Jesus: The Glory Of The Father

Going To Church For The Wrong Reasons

For much of my life, as a Disciple of Jesus, I went to church for all the wrong reasons. I went to be seen— so everyone would know that I was a faithful, born-again believer! I went to see people— my friends at church! I also went out of duty or obligation— fearing punishment, from God, if I didn’t go! But, all those things left my faith experience empty. There had to be more to church than impressing people & fearing punishment! It’s been a spiritual work in progress for me— I had to move away from “checklist Christianity” or “cultural Christianity” where I did things, like church, so I could check them off my spiritual “to-do list” & be accepted in the church culture!

Pursuing God

Instead, I needed to move toward God and do those things out of love and respect for Him! I had to pursue Him! For me, church became a whole new experience when I began to pursue God— when I began to come to meet HIM; to worship HIM; to experience the glory of His work in HIS church! Here’s what I’m saying:  “Church Is About God!” It’s not about US! Oh, we have to show up; but, we come to make much of HIM! We worship Him together as a community of faith; to praise Him & bring Him glory! And, if HE doesn’t show up, there’s something wrong with our worship! It’s misplaced; or, it’s misguided, isn’t it?

God’s Glory In The Son

And, God reveals His glory through His Son, Jesus. The Apostle John said that when they looked upon Jesus, they “…beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” John 1:14. They beheld God’s glory IN JESUS! And, the Father calls for His Son’s praise:  “The Father,…has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” John 5:22-23.  The Father is offended when we fail to make much of Jesus! He is glorified when Jesus is worshipped & praised:  “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11.

Making Much Of Jesus

If the Father makes much of Jesus, the Son, then certainly so should we! God honors the church that makes much of Jesus— the church that worships Him; praises Him & glorifies Him. In the same way, God refuses to honor any church that fails to worship Jesus! God, the Father, is outraged by any worship gatherings that fail to honor the Son in the same way they honor the Father.

Jesus: The Exact Expression

In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus was “…the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature…” In other words, to “see Jesus is to see the Father.” He said that, by the way, when they asked him to show them the Father! In Colossians 1:15, the Apostle Paul said Jesus “…is the image of the invisible God.” You wanna see what God is like? Look at Jesus! Do you want God to speak to you? Listen to Jesus! He is the radiance of God’s glory! Like the radiance of the sun is inseparable from the sun, you can’t have the Father without the Son! The glory of the Trinity! Don’t ask me to explain it! I cannot! But, we are not commanded to explain all the intricate details about God! How could we? He’s infinite! We will spend all eternity plumbing the depths of God’s holiness, perfection, love, mercy, grace, omniscience, and omnipotence. We will study to know Him deeper for all eternity, and that study will never be exhausted.

Growing Up Spiritually In Community

The Greatest Commandment?

We’ve often pointed out that the world generally obsesses over the “self.” But, God, in the Scriptures, directs us to be “God-focused” and “others-focused”! When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Love God supremely; and love others in the same way that you love yourself! That means looking out for their best interests in the same way we look out for our best interests.

“Self-Centeredness” In Our Churches

Unfortunately, this “self-centeredness” has trickled down into our churches; so, even our spiritual growth is seen as something accomplished as an “individual.” For many modern believers, here in the West, being part of a church or a “community of faith” is seen as “supplemental”, and not “essential”, to our spiritual growth. We believe the Scriptures debunk that individualistic mindset.  God uses our local church— our faith community— to grow us at a deeper & more intimate level than can be accomplished alone.

Build Up The Body

Paul often reminded the local churches (as he did the Church of Ephesus in ch.4:11-16) that they were to function as a “body” functions; not as a group of self-centered, self-absorbed individuals! The “work of the ministry” is to “build up the BODY”, he said. The spiritual growth God intends to accomplish in us individually happens in the context of the local church body. It’s NOT that we don’t grow as “individuals”; we do! But that growth comes, in part, through our interaction with others! God uses our fellowship & even our fights to sanctify us! He teaches us humility, forgiveness, and how to resolve conflicts. When we live an isolated life outside of the church we live as though we are autonomous!

Only God Is Autonomous

Only God, however, is truly autonomous! He alone answers to no one! We must give an account of our lives to God; and, He has devised the church body to keep us accountable! It’s His plan that by holding ourselves accountable to other believers we will be stretched & matured so that we might hear a “well done good & faithful servant” when we stand before Him! We are called to “bear one another’s burdens”; and, those burdens come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes we are burdened by sin. At other times, our burden is physical or emotional; and, God intends to use our brothers & sisters, in Christ, to help mature us!

Why Are We Here?

Since making disciples is the main reason why a church exists, everything in the corporate body of the local church needs to be aligned in a way that funnels people toward these discipleship environments, the most notable of which is the relational small group”—from the chapter titled “Rethinking Our Practices” p.171 in Jim Putnam’s excellent book,  DiscipleShift.  Depending on the English translation of the Scriptures that you use, there are between 60-65 “each other” or “one another” admonitions in the New Testament. All of them relate to the interaction of believers in the body of a local church! I would conclude that it’s not even possible to obey those “each other” or “one another” commands unless we are part of a local community of faith! God uses even our “bad experiences” in the church to sanctify & grow each member!

No Sexually Immoral-Part III

-But You Were Washed

This is what you used to be like! Those are the words the Apostle Paul wrote in his 1st letter to the Church of Corinth:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Make no mistake, God’s inspired Word condemns the homosexual lifestyle along with all other forms of sexual sin! But, don’t make it a bigger sin than God does!

-God Hasn’t Changed His Mind

Despite attempts to “explain away” this text, there is not one passage of Scripture anywhere that indicates that God has changed His mind about homosexual behavior.  Let’s talk about sin! Let’s define it!  Let me just expand on that a little bit—because He ALONE is God, He has the right to declare “sin” to be whatever He determines it to be. He alone is the divine lawgiver! If He declared it “sin” to drive a pink car then sin it is! If He declared it “sin” to be a football fan then sin it would be! God has created everything with divine order. Because of our sin & rebellion, in the garden, our natural bent from conception is self-will and rebellion (Psalm 51:5).  It’s futile to fight against Him (Psalm 2).

-Unconditional Surrender

We can try & play God with our life! We can rebel against Him by practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or, any of the other 8 sins mentioned here; but, we’re not gonna win! The only acceptable response to God is the “unconditional surrender” of our will & all our ways to Him— Not grudgingly! God is not the big “killjoy” in the sky! His commandments are for our good! He is benevolent & “well-intended” toward us! And, everyone who submits to His will & to His way finds the ultimate joy in their obedience— despite the difficulty of overcoming addictive behaviors!

-His Commands Are Not A Burden

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”— 1 John 5:3.  The commandment is not burdensome, but that’s NOT to say that overcoming the former sins will be easy! Sins that have become “addictive behaviors” will require the ongoing support & encouragement of mature believers who “disciple” them in their faith! But, God’s indwelling Spirit can give them victory in the same way that He gave victory to many in the Church of Corinth.

-The Key Word

What is damning, according to this Scripture, is the “practice” of homosexual behavior! God does not eternally condemn a sexually immoral “act”. He’s not condemning to hell anyone who’s ever been guilty of idolatry, adultery, homosexual behavior; or, anyone who’s ever stolen, been greedy, drunk, or verbally abusive! Or, NONE of us could be saved! God not only removes the sin from our account when we confess it and trust Jesus to save us; but, He gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and slowly deliver us from the sin that once enslaved us! The condemnation is for “practicing” a “lifestyle” that God condemns! An unwillingness to confess it as sin— to agree with God about it—is what condemns a person. That’s the test! The person who loves God will give up their sin; including their sexual sin! To live a habitual life of rebellion is what confirms a person’s lost condition!

No Sexually Immoral–Part II

-To Judge “Sexual Sin” Rightly

In last week’s post, we noted that God has no “hierarchy” of sin when it comes to sexual sin. To judge “sexual sin” rightly is to agree with God that “Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin Is Sexual Sin.” So, don’t make homosexual sin a bigger sin than God does! God’s holiness is repulsed by all sexual sin! We concluded that from the text of Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

-The Evidence Is In The Lifestyle

If you study the context, of Paul’s letter, you’ll see that he’s drawing a distinction between the “unrighteous” & the “righteous”; or, the “unbeliever” & the “believer”; or, the “unsaved” & the “saved.” And, he uses an individuals “lifestyle” or “manner of life” as evidence. One of his ongoing themes— in both letters to the Corinthians— is that true belief always produces a changed life! In his 2nd letter, Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (5:17) The verb tense there speaks of continuing action. Some translations say, “...old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new…” This speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work in us; that it’s one of progressive sanctification; or progressive spiritual growth!

-True Believers Are Not Who They Used To Be

A genuine believer is NOT who they used to be— and, that includes their “human sexuality”! In v.11— in considering those who fail the test in v.9-10— he says to the Corinthian believers, “And some of you USED TO BE LIKE THIS…” Some of you USED to be caught up in the deadly lifestyles mentioned! There’s always a “before” and “after” for the believer—  “before Christ” a life of habitual sin; and, “after Christ” there’s repentance and change. There is not one passage of Scripture anywhere that indicates that God has changed His mind about homosexual behavior! God has the right— as GOD— to declare “sin” to be whatever He determines it to be. He alone is the Divine Lawgiver. If He declared it a sin to drive a pink car or to be a football fan then sin it would be! Are we clear on that? Genuine faith comes to agree with God about the former lifestyle— including our sexuality!

-Examine Yourselves

That’s NOT to say that overcoming the former sins will be easy! These sins may have become “addictive behaviors”; and, they require the support & encouragement of mature believers who “disciple” them in their faith! But, God’s indwelling Spirit can give them victory! Interestingly, this is how Scripture always teaches us to judge whether faith is genuine. Genuine faith; or conversion, is not proven by saying a prayer; being baptized; or living a life filled with good deeds. Rather, the Word of God reflects back to us a changed life! Like a mirror, we view our life according to God’s Word. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test” (2 Cor. 13:5). Is Jesus Christ in you? Are you looking more like Him every day? That’s the test! The person who loves God will give up their sin; including their sexual sin!

Joy In Our Trials

-Consider It A Great Joy!

In James’ introduction to his epistle, by the same name, the Spirit of God prompts him to write:  “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials” (1:2). Say what? Did he just say that we ought to consider it “joy” whenever we’re facing trials?  Yup, sure did! So, what are some of our natural responses to difficulties and problems? Not very joyful are they? Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh. A spiritual response of “joy” is counter-intuitive for us! It’s NOT natural! It’s God’s work in us!

-An Unavoidable Situation

That phrase, “…whenever you experience various trials…” is interesting.  It literally means that it’s an “unavoidable” situation! It’s not “IF” you will experience trials; but, “WHEN.” In other words, you cannot prevent it! You cannot control the various trials of life. I fear that some of you have gone through life feeling a great sense of guilt. You’ve convinced yourself that the reason you’ve had that crisis in your life is that you’ve done something wrong, and God is getting back at you for it! That He’s out to get you! That’s not the case! That’s not the loving, gracious, merciful God who eagerly forgives our sin when we confess it; and cleanses us for our unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-10). When James uses the word “consider” in that verse, he means for us to make a conscious commitment. We have to make a conscious commitment that whenever trials or tests or troubles come that we’re going to count it “joy” because it means that God is working in us! He’s using us for His purposes!

-God Puts You On Display!

If this becomes a struggle for you, let me offer you some Scripture to put to memory! When you memorize Scripture, you give God’s Holy Spirit the tools He uses to strengthen your faith and correct your walk with God! The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Church of Corinth:  “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).  God uses the tests & trials in your life to put you on display! “Here’s Jesus in the flesh,” He tells the unbelieving world. He’s announcing to everyone around you! He wants to show the world, by your response to the testing, that Jesus is more valuable to you than a perfect life without struggles; that you still pursue Him despite your trials! 

-Spiritual Maturity!

James is teaching his readers to let God use the testing to produce spiritual maturity in their life. It’s “…the testing of your faith…” he says in v.3 that produces “endurance.” One of our former members, who’s moved away, runs marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. He didn’t just start running marathons one day. In fact, if you ask him how far he could run when he started, he’d tell you he wasn’t able to get past the 1-mile mark. But, he kept running, stretching it out to 5 miles; then 10, 15, and 20. Until he could endure 26.2 miles. That’s what the testing of our faith produces is endurance, James says. When you’re a new believer you get tripped up easily over every little test in life. But, God uses it to build spiritual endurance in us! That’s why we consider it joy! We don’t consider it joy because we enjoy the trials. Rather, we face the trials with a joyful heart because we know that God is using those things to produce spiritual endurance in us. It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

The Testing Of Your Faith

-A Terrible Secret!

The daughter of missionaries, to the Congo Republic, told the story of her participation in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1st missionaries coming to that part of Africa. It was a huge celebration to commemorate the lasting impact of the work of those original missionaries. Special speakers were invited. There was lots of special worship music, festive meals, and many other planned activities.  At one point, she said that an aged native came forward & introduced himself as the last person alive who was privy to a terrible secret.

-They Tested Their Sincerity!

The old man confessed that 100 years earlier, his ancestors didn’t know whether to believe the message those 1st missionaries brought. So, to test the sincerity of the missionaries, they devised a plan. Slowly, secretly, and systematically they began poisoning the missionaries. Then, they watched intently as mothers said goodbye to children; husbands said goodbye to their wives, and friends said goodbye to one another. The old man explained that it was only as they saw how the missionaries died, that the truth of their message was confirmed. As a result, many came to believe & embrace the gospel message!

-A Faith That Remained Firm!

They observed a faith that remained as firm in death, as it was in life. It’s in James, chapter 1, where the writer— James; Jesus 1/2 brother— began his epistle like this:  “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad…” Let me tell you why that introduction is significant. He’s writing to Jewish followers of Jesus Christ who have been “dispersed” or scattered in persecution for their faith. James’ purpose, for writing this letter, was to encourage them & offer them a basis & a reason for their suffering! To teach them that their pain was not pointless! That God had a purpose for it!

-On Display In An Unbelieving World!

And, part of His purpose for the pain & the suffering & the setbacks we endure, is to put us on display in an unbelieving world. The genuineness & quality of our faith is most visible & apparent during times of intense pain and testing. In other words, the gospel is seen most plainly & Jesus is seen as most valuable when we continue to pursue Him even during life’s trials & tests. Jesus’ ministry was authenticated, in part, by His response to betrayal, to false testimony & to His unlawful death. And, because He did not condemn them; but, said “Father, forgive them”, we see centurions & soldiers & many of the priests (who approved of His crucifixion) coming to believe in Him!

-Jesus In The Flesh!

There are people all around us who need to see Jesus in the flesh before they’ll believe! Like the 1st believers in the Congo, they need to see our response to pain, suffering & setbacks before they’ll come to faith and believe in the Jesus you say you believe in. James continued from his opening sentence with these words: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) I sense a storm brewing in our land! Don’t you? We might be closing in on a day when it’s against the law to be a Christian! Church, we need to be teaching our children & our grand-children how to live in a culture & environment like the believers of James day lived. I don’t believe we’ve done a very good job of that! We haven’t prepared them! Will you pray for God’s help to do that?

The Spirit Of Truth!

-He Came Alongside Him!

Many of you are aware that I’m a big baseball fan; and, one of my favorite baseball stories is about the friendship between the Dodgers Hall-of-Fame shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, and his teammate, the great Jackie Robinson. In 1947 Robinson bravely broke the color barrier, that should never have existed, when he became the 1st African American to play Major League baseball. Facing incredible racism, that continues to be a blight on our nation’s history & shamefully still persists today, he experienced jeering crowds in every stadium he played. One day, while playing at his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error and the fans began to ridicule him loudly. As Jackie stood, humiliated at 2nd base as the fans continued to boo him, Pee Wee Reese walked over to him, stood next to him, and put his arm around him; turning to face the crowd until they quit their booing! Later, Jackie Robinsons said, “That arm around my shoulder saved my career.

-Helper! Comforter! Advocate!

What Reese did that day was very much the kind of ministry the Holy Spirit does for us.  In John’s Gospel, chapter 14, as Jesus’ disciples struggle with His announcement that He would be leaving them soon, He encourages them with these words: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth” (vs.16-17). And, that word translated “Counselor”— some of your translations render it “helper” or “comforter” or “advocate”— is “parakletos” in the original Greek language. The word is used in reference to someone who is “called to one’s aid.” “Para” means to “come alongside.” If you’re a Paramedic you “come alongside” someone to provide medical assistance. Pee Wee Reese came alongside Jackie Robinson. He came to Jackie Robinson’s aid.

-He Sent The Holy Spirit To Aid Them!

Jesus told His disciples not to fear; because, when He left them, He would send the Holy Spirit— ”parakletos”— to their aid. It is only by God’s Holy Spirit that we are able to break free from Satan’s grasp to do Jesus’ work by God’s power! It has been my experience that the Holy Spirit, the 3rd member of the Triune Godhead, is either the most ignored or the most misunderstood member of the Trinity. What Jesus says about the Spirit, in John’s Gospel, is absolutely vital to your spiritual health. If you’re trying to live the Christian life without a proper Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work, you’ll suffer from spiritual malnutrition and you’ll be ineffective for the Lord! Listen to what Jesus says: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.” (vs. 16-18)

-Don’t Leave Home Without Him!

And, Jesus continues speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit: “I have spoken these things to you,” Jesus continues, “while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things & remind you of everything I’ve told you” (vs.25-26). Don’t leave home without the Holy Spirit. The Capital One card may ask, “What’s in your wallet?”; but, God is asking, “Who’s your parakletos?” Who’s coming alongside you to give you the aid you need to live a life that counts for eternity? Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. He says, “I will ask the Father, and He will GIVE you another Counselor…” (v.16). I’m going to ask the Father, Jesus says, to give you someone! The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Father’s gift! We are a favored people to live in the age of the Spirit! We should be incredibly thankful that we live in a day when the fullness of the Godhead has been revealed.

Sound Asleep!

-A Disturbing Prejudicial Response!

For anyone claiming to follow Jesus, the Old Testament story of Jonah is a disturbing one! Our posts the last few weeks have focused on Jonah’s story. And, while it’s startling to observe Jonah’s prejudicial response to the revival of the people of Ninevah, we may be more like Jonah than we know; or, than we care to admit! The church cannot hold prejudice against any other people group, nation, or religion; and, remain true to Jesus’ commission to make disciples of every tribe, nation & people group. To make us useful, in His kingdom purposes, God must awaken us to souls nearby!

-Wake Up! Call To Your God!

Just turn back to Jonah, chapter 1, with me, and pay close attention to the words of the ship’s captain. Remember, this is the ship that Jonah chose to take passage on as he ran away from God’s calling to share the gospel message with the city of Ninevah. Starting at v.4, “Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea & such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god. They threw the ship’s cargo into the sea to lighten the load. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel & had stretched out & fallen into a deep sleep. The captain approached him & said, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us & we won’t perish’” (1:4-6).

-Silencing The Call Of God!

As I studied my way through this passage, the words of the ship’s captain arrested my attention. As I read it, I just let it play out in my mind like a TV drama; except, I saw it from Jonah’s vantage point— a believer;  a prophet of God; commissioned by God to take His word to another people group! But, he ran from that call! Getting on that ship; and, finding a place deep in its belly, he was determined to silence the call of God by just “sleeping it off.” He’d just wake up in a new place where, hopefully, God would just give up on him. But, as he slept— a deep sleep it says— a violent wind & storm arose on the sea; and, all the crewmen feared for their lives! So much so, that it says they, “…each CRIED OUT to their god…”

-What Are You Doing Sound Asleep?

Then, while beginning to throw the cargo overboard to keep the ship from breaking apart, the captain stumbles onto Jonah, wakes him; and, asks him:  “What are you doing sound asleep?” And, then he rebukes him, “Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us, and we won’t perish.” What an embarrassing role reversal this was for Jonah! Who was the spiritually motivated one? The more I meditated on that picture the more it kind of morphed into an image of OUR day! Have you noticed that there’s a major storm brewing all around us with wars & rumors of wars with the constant threat of nuclear weapons? There’s fear of a worldwide economic collapse!

-Down In The Belly Of The Ship!

There’s political unrest; and, a huge racism problem. And, to personalize the drama of Jonah’s story, WE are down in the belly of the ship! Many of us, who claim to be followers of Jesus, are running away from our calling! And, just like Jonah, we’re sound asleep! Even the unbelievers around us are recognizing the grave danger we’re in. All the cargo— the stuff of this world— isn’t worth keeping. Many of the lost all around us are crying out for help; and, in my mind I see the lost discovering me down in the ship; and, they’re angry! Angry at my non-loving, non-caring attitude toward them. Why wasn’t I helping them? They cry out the same words as the ship’s captain, “What are you doing sound asleep?” If you’ve been asleep; and, God’s Spirit is rousing you, let me remind you that He is the God of 2nd chances! Even as He gave Jonah a chance, He offers you a chance to repent & jump into God’s work?

Well Done Daniel!

-Action Thrillers!

You don’t have to know me very long to know that I love “action” movies like Star Wars; and, Marvel Comics movies; and, Mission Impossible! That kind of stuff! Those are the kind of books I love to read also— thrillers; like Ted Dekker & Joel Rosenberg books! That’s probably why I became such a big fan of the Old Testament book of Daniel after I came to faith in Jesus as a Junior Higher! I remember sitting by the record player (do you all remember those?); and, listening over & over to a recording of the action highlights of the book of Daniel being dramatized! The lion’s den! And, his 3 friends in the fiery furnace! I loved it! I couldn’t imagine a more action-packed story.

-The Back Story To Daniel!

When I went off to Bible college I became fascinated with all the end-time prophecies in the book of Daniel. I remember evangelists preaching in chapel; and, using the book of Daniel to show us where we were on God’s prophetic calendar. As I’ve gone deeper in God’s word; and, matured in my faith, I’ve discovered another storyline that weaves through Daniel’s book that was hardly broached in Sunday School; or, even in Bible college. It’s the back story of the lion’s den & the fiery furnace. It’s the story of Daniel’s faith in God; and, how he lived out his faith in one of the most wicked environments the world has ever known.

-Well Done, Good & Faithful Servant!

Through Daniel’s story, God shows us how to live a, “well done, good & faithful servant” kind of life. Let me explain! In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, we find one of Jesus’ parables recorded, “The Parable Of The Talents.” In the parable, God is represented as a master who gives various talents to his servants; and, to those who use their talents faithfully, he says:  “Well done good & faithful servant.” If you’ve ever read the book of Daniel, you know that, despite of great pain & disappointment in his life, Daniel lived that kind of life—a “Well done good & faithful servant” kind of life! I long to use my life; and, I pray you long to live yours in such a way that you would hear those words someday when you stand before Jesus; and, give an account of your life:  “Well done good & faithful servant!”

-Responding To Everyday Issues!

It is my intent, over the next few posts, to show you how God helped Daniel respond to the everyday issues of life. Right from the start, God shows us how to respond when life isn’t happy! Daniel’s story begins, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God…” (1:1-2). This is the result of God’s judgment. All God’s warnings to Israel, through the prophets, went unheeded; so, the Lord sent Nebuchadnezzar to lay siege against Jerusalem! This was God’s Sovereign work— “The Lord handed Jehoiakim…over…”

-A Story Birthed In Pain!

No one would have made a movie out of the start of Daniel’s life. His story is birthed in pain, suffering & separation! Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, was not a very nice man! History records him as one of the most brutal, powerful & ambitious kings the world has ever known! He was arrogant & ruthless! His strategy for assimilating a conquered foe was to remove young royalty, like Daniel, from their homes; usually, killing their parents right before their eyes! Daniel’s world was flipped upside down. He was uprooted from his homeland; and, carried off to a middle eastern country he didn’t know to learn a new culture & a new language. And, Daniel shows us how to live even when life doesn’t have a happy ending. The rest of chapter 1 finds him determined to stay faithful to God. He refused to defile himself by the ungodly culture around him; and, God blessed him for his faithfulness! We’ll dig into that in our next post!

Is Every Believer A Disciple?

-What Does Scripture Teach?

The Church, here in the west, has often made a distinction between a “believer” in Jesus Christ & a “disciple” of Jesus Christ! It’s a distinction, however, that Scripture fails to make— that you can be a saved “believer” & just live your entire life for yourself! That, if you desire, you can become a “disciple” and live out your days as a “super saint” for Jesus. No where, in Scripture, does Jesus say anything even close to that! If you abide, in Jesus, you will produce the fruit of a disciple! That’s the outcome of genuine faith!

-Grape Vines Produce Grapes!

There will always be fruit where there is genuine faith. It’s as natural as a grape vine producing grapes. That’s what grape vines do! And, there is fruit that is naturally produced, by God’s Spirit, in the life of every genuine believer who abides in Jesus! In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus says! Fruitfulness is the proof that you’re a “believer” & “disciple.” “If anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus said, “he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” John 15:6-8.  We bring glory to God when our lives produce fruit because it PROVES that He’s saved us! The PROOF is in the FRUIT!

-Love, Joy & Obedience!

Then, Jesus expands, on that, in the next several verses (v. 9-17). Fruitfulness, He says, is measured by our love, by our obedience, and, by our joy! “This is My commandment,” Jesus said, “that you love one another as I have loved you.” Loving others isn’t an option for anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus! If there’s no love, it’s because there is no spiritual life. Where there’s no love, there’s no “abiding in Jesus.” “You are my friends,” He said, “if you do what I command you.” We cannot pick and choose what we’re going to obey in God’s Word. Disobedience isn’t an option! If we truly abide, in Christ, we’ll repent when we disobey & realign our life accordingly with the Scriptures. And, there’ll be joy in your life— “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may full.” Our joy is linked to a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ! It’s not circumstantial!

-Even When Life Is Hard!

Abiding in Christ produces joy! Even when the rest of life derails, our joy is centered In Jesus. All those grumpy, mean-spirited, haters out there who claim to be followers of Jesus must have missed that Scripture! Or… they don’t really abide in Christ! This text presents a clear case that God, the Father, won’t stand idle while His children act up! He will prune— “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” John 17:2. He will discipline His own! He will spank! But, He doesn’t spank the Devil’s kids! Our response, to His discipline, will either confirm or deny that our “faith” is legitimate! We will confess sin & let His Spirit clean house!