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Monday, October 16, 2017

Christ, Our Example

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing."

Here He is, the king of Glory. He can stay anywhere; He can go anywhere and do anything. He knows who He is. Yet what does He do – for us and for our sake? He empties Himself until He becomes nothing. The King of Glory allowed Himself to be born in a stable with goats and chickens. He had to learn a language. He had to be clothed and fed by someone. He just gave Himself away, always putting others first. He left His Kingdom, left His glory behind to show us how to live.

While we try to hold on tight to things, He is saying, Give it away. He humbled Himself and made Himself obedient even to death. What a teacher! All we have to do is follow the leader, be in unity with Him, see what He sees, go where He goes, do what he does, pray what He prays, love as He loves.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

John 12

John 12:1-11 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

It was six days before Passover. Since the raising of Lazarus, Jesus had lived quietly at Ephraim with His disciples. But now it was time…

The crowds in Jerusalem were so great for the Passover it was impossible to accommodate Jesus, His friends and disciples in the city itself. Bethany was close enough to go back and forth. When they arrived, Lazarus’ family entertained them with a dinner.

Mary was the one who poured pure nard, an extremely expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Matthew and Mark say she poured it over His head first, breaking an alabaster jar to do it. Then Mary let down her long hair that, in Jewish custom, was always bound in pubic. John may have focused on the anointing of Jesus’ feet because of the great humility Mary showed. She poured on His feet the most precious ointment possible as a token of honor and worship and then lovingly dried His feet with her hair.

This touched Jesus deeply. The act came at a time of hostility toward Him was reaching a climax, and He didn’t hesitate to defend and praise her.

Judas criticized the act – and we’re told why. But what he said also implied that Jesus wasn’t worth it!

Jesus said Mary’s act would be remembered. And it has been. The Lord promises that when His people stand at the throne of God, He will reveal every act of generous devotion, of suffering for His sake, or self-sacrificing generosity. Although these acts often aren’t noticed at the time, He preserves them like jewels.

And while we can’t pour out perfume on His body – He lives in all His believers so every act of kindness, service, compassion and the comfort of the gospel on His people is like doing it to Him.

John 12:12-19  The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.” 

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Jesus had never put Himself out there in public demonstrations and attempts to honor Himself. But now was the time to fulfill prophecy.

It was Zechariah 9:9 that said, Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

As pilgrims continued to enter the city for Passover, news that Jesus was leaving Bethany for Jerusalem spread from person to person. Excited men, women and children began to join with Jesus’ procession and walk alongside Him as he approached the city. Palm branches were used in the Feast of Tabernacles. Since the victory of the Maccabean Jews over the Syrians in 166 BC, palm branches had been a symbol of the nation.

People even threw their own cloaks to make a royal carpet for Him. Using the Messianic words from Psalm 118:26, people shouted, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

Hosanna probably means something like “save us now” and Jesus was on His way to complete His people’s salvation.

John 12:20 – 50 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.” 

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

This is really something! Never had Jesus been so popular and yet it’s His condemnation that would save the world!

Not just Jews were coming to Him, but Greeks sought Him out through His disciples. They represented the Gentiles who would be coming to Him and saved through Him.

It seems like everything was working out for Him to lead His people. He even said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” But His version of glorified didn’t match anyone else’s.
The ONLY way He could accomplish His glorification as Savior of the world was through His death on the cross. With no death there could be no reproduction of His life in men and women from all nations. He illustrated this great truth with a picture of “kernel of wheat” – seeds planted in the ground. Without “death” and burial of the kernels, there would be no fruit or productivity. But when each kernel dies, its life is reproduced over and over in new life.

In His illustration He is the first grain of wheat from which comes every other seed of His new humanity. Jesus is the Bread of Life by which each believer lives.

And each grain in the head of wheat is like the original kernel that died. God infuses Jesus’ life into their own. Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son. This is the ultimate glorification of God, of Jesus and of all those who receive eternal life.

Jesus calls His people to identify with Him in following God’s will, not our own. This means a death to yourself, setting aside your inclinations and submitting to His will. For Jesus, the cross meant denial of His natural human desires. It meant betrayal, accusation, loss of reputation and more. The death of self must be the experience of anyone who follows Jesus.

What does this dying to self look like? It may mean we accept our circumstances as God’s will, and we look for ways to serve Him in those moments rather than be resentful and complain. It may mean we speak to others about Jesus and His gospel even though we know we may be rejected and ridiculed, or even persecuted as He was. It WILL mean we live according to His Word, loving others, even if those same people misunderstand us or treat us badly. Putting others before ourselves.
In verse 27 Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
John doesn’t record the events in the Garden of Gethsemane, but here he showed the Lord’s deep inner struggle. Jesus knew how He would die, but He knew God’s will for Him and He never strayed from doing His will.

Then God spoke out loud. As He did at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration. This time He said, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Before the extreme humiliation of the cross, God publicly gave His Son His loving approval.
People standing by heard the voice of God. Some of the people thought it had thundered others thought an angel spoke. And this was done for the people’s benefit. So they would see the relationship between God and His Son.

But before the glory would come the cross. The cross represents God’s judgment on humanity because of sin. He took on all of our sins – all of BELIEVER’S sins.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

John 11:1-54 Lazarus

John 11:1-16 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were some of Jesus’ closest friends. We have more information on this family than any in Scripture other than Jesus’ own.

The two sisters were sure Jesus would come immediately when He heard, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

But Jesus said the sickness would not end in death. That it would glorify God and His Son. And they would be blessed because Jesus was giving them a lesson in steadfast faith. God promises that steadfast faith would never be put to shame. Trust in trying circumstances produces in a believer a new vision of God’s character and strong reassurance of His constant presence with them.

John 11:17-27 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Jesus was in Bethany a lot. He and His disciples stayed at Mary and Martha’s home since it was so close to Jerusalem. This is where Jesus started out His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and it was to Bethany He returned for the night during the few days before His crucifixion. AND it was near Bethany that Jesus ascended into heaven.

So, Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus arrived. Jewish tradition taught that the soul of the deceased lingers close to the body for three days after death, but departs at the onset of physical decomposition. Because it was the fourth day there was no hope he could be revived.
So there would be no question about the great miracle. Also, the house and grounds were filled with crowds of people who had come to be with Mary and Martha. So lots of witnesses and people who the miracle might cause to believe in Jesus.

Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus was going to show her who had the power to resurrect! He told her, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”

John 11:28-37  After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Both Mary and Martha said the same thing to Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They both believed in His ability to heal. He was about to show them something more. Even though He knew He was going to bring Lazarus back, Jesus wept. He wept as a man does because His friends were suffering. Jesus cared about everyone. Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears.”

John 11:38-44 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

So, they all walked over to the sealed tomb. Lazarus had been in there for 4 days and was wrapped in burial cloths. Israeli tombs were either natural caves or caves carved from solid rock. There would have been several chambers in there with shelves for more than one body. Jews clothed their dead in a linen garment then tied up the arms and legs with bandages and wrapped the head in a towel. The stone across the entrance was probably round and flat like a wheel, so it could be rolled to tightly cover the entrance.

Martha hesitated. To a Jew, any form of contact with a dead body meant ceremonial defilement. Martha believed everything the Lord said, but now He was calling on her to act on her faith. When she hesitated He reminded her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
When Jesus thanked God for hearing Him, He wasn’t so much asking God for help as acknowledging His complete dependence on His Father.

Can you imagine being in that crowd that day? Hearing Jesus say, “Lazarus, come out!” and then seeing him come out?

Lazarus’ gratitude. Mary and Martha’s JOY! The crowds’ shock!

John 11:45-54 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

The people were divided. Hard to imagine someone seeing that great miracle and falling on their knees to worship Jesus and God!

And isn’t it interesting what Caiaphas said, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” Because that’s exactly what Jesus did!

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Monday, October 09, 2017

Review of All Saints - The Surprising True Story

I just finished reading the book 'All Saints - The Surprising True Story of How Refugees from Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church'

What an inspiring story! Newly out of seminary, Michael Spurlock was asked to take his first assignment with a small church in Smyrna, Tennessee which had dropped down to only about 25 members. Each Sunday he knew could be his last because they couldn't afford the mortgage. Until one Sunday when 3 refugees arrived asking if they could join the church - along with about 70 of their family and friends.

As the story unfolds you see God's hand in it over and over. I loved where Michael told someone that God is still speaking to His people, but Michael finally started listening. He was also asked how he knew it was God telling him to do something at one point and he replied, "Because I know my voice and it wasn't something I would have said"!

The story reminds me a little bit about going from the Old Testament to the New when you get the "ah ha" moments. "Oh, THAT'S why that happened then - so THIS could happen now!"

Remarkable story!

I was given this book by Bethany House for my honest review.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Review of Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy

My husband and I were in Russia this summer and between that, all the news about Russia and our elections and receiving this book from Tyndale to give my honest review - I feel like someone is trying to tell me something!

I've always been interested in prophecy. Especially end time prophecy. And the author, Mark Hitchcock, was very thorough in covering Ezekiel 38 and 39 which talks about the countries that will attack Israel in the future. Most of what he writes about could be lifted from today's newspapers. It is extremely current.

This is a good read for any Bible student and I appreciate how we are reminded that we study prophecy to show us that time is short and we need to share the Gospel and live like Jesus IS coming back soon. "Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophesy" by Mark Hitchcock.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

John 10:22-42

John 10: 22-29  Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

It’s thought Jesus went back to Galilee for a while and then returned to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication. Today Jews call this Festival Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights. It commemorates the victory of the heroic Maccabees over their enemies and the rededication of the temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C.

Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. Along the sides of the outer Court of the Gentiles were two beautiful porches called the Royal Colonnade and Solomon’s Colonnade. They had 40-foot-high pillars and people would gather here to pray or meditate. And rabbis gathered their disciples around them for teaching.

He was asked here, “Are you the Messiah?”

If only they had thoughtfully considered His tremendous claims. If only they had compared His words to the Scriptures. Then they would have understood the promised Messiah was infinitely greater than a political leader.

Jesus’ answer had two parts. He spoke first to those who rejected Him but continued to demand He tell them if He was the Messiah. “I did tell you.” He said. Over and over His miracles fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah and proved He was God. Many religious leaders had wondered how He could act with such power and still be a mere human being.

Jesus explained their unbelief with the truth: “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.” They were Jews, they had studied the Scriptures, they had taught the Scriptures – but Jesus told them they were outsiders because they didn’t believe in Him.

Jesus says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life.” And in His prayer to His Father later in John, He explains eternal life. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” This knowledge of God is closeness to Him now and forever.

Jesus assures us next that we are secure in our salvation. “NO ONE will snatch them from my hand.” And just to be MORE secure He goes on, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

John 10:30 – 42 "I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.
So, after saying that He could keep His people secure and give eternal life to those who believed in Him. He says, “I and the Father are one.”

The Jews rightly ascertained that Jesus was saying He is divine. To them, this was blasphemy and Mosaic law said that the penalty for that was death by stoning. As they raised their stones, Jesus asked, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
They answered that their problem was not His miracles, but that He claimed to be God.

Jesus answered with 2 arguments. The first, He used Scripture. And it’s from Psalm 82:6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ Here God was talking to unjust judges and challenged them to live up to their holy vocation. He used the words “gods” because He had appointed them to do the work that really only belongs to Himself. Judge. So, Jesus’ argument was: if Scripture spoke of mere men as gods (and you can’t set Scripture aside or challenge it) why do you say the unique One whom God set apart and sent into the world blasphemes when He says He is the Son of God?

His second argument was if they wouldn’t believe Him, then they should believe the works (miracles) he did. The miracles should have made them realize, as Jesus said, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

They again tried to kill Him and again He escaped. Remember this when He DID go to the cross. He was always able to get away from them – when it was in His Father’s will. There is no question, He CHOSE to go to the cross.

Jesus left Jerusalem and went across the Jordan to the place John first baptized. The place His own public ministry began.

And as always people followed Him. Maybe some remembered that John had said, right in that spot, that Jesus was the Son of God. And they said that all John said about this man was true. 

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

John 10:1-21 Jesus the Good Shepherd

John 10:1-10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

If someone were to ask you today, “What do you believe in and why?” How would you answer?

The key message of John’s Gospel is “Believe in Jesus.” Believe in the Word who lived from the beginning, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. But from where does this belief come? What is a “believing life” like? In Chapter 10, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the son of God, provides the answers to these questions.

Chapter 10 records two teachings of Jesus. The first describes the relationship between Jesus and His people through the illustration of a shepherd and his sheep. This was right after He healed the man born blind. The second comes about 3 months later, at the Feast of Dedication. It focuses on the divine identity of Jesus and the great assurance the Son of God brings to His people.

At this point in His ministry – which is near the end – Jesus gives His people confidence and clarity in His call and care for His people.

So, in the Shepherd teaching, Jesus continues to confront the Pharisees. They had just thrown the man born blind out of the synagogue. This was one of THEIR sheep, but instead of being compassionate like Jesus, they only thought about themselves.

Jesus, of course is the Shepherd who “entered by the gate.” Who came as the promises and prophecies of the Old testament said. Sent by God, He was the true leader of His people. His compassion on the man demonstrated how a Shepherd acts on behalf of His sheep. And this gives believers assurance and peace.

Israel was a pastoral people for many centuries. Therefore, God often used the picture of a shepherd to illustrate His relationship with His people. As students of the scriptures the Pharisees should have known God’s warning, through Jeremiah, of “shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” God said to them, “I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”
In Jeremiah’s time, the Lord sent the nation into exile, but He also promised He would gather His flock and give them truthful and caring shepherds. “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up from David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”

A prophecy of the coming Messiah.

The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He also wrote about “shepherds” who did not lead and teach God’s people with the truth. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says; I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.” But the Lord promised, “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”

The passage closes with, “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

God the Father completed through His son the promise to care for and lead His own people. Perfectly and personally, Jesus continues to complete God’s Word as he calls His people to Himself.

A genuine shepherd demonstrates a relationship with his sheep. There are three points to notice here.

1. Jesus knows each sheep by name. The Son of God has a conscious, person-to-person relationship with every individual who belongs to Him. In the Bible, giving or knowing a name means understanding a person’s true nature or even changing their character.

2. Jesus knows you perfectly. He not only knows your name, He knows everything about you! What you are good at, what you think about! He knows the anxieties you carry with you from childhood, desires fulfilled and unfulfilled, your happiest times and your most profound fears.
He also knows His eternal purpose for you, which means your highest possible joy and satisfaction. And He’s known you forever!

3. Jesus Himself leads His sheep. He goes ahead rather than driving them from behind. He lived in this world as a man, experiencing human hunger, fatigue, family conflict, the betrayal of friends and violence of enemies. And He confronted all of that with focused purpose, justice and grace. The core of His human existence was to defeat sin and death on behalf of His people.

The writer of Hebrews called Jesus the “pioneer of their salvation.” Because of our sin, no human being could enter God’s presence, so Jesus went ahead of us to bring us with Him.

In His flawless life and His death as a sin-sacrifice, He paid our penalty and covered us with His righteousness. He entered into death so we could live forever and He entered heaven, where He intercedes for us, so we can follow Him there.

Jesus is and always will be the Savior of His people, but He also led His flock by example. He loved His Father and was always intent on God’s will. He thought, lived and spoke by God’s Word. He showed grace to those who were helpless and hopeless without Him. When he was treated cruelly, he acted with dignity.

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing.

Here He is, the king of Glory. He can stay anywhere; He can go anywhere and do anything. He knows who He is. Yet what does He do – for us and for our sake? He empties Himself until He becomes nothing. The King of Glory allowed Himself to be born in a stable with goats and chickens. He had to learn a language. He had to be clothed and fed by someone. He just gave Himself away, always putting others first. He left His Kingdom, left His glory behind to show us how to live.

While we try to hold on tight to things, He is saying, Give it away. He humbled Himself and made Himself obedient even to death. What a teacher! All we have to do is follow the leader, be in unity with Him, see what He sees, go where He goes, do what he does, pray what He prays, love as He loves.

Peter wrote in 1Peter 2:21-25 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

David wrote in Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he restores my soul.

Not ONLY did He come to save us from our sins, but so that we could live new lives, energized and renewed by his own presence with them.

When the Pharisees didn’t understand, Jesus gave them another example. In the first three verses, He described the kind of sheepfold shepherds used during a winter. In a village’s communal fold, a watchman who recognized the shepherds was authorized to open a strong gate. Verse 2 and 3 again; The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.

In verse seven He probably referred to the kind of sheepfolds used in the summer. These had stone walls and the gateway was merely an opening. At night, the shepherd lay down in the gateway, so the shepherd himself served as the gate. No one could enter the sheepfold except through Him.
So, in this illustration Jesus Himself is both the Shepherd and the only Gate into eternal life, God’s kingdom and God’s family.

The thieves and robbers were the self-proclaimed messiahs and teachers who have appeared in the world. All the false religions…

Where He said they will come in and go out describes a free and safe life. God told Israel as they approached Canaan that if they obeyed Him, He would bless their “going out and coming in.”

Psalm 121:8 promises, “the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
And where He says that “they may have life to the full” means our eternal life starts as soon as we become believers and abundant life happens when we live in His inexhaustible joy, peace, love, patience, self-control, power, endurance and ability to meet every situation. Life with Jesus becomes an adventure. It means eternally significant living now and an abundant entrance into heaven.

John 10:11-21 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
He says He knows them and they know Him. There’s a relationship there.
Where He says He has “other sheep” – Jesus came and spoke first to the Jews, but after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, His Spirit spoke also through the apostles to the Gentiles. Non-Jewish believers flooded the early church.

He says there will be one flock and one Shepherd. The believers will be united in their belief.
And He says He lays down His life willingly. We know Jesus died for US. But we also need to know His sacrifice was first in devotion to God the Father. Jesus surrendered His human will to His Father’s purpose for Him.

On the cross He “gave up His spirit” and 3 days later He walked out of the tomb. So, He had the divine power to lay down His life and take it up again.

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