Jew For Jesus

The most renowned ‘Jew for Jesus’ was the apostle Paul – the Holy Spirit-inspired author of the majority of the New Testament. In fact, he was converted by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. Ironically, his primary ministry was to the Gentiles.

I bring this up because we’re going to look at some of the book of Hebrews – whose author is anonymous. However, some believe it was penned anonymously by Paul to minister to Jewish audiences without causing any rifts between he and the apostle Peter, who, primarily ministered to the Jews. Other biblical scholars have attributed the authorship of Hebrews to associates of Paul, especially Barnabas or Apollo.

Regardless, Hebrews seems to be written to bolster the faith of Jewish converts to Christ, who had got the erroneous notion that Jesus’ return was supposed to be immediate. Well, 60 years had passed since Jesus’ ascension, and doubts had begun to fester.

WHO IS JESUS?

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. Heb. 1:1, 2. NKJV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty, having become superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Heb. 1:3, 4. ESV

These opening scriptures tell us a lot: we learn that as soon as Jesus was resurrected, the ‘last days’ of the earth commenced. Also, God now speaks through Christ, who, petitioned His Father so that we could have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be able to receive His words.

God tells us that His Son is an exact imprint of Himself – affirming that whatever comes out of the mouth of Jesus is the word of God. We are reminded again that God made the universe through Christ, who holds it all together.

Finally, at the point of Jesus’ resurrection, He received His crown from God, to rule over the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords – exalted over all things, including the angels…

WHY HOPE IN JESUS?

For this reason we must pay closer attention to what we heard so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Heb. 2:1 – 3. NASB

The author is appealing to the Jews’ knowledge of the Old Testament, which demonstrated that every time an angel would appear, its pronunciations invariably came to pass. The Jews are also well aware that the angels testified of the coming of the Messiah.

Continuing, the Holy Spirit-inspired author asks his audience to consider the ‘present-day’ proofs for the veracity of Jesus being that Messiah:

It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will. Heb. 2:3, 4. ESV

So, the salvation promise in the Son, was first testified by God and then His Son. It was also testified by the apostles and was visually confirmed through Christ’s Holy Spirit-empowered miracles and spiritual gifts. The author is essentially saying, ‘What more proof do you need?’

WHAT HAD TO HAPPEN BEFORE JESUS COULD FULFILL HIS PURPOSE?

We have seen that in heaven, Jesus is exalted above the angels. In His carnal nature, He was not, because He had to take mortality upon Himself:

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while [by taking on the limitations of humanity], crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering of death, so that by the grace of God [extended to sinners] He might experience death for [the sins of] everyone. For it is fitting for God [that is, an act worthy of His divine nature] that He, for whose sake are all things, in bringing sons to glory, should make the author and founder of their salvation perfect through suffering [bringing to maturity the human experience necessary for Him to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest].

Both Jesus who sanctifies and those who are sanctified [that is, spiritually transformed, made holy, and set apart for God’s purpose] are all from one Father; for this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Heb. 2:9 – 11. AMP

Angels do not die. Jesus had to be mortal, so that by His sacrifice He could nail our sins to the cross forever. He also subjected Himself to the ‘human experience,’ so that He can compassionately identify with our weaknesses and suffering, while He serves as our High Priest at the right hand of God.

Furthermore, Jesus calls us ‘brothers and sisters,’ acknowledging our connection to His human side, when we accept Him in full faith as Savior with our spiritual side:

Therefore, since [these His] children share in flesh and blood [the physical nature of mankind], He Himself in a similar manner also shared in the same [physical nature, but without sin], so that through [experiencing] death He might make powerless (ineffective, impotent) him who had the power of death – that is, the devil – and [that He] might free all those who though the [haunting] fear of death were held in slavery throughout their lives. Heb. 2:14, 15. AMP

Jesus conquered death for all who follow Him. We will not feel death’s sting and thus need not fear it. Our transition will be immediate and glorious. Until that time, our High Priest can identify with anything that we are going through in this world, (He Himself being a conqueror of all of them) and does not hesitate to send compassionate help and healing our way, for any situation.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO FAITH

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me…they shall not enter My rest.” Heb. 3:7 – 9 & 11. NKJV

Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:11 – 13. NKJV

The author is referring to the behavior of the Jews during their exodus journey out of Egypt, led by Moses. Those that rebelled against Moses (and so had no faith in God’s word), did not get to enter into His rest (heaven). Similarly, all followers of Christ are called to persist in the belief in, and obedience to, the word of God and to hold tight in faith to God’s promises, which are accomplished through Jesus.

WHAT DOES JESUS DO?

…a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Heb. 7:19 ESV

Meaning that Jesus as a High Priest, far exceeds any priesthood that came before – giving us a direct connection to the Father.

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. Heb. 7:22 ESV

A better covenant in that He brings with Him a guaranteed salvation that is not subject to the perfection demanded by the Mosaic Law. And, He’s always with God, acting on our behalf:

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God though Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Heb. 7:25 NKJV

…at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Heb. 9:26 NASB

And, He’s coming back for you!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sins, but to save those eagerly waiting for him. Heb. 9:27, 28. ESV

Jesus went into the heavenly Most Holy Place (the throne room of God), for you. He rendered His own blood, from His only and final sacrifice, to perfect you forever. It was the moment that Christ decimated the power of sin for all time.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Your part is to confess, repent, accept Christ as your Savior, and walk His walk to the best of your ability. And when you come up short, Jesus has your back.

And until He comes back, it’s up to us to keep the faith:

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down on the right hand of God. Heb. 12:1, 2. NKJV

Jesus foresaw His joy in connecting with you for all of eternity, and He decided that it was worth paying the price of His crucifixion. Our price, is to endure in faith:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away with various and strange doctrines. Heb. 13:8 NKJV

DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKE THE CASE FOR JESUS OR WHAT?

Goodnight and God bless.

Advertisements

Easter Is Not About Colored Eggs

It’s about the coming of Jesus, Who came to save us from ourselves and reunite us with His Father, through Him, for eternity. He laid His life down so that we could once again be part of God’s temple.

As a Spirit-being, Christ was with God, who, created everything in this universe through Him. (Jn. 1:1 – 4.) Jesus shares the powers of God (Heb. 1:3). He holds the universe together and is the only ‘instrument’ for the redemption of God’s children. Jesus also shares His Father’s exact likeness. (Col. 1:15 – 20.)

We first hear about Christ’s first coming to earth in the time of the fall of Adam and Eve. (Gn. 3:15). Thus, it is evident that God was, at the beginning, planning for our redemption because He saw our future transgressions.

Before and after Jesus was born, it was made evident to many that He was sent for the salvation of all peoples. (Mt. 1:21; Lk. 1:68 – 70, 78, 79; 2:10, 11 & 30 – 32.

Then God and the Holy Spirit revealed it to John the Baptist. (Jn. 1:29)

When Jesus began His ministry, He Himself declared the purpose of His coming:

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jn. 3:13 – 17. NKJV

We see then that Jesus was sent to grant us eternal life, but that He must first be ‘lifted up’ (crucified) to have that happen. Prior to this revelation (that He made to Nicodemus), He alluded to His resurrection that would occur three days after His death. (Jn. 2:19)

Jesus went to great lengths to make His salvation promise take on reality for as many people as He could reach, and then He multiplied His efforts through the apostles (Mt. 28:19, 20.) and the church. (Mt. 16:18)

He taught about how deadly Satan and his purposes were. (Jn. 10:10) He showed us by example how to defeat the devil with the word of God. (Mt. 4:1 – 10.) That’s important because Satan’s prime objective is to rob you of Christ’s salvation. We want to cling to Jesus because our final victory will be facilitated through Him:

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 Jn. 3:8 NASB

He approached the spiritually ignorant, and reasoned with them so that they could see the light – actively pursuing their salvation. (Jn. 4:6 – 26.) And Jesus showed them that He was the centerpiece of that deliverance:

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He sent.” Jn. 6:29 NKJV

That sums up your salvation in a nutshell.

Jesus worked a multitude of miracles to convince the unbelievers of His ability to wield the power of God. He declared the veracity of all Scripture. (Mt. 5:17, 18.) And He stood toe to toe against the self-serving religion zealots of His time, that were teaching man-made falsehoods, which stood in the way of the people’s salvation.

He taught us how to live a godly life (Mt. chapters 5 – 7.) and about the importance of love. (Mt. 22:39; Jn. 13:34, 35.)

Amid all this, Jesus repeatedly drove home the fact that He was the only way to salvation:

“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…And this is the will of Him who sent Me, the everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:33 & 40. NKJV

“…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:24 NKJV

“…I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers…I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” Jn. 10:7 – 9. NKJV

Finally, Jesus taught about how corrupt the world would become and how it would persecute His followers; yet He encouraged us by saying that if we endured that oppression and held on to Him, salvation was assured. (Mt. 24:9 – 13.)

Despite all Jesus’ efforts, the world paid Him back by crucifying Him.

And yet, all that Christ said was true. On the third day, His tomb was empty…

Praise God! Happy Easter.

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.