Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Illusion


And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. Matthew 24:4-5

This picture is an illusion. Stare intently at the 4 dots in the center of the drawing for about 30-40 seconds, then look at any smooth or single colored surface. A circle of light will begin to develop. If you blink your eyes a few times, a figure will begin to emerge. What is it that you appear to see?

Is it Jesus? It is not. It is an illusion, and we are quick to recognize it as being an illusion. Are we as quick to recognize truth when we hear it as it pertains to a Biblical viewpoint? We live in a world where an abundance of teachers are pointing to ways that seem right to man. Many point to various ways to God. Many are working toward unified ecumenical religious organizations where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus come together in blended faith. Many teach doctrines established by men that, on the face of them, seem to be authentic – but are they? How do we know what is true and what isn’t? How do we escape false ‘christs’ or false witnesses? How do we guard ourselves from being deceived?

In the Book of Proverbs, we find an identical warning in verses 14:12 and 16:25, which tell us “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” The scriptures, in full context, lay out the following truth . . . There is only one way to be reconciled to God: By faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Once we come to the place of receiving Christ as Savior, we begin to feed on the milk of the Word. How? Faith comes by hearing. . . We hear from the pulpit, we hear in small group settings, we hear though others who know God. At least we presume they do, sometimes by virtue of position, but do they really?

It isn’t enough that we are hearers only. We have responsibility to be able to discern what we hear, and we can’t do that unless we have an uncompromising standard of measure. As Christians, our standard of measure must always be the Word of God.

In order to learn who God is and to train ourselves to distinguish between what is genuine and what is illusion, we must study the Word of God: in its entirety, in its full context, in light of what the scripture is saying. It cannot be the ‘gospel according to me’; it must be the Gospel as God has presented it in truth, in completeness, in entirety. Biblical ‘cut and paste’ can lead to death. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The writer of Hebrews corrects and exhorts us when he says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Are you equipped to discern good from evil? Do you trust anything outside of faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone for your salvation? Do you take time to study the Word of God and to pray or do you depend upon others to tell you what God's word says? If not, begin today to ask Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the scriptures so that you will not be confused or taken captive to false doctrine or false teachers.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

After Easter . . .


As Jesus prepared His disciples for the events that were to follow the last supper, John 16:7-12 tells us that the disciples could not understand that Jesus must die and rise again. Instead of receiving what the Lord was giving them, they were overcome by grief. Yet Jesus encourages them saying, ”But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

In the days to follow, Jesus would continue to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Acts 1:1-11

He is risen indeed! And what a joyous inheritance we have as sons and daughters of the Most High! When Pentecost came, a sound like a rushing mighty wind would blow in from Heaven, and the little band of believers would never be the same!! They were armed and on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission totally driven, directed, empowered and in submission to the 3rd person of the Godhead, Holy Spirit! The Spirit indwells us as we receive Christ as Lord today. We don’t have to wait.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. The Spirit of God today is at will and at work in full power to bring the good news of the gospel to every nation. The history that began 4000 years ago for the people of God is still the good news for today! It is a message of salvation, healing, deliverance and hope for tomorrow! We can go as deep with Holy Spirit as our heart desires – the more we seek Him, the more we make Him a part of our daily decisions, the more we understand and the more effectual we are in the bigger purposes of God’s truth and plan for our lives!

And the very best news of all is that this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. We live in a corrupted world of limited vision – especially in spiritual places. Every prophecy about the Lord’s first coming has been fulfilled, and so will His second be!! Are you ready? Will you embrace the fullness of Jesus today and welcome Holy Spirit’s work in your life? Will you let Him lead, guide and empower you to live a life of kingdom vision? Will you pray that He will empower you to share the good news of Jesus and declare His word in your family, your neighborhood, and on the job?

If we receive Him as the early Church received Him, we can experience the same manifestation of Holy Spirit’s power, which resulted in believers who devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved!!

On Saturday


John 20:9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

Have you ever considered what life must have been like for the disciples on the Saturday? Just the week before Jesus had triumphantly entered the city to celebrate the Feast of Passover. Within a few short days, the world around them would swirl out of control. The soldiers would come to take Jesus away. He would be beaten beyond recognition and put on trial before Pilot. Fiery Peter, afraid of nothing, would deny Jesus. Other than John, there is no record that any of them would have accompanied Him to the cross. The agony that befell them must have been beyond endurance as the women anointed Him for burial. This end, or so they thought, was not what they expected. They did not understand that He must rise again. They couldn’t possibly understand that in this moment of utter darkness for them, the greatest miracle of mankind had been completed. Sunday was about to rise in victorious splendor!!

We simply cannot meet Jesus in our understanding. We cannot find him in the most intense search for knowledge, nor in doctrines established by man. We can only meet Him through a quickening of Holy Spirit in truth. We meet Him at our point of our need by grace alone through faith alone. We must cling to our hope in Him during those moments in our own lives where utter darkness may prevent us from seeing the bigger picture of God’s glory.

Jesus is not an abstract “God idea”, He is a living Lord, who yearns to bring all mankind into fellowship with Him. He desires to dwell with you, to be your King. Do you know this Jesus in a personal and life changing way?

It is my absolute joy to be able to share my favorite Easter devotional with you . . . From Max Lucado . . .

ON SATURDAY . . .

John didn’t know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph. John would later confess that he “did not yet understand from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead” That’s why what he did on Saturday is so important.

We don’t know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share. All we know is this: When Sunday came, John was still present. When Mary Magdalene came looking for him, she found him.

Jesus was dead. The Master’s body was lifeless. John’s friend and future were buried. But John had not left. Why? Was he waiting for the resurrection? No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still. He wasn’t expecting a Sunday surprise. Then why was he here?

You’d think he would have left. Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn’t come after him? The crowds were pleased with one crucifixion; the religious leaders might have called for more. Why didn’t John get out of town?

Perhaps the answer was pragmatic; perhaps he was taking care of Jesus’ mother. Or perhaps he didn’t have anywhere else to go. Could be he didn’t have any money or energy or direction … or all of the above. Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.

To others, Jesus was a miracle worker. To others, Jesus was a master teacher. To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel. But to John, he was all of these and more. To John, Jesus was a friend. You don’t abandon a friend??? Not even when that friend is dead. John stayed close to Jesus.

He had a habit of doing this. He was close to Jesus in the upper room. He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion, and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial.

Did he understand Jesus? No. Was he glad Jesus did what he did? No. But did he leave Jesus? No.

What about you? When you’re in John’s position, what do you do? When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God??? or do you linger near him? John chose to linger. And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle.

[He Chose The Nails] Max Lucado
Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000]
Used by permission