Father

Like Father, Like Son

One of the difficulties people have with the Christian faith is Jesus being in God in nature. It was something I struggled with in my journey of faith. How could Jesus be both God and human? How could He have two natures at the same time?

The gospel of John begins with this truth. The purpose of the apostle John’s account of the gospel is to reveal who Jesus is through what He said and did (John 20:30-31). The Pharisees—the religious elite—struggled the most with Jesus’ declarations as the Son of God.

One simple reason the Pharisees didn’t accept Jesus as the Son of God was their religion. Not Judaism as established by Moses but the complicated and restrictive system of religion they developed over the years. I believe the reason most people struggle to believe and trust in Jesus is because of opposing religious beliefs and traditions.

Humanity tends to turn the relationship God calls us into by faith and make it a religion—a set of rules and expectations. We try to deconstruct what is eternal and infinite, then reconstruct it in a way that fits our finite and limited understanding. And so, we struggle to accept what God makes simple by creating barriers and restrictions Jesus removed through His life and death on earth, and His resurrection from the dead.

Scripture

The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he kept healing people on the day of worship. Jesus replied to them, “My Father is working right now, and so am I.”

His reply made the Jews more intent on killing him. Not only did he break the laws about the day of worship, but also he made himself equal to God when he said repeatedly that God was his Father. [vss 16-18]

Jesus said to the Jews, “I can guarantee this truth: The Son cannot do anything on his own. He can do only what he sees the Father doing. Indeed, the Son does exactly what the Father does. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. The Father will show him even greater things to do than these things so that you will be amazed. In the same way that the Father brings back the dead and gives them life, the Son gives life to anyone he chooses. [vss 19-21]

“The Father doesn’t judge anyone. He has entrusted judgment entirely to the Son so that everyone will honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him. I can guarantee this truth: Those who listen to what I say and believe in the one who sent me will have eternal life. They won’t be judged because they have already passed from death to life. [vss 22-24]

(John 5:16-24 GW)

Key phrase—

The Son does exactly what the Father does

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told the Jews begin to do?

  • What are two reasons the Jews treated Jesus as they did?

  • How does Jesus describe His relationship with His Father?

  • What does Jesus say about judgment? How is this relevant and important for those who do trust in Him?

Reflection...

Many people—even those who don’t claim to be Christians— see the life Jesus led as exemplary—a model life. Indeed, Jesus lived His life on earth as an example. One of His primary goals was to disciple those who trusted in Him to live by faith.

The core element of Jesus’ life of faith was His relationship with His Father. Is this something every believer can do? Yes, absolutely! How Jesus prayed, spoke, and acted are all the ways believers—those who trust in and follow Him—are to live.

But following the example of Jesus isn’t about holding to a set of beliefs and practices in a religious sense. True disciples are to live by faith as Jesus did—relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us each step of the the way.

The followers of Jesus are not called to set up a religious way of life and judge others who don’t hold to their same ways. This would make us more like followers of the Pharisees. We’d become modern-day religious elites. Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him by faith so we may be free of judgment and pass from death into life—eternal life.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What great blessings does the Lord give those who honor Him as the Son of God?

  • What type of life is guaranteed those who listen to and believe (trust) in Jesus?

  • How can a person who believes in Jesus as the Son of God pass from death to life while on earth? What do you think this means?

  • Are you living by faith with assurance of eternal life? Is this life Jesus promises already present in your heart?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Following the example of Jesus isn’t about holding to a set of beliefs and practices in a religious sense. It’s a life of faith—relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us each step of the the way.

Prayer Focus— If you don’t have assurance in your heart of the promise of eternal life Jesus extends to all who trust in Him, ask God to give it to you. Ask in faith—accept His promise by trusting in Him by faith.

©2019—Word-Strong

The Jesus Diet

Are you searching for the perfect diet? Americans spend inordinate amounts of money on special diets, supplements, and exercise regimens. It’s a cultural obsession. One of many.

A while back, I wrote about a self diet but this will be a look at what could be called the Jesus diet. It has nothing to do with eating food or exercising but everything to do with life—what we focus on in life.

This part of the story of Jesus in Samaria begins with an awkward social situation. A Samaritan woman who comes to draw water from an ancient well leaves without it. The sight of Jesus speaking to this woman is unsettling for His disciples—it was socially unacceptable (John 4:9).

The disciples return from their food shopping excursion in town and try to convince Jesus to eat but to no avail. His reasoning for not eating their food leaves the disciples even more puzzled than the awkward social encounter as they arrived.

Scripture

At that time his disciples returned. They were surprised that he was talking to a woman. But none of them asked him, “What do you want from her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

Then the woman left her water jar and went back into the city. She told the people, “Come with me, and meet a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” The people left the city and went to meet Jesus. [vss 27-30]

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, have something to eat.” Jesus told them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” The disciples asked each other, “Did someone bring him something to eat?”

Jesus told them, “My food is to do what the one who sent me wants me to do and to finish the work he has given me.” [vss 31-34]

(John 4:27-34 GW)

Key phrase—

My food is to do what the one who sent me wants me to do

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is the reaction of the disciples to Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman?

  • What did they seem to want to ask Jesus but didn’t? Why do you think they didn’t?

  • What is the primary concern of the disciples and how is this obvious?

  • How does Jesus respond to the disciples’ urging Him to eat something?

Reflection...

The disciples found it difficult to understand what Jesus said many times and His explanations didn’t always clear up their lack of understanding. Most of us have similar difficulties today. Why? Because we, as they were, are restricted by our own personal perceptions.

The primary food of Jesus—His diet—was whatever the Father asked of Him and to do the Father’s will until it was finished. Jesus explains further what the work of the Father is in the remainder of the story.

But for now, consider what the priority is of your daily diet. Is it more like the food of Jesus or the concern of the disciples? Are you more concerned with God’s will or your own?

When our priorities in life are centered around us, they tend to be selfish and limited. When our priority is God’s priority—His will for our life—we’ll be free from the worry of what we’ll eat or drink or wear. God’s already promised to take care of those needs (Matt 6:31-34).

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does this story show the Samaritan woman as more spiritually perceptive than the disciples of Jesus?

  • Have you found yourself struggling to understand God’s will for your life?

  • Why do you think it’s hard to see what God is doing in the midst of our life each day?

  • How do you provide time each day to seek the Lord’s direction for your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus was clear what His Father’s will was for His life. The disciples made their own priorities (food) important and tried to impose that upon the Lord. But the woman at the well—focused more on spiritual things than the physical appears more connected with Jesus than the disciples.

Prayer Focus— In your times of prayer, ask the Lord to help you see how you are displacing God’s priorities for your life with what’s more important to you. Then ask Him to help you see how to put His will above your own in daily life.

©2018—Word-Strong

Legitimate or Illegitimate?

Children need boundaries. We all do. Without clear boundaries of what's okay or not okay, we run amuck and trample on the feelings and rights of others.

Clear boundaries and consistency are essential elements for raising healthy and confident children who will mature into healthy and confident adults.

We've seen this with our own children and hundreds of others my wife and I cared for over the years. Now we see this with our grandchildren and children of our extended family in the Philippines.

Sadly, a lack of healthy consistent discipline has rippled through our nation, beginning with the "me generation" of the seventies to a couple million people incarcerated and well over four million others on probation or parole, producing heartache and despair.

No boundaries and the abandonment of discipline brings conflict and disruption in families and society at large. We all need discipline and boundaries. Without them, we will self-destruct personally and so will our nation if things don't change.

Scripture

You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:

“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” [vss 4-6] [reference– Proverbs 3:11-12]

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? [vss 7-9]

(Hebrews 12:4-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is said about our struggle with sin? How does this relate to you in a personal way?

  • What are the encouraging words spoken about here? How is this strong exhortation encouraging?

  • How is the idea of God's discipline explained? Does this make sense to you?

  • How is the discipline God gives His children different than what our natural parents do?

Reflection...

No one likes correction, not immediately. Neither do we like to undergo discipline or accept punishment, even when it's deserved. We can be quick to claim, "It's unfair!" But much of the time we need to be disciplined for our own good.

This is one of the more difficult things for believers and nonbelievers to understand. "Why would a loving God discipline, correct, or punish anyone?"

The short answer is—so we don't become spoiled brats! Also, God wants to develop a nature in us like His. He wants us to fit in with His family, that is, He wants us to be His legitimate children, not to be illegitimate, self-willed rebels.

An important element of God's redemptive work is restoring us so we may enjoy a face to face relationship with God. But this requires an internal work in us. A transforming work in our hearts and lives. God uses external situations in our life to shape and transform our inner nature.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How did this exhortation speak to the believers who heard this first and how does it fit for us?

  • What kind of discipline did you receive as a child and how has it shaped your life?

  • Do you think your own upbringing might get in the way of understanding God's discipline?

  • How can you better understand and accept God's discipline in your life?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Paid In Full

Blood is life. Blood flows throughout our body, through large arteries and veins and tiny capillaries invisible to the naked eye.

Life takes place within our blood as it flows through various organs in our body that regulate vital life processes. If our blood is contaminated in any way, disease can take hold and lead to serious complications including death if untreated.

When the Bible speaks of blood in relationship to a covenant, blood takes on a spiritual nature. The physical properties and function of blood provide an illustration for an understanding of its spiritual truth.

Scripture

Because Christ offered himself to God, he is able to bring a new promise from God. Through his death he paid the price to set people free from the sins they committed under the first promise. He did this so that those who are called can be guaranteed an inheritance that will last forever.

In order for a will to take effect, it must be shown that the one who made it has died. A will is used only after a person is dead because it goes into effect only when a person dies. [vss 15-19]

That is why even the first promise was made with blood. As Scripture tells us, Moses told all the people every commandment. Then he took the blood of calves and goats together with some water, red yarn, and hyssop and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “Here is the blood that seals the promise God has made to you.” In the same way, Moses sprinkled blood on the tent and on everything used in worship. [vss 20-21]

As Moses’ Teachings tell us, blood was used to cleanse almost everything, because if no blood is shed, no sins can be forgiven.

The copies of the things in heaven had to be cleansed by these sacrifices. But the heavenly things themselves had to be cleansed by better sacrifices. [vss 22-23]

(Hebrews 9:15-23 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]

Key phrase—

Through his death he paid the price to set people free

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What did Christ do that guarantees believers an eternal inheritance?

  • What needs to take place for a will to go into effect? How is this related to what Jesus did to bring our eternal inheritance?

  • Why was the first promise (covenant) made with blood? What do you think this is talking about?

  • Why is blood used in both the Old and New Covenants? [hint– see Leviticus 17:11]

Reflection...

No more sacrifices are needed. All the sacrifices before (under the Law) were reminders of what was to come—the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His sacrifice—Himself—was not offered in a human temple but in heaven in the very presence of the Father.

This is called the Atonement of Christ which was prefigured by the sacred Jewish ceremony called the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). The Day of Atonement involved a whole day of fasting and many, many sacrifices. But the Atonement of Christ was done once for all (Heb 9:11-14).

The shed blood of Jesus is greater and more powerful than the blood of animals. Why? Because He was both human and God in nature—physical and spiritual—and He did not have a sinful nature since He wasn't born from the natural seed of a man (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:31-35).

His death on the cross brought a new promise (covenant) into effect. It acted as a ransom that wiped away the resulting debt of sin, which is physical and spiritual death, and provided an eternal forgiveness not possible under the old promise (covenant).

His death and resurrection that followed brought an inheritance for all those who would trust in Christ as both Savior and Lord. This inheritance is eternal, not physical nor temporary. It's not a geographical homeland but an abiding relationship with God and an eternal kingdom.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does the blood of Christ provide believers an assurance of their salvation?

  • Do you understand why it was necessary that Jesus offered up His own blood and self as an atoning sacrifice?

  • Have you personally experienced the forgiveness of God and assurance of Christ's inheritance?

  • How has the forgiveness of God brought you assurance, freedom, and peace?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Full Access

When my family was young and I was a young father and pastor, finding a quiet time and place to study could be a challenge. As my children grew older, when I was in my small study at home, they understood I was at work on my messages for the church.

But it was different for the younger children, as my wife pointed out many times. They could burst into my little study anytime they wanted. Later, my church office staff learned that when my wife called, she had priority over who was in my office or what I was working on.

The Lord helped me see this is the access we have Him, even when we're older. We can burst into the Lord's presence whenever and whatever the need.

The door is never closed to the Father's presence for those of us who know Him as our Father. He always has time for us and gives us His full attention.