6. Our Fierce Faithfulness (Matthew 25:14-30)Related Media
Jesus and Our Stuff (part six)
The way we define success will explain the direction of our lives. Our world weighs, measures, and counts the wrong things to determine one's level of success. We can sometimes be enticed to chase after the world's success, with the result that our priorities get shuffled. Instead, we should invest our time, our abilities, and our resources in a manner that would please the One who gave us these things in the first place. This perspective helps us properly define success using one very important word: It is required of a steward that he be found "faithful."
Issue 014. 2013 November Bible.org Translator's Newsletter
This last month has been a slow one for translation posting, but we are thankful for the interactions that we have had and for the translations that are currently in process!
If you are not currently working on a translation I would encourage you to consider perusing the site (or our ) to find one that looks interesting and helpful. Just a small commitment each week will result in a resource that millions can use.
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Tip: have you ever wondered how to handle Greek or Hebrew text that is within an article you are translating?
If there is a downloadable Word document with the article that you are translating, then you can simply copy and paste the Greek or Hebrew into the correct location in your translation. If no Word document is available then simply copying and pasting from the web page will work as well. Sometimes there may be more font or style issues with that kind of cutting/pasting. So please feel free to let us know if it looks like there are any issues that we should keep an extra eye out for in our final formatting.
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Related Topics: Administrative and Organization
7. Our Eternal Endowments (Luke 16:1-9)Related Media
Jesus and Our Stuff (part seven)
Jesus taught us to be faithful with all that God has entrusted to us. That involves using our minds while investing wisely with an eternal perspective, knowing that such investments yield the greatest return. Our generosity should extend beyond believers to include those who are lost without the Gospel. We can earn an audience with them by conveying that they are more valuable than our earthly property. Sacrificing our stuff for the sake of another's soul should be an easy decision. Let us seize every opportunity to invest earthly belongings for the sake of the lost that we might be welcomed into their eternal homes one day.
The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 9 Fall 2013
Fall 2013 Edition
Produced by ...
Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: Preaching: The Preparation Of The Preacher
“The Preacher and the Work of God” Pt. 3
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the Spring and Summer 2013 editions of this Pastors Journal (published on this website), we discussed the spiritual and personal preparation of the preacher. We are continuing that subject again in this edition. What we are learning is that before you can preach the Word with power, accuracy, and credibility, you need to be spiritually and personally qualified to do so. The person who is qualified to preach the Word is called a “man of God” by the apostle Paul.
We also noticed that, in order to be qualified for the privilege of serving the Lord in ministry, the four main areas that we need to give priority to are: (1) guarding your moral life; (2) directing your home life; (3) nourishing your inner life; and (4) disciplining your ministry life. Last time we completed our discussion of “Guarding Your Moral Life”. In this edition we are going to look at the other three aspects of being a man of God.
Directing Your Home Life (1 Tim. 3:5)
A man’s true character, values, and lifestyle are shown at home. That’s where he is truly himself. John MacArthur says: “Since the pastor is to be a leader of the Lord’s church and a loving parent to the family of God, what better way can he qualify than by proving his spiritual leadership in his own family?” 1 If a man cannot relate well and properly to his wife and children, and if he cannot “rule” his household well, how can he lead the church? (1 Tim. 3:5). Godly leadership in the home is a pre-requisite for leadership in the church. The same sacrificial, servant leadership you would expect from someone leading the church must be evident at home.
Therefore, your family life must be characterized by balance, happiness, submission to the Word, discipline, obedience, love, spontaneity, service, sacrifice for others, mutual respect etc. So, devote adequate and meaningful time and attention to your spouse and family and take responsibility for the spiritual tone and direction in your home by setting the example of spirituality. You are responsible to set the spiritual priority and focus of your home. Since you preach and counsel the priority of the Scriptures and obedience to God in your ministry life, make sure you are an example of that in your family life.
If you do not set the example for, and command the respect of, your spouse and children at home, how can you do so in the church, or mission agency, or para-church ministry?
So let me encourage you to set aside adequate and appropriate time for your spouse and your children. Don’t put them in second place to your ministry or the church. You would probably criticize someone else in your congregation for doing that, so don’t do it yourself. Show your family that you are prepared to set aside other pressing matters because you value them highly. Be accessible to them, be available to them in your presence, your mind, and your emotions.
Take responsibility for the spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental well-being of everyone in your home. If you don’t take this responsibility at home, how can you do it in your ministry with any degree of credibility or success?
So men of God must be loving and faithful husbands and fathers.
1. Be A Loving And Faithful Husband (1 Tim. 3:2; cf. Eph. 5:22-33)
I would encourage you to let your wife develop and establish her own identity, exercise her own gifts, rather than deriving her identity from you and your vocation as a pastor. Nonetheless, she needs to be supportive of you in your role as a pastor and her life must enhance what you do, not detract from it.
There are so many sources of stress for pastors’ wives:
- They sometimes feel like they take second place to their husband’s ministry demands, and this may lead to resentment.
- They may feel isolated, with no close friends in the church, which can lead to loneliness.
- They may see their husbands receiving attention from other women in the church, which may lead to jealousy and suspicion.
- They often feel pressure to appear perfect, which leads to them trying to keep up a false appearance, attempting to please everybody.
- They live in a spiritual “fishbowl” at church, which can lead to spiritual fatigue.
- Sometimes pastors do not earn much money, which can cause their wives to resent the financial pressures.
- Sometimes, there is a breakdown of intimacy and togetherness in the marriage as well as lack of mutual support due to the demands of ministry, which can lead to coldness, anger, anxiety, depression, and sexual withdrawal.
All of these sources of stress can lead to marital difficulties. So let’s be loving, sensitive, supportive, and faithful to our wives.
2. Be A Loving And Faithful Father (1 Tim. 3:4; Eph. 6:4)
Be kind and gentle to your children (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7, 11). By your relationship with their mother and your Christian testimony show your children what it is to be a godly, consistent Christian. If you expect to be used by God to be the spiritual leader of the church, start by being the spiritual leader of your children.
Remember to never use your children as illustrations from the pulpit, not even if they agree to it. Children tend to easily agree to such things but when they are publicly spotlighted they may secretly resent it.
Don’t neglect spending time with your children. There is no such thing as “quality” time that somehow makes up for lack of “quantity” of time. What your children need is your time and attention.
Your family is of paramount importance. It’s a responsibility you are charged with when you have children. You can’t get out of it. So step up and take that responsibility as a godly leader.
Don’t ever let your children feel that they take second place - not even to ministry – or they will quickly resent it. If ministry and family responsibilities are in conflict on a regular basis, simply adjust your ministry schedule.
Give your children space as they grow up to become the individuals God has created them to be. Often, children raised in pastors’ homes feel pressured to be perfect. If your wife feels like she is living in a fishbowl, how much more do your children! So, let’s not add to that pressure by making them conform to other people’s expectations. We can help them deal with that by maintaining privacy in our homes and by helping them live as normal a childhood as possible.
Finally, let’s protect them from becoming cynical by not discussing church problems in front of our children.
Nourishing Your Inner Life
In ministry you expend a tremendous amount of emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical energy. Not only does ministry make its demands on the total personality, but it easily becomes all-absorbing. Before you know it, you have no life or interests outside your ministry. For this reason, you must discipline yourself to take care of your personal well-being, to set aside time for:
1. Spiritual Restoration
If you are a local church pastor, you are giving out to your congregation all the time – encouraging, exhorting, warning, counselling, preaching, teaching. If you do this long enough without being fed spiritually yourself, you will eventually run dry. On one occasion Jesus told his disciples to come apart into a desert place for a period of rest.
You need to be fed spiritually. How can you do this? One way is to have someone else minister to you. Listen to other preachers, read devotional books, attend conferences, or invite guest preachers on a regular basis to preach for you - it’s good for the church and for you. Whatever way you decide to receive spiritual restoration, discipline yourself to engage in it regularly so that your spiritual batteries don’t run down.
2. Mental Rejuvenation
A healthy mental life requires mental relaxation as well as stimulation. Mental relaxation may take different forms such as regular vacations, walks with your spouse, an evening of good fellowship with friends with whom you can relax and be yourself. And don’t forget to schedule time to be alone – solitude is good, especially for mental relaxation.
The opposite is also needed - mental stimulation. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). “These things” stimulate your mind with good thoughts and challenging subjects that will edify you.
Don’t become lazy or defiled in your thinking. You can keep your mind alert and stimulated by:
- Reading good books on a variety of subjects
- Associating with like-minded people with intellectual ability and spiritual maturity, who can engage in stimulating conversations about topics that have substance
- Listening to good music that can minister to you
- Listening to or reading good sermons
- Continuously upgrading your professional skills by attending seminars and courses – particularly those on preaching and church leadership
3. Physical Recreation
In 1 Timothy 4:8, the apostle says: “Bodily exercise profits a little” – i.e. it is of some value. Every pastor needs to take time out for manual and physical recreation to compensate for the mental and spiritual demands of preaching. Make no mistake about it, preaching and pastoral ministry are hard work. Spending all day in meetings, counselling, administration, and study means that you must schedule time to do something active.
Physical activity is good not only for your body but also for your mind. Looking after our bodies is a stewardship that is just as important as the stewardship of our money, time, and spiritual gifts. Paul taught that the body is to be dedicated (Rom. 12:1); preserved (1 Thess. 5:23), exercised (1 Tim. 4:8), and disciplined (1 Cor. 9:24-27). And remember, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore, we must take care how we use it. We must keep it pure for the glory of God. We must maintain its health. And we must “glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Part of the process of taking care of our body is engaging in some form of physical exercise in order to keep it fit and healthy. Try to discipline yourself to do this. As you get older you will be glad you did.
4. Emotional Recuperation
Pastors are very visible and audible – everyone sees what we do and hears what we say. Some things we say and do will generate:
- Criticism from those whose consciences react to what we say
- Conflict and perhaps condemnation from those who disagree with us
- Concern for those whom we care for physically, emotionally, and spiritually
Conflict and criticism take a great toll on us emotionally. Therefore, from time to time we need to recuperate emotionally. How can we do that? Some suggestions are:
- Enjoy fellowship with friends who encourage you and help you to laugh
- Meet with other pastors who can give you counsel on how to deal with difficult situations
- Read books on pastoral ministry – you’ll find that you are not alone; even the prominent preachers suffer from conflict and criticism
Disciplining Your Ministry Life (2 Tim. 2:1–6, 15)
A godly leader / preacher has the solemn responsibility to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15)
This standard for biblical preaching is described earlier in the chapter through three word pictures of disciplined endeavour - the daily discipline and commitment of a soldier, an athlete, a farmer (2 Tim. 2:1-6). The pictures that are drawn in these verses depict discipline, duty, and devotion, which, when displayed, bring reward.
1. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Singular Focus” Of A Soldier (2:3-4)
Firstly, the singular focus of a soldier is to always be willing and ready to suffer (2:3) – to “endure hardship.” Suffering is to be expected in ministry because of spiritual warfare (cf. Eph. 6:1-20) and ill treatment.
Secondly, the singular focus of a soldier is always to be willing and ready to sacrifice (2:4a). You cannot be preoccupied with the “affairs of this life” in order to be always on duty and available. This is a call to sacrifice – to disentangle yourself from any other duties that would distract you from your main task. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the “affairs of this life,” but if they have the tendency to entangle us, they must be cast aside. Anything that would rob us of the necessary time with God (in prayer and the Word) and time for God must be sacrificed.
Thirdly, the singular focus of a soldier is to always be willing and ready for service (2:4b) - “to please him who has enlisted (you) to be a soldier.” As soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must be ready to serve the One who has enlisted us in his service. We are always on duty.
A genuine soldier is marked by wholehearted devotion to duty, complete commitment, nothing held back. A soldier’s reward is the approbation of his superior officer. That’s what we work for – the Lord’s approval.
2. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Strenuous Effort” Of An Athlete (2:5)
An athlete displays strenuous effort in training and competing. In order to win an athlete must strive toward three objectives:
- Strive for excellence. This involves exertion, exercise, effort, training, diligence, commitment, competition, doing it well. Preachers need to do their task with excellence and diligence.
- Strive lawfully. This refers to obeying the rules, honesty. Knowing the rules and following them, even when no one is looking. Preachers must have such integrity.
- Strive to win. The reward is to be crowned, to be victorious, seeking only the Lord’s approval. The preacher’s reward is the Lord’s approbation now and his crown then. An athlete must have wholehearted discipline in order to compete and win lawfully. And the reward is to be “crowned” the victor.
3. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Steady Perseverance” Of A Farmer (2:6)
The farmer labours long and hard without any sign or assurance of success. This takes great self-discipline, steadfastness. After preparing the soil and planting the seed, then he must wait for the crop. This takes trust – trust in God, for only God can make a seed grow and produce a harvest. Farmers need wholehearted labour and dependence.
Godly preachers can prepare the best of sermons and Bible lessons and deliver them with great fervour but the results belong to God to bring to life those who were dead (Eph. 2:1).
Only through hard work, wholehearted commitment, and self-discipline can we present ourselves “approved to God” workers who do “not need to be ashamed” (2:15). It is so easy in ministry to become lazy, lose commitment, and become discouraged.
Let’s discipline ourselves to put in the time and the energy necessary to get the job done well. Let’s conduct ourselves so that people see that we are committed to our Christian testimony and ministry. Don’t be half-hearted about your Christian life or satisfied with mediocrity in your ministry. Preaching and church leadership are hard work! All that we do must be done for God’s glory and that means we do it with all our might and with excellence.
At a personal level, the measure of Christian ministry for the man of God means on the one hand, being diligent to present yourself approved to God, and on the other hand, being a workman who does not need to be ashamed.
At a practical level, the measure of Christian ministry for the man of God means accurate, appropriate, and authoritative preaching and teaching – rightly dividing the word of truth.
Part II. Leadership: Being A Godly Role Model
“Your Personal Holiness”
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
We continue the topic of personal holiness from our last edition of the NET Pastors Journal. Last time we discussed purity in our social lives. In this edition, we are going to look at purity in our thoughts, motives, and words.
Purity In Thought (2 Cor. 10:5)
Our thoughts can be so subtle and sinful, can’t they? Sometimes you wonder where certain thoughts come from. Undoubtedly they spring from our sinful nature, prompted by Satan and the temptations he puts in our way.
To maintain purity in our thoughts we must be careful what we think about. We need to discipline our minds in order to control the thoughts that we entertain. When our thoughts are uncontrolled, fantasies can so easily take over. And fantasies that are uncontrolled tend to become reality. The Bible says, “As a man thinks, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our thoughts shape our character and our behaviour. Every action or habit begins with a thought.
So, let’s be careful what we think about. If you find yourself thinking unhealthy or sinful thoughts, pray for God to banish them from your mind. It works! God delivers us from evil, for the power of God is greater than Satan or any earthly temptation.
Our thoughts are often generated by things we have read or seen. So be careful what you look at, because what you look at enters your heart and impacts your desires. “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full-grown, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). That’s the pattern if our thoughts go unchecked.
Probably what goes on in the mind is the most dangerous of all (more so than even outward actions) because nobody can see your thoughts. No one can hold you accountable for what you are thinking because they don’t know. But remember what Jesus said: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:18-20). What goes into your mind will come out – whether good thoughts or bad. And those thoughts will form the basis of who you are and what you do.
Purity In Motive
Impure motives are when we do the right things for the wrong reasons - doing something to achieve a desired result but for the wrong reason. So, let’s ask ourselves: Why do we do ministry? What is our motivation? We must do the right things and for the right reasons.
In Rev. 2:2-3 the church at Ephesus did the right things but with an impure motive - namely, they were not doing it out of love for Christ. The warning is that if they would not repent of their impure motives, God would remove their lamp-stand (their public testimony as a church). What do we do ministry for? What are we living for?
Do we do ministry for our own self-glory like those who “commend themselves,” who, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12)?
Are we living for our own personal gain, like those who “suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5)?
Are we seeking our own self-promotion? Jesus said “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). Paul said that he had “served the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials” (Acts 20:19).
In his book, “Shepherding the Church,” Joe Stowell writes: “Those who serve for His glory and His gain find their greatest joy not in the affirmation that may come at the door after the sermon, but in a life that, over time, is functionally changed through the ministry of proclamation. In a life that now brings more glory to God than in days gone by. In a life that gives credit to God – not us – for what God has done in their lives through us.” 2 Yes!
Pure motives cause us to serve for Christ’s glory and the benefit of his kingdom. Paul’s motive for ministry was that “Christ be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die gain” (Phil. 1:20). Paul said, “I am the last of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9). John the Baptist’s motive was that Jesus Christ “must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).
Let’s check our own hearts for what our motives are as leaders of God’s people.
Purity In Word (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7)
Our speech is an area that can be the most dangerous and the one most easily slipped up on. What we say (the words and phrases we use) and how we say it (body language, tone of voice) can either empower our leadership role or immobilize it. You can give totally different meaning to the words you use just through emphasis on different words or body language.
We need to be careful about our choice of words. I’m noticing more and more inappropriate secular words and expressions coming from Christians (and preachers), that once would never have been used by believers. I have heard pastors and Christian leaders say things that make me cringe. Sometimes they use expressions that are common in our society but which ought not to be part of our communication. I hear leaders in the church using slang words all the time that are derivatives from curse words (and I don’t think they even know it).
Words slip out so easily and they cannot be retracted. When they come out, they are like water spilled on the ground – it can’t be gathered back up (2 Sam. 14:14). When the wrong words are said, it’s too late, the damage is done.
Words are the stock-in-trade for Christian leaders. Our craft revolves around the use of words. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to be experts in their use – not only in the pulpit but in all our interactions. We are to be wordsmiths, carefully choosing the words we use so that they accurately convey what we want to say.
But accuracy and truthfulness are not sufficient. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). “Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). “Be slow to speak and swift to hear” (James 1:19).
So, try to avoid vernacular or slang – it will get you into trouble. Don’t use harsh or coarse words (Eph. 5:4) – it’s not Christ-like. Try not to use words with double meanings. Wherever possible, be conscious to use polite, positive, constructive, well-chosen words.
Beware of gossip, slander, lying, deceit, inferences, innuendos, seduction, murmuring, complaining, boasting, exaggeration. They all stem from the wrong use or application of words (cf. Eph. 4:25, 29, 31; 5:4; Col. 3:8-9; 4:6; Matt. 15:11, 17-20). Stay away from words that can have impure connotations.
Let us use “sound speech”(Tit. 2:8) that is a testimony to others of the “gracious words” that proceeded out to the Lord’s mouth, of the purity of speech that we want others to adopt, and of the kind of words that point others to Christ.
Teachers used to say to us: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” - not true! Words spoken in anger, jest, teasing, criticism can hurt a lot longer than physical hurts and cause untold hurt in Christian relationships. The words we use are important, so choose them carefully.
Part III. Devotional Thoughts
“The Ministry of Earthen Vessels, Pt. 2: The Motivation for Ministry” (2 Cor. 4:16-5:9)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the Summer edition of this journal, we began studying the subject of “The Ministry of Earthen Vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7-5:21). We looked at 2 Corinthians 4:7-16, which deals with the topic of “The Nature of Ministry.” Now we continue with the next section, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8, which deals with the topic of “The Motivation for Ministry.” The apostle points out three motivations for ministry: (1) the motivation of future transformation (4:15-5:8); (2) the motivation of accountability to God (5:10-13); and (3) the motivation of Christ’s love (5:14-17). In this edition of this Pastors Journal, we will cover only The Motivation Of Future Transformation (4:16-5:9).
The apostle develops this subject of the ministry of earthen vessels around four paradoxes of ministry. Last time we noticed the first paradox of ministry: the weak messenger vs. the powerful message. Now, in connection with the motivation for ministry (specifically, the motivation of future transformation) we have the next three paradoxes.
The second paradox of ministry is: outward decay vs. inward renewal (4:16-17). For the Christian the paradox is that “Even though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day” (16b). There is a difference between the outward and the inward – the outward is decaying and the inward is being renewed. On the one hand, we suffer from the progressive decay of our physical being. Our “outward man” (i.e. what is visible - our physical body and faculties) is “decaying” (i.e. steadily and irreversibly heading toward death). On the other hand, our inner being is progressively being renewed in God’s image. Our “inward man” (i.e. what is invisible - our new life in Christ, our spiritual being, our Christ-likeness) “is being renewed day by day” (i.e. being sanctified, transformed into Christ’s image).
The reality for the non-Christian is petrifying. They experience only outward decay without any inner renewal, because they have no spiritual life. “For” introduces the explanation of this paradox of outward decay vs. inner renewal “our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (17). Note the contrasting elements of the Christian paradox:
- Present suffering for Jesus’ sake = light and momentary troubles
- Future glory in Jesus’ presence = an eternal glory that far outweighs all our present suffering or troubles
Paul is not teaching that physical suffering is rewarded with spiritual merit. He is not endorsing asceticism. Rather, Paul is still dealing with the issue of how the glory and power of God are displayed in earthen vessels (7); the issue of spiritually (and perhaps physically) dying with Jesus (10a); the issue of the life of Jesus manifested in us (10b); the issue of being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus may be manifested in us (11).
“Paul’s theme throughout this epistle is that the frailty of the human frame and the affliction which it sustains in the cause of the gospel magnify, by reason of the astonishing contrast, and provide the opportunity for experiencing, the all-transcending glory and power and grace of Almighty God.” 3 No matter how severe our physical suffering may be “for Jesus’ sake” (i.e. suffering that is endured and incurred for Jesus’ sake in the cause of the gospel), it is “light” and “momentary” compared to the “eternal glory” which is reserved for us in heaven.
The third paradox of ministry in this passage is: the visible vs. the invisible (4:18). The eye of faith is not preoccupied with what is seen but with what is not seen. “We do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen.” We do not focus on our human weakness, suffering, dying (i.e. the decay of our outward, physical existence), and difficult circumstances, but rather, we look at “the things which are not seen.” The non-Christian is focused on the physical, the outward, and the present (treasures on earth, perishable things), but the Christian is focused on the spiritual, the inward, and the eternal. We are focused on spiritual realities (e.g. truth, life in Christ). We are focused on inner power, the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We are focused on eternal glory – a future, heavenly perspective, when we will be fully and finally like Christ. We are pressing forward not looking back (Phil. 3:14). We endure the present in the assurance of the future. We know that the transient will give place to the permanent. We look for the temporal afflictions to be replaced by eternal glory.
The fourth paradox of ministry is: our earthly tent vs. our heavenly building (5:1-8). The explanation for the previous paradox now follows: “For we know…” The basis of our perspective on present suffering and decay is our knowledge of future glorification, the redemption of our bodies as well as our souls, the certain hope of glory. The only uncertainty is whether we will die before Jesus comes – “…if our earthly house, this tent (lit. our tent-dwelling on earth) is destroyed…” (5:1).
The body in which we now live is temporary and transient, not our permanent dwelling place. But even if it is destroyed in death, “…we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The imagery of a “tent” vs. a “building” is an allusion to the Israelites’ tabernacle in the wilderness vs. the permanent temple in Jerusalem (cf. Heb. 11:8ff.). Like them in the wilderness, we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, just passing through - our citizenship is in heaven. And when we get to heaven, we will have bodies suited to that heavenly existence - “not made with hands” (not this-world, earth-bound creations), not temporary, not subject to decay, not affected by sin, but permanent, eternal, glorified, resurrection bodies like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
“For” (explanation of v. 1) “in this (body) we groan (cf. Rom. 8:23) earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven...” (2). In our present earthly tent-dwelling we groan (because it is subject to decay, suffering, pain). That’s why we long for our glorified bodies (our habitation which is from heaven), which are viewed as being put on like clothes over our earthly bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) so that there is both continuity and transformation – our earthly bodies will be covered and changed by our glorified bodies. What we really long for is the possibility (“...if indeed”, v. 3) of receiving our glorified bodies without dying (“...having been clothed”) - to be alive at Christ’s coming so that, “having already been clothed” with our glorified bodies, “we shall not be found naked” (3). The hope expressed here is that we shall not be stripped of our bodies at death, that we never experience a disembodied state at all, that we do not die before we receive our glorified bodies, “clothed with our habitation (dwelling) which is from heaven” (2b).
“For” (further explanation) we who are in this tent (this temporary, decaying physical existence) groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but (because we want to be) further clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (4). We groan because of the burden of our present bodies, not because we want to die (i.e. be unclothed and our bodies go back to dust) but because we want to be further clothed by our glorified bodies (bodies suited to glory), so that our mortal bodies (our present, decaying bodies) may be swallowed up by (taken over by, absorbed in, clothed with) eternal life at Christ’s return, so that we never die and experience corruption.
This is what will happen to those who are alive at Christ’s coming. We will not be “unclothed” (naked, disembodied) but “further clothed” by putting on our glorified bodies over our mortal bodies. When that happens, our mortal, earth-bound bodies will be instantly absorbed by and transformed into our glorified state, so that our mortal flesh (our living, earthly but mortal bodies) will be “swallowed up” (disappear inside, absorbed, integrated into, digested) “by (what will be really) life.”
So, the imagery in 5:1-4 is that our mortal bodies are like a garment that covers the soul, which at death becomes naked because it will be separated from the body. On the other hand, our immortal bodies are likened at Christ’s coming to a garment that re-clothes (or covers) our souls, or, for those who are alive at that time, “further clothes” us - i.e. is put on over top of our mortal bodies.
“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God” (5a). God himself has fashioned us for the reception (clothing) of our glorified bodies. This final transformation into our glorified state is entirely and solely the work of God. This gives us assurance because it is not dependent on us but God and thus it will surely come to pass. What God has begun, He will complete (Phil. 1:6), for He “…also has given us His Spirit as a guarantee” (5b). Not only do we have the apostle’s instruction on this future certainty that God will accomplish our final transformation, but right now we have the internal deposit (the down payment) of the Spirit as the guarantee that God will surely do it (cf. Eph. 1:14; cf. Rom. 8:11ff.). The Holy Spirit constantly and continuously reassures us that the power that raised Christ from the dead will raise us up in glory (Eph. 1:9-20).
What confidence and motivation this gives us, particularly in suffering and old age! Our outward bodies are decaying, we suffer from our mortality, but more specifically for Jesus’ sake. But all that is lost in the assurance and hope of our future transformation into Christ’s likeness, for it does not compare to the glory which shall be. “So” (as a result of this assurance that God will do it and has given us his Spirit as our guarantee), “we are always confident…” (6a) – our confidence in God’s fulfillment of our transformation is unshakeable and constant – “...knowing that (confidence is based on knowledge) while we are at home in the body…” (living in this earthly tent) “…we are absent from the (presence of the) Lord. For (because) we walk by faith, not by sight (cf. Heb. 11:1). We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body (i.e. to die) and to be present with the Lord” (6b-8) – i.e. when sight will replace faith. Though death is our final enemy, it does not cause us to fear. Rather, we are full of confidence and motivation.
God is in control both in life and in death. The Spirit of God gives us inner assurance that God will complete our transformation. Our temporal life is our constant reminder that we are not yet in the presence of the Lord – indeed, in this state we live by faith not sight. Our desire is to leave our present earthly life and be with the Lord even though we would enter a period of nakedness, waiting to be clothed with our new bodies. This is not a death wish but an expression that the desire to be with Christ overshadows the obstacle of death (cf. Phil. 1:21).
But the best of all circumstances would be to be alive at his coming, transformed and translated to be with Christ without death (cf. Phil. 1:21-13).
Conclusion: “Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (9). No matter what happens, whether we are here at home in the body at the time Christ comes or absent from the body at the time Christ comes, our aim and the motivation for our ministry is to be well-pleasing to the Lord.
Part IV. Sermon Outlines
John 4:19-42, Jesus’ Dialogue With The Samaritan Woman, Pt. 2
Title: The Master’s Approach to Evangelism, Pt. 2
Subject: Overcoming spiritual and social barriers in evangelism
(Continued from point #3 in the last edition of this journal...)
Point #4: Point the person to God (4:19-24)
1. Through an awakened response (19-20)
a) About who Jesus is (19)
b) About finding God (20)
2. Through an enlightening reply (21-24)
a) About where God is found (21)
b) About how God is worshipped (22-24)
Point #5: Reveal Jesus’ Deity (4:25-26)
1. By finding out what they know about him (25)
a) About his coming again
b) About his revelation of truth
2. By revealing what they don't know about him (26)
Point #6: Develop faith in others (4:27-38)
1. Develop faith in others through your personal testimony (28-30)
a) By demonstrating that God changes lives (28)
b) By inviting others to see for themselves (29a)
c) By declaring what Christ has done (29b)
d) By pointing to who Christ is (29c-30)
2. Develop faith in others through a proper theology (31-42)
a) That God’s work in the world is Christ’s mission (31-34)
- to do God’s will
- to finish God’s work
b) That God’s work in the world is an “unlikely” mission (35)
- spiritual harvest spring up at the most unlikely times
- spiritual harvests spring up in the most unlikely places
c) That God’s work in the world is a team mission (36-38)
- God’s team is composed of sowers and reapers
- all members of God’s team are equally important
- all members of God’s team labour for the same result
Point #7: Conclusions - the results (4:39-42)
1. Some will believe through your personal testimony (39-40)
2. Many more will believe through God’s word (41-42)
1 John A. MacArthur, Rediscovering Pastoral Leadership (Dallas: Word, 1995), 91.
2 Joseph Stowell, Shepherding the Church, 233.
3 Philip Hughes, 2 Corinthians in “The New International Commentary on the New Testament,” 157.
Related Topics: Pastors
8. Our Soul Owner (Mark 8:34-35, 12:13-17)Related Media
Jesus and Our Stuff (part eight)
God owns it all. We've learned that. But that means that He owns more than just our stuff. He also has a rightful claim on our very lives. This proves to be an unpopular message in a world preoccupied with their entitlements and rights. It probably sounds shocking to many people that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God. In addition to giving an account of our faithful stewardship of our stuff, we're also going to be asked to give an account of our lives. Do you live your life for the One who gave His life for you?
Jesus Christ: God Revealed
In a world where there are many competing voices for making claims about Jesus and God this series goes back to Scripture. There we can see both who Jesus is and how He reveals God to mankind.
This 9 part audio series also contains lightly edited manuscripts of the original messages.
Lesson 1: Introduction To “Jesus Christ: God Revealed” (Hebrews 1:2-3)Related Media
Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.
During the height of the DaVinci Code media craze, about 10 percent of the books on Amazon.com’s bestseller list were dedicated in full or in part to disproving commonly held beliefs about Jesus Christ and Christianity. More books are still being released embellishing Dan Brown’s theme. One came out recently where the author claims that she is a descendant of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Fortunately, Christian scholars have written some excellent books proving the DaVinci Code to be full of inaccuracies and outright lies. But, if we are honest, would each of us really be able to answer the question. What do we really know about Jesus? Who is Jesus anyway?
Why is this such an important question? Because the answer determines life on earth and life in eternity.
God has always been the eternal mystery. God created the human heart with an inner longing to know God, even though it cannot always identify that longing. Pascal called it a God shaped vacuum. But how can a person come to know God? Does the universe give us any evidence that God really exists?
Rom. 1:19-20 tells us that God has revealed His existence, divine power and His divine nature through His created world. And Rom. 2 tells us that He has revealed His moral nature through the conscience that all people have that sense of right and wrong. So just from this evidence every person on earth can believe that there is a great and powerful God who has righteous moral standards.
But we still do not really know Him, do we? What is He like? What does He think? How does He feel about people? Is He distant and unreachable? Is He sitting up there waiting to zap us when we sin? Is it possible to know Him personally? God knew our need and the impossibility of our reaching Him through human reason or human effort, so He revealed Himself in two powerful ways.
Heb. 1:1-3 tells us the lengths God went to so that we might not only know He exists but that we may have a personal relationship with Him.
God spoke verbally to men in OT times, either directly or through visions and dreams. He gave these prophets His message to give to His people. Over a period of about 1500 years His Words were written down by about 40 human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, the divine Author. The Bible is God’s written revelation, inerrant in the original manuscripts. It is our only source for the true knowledge of God
The central message of the OT is that God created men and women for a relationship with Himself. But our sin separated us from God. So God promised to come Himself to redeem His fallen creatures and make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him. God promised that a divine Savior would come to earth and reveal God’s glory to us.
The NT tells us that He kept his promise and the Savior came. He not only spoke God’s Word to us but He revealed God’s nature.
The Son of God is God’s final revelation to us. He is the fullest revelation of God that we will ever have here on earth. Do you not see why Satan has tried through the centuries to distort and deny who Jesus really is? The book, The DaVinci Code is just a warmed over version of the Gnostic heresy of the first 3 centuries that both Paul and John combated so strongly in the NT. But the controversy and the questions it has raised are not unimportant. The authors of a new book, Reinventing Jesus put it this way:
“Attempts to reinvent Jesus are nothing new. The vines of radical skepticism toward the biblical Christ have been creeping up the walls of the ivory tower for two centuries. But only in recent years has such intense cynicism sprouted at the grassroots. And it has spread quickly. The media’s assault on the biblical Jesus, postmodernism’s laissez-faire attitude toward truth, and America’s collective ignorance of Scripture have joined to create a culture of cynicism. In short, society has been conditioned to doubt.”
We in God’s family must examine ourselves to answer honestly 2 questions:
Do I believe the Bible is the inerrant, authoritative Word of God and totally true?
Do I believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, that He was the fully human and fully divine Son of God?
John 1:1 calls the Son of God, the Word for good reason. Words reveal our invisible thoughts. In the same way Jesus made the invisible God visible. How did He do it?
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth....No one has ever seen God but God, the One and Only, who is at the Fathers side, has made him known. John 1:14, 18 (NIV)
When did the Word become flesh? When did God become a human being? God the Son left heaven for a few short years to become a man. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and placed in her womb the Holy one who was the Son of God. When Jesus Christ was born 2000 years ago, God entered this physical world and lived among us. No one has ever seen God’s essence but God the Son has made him visible and knowable. He said Himself, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9.
The Son revealed that we have a heavenly Father. And what do we see when we see Jesus? The glory of a God who is full of grace and truth. Our God is not a cosmic ogre waiting to destroy us but a merciful, gracious Father who welcomes us into His family.
This is the distinctive difference between the OT and the NT. The almighty, sovereign God of the OT is the personal heavenly Father of those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. In the NT God is called Father over 240 times as compared to a small handful of times in the OT.
“You sum up the whole of the New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. Father is the Christian name for God.” (J. I. Packer)
This is hard for some of us. If you had a loving, caring earthly father, it is easy to transfer that image to a heavenly Father, just multiply it by a million. But if you had a distant, absent or abusive father, you will have a problem. You will have to disconnect everything you experienced with your earthly father and learn how wonderful your heavenly Father is and choose to believe it.
That is why Jesus spoke so often of God as our heavenly Father. Then His life showed us what the Father is like. But why was Jesus Christ able to reveal the invisible God? Because of who He is. We cannot disconnect Jesus from God. He was not just a perfect man or an ideal example. He was God in a human body. Immanuel, God with us.
Let us look at each of these phrases separately.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
Radiance means outshining of the brightness of God’s glory. You cannot separate the brilliance of the sun from the sun itself. And you cannot separate the glory of the Son from His deity. He is God. The disciples saw His glory when he was transfigured before them on the mountain.
Representation is the word, “charakter,” only here in NT. It means a mark stamped on something, like an image on a coin. When we see Jesus we see what God’s nature really is like.
Col. 1:15 (NIV) says “He is the image of the invisible God.”
Sustaining all things by His powerful word.
Col. 1:17 (NIV) says, “in Him all things hold together.”
Scientists have never been able to discover the force that keeps the protons and electrons in the atom spinning in perfect order. What keeps the planets and stars in orbit? The Bible says that God the Son is not only the Creator, but the Sustainer of this immense universe.
THINK: If He cares about the atom and the stars, how much more do you think He must care about sustaining our lives, of holding our lives together. We are the ones for whom He came to die. The next statement brings us to that.
After he had provided purification for sins:
Seven words, but what a story they tell.
How did the Son make it possible for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sins?
He, God in human form, suffered and died on the cross to satisfy God’s justice. He himself took the penalty for the sins of his fallen creation, so that those who believe on Him might have eternal life and fellowship with God. Then He rose from the dead to prove that He was truly the Son of God and to prove that all the sins of everyone who has ever lived were paid for. 40 days after his resurrection he went back to heaven and
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
This is a very important statement. He sat down because the work of redemption was finished. Do you remember He said precisely that when He hung on the cross?
“It is finished” meant penalty for sin was paid in full.
There were no chairs in the OT tabernacle. The priests never finished their work because there were always sacrifices to be made for sins. Animal blood could not pay for people’s sins. Every animal slain on every altar in the OT just pointed to the future One who would be the one sacrifice for all sins forever, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Heb. 10:11-12 gives us the contrast.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (NIV)
It is absolutely essential for your spiritual life that you understand that when you study the Bible it is not for the purpose of just learning all kinds of facts about the Bible. You can go to seminary or any other kind of study and learn the facts and stories from the Bible. But if that is all you do you miss the point entirely.
“Suppose a friend had a hotel room in Acapulco overlooking the ocean on his vacation. He comes back and tells you about the wonderful window in his room. It had one large pane of glass, and 4 smaller panes on either side. It was 6 feet long and 4 feet high. Its framework was made of steel that resists corrosion. In fact, he even had the glass analyzed chemically. Would you not think he had missed the point? The window was there for him to see the ocean, not to study the window.”
The Bible is a window. We look through it to see Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And when we see Him we see God in His essential nature. We see our heavenly Father.
Have you realized before today that the One who died in your place on the cross is really God the Son, your Creator and Sustainer? Have you put your faith in Him alone to forgive your sins, give you eternal life and make you a child of God.
Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NIV)
You may, with an act of your will, put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ today, right where you are sitting. Just tell God:
I know I am a sinner. I believe that your Son died for me and rose again. I put my faith in Him alone to forgive my sins, bring me to God and give me eternal life.
I would love to talk to anyone who did this or wants to after class.
Our Heavenly Father revealed in Jesus
Our studies this fall will emphasize what Jesus revealed about our heavenly Father while He was here on earth, both in His words and His works. I want you to be constantly thinking that was his purpose as you do the questions at home and during our lessons here:
Jesus is God the Son. He revealed the nature of the invisible God to us. He spoke God’s words, thought God’s thoughts, felt and expressed God’s emotions, did God’s works.
Malachi 3:6 (NIV) I the Lord do not change.
Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The loving, gracious, righteous, compassionate God Jesus Christ revealed is the same today. He is our heavenly Father if we have trusted His Son Jesus Christ.
What he thought then, He thinks now.
What He felt then, He feels now.
What he did then, He would do now.
Maybe you are thinking, So What? What does this mean to me?
It means that your heavenly Father still has compassion for the poor, the oppressed, the helpless and the sorrowing. Your heavenly Father cares for you in the situation you are in right now. Your heavenly Father knows your heart is aching because of the failure of your marriage or the disappointment of children who have turned from the truth and bought the world’s lies. Your heavenly Father knows that your husband has been without a job for a long time. Your heavenly Father knows your needs and He cares. Your heavenly Father knows what sickness has done to your family and He cares. Your heavenly Father knows the difficulties in caring for an aged parent and He cares for both of you. He may not bring relief in the spectacular ways Jesus did while here on earth, but He does give strength, the ability to endure, moment by moment. And that is a quiet miracle, is it not?
Your heavenly Father does send provision for material needs in many unexpected ways, does not He? The anonymous gift of money, the friends who bring meals, who come and relieve you from the constant care of a loved one, the people who pray for you, who drive you to the doctor, who babysit your children. These are just a few of the ways your heavenly Father meets your needs today.
His heart is the same, His power is the same, but his method is different. Instead of Jesus Christ living in one human body on earth as He did 2000 years ago, He sent the Holy Spirit to live in each one of us who have trusted Him as our Lord and Savior. He lives in millions of human bodies. We together are His body on earth.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (Not an option)
He lives in us and through us to touch the hurting world around us.
He said that we would be the light of the world when He went back to heaven. How can people see God revealed in our lives today? How can we let God’s glory shine through our bodies?
Matthew 5:16 (NIV) Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Is it really possible to live in such a way at home and in the community that other people will see our heavenly Father in our everyday actions? That is precisely the reason for which we have been saved. We were not saved to just go on living self-centered, self-serving lives. We have been given a new motivation, a new reason for living and a new power to live.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NIV) And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
How do we live for Him in practical ways? How can our lives reveal our heavenly Father to others? By doing what Jesus did.
- By showing compassion
- By actively relieving the distress of those around us, first in God’s family, then the community.
- By helping those widowed by death or divorce. Caring for orphans.
- By visiting the sick and sorrowing.
- By showing love and mercy for the aged.
- By feeding the hungry, listening to the confused, sharing our material possessions with the needy.
- By praying for the deliverance of those in bondage.
- By moving out of our own tight circle of friends who buy their clothes at the same shops, drive the same kind of cars and become friends with people out of your social class.
- By helping an unwed mother go through with her pregnancy, providing emotional, spiritual and practical support. It is not enough just to be against abortion.
Most of all, by bringing the good news of the Gospel to those who dont know Jesus Christ, the only way to God the Father. Jesus is the Bridge from earth to heaven, the giver of eternal life.
In His prayer just before his death in John 17, Jesus said to His Father, I have revealed you to those you gave me out of the world. Jesus revealed that we have a good, gracious, strong, merciful heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally.
Let us be willing to lay aside all the distorted conceptions we have of fatherhood and realize that our great God is everything a Father should be times a million.
Let us come with confidence into His presence, knowing we are welcome because Jesus escorts us to His Father’s throne.
Let us begin living as though we believed this is true.
Lesson 2: Miracle At Cana (John 1:32-2:11)Related Media
Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.
God was here! Walking this planet. He lived in an obscure village in a tiny country on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. From the age of 12 till Jesus was about 30 there are no incidents recorded about Him in the Bible. So any stories you hear about the miracles he supposedly performed as a child are the product of someone’s imagination. But there are things we can know about his family life.
Mark 6:3 tells us that Mary and Joseph had at least 6 other children, 4 sons and 2 daughters. Jesus knew what it was to live in a large family and be the only half-brother. Joseph taught him the trade of carpentry and he supported his family by working as a carpenter, because by the time he began his public ministry, Joseph was dead. Jesus knew what it was to work with his hands to earn his daily bread. All the time Jesus lived on earth He never used his power to make life easy for himself.
But now the time had come to begin his public ministry. For months John the Baptist had been preaching that the Messiah was coming and people were being baptized to indicate that they repented of their sins and were waiting for the Messiah (Christ) Jesus started his ministry by going to John to baptize him.
When he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove.
Now John knew for sure that Jesus was the promised Christ. That was the sign he had been told to look for. After his baptism Jesus went into the wilderness and successfully endured 40 days and nights of fasting while Satan tempted him. He proved his qualifications to be our sinless Savior when he defeated Satan and would not sin.
John 1:19-21 gives us a rapid sequence of events that took place just before the occasion we are studying today.
When Jesus returned from the wilderness John pointed his own disciples to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Son of God. So these men followed Jesus and brought others. By the time the chapter ends Jesus had about 5 men with him who believed on Him because of John’s testimony and their own experience. These 5 were the first of that special group of 12 ordinary men who lived with Him and were trained by him for over 3 years.
In John 1 we have many titles and names for Jesus:
The Word, the Light, the One and Only from the Father, God, the One and Only, Lord, Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah or Christ, the Prophet like Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, King of Israel, Rabbi, Son of Man.
Theses titles had tremendous significance for the Jews familiar with OT promises about the coming Messiah. They meant that Jesus was the one they had been eagerly waiting for. What spectacular thing would Jesus use to reveal who he was? Where would he start? Can you imagine what Hollywood would do with an opportunity like that? But Jesus revealed His glory for the first time in a very strange but meaningful way.
Cana was a village in the hills of Galilee. Its location is not certain, but scholars believe it was located about nine miles north of Nazareth. I think it is worth noticing that the human race began with God officiating at a wedding between a man and a woman and the ministry of Jesus, God on earth began with His presence at a wedding. This tells us something about God’s view of marriage which we need to hear in a day when marriage is being avoided or destroyed by abuse, infidelity, lack of commitment and divorce. Actually, when it is in danger of being redefined to allow same sex marriage to be equally normal.
Jesus obviously was not a recluse. He was a social person. He was willing to take time out of his busy schedule to share in the joy of others. This was not just going to a ceremony and reception for a few ours. The wedding celebration lasted seven days. In that day a couple would become betrothed, usually for about a year. This betrothal was as binding as a marriage and could only be broken by divorce. The wedding was celebrated when the bridegroom came to take his bride and escort her to his home, where there would be a great time of feasting, singing, dancing and general rejoicing for a week. At the end of the week the bride would be escorted by her parents to the nuptial chamber and marriage would be consummated. This was obviously a time of great joy.
God wants us to enjoy life, to share other people’s joy, to smell the flowers along the way. He has given us all things richly to enjoy and Jesus modeled that for us.
Mary must have been visiting with their hosts or helping out when she was in on an embarrassing discovery. The wine had run out! Lavish hospitality in the east was a sacred duty. Either they had underestimated the number of guests or they had been skimpy in their provisions. This was not just an embarrassment, it was a disgrace. It was a never-to-be-forgotten social faux pas.
Mary knew where to go for help. She depended upon her oldest Son and he had never failed her yet. This request tells us a little about Mary. She was concerned about other people’s problems. She was not aloof or quick to pass judgment. She wanted to help her friends. Maybe she also thought this would be a super time for Jesus to do something spectacular to reveal who he really was. After all, she of all people knew where He came from. So she simply came to him and stated the problem. His answer seems strange to us.
Jesus knew His timetable. There is a sense of order and destiny in the measured way He moves through the Gospel records. He was not going to do the showy, spectacular miracle to draw attention to himself. He also in a gentle way let his mother know that he was no longer under her authority. Mary did not question him or go away disappointed. She just left it to him to do as he pleased. She trusted him to solve the problem and the next verse records the only command she ever gives in the Bible.
Do whatever he tells you. (NIV)
These words are as relevant to us today as they were to the servants then. You will notice that Mary never focused on herself, but on Jesus. He is the one we come, He is the one who has the power to help, He is the one to obey.
These large stone water jars were used for the ceremonial washing required by religious Jews. Their religion had become almost entirely external with very little impact on their spiritual lives. Can you imagine what the servants must have thought when a guest told them to fill all six water jars with water. That is from 120-180 gallons of water that had to be drawn from the well. But they filled them to the brim and came back for further instructions.
What do you think they thought? They knew these just were just filled with water. How could they take them to the master of the feast as wine? But the lady had said to do whatever this man said and they just obeyed. We would do well to follow their example. Jesus speaks to us today through the Bible. We have in our hands the written record of what he expects his followers to do. It is not necessary for us to know ahead of time just how everything will work out. Our responsibility is to simply do what He says to do.
You may say, “But how can I not be anxious? This is a situation to worry about. My resources are depleted financially, emotionally, spiritually. What am I going to do? I have nowhere left to go.”
Jesus says, “Come to me. Trust me. Tell me what you need and let me provide for you in my own way. I will protect your heart and your mind with my peace. I know it is hard to understand that even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances I can give you peace, but I can and I will. Just keep on believing that I will bring you through and let me take care of you.” Do not be ashamed of feeling inadequate. We were designed to be inadequate so that we will learn to rely on God.
The master of the banquet knew nothing about what had transpired outside. He only knew that the wine had run out and this was a new supply. But it was the best wine he had ever tasted. A wonderful wedding present for the bridal couple. What an unobtrusive miracle. Who knew about it? The servants, the disciples and surely Mary. How did Jesus do it? What did he use? He used what was there, just as would do many other times. The servants, the water jars, the water! He will use just what we are and have to accomplish his purposes in our lives today.
Maybe we should better say a little about wine in that culture. Wine was not to be drunk unless it was mixed with water. The ratio could increase to as much as 12 parts water to 1 part wine. It was one of the methods of purifying water which was not always safe to drink. This miracle is not to be construed as an unlimited license to drink alcoholic beverages. The Scripture has much to say about not drinking new wine, strong drink and mixed drinks. Drunkenness is strongly denounced.
This was the first miracle Jesus performed. Another reason to disbelieve the childhood miracles attributed to him. John uses an interesting word to describe this miracle. He calls it a sign and uses this word 17 times in his gospel. When applied to a miracle this word implies that the miracle is an indication of some power or meaning behind it to which the miracle is secondary in importance. What hidden meaning is there behind this miracle?
First, it proved that Jesus had supernatural power and could use it any way he chose. He could speak, touch, or just simply will it to be done as he did here. His miracles authenticated his person and his message.
He revealed that He is God the Creator. He simply accelerated the process in which rain causes the vine to produce grapes which are then crushed and fermented into wine.
Second, this unique miracle was a sign pointing to what he came to do. The Jewish religion had deteriorated to just being concerned with external cleansing. But it could not provide for internal cleansing. This miracle is a picture of conversion. Jesus changed the water into wine. He changed its nature. He came to change sinners into saints, to give us a new nature. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
Third, wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible.
Ps. 104:15 (NIV) Wine that gladdens the heart of man.
Ps. 4:7 (NIV) You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
Joy is what Jesus came to give us.
We can have joy because we know that Jesus loves us. We can trust His love and prove it by obeying His Word.
We can have joy because Jesus has given us free access into the Father’s presence and answered prayer through his death and resurrection.
We can have joy in a hostile world because Jesus prayed for the Father to protect us while we live in it.
Does this mean that we are guaranteed happiness? What do you mean by happiness… enough money, no sickness, no difficult circumstances, a perfect job, a lot of friends, a perfect marriage? We usually base happiness on our circumstances. If you are looking for happiness in money, things, status, pleasure, people or accomplishments, there is an important lesson here.
The world’s joy always runs out, but the joy Jesus gives flows forever.
That is why I think He made such an abundant supply: 120-180 gallons of wine. He wants us to know that he gives us abundant joy, a joy that comes from within. It is that settled state of the heart that can rejoice in the Lord in spite of difficult circumstances. Joy comes from being forgiven. Joy comes from answered prayer. Joy comes from knowing you do not have to make it on your own. You have a heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally and will take you through whatever your situation. Joy comes from the realization that this life on earth is not all there is to life. There is all of eternity in God’s presence in our future. And this life is just a waiting room where we grow and mature and learn to trust our heavenly Father.
Habakkuk, that bewildered prophet, saw his world collapsing around his ears and questioned God about it. God’s answer was, “It’s just going to get worse!”
Habakkuk came to the conclusion we all have to reach if we are going to mature.
Hab. 3:17 (NIV) Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
What were the immediate results of this miracle of the wine?
Jesus thus revealed His glory. His glory was the glory of the Father.
What do we learn from Jesus about our Heavenly Father?
How many ways can God say “I love you?”
He cares about our everyday problems. He has solutions we would never imagine. God will never turn us away, no matter how unimportant we think something is. God wants to be involved in our lives, not just the spiritual part, but in every area, your job, your homemaking, your relationships, your dating, your money management; everything.
The second result was that the disciples put their faith in Him.
They had already believed, now they believed even more. This is what will happen to each of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith should not remain static. It grows and matures. Our love increases as we know Him more. And the result of loving Him more should be to live for Him more and more.
2 Corinthians 5:15
Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Do you realize who He really is? God in human form. He came to reveal the invisible God to us. He came to make the way for us to come to God by dying in our place so our sins might be forgiven and we might have eternal life. You may put your faith in Him right there where you are sitting.
John 3:36 (NIV) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
For those of us who already know Him, my prayer for us is this:
Rom. 15:13 (NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lesson 3: The Samaritan Woman (John 4)Related Media
Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.
Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus told his disciples, Go and make disciples of all nations. We know that this is a command for all Christians in each successive generation. Yet I think most of us feel guilty because we hardly ever tell anyone about the greatest gift in the world (salvation through Jesus Christ). But usually our problem is to know how do to do it.
One of the ways is through Friendship Evangelism. The premise is that as we try to win people to Jesus Christ, we must attempt first to become their friends, talk to them, listen to them, invite them to our homes, go places with them, show them love, help them in their need. Then when they see that we really are different, they will want what we have and we can share Christ with them.
We are learning that Jesus Christ was God living here in a human body, fully God and fully man. He revealed the invisible God, our heavenly Father to us in His words, attitudes and actions. He told his disciples He wanted them to be His friends and He showed what true friendship looked like.
Since He is now in heaven, He has given us the responsibility to reveal God, our heavenly Father, through our lives so that others may be born into His family, and He modeled for us in His many relationships how to be a true friend to others.
As we work through our lesson today we will discover principles He modeled that still work in being a true friend.
Jesus’ ministry had begun in earnest and it was attracting attention. He had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover and the religious leaders were beginning to ask questions about him. In order to avoid a direct clash with them at this time He started back to Galilee.
He did not have to go through Samaria. This was a deliberate choice other Jews never made. They hated the Samaritans, they considered them to be racial and religious half breeds. So they went around two longer routes to avoid them. But Jesus went through Samaria because there was someone He had to see there.
To make friends, give priority to people and be available
I think we often give priority to activities, schedules and programs. But people must come first.
They arrived at the little village of Sychar about noontime. The road ran through a valley and the town was up on a hill. The well that Jacob had dug 2000 years before was still supplying water. The disciples went into the town to buy food, but Jesus sat alone by the well. He was tired, hungry, and thirsty, a clear indication of his humanity.
Imagine this woman’s surprise when a Jewish man spoke to her and asked her for a drink. Jesus did something we can learn from.
Use a common point of interest or contact
They were both at the well needing water. She had a jar, He did not. He asked a favor of her, put himself in a position of need. This is not usually our approach, is it? What was even more unusual was that Jews would not use the same utensils as a Samaritan, because they considered them unclean, but this man wanted to use her waterpot. Not only that but a Rabbi never spoke to a woman in public, not even his own wife and he certainly never would have spoken to a Samaritan woman. But man made rules never controlled Jesus. This woman had a heart’s need and He knew he could meet it. There is a lesson for us here.
Do not discriminate because of race, gender, religion or social class
Do we let social, racial or religious barriers keep us from befriending people who need to know the Lord Jesus and who could enrich our lives and broaden our understanding of the love of God for all people. I see wonderful examples of this in Christians who cross these barriers to reach out to immigrants and homeless people all over our city. Others have gone to help those who lost everything in Katrina and other disasters. Notice how Jesus responded to her question.
If you knew the gift of God and WHO it is... (NIV)
Now Jesus began to reveal who He was to her.
Reveal yourself gradually
We cannot make true friendships when we always wear a mask to protect ourselves and hide our real self. I know we can do this from fear of rejection. But people want to know the real you. We must be authentic and vulnerable. Sure, there is a risk involved. On the other hand, we do not want to dump the whole truck load at our first encounter. It is wise to reveal ourselves gradually depending on the person’s response, just as Jesus did.
He constantly exposed himself to rejection, but He never let rejection change His confidence or His worth.
You see, this woman had to trust Him before she could receive His gift. And people have to trust us before they will trust the Savior we say we believe in. Notice how He stimulated her curiosity. What was the gift? Who was He? What was living water?
Living water to her meant a fresh spring in contrast to a pool or cistern. Her answer shows that they were on different wave lengths. She was literal. He used terms that had deep spiritual significance. But he was not discouraged by her cluelessness. Living water was used symbolically in the O.T. to refer to God.
Jer. 2:13 (NIV) My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Many references in the Bible to water do not mean H2O, but refer to the Word of God or salvation. Just as we cannot live physically without H2O, we cannot live spiritually without God, who is the Source of living water. Jesus wanted to satisfy the thirst of her soul. That thirst we were all born with.
God built a thirst within us to drive us to Himself.
But instead we spend our time and energy drinking water from the world’s broken cisterns and wonder why we are still thirsty. Wealth, beauty, art, education, power, pleasure, career, even marriage –all are finally meaningless in the effort to find the essential values of life, to find personal fulfillment, to quench our thirst. Nothing material or earthly can satisfy the thirst of our spirits. Jesus claims to give one drink that will satisfy our heart’s thirst forever. To drink is another way of saying, “to believe.”
Later on Jesus made clear how that thirst for God would be satisfied.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence satisfies our thirst for God
Here Jesus identifies living water with the Holy Spirit who indwells each person the moment that we put our faith in Christ. In the O.T. the Spirit came upon people to enable them to accomplish specific tasks, then He could leave. But now He lives permanently in each one of us who belong to Jesus. That is why we will not be thirsty for God again.
Many of us, even believers spend our lives expecting another human being to satisfy that thirst –a husband, either present or future, a parent, a child, a friend. No human being, no matter how wonderful can fill the place meant only for God. There are needs people can meet, and there are needs only God can meet and we should know the difference. This will save us from unrealistic expectations and constant disappointment.
The woman was interested. She was entirely literal. She had a wrong understanding and wrong motives. Cannot you hear her thinking: Would not it be wonderful to never have to come to the well again, never to run the risk of woman gossiping about her. What a deal. But Jesus did not lose patience with her.
Accept people where they are. Do not judge by externals
We must show that we are interested in them, accepting them without demanding that they change first. This is hard to do, but if we are going to tell them that God loves them, it might be a good idea to let God demonstrate that love through us from the start.
Now Jesus abruptly seemed to change the subject.
Jesus knew all about her before he met her. (Omniscience) He accepted her just as she was. This does not mean he approved of her life style. She was either widowed or divorced 5 times. Only men could initiate divorce. Can you imagine what her self image was. The only man that would stay with her was one who would not marry her. Jesus just stated the facts, but He teaches us something important here.
Do not ask someone to trust Christ unless they know that they are a sinner.
The first step towards recognition of a need for salvation is for a person to acknowledge that she is a sinner. Each of us was born a sinner. That is why we sin.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps. 51:5, NIV)
The sins we commit are just the evidence that we have a sinful nature. We all need forgiveness and Jesus is the only One who can give it. Many times human pride will keep us from admitting our sin. That is why this is important.
Now she sidetracked him into a religious discussion. This will often happen when we try to share our faith.
E.g. If Jesus is the only way, what about the heathen who never heard? Why would a good God let such evil happen?
We can try to answer those questions if they are answerable, but do not let them get us off point.
Do not compromise the truth to win favor.
Jesus was very honest with her. Notice how He used her detour to enlighten her further. He revealed something about God that is nowhere else stated so clearly in the NT.
A time is coming and now has come... (NIV)
His own death and resurrection would bring in a new access to God.
1. The worship of God would no longer be located in a certain place, like the temple in Jerusalem.
2. Samaritans worshiped ignorantly. They had a corrupt mixture of Jewish and pagan religions. He did not use soft soap to win her favor.
3. Salvation is from the Jews. All the O.T. promises about a Savior coming from the Jewish people were true. Jesus in His humanity was descended from Abraham, the father of the Jews.
4. God is Spirit and seeks people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship would not be in man made temples or churches, but in the inner sanctuaries of people’s hearts. God would not be the exclusive property of one race or one denomination. He fills the universe and is everywhere present. But He is also our heavenly Father.
In this exchange Jesus introduces a dimension to friendship we cannot ignore.
True friendship nurtures the spiritual life
All friendships for believers must have a spiritual aspect, either for evangelism or for encouraging and building others up. Friendships will not be deep and intimate that do not nurture the spirit as well.
Well, she did not know a lot, but this was one thing she did know. Samaritans expected a Prophet like Moses to come. Since they did not accept anything but the first 5 books of the O.T. as their scriptures, they did not know the other prophecies about Messiah. They just looked for this Messiah to be a teacher who would explain everything.
This is total self revelation. This the only time before His trial that Jesus stated this so clearly. He revealed His identity to this immoral Samaritan woman, not to the religious leaders or even to His own disciples. This was remarkable in a day when the rabbis taught that to teach a woman spiritual truth was like teaching a dog; that it was better to burn the Scriptures than to teach a woman. But He also models something very important.
Be willing to risk rejection
He had offered Himself to her as the One who could satisfy her soul’s thirst, the Messiah. What would her response be?
She had two choices: faith or rejection. Those are really the only two options anyone has and as we befriend people and witness for Christ, we must make this clear. There is no safe fence to sit on.
But do you realize that we who have trusted Him already must make the same choice daily?
- Do we believe or reject Him when He promises to guide us concerning our future?
- Do we believe or reject him when He says that suffering is a major instrument used by God to build into us the character of Jesus Christ?
- Do we believe or reject him when He says He unconditionally loves us and will meet our every need?
- Do we believe or reject Him when He warns us that the love of money is the root of every kind of evil?
- Do we believe or reject Him when He tells us that knowing, memorizing and obeying his word will keep us from sin?
- Do we believe or reject Him when He says that no one comes to the Father except through him?
What would this woman’s response be: Faith or rejection?
The disciples attitude towards women reflected that of the culture, but Jesus never obeyed the traditions of men that violated God’s value system and they did not dare to question him.
The woman was so excited about her encounter with him that she just left her waterpot and hurried back into the town. Notice what was most impressive to her about their conversation.
“He told me everything I ever did.”
Tell your friend what Jesus has done for you
All any of us have to really share is what Jesus Christ has done for us personally. That is why it is so essential to keep growing in our experience with him and in our knowledge of His Word so that we have something fresh to share with others. We cannot give others water from a dry well.
This could not be the Messiah, could it?
It is interesting to see how her perception of Jesus had progressed as He gradually revealed himself. He went from being a man by the well to a Jew to a prophet to the Messiah.
Cultivate the relationship by increasing self-revelation
Friendships and love grow as we reveal ourselves, accept and trust each other and challenge each other. Friendships are pretty sterile if all you do is talk about surface stuff. We all need friends who know who we really are and love us anyway.
Look at the impact this immoral woman had on her community. The disciples had gone into the town and only brought back bread. She went in and brought back the town. She was someone none of us would want to represent us. But Jesus was not ashamed to be identified with her.
Jesus stayed with these Samaritans for 2 more days at their request. What did he teach them in those 2 days? Their conclusion is revealing.
This man really is the Savior of the world. (NIV)
Jesus had given them a world view. Not just the provincial idea that the Jews had that the Messiah would deliver Israel from Roman rule. The world needs a greater deliverance than that from political or economic oppression. The world needs deliverance from sin. Maybe Jesus even told them He would die for the sins of the world and rise again from the dead and they believed in Him. But how did it all start?
It started with Jesus truly reaching out in friendship to this outcast woman. He initiated the contact. He revealed himself to her because she needed what He had to offer, and He accepted her as she was. He did not compromise the truth to win her favor. She believed him and he quenched her thirst for a secure relationship with a Person, a heavenly Father who would love her unconditionally forever. And her witness to her townspeople resulted in their conversion as well.
Now I would like to go back to the conversation Jesus had with His disciples while she was telling the good news back in town.
The disciples were as literal in their understanding as the woman was. Jesus spoke of the complete satisfaction that comes from doing what God wants us to do. Many of you know the unparalleled joy it is to see a person trust the Savior because of your efforts.
Now as they were gathered by the well, Jesus turned their attention to the town on the hill. A stream of people was already coming down. This was the harvest ready to be gathered in.
True friends share Jesus Christ with others
He tells us here, as he told them, that we all are to be working at gathering in a crop for eternal life. That means we are to be involved in evangelism. One will sow the seed, another water it, another cultivate it and another reap it. But we will all rejoice together. All around us are fields of people ripe for harvest. But we must gather them in. We must learn how to make friends, and be a true friend to them just as Jesus was. Remember, He was called the Friend of sinners.
What does Jesus reveal to us about God, our heavenly Father?
- Our heavenly Father is a seeking God. He initiates relationships
- He knew all about her life. He is omniscient
- Our heavenly Father is Spirit, He fills the universe (omnipresent),
- He values women as much as He does men. He cares for us individually
- He is patient with our ignorance and blindness.
- He leads us gently into light.
- He makes us confront our sins not to condemn but to deliver us.
- Our Father loves us and proved it by sending his Son to be the Savior of the world
- Our heavenly Father wants our worship to be in spirit and truth.
- He wants to use us to bring others into his family.
- He wants to be our Friend as well as our Father.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NIV)
That is exactly what he did when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.
He also said,
You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:14, NIV)
If sharing your faith is difficult for you, tell your heavenly Father that you want to be obedient, but you need His help. He will show you how to approach a person and what to say.
Let us be true friends to others and introduce them to the greatest Friend of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lesson 4: The Widow at Nain (Luke 6:17-7:23)Related Media
Jesus was now very active in His public ministry. He was traveling through the villages and towns proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand and His ministry was authenticated by the many miracles He performed. He had chosen His 12 disciples and they traveled with Him. They were back in Galilee and crowds were increasingly following him from all over Israel and neighboring countries
No one had ever seen a man do the miracles He did or heard the words He spoke. Yet busy as He was He always had time to stop and care for that one person with a special need. The crowd was not just a faceless mob to Him. They were individuals in whom He had a personal interest. They were like sheep without a shepherd and He had come to be their Shepherd.
Jesus left Capernaum where He had healed a centurion’s servant from a distance, without even seeing him. Now He and his disciples traveled on down to Nain, a town about 25 miles southwest of Capernaum.
Try to imagine the scene. Jesus and His disciples were approaching the town gate, followed by a large, excited crowd. Suddenly a hush fell on the crowd. There was a funeral procession coming out of the town. A litter with a dead body on it was being carried out to the cemetery. A weeping mother, dressed in widow’s clothes followed. She was accompanied by a large crowd of friends mourning with her. This was a noisy crowd in a different way. They were wailing, weeping and some had torn their clothes to indicate their grief.
The dead man was the only son of his mother and she was a widow. (NIV)
This poignant sentence tells a sad story. This woman had lost her husband, now her son was gone. In that day, parents depended upon their children to care for them in their old age. The death of her only son meant that she would not only be lonely but possibly destitute. Now the Mosaic Law provided for widows, orphans and the poor. They could glean in the fields after the reapers and gather their grain and fruit. There was also a special tithe taken every third year to be distributed to the poor. God warned his people that they were never to oppress or exploit the poor or the widows and orphans.
Ex. 22:22-23 (NIV) Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.
Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV) He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.
It was the responsibility of the community to care for the poor in that day. Jewish people today still care for their own to a greater extent than other ethnic groups usually do.
Now Jesus knew all this. He could have just passed by and assumed that this town would rally around the widow and see that she at least had food and clothes.
When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Do not cry.” (NIV)
Cannot you picture Him? He leaves His followers, walks up to her and with tenderness and compassion says just two words. They would have been unrealistic and unkind coming from anyone else. She had plenty to cry about. To me there is something very comforting in knowing that when I am in pain, God’s heart goes out to me. He is the One who really feels my pain, He cares for me and wants to comfort me. He is not a cold, distant, helpless deity. He is a loving, compassionate Father.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. (NIV)
In 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 He is called the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”
But that is not all Jesus said and did. Now He walked over to the litter and touched it. The pallbearers stopped. Imagine what they must have thought. Touching the dead made a person ceremonially unclean. Here was a rabbi, a teacher, doing it. But that still was not all. Jesus then spoke directly to the dead man.
“Young man, I say to you, get up” (NIV)
Jesus stood and faced our worst enemy, Death. And with the ring of divine authority He exercised His power over it. This is the first time He raised a person from the dead. In each of the three recorded cases, He spoke to the corpse. And the dead heard His voice and obeyed. John 5:28.
The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (NIV)
Cannot you sense the gentleness, the understanding, the personal interest in her that these words reveal? Can you imagine the joy Jesus felt being able to do this for her. I wonder if we realize what it meant to Him to reverse in a tangible way, the curse which is the result of human sin. I think He smiled as He saw her tears turn to unbelievable joy. Her son was alive. She would not be left alone. She would see her grandchildren, her future was secure.
What impact did this miracle have on the crowd?
They were filled with awe, reverence, fear of God. They praised God. (NIV)
Surely they were reminded of the dead child that Elisha raised from the dead over 800 years before in the town of Shunem which was just on the other side of the hill from Nain. But did they actually realize that God really had come and was living among them? They may have remembered the Scripture:
Isaiah 35:4-6 (NIV) Be strong, do not fear; your God will come...He will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
This was what the Messiah would do when He came. And that was exactly what Jesus was doing! This miracle also illustrated some important truths. We have seen that God is deeply concerned with our grief and pain. Jesus actively did what He had the power to do to alleviate this woman’s suffering. In this he modeled for us what we are supposed to do to relieve human suffering today.
All around us are people who are hurting, without the essentials to sustain life, lonely, or disabled. Some have suffered broken marriages, or estranged children. Some are homeless, jobless, hopeless, and lost. There is something each of us can do. It may be very small in comparison to their degree of need, but that is not the issue. We can bring a meal, make a visit, bring clothes, blankets, listen to their troubles, pray with them and for them. We can counsel and support women in crisis pregnancies. We can give money so that ministries like Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army who minister to the down and out so they can continue their work. We can share the Gospel. Remember we are Christ’s Body on earth. He works through us to show God’s love and concern.
We all can and must do something. We cannot close our eyes and pretend there is no one out there that needs our help.
We find the next effect of this miracle in the following verses. John the Baptist had been in prison for quite a long while and he may have expected that Jesus coming would have different results. In his uncertainty he sent directly to Jesus.
The purpose of miracles in the Bible is always to accredit the messenger and the message. Jesus was saying to John:
Remember the prophecies in Is. 35 and 61, see what I am doing, and put it all together.
Thus he reassured John that He was the Messiah.
But I believe this miracle also illustrated visibly what the Lord Jesus came to accomplish by His death on the cross and His resurrection.
2 Timothy 1:9-10
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed (abolished) death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (NIV)
How did death become a part of human existence. It was not part of God’s original design. Adam and Eve were created to live forever. In that beautiful garden God gave them every provision and perfect freedom to enjoy each other, to enjoy life and to enjoy their Creator. There was one prohibition.
Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day you eat of it you will surely die. (NIV)
We all know the story. Satan tempted them and they ate the fruit and experienced spiritual death immediately, which is separation from God. We know this because for the first time they were afraid and hid from Him when He came to walk with them in the Garden. Then their bodies began to die and death has been the expectation and experience of every human being since. The penalty for sin is death, both physical and spiritual. Since were each born with a sinful nature, we all sin and we all will die unless the Lord returns first and takes us home.
God commanded an approach to him that constantly reminded his people of that truth. Israel could never worship God without a blood sacrifice. When they sacrificed a lamb, goat or bull, they were offering a substitute to die for their sins in their place. When Jesus began His public ministry it was John who identified him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
He was the only substitute God would accept. When Jesus hung on that cross He took the full penalty for our sin in His own person. When he cried out, My God, why have you forsaken me? It meant he experienced spiritual death, which is separation from God. And of course, He died physically. But then he rose from the dead. If there was even one sin that could not be forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ, He would still be in the grave. His resurrection proved that every sin ever committed since the world began has been paid for in full.
But Jesus did even more for us.
Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death that is the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)
Jesus freed us from bondage to the fear of death
Destroy means to render powerless. Satan has no power over us who have trusted Jesus Christ. And death should hold no terror because for us death is just the doorway that ushers us into the presence of our God and Savior and a glorious eternity.
Are you afraid of death? None of us likes to contemplate the process of dying. But are you certain that there is life after death? Do you wonder what happens to the spirit when it leaves the body? Where does it go? Is there a holding tank, a period of waiting, a purgatory, a testing time to see if we are worthy? Do you think we cannot know if we are going to heaven before we die? If any of these questions concern you, it is entirely possible that you may be afraid of death.
Let us see what the Bible says happens to people when they die.
Remember what Jesus said to the thief beside Him on the cross.
This day you will be with me in Paradise. (NIV)
2 Cor. 12:2-3 identifies the third heaven as Paradise.
The spirits of dead believers go instantly to be with Christ.
Philippians 1:21-23, and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8
But there is still more.
Christ’s resurrection guarantees that believers will also be resurrected.
Resurrection always refers to the body because the spirit never dies.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and 1 Corinthians 15:50-57
That is how Jesus removed the sting of death. Death is defanged. Jesus Christ conquered it by his own death as our substitute and His glorious bodily resurrection. One day He will come for us, both the living and the dead, and take us to be with him forever.
Remember this is only for believers. I hope there is no woman here who has not put her faith in Christ.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (NIV)
No other nice place to go--it is either eternal life with God in heaven or eternity with Satan in hell. What does Jesus reveal about our heavenly Father in this episode?
He revealed our Father’s compassionate heart.
His tender compassion for the grieving mother tells us that God’s heart goes out to us in our grief and pain.
But you O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you. (NIV)
His immediate help shows our Father’s availability and readiness to give us strength to cope and provide for us in our various needs.
His personal attention to each of us.
Jesus’ concern for one woman in the midst of the crowd convinces me that my heavenly Father knows me and I am important to Him, just as a mother with 10 children loves each of them personally. He knows every circumstance of our lives and invites us to let Him be involved. He is the only source we have of strength, patience and wisdom.
He reveals our Father’s mighty power, His omnipotence. God has a final purpose for the created universe and is all powerful. Satan is a created being and is subject to God’s authority. Jesus Christ triumphed over death and Satan in His death and resurrection. For all of us who believe in Him death has lost its sting. Death should hold no terror for those of us who belong to Him. That is what He came to deliver us from. This is the glorious future He has planned for us instead.
Our Father’s desire is for us to be with Him forever
Our heavenly Father is preparing for us a home with Him that is so beautiful we cannot even imagine it. What should our response be to such a Father? To believe in the One He sent, Jesus Christ, the Revealer of the invisible God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That includes every sin that you and I have ever committed. Have you personally with an act of your will put your faith in Him alone?
In an interview Rick Warren helps to put our lives in perspective:
People ask me, What is the purpose of life?
And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in heaven.
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body but not the end of me.
I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity.
This the warm-up act, the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.1
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life is not going to make sense.
1 Interview by Decision Magazine, November 1, 2004. Accessible online: http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?ArticleID=483.