While understanding God’s refusal to allow Moses into Canaan, we can empathize with the anger Moses felt when he lashed AT THE ISRAELITES, though by doing so disobeyed God. It symbolized the truth of James 1:20 “that man’s anger does no bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
However, and the point of this series, Jesus excelled Moses when facing the greatest crisis of his ministry. Anticipating Gethsemane at the Last Supper, Jesus expressed his appreciation of the disciples’ faithfulness to him “in my trials” Luke 22:28. That statement alone proves the Master’s amazing, persevering fortitude and strength of mind and emotion. He carried lightly the onerous burdens of disease, demonology, leadership rejection, disciple-incompetence and crowd fickleness. And only in brief glances, and nearly always with the Cross in view, do we see the stress it imposed. At the first LESS and MORE as his ministry advanced, until it hit him between the eyes in the Garden.
However, far from feeling he would die in Gethsemane, he became intensely aware of what the Cross demanded: separation from God! While I feel it almost a sacrilege to intrude on his sacred struggle—and do so only to prove the Master’s valorous self-control before his destiny contrasted to Moses’ loss of it before the rock, we see Christ’s far greater patience in an infinitely greater issue.
His destiny to die, and provide forgiveness of sin, experienced as never before the assault by his first-time-ever separation from His Father. That momentarily drew from him his REQUEST, “take this cup from me”—instantly followed by his DESIRE, “yet not my will, but yours be done” Luke 22:42.
The crisis had been reached and mastered in those two phrases. But...the result of his surrender to his Father’s will; that it meant the loss of their eternal fellowship, affected him so crushingly that, as an angel “from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him,” Luke 22:43, Christ Jesus, “being in anguish...prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” Luke 23:45. The angel came and strengthened him through that loss.
There is one more phrase in Luke 22:29 to consider. Since the disciples had remained loyal to him, Jesus would “confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me....” That comported well with the Master’s later invitation to depraved Laodicea, Revelation 3:19-21. Read it for yourself. Understand, from the latter text, that Jesus is talking to each of us. He has come to us. He has lived among us. He has been here with us. He knew what it meant. He knew what his cry of abandonment meant. A shriek that surely terrified onlookers at the cross, coming out of the dark, from him, righteous man they knew him to be. No one could know then what it all meant. We hardly know now. But it did mean he had gone through life as its Conqueror and made every generation of believers his companions in spiritual conquest. He has returned to the Father, awaiting the time God sends him again to PROVE his earlier conquest and to take with him into his Holy City all who love and serve him. Let us all bow in face-down adoration before his Majesty. Let us kneel our lives side by side as we worship the One who “loved us and gave himself for us” Galatians 2:20. Amen. Fini
Jesus excelled Moses in every possible way. In any reference, Jesus credited Moses as God’s spokesman, but left no doubt: he succeeded Moses with a superior ethic. Even Moses couldn’t lead Israel into Canaan. A sin against God’s direct word, in the 40th year of Israel’s wandering, cost the Great Prophet, Legislator, Poet and Writer access.
That teaches two important lessons. One, God’s rule rules even his appointed ministers. Merely striking the stone, from which God directed him to SPEAK water into existence, cost Moses inheritance in Canaan Numbers 20:1-13. That warns all of God’s leaders, lay or clerical: do not think he exempts us from the discipleship he expects from church members. Let us abhor the myth that teaching and leading others automatically guarantees our personal spiritual enfranchisement. Paul himself warned against such presumption in I Corinthians 9:26-27.
Two, unless each is forgiven, every Christian is accountable to God for every sin committed, however exalted our office. Whatever role we fill, whatever function we discharge, whatever title we hold, Christ looks first and foremost at how we let him rule our personal habits, attitudes and lifestyle.
We may each face particular challenges in being a disciple—something particular that can, if we let it, prevent growth in Christ-likeness. Peter had to conquer his love of fishing to be an apostle (writer’s interpretation of John 21:15). Paul had to surrender his religious pedigree Philippians 3:4-14. The two quasi disciples wanted to be followers—LATER. good old procrastination at work Luke 9:59-62; later is easier because it delays decisions. Governor Felix had an interest, but surrendering his ego-driven life killed his desire Acts 24:24-26. The Rich Young Ruler flatly refused to pay the price Jesus placed on his discipleship Matthew 19:16-22.
Whatever we want to keep, but surrender to serve Jesus, is the wild horse we ride to successful discipleship. Whatever we want to keep, and won’t surrender, will be the wild horse that tramples lifeless our spiritual life under its hooves! End Part II
Joshua 3:1-4 records the warrior’s instruction to Israel prior to crossing the Jordan River. Note that they were to follow the ARK carried by priests, “then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” Then...“But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
In our family communion service Sunday Judy called this a “holy distancing” contrasted with COVID-19’s “social distancing.” Good insight. During the night a further insight came to me. Naturally, as my custom is, up I got and wrote the additional thoughts.
In a strict sense, neither priests nor Ark had been that way before. However, as the sacred repository of God’s NAME, with the Pre-existent Jesus as Vanguard, HE led. See Numbers 10:33-36 for a similar previous experience.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrews writer, in 12:1ff, urged his readers to fix their eyes on Jesus as “the author and perfecter of our faith.” Not on the crowd of witnesses of chapter 11 were they to rivet their eyes 12:1. They were simply examples for us. If they lived faithfully to God with lesser spiritual privileges—the Law of Moses and his prophets—we can and must be faithful with God’s revelation of Christ who...(well, read 12:1-13).
The point of all this is: though not even the ark had been that way before, Israel could follow since GOD led the ark. The Lord Jesus Christ can certainly be followed because he has been this way before--He, “who being in very nature God...took “the very nature of a servant”...and “humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus has been this way before, knows the way through it triumphantly, and shares it with any obedient servant. End Part I
In July 1775, General Washington arrived in Boston to assume command of the American army. He faced shocking shortcomings of arms and ammunition. But nothing so nettling as the prickly personalities of his subordinates. And nothing so irritated them as his difficulty in distinguishing officers from privates. It also disturbed him that the officers exercised the egalitarian habits in military life that they had learned in civilian life. Flexner, Life of Washington I, p. 30
Jesus had no trouble distinguishing his disciples—one from the other, the more gifted from the lesser, the positive personality from the more pessimistic one. First of all, he knew that none by himself could be equal to his demands. That’s why he made discipleship, like salvation, by GRACE alone. Second, whatever their intentions, he knew he had to empower them to reach his aspirations for them. And, while he used disciples differently, as he knew they could best serve, he never valued one conscientious service over another. Great or small, privately or publicly viewed, he recognized every disciple’s servanthood.
As the song says, that’s why “we love him and that’s why we sing. And that’s why we offer him our everything”. And that’s why we do whatever he commands or expects with few comments or complaints. He knows us each by name and values a child’s lisping his name as much as an adult’s adoration in song.
When on 24 June, 1807, Czar Alexander I met Napoleon on a raft in the middle of the Tilsit River, the victorious French found a valued ally in the beaten Russian. Napoleon had once been but an artillery lieutenant. On that June day he mastered Continental Europe. With the treaty at Tilsit he could have turned his full attention to governing, not fighting.
However, past success in ruling and legislating hadn’t satisfied the Emperor. Whatever his conquests, he needed more. However many battle flags draped his headquarters, the one he didn’t have beckoned him. He didn’t know when to stop. Age of Napoleon, 22
Satan had that problem with Jesus. He left after being scathingly repulsed by the Lord in the wilderness but, as Luke wrote ominously, “until an opportune time” 4:13. A master at re-configuring himself, Satan returned throughout the Master’s ministry: through family interference Mark 3:20-21, 31-35; through disciple arrogance Mark 8:31-33; through Pharisaic deceit Matthew 12:38; through the agony of Gethsemane John 14:30-31, to name four. Satan never accepted the crushing defeat Jesus inflicted on him every time they collided.
Like Napoleon not knowing when to quit, Satan continues his ruthless historical opposition to Jesus. Like Napoleon, who couldn’t help but retreat after being systematically beaten in Russia, Satan will unwillingly finish his opposition when God’s angels forcefully throw him into Hell Revelation 20:10.
Unlike both Satan and Napoleon, Jesus knew exactly what to do when he came and pursued it relentlessly. And knows exactly when to stop: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” I Corinthians 15:24-26.
Then, in an administrative change, Jesus yields his Ministry Authority to the Father while continuing as our eternal High Priest Hebrews 4:14-16. Redeemed, glorified humanity will always be represented by the SON before the FATHER.
The Pharisees had a “to-the-death” ownership-obsession with the Sabbath. Christ’s free-wheeling use of it continually enraged them. It didn’t matter that Jesus said God made the Sabbath for man, not vice-versa. That is, as a day of liberating rest, not of regimented idleness identified by some 600 rules Mark 2:27.
Nor did it matter that they “worked” on the Sabbath to care for their animals. Which logically meant they couldn’t complain of his “work” using the Sabbath to heal a woman Satan had beleaguered for 18 years! Luke 13:10-17.
However, Christ’s Identity as the One Who Came From Heaven meant he could use the Sabbath as he pleased. The Pharisees had no authority over the day. He made the same point about conversion to Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus, not Nicodemus, determined how we entered the spiritual life. He made the same point to the Samaritan woman about religious authority in history. The Jews, not the Samaritans, had been chosen by God to bear his message to humanity John 4:22.
So here we are, in a society of religious turmoil, each persuasion trumpeting its own version as true. I stand where Stacey Hall stood years ago when among men arguing about religion. He held up his New Testament and said, “Whenever you’re willing to follow God’s final authority, you’ll find me ready to talk about religious matters.” End Part III
Albert Schweitzer played Bach so expertly that Charles Widor, himself an accomplished composer and organist, found himself a student of the good Doctor’s tutelage. His willingness to admit Schweitzer’s superior expertise to his own skill has significant implications for all religious people vis á vis Jesus.
Whoever he encountered, of whatever intellectual or social credentials, the Teacher had something to say to everyone in Israel. As did his apostles to their audiences Empire-wide. As do Christians to this day.
While the subject matter will be formerly catalogued later, consider a few random examples. Jesus could teach every human, and many disciples, essential facts about Discipleship.
For example, that self-denial is the basis of it, and without which no true discipleship exists. With Matthew 16:21-28 as the text, remember that Simon Peter confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“From that time on” Jesus taught openly what he had previously taught in figures. He must “suffer many things...must be killed...be raised to life....”
The same Simon tried to correct Jesus. “This shall never happen to you.” To find himself, not blessed, but a satan for objecting to what Jesus said.
Self-denial is undoubtedly the least mentioned aspect of discipleship in today’s preaching. Tithing may run a close second. But there it is...staring unblinkingly at us...self-denial the basis of discipleship. Will we learn and obey that from Jesus? End Part II
Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister in middle 19th century, used God as the basis of all things. But don’t be deceived: God was only a word to Parker. His entire emphasis, as a transcendentalist, focused on humanity, not God. He didn’t believe God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Or that Jesus was the finality of God’s revelation. Or that Jesus was Deity. Or that the Bible was God’s final revelation to mankind. Or that Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary had any impact on forgiveness of sin.
Still...Page Smith, author of a multi-volume series on American history, didn’t believe Parker’s heresy would be so offensive today—1981, The Nation Comes of Age, 504. Though, at the time, Parker wrote, even clergymen and lay members of his own Unitarian church proscribed and disfellowshipped him. This in the middle nineteenth century.
Smith was correct in 1981. He would be even more correct in 2019. America since the 1960’s has continued into a theological liberalism that no mega or meta church growth has even slowed. In fact, the growth of huge churches has coincided with the greatest possible societal immorality.
Ours is an age of tolerance of all behaviors, with devotees of homosexuality and illegal immigration demanding and receiving acceptance while opponents of each are damned as intolerant. Indeed, our society is intolerant of believing all that Parker denied. And intolerant of believing homosexuality is a sin against God and illegal immigration is an offense against the role of law and order.
We now pay for the Biblical ignorance so glaringly obvious. And it will get worse, leading to the satanic corruption that considers everything about God is bad and all that mocks God is good. Indeed, what Satan wants is now a reality in America. For he wants everyone to believe that what society must fear is absolute faith in the ONE God and HIS CHRIST!
Some of us will contest every effort by Satan to have his way. We will confront him, wherever he appears, with the Complete authority only Jesus Christ possesses and exercises. We will keep preaching Jesus Christ alone as Truth. Come what may. However unpopular Jesus is. We choose to be condemned with Jesus by the age; we’ll never align ourselves with the age against him.
Not even the most negative critic can deny the change of attitude that occurs each December. Books have been written, movies filmed and relationships renewed by the change. Most people would gladly retain the feeling of Christmas but without the REASON it exists. Indeed, our culture can think of any number of “what it’s all about” reasons Christmas is special. Without concentrating on the one essential reason we can’t have an alternative to “what it’s all about.”
Consider: Sudden population movements occurred in the U.S. after December 1848, when President Polk verified substance to a rumor. He talked about GOLD in California. That accounted for the migration of hundreds of thousands of people to find their fortunes.
Up to December 7, 1941, Americans remained dangerously divided on waging war in Europe. Many wanted involvement of war against Germany. Being an “arsenal of democracy” seemed plenty of involvement to most. And nearly as many chose pacifism.
Why then, on December 8, 1941, did hundreds of thousands of young men flock to recruiting stations all over America? PEARL HARBOR.
And on and on. Every effect has a cause. Every decision a motivation. Every response a corollary energy prompting it.
Why then would we think the superior feelings in December of every year in western culture should rise from NOTHNG? As spontaneous combustion of latent feelings of good will we can’t express except ONE MONTH each year?
No. Jesus Christ’s birth gives substance to all hope that would otherwise be an illusion. December teaches us that we can forgive because Jesus has forgiven us. We can love others because Jesus loved us. We can reconcile our differences because Jesus reconciled us to God. It all has a cause
The meaning of the Christmas event itself is plain; clear; undoubted: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:11. Always remember that Savior and Christ the Lord, refer to the same person and to his triple purpose. He would forgive sinners, be Israel’s Messiah and Rule with All Authority over heaven and earth.
Always remember that Jesus Christ came first of all FOR himself. Christians sometimes say we also are the reason for the season. But no. Forgiveness of our sin is the reason the season has such delight for Christians, but not the primary reason Jesus came. Since he fulfilled Genesis 3:15, he came as PROOF of God’s sovereignty. Before Jesus could save anyone he had to prove he had crushed Satan’s head. He did that for himself, proving he could do anything he pleased, including be Savior of the world.
Jesus came for himself. To confront and conquer Satan, death, sin and Hell. For himself he did it ALL to PROVE GOD ALONE is the Original Power and no other exists.
He then graciously includes us in his victory. End Part I
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