God With Us!

-Proof He Is Who He Says He Is!

Try and imagine, with me, what it would be like to be a spy working undercover for the CIA. Imagine you’re in a hostile country; and, your assignment is to discover enemy secrets and send them to the home country. Imagine you’re approached by a man you’ve never met; and, he claims to also work for the CIA; and, he’s received new information from the U.S. government and your new assignment is to take orders from him. What do you do? You’re going to demand proof that he really is who he says he is; and, confirm that headquarters really did send him! 

-Can We Believe Jesus?

As you open the Bible to the start of the New Testament, you’re introduced to a man named Jesus; who claims to be the Jewish Messiah; the Son of God! How do we know we can believe Him? How do we know He’s not a fraud? Well, let’s return to our spy story! But, this time let’s imagine that before you left for your assignment, that you were given Top Secret instructions that you would meet a new contact; and, it included his picture and described him as 6’5” tall with one blue eye & one brown eye; that he walked with a limp; and, he would identify himself as “the mongoose.” He would give you all the necessary information you need to complete your assignment. With that kind of detailed information, you could easily identify the true agent, couldn’t you?

-Confirming Jesus Was The Messiah!

In a very similar way, God the Father has given us all the detailed information necessary to confirm who Jesus Messiah would be! And, only God is capable of formulating a plan, from the past, for the future; and, then implementing it & making it happen! Every other religious leader was born into this world unannounced, making claims about new information or revelations from God, with no way of verifying their claims! Think through that! Whether it’s Mohammed or Joseph Smith or Krishna or Mary Baker Eddy or Charles Taze Russell or Sun Myung Moon or Buddha; all of these were born first; and, then came up with their own religious movement they claimed to have come from God. It was the exact opposite for Jesus!

-Unique Details About The Messiah!

Long before He entered the world, God shared with the world, through His prophets, all the  unique details about the Messiah who would come so there could be no missing Him. The Old Testament; or, the Torah, contained all the necessary proof to either confirm or deny the one claiming to be Messiah. The only difference between Christianity & all other religions is Jesus Christ. It is the absolute uniqueness of Jesus that sets Him apart; and, makes Him distinct. Was Jesus the Messiah? That was the entire purpose for the first four books of the New Testament— the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-Testimony That Verifies Jesus’ Claim!

Each writer describes a different facet of Jesus’ ministry; so, together they provide a complete testimony to verify His claim that He was the Messiah. Matthew, especially, records the way the Jewish leaders— especially the Scribes & the Pharisees— examined the claims that Jesus was the Messiah; and, how they came to the negative conclusion that they came to. As Jesus became more & more popular, with the people, He also came under more & more scrutiny and disapproval by the religious leaders; especially, as He began working miracles & claiming that He was ONE with YAHWEH. And, by way of background, these were difficult times for Israel. Once again, as happened in the O.T., Israel had been invaded by a foreign power— this time the Roman Empire. As God promised, in the O.T., their sin had led to judgment & their hope was deliverance through God’s Messiah! We’ll pick it up from there next week!

God’s Purpose For His Laws!

-The Most Important Command?

Jesus reveals God’s intent, behind the law, when he answered a Pharisee’s question, “What is the most important command?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest & most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40.  What Jesus calls “…the Law and the Prophets…” is the whole of the Old Testament. He’s referring to the “Torah”; or, the 1st 5 books of the Law. And, the “Prophets” was a reference to the rest of the Old Testament.

-Summarized By Two Commands!

So, Jesus was saying that everything, in the Law & the Prophets (or, the Old Testament) could be summarized by these 2 commands— Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! The 10 general commandments; and, the 613 specific commands, that follow, can all be encapsulated in Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the most important command?” His answer? Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! Just look up Exodus 20 in your Bibles.  The first 4 commandments all focus on a loyal LOVE for God:  “no other gods”, “no idols”, “no using God’s name in vain” and “no work on God’s Sabbath.” The last 6 commandments all focus on the way we ought to LOVE our neighbor; or, our fellow human beings:  “honor mom & dad”, “don’t murder anyone”,  “don’t commit adultery”, “don’t steal”, “don’t lie about your neighbor” and “don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So, here’s the big picture—  God is teaching Israel how to live now that He’s redeemed them from Egypt! That’s the context in which the 10 commandments were given!

-Redemption First! Then Commands!

He’s “redeemed” or “bought out” Israel from their slavery; and, He introduces the commands like this:  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Exodus 20:2.  So, He redeems them; and, now He’s giving them the Law to direct them in the way they needed to live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Never did God intend to use the keeping of the Law as the means to being redeemed! That’s reversing the order! God redeemed them FIRST! He saved them from slavery; now, here’s how redeemed people live! Get it? This is incredibly important as it relates to salvation! God’s law was given TO a redeemed people; not, TO redeem people! God didn’t give Israel the Law to save redeem them! He’d already done that!

-Here’s How God’s People Live!

The principle is the same in the New Testament. James says “good works” FOLLOW our salvation! They don’t save us! So, I think it’s fair to ask what New Testament believers can learn from the Old Testament law? I would start by saying that the law reveals God’s character. It speaks to who He is. For example, He says He is “…a jealous God…” Exodus 20:5. That word “jealous” is used differently, in reference to God, then when we express “human” jealousy. We use it in the sense of being envious of someone because they have something we want. In context, God says He’s jealous when people make idols & worship them instead because He alone is God. It’s like a husband who has a right to be jealous when another man flirts with his wife because he alone has that right.  We’ll pick it up right there on next week’s post!

The Most Important Commandment!

-What Would You Ask God?

Several times, in my lifetime, I’ve found myself in a conversation with someone who made a statement that they intended to ask God about something when they saw Him someday! How about you? If you could ask God any question, what would it be? Well, in Mark’s Gospel, the writer says, that:  “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Of all the 613 commands found in the Torah (Jewish Old Testament) which was THE most important? Wow! That’s a big question! Which command’s at the top of the list? Don’t wanna miss that one!

-The Answer To The Big Question!

This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  This is really a timely post as it seems the church, in general, is confused about “worship.” But, Jesus really clears things up, doesn’t He? He’s really saying that we have to love God with ALL of our being—ALL of our “heart” & our “soul” & our “mind” & our “strength.”

-Everyone Claims To Love God!

So, it’s impossible to love God until we know Him! But, we live in a day when everyone claims to love God! That may be a generalization; but, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times that totally lost, unregenerate people—who have NO IDEA “Who” God is—still tell me they LOVE Him! I can believe them when they say they “love” pizza, for example, because they’ve tasted it! They’ve handled it! I can believe them when they say they “love” hunting because it’s something they’ve done! They take their dog & a friend! So, they’ve experienced it! But, you cannot possibly love God until you KNOW God! Until you’ve met Him & know Him well enough to explain WHY you love Him! Study Jesus’ words! That’s precisely what He’s saying!

-Love God Personally!

Jesus says we must love God PERSONALLY! Notice, from His response to the Scribes question, how Jesus uses 6 “personal” pronouns; and, every one of them is “possessive”—“The Lord OUR God”; “Love the Lord YOUR God”… ”with all YOUR HEART”… ”with all YOUR SOUL”… “with all YOUR MIND”… “with all YOUR STRENGTH.” THE most important commandment, in all of Scripture, is to have a personal, possessive love for God, Jesus says. And, you cannot love someone you don’t know! My wife & I have been married 35 years! But, I confess to you that there were 20 years during which time I did not love her! Not one bit of love did I have for her; and, the reason was that I didn’t know her! I hadn’t met her yet! Once I did, I grew to love her as I came to know her! That’s no different with God! We have to know Him personally before we can claim to love Him! We come to know His character—and, we know Him through Jesus & the Word!