Jesus Contact 20

Spare Me the Religiosity

The first churches established soon after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were simply referred to as the ‘Church of Christ.’ Once men and their egos got a hold of the idea of founding their own versions of churches, denominations were born. Each was / is a reflection of what the founder of the particular ‘religion’ thought should emphasize – usually consisting of man-made rituals and interpretations of their version of Scripture and the additions or subtractions they made to it.

However, adulteration of God’s word goes back even further. Not long after God Himself laid down the Mosaic Law, scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees mutilated much of the Scriptures with their pagan rituals and rules.

We get to hear our Savior address this when a Pharisee invites Him to dinner. Just before the dinner commences, the Pharisee takes Jesus to task because He did not wash His hands in their ritualistic manner. Bad move on his part. Christ retorts:

…Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness. You senseless (foolish, stupid) ones [acting without reflection of intelligence]! Did He Who made the outside make the inside also? But [dedicate your inner self and] give as donations to the poor of those things which are within [of inward righteousness] and behold, everything is purified and clean for you. Lk. 11:39 – 41. AMP

In other words, Jesus was telling the Pharisees to concentrate on keeping their hearts clean. He continues:

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” Lk. 11:42 – 44. NASB

Jesus is saying that the Pharisees (the ‘religious’) were hateful, corrupt and prideful. Moreover, He said that they corrupt their parishioners as well, just by occupying the same space. (He used the Mosaic Law that forbade coming in contact with a tomb because it defiled that person, as a metaphor for the defilement caused by non-Scriptural religion.)

A scribe (also referred to as a lawyer) was present in this dinner as well. He spoke up against Jesus, telling Him that He was insulting the Pharisee. Another bad move:

“Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your fathers…so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” Lk. 11:46 – 48 & 52. NASB

Jesus is calling the lawyers ‘hypocrites’ for building monuments for the prophets when in fact their own ancestors murdered them. Secondly, He condemns them for hoarding the Scriptures (even though they themselves never heeded them), thus keeping the door of salvation closed to the people, in order to justify their place of exaltation over the laity.

Lastly, Jesus convicts them and the Pharisees for making it impossible for the people to live godly lives by keeping the very instructions from God to do so from them, and for laying the burden of all their man-made religious requirements for being a godly person, upon them – knowing that most of them were impossible to keep. Again, like most things religious, these rules were meant to exalt those that teach it.

So, next time you hear someone tell you that their church is better than another church, or that theirs is the only ’true’ church, or they offer a way other than Christ for salvation (e.g. allowing you to ‘donate’ money to them for forgiveness of sins) – RUN THE OTHER WAY!

The Bible is your complete blueprint for the construction and function of your church, as well as the manifesto for godly living and attaining salvation. A real church follows that. Those are the ones you want to make your Jesus contact with…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Contact 19

The Only Way to Salvation

Jesus was leaving Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles when He and His apostles came upon a blind man. Jesus heals him (on the Sabbath – horror of horrors!) and the man runs off to tell everyone he meets. When the Pharisees got wind of it, they excommunicated him from the Temple. Jesus found out and tracked the man down. When He met up with the him, he fell to his knees and worshiped Jesus.

[It’s important to see that Christ allowed Himself to be worshiped. We know that God demands that only He is to be our target of worship. (Ex. 20:3, 4.) Thus, it can only be explained through that special oneness that the Father and the Son share.]

A crowd gathers around them (including those nasty Pharisees). Jesus takes this moment to bring His mission into an all-or-nothing, black or white type of clarity:

I came into this world for judgment [as a Separator, in order that there may be a separation between those who believe in Me and those who reject Me], to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind. Jn. 9:39 AMP

This bristles the Pharisees (obviously having had their pride admonished) and they call out to Him:

“Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” Jn. 9:40, 41. NKJV

Christ is admonishing the Pharisees because they claim to be so knowledgeable regarding God’s word – including the Messianic prophecies found within. Thus, Jesus is saying that there is no excuse for their continuing rejection of Him. ‘Their sin remains.’ He continues:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Jn. 10:1, 2. ESV

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jn. 10:3, 4. NKJV

Jesus see’s that the meaning of His metaphor sails right over the heads of the ‘knowledgeable’ Pharisees, so He hits them between the eyes with the message outright:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

The thief does not come except to steal, and kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Jn. 10:7 – 11, 14 – 18. NKJV

Jesus has just revealed a powerhouse of salvation information / promises:

First, the ‘sheep’ are the children of God.

Second, Jesus is the only door to God; He is the Good Shepherd who guides the children of God into His Father’s presence. There is no one other than Christ who can bring you into the kingdom of God. Furthermore, those who say that they can (e.g. the Pharisees) are false shepherds – liars looking only to fulfill the agenda of their father (Satan).

Third, Christ has come to shower your life with abundance – filling it with the light of God.

Fourth, Jesus willingly laid down His life for your salvation. No one forced Him to do so; He chose to do so solely out of His loving obedience to His Father and because of His undying love for you.

Fifth, our Savior has the power of life within Him; and He used that power to resurrect Himself in order to complete our Father’s plan of salvation.

Sixth, Jesus came not only for the salvation of the Jews, but also for all of humanity throughout the ages (‘which are not of this fold’) who choose to follow Him – gathering a global flock that rests in the eternal protection of the Good Shepherd.

And you too can rest in that same eternal promise, that only way to salvation, when you make that Jesus contact…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Contact 18

Are You Declaring Jesus?

Christ and the apostles attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in the fall of 29 A.D. Jesus entered the Temple and began to teach – astounding the hearers with His command of the Scriptures. Yet ever humble, He shifts their focus of amazement off of Himself by glorifying His Father:

“My doctrine is not Mine, but His Who sent Me…He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Jn. 7:16, 18, 19. NKJV

Jesus just declared that He speaks for God to glorify Jehovah. Furthermore, He is inferring that He can do so because He presents Himself as the only sinless example of His Father.

Some of those listening began to grumble about whether Jesus should be arrested or killed. Others wondered if He was indeed the Messiah, and those from His home town clung to their disbelief out of their familiarity with Him.

Jesus’ next declaration boldly separated Him from His detractors:

Do you know Me, and do you know where I am from? I have not come down on My own authority and of My own accord and self-appointed, but the One Who sent Me is true (real, genuine, steadfast); and Him you do not know! I know Him [Myself] because I come from His very presence, and it was He [personally] Who sent Me. Jn. 7:28, 29. AMP

Jesus is laying it on the line! He says they may know His earthly form but that they have absolutely no understanding of His divine nature, nor can they see that God sent Him. Moreover, He is attempting to make them acutely aware of their ignorance, by contending that they don’t have a clue about who God is.

That was all the convicted people could take. The chief priests and scribes in the midst of the listening crowd tried to have Jesus arrested, but He was supernaturally delivered from their grasp.

On the last day of the Festival, Jesus returned to the Temple and said:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jn. 7:37, 38. NKJV

The day after, He entered the Temple again and proclaimed:

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Jn. 8:12 NKJV

So, not only is Jesus the only one who has seen God and sent to speak for Him, He is also the living salvation of God.

Not unexpectedly, the Pharisees in the Temple called Jesus a liar, reminding Him that Mosaic Law requires corroboration of two witnesses to His Messianic claims in order for them to have any veracity. Jesus responds:

“Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I come from and where I am going; but you do not know…” Jn. 8:14 NKJV

You [set yourselves up to] judge according to the flesh (by what you see). [You condemn by external, human standards.] I do not [set Myself up to] judge or condemn or sentence anyone. Jn. 8:15 AMP

“Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” Jn. 8:16 ESV

“I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” Jn. 8:18 NASB

Jesus produced His witnesses: He and God Himself.

(Note that Jesus is not contradicting Himself when He says said that ‘I do not judge…Yet even if I do judge…” Christ did not judge during His earthly ministry. When He comes back, well, that’s another story.)

Flustered, the Pharisees demand that Jesus reveal the whereabouts of His ‘Father.’ He answers:

“You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:19, 23, 24. NKJV

Jesus is saying that He and His Father are exactly alike in intent, Spirit and power, and if they don’t believe that, they will pay the ultimate price.

He then steps up His conviction against the Jewish naysayers by telling them that their mistaken belief that just by being Abraham’s descendants they will be heavenly bound, will in fact bring them no salvation. (Jn. 8:37 – 40.) Moreover, He accuses them of acting in a rebellious manner against Abrahams works because they follow the devil instead:

“If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God…you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth…” Jn. 8:42 – 44. NKJV

In their collective anger over being declared guilty, the crowd asked Jesus if He thought that He was greater than Abraham. Jesus drops a bomb:

“If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him…but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Jn. 8:54 – 56. NKJV

Thus, Jesus is saying that coming of the Messiah was revealed to Abraham. The crowd responded by asking how in the world could Jesus have seen Abraham, being that he was born some 1800 years prior to their present time. Jesus gives them an out-of-the-world answer:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jn. 8:58 NKJV

He just said the He is eternal, just like God Himself. Indeed, claiming the ‘I AM,’ He is saying He is the explicit image of Jehovah. Shouts of blasphemy and pelted stones were sent towards Jesus’ way, but again He supernaturally disappeared from the Temple…

Are you declaring Jesus? After all, isn’t that the ‘Great Commission every follower of Christ is called to perform? Well, here we have Jesus Himself telling us how to declare Him – by declaring Him as He declared Himself.

Jesus said that He spoke for God, not for His Himself. Being sinless, He is the only one who can do so – this Messenger Son sent by God Himself to bring salvation with the light of life and the living waters to those who bring their faith.

He is that loving eternal Savior who does not judge, but instead opens His arms to usher us into His Father’s presence.

When you make this life-changing declaration, you are making your Jesus contact and opening the way for the lost children of this world to do the same…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Contact 17

Taking The Road Less Traveled

Jesus and the apostles’ ministerial travels take them to the region near Caesarea Philippi (a city 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the northernmost part of Israel). It was there that Christ asked Peter to tell Him whom he thought Jesus was. Peter replied:

You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Mt. 16:16 AMP

Jesus responds by revealing how Peter will take the ‘road less traveled:’

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in  heaven. And I also say this to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Mt. 16:17 – 19. NKJV

Jesus is telling Peter that he could not have perceived His divine nature unless God had opened his eyes. He is also exercising a little wordplay with Peter’s name. Peter’s full name was Simon Peter. ‘Peter is translated from the Greek word petros, meaning ‘rock.’ Jesus is alluding to Peter’s rock-like faith – the kind of foundational faith that Christ will build His church upon.

(This scripture is the first in the Bible to contain the word ‘church,’ translated from the Greek word ekklesia, referring to a ‘Christian assembly.’)

Jesus is not pointing to Peter as being in a relationship with Him that is more special that His with the other apostles. They all (with the exception of Judas Iscariot) had equal authority in the church. The ‘keys to heaven’ were given to them all. Peter held no special office (e.g. some kind of ‘pope.’)

Anyone who walks the road less traveled for Jesus (in faith) can be a part of the foundation of His church. You too can ‘bind’ problems (e.g. casting out a demonic spirit) and ‘loose’ a problem (e.g. helping someone to break free from sin).

Christ never said the road would be easy. Indeed, at this juncture of His ministry, He shifts His focus towards preaching about the necessity of His death. (Mt. 16:21) Moreover, He said that anyone who desires to follow Him must be willing to suffer as well:

If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget himself, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living, and if need be, in dying also.] Lk. 9:23 AMP

In other words, obeying God’s will should always come first – regardless of what our personal interests are at the time. The God walk is a walk on the road less traveled because it can be difficult and generally stands in opposition to the ways of the world, the ways of the flesh. For example, we must be humble before all:

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mk. 9:35 NKJV

Jesus placed a child in front of Him to emphasize His point to the apostles:

Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. Mt. 18:3 AMP

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18:4 NKJV

Apparently the message didn’t quite sink in because late the apostle John boasted to Jesus about stopping a man from practicing a Christian ministry because he wasn’t one of the 12 apostles. (Looks like how denominations could have begun, yes?)

Jesus replies:

“Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.” Mk. 9:39, 40. NKJV

Christ is saying that His church consists of all who follow Him. I believe that the concept of denominations would have been abhorrent to Jesus.

The road less traveled also demands that one practices compassion and non-judgmental mercy towards their brothers and sisters in Christ who backslide into sin:

If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen take along with you one or two others so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. Mt. 18:15 – 17. AMP

Jesus is revealing the godly way for handling offenses that all peoples will perpetrate at one time or another. We first try to handle the matter privately with the offender. If the offender is unrepentant, we try again in the presence of 1 or 2 witnesses (as per the dictates of Mosaic Law, which Jesus is imputing still applies). If the offender wishes to remain in sin they would be asked to meet with the church elders. Finally, if the offender doesn’t accept and abide by the correction meted out by the church, he or she must be disfellowshipped so as not to pollute the church.

In other words, Christ asks us to go the extra mile to try to save them.

Jesus is committed to helping you stay on the road less traveled. He knows its going to be difficult, but He doesn’t ask you to do anything He doesn’t do for you.

Near the end of September on 29 A.D., near the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), Jesus and the apostles were in the region of Galilee. Jesus did not want to go to the festival because He could foresee that Jewish religious officials were there waiting to kill Him.

However, it wasn’t fear that kept Him from going. He didn’t go at that exact moment, because He had a divine timetable to adhere to. Even Jesus’ brothers tried to get Him to go so He could perform miracles. (They didn’t believe He was the Messiah at that time.) Jesus answers:

My time (opportunity) has not come yet; but any time is suitable for you and your opportunity is ready any time [is always here]. The world cannot [be expected to] hate you, but it does hate Me because I denounce it for its wicked works and reveal that its doings are evil. Go to the Feast yourselves. I am not [yet] going…because My time is not ripe. Jn. 7:6 – 8. AMP

Because Jesus brings the righteous light of exposure to sins that people try to keep hidden and / or attempt to legitimize, they hate Him and all who represent Him.

Not long after Jesus’ brothers left, His time to go manifested. (Lk. 9:51) Jesus and His apostles traveled through Samaria towards Jerusalem. The Samaritans refused to lodge them along their way and James and John got upset – even to the point of asking Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy them. Jesus rebukes them by showing them that a traveler on the road less traveled needs to stay on message:

“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Lk. 9:55, 56. NKJV

He was telling James and John that their intent was in error because the spirits of Christ’s followers are those that readily offer peace and love through the free sharing of the gospel – not the rendering of punitive anger towards those who refuse to receive it.

Lastly, Jesus teaches us about the vision and commitment it takes to walk the road less traveled: He was approached by three would-be followers on the road to Jerusalem who struck up a conversation:

“Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another said to Him, “Lord I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” Lk. 9:57 – 61. NKJV

Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God. Lk. 9:62 AMP

Jesus’ responses clearly show the parameters for, and the consequences of following Him. It will be challenging because we must give up the (supposed) security of all things worldly, and place out absolute trust in Christ to provide. Second, He is not telling us to ignore our familial obligations, but to make our obedience to Christ our highest priority – to spread the gospel in order to expand the kingdom.Third, we must face forward and not look back, (Remember Lot’s wife?) so that we do not veer off course.

We cannot keep one leg in the world and try to straddle the other in heaven. It’s an all-or-nothing choice.

Let’s all go out and help others make that Jesus contact so that the road less traveled takes on more commuters…

Goodnight and God bless.