Our response to Jesus Christ proves our spiritual barrenness or fecundity. Whether we’re wayside, hardpan, thorny or black loam soil. People often say, “I can never be as dedicated to God as so and so.” The Holy Spirit challenges us, “Yes, you can be, and yes, you better be.”
Where, then, will we stop maturing as a disciple? At age 12, or 30; age 50 or 80? Or earlier than 12 or later than 80? At what age do we think we can’t continue developing as a Christian?
Think of it like this: if everyone in our family or church replicated our commitment to Jesus—if God used us as his prototype Christian—how much faith would the family have? In what condition would our church be? Would we need to hold services every week, according to our attendance record? Could the church pay a minister’s salary if everyone gave our level of gift? Indeed, could we pay any church bills, or support a missionary?
Abraham began his spiritual sojourn at 75 years of age. He finished it at death 100 years later. Because he continually trusted and served God—growing in spiritual grace through every experience—God made him the human father of billions of believers. How many people would our level of faith bring to Jesus?
We determine where, if at all, we stop maturing as Christians. But he forewarned: Jesus promises salvation only for those who never stop serving, never stop maturing and never stop deepening their faith in God Matthew 10:22, 24:13. Fini
Many opinions exist about Jesus. Many have always existed. The only appraisal of worth is God’s. To Jesus: “You are my Son...” Mark 1:11. To others: “This is my Son...” Luke 9:35. We cannot escape the clarity and finality of this Scriptural Truth: Jesus Christ is God the Son! Whether we like it or not, accept it or not, live by it or not.
The only issue we control is the impact his Godhood and Lordship have on us. We can intellectualize the issue, making it merely a subject of discussion. But that is an insult Jesus will never tolerate. He insists that we personalize both his Godhood and Lordship. That he’s our Father, we’re his children; our Savior, we’re his saved; our Lord, we’re his slaves; our Master, we’re his disciples.
We depend on him, not only for every breath we take, but for every opinion we have, every idea we discover, every insight we enjoy and every conviction we hold. Whatever he says or claims, we believe without reservation. Wherever he took a stand on any issue, we resolutely take ours.
And what if others disagree or take exception? TOO BAD FOR THEM! Moses changed from “Who am I to serve God?” to “Who is Pharaoh to oppose God?” We’re like Moses as Christ’s believers: how dare any mortal think his ton of opinion outweighs God’s ounce of truth? And if critics persist in their arrogant opinions, we will as clearly, as strongly and as confidently declare Jesus Christ’s authority as God’s Full and Final Revelation to humanity. End Part V
Ooh and aah over the infant Jesus. Ever after, bow before him in worship, adoration and obedience. For at age 12, and ever after, to this day, to all days to come and to the eternity which follows, Jesus Christ RULES!
Sioux war chief Red Cloud wanted peace with the whites in 1866. He discovered that pacific intervention on his part only encouraged white incursion into Sioux Powder River lands.
In an 1866 council, he took a militant stand. There would be peace if the white man left Sioux land. If the whites stayed, there would be war. He believed that the Great Spirit gave the Sioux their land. Having received it, Red Cloud intended to keep it. He said what he meant and meant what he said: he meant to keep his land.
Regardless, he lacked the authority to keep his land. Forces beyond his grasp and control had already been exerted by the hated white men. Indian possession of the West had, like Indian possession of the East, been superseded by white culture. Not that population displacement was new at the time. See Judges 18:27 following for an example.
Jesus never faced the issue; he always possessed in himself ALL AUTHORITY over HEAVEN and EARTH. He proclaimed that in Matthew 28:18, having proved it in ministry, death and resurrection. It didn’t just come to him then. He knowledgeably possessed it at least by age 12.
Which brings us to the point of this blog. Jesus IS and manifests himself AS the Lion of Judah, claws extended, ripping through Jewish traditions in which they took refuge, thinking them safe; and establishing new concepts of the spiritual life that never had before or has since been approximated, let alone surpassed.
His extended claws also shreds the pretensions of confidence we construct to shield us from the fears of our inadequacies. They abolish by a 1000 failures the few score successes we enjoy. They unleash creation’s fury against fallen humans who subjected it to frustration. Teaching us to be ashamed for looking at nature, not God, for our help, our values, our peace of mind. End Part IV
The little girl heard a bugler’s notes as a band marched by on the street below her house. Without having taken a lesson, she went to the piano and flawlessly played the bugler’s melody. Without knowing, three-four year old Jenny Lind had discovered her destiny. Enchanting Jenny Lind, 4-5.
The little three year old could pick chords. At four he played from memory. At five composed. At seven composed free-hand, without going to a piano. At eight played Handel and Bach. Did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart instinctively know he had found his destiny? Durant, The Story of Civilization, X, 384
Prodigies do exist, to this day: in music, intellect, religion, Saul of Tarsus in Judaism an example Galatians 1:14.
The boy Jesus, all of 12 years, paid the first of many visits to Jerusalem in his formative years. In his introductory visit he had an epiphany that he clearly understood. At least by then he knew: he embodied the Godhood within himself as the Son of God.
It’s one thing to be a prodigy in the arts, in the mind and in religion. But at age 12 Jesus knew he embodied GOD in himself. That’s history-altering, world-changing. That’s why, as a mere lad he conversed on a level field with older and aged scholars in Moses. Here was the lad who recognized himself as the Living God in human form. Which realization he never lost, continued to prove and finally, as an always perfect human in suffering during ministry Perfected his perfection by a Perfect sacrifice to forgive sin. End Part III
As a 40 day baby Jesus proved sovereign in authority. At age 12 he proved sovereign in perspective. (Chapter 2 of the author’s Face to Face with Jesus has a fuller account. Chapter 1 re-creates the epiphany Jesus enjoyed as the basis of Chapter 2.)
The Passover Feast over, all children 12 and older found their families and with them joined caravans heading home. Except for 12 year old Jesus. He stayed near the Temple in Jerusalem, informing no one of his decision. Thinking he had departed with relatives, Joseph and Mary had no fear leaving without him.
Only after the day’s travel, and all children found their family camp and camp fire did their anxiety burst into terror: Jesus couldn’t be found. Returning to the city the next day they searched--keep the word in mind—every place they could think he might be. To no avail. To increasing dread and despair. The next day—the third—in desperation they entered the women’s court of the Temple to look.
What to their astonishment did they see but their 12 year old sitting among the teachers as a peer, not only listening to them but asking them questions. Some specially-gifted youths would be welcome as listeners. Posing questions to learned doctors astonished them. And when they asked him questions their mouths fell open before his profound understanding.
In an agony of relief Mary clattered forward, grabbed the boy and hugged him. Then, remembering the nerve-wracking anxiety he caused, pushed him arm’s length and scolded him: “Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” Luke 2:48. They never expected the answer he gave, but be on guard. What he said to them astonishes us still. Even as a boy Jesus held his own against Jewish Doctorates. What chance would ours have against him? End Part II
At what age do we want Jesus to be? A baby in Bethlehem? Someone over whom we can hover; murmuring soft love words; cooing our concern; admiring his little fingers and toes; hugging and kissing him tenderly?
Warning: that’s the only time he isn’t dangerous to us. The only time he’s dependent on us to meet his needs. Beyond infancy he rules and we submit. Even then, at 40 days of age—40 days!—he flexed his potential. Having been saved to see God’s Messiah, Simeon cradled him in his arms, looked wonderingly into his face and...foretold his authority over all humanity Luke 2:28-32, 34-35.
The beginning of that authority became obvious by his second birthday. Wise Men from the east came seeking him. When finding him, they rejoiced. When seeing him, they bowed and worshiped him. HIM, understand, not HIM and Mary, who stood nearby, watching. Having worshiped him as Israel’s King, they opened presents worthy of and designating a King. He alone the King, understand, not He the King and Mary his consort. Just when the Holy Spirit had the perfect opportunity to express Mary’s importance to the Kingdom of God, he instead expressed her irrelevance.
And the 2 year old had only begun. End Part I
The kind of faith in God Abraham possessed led God to make him the prototype of what he wants every believer to emulate.
If we say we can’t possibly have such great faith, do we mean Abraham could climb those heights of faith 2000 years before Christ, and we can’t though heirs of 2000 years of history under Christ’s supervision?
If we say we don’t want to be like Abraham, then who will we choose as our human model? When only believers like Abraham please God, whom would we make our example?
And consider this: if everyone had the personal level of faith we feel comfortable having, how much faith would they have? If everyone attended worship services as often as we, how many weeks a month would worship services be held? If everyone gave the percentage we give, how healthy would our church’s finances be? If everyone read the Bible as much as we, how many chapters would be read? If everyone expressed our example of Christ-likeness, how many lost people would be encouraged to accept him?
Worthy questions. Disturbing questions. Challenging questions.
Here’s the conclusion of the matter. First, we may think we can never be as dedicated to God as Abraham. Listen to the Holy Spirit as he whispers in our ear, “Yes you can be, and yes you better be!”
Second, late NFL Football coach Bum Phillips held coach Bear Bryant in high esteem. In fact, he had a saying: “He can take his’n and beat your’n and turn around and take your’n and beat his’n”. San Diego U-T, Nick Canepa column. Forget that it wasn’t always true. That Bear Bryant had difficulty winning major Bowl Games. To Bum Philipps, Bear Bryant epitomized the BEST in college football coaching.
Here’s what is TRUE: whatever team Jesus LEADS WINS! Because he’s never lost and isn’t going to start now. He can take anybody’s people and succeed because he always WINS and shares his victories with anyone on his team.
May each of us make a Bethlehem of our mind and heart in which Jesus can be born and grow to such maturity that we can one day we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20. Fini
God tested Abraham’s faith to determine the depth of his patience and the length of his obedience. His experience translates directly into our Christian life.
We all have egos. They identify us as persons. They empower our resistance to those who would otherwise victimize in some way, taking advantage of the lack of self-awareness ego provides. Indeed, those without a strong sense of identity give tyrants the chance to brutalize them.
However, we must understand, accept and obey this principle: the sole, useful purpose ego has to God is as the object of self-denial! Jesus made it the first requirement of discipleship the first time he clearly discussed his death Matthew 16:24.
God and we cannot exist together as equals. And he will NEVER exist as our inferior. If we insist on determining truth, he’ll allow us the freedom, but will NEVER use us as positive servants. To the extent we insist on having our way in discipleship—what we believe, what we give, how we’ll live, how often we attend worship services, etc.,—to that extent God will use us. And that won’t be much!
Now...a warning...if we say to Jesus, “I’ll play no part, you’re the whole show; I’m out of the way, you alone live in me; I have no opinion but what you allow and no limit on what you expect from me....”
IF we say these things, expect God to test us, to see if we’re telling the truth or blowing smoke; filling the air with oaths without substance or self-sacrificing obedience.
Whether we know it or not; like it or not; accept it or not, GOD intends to kick us out of our life as ruler and move in himself! And only if we invite him to clean our house—to empty it completely if it pleases him; to move in any habit or obedience he wants us to develop; to crucify every habit and disobedience that disgraces, not graces, Jesus—do we practice self-denial.
No matter the amount of water used, we can always wash gold from the words of Jesus. And when the water is depleted, much more gold remains for discovery. But only when we deny self so Jesus can Live in us. End Part III
As II Corinthians 3:7-18 proves, the best interpreter of Old Testament texts is the New. Hebrews 11:17-19 describes Abraham’s greatest faith. He knew he and his boy would return. He knew for certain that after he killed his son God would resurrect him! At a time when no resurrection of the dead had occurred he had that faith.
And why was that faith so important? Because it forecast Christ’s own resurrection. In this event, then, Abraham served as a type of God the Father and Isaac as a type of Christ the Son. Abraham knew that if God let him sacrifice Isaac, he would raise him from the dead. Just as God let Jesus be sacrificed, to provide forgiveness of sin for all, because God knew that no possible way existed for Jesus to stay dead. As Peter preached on Pentecost, “...God raised him from the dead...because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” 2:24.
Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac as a sacrifice to God dramatized the death of Jesus 2000 years before it happened. So that 2000 plus years later, and as long as history lasts, those forgiven by Jesus can continue celebrating his return from the grave.
And yet...uninformed people foolishly say the “Bible isn’t relevant.” Though this event 4000 years ago still relates to the 21st century AD with colossal truths that translate into our Christian lives. End Part II
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God has the right to test anyone’s faith. He exercises that right in any believer anytime he pleases. Testing is simply the process by which God lets us winnow the chaff of life from his spiritual grain. To see if, after we’ve discarded the chaff, we’ll also roast and consume his grain as the basis of our life. Testing can have multiple expressions, but always one purpose: to determine how far our obedience to God extends.
Which brings us to God’s test of Abraham, recorded in Genesis 22. A test he aced. And in a way we don’t consider.
Yes, when God said, take Isaac, Abraham obeyed. When ordered to take wood for the sacrifice, he obeyed. When told to climb the mountain God identified, Abraham obeyed. When ordered to put Isaac on the altar and tie him down, he obeyed. When told to slay his son, Abraham unsheathed his knife and raised his hand to STRIKE—and FROZE only when God said STOP!
Surely all that compliance proved the greatest extent of Abraham’s faith.
The greatest example of his obedience was his certainty that after he killed Isaac, God would resurrect him. He implied that when he told the servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will come back to you,” italics added. End Part I