Raised together with Christ – Colossians 3:1-12 Part 1

If I have died to sin (Romans 6:2), why do I still struggle with sin (Romans 7:15-25)?

If he was a slave of sin, but is now a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18), how can it be that Paul, the model Christian, laments his wretchedness in his struggle against sin (Romans 7:24)?

If the “old man” has been crucified, why does he still influence my behavior to sin?

I was musing on these and other weighty issues this morning and was led to consider Paul’s letter to the Colossians. As I meditated on Colossians 3:1-12, I discovered that the apostle Paul deals with several of these meatier matters here in this passage, so I decided to devote two or three articles to teaching on this.

ALL IS CONTINGENT ON BEING RAISED UP WITH CHRIST

What Paul is going to now teach in Colossians 3:1-12 is all contingent on his implied assumption in the first verse, which reads, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ (3:1, NASB).” The “if” in this verse should be understood as meaning “since,” because everything that follows in this passage applies only if the person described has, in fact, been raised up together with Christ. If you have not been raised with Christ, Paul’s teaching and exhortation will be confusing. But if you have been raised up with Christ, Paul’s teaching will be amazing and encouraging.

TWO QUICK COMMANDS

To his “raised-up-with-Christ” audience, the apostle issues two commands: seek and set. Since you are a born-again (John 3:3) believer in Christ, “Keep seeking the things above (Colossians 3:1b).” Keep hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Keep thinking about your heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Keep eagerly waiting for our Savior from heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). And again, since you have been raised up with Christ, “Set your mind on the things above (3:2).” Your sight is to be fixed upward. Allow your mind to dwell on noble things (Phil. 4:8). Renew your mind through the Word (Eph. 4:23; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:2). These blessings are only possible if you have been raised up with Christ.

DOCTRINE: SPIRITUAL DEATH AND LIFE, AND GLORIFIED WITH CHRIST

Now Paul adds doctrinal truth to his teaching. A word about doctrinal truth: Doctrinal truth is universal in that it applies to all persons in a defined group without exception. Our “defined group” is all those who have been raised up together with Christ. The doctrinal truth is, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3).” So, we see that, according to Paul’s teaching, all true believers have “died.” In some real sense, we have died, and yet it is obvious that we also live. How do we untangle this knot? This is a complex subject that we will attempt to address briefly. Because of the sin of Adam and the Fall of man, all people without exception are born into the world with a bent toward sin and with a love of sin. This “old self” (Colossians 3:9) is a slave of sin (Romans 6) and, unless and until this person is raised up together with Christ, they continue to be under God’s wrath and judgment because of their sin (Romans 1:18). If they physically die in this state, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. But the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the news that when anyone who is living in the “old self” hears that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinners, and they repent of their sin and trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior, at that moment their “old self” dies, their “new self” (3:10) comes to life, and that person is raised up together with Christ. At that moment, that person has died to their old life of sin and they have been raised up with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Their “old self” has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), but they live to the glory of God. So, in that sense the believer has died, yet they live. And since Paul is teaching doctrinal truth, this “died-yet-living” is true of all believers.

Finally, in Colossians 3:4 we learn still more doctrinal truth about those who have been raised with Christ. Since you have been raised with Christ, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Paul speaks unambiguously about that time in the future when Christ will be revealed. It is an undeniable fact that Jesus Christ is going to appear from heaven in blazing glory to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). It is a certainty that Christ will be revealed, but “When Christ is revealed,” what will be true of those who have been raised up together with Him? “Then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” This is the doctrinal truth that the apostle here declares: All those who have been raised up with Christ in life will be revealed with Him in glory in the resurrection. Those who have been raised with Christ will be glorified with Christ (Romans 8:30). (See also Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; 1 Thess. 4:14-17.)

SUMMARY OF RAISED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (COLOSSIANS 3:1-12) PART 1

Here is what we have discovered so far, in Colossians 3:1-4. “Therefore, since you have been raised up together with Christ:”

  • Keep seeking the things above (manifestation of faith / obedience)
  • Set your mind on the things above (manifestation of faith / obedience)
  • You have died in a spiritual sense, because the “old self” that loved sin and that lived a life of sin, has died (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)
  • Your new life of holiness and obedience to God has begun (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)
  • When Christ is revealed in glory, you also will be revealed in glory (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)

The next lesson will continue with this passage and will see more of what Paul is teaching in Colossians 3:1-12.

SDG                 rmb                  2/27/2021

Crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9:3)

When I was younger, it was a lot easier for me to believe that people were a pretty noble lot and that, if a person applied themselves and made the effort, then life would turn out pretty well. But as I have gotten older and have seen so many of my own best efforts amount to nothing as plans disappear like mist, and as I have watched those with promising beginnings become mired in mediocrity, I have wondered if maybe I overestimated our nobility. Maybe the truth is that we are broken and crippled in both feet and need someone to lift us up out of our futile existence.

MEPHIBOSHETH, THE CRIPPLE

In 2 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Mephibosheth. It is an odd name that he was given. His name in Hebrew means “dispeller of shame,” which is ironic because Mephibosheth’s life is marked by brokenness and shame. When we meet him in this story, “he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar (9:4).” The most noticeable feature of Mephibosheth is that he is crippled in both feet (9:3).

“How did he become crippled?” you ask. Mephibosheth was the grandson of the king of Israel, King Saul. One day when he was five years old, the report came that his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul had been killed in battle. His nurse took him up and fled, and in her haste, Mephibosheth fell. He fell and became crippled. In one day, Mephibosheth became crippled and orphaned. When he was five years old, all reasonable prospects for a happy future were irreversibly shattered. His father was killed, his legs were crippled, and the nurse he trusted failed him. And so, eventually, he drags himself out to Lo-debar, into the house of Machir the son of Ammiel. There in this dusty, backwater town, he ekes out his existence; forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. End of story.

But it is not the end of the story, because there is an anointed king, King David, who is seeking for Mephibosheth. From his house in Jerusalem, King David “sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (9:5).” David calls Mephibosheth by name (Isaiah 43:1) and, for no reason other than to show him kindness, the king makes promises to Mephibosheth, extravagant and astonishing promises of kindness and of lands and of a place at the king’s table where Mephibosheth can eat regularly as one of the king’s sons. In one day, Mephibosheth exchanged the miseries of Lo-debar for the glories of Jerusalem, and the house of Machir for the house of the king.

How does Mephibosheth respond? First, he “fell on his face and prostrated himself” before King David. What else would a person do when entering the presence of the king? Then Mephibosheth confesses his own unworthiness to receive such mercy and kindness. “Why do ‘you regard a dead dog like me?’” This is not self-loathing or self-pity, but an acknowledgement by Mephibosheth that he deserves none of David’s kindness. All he can bring to the king is his homage and unworthiness.

Through David’s kindness, Mephibosheth, who once was living in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar, crippled in both feet, now lived in Jerusalem and he ate at the king’s table regularly as one of the king’s sons. Oh, and he was lame in both feet.

THE GOSPEL IN THE STORY OF MEPHIBOSHETH

As fascinating as this story of Mephibosheth is, it is the “normal” story of everyone who has trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The sober truth is that we are all broken from birth. All of us are victims of the fall, ruined because of the sin of Adam. We are figuratively hiding out in Lo-debar, waiting for someone who can be a “dispeller of our shame.” All our reasonable prospects for a happy future have been shattered or have evaporated. Like Mephibosheth, we are forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. It feels like the end of story.

Then one day, we hear about an anointed king, King Jesus, the Son of David, who is seeking for us (Luke 19:10) and who is calling us by name. As we listen to His voice, this King makes promises to us, extravagant and astonishing promises of forgiveness of sins, and of joy in this life and eternity in heaven, and of a place at the King’s table where we can eat regularly as one of the King’s sons or daughters. According to this gospel of good news, in one day, in one moment we can exchange the miseries of our brokenness for the pleasures of His holiness. Jesus the Messiah is the great dispeller of our shame.

How do we respond? We fall on our face and prostrate ourselves before the glorious Messiah Jesus and we confess our sins and our unworthiness, and then we give Him our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) so that He can make use of even our lameness and our brokenness.

Yes, we are Mephibosheth.

SDG                 rmb                 2/20/2021

Imitating Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51)

There may be times in our lives when the stress of our disquiet and anxiety becomes distracting. The complexities and difficulties of life are coming at us too fast for us to deflect and to process and we are feeling overwhelmed. Maybe the issues are relational or financial or vocational, or all the above, but the net effect is a sense of being outmatched by life. How are we to pray in these situations? How do we cry out to the Lord when it feels like, “There is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul (Psalm 142:4)”?

As I look at the examples and the instructions of the Scriptures, I think the answer is to cry out to the Lord in faith with a specific request. Even when you see many threats and concerns bearing down on you and collectively creating anxiety and stress, there is usually one specific issue that is primary. That is, there is usually one issue that, if defused, would bring things back into the realm of the manageable. But in any event, whether you can identify the key issue or not, you begin by identifying one issue and then addressing that issue with the Lord in prayer.

So, having identified one specific problem or fear or threat, we can cry out to the Lord about THAT. We confess our trouble and probably our fear, and then we “pour out our complaint before the Lord (Psalm 142:2).” We are saying, “Here is my trouble and sorrow. O Lord help me! O Lord answer me! Deliver me!”

AN EXAMPLE IN THE DUST OF THE JERICHO ROAD

There was a day when Jesus was leaving Jericho (Mark 10:46). The Lord had been passing through Jericho on His way going up to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32), where He was to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. He was on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish atonement for all of God’s people for all time by His death on the cross. But as He is leaving Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the road (Mark 10:46), and the beggar began to cry out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me (10:48)!”

It is hard to imagine a greater contrast: The Son of God on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish the mission of salvation for the whole world and a blind beggar sitting in the dust beside the Jericho road pitifully crying out for mercy. Jesus could not be bothered with such a one as this, could He?

AND JESUS STOPPED

When Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus for mercy, what happened? AND JESUS STOPPED (10:49). Think about this for a moment. The Son of God is “on the road going up to Jerusalem (10:32)” and when, above all the noise of the large crowd, He hears a cry for mercy, Jesus stopped. Jesus temporarily set aside His mission of saving the world to talk to a blind beggar. He then calls Bartimaeus to Himself and says, “What do you want Me to do for you (Mark 10:51)?”

CONSIDER BARTIMAEUS: A MAN OF ONE REQUEST

The King of kings has just called Bartimaeus to come to Him and He has given this blind man a blank check. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Now is his chance. Now Bartimaeus has the full attention of the Lord of the universe and he can ask Him for any one thing. With this incredible privilege, what will he ask for?

Bartimaeus is ready with his one request. Without hesitation he said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight (10:51)!” This is a perfect request! Not only does the request demonstrate Bartimaeus’ faith by asking Jesus for what is humanly impossible, but it also clearly identifies the one issue that is most critical to the blind man: his sight. Bartimaeus gives Jesus a specific request. What happens next?

Jesus instantly and evidently answered his “impossible” request. No one there could deny what had taken place. A blind beggar had come to Jesus and had asked Him to give him his sight, and Jesus had spontaneously done exactly that. “Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road (10:52).” Thus, Jesus was glorified as the great healer and the one who answers impossible requests asked in faith.

APPLICATION

Now if we switch back to the situation where we are feeling overwhelmed by life’s complexities and difficulties, maybe we can learn from Bartimaeus’ example. Although as a blind beggar, there is little doubt that Bartimaeus must have had many challenging issues, when it came time to present his request to the Lord, our man gave one specific request. “I want to regain my sight.” Like Bartimaeus, once we have identified our major issue, we present our one specific request to the Lord in prayer. “Lord, here is the complaint that I am pouring out before You. Here is my trouble and my sorrow. Here is THE issue. O Lord please answer me!”

A specific request makes possible a clear, specific answer. The Lord is glorified by answering our prayer request and we are blessed by His answer.

SDG                 rmb                 1/25/2021

The unprompted extravagance of God (Genesis 12:2-3)

“And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3

In these two verses in Genesis 12, the LORD pours out a landslide of seven unconditional promises of blessing on this man, this Abram the son of Terah from Ur of the Chaldeans. Take a moment with me and consider the unprompted extravagance of the LORD.

WHAT ABRAM DESERVED OR MERITED?

We begin by considering Abram and see why he received such an outpouring of blessings from the LORD. As we read of Abram ancestors in Genesis 11:10-31, we search in vain for any indication of anyone in his family tree having a knowledge of the LORD. Where are his forefathers who called on the name of the LORD? They are absent. Instead, we read through nine generations without a single mention of the LORD. Indeed, Terah, Abram’s father, was a pagan who worshiped the moon god. As we study Abram’s lineage, there is no evidence of any acquaintance with the LORD or with any exercise of faith. It is hard to imagine that Abram had any concept of the LORD before He called him.

THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF THE LORD’S CALL

Then at the time appointed by the LORD, He calls Abram to go forth from his country to an unseen, unknown land that the LORD will show him. There had been no relationship between Abram and the LORD and then suddenly the LORD bursts upon Abram’s consciousness, calls him to trust Him with his entire future, and pours out astonishing, unconditional promises on him. And all of this is completely unprompted and unrequested. There is nothing that motivated or prompted the LORD to choose Abram other than His own divine will. Abram was unaware of the LORD’s existence and could have died that way. Abram could have continued his father’s legacy of bowing down to the moon god and never have known the joy of walking with the living God. Abram could happily have continued in his ignorance, but the LORD chose to speak to this man. Why Abram? We do not know, but the LORD chose him to be the father of a multitude and to walk with Him.

ALL THE GRACIOUS PROMISES

And then, as if that were not amazing enough, the LORD immediately makes seven astonishing promises to Abram. This is the unprompted extravagance of the LORD, to call Abram to Himself and then to make these glorious promises of blessing, and all of this as an act of His grace, just because He chose to do this.

“And I will make you a great nation.” At the time of this promise, Abram had no children and a barren wife, yet the LORD gives him an unconditional promise that he will become a great and populous nation.

“And I will bless you.” Abram gets the LORD’s unconditional promise that He will bless him. This probably refers to material blessings of flocks and herds.

“And I will make your name great.” Abram will be known far and wide as a great man. He will be famous and respected. Another unconditional promise.

“And so you shall be a blessing.” Not only will Abram be blessed, but he will also be a blessing to others. He will be blessed to be a blessing. Another unconditional promise.

“And I will bless those who bless you.” Those who are allies with Abram and those who help and bless Abram will be blessed by the LORD. Another unconditional promise.

“And the one who curses you I will curse.” Likewise, those who oppose or threaten Abram, or who seek to curse him will themselves be cursed, for the LORD will protect him. Another unconditional promise.

“And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” This is, of course, the grandest extravagance of all, as the LORD gives Abram the veiled promise that he will be the forefather of the Messiah. Another unconditional promise.

EXTRAVAGANT GRACE TO ALL WHO CALL ON THE LORD

            God’s extravagance to Abram was clearly displayed as the Lord of the universe called a pagan shepherd from a far country to be a father of a multitude and to become a friend of God. But we also understand that this is not a unique situation, nor is it even an uncommon one. The Lord who sought out and found Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to a life of faith walking with the living God is also the same Lord who seeks out and finds all His elect wherever they are and calls them to faith in the Lord Jesus.

            My own story is a display of the Lord’s unprompted extravagance, since before I became a Christian, I was far from Him, had little knowledge of Him, and had less interest in knowing Him. I was content in my ignorance, happily careening toward judgment. Then one day on a cliff in California, in an act of unprompted grace, the Lord awakened me to my own mortality and called me to Himself and called me to change. In a short time, He had led me to a good church and made sure that I had a Bible. He brought me to repentance of my many sins and to faith in the crucified and risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He brought me from death to life and promised to never leave me or forsake me. In His Word, he gave me many precious and magnificent promises (2 Peter 1:4) that are all “yes” and “Amen” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

            And, although there are as many variations as there are salvation testimonies, this display of His unprompted extravagance is what the Lord does all the time. This is who He is. He is a God who gives and loves extravagantly, and His blessings on His people are unprompted by anything in us and are only the expression of His mercy and glory and generosity and grace.

            Abram and you and I have this in common: we have been the recipient of God’s unprompted extravagance and His promises of blessing.

SDG                 rmb                 1/3/2021

Luke 5:17-26. Part 1 – Faith and forgiveness

What is the nature of genuine faith in Jesus and who is this Man who claims to forgive sins? These are some of the questions that are addressed in the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, a well-known story that appears in each of the synoptic gospels, in Matthew, in Mark, and in Luke. Over the next couple of posts, we will be looking at the account from the gospel of Luke, in Luke 5:17-26. I will be borrowing from the other gospel accounts for some of the details. This post will look at the nature of faith and forgiveness, and the next post will examine the Person of Jesus and find out more of His identity.

THE PLOT OF THE STORY

            As the story opens, Jesus is teaching to a big crowd inside his house when four men try to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, presumably for healing him of his paralysis. Since they are unable to get to Jesus through the crowd in the house, they go up on the roof and lower the bed-ridden paralytic down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who seem to always be there to give Jesus a hard time, complain that Jesus is wrong to claim to forgive sins, since only God can do that. Jesus then miraculously heals the paralytic, proving that He is, in fact, God and, as God, has authority to forgive sins. The crowds are duly amazed.

FAITH RESULTS IN FORGIVENESS        

            What principles can we learn from this story about the nature of saving faith?

            First, faith in Jesus always results in forgiveness of sins. Faith is the trigger for Christ’s forgiveness, because Jesus always perceives and responds to genuine faith. After Jesus saw their faith, He declared to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you (5:20).” Notice that neither the paralytic nor the paralytic’s friends asked Jesus to do anything, but Jesus, “when He saw their faith,” spontaneously granted forgiveness of sins. This is always the case. Then and now, faith in Jesus always results in forgiveness of sins and salvation. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you, too, have received forgiveness of sins.

            What does Jesus require for Him to forgive sins? Faith alone! “When He saw their faith” What “works” does He require to extend His forgiveness? None! Unlike other false religions and false teaching, there are no works required for Jesus’ forgiveness (Romans 4:2). It was the men’s faith that saved, not their effort. Just so, your faith alone saves you.

            Jesus granted unlimited forgiveness, in essence, absolute forgiveness. “When He saw their faith, He said, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” Jesus did not say, “Your known sins and your felt sins are forgiven,” so that the man would need to return later if he felt guilty. Nor did Jesus say, “Some of your sins are forgiven, but some are not.” Rather, Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).” When Jesus forgives sins, He forgives ALL sins forever. He does not forgive some but leave the rest unforgiven. His forgiveness is permanent and comprehensive. If Jesus has seen your faith, then you can have complete confidence that all your sins, past, present, and future, are forever forgiven.

            The proper end of all faith is salvation (Ephesians 2:8), and Jesus grants forgiveness and salvation to this man based on the man’s faith. When Jesus grants forgiveness, He is declaring that the righteous requirement of the Law (death for sin) has been fulfilled in us by means of His death on the cross (Romans 8:4). Because Christ has fulfilled the Law’s requirement on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18), our forgiveness and our salvation are two sides of the same coin. Thus, the person whom God has forgiven has also been saved.

FAITH PRODUCES ACTION

            There is another principle that we see here in this story about those who have genuine faith: Genuine faith manifests itself in faith-filled actions.

            Notice that faith precedes the “works,” or faith precedes the action. So, first, the men had faith that Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend, and then, second, they visibly demonstrated their faith in Jesus by carrying their friend all the way from where he was to where Jesus was. Their faith led to faith-filled action.

            In this story, the men’s faith-filled action was not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the benefit of the crowd that was watching. Jesus saw their faith, but the crowd needed to see the radical action that their faith produced. It is most often faith-filled action that makes genuine faith visible. Those outside of Christ cannot see or understand faith unless our faith is manifested by the actions of our lives. As James says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).”

APPLICATION

            An application of this principle that genuine faith produces action would be to ask ourselves, “Does my faith in Jesus produce faith-filled action?” In other words, if anyone were watching my life, would my actions clearly betray that I am a man or a woman of faith in the Lord Jesus? This is a challenging question for us all, but I think it is incumbent upon us to consider it. Does my faith manifest itself in my life such that an unbeliever could see it?

            Some actions that have occurred to me as evidence of faith are: prayer (Do others know you pray? Do they know to whom you pray? Do they know why you pray?), obedience to Scripture (Do you make decisions that puzzle others because you are obeying a clear teaching of the Scripture?), submission of all aspects of your life to the Lord (Does the Lord have first priority in your life?), unselfishness, humility, your speech. These are everyday ways that we can make our faith visible to others.

NEXT POST

            The next post will use this same passage to examine the Person of Jesus and find out more of His identity and why He claims to forgive sins.

SDG                 rmb                 11/30/2020

To Bow Down or Not to Bow Down in Babylon

We live in a world that is desperately short of heroes, and what we need today are heroes. We need those people who have noble convictions which they will never compromise regardless of the cost. Oh, where are those like the hero in Psalm 15: “He swears to his own hurt, and he does not change.”

One of the best places to find heroes is in the pages of the Bible where people like you and me display extraordinary courage and valor as they trust the Lord and are obedient to Him. Lately I have been spending time in the book of “Daniel,” and here I have found men who are willing to obey the LORD even in the face of dreadful consequences. Yes, here in “Daniel” I have found heroes.

In Daniel chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar decides to build a giant golden idol in Babylon and to command all his officials from all over his realm to bow down to his golden image. As a motivator for their obedience, the king promises that anyone who does not bow down to his image will be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. So, as expected, when the signal is given, everyone obediently bows down to the golden image – everyone, that is, except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In a field full of prostrated people, these three Hebrew men remain conspicuously standing. Apparently defying the king’s command and despising the flames of the king’s fiery furnace, our heroes stand firm. They REFUSE TO BOW DOWN to a false god and idol WHEN THEY ARE COMMANDED TO BOW DOWN, even though their disobedience comes with a death threat. Unless God intervenes, these men will surely die. But God “sent His angel and delivered His servants (Daniel 3:28)” so that our heroes are vindicated.

In Daniel chapter 6, King Darius is tricked into establishing an injunction in Babylon that says “that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6:7).” It is obvious that this ridiculous injunction was conceived to trap Daniel, since it was well known that he prayed to his God three times a day, every day. The conspirators’ plan was that the injunction would either result in Daniel’s ceasing to pray or it would result in his death in the lion’s den. What does Daniel do? Apparently defying the king’s injunction and despising the teeth of the lion’s den, our hero continues to bow down. Daniel REFUSES TO NOT BOW DOWN because of a man’s injunction WHEN HE IS COMMANDED TO NOT BOW DOWN, even though his disobedience comes with a death threat. Unless God intervenes, Daniel will surely die. But God “sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths (Daniel 6:22)” so that our hero is vindicated.

APPLICATION

In both these cases, our heroes are commanded to obey a man’s command that is contrary to God’s commands. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, because to worship the idol would be to disobey the LORD. And so, they refused to bow down, even though a fiery furnace awaited. Daniel refused to stop bowing down to worship his God, because to stop worship would be to disobey the LORD. And so, he continued to bow down, even though a den of lions awaited.

Also, their decision to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19; 5:29) was both automatic and absolute. Automatic in that the decision was made without deliberation. The decision had been made long ago and this event was merely an occasion to put the resolution into effect. Absolute, in that it was unconditional and was not subject to change. No threat or coercion could sway the decision.

How does this apply to us? As our gospel message and mission continue to become more and more hostile to our culture, we will experience opportunities to compromise to the commands and demands of our society. Therefore, the disciple of Jesus needs to decide NOW to obey the Lord and to do what the Lord commands automatically and absolutely. Our enemy is a crafty and deceitful liar (John 8:44) and he will provide temptations to compromise suddenly and without warning. We must have our lines already drawn in the sand and we must already be prepared to stand firm (Ephesians 6:11ff). We must have already decided what it looks like to not bow down to what the world worships and never stop bowing down in our worship to the Lord.

SDG                 rmb                 7/20/2020

Genesis 32:23ff – Wrestling with the Lord

The genesis of this article began back in February of this year as I began thinking about the many pictures that the Bible presents of people of faith encountering the Lord. As I considered these biblical episodes, I thought about how these experiences are often shared by many Christians. Yes, we will not experience all of these encounters with the Lord and we will not experience them to the same degree, but if our life is devoid of these types of encounters with the living God, then at some point we must question whether we truly know the Lord. In other words, these types of encounters are part of the very fabric of what it means to be a Christian. The Lord relates to His people, not only in the next life, but also in this life.

“Have you wrestled all night with the LORD?” In Genesis 32:23ff, Jacob has an encounter. He has escaped Laban, but now he is dreading his encounter with his brother Esau. He is at the ford of the Jabbok as night begins to fall and he sends across the Jabbok “whatever he had (32:23).” So, Jacob sends away all his wives and his children and all his livestock and all his “stuff,” and “Jacob was left alone (32:24).” The man who had accrued all his wealth in the far country is now left completely alone. No money. No wives. No children. Just Jacob alone. “And a man wrestled with him until daybreak (32:24).” The context makes it clear that Jacob is wrestling with the Lord Himself, and this is almost certainly a theophany of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. The time for games is over. Jacob the deceiver must die, and the new, humble Israel must emerge. Have you ever done that? Have you ever wrestled with God all night? Has there ever been a time when it was you yourself alone and you needed to wrestle with the Lord? Or the Lord needed to wrestle with you?

Our Lord is a God who allows His children to wrestle with Him and wrestle with their faith. He allows us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. He permits us to be confused and frightened and to cry out to Him. And like a father who allows his children to tussle with him, pretending to be challenged and even sometimes overcome, so the Lord allows us to complain to Him and to cry out to Him and to wrestle with Him as we try to understand this fallen world and our fallen selves in it.

One of the privileges, then, for the believer is to be able to wrestle with the Lord, never out of anger and rebellion, but rather with an attitude of seeking understanding.

Have you ever wrestled all night with the Lord?

Soli deo Gloria                         rmb                 7/23/2019

Trust in the Storm – Part 1 (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” With that, the disciples set off across the lake and head into a ferocious storm. As the waves are breaking over the boat and filling it with water, the Lord Jesus is asleep in the stern of the boat. Here we see Jesus as the perfect example of trust, that, while he is in mortal danger of drowning in the lake, He so trusts His heavenly Father that He can sleep in the storm.

What I want to do with a short series of blogs is first to examine the trust demonstrated by Jesus Christ and understand in a new and deeper way the greatness and the perfection of our Savior, the God-Man Jesus Christ. But then I also want to explore ways that we, too, can become people who trust the Lord, even in the midst of storms that may threaten our lives. Since Jesus is our perfect example of trust, we must learn how to live by faith and walk by trust in the Lord in the midst of all our circumstances so that we walk as Jesus walked. A disciple is one who is growing in trust of the Lord.

Jesus, Our Example: Perfect Trust in the Storm

As Mark’s gospel account of the life of Jesus unfolds, it quickly becomes apparent that this Jesus is no ordinary person. While His voice is an ordinary human voice, the authority of His words come forth with unquestioned power. His words are certain and uncompromising and pure. They ring with the truth of heaven. He commands demons and they instantly obey. He dispels disease and death with a word or a touch. He has supreme confidence in Himself without the slightest hint of self-consciousness. His disciples hang on His every word and begin to believe that He may be the promised Messiah. And so when He says they are going to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35), they eagerly hop in the boats and begin sailing and rowing toward the other shore.

When the boat has left shore far behind and the Master has fallen asleep in the stern of one of the little boats, “a fierce gale of wind” arises and begins to threaten the lives of all the men in the boats, including the Lord Jesus Himself. Make no mistake about the circumstances – the lake is deep and the disciples are far from shore. They are completely vulnerable and the situation is definitely life-threatening. You know that things are dire when the fishermen in the boat, who have fished this lake all their lives, wake up the Carpenter and ask Him to do something. My trust wavers and my faith flags when I hear an unusual noise under the hood of my car or when my manager at work calls me into his office, but our Lord was so confident of His Father’s care that being in the midst of a hurricane in the middle of a deep lake in a tiny boat did not prevent Him from taking a nap. Jesus has perfect trust in His Father taking care of Him.

There are two things that I want to mention that aided Jesus in His trust in the Father’s protection in this life threatening situation. First Jesus knew all the promises of God which had been written in the Scriptures and He had every reason to believe that all the promises made to the righteous in the Word applied to Him. God would be His refuge and His fortress, His help in time of trouble. He could abide with safety in the shadow of the Almighty. God would answer Him in time of trouble. God would conceal Him in His tabernacle. God would deliver Him from the hand of the wicked. When Jesus passed through the waters, the LORD would be with Him and the rivers would not overflow Him. Jesus could trust the Father with these and many more promises.

But more significantly and more profoundly, Jesus could perfectly trust His heavenly Father with His life on the Sea of Galilee, because Jesus knew that He was not going to die on the lake in a storm. Jesus had been chosen by the Father and sent to earth to die on a cross in Jerusalem. His atoning, sacrificial death on the cross had been ordained before the foundation of the world and there was no possibility that Jesus, the suffering Servant and the Son of God, was going to die anywhere but on Calvary’s tree. The salvation of God’s elect and the completion of God’s redemptive plan and the propitiation of God’s wrath necessitated the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross and there could be no deviation from that predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). Since that was the case, Jesus could trust that He was secure on the lake in the storm. No matter how ferocious the storm, Jesus knew that His time had not yet come. Jesus had a baptism to undergo (Luke 12:50) and He still had a bitter cup to drink (Mark 10:38) and the accomplishment of His appointed work (John 17:4) precluded any premature death in a boating accident.

So we see the glory of Jesus in His perfect trust in His heavenly Father. But how can we, as His disciples, follow in His steps and grow in our trust in the Lord so that we are not disturbed by life’s storms? That will be the subject of the next couple of blogs.

SDG     rmb     10/3/2016

Pictures of Faith From Luke’s Gospel – Jairus’ Faith (Luke 8:41-42)

One of the most beautiful aspects of the gospel of Luke is the numerous, dramatic and graphic pictures of faith that Luke gives us from the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. Luke gives us these pictures so that the one who is seeking Jesus and who truly desires to follow Jesus can know what saving faith looks like. What words cannot fully express, pictures can, and Luke gives us vivid images of those who surrendered everything and took up their cross and followed Jesus. What does saving faith look like? Come to the gospel of Luke and you will see.

In Luke 8:41-42 we encounter Jairus the synagogue official. The fact that he was a synagogue official could mean he was a scribe or possibly even a Pharisee, but it definitely means that he was steeped in Judaism. But Jairus has a problem that his Judaism cannot solve: his daughter is dying and Jairus needs to find someone who has the power to heal his daughter and snatch her from the jaws of death. When he sees the multitude nearby and knows that Jesus is in the middle of that crowd, Jairus abandons all protocol and all reservations and crashes his way through the crowd to get to Jesus. Then this synagogue official falls down before Jesus in humility and worship and begs Him to come to his house to save his daughter. Jesus consents to help him and off they go to Jairus’ house, “as the multitudes are (still) pressing against Jesus” (Luke 8:42). In these two short verses we see a dramatic picture of the saving faith of Jairus that not only saves his own soul, but also, through Christ’s power and through God’s grace, results in the healing of Jairus’ daughter as she is raised from the dead.

Now notice the remarkable faith that Jairus had. Jairus had a faith that:
. . . disregarded all the religion of his past as irrelevant and useless. Remember that Jairus was a synagogue official and was certainly serious about his Judaism. No doubt he was deeply religious and followed all the traditions and practices of Judaism. But he realized that all these rituals and practices would never help his daughter. He needed someone with power who could do a miracle. And so, in a moment, Jairus abandoned his religious past to pursue Jesus.
. . . believed that Jesus could do the impossible, including giving life to the dead. Jairus had heard about Jesus and possibly seen His miracles. Now in a moment it all clicked: “I need to get to Jesus and cry out to Him, because He has the power to save my daughter. He can do the impossible.”
. . . gave him the courage to decide that he was going to get to Jesus no matter what obstacles stood in his way and no matter what people said or thought. There was no multitude big enough to deter him from getting to Jesus. He would get to Jesus or die trying. And there was no public opinion that mattered enough to prevent him from getting to Jesus. What would his friends and fellow synagogue officials and fellow Jews say about him talking to Jesus? He could not have cared less. Let them say what they will, but he was going to get to Jesus and beg Him to show His power to save.
. . . took definite, radical action based on that faith. In the Bible, faith is only true faith and saving faith when that faith is manifested in ACTION. Jairus was convinced that Jesus was the Christ and that Jesus could save his daughter, and consequently he acted in boldness. A so-called faith that does not result in action is not true faith, for true saving faith moves the person to act in faith.

Do you have that kind of faith? Do you have the kind of faith that disregards your religion of the past, that believes that Jesus can raise from the dead, that will get to Jesus no matter the obstacles, and that is manifested in radical action? This is saving faith. Pray that God would give you this kind of faith.
SDG rmb 9/26/2015