Jun 202014
 

Arm of the LordWe know of course that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and does not have physical arms or body parts. But the bible will often use human aspects (such as physical appearance) to help us understand God’s qualities and different aspects of His character.

There are a number of verses in the bible which speak of God’s arms:

You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.” (Psalm 89:13)

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” (Psalm 98:1)

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.” (Isaiah 63:5)

As Jesus is the physical manifestation of God, He is the one who displays God’s arm. The arm is a symbol of a person’s power. It signifies strength, control and authority. An example of this authority is in the modern day phrase, the ‘long arm of the law’. Jesus stated that all authority had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18) and the book of Revelation shows that He will yield all power and defeat all enemies. (Another physical description of that power is that everything will be under His feet, signifying subservience and subordination).

As we have seen in recent blogs, the bible clearly states the appearance of Jesus to mankind twice, firstly at His initial incarnation approximately 2000 years ago, and secondly at His still awaited for second coming at the end of the age. In their own unique ways they both show strength. His second coming will display the power and authority that was just mentioned, however His first appearance may not at first glance seem nearly so dramatic. Born as a baby in a dirty stable, in a poverty stricken 3rdworld country, He came as the suffering servant, described in Isaiah 53. The power that was demonstrated was in the setting aside of his divine attributes (Colossians 2) and in the enduring of the weight of sin for us all. To have all that power and yet set it aside is strength indeed. This is the ‘right hand’ which is spoken of in the above verses, which worked salvation. Salvation is the outworking of that power, which made a way for us to approach a Holy God through Him.

Isaiah 53 starts off with a question:

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)

The answer to that question is us! The arm of the Lord has been revealed to us who have experienced His wonderful salvation.

Arms of course signify strength for the fight, but they are also used to embrace. God is not distant and aloof but desires to embrace us. The picture of Jesus on the cross with His arms stretched wide is a graphic picture of His love for us.

Finally, His arms are strong enough to carry us through every situation we find ourselves in. That is comforting to know!

 June 20, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Jun 132014
 

anointed oneOne of the names of Jesus we see regularly is ‘Christ’. We use the name Jesus Christ so often that we can think that Christ is His surname. In reality His name would simply have been Jesus Bar-Joseph (son of Joseph). Why is He called Jesus Christ so often and what is the significance of the name ‘Christ’?

The meaning of “Christ” originates from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from their sins. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title ‘Christ’. The Greek word Christos (Christ) is the translation of the Hebrew term “Mashiach”, which is where we get the word “Messiah” from. These words all mean “to anoint”. So when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”

In Old Testament times, people were anointed when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, Samuel anointed Saul when he first became king in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?”

David was anointed in the same way along with the priests, as we can see in Exodus 28:41: “And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Prophets too were anointed: “And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” (1 Kings 19:16).

In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was anointed and set apart for a task for God was a sort of messiah as they received a special anointing.

The people of Israel however were looking for the Messiah, someone who would perfectly combine the roles of prophet, priest and king. Sadly, after waiting for centuries, they somehow missed him.

It is amazing to think that when Jesus began His earthly ministry, very few recognised who He was even though He continued to walk in that anointing by healing the sick and raising the dead. He wasn’t even subtle. He started his ministry revealing His fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy with the proclamation in Luke 4:17-21: “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The anointing of Jesus was the empowering of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38 it says:

“….how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

This is also prophesied in Isaiah 11 where it says: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”. (v2).

Jesus is the only one able to function in the fullness of the Spirit: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”. (Colossians 1:19).

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”. (Colossians 2:9).

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9).

As Jesus’ representatives we too have been anointed with the Holy Spirit; as part of Christ’s body and being connected to Him, we now walk in His anointing: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:13).

Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?

 June 13, 2014  Posted by at 12:05 pm Names of Jesus 2 Responses »
Jun 062014
 

Only begotten sonIf you were in Sunday school more than twenty years or so ago, it is highly likely that you would have learned the most famous verse there is in the following words:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3 v 16 KJV)

You may have wondered what the term ‘only begotten’ actually meant. The modern translations state ‘only son’ but this is not strictly true because God has many sons (people are referred to in some places as sons, as are angels). It is not a word used nowadays, it is not a modern word and its meaning can cause confusion. For example, people such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses will use it to claim that Jesus is not equal to God, a concept we have refuted many times already. It only appears 5 times in the bible in total, but I thought it was well worth having a look at to clear some of the confusion.

“Only begotten” is translated from the Greek word ‘monogenes’. The first part of the word is quite straightforward and recognisable: Mono means ‘alone’, ‘single’ or ‘one’ and is found in words such as monologue, monochrome etc. If you add the word ‘genes’ to “mono” it becomes “pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a relationship”. This meaning is clearer when you consider Hebrews 11:17: Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s “only begotten son”. Abraham obviously had more than one son but it is the uniqueness of Isaac among the other sons that warrants the use of this word ‘monogenes’. He was the only son by Sarah and the only son of the covenant.

Another variation of this definition is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind’. This is why John uses this word in chapter 3 verse 16. Here he is trying to demonstrate Jesus as being the son of God, uniquely God’s son. In other words, Jesus shares the same divine nature as God, as opposed to believers like us who are called ‘sons of God’ by adoption. Jesus is the ‘one and only’.

Much of the trouble we have over these terms is due to the fact that we will never be able to adequately describe God. He is Indescribable. The only reference points we have are the ones that God has given to us Himself. God gave us the example of a father and son to help us try to understand the relationship between the first and second persons of the trinity, but we sometimes go too far and try to attach other aspects of this relationship which simply aren’t there. God has revealed as much as we need to understand and we should leave it at that. As human beings we invariably try to understand more than is good for us. This is what often gets us into trouble and how cults are formed.

Let’s not get bogged down by words or by trying to grasp concepts beyond our reach. Instead let us enjoy the revelation that God has shown us of Himself in Jesus and of the rescue plan for hopeless cases like us who have rebelled against Him. The “only begotten” has ‘begat’ many after Him – we are included in that number!

 June 6, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 2 Responses »
May 302014
 

Radiance of gods gloryThe Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)

This is another name of Jesus which totally blows out of the water any idea that Jesus was anyone other than God Himself. In order to understand what it means we first need to have some idea about what God’s glory is.

The word “glory” means “brightness.” It says in 1Timothy 6:16: “he who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” In the book of Ezekiel, we read that the prophet had a vision of heaven. He described the throne room of God, saying: “And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4). When the Lord came to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, it describes His appearance as such…”Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 24:17)

The word ‘glory’ not only implies extreme brightness but also carries with it a sense of ‘heaviness’ or ‘weightiness’. When Solomon’s temple was finished, God’s glory filled it so that the priests were not even able to stand up…”And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10-11). It was more than the brightness of God’s presence which prevented them from standing. It was the sheer weight of His glory.
Now that we have an idea of what the glory of the Lord is, let’s look at the fact that Jesus is the radiance of that glory. God’s glory is communicated through Jesus Christ, but it would be a mistake to say that He merely reflects glory. It is important to understand that “radiance” does not mean reflection. When we see a full moon in a clear sky it appears to be shining pretty brightly, but of course it has no ability in and of itself to shine at all. It is a lifeless piece of rock, its brightness is just a reflection of the sun’s light. Jesus’ radiance is not like that. The sun’s light is radiated from the centre of our solar system. Christ is not reflecting God’s glory, as the moon reflects the sun, but He is the radiance of God’s glory, as the light and energy waves bring the power of the sun to us.

Without light waves, we would not see the sun. Without its energy being transmitted to earth, we would not feel its heat. Like the sun’s beams, the radiating lines of the Son’s glory are too numerous to count. Have you ever tried counting sunbeams? It can’t be done; it would be like trying to count airwaves in the wind. Without Jesus Christ, we could not see God. But now, because Christ has come, we have seen God.

Even thinking about the brightness and strength of the sun doesn’t do it justice. One day the sun will be replaced by the glory of God and there will be no more night because the glory of the Lord will illuminate the new heavens and the new earth: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23). “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5).

I leave you with a wonderful thought that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more His radiance reflects off us. The more we spend time with Him the more we are becoming like Him and are being changed. This will attract others to Him: “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 May 30, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
May 212014
 

Firstborn over all creation Last week we looked at Jesus being the ‘image of the invisible God’ and before we leave this passage in Colossians, I want to look at verses 15-20 in all their glorious majesty but with specific reference to Jesus being the ‘firstborn over all creation’. Here’s the full 5 verses in all their magnificence..

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

You see there was a bit of Gnosticism creeping into the church at Colossae about whether Jesus really was God with a big G or god with a small g. Paul sets the record straight in no uncertain terms with his whole letter, but what does ‘firstborn over creation’ actually mean.

The word ‘firstborn’ is translated from the Greek word ‘prototokos’ and as with many words translated from one language to another it is very difficult to sum up in just one word. If you look at it, you will see the similarities with another word, ‘prototype’ and that is roughly what Jesus is. Prototype being the first one, he came first.

Some have tried to deny the divinity of Jesus (i.e. that Jesus is God) from this phrase by arguing that Jesus was created first of everything that was created, and if He is a created “thing”, He cannot be God. This argument completely ignores the context in which this phrase was written. Firstly it comes immediately after the phrase we looked at last week about Jesus being the exact representation of God. He wasn’t a copy or a lesser thing but God himself in human representation.

Secondly the word Prototokos doesn’t necessarily refer to just the one born first, it is a title of the one considered to have that special status conferred upon them. In the culture of the Ancient Near East, the first-born was not necessarily the oldest child. First-born referred not to birth order but to rank. The first-born possessed the inheritance and leadership.
We see in a number of places in the bible where the title ‘Firstborn’ is given to someone other than the first one to be physically born such as Jacob over Esau and David over his brothers as shown in Psalm 89:27. Jesus has pre-eminence and first place rights over everything that exists.

The description “firstborn over all creation” speaks also of Christ’s pre-existence. He is not a creature but the eternal Creator as shown in John 1:10.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him

God created the world through Christ and redeemed the world through Christ (Hebrews 1:2-4) and he now has control over the created order.
Notice too that Jesus is referred to as also being the “firstborn from the dead”. Jesus was not the first person ever raised from the dead; a number of people throughout the Bible were raised from the dead before Him; Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son in 1 Kings 17:22 and Jesus raised Lazarus in John 11. But Jesus holds first place among all who have or will be raised from the dead because of what His resurrection accomplished and provides.
This is glorious news, because he is Firstborn and ruler over created things he will keep and protect those of us who are trusting in his resurrection and one day we will celebrate with Him a new created order in the new heavens and the new earth.

 May 21, 2014  Posted by at 9:09 pm Names of Jesus, Uncategorized No Responses »
May 022014
 

Alpha and OmegaThis week we will be continuing in the ‘Names of Jesus’ series which started right back at the start of the year. Many of these aren’t strictly names; some of them are titles, but they all give a different aspect of our wonderful saviour and are well worth meditating on.

The trinity is not a concept mentioned by name in the bible but its ideas are there throughout its pages. Today’s title is an example of that. It could just as easily be a title for God the father as for God the son. It is ‘Alpha and Omega’ and it is found three times in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:8, Revelation 21:6 and Revelation 22:13).

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and they signify completeness. This idea is also found in the Old Testament in Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” It is interesting to note that these are among the last words spoken by Jesus in the whole of the bible.

God is the Alpha, the beginning of all things. Our minds cannot comprehend that before time began, God was there. He was there in the beginning but He Himself has no beginning. Scientists have tried to understand how it all started by considering theories such as ‘the big bang’, but God was there before any big bang. There has never been a time when God hasn’t existed. The bible puts it well in Colossians 1:17, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

As our Alpha, God is there from the moment of our conception, to birth, to our first school, our first everything; everything we start He knows about and He is in control over.

The comforting thing for some is the fact that God is also the Omega, the end of all things. He knows our trials and tribulations, He knows when they will come to an end and He is able to sustain us in everything we go through.

What He starts He is also able to complete. It is no coincidence that these three passages are in the book of Revelation, speaking about the end of history when everything gets wrapped up, loose ends tied and final judgements are made. There is no doubt that when the final time arrives, Jesus will return.

I mentioned that for some this is comforting; for others it is not. At the end of all things there will be a final judgement and we will all be judged, every single one of us. For some (those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and saviour), the judgement has already been taken by Jesus. Whatever happens throughout our lives, when we get to the end and we are still trusting in Jesus, we will find that our debt has been paid. For others, however, the final judgement will be a terrifying thing. Jesus is the end of judgement. Nothing gets passed Him, everything is judged perfectly and righteously and when the final judgement is pronounced that will be it…Omega.

The most important question we can ask ourselves now is, who are we trusting in? If it is in ourselves then we are in big trouble. If it is in Jesus we are secure. There is no time to wait because we don’t know when the end will be, but we know for sure that it will certainly happen.

 May 2, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Apr 252014
 

Rabboni “11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18)

Last week we finished with the ‘I am’ names of Jesus, but continuing with the Easter theme I want to touch on another name Jesus was called: Rabboni.

The name Rabboni is only used twice in the bible (also Mark 10:51). The meaning is not fully clear but it is generally translated as ‘beloved teacher’. It seems funny to me to put those two words together because I don’t think I thought of any of my teachers like that at school! I tolerated a few of them, but no more than that.

Jesus of course is altogether different. Jesus was also called ‘Rabbi’ on a number of occasions which is the usual title for a spiritual teacher. However Rabboni means a bit more than that. A Rabboni was someone who didn’t simply teach but also produced teachers. Jesus was a great teacher, but more than that, His whole mission was to pass on His teaching to His disciples and then on and on throughout the generations. I think we can safely say He has achieved that mission.

Another aspect of this name is that it came from the lips of Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been constantly scorned and rejected throughout most of her life. She had a chequered past but Jesus had forgiven and accepted her and now she experienced the unbelievable privilege of going to the disciples as the first witness, ‘teaching’ them what Jesus had said to her. This would have been highly unusual in that society and further shows the value and trust that Jesus places on women.

I don’t know if you are a person who easily disqualifies yourself, but take heart from this example of Mary Magdelene, a person who had every reason to disqualify herself but was wonderfully taught and discipled by Jesus. Many would have thought “why is Jesus wasting His time teaching her?’. But Jesus didn’t consider it a waste of time at all and it would seem she went on to grow into a leader of women amongst Jesus’ disciples.

There has been plenty of nonsense written about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, with suggestions made that they were lovers etc. The above verse I think clearly says otherwise. Lovers don’t refer to each other as teachers, especially using this formal term. There was clearly love between them but a pure sort of love that I sometimes think the world is incapable of understanding. She loved Him dearly as her teacher but that’s as far as it would ever go.

The lesson that I think we should take from this passage of scripture is to not disqualify ourselves, but rather to continue learning from the greatest teacher who ever lived and whose words are still available today. Let us make the most of them.

 April 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 182014
 

The_Resurrection_And_The_LifeSometimes when people proclaim great names over themselves they have a hard time proving it. For instance, Muhammad Ali called himself “the greatest”. Now there is no doubting he was a very good boxer, but he did lose on quite a few occasions. When Jose Mourinho (the newly appointed Chelsea manager) labelled himself “the special one”, he did prove to be quite good, but has failed to conquer all before him and be really ‘special’.

When Jesus labelled Himself with a name He went on to prove Himself as well worthy of that name. Have you noticed how often, when Jesus says ‘I am’ something, He backs it up with hard evidence? When He said “I am the bread of life” He had just fed 5,000 men (probably up to 20,000 if you include women and children) with a few loaves and fish. When He said “I am the light of the world” He proceeded to bring sight to a man born blind. And when Jesus stated “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) He went on to demonstrate His mastery over death by raising Lazarus to life after being dead for 4 days.

Little did anyone realise as Lazarus was being unwrapped from his grave clothes that Jesus would further demonstrate His power over death in just a few months time, during these momentous days of the first Easter.

Eventually Good Friday would come, and even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave just a short time previously, they struggled to see how this dead body on Good Friday could raise itself from the dead. But this is the wonderful truth we celebrate at Easter.

Jesus Christ is alive and He has defeated death for all time. In the book of Revelation, John meets again the glorified, risen Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’”. (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus is The Life. He gives life to every living creature. Every one of us has breath in our bodies because He says so and when He allows it, that breath will be taken away from us.

If you are a Christian you have been transferred from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life.

Let’s expand today’s passage even further. After Jesus had declared He is the resurrection and the life He then says: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

You see, for the Christian, the sting of death has been completely taken away. Even though we will die physically, we will continue to live beyond this life. The New Testament on many occasions speaks of Christian death as falling asleep. I don’t know about you but I quite like falling asleep; there is certainly nothing to worry about. That is what Jesus has won for us and what He proved when He said He is “The resurrection and the life”. What a wonderful thing to celebrate this Easter!

 April 18, 2014  Posted by at 7:30 am Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 112014
 

Vine and branchesImagine the scene: Jesus and the disciples have just finished the last supper. Judas has been released to go and do what he has to do (the disciples are not aware of what will happen yet). They are walking from the upper room where they have just eaten, to the mount of Olives. There are many vines on the way and Jesus uses another metaphor to reveal more about Himself. He has recently talked about His closeness with the Father and His true believers being close with Him (John 14), a very close and inclusive relationship, which He will do everything to protect.

He now looks at the vines and continues the theme:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)

Jesus knows His time is nearly up so He wants to highlight again the importance of staying close to Him, not physically because He will soon leave, but spiritually, so we can connect to Him in the same way as His disciples.

This message is simple but profound, as so many simple messages are.

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Just as the branches not attached to a vine will die, so we branches will die unless we stay attached to the vine. We receive all our sustenance and life from Him. We will not produce any fruit unless we are attached and fully connected. And we remain connected through bible reading, meditation and prayer and spending time with other branches (the church).

Another aspect of vines is that they are very heavily pruned. Some years ago I pruned a bush (not an actual vine but similar) for my Grandma. I cut it back so far that I was sure I had killed it, but she knew that in the spring it would come back to life again, which of course it did and indeed flourished. This is such an important lesson for us. We should never worry when going through trials. The Father as the vinedresser will cut and lop off any branches that are in the way so that we can produce the maximum amount of fruit. This can be so painful at the time but in due season we will reap the rewards.

The words of Jesus don’t “abide” without effect. When they take root, they produce faith and holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus says; “your word is truth” (John 17:17). So when His words abide in us, sanctification happens. We are transformed. Holiness, Christlikeness, happens.

It’s pretty simple isn’t it? Spend time with Jesus and produce more fruit. We tend to try and make it more complicated than that but it really isn’t!

 April 11, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Apr 042014
 

way truth lifeToday we reach number 6 of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. I am leaving number 5 ‘the resurrection and the life’ until the end because it will then really conveniently fall on Good Friday (unplanned but very appropriate).

Number 6 is possibly the statement which is most likely to get people hot under the collar; most people today would call it intolerant and bigoted. If you consider yourself ‘post modern’ this statement really sticks in the throat. Let’s have a look at the passage:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

I bet you that if I were to go out onto the streets now and ask the general public their opinions about religion, most people would say that all religions are basically the same; it doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you are sincere etc etc. I am horrified at how seemingly sane people can believe that all religions are the same. For one thing most religions contradict each other; how then can they possibly all be right?

Some people have tried to use the analogy of an elephant: each religion is like a blindfolded person feeling a different part of an elephant (ears, tail, trunk, legs etc). They all have different views as they are all experiencing different parts of the same thing. It is one elephant but they can’t see it because they are blindfolded. How condescending!

Another illustration is that God is at the top of a mountain and there are all sorts of different paths to reach him.

The people who use these illustrations are demonstrating breathtaking arrogance in their assumption that they actually know that all paths lead to God. The only one who could know how to get to God must be God Himself, no-one else could possibly know no matter how marvellous their explanations sound.

Jesus said ‘I am the way’. He didn’t say ‘I know the way’ or ‘I can point you in the right direction’. He is the way in Himself. If Jesus was not God and yet made this statement, He should be considered deluded or, even worse, mad. But everything Jesus did and said points to the fact that He was and is God and so this statement today must be taken seriously.

The stark question staring you in the face today is ‘what are you going to do with Jesus?’ If you reject Him there is no other way to God. But if you accept Him, the way is open to have a relationship with your heavenly father. It’s a simple choice but the most important choice you will ever make.

 April 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Names of Jesus No Responses »