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.

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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.

Jesus Is Our Hope: The Book of Hebrews

Introduction:

After we finished the last part of our series on the book of Romans, Acting Out Our Faith, we briefly (and for the last time) revisited the Bible book of Acts, wherein we left off with the apostle Paul just beginning to serve a two-year sentence of house arrest at the city of Rome in 60 A.D. Now, we’re going to leave Paul for a little while, in order to examine other historical developments and Holy-Spirit inspired Biblical writings, which were taking place at approximately the same time.

Although, perhaps we are not leaving Paul at all, let me explain…

We are first going to delve into the Bible book of Hebrews; and although the author is anonymous, many biblical scholars believe the author to be Paul. (Others believe the author to be associates of Paul – either Barnabas or Apollo.)

The title of the book / letter suggests that it was directed at a Jewish audience; and some of the scholars calling for a Pauline authorship of the book of Hebrews, believe that because Paul’s primary mission was to evangelize to the Gentiles, he penned this letter anonymously to prevent the formation of any rife between he and the apostle Peter (whose primary mission was to evangelize to the Jews).

The purpose of this letter appears to be for bolstering the faith of the Jewish converts to Christ – especially to a group who had somehow gotten the notion that Jesus was going to return immediately. However, because sixty years had gone by since Christ had ascended to heaven, the Jews were beginning to question whether or not following Him was a wise decision. The author goes into great detail reassuring them that it was…

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 as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Heb. 1:3, 4. ESV

There’s a lot to glean here. We learn that as soon as Jesus was resurrected, the ‘last days’ of the earth commenced. You might retort with saying, “These ‘last days’ have lasted over two thousand years!” True, but that’s just a blink of an eye to a universe that is believed to have stood for over sixteen billion years!

We see too that God now speaks to us through Christ, whom we know petitioned His Father for the Holy Spirit in order to deliver those words. In addition, God tells us that His Son is comprised of His exact imprint – reaffirming that whatever comes out of the mouth of Jesus is the word of God.

In addition, the Holy Spirit reminds us that God made the universe through Christ, and that Jesus Himself is still holding that universe together.

Finally, at the point of Jesus’ resurrection, He received His crown from God to rule over the earth as our King of kings and Lord of lords after He completed God’s plan for our salvation. As King, God exalted His Son over all things (including the angels).

Why hope in Jesus?

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we heard so that we do not drift away from it. For 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 Holy Spirit is appealing to the Jew’s knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, which showed that every time an angel would appear, its pronunciations invariably came to pass. The Jews are well aware that the angels also testified of the coming of the Messiah.

Then, the Holy Spirit-inspired author asks them to consider ‘present-day’ proofs for the veracity of Jesus as being the 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 (In essence, the author is saying, “How much ‘proof’ do you need?”)

What had to happen before Jesus could fulfill His purpose?

First, though we’ve seen that Jesus in heaven is exalted above the angels, Jesus on earth could not be; He had to take on mortality:

But we are able to see Jesus, Who was ranked lower than the angels for a little while, crowned with glory and honor because of His having suffered death, in order that by the grace (unmerited favor) of God [to us sinners] He might experience death for every individual person. For it was an act worthy [of God] and fitting [to the divine nature] that He, for Whose sake and by Whom all things have their existence, in bringing many sons into glory, should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect [should bring to maturity the human experience necessary to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest] through suffering.

For both He Who sanctifies [making men holy] and those who are sanctified all have one [Father]. For this reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren… 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 could compassionately identify with our weaknesses and our suffering, while He serves as our High Priest as 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 with our spiritual side:

Since, therefore, [these His] children share in flesh and blood [in the physical nature of human beings], He [Himself] in a similar manner partook of the same [nature], that by [going through] death He might bring to naught and make of no effect him who had the power of death – that is the devil – and also that He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the [haunting] fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives. Heb. 2:14, 15. AMP

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make a propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Heb. 2:17, 18. NKJV

Jesus conquered death for all who choose to follow Him. We will not feel death’s sting and therefore 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 He does not hesitate to send help, compassion, and healing, our way, in any situation.

There is still so much more that rounds out our Hope. Next time…

Good night and God Bless.