The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Coming Out

“It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void” – Psalm 119:126

Recently a professional basketball player came out of the closet openly declaring his homosexuality in the media. It was the first active professional athlete to do so. The “hope” is that this opens the door for other professional athletes to “come out.” The response has been pretty much overwhelming applause as presented in the media. The tweets and twitters are affirming the “courage” of this player. Sports used to be an area where you could escape the influences of politics. Not anymore. There is no escaping the proclivities of this fallen world. It is expected that when this particular player is next introduced at a game that he will receive a standing ovation. If you were at that game, would you stand and applaud?

Self-imposed defenders of what is viewed as a civil rights issue are policing the media ready to pounce on and shout down any disagreeing comments. They are armed with tongues like knives that slash into submission using the words such as, “homophobic,” “out of touch,” “backward,” “haters,” and “bigot.” In our world today it’s trendy to support Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transvestites (LGBTs). We see the support and influence of this small percentage of the population throughout society and the world. From the water cooler to Washington, from unity rallies and parades to the United Nations we see the LGBT agenda promoted. And if you don’t see things their way be ready for some vicious intolerance from the tolerance police.

Schools have degenerated from being places of learning to being places of indoctrination; the mind controlling instruments of the State. This State is progressively pushing us away from God and His word. The consequence is our children at earlier and earlier ages are being introduced to sinful lifestyle choices. They are being encouraged, even forced to not merely tolerate those caught up in such sinful behaviors, but to investigate and try it out. The LGBT options are being presented alongside heterosexuality as normal alternatives to choose. Teachers are propagandizing children with role play exercises in the classroom that are heavily slanted in favor of an LGBT agenda. All this is done regardless of parental consent.

One of the propositions of those in support of LGBTs is that people with such propensities are born that way and therefore can’t help themselves from following these lifestyle choices. The contention is that there is no choice involved with LGBT lifestyles. Same sex attraction, bi-sexual attractions, (and be sure that other “attractions” will follow) are seen as irresistible feelings and inherent inclinations that must be followed through on for the sake of mental and general health. We are told that the only right way and acceptable thing to do is to “celebrate” such diversity. This contention is made with little credible scientific evidence. Evidence is optional. (For a nation that accepts leaders who pass healthcare legislation that affects millions of constituents that is composed of thousands of pages of legal guidelines, without reading it (!), why is evidence important?) Therefore, it is wrong to treat these lifestyles with discretion. There needs to be freedom to come out! It’s hypocritical to not come out! And those who view such lifestyles as sinful need to just shut up! Forget common sense, forget morality, forget thousands of years of societal history and mores, forget thousands of years of human tradition, and forget the inerrant, historically ever relevant revelation of the word of God our Creator. Tolerate LGBTs or be damned!

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). Humanity is born with a sinful nature. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Such inherent sin manifests itself in many ways. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, . . . .” (Mat. 15:19-20a). Notice this list of Jesus uses plurals of each sinful heart produced behavior mentioned. Our sinful heart produces a variety of sinful behavior. Unrighteousness takes many forms. And it’s important that we recognize this sinful condition. “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to His ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).

Sinfulness in its various inward and outward forms will keep us from entering God’s kingdom. “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev. 21:27). “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Rev. 22:15). So if we are overcome with a sinful inclination in whatever form it takes, what are we to do? Are we doomed to a life of resisting the gnawing of our heart toward God-forbidden fruit? Should we just cave in and come out and forget about our eternal destiny? No, there is hope.

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:114). Run to God. Hope in His word. In His word it states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified” (1 Thess. 4:3-6). Later it is stated in this same Thessalonian letter, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24). God’s will is that we “abstain” or keep ourselves from sexual immorality. We need to take action to this end; to be sanctified or set apart from the sin of sexual immorality in its various forms and set apart to the Lord for His use. How is this done? We surrender to God who has promised to “do it.”  It is a work of the Holy Spirit in us (1 Thess. 4:7-8).

“Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119:133). We need to go to God’s manual for life, the Bible. What does God’s word say about the affections of our sinful nature? It says it is possible to be freed from and have victory over sin in our life no matter the form. We see this in the words, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We need to know about the sin in our lives and not be deceived in heart. Deviating sexually from God’s prescribed parameters of His word disqualifies one from His kingdom; it is sin. But notice something here. “Fornicators,” “homosexuals” and “sodomites” covers what today we refer to as LGBT lifestyles; it is indeed sinful. But recognize that these sinful behavioral manifestations of the sinful heart are listed along with other manifestations such as “thieves,” those who covet, “drunkards,” skeptics and those who abuse people to extort things from them. Paul is inspired to give a broad list of sinful behavior here. If we are in our modern times going to condone and celebrate LGBTs, then we might as well condone and celebrate thieves, the greedy, and drunkards too. (Some would observe that is exactly what our world does.)

Such sinful behaviors are not prohibited by God because He is into exerting His power over lesser beings. God prohibits such sinful behavior because they cause pain and disorder to His creation. Physiologically this is undeniably true based on the barren reproductive capabilities of LGBTs as well as the increased detrimental health issues shown in medical studies of people indulging such lifestyles.

Where’s the hope? “And such were some of you.” The Corinthians had evidently experienced the power of the gospel to free them from the catalogue of sins listed here. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Tarring sin can be washed away. You can be sanctified; cleansed in heart and made useable to the Lord who loves you. You can stand before Him, no matter your sinful life history, justified; just as if you’d never sinned. This is a work of the “Spirit of our God.” All you need do is turn from your sin, come to Jesus, and trust that His death on the cross paid the just penalty for your sins. Then God will give you spiritual life by indwelling you with the Person of the Holy Spirit. All of this is because God loves you (Rom. 5:8).

But what about those who have been either freed from such sin, or who are wondering about the proper response to those caught in such sin? How should we respond to the promoters of sinful lifestyles?

First, we need to seek the LORD. We are not to depend on the arm of human flesh. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). Politics is not the answer. We may work through politics at times, but understand it is a fallen system as weak as the people who govern in it. Instead, we need to call on God to come out. “It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void” (Psalm 119:126). We aren’t going to gain victory or have a credible response to the intolerant sinful philosophies of our day if we rely on our flesh. We need to seek the Lord in prayer. We need a supernatural intervention. We need revival.

“Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O LORD, revive me according to Your justice. . . . Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word. . . . Great are Your tender mercies, O LORD; revive me according to Your judgments” (Psalm 119:149, 154, 156). God is for us (Rom. 8:31-32). We need to turn to Him to fight for us. We need to turn to Him to revive us with a Spirit anointing of His wisdom, courage, and most importantly, His love. We need to pour out our heart before God for the lost. We need hearts broken for the sad sinful state of the lost caught up not only in LGBT lifestyles, but for those caught up in all sin. The answer is not a fist fight or angry shout. The answer is broken heartedness before the LORD. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136). When was the last time you wept for the lost before God?

Second, we need to act. We need to come out for the LORD! How do we do this? “My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words” (Psalm 119:139). This is not harsh, hard-hearted activism. We are not to return evil for evil. We are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). We need to be set on fire with a passion for the LORD and His word and speak His truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We aren’t to fight fire with fire, but be set ablaze by God and compelled by His love. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). We are all sinners. We exist only by God’s mercy, grace, and love. We are in no position to look down on those yet to be saved. Instead we offer the sinner a way out of sin.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:20-21). In love we need to live and share God’s word. We need to get closer to God than ever before. We need to hear what He has to say. We need to be able to say, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). God’s word is always relevant; for every age. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s word will be fulfilled (Mat. 5:18). “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

So when the world gives standing ovations to those coming out to proclaim publically their sinful lifestyles, don’t stand and applaud with them. The world is devoid of consciousness of sin. It doesn’t even know the questions of life let alone the eternal answers. It would rather encourage people to continue in unhealthy sinful lifestyles than find a truthful solution. The world sees tolerating and promoting self-destructive sin as loving. The world is in darkness. Bring God’s light into the darkness. We know the truth that aberrant lifestyles cause pain and enslavement to a life of frustration, futility, and unfulfillment.   We need to come out and say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16a). Those freed from LGBT lifestyles by the power of the gospel of Christ will thank you for your love and courage. They will thank the Lord for their liberation. When the world stands and applauds sin, will you stand and applaud with them? Or will you come out and share the powerful liberating gospel of God’s love? It’s your choice.

A Passion for Jesus – Part 6

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” – Mark 14:9

Passion is a driving force, a deep emotion in the heart, a fire in the belly, a heart aflame. Do you have a passion for Jesus? Such a passion is rooted in Jesus’ forgiveness for our sins, living hope, His atoning passion on the cross, the resurrection. Thus far we have spoken only about our passion for Jesus. But did you know Jesus has a passion for us? He does. In John 20:19-31 Jesus passion for us is laid out. Let’s see what Jesus’ passion for us is all about.

 19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus didn’t come with condemnation to those who had forsaken Him. Jesus came with a word of peace. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1ff.).

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

In verse 20 of chapter 20 of John, the Thomas and the disciples received 20/20 vision as they “saw” (Greek eido) or understood; “I see and know now.” Have you seen Jesus in this way? Do you know Him as your risen Lord?

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

To “Receive the Holy Spirit” is equivalent to them being born again. They have all the evidence now. They have seen the risen Lord Jesus. Jesus said, “You must be born again” if you are to enter His kingdom (John 3). Before you are born again of the Spirit you are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-9). That is one reason why if you try to read and understand the Bible before being born again you can’t understand it properly; you don’t have the Holy Spirit within to help you understand (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-14). You can’t have a passion for Jesus without the Holy Spirit within you. It is the Holy Spirit who fires up our heart with a passion for Jesus. With the Spirit they are on their way toward a passion for Jesus. Have you been born again?

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

If we don’t tell people about Jesus, they won’t hear the gospel? Faith comes by hearing God’s word and how will people hear if no one tells them? (cf. Romans 10:14-17).

A commentator explains: “In Mark 2, when Jesus pronounced forgiveness to a paralyzed man, the Pharisees were aghast. “Only God has the right to forgive sin,” they said (see verse 7). And they were right. What, then, does this verse mean? It means we as His ambassadors don’t provide forgiveness, but we do proclaim it. Therefore, to the one who says, “I don’t feel forgiven,” it is our responsibility to say, “According to the Word of God, if you open your heart to Jesus Christ and believe in His work on the Cross, your sin is gone.” Conversely, to the one who says, “I don’t need Jesus Christ. I’m into meditation,”—it is our responsibility to say, “Your sin remains because only the blood of Jesus can wash it away.”[1]

As followers of Jesus entrusted with the gospel of forgiveness we have a great opportunity as well as a great responsibility. This is the gospel preached according to scripture. We are witnesses to sinful humanities’ need to turn from their sin and to receive forgiveness for their sin through faith in Jesus (Acts 5:30-32). Forgiveness comes through Christ Acts 13:38-39). Our mission and message to the lost is, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’”  (Acts 26:18). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7; cf. also Col. 1:9-14). Have you received forgiveness for your sins offered as a gift of God’s grace on the basis of acceptance of Jesus atoning death on the cross?

 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Thomas missed out on what would strengthen his faith because he was not with his brothers in fellowship. Pastor teacher Jon Courson comments, I suppose one of the saddest things I see as a pastor are disciples who miss the meeting. They’re out there struggling, while at a Sunday evening service, for example, at some point Jesus begins to appear through the Word or in worship, through prophecy or the washing of feet. “I can worship at home,” they say. But Jesus didn’t go to Thomas’s house. He went where the saints were meeting together. “Don’t forsake assembling together,” Paul would say (see Hebrews 10:25)—because Jesus shows up in the midst of the congregation.[2] That is so true my friends.

 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Some need convincing more than others. Jesus is patient and will meet us where we are.  Jesus in His resurrection body was physically touchable. Jesus was not a mere apparition or ghost. Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. Jesus is approachable and touchable, all the more reason to have a passion for Him.

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Can’t you simply take Jesus at His word?

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Do you have a passion for Jesus? The world needs people with a passion for Jesus. Without such passionate people for Jesus the world is lost. Leonard Ravenhill expressed this well when he wrote:

“For this midnight hour, incandescent men are needed. On the day of Pentecost, the flame of the living God became the flame of the human heart to that glorious company. The Church began with these men in the ‘upper room’ agonizing – and today is ending with men in the supper room organizing. The Church began in revival; we are ending in ritual. We started virile; we are ending sterile. Charter members of the Church were men of heat and no degrees; today many hold degrees, but have no heat! Ah, brethren, flame-hearted men are the crying need of the hour!

Men need to be a pillar of fire – God-guided men to lead a misguided people; passionate Pauls to stir timid Timothys; men of flame to outshine and out-burn men of name! We need knights of prayer to lead nights of prayer. We need true prophets to warn of false profits, ‘for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36). [3]

As the Church goes, so goes the world! If the watchmen sleep, the enemy takes the city! . . . . Life begets life by its very nature. By the same token, inspired men inspire.” [4]

How is your passion for Jesus? Do you have any? You need a passion for Jesus. The world needs people with a passion for Jesus. Jesus wants you to have a passion for Him. Jesus has a passion for you? Do you have a passion for Jesus?

[1]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 596
[2]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 596
[3] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1959, 1987) pgs. 155
[4] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1959, 1987) pgs. 156-157

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Gospel Invitation

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” – Ephesians 1:7

Do you feel the Lord tugging at your heart? He loves you so much. He wants you to know Him personally. He wants you to spend eternity with Him. He has a plan for your life. He has truth for you to live by; fulfillment; meaning; purpose. He wants to bless you with an abundant life. He’s calling you to Himself.

But there’s a problem – sin. Sin is breaking God’s life giving laws. It’s living outside the parameters of His life giving word. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin separates us from God. Sin is the cause of all pain and suffering in this world. Sin breaks our heart. Sin breaks God’s heart.

God is a Just Judge who cannot and will not leave the injustice of sin unpunished. The penalty for sin is death. We all have sinned. We are all guilty. We all deserve eternal death. We deserve eternal separation from the God of love. We are born in sin. Sin is a part of us. We choose sin. We excuse sin. We are without excuse. Sin is the human infection. Sin is a cancer. One sin cell left unattended will spread and kill. It is always malignant. It is never benign. Sin is terminal. Sin dooms us legally, morally, and physically. But there is hope.

The Gospel is where the One Holy God of Love and the Holy God of Justice meet. There is a way to be justified; to be brought to a standing before God just as if I’d never sinned. There is a way to be forgiven for our sins. There is a way to be healed; to have our sins washed away. That way leads to the cross where God reveals His justice and His love. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Sin is not eliminated by our good works. Our works are not good enough. Even an earthly judge won’t accept good works to offset the penalty for a crime. The next time you go before an earthly judge for a traffic ticket or some other offense try telling him what a good person you are or that you’re really, really sorry. See how far that gets you. Been there; done that. Take it from me, it doesn’t affect justice; it doesn’t get you very far.

God’s law and rule of justice are far higher and fairer than ours. God must and will administer perfect justice. In God’s system of justice we’re guilty as charged. But God has made a way for us to be set free from the penalty of sin. The sentence can be lifted; commuted. Jesus satisfied God’s just requirements on the cross. He fulfilled our sentence. That’s love. That’s mercy. That’s grace; God’s righteousness at Christ’s expense.

To bring us to Himself God sent His only Son Jesus, the Perfect representative Man, to pay our penalty for sin on the cross. He paid a debt He didn’t owe for those who owed a debt they couldn’t pay. That’s love. That’s justice. That’s grace; God’s redemption at Christ’s expense.

The wages of sin is death. Cancer needs to be surgically removed. It needs treatment. Jesus came to die for you and for me. The blood of Jesus washes away our sin. Jesus’ blood kills sin cells. The blood of Jesus is the perfect treatment for sin. That’s love. That’s healing. That’s grace; God’s remission at Christ’s expense.

What does all this cost? The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He has paid the price. He offers salvation from sin as a free gift to be received by faith. Salvation from sin is free, but it wasn’t cheap. It cost Jesus His life. That’s love. That’s expensive. That’s grace; God’s riches at Christ’s expense.

Jesus has justly paid our penalty for sin. But how can that apply to us? Trust in Jesus’ completed work on the cross. Turn from your sin and ask God’s forgiveness based on trusting in Jesus as your Savior from sin. How do I know this is true? Jesus rose from the dead. The wages of sin have been paid. Death is defeated. Eternal life is proclaimed in His name. That’s love. That’s regeneration. That’s grace; God’s resurrection at Christ’s expense.

When you give your heart and life to Jesus He gives you rich blessings. He gives you a fresh start in life. He removes the guilt connected with sin. He gives you a new heart that is sensitive to His voice. He makes you a part of His eternal family. He gives you His word the Bible to nourish you spiritually. And He gives you spiritual life and understanding by the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in you. But best of all He gives you Himself. He brings you into an eternal life with Him. When you accept Jesus as Savior and Lord your entire outlook on life’s meaning and purpose will change. You will be so blessed by His love you’ll want to tell the world about it. That’s love. That’s life. That’s grace; God’s reconciliation at Christ’s expense.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Don’t wait to receive Him. Don’t put Him off. Don’t put off your decision. Come as you are. Come now. He’s waiting for you with open arms. That’s love. That’s opportunity. That’s grace; God’s relationship at Christ’s expense.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Passion for Jesus – Part 5

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” – Mark 14:9

Passion is a driving force, a deep emotion in the heart, a fire in the belly, a heart aflame. Everyone is passionate about something or someone. But how many have a passion for Jesus? A passion for Jesus begins with Jesus’ forgiveness for our sin. It involves thanks for His living hope. It climaxes in the atonement of Christ. Now we will see it is confirmed in the resurrection.

We also said that passion for Jesus based on popularity, politics, provision, self-promotion, or pride will not stand the test of time; it will only be a Palm Sunday passion.

In John 20, three days after the passion of Jesus on the cross, we learn that a passion for Jesus clings to the resurrected Lord. Let’s unwrap this final passage.

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Mary Magdalene had been freed of seven demons by Jesus (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She had been forgiven much and therefore loves Jesus much (cf. Luke 7:47; Prov. 8:17). Her passion for Jesus began with the forgiveness for her sins that she had received. Some commentators think that Mary Magdalene is the unnamed woman of Luke 7 who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears. This is possible.  
Mary, “went to the tomb early.” Early; she wasted no time; she did not delay; she was not lackadaisical or procrastinating. She was last to be with Jesus at the cross (19:25). She was first to seek Him out (even if it was only to minister to what she thought was His dead body). If you want a passion for Jesus, He must be the top priority, the first thing in your life.

2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

See the passion of Mary Magdalene for Jesus, even in regards to His dead body. A passion for Jesus persists even when all seems lost. The fire was still burning in her even though she thought Jesus dead.

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

The resurrection can have a powerful impact in leading people to believe in Jesus. There is a progression of faith here. First, in verse 5, the word “saw” is translated from the Greek blepo which is to physically visibly observe. Second, in verse 6, the word “saw” is translated from the Greek theoreo which is to look at more carefully, and study more closely. We get the term theory from this Greek word. Third, in verse 8 the word “saw” is translated from the Greek term eido, which means to understand, idea – in other words they came to an “I get it!” moment. They saw physically, pondered what they saw, and finally began to understand the evidence.

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

Two angels, one at the head, one at the foot of the blood stained stone bed where Jesus’ dead body had laid. This is a picture of The Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant: Two angels at either end of the mercy seat where the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled for atonement. The Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant therefore, as a type,  is fulfilled here as it speaks of the empty tomb of Jesus – the Resurrection. 

13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

“They have taken away my Lord.” A passion for Jesus sees Jesus as “My” personal Lord. Do you know Jesus personally? Do you have a relationship with Him; a personal, saving relationship with Jesus as your Lord? Is Jesus, “My Lord,” to you?

14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

You or I, seeing two angels, may have stared or been transfixed on these otherworldly beings. Not May; she was only concerned about her Jesus. When you have a passion for Jesus, He is the most important One; even more important than angels.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

As a woman, and Jesus as a carpenter’s son (a construction worker), she was probably much smaller than Jesus. Yet, she was willing to carry Jesus back to where she thought He belonged. “Love bears all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). A passion for Jesus “bears all things.” Are you willing to bear burdens for the Lord?

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

There was something in the tone of Jesus voice that revealed who He was to Mary. When you have a passion for Jesus, you know His voice. Jesus said His sheep hear and know His voice (John 10:16, 27). He also said those who are of the truth hear His voice (John 18:37). Do you know the voice of Jesus?

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

Why did Jesus tell Mary to “Do not cling to Me”? Because she was clinging to Jesus; a passion for Jesus clings to Jesus in light of the resurrection. The word “cling” (Present/Middle /Imperative of  ἅπτομαι haptŏmai, hap´-tom-ahee) means a persistent clinging, to attach oneself to, to adhere to, or to fasten oneself to something. Mary had Jesus in a life grip. She thought she had lost her Jesus. Now He was alive and here again. She wasn’t going to risk losing Him again. A passion for Jesus holds on to the risen Jesus and won’t let go!

Think of the most precious and beloved person in your life. Think of what it would be like to lose them to death. Then think of how it would be to find them alive again. That’s what happened to Mary. A passion for Jesus holds onto Jesus with all your might. A passion for Jesus holds onto Jesus and won’t let go. A passion for Jesus holds onto Jesus as the most precious and dear loved one.  A passion for Jesus holds onto Jesus like an embrace for one that has come back from the dead. Do you hold on to Jesus like that?

Jesus referred to the apostles as “My brethren,” or “My brothers.” He said earlier that they were no longer merely His servants but His friends (John 15:5). Now He calls them “brothers.” In Hebrews it states Jesus is not ashamed to call His followers “brothers” (Heb. 2:8). Can Jesus call you His “friend,” His “brother,” or “sister”? Do you know Jesus?

Something else of interest takes place here. Rabbis at the time of Jesus used to say, “It is better that the words of the law be burned than to be entrusted to a woman, . . . .”[1] Yet Jesus commissioned Mary as a missionary to His disciples. What does this tell us? Having a passion for Jesus qualifies you to be used by Jesus to share the gospel.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

She just couldn’t contain the truth that Jesus was alive, raised from the dead. How about you, does your passion for Jesus cause you to run and tell others about Jesus? Or are you holding back the truth of His resurrection? When you have a passion for Jesus you can’t not tell others about Him.

To summarize, when we therefore look at A Passion for Jesus’ Resurrection we see:

  • A passion for Jesus seeks Jesus early – 21:1
  • A passion for  Jesus  persists even when all seems lost – 21:2
  • A passion for Jesus sees, studies and understands – 21:3-10
  • A passion for Jesus flows out of  the mercy (seat) of God – 21:11-12
  • A passion for Jesus sees Jesus as “my” personal Lord – 21:13
  • A passion for Jesus sees Jesus as the priority; the most important Person; even more important than angels – 21:14
  • A passion for Jesus “bears all things” – 21:15
  • A passion for Jesus hears and knows His voice – 21:16
  • A passion for Jesus clings to the resurrected Jesus – 21:17
  • A passion for Jesus tells others about the resurrected Jesus – 21:18

 So I ask once more, based on what we have seen so far, do you have a passion for Jesus?


[1]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 595

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Passion for Jesus – Part 4

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” – Mark 14:9

In the opening part of this series we defined passion as a driving force, a deep emotion in the heart, a fire in the belly, a heart aflame. People have a passion for many things, but how many have a passion for Jesus? We also said that passion for Jesus based on popularity, politics, provision, self-promotion, or pride will not stand the test of time; it will only be a Palm Sunday passion.

 In the second part of the series we saw that a passion for Jesus begins with falling at His feet in recognition of our depth and debt of sin and that through faith in Jesus we can be forgiven. In part 3 we saw a passion for Jesus falls at His feet aware of His living hope (power over death.)

In part 4 we will see that a passion for Jesus is rooted in an awareness of His atoning death on the cross. In this part we will look at the keystone segment of scripture in Mark 14:1-11. Again we will see a woman’s passion for Jesus. This is an incredible picture of a passion for Jesus. Here we will see something that is all too often lacking in our walk with God and in amongst His bride the church. Let’s look at this passage of passion.

After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
This incident happens on Passover, hours before Jesus would go to the cross. The reason the chief priests and scribes are there is to find an opportunity to arrest Jesus.

3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,

Bethany was like is a small town suburb  located a short distance from Jerusalem. It was at Simon the Leper’s house not the house of Lazarus that this incident took place. This incident is likely different from the one studied in part 3 of this series in John 12.

as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard.

Again it is a woman who comes to Jesus with a valuable anointing oil of spikenard.

Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

When you have a passion for Jesus there is always a breaking involved. God will do whatever it takes to bring you to Him. He will allow into your life whatever it takes to bring you home to Him and light a fire of passion in your heart. That involves breaking. Like a bucking bronco we have to be broken of our self-will, self-reliance, self-centeredness, anything that challenges Jesus rule and lordship in our lives. This is all illustrated in the broken flask.  Just as breaking the flask releases the costly oil; breaking us precedes the work of the Spirit in and through us.  

This woman poured the contents of the costly anointing oil on Jesus’ head. It was a picture of Jesus anointing in the Spirit for His redemptive mission to the cross.

4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

The critics posed as those more concerned with being good stewards with these resources. Jesus approves of costly, passionate acts of worship. 300 denarii was about a year’s wages. Costly! Lavish! Extravagant! When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like this? Have you ever been moved with passion for Jesus to this extent?

6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.

“Let her alone” Jesus said just as He did before. “Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work or Me.” Worship is the work of the people. If you aren’t worshipping Jesus, you’re missing out on one of His most favorite works. Worship is not merely singing on Sunday. Worship is how you live your life. “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” (Psalm 96:9). Are yo worshiping the LORD with the way you live?

 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.

Jesus isn’t minimizing the importance of helping the poor. He is maximizing the value of worshipping Him.

 8 She has done what she could.

Do all you can as often as you can for Jesus. She did what she could. That was acceptable to Jesus. Jesus only always asks us to do what we can do. If He asks us to do something, He will enable us to do it.

She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.

Here Jesus gives us a key insight into the passion of this woman. “She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” This woman had the cross of Christ in view. While the disciples were slow to understand the mission of Jesus – the atoning death of Jesus on the cross – this woman apparently understood the redemptive path Jesus was about to take.

9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Her act of passion for Jesus is connected by Him with the gospel. Why? Because: She brought her valuables to Jesus – She gave something that cost her something. She gave her relationships to Jesus - This flask of spikenard was probably her dowry. In effect, with the poured out flask she was saying, “Here Jesus, I give for You all my hopes of marriage and happiness; it’s all on You.” She gave her life to Jesus - This oil may have also served as her own anointing oil should she die before marriage. Therefore she is also saying, “With this oil Jesus, I give You my life.” She gave her all to Jesus - She was giving her all to Jesus! That’s how people need to come to Jesus; giving their all! That’s the only right response to the gospel. “But know this: Nothing that is given to Jesus is wasted.[1]

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

Judas, self-centered sinful Judas, just couldn’t take this extravagant act of worship poured out on Jesus. This was what pushed him over the edge to betray Jesus. For him, it was just too much.

How much is too much for you? What would it take to get you to betray Jesus? When was the last time (if ever) you worshipped Jesus like this woman? Does that describe you? Or do you look at extravagant acts of worship as “a waste”? Have you given your all to Jesus? Do you have such a passion for Jesus and His cross?

John Newton (1725-1807), the author of Amazing Grace is known for another poem that is appropriate to quote here:

In Evil Long I Took Delight

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!

Who or what do you have in view?

The passion we are speaking about has another name, Revival. Martyn Lloyd Jones described revival in the following way:

Revival, above everything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the center of the life of the Church. . . . his atonement, his death upon the cross, his broken body and his shed blood. . . . You will find that in every period of revival, without exception, there has been a tremendous emphasis upon the blood of Christ. . . . But in periods of revival, she [the Church] glories in the cross, she makes her boast in the blood. Because as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it, there is only one way in which we can enter with boldness into the holiest of all, and that is by the blood of Jesus (see Heb. 10:19). This is the thing the Holy Ghost honors.”[2]

A passion for Jesus is a revival passion. That is what we need. Do you have a passion for Jesus?

[1] Chuck Smith WFT note – Mark 14:4.
[2] Martin Lloyd Jones, Revival, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1987) pgs. 47-48

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is the Lord Your Shepherd?

“The LORD is my Shepherd” – Psalm 23:1

Ever feel lost, vulnerable, or unprotected? Ever feel spiritually dry, directionless, or malnourished? It’s not uncommon to feel that way in our dark, skeptical, and fallen world. But there is help. The solution to these issues can be found in Psalm 23. The 23rd Psalm is one of, if not the best known Psalm of the Bible. There’s good reason for that. It is well known because it is a psalm of great comfort. It is a psalm that speaks of intimacy with God.  Psalm 23 begins with the words, “The LORD is my Shepherd . . .” Is it worth it to have the LORD as my Shepherd? Who is this Shepherd? What does it mean to have the LORD as my Shepherd? Is the LORD your Shepherd?  

Is it worth having the LORD as your Shepherd?  I would think so. Look at the promises connected with having the LORD as our Shepherd. If the LORD is my Shepherd, “I shall not want” (23:1b). If we have the Shepherd, we have all we need. Our Shepherd promises to meet and fulfill all our needs. With Him we will want for nothing. This is a broad comforting promise.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures” (23:2a). Green pastures are hard to find in the often barren Middle East. Sheep need a Shepherd who knows where the green pastures are. And the pastures He leads to are not crab grass and weedy; they are fertile and filling. Sheep need a Shepherd who will lead them. The Shepherd will guide us to a place where we can find nourishment. And as we “lie down” in these pastures with the Shepherd, no doubt we will get to know Him. It’s not always about serving the Shepherd. Sometimes we just have to sit at His feet and worship and take in (cf. Luke 10:40-41).  

“He leads me beside the still waters” (23:2b). Still waters run deep. Any deep experience with the Shepherd requires we spend time with Him. Water is a symbol of God’s word (Eph. 5:26). Notice, “He leads me beside still waters.” This Shepherd leads us with the refreshing water of His words. Laying down in green pastures and being led beside still waters speaks of serenity, peace, security. “He restores my soul” (23:3a). The Shepherd brings spiritual restoration to the soul that sorrows or is weak. This Shepherd is the source of revival, refreshment and spiritual awakening.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (23:3b).  “Paths” here (Heb. Ma’gal) refer to ways clearly marked by wheeled traffic. The Shepherd leads in a clear path; He’s been through before; He leads us on a path He Himself has trod. He is holy. His path is a righteous holy path. Why will He lead you? “For His name’s sake” (23:3c). His reputation is on the line as He leads you. He will only lead you in a righteous way. That’s why it’s so important to follow Him. But even more than that, this Shepherd will lead you in the right way purely by grace, because He loves you.

There are dangers in the valleys of life. That’s when you really need a Shepherd. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me;” (23:4a). “Yea,” yes, you can be sure, there are valleys and the shadow of death in life. The shepherd travelling home from the fields with their flock sometimes went through dark ravines and valleys where predators might lay in wait. There are dangers in the world. The presence of the strong shepherd comforted the sheep and should comfort you and me. There is a Shepherd who has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). This Shepherd has conquered death (1 Cor. 15:53-58).

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (23:4b). The “rod” (Heb. shebat) was a shepherding tool used to guide with a tap and a nudge. The “staff” (Heb. Mish’enet) was an instrument used to protect against enemies.  This Shepherd loves you enough to guide and correct you. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (23:5a). No need to worry or scurry when the Shepherd is with you, even if there are enemies around. You can eat in peace. Your Shepherd has your back.

“You anoint my head with oil;” (23:5b). Shepherds used oil to rub into scratches on the sheep to help heal them. “Oil” is a type of the Spirit (Zech. 4). Oil speaks of the filling of the Holy Spirit at one’s spiritual birth or second birth (John. 3; 4:14; 14:16; 1 John 2:20). It also speaks of the Spirit’s anointing for service (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:17-18, 32-33). It says, “my cup runs over” (23:5c). The Shepherd isn’t stingy. He will give an abundant outpouring of the Spirit (John 7:37-39; 10:10).

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;” (23:6a).  “Surely” means NO DOUBT ABOUT IT! “Follow” (Heb. redap) means “to actively pursue.” Goodness and mercy will actively pursue those who have this Shepherd. The psalm ends with the words, “And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (23:6b). This speaks to the personal and intimate communion between the sheep and their Shepherd. These are all incredible blessings for the one who can say, “The LORD is my Shepherd.” But just who is this Shepherd? There have been some clues. Let’s answer this question.

Who is this Shepherd? “The LORD” here refers to the Tetragrammaton or YHWH which means “I am that I am” (Ex. 3-4). The sense of this name of God is that God is whatever He needs to be, according to His nature, without limit. In the New Testament Jesus identifies Himself as the Shepherd. He says, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). Jesus is the One who fulfills Psalm 23!

What does it mean to have the LORD as your Shepherd? The words, “is my” are very personal. This is a very personal psalm. In fact 17 times personal pronouns are used to refer to the psalmist (“my, me, I”) and 10 times personal pronouns are used to refer to God (“He, His, You, Your”). But outside this psalm God has revealed a very personal problem – sin. Sin separates us from God our Shepherd (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18). Sin cannot be worked off or worked away. Sin can only be washed away with the blood of a sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The blood of Old Testament sacrifices served two purposes. First, they were an instrument for people to put their faith in God through obedience. Second, the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the greater sacrifice, Jesus. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). God passed over sins (Rom. 3:25). But it wasn’t until Jesus shed His own blood on the cross that a viable, sufficient, and justly acceptable to God atonement for sin was made. “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12).

What does it mean to have Jesus as your Shepherd? It means you have sought and received by faith forgiveness for your sins based on the shed blood of Jesus and not any work of your own. It means having done this that you are in a personal saving relationship with Jesus.

Is the LORD my Shepherd? How do we know if Jesus is our Shepherd? Jesus calls and knows His sheep by name (John 10:3). He knows them and they know Him (John 10:14). His sheep hear His voice, know His voice, and follow Him (John 10:4). They by no means follow strangers (John 10:5). Others seek to destroy and abuse the sheep. Jesus comes to give the sheep abundant life (John 10:10). Jesus is the Good Shepherd; He laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:27-30). Is Jesus your Shepherd? Do you hear His voice? Are you following Him? If you’re unsure perhaps you haven’t dealt sufficiently with sin in your life. Have you turned from your sin? Have you asked God to forgive your sin based on Jesus shed blood on the cross and not your own works? Have you received the forgiveness God offers through faith in Jesus? If not, do so. Then follow your Shepherd. He promises it will be an abundant life!