cater to the falsely secure or the hypocritically religious, but he also wanted to make it very clear that he was not the Christ.

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

Luke 3:15-17

The Holy Spirit is likened to the wind in Scripture. Those who trust in Christ receive the Holy Spirit, and the process of practical sanctification begins. The “chaff” – that which is useless and unprofitable for the Christian’s spiritual growth – is separated out and blown away to be burned, the way a literal wheat thresher uses a tool (“fan”) to gather only the “fruitful” and useful part of the wheat.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Luke 3:21-22

This is a shocking moment in the history of the world – and a fulfilling one for those who seek to know God. The “who is like God?” question from the Old Testament is finally answered, and light is shed on the mystery of the great “I AM,” as God reveals Himself to be triune – Father, Son, and Spirit – and indicates that what the Son will do in His incarnation will be our best look at the true character and nature of God.

The rest of Luke Chapter 3, beginning in Verse 23, is the genealogy of Jesus, going backwards, all the way to Adam. In Luke the humanity of Jesus is stressed, and the truth that Jesus is the Savior of gentiles as well as Jews. Matthew starts with Abraham, but Luke goes all the way back to Adam.

Luke’s Gospel

September 19, 2017 at 11:56 am | Posted in Luke | 8 Comments
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The Book of Luke is one of the four “Gospels.” The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are accounts of Jesus’s earthly ministry, and, to some extent, of His earthly life. The term “Gospel,” of course, also refers to the Good News of Jesus’s incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, victorious Resurrection, and saving power, although, in common vernacular, “gospel” has come to mean “anything that’s true.”

The word “Gospel” is from the old English word for “good news.” In ancient Greek it would be called the Evangelion, combining eu (with the “v” now replaced by “u”) meaning “good,” as in “euphemism” (a “good” way to say a “bad” thing) or eulogy (a “good word” about a deceased person), with the word angel, meaning “message” (easy to remember because the “angels” are God’s messengers).

The Holy Spirit authored the Gospel of Luke through (obviously) a man named Luke, whose primary occupation had been as a physician. The Holy Spirit appears to have used Luke’s medical training and experience in order to cause Luke’s account of Jesus’s life and ministry to have an orderly composition, often with an emphasis on “medical” events, such as illnesses and healings, and to stress Jesus’s compassion on those who were hurting. It is not known if Luke had the typical doctor’s bad handwriting, but we can be sure that what he recorded was the accurate and infallible Word of God.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luke 1:1

At the time that Luke wrote down his Gospel, there were other scrolls circulating about, purporting to be accounts of the life of Jesus. The things most surely believed among “us” likely means that Luke knew he was recording true Christian doctrine and the real facts about Jesus, and that what he was reporting was for public dissemination, but mainly with fellow Christians in mind as his primary audience.

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luke 1:2

Luke was part of Paul’s missionary team, and his personal physician, but he had not walked with Jesus personally while Jesus was on earth as a man.

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke 1:3-4

Luke’s statement about “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” also seems to indicate that he was aware of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Theophilus was probably a gentile who had been saved and converted to Christianity (known in Bible times as a “lover of God” or a “friend of God”). It is also likely that he held some official public position because of the formal nature of Luke’s address to him. Once again, Luke referred to “the certainty” of what he was writing, giving even more credence to the idea that he was aware of the Holy inspiration under which he was operating.

Next came the account of the announcement and birth of John the Baptist. He was the last Old Testament prophet, even though he’s found in the New Testament.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 4:5-6

The Holy Ghost closed the Old Testament with a reference to Elijah and the pronouncement of a CURSE, after which there was about 400 years of prophetic silence, during which God gave no (that we know of) verbal or written revelation, until John the Baptist came on the scene. He was the prophet who fulfilled – in a sense – the prophecy of Malachi 4:5. He was the prophet who himself fulfilled a prophecy.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:5-6

Zacharias and Elizabeth were considered righteous and blameless, although they were not sinless.

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Luke 1:7-10

This burning of incense was a major event in the life of the religious Jewish people each year.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:11-13

One can only imagine the fear that overcame Zacharias! Elisabeth would be related to Jesus through Mary. The couple’s first-born son would be named John, not Zacharias Jr.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:14-15

John would be under a Nazarite vow, as an angel had also informed Samson’s father Manoah, and his wife, and like Elkanah’s and Hannah’s son, Samuel. Elijah was yet another Old Testament example of someone under a life-long Nazarite vow – meaning he was not to touch grapes or dead things, and not to cut his hair. Another similarity between John the Baptist and Elijah is that much of their lives would be spent as outcasts from society, living in the wilderness. John the Baptist had the amazing distinction of being filled by the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb.

And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Luke 1:16-17

John would be instrumental in turning the hearts of children back to their fathers – and to their HEAVENLY FATHER. He would have a spirit like Elijah’s and be endued with the power of Elijah, but he would not be Elijah reincarnated. This announcement was so astonishing to Zacharias that he disbelieved the Word of God, and thereby lost his voice until it was time for Elisabeth to have the baby.

The Victorious Humility of the Last Adam

December 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Matthew | 8 Comments
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Lord, help us to accept our circumstances, which are ordained by You. Help us to learn truths which will be encouraging. Help us not to be pessimists, drudging along dreading each trial. At the same time, please help us not to be fragile children, happily hopping around when things are great, but losing faith each time You test us or try us. Help us to delight ourselves in Your statutes, and not to forget Your Words when everything around is yelling at us to depend on ourselves, and not on You. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

As people gathered to hear the message of John the Baptist, he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Matthew 3:4-9

This should remind us to be humble. God can raise up stones to do what you do – and do it better. John’s humility made him reluctant to baptize Jesus, but he did it upon Jesus’s insistence. When he did so, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Not like a royal eagle and not like not a bird of prey, but a bird of peace, a bird of mourning, a skittish bird. The Spirit of God indwelling us may be made to retreat when we sin against Him.

The Adam of Genesis 1 and 2 was the “first Adam.” Christ was the “last Adam.” Both the first Adam and the last Adam were tempted by Satan. The first Adam had everything he needed to resist this temptation. He lived in paradise. In Matthew 4, the last Adam went alone into a terrible wilderness, subjecting Himself to 40 days of fasting. The first Adam lost his battle with Satan, but Christ won.

Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness with three specific temptations.

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Matthew 4:3

This was Satan’s lie: “God doesn’t really love You, so put Your physical needs ahead of Your spiritual needs.”

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Matthew 4:7

Satan based this second temptation on a Bible passage:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

His lie to Jesus amounted to “God’s Word isn’t really true,” but he omitted “in all Thy ways” when he quoted it to Jesus. It is very common for the devil to challenge God’s Word by trying to twist Scripture.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Matthew 4:8-9

In the third temptation Satan tried to convince Christ to take the easy way – to adopt a form of “worship” that did not include service. It was as if he hoped Christ could be tricked into thinking He could abandon the Cross and still receive the glory. Beware of temptations that invite you to take a short cut around God’s will.

The Amazing Accomplishment of Fulfilled Righteousness

March 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Matthew, Uncategorized | 23 Comments
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John the Baptist got his moniker because he was in the business of baptizing, but he was extremely leery of baptizing Jesus, the Lamb of God.

And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

John 1:36

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Matthew 3:13-14

The reason Jesus gave to John for insisting that he baptize Him is very interesting.

And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Matthew 3:15

Jesus wanted to be baptized because it was God’s will, but also because it served as a part of one of His greatest incarnate accomplishments: the fulfillment of all righteousness. You and I can hardly grasp this. As unredeemed sinners we were utterly incapable of any righteousness at all – and certainly unable to “fulfill” any righteous demands of God. Even as regenerate and redeemed children of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we find it very difficult to truly initiate any righteous behavior because of the ongoing battle waged against us by our sinful flesh and the constant temptations of our enemy, Satan.

Christ the Lord, on the other hand, never knew the taint of sin, and yet consider to what extent He went to fulfill the righteousness spoken of in Matthew 3:15. Not only did He keep the Old Testament Law perfectly, in every jot and tittle, not only did He endure – and overcome – every temptation known to man and devil, not only did He bear the weight of our sins on cruel Golgotha’s hill, but He also fulfilled all righteousness by: going into the wilderness, in a state of physical starvation, to be tempted by the master tempter himself; healing multitudes of sick, blind, deaf, crippled, and otherwise afflicted folks; teaching the greatest truths ever taught; and other examples too numerous to be contained in all the books in all the world. Christ fulfilled all righteousness by ever-increasing acts of righteousness and obedience, even though He could never turn from His Own sin (because He didn’t have any) as an act of righteousness.

If you will believe the truth about Christ, and what He has accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection, you may receive not only the forgiveness of sins, but

[e]ven the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Romans 3:22

This imputed righteousness comes from a built-up account of righteousness earned and bought by the only One Who could have earned it. Such righteousness is as glorious to a fallen sinner as any treasure to be found in His riches in glory (Ephesians 1:18).

Hijacked Hearts

September 29, 2009 at 9:14 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 4 Comments
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It sounds like a crazy notion, but we might wonder if Satan has been reading his Bible. If he has seen Malachi Chapter 4, Verse 6, then he would know that God’s desire is to see the hearts of children turned toward, not away from, their parents. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And that would motivate the devil to work very hard to do just the opposite of what God wants. Does this explain the state of most of the parent-child relationships we see in the world today?

Malachi 4:6 is actually the very last verse in the entire Old Testament. Malachi is prophesying in part about the ministry of John the Baptist.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Malachi 4:5

John the Baptist was not Elijah reincarnated, but he did minister in the spirit of Elijah.

Between the end of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament there is about 400 years of silence, as far as recorded Scripture. Then, in Luke 1:17, the angel of the Lord tells Zacharias, concerning John the Baptist: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The devil has turned the hearts of many of our children. He has turned them to drugs, immorality, worldly entertainment, popular culture, their own vanity, and even to their peers. Dads, moms: no modern-day John the Baptist is going to catch your children at the shopping mall, rock concert, or make-out party, and convince them to repent. However, we have One greater than John the Baptist. If we can get them to Jesus, He will turn their hearts to Himself, and back to us. It’s a great thing to pray for your kids. God can protect them in ways we can’t. However, He has ordained us, parents, in a very real, personal, and hands-on way, to take the steering wheel of their hearts, and guide them in the right direction.

Panicked Pressing

May 29, 2009 at 9:41 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Violence, Luke | 7 Comments
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What would a person who is truly in danger of losing his life do to be saved? What about a person who is in danger of losing his eternal soul?

As Jesus taught and lived the Word and will of His Father, He was sometimes scorned and mocked by those who believed their religious rites, rituals, and self-righteous “good works” made them “too good” to repent of their sins. However, when John the Baptist came on the scene, announcing the entrance of Christ, even those who had been told by the religious elite that they had no hope of salvation began to see for the first time that the kingdom of God actually was open to them.

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

These men and women who “pressed in” included publicans, harlots, and sinners, who cast aside public perception and the lukewarm attitude of the falsely secure when they saw the Way of salvation. In their violent excitement they thrust themselves forward, and thrust the naysayers aside, rushing headlong, and storming the kingdom of God.

What if today men and women began to see their true peril? To realize that they needed a Savior more than they needed the approval of men or the sanction of a religious leader? Would not such an attitude stoke the fires of revival in a society that so seldom sees the dire consequences of going into eternity without the cleansing blood of Christ having been applied through receiving Christ personally as Savior?

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Mark 16:16

When God Condones Violence

May 18, 2009 at 9:52 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Matthew | 13 Comments
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Bible scholars believe that John the Baptist first appeared on the scene approximately two years before Jesus made this exceptional statement about his ministry:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

The word “suffereth” in this verse does not mean that the Kingdom of Heaven “suffers” in the sense of having pain or damage inflicted on it. Rather, “suffer” in the Bible means “to let” or “to allow” (Matthew 19:14). Christ is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven, although it is ruled over by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), does make allowances for certain types of violence.

Chiefly, this is the violence of those who suddenly recognize their lost condition, and see their urgent need for a Savior. Under conviction of God’s Holy Spirit, these lost souls may be excused for having an unruly and even desperate desire to get to Jesus – He being the only Way (John 14:6) to get to the Father, and to escape the merited punishment for our sins.

Those who trusted Christ years ago certainly find a peace and a comfort in resting on the promises of God’s Word, and knowing their eternal inheritance is secure. However, it pays to remember the Kingdom of Heaven still suffers violence, and that there are times when we should desire the abiding presence of God on our lives so desperately that we become intensely serious about seeking His will and the filling of His Spirit.


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