Yearning For More God

For September 26, 2021
The Bible does not provide us with the exact time and place where Nicodemus met with Jesus. John tells us it happened during Passover, which is a major Jewish observance that runs concurrently with the Feast of Unleavened Bread; from the fourteenth day through the twenty-first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar or Nisan.1

During this week of feasting and celebration, massive throngs of people flooded Jerusalem from all over the world as every Jewish male was required to attend this observance to commemorate Israel’s Exodus from Egyptian slavery (see: Exodus 12:1-13:16, 23:17; 34:23).2

Yet in the midst of all the festive merry-making, Nicodemus yearned for more—he wanted to meet Jesus. Something intrigued him about the Lord. Perhaps it was His many miracles, or maybe it was His remarkable teachings about the Kingdom of God that resonated within his heart such as,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)

It could have been the stories from people whose lives had been changed completely after they met Jesus that fascinated him. Ultimately, there was something about Jesus that was most captivating to Nicodemus, as one author notes:

[Nicodemus] recognized in Jesus something he had never yet encountered. He was so impressed that he sought a private interview with this new teacher, and arranged an appointment with Jesus “by night.” The fact that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night certainly is no evidence of cowardice on his part. It was the natural thing to do.3

Although their meeting was outside the norm since both the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus, Nicodemus saw it as crucial. Ultimately, it would help him find the answer to the age-old question many of his contemporaries were asking: “Is this teacher our long-awaited Messiah?”

At Sinai, Moses yearned for more of God, but God warned that a physical encounter between the finite and infinite would be impossible without mediation or shield (my emphasis),

The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The LORD continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:19-23 (NLT)

In the Old Testament, one unfiltered look at God was too much for any mortal. So, God placed Moses in a cleft on the mount. Then as He passed by, Moses  caught a brief glimpse of God’s glory from behind. Nevertheless, one brief glimpse at God’s backside illuminated Moses’ face to the extent he veiled his face to keep from frightening others (Exodus 34:28–35, 2 Corinthians 3:12–18).

Now in this New Testament Age, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of everything we will ever want to know or experience about God, and His Holy Spirit gives us access to the presence and power of God in His fullest measure,

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:9-12 (NLT)

Our God is morally and spiritually perfect, and glorious in His holiness. This trait encapsulates the very core of His being. The Old Testament word that describes something sacred or holy (Hebrew: qados) depicts God as the One who has a pure, undefiled quality of essence, which separates Him (or “cut off”) from anything in His group or class.4 He is the one, true, holy God!

The New Testament counterpart (Greek: hagios) describes God as pure, blameless, sacred; distinct from what is common or normal and conveys the idea of bestowing reverence.5

Therefore, whether we read the Old or New Testament, the message is clear: holiness is predicated on God, who alone is pure, majestic, and glorious—our God is holy and without equal.

Proverbs 25:2 tells us that our Lord has chosen to conceal the full extent of His grandeur and majesty, while Psalm 147:5 (NLT) reads: “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” However, when we express a sacred devotion or sanctity toward God (or get real with God), He is faithful to reveal His loving, captivating radiance to us.

In the Old Testament, God commands His people to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus states we are to live our lives with “no part dark” (Luke 11:36). One can only imagine the impact we’d make within our families, churches, communities, nation, and the world if more of us lived our lives with “no part dark.” It would certainly free us from a world filled with all forms of greed, hatred, deceit, bondage and exploitation. How much safer would our world be if we lived like this? I can only imagine!

As finite and fallible creatures, achieving His holiness through sanctification is impossible without His intervention. God’s life-changing Spirit compels us to revere His creation with a sober view of His eternal being. This will help us pursue His moral and spiritual perfection with all sincerity and dedication.

When we come to God with a new appreciation for His all-encompassing presence and dominion, we can no longer express indifference and ambivalence towards Him because we are driven to present a sincere, reverent, intentional Christ-centered way of living that involves our deliberate participation.

God is a life-changing Spirit whose incredible majesty and splendor compel us to revere Him with a sober view of His eternal being. As we yearn for more of God by surrendering to Christ daily; allowing His Spirit to reign in us, we can grow closer to God in all phases of our lives. We also develop a strong sense of piety and reverence toward God that causes us to crave an even deeper level of intimacy with the Lord.

Over time, it becomes easier to invite Him to reign in every area of our lives so that we can reflect His holiness as Proverbs 4:18 (NLT) indicates, “The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” Won’t you yearn for more God today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Are Precious Treasure in Earthly Vessels

For September 5, 2021
While in Macedonia on his third missionary journey, Paul wrote Second Corinthians. Scholars place the writings sometime after he wrote First Corinthians, around 57 AD. Second Corinthians contains Paul’s personal experiences with the Lord and features his testimony, Apostleship, restoration and unity within the church, and the need to financially support the Judean church. Paul also writes about being ‘caught up to the Third Heaven’ to answer certain Judaizers; the “super apostles,” who challenged his apostolic authority.

As he writes this encouraging letter to the Believers at Corinth, Paul states,

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18 (NKJV)

From these poignant words, five theme emerge:

I. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

As it was customary in Paul’s day for nobles to store their treasures in clay containers “earthen vessels” for safekeeping, God has chosen you and me to store His eternal, heavenly treasures.

Through us, our God has chosen to make known to others everywhere around the world the incomprehensible riches of one all-compassing mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory! Colossians 1:27 (My Paraphrase)

Christ in you, the hope of Glory provides us with:

    • Forgiveness of Sin—Salvation
    • Reconciliation with God—Atonement
    • Indwelling of the Holy Spirit—Sanctification
    • Assurance of eternal life—Glorification

II. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Despite our adversity, we can rest assured that the Our Lord, the Good Shepherd is with us: loving us, caring for us, protecting us, and providing for us each day until the day He returns for us (or we go to Him in death).

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23 (NKJV)

III. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

IV. Our light affliction, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2 (NKJV)

V. We do not look at the visible, but the invisible. For what is seen is temporary, but what is not seen is eternal.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:1,6 (NKJV)

There is an old hymn that speaks to our grace and favor with God.

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say1
Horatius Bonar (1808—1889)

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me, and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give The living water thirsty one, Stoop down, and drink, and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light; Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, and I found In Him my Star, my Sun; And in that Light of life I’ll walk Till trav ‘ling days are done.

Despite how the world identifies us as being insignificant and worthless, or how the adversities and uncertainties we experience can make us feel helpless and hopeless at times, God has declared otherwise.

We are His prized possession, and we have been entrusted with His glorious, heavenly treasure that ensures we will have His abundant life now; while it also guarantees that we will reach our ultimate destination—eternal life with God! Won’t you trust in the Lord today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

Jesus Christ Is Our Answer And Solution!

For July 25, 2021
Our obsession with wealth, power, and influence is baffling; especially when we covet and pursue them when they are ephemeral and short-lived. Our human existence is fleeting with a shelf-life—for most of us—of less than one hundred years at best.

Nevertheless, we dedicate our lives to the acquisition of the bigger, newer, better, faster, and best thing we can get…often at the expense of others, as if those things we “lie, cheat and steal for” will last forever. Self-serving, self-fulfillment has become our modern-day obsession. However, the irony is that even if we were to possess all the wealth, power, and influence in the world, we would yet experience disenchantment because our transcendent spiritual dimension was grossly ignored and/or overlooked in the process of aquisition.

We yearn for eternal happiness and fulfillment in a world where there is no pain, sorrow, or disease and where all our wants, needs, and desires are satisfied completely. There with loving friends and family, perfect innocence, peace, tranquility, and safety abound, yielding a lasting, unabated, and complete satisfaction.

Before sin contaminated our world and everything in it, a blissful eternity was ours forever. But our ancestors’ disobedience, (a trait that we yet practice today), precipitated sin’s universal domination over our thoughts, words, and actions. As a result we are spiritually dead; certain to experience physical death, and are forever separated from our holy God.

God created us to be without sin to live forever in His perfect world. But because of sin, our world is full of sadness, pain, disease, trouble, and death. In other words, it is our nature to sin and die. (See: Romans 3:23, 5:14, and 6:23)

This fallen spiritual condition influences toddlers to defy their parents, while tempting teenagers to commit brutal murder and encouraging adults to commit unconscionable atrocities. Those who perform good deeds might ask, “How can I be a sinner?” We are sinners not because of our evil deeds. Our evil deeds reflect the spiritually flawed inner nature at work inside us at all times.

In our efforts, we cannot obtain fellowship with our holy God because He never fell from perfection; we did, and our tarnished nature offends Him. God is very particular about whom He “hangs out” with. It should be no surprise that His “no riffraff” policy remains today.

In our strength alone, we are helplessly and hopelessly in need of a Savior who can restore our fellowship with God. Unlike every human before Him or after Him, Jesus Christ was without sin, fully aware that His death would redeem fallen humanity and restore our loving, fellowship with God forever,

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19 NKJV).

Here is how Jesus puts it,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17 NIV)

All of us will have to account for our sinful behavior before our Creator. Why not stand before Him in total reliance on Jesus’ perfect righteousness instead of our flawed self-righteousness,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:1-4 NIV)

Jesus chose to redeem all of us, despite our sin nature, allowing us to embody His righteousness before God. He freely provides this for us not based on our sin-tainted “good deeds,” but by our faith in His perfect, redemptive deeds performed at Calvary’s Cross. Thus, to the Christian, our “good deeds” signify the presence of God’s Holy Spirit at work within us, after we’ve surrendered our lives to Christ; not our vain attempts to “earn” salvation.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, God’s amazing grace, abundant mercy, and enduring, all-encompassing love remain available to all of us today,

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

Jesus Christ is the answer to our questions and the solution to our problems. Those of us who accept Him as our personal Lord and Savior will experience the abundant, spiritually fulfilling life He guarantees us today, as well as the blissful eternity He secures for us tomorrow. Won’t you trust in Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Have His Spirit Inside Us Forever

For June 20, 2021
Before leaving, the Lord Jesus Christ promised that His Spirit would abide with us and be inside us,

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you (John 14:16-18 NLT).

The Holy Spirit’s mission is to seal the redemptive work of Christ as He inhabits our hearts. While inside us, He molds our thoughts, words, and actions into Christ’s likeness so that we can be Christ-like before this dark and tasteless world—as light and salt,

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14–16 AKJV).

Forgiven and restored to God through our faith in the death Jesus performed at Calvary, and in His resurrection, which signaled God’s approval of Jesus’ salvific, vicarious sacrifice performed for our benefit as well.

The Holy Spirit enables us to grow morally and spiritually in ways that honor Christ. The resulting works do not secure our salvation, Jesus does. Works are a byproduct of the Holy Spirit’s work within that produces godly, moral choices, and selfless, noble acts, as one writer attests,

That in this conflict the Holy Spirit enables the Christian, through increasing faith, more fully and consciously to appropriate Christ, and thus progressively to make a conquest of the remaining sinfulness of his [or her] nature.1

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is essential to the development of our progressive yearning for godly things like reading His Word, praying, worshipping, fellowshipping, and serving others. Simultaneously, He develops within us a growing disdain for worldly things that stunt our spiritual growth and hinder our fellowship with God.

Although we walk in the Spirit, we will never achieve perfection in this life. However, Jesus Christ yet makes intercession for us when we grieve the Holy Spirit by walking in sin and not in the Spirit. We can disobey or rebel against the Lord out of pride, selfishness, or spite like children having temper tantrums.

But like the Prodigal Son, eventually we “come to ourselves” by turning from our sin and returning to the Lord, mindful of what He did for us at Calvary. Then, we rely on the Spirit to help us not repeat the same sins. In essence, He reminds us that we cannot please the Lord by pursuing sin and selfishness.

The good news is that our imperfection does not signal our defeat. It only reminds us how far from Christ’s perfection we are and of how we must rely on Him to grow stronger each day. Jesus Christ was the only perfect example, and He can help us live a life of moral and spiritual excellence that contrasts our former life of sin.

As Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul observe, our boasting is never directed toward us and our feeble works. It always point toward the Lord who is at work inside us (Jeremiah 9:24, 1 Corinthians 1:31). Won’t you allow the Holy Spirit to work wonders in your life today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Jesus Got Up From The Grave!

For April 4, 2021
All humanity was in spiritual peril. Sin and death bound us, where there was no escape. But, Jesus’ single magnificent act would change the course of our future once and for all.

Up to now, Jesus Christ was like any other person who has ever spouted lofty ideals, performing magical tricks, and leading a group of misfits and non-conformists. This behavior was seen before. (Although raising the widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus from the dead were spectacular accomplishments.)

He was approximately thirty-three years old, give or take—a relatively young man—cut down in the prime of His life. His claim to be God in human flesh, (or the Son of God), along with His claim to be our only means of redemption were without validation to this point. Then, something happened that distinguishes Him from anyone who has ever lived.

Jesus Rose from the Dead!

Through His resurrection, God glorifies the Son and validates His authority over Satan, sin, and death, making Him the most significant person who has ever lived, and it ensures us that He will not disappoint those of us who put our faith in Him,

By any and all standards, Jesus Christ has always been regarded as the greatest figure in human history. On any list of the world’s greatest men, we always find at its head Jesus of Nazareth. Regardless of whether or not men acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, they must pay tribute to Him as the world’s outstanding man. 1

Many refer to Jesus as a prophet or teacher. Some say He was a good man who died tragically. If death was all there was, we would be hopelessly lost. But, praise the Lord! Jesus’ death is not all that there was to know about Him. He also rose from the dead, and He left behind an empty tomb. Although some have tried, we cannot ignore the implications of this historical fact.

    •  The empty tomb validates the Lord’s claim to be the Son of God or God in human flesh and that He, the Helper, and the Father are one.

I and my Father are one…I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper…the Spirit of truth…I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (John 10:30, 14:16-18 NKJV)

    • It confirms God has approved Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin and solidifies the new and abundant life we have in Him forever.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18 NIV).

    • It shows the Father answered His prayer to be glorified most emphatically.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV).

    • It proves and assures we will also experience a glorious resurrection, just as He has,

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 19:26 AKJV).

    • It assures us we can pray, read/study His Word, abide by His commands, trust His promises, attend church, observe His ordinances, serve others, and strive toward spiritual growth knowing our actions are productive,

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV).

The foundation of our Christian faith is the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of it, we sorrow not as others who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13),

This is but natural, as Christianity must stand or fall with the resurrection. Christ “rose from the dead,” has always been a cardinal article of faith in the Christian Church; for the defense of the faith and comfort to the Believers. The difficulties that beset denial are found in: (a) the impossibility of explaining the empty grave; (b) the attitude of the enemies of Christ after the resurrection, revealing their helpless confusion; (c) the Disciples’ sudden transition from hopelessness to triumphant faith; (d) the founding of Christianity in the world, which can be rationally accounted for only in view of the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead.2

Our Christian faith, history, and theology derive from the idea that Jesus Christ rose from the dead physically. Along with the Disciples we, His Followers today, universally accept this as fact. And despite the two thousand years of skeptics, our Christian faith has never been a product of “lies, fraud, hallucinations, and sick minds.” Courageous, clear-minded Saints of God continue to die for their faith in the Lord because they know Him to be authentic and eternal. Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus.3

Our Lord willingly died to pay for our sins, and He triumphantly rose for our justification. He ascended into Heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Soon, He will return for us, and we will be with Him forever in His peace and love. Won’t you trust Him today?

Jesus is risen…He is risen indeed!

What a Wonderful Savior!