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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nicodemus - John 3

         Jesus will use Older Testament scripture to teach Nicodemus, the Jewish teacher, Pharisee and member of the ruling Sanhedrin Council. He was rich, educated and an honored teacher of the Older Testament. As a teacher of the Older Testament Word, Nicodemus would be familiar with this event in Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus will compare this event to Himself.

       The whole Truth could not be known until Jesus because He is the whole of Truth. God revealed his plan of salvation and deliverance through His Son Jesus in types and shadows in the Older Testament. Moses and the serpent on the pole are a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do.

         The Pharisees took pride in their “good deeds” and “good life.” This isn’t enough! Only the blood of Jesus can save us from our sin. The pride of these religious leaders hindered their search for the truth.
         For a renowned teacher like Nicodemus to approach Jesus, an unknown teacher, would make him subject to ridicule and criticism by the other rabbis and religious rulers. Because of this, Nicodemus went to Jesus in darkness. We all come to Jesus in the darkness of sin.
       When the Sanhedrin Council discussed Jesus, Nicodemus suggested caution. Most Jewish priests and rulers hated Jesus but Nicodemus had studied the Older Testament prophecies regarding Messiah and thought that Jesus just might be the One the prophesies spoke of.  If Jesus was a prophet sent by God, Nicodemus warned that it would be disastrous to reject God’s messenger.
         Nicodemus went to the Mount of Olives to find Jesus. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus many times went to commune with the Lord and His disciples. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you must have been sent by God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.” Note that Nicodemus didn’t refer to Jesus as Messiah, but teacher. Jesus didn’t respond to Nicodemus’ statement. Instead, Jesus, who is all-knowing looked at Nicodemus’ heart and saw that he was sincerely looking for truth, so Jesus spoke truth to him.

Born Again

          Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born again, he cannot be in God’s kingdom.” V3  In essence, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he needs a new heart and a new life from above. The New Birth is a spiritual one. Nicodemus needs to be born spiritually from above through Jesus and the Holy Spirit before he can fully understand the spiritual realm. Jeremiah had prophesied that God would give His people a new heart, and Ezekiel said that God would give His people Israel a new heart, and a new Spirit. (see Jeremiah 29:13; 32:39-41; Exekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) Our human hearts are naturally evil, and there is no human cure for this. Only a spiritual cure can change our condition.

           Notice that Jesus started His responses to Nicodemus with “I tell you the truth.”  Jesus is the Truth, so He speaks pure Truth. He came from the spiritual realm so He can speak of what He knows and has seen in the spiritual realm.
           Jesus and the Holy Spirit are working on Nicodemus’ heart, but he doesn’t know it yet. It is the Holy Spirit that gives spiritual birth to our spirit. God is Spirit, so in order to enter the Kingdom of God, our spirit must be united to God’s Holy Spirit and Son. And, because God is Spirit, we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Without new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, one cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is spiritual. Jesus and the Holy Spirit paved a way to come into the presence of God for a prepared people. 
         Nicodemus, who is looking with natural eyes, asks Jesus a question. “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.” V4 Again, Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless one is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter God’s kingdom.” V5 We are born naturally through the water and blood of our mother’s womb. We are born spiritually through the water of the Word/Jesus and His blood that flowed out of the wound in His side on the cross. Our mother labors for our natural birth, but Jesus labored on the cross for our spiritual, eternal birth.
        Every Jew and Gentile must be washed by water cleansing of all their past sins and be born again through the blood of Jesus and the water of the Word and Holy Spirit. The life of our physical body is in the blood and water. The life of our spiritual body is in the blood of Jesus and the water of the Anointed Word – Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and Word will transition us from our life of sin to a new life of loving obedience to the Godhead and His Word.
         It is impossible for one who is not born of the Spirit to understand the fullness of Truth (Jesus).  Nicodemus didn’t understand Jesus’ words of truth but he is seeking the truth. Jesus will continue to teach him. By one Spirit, we are baptized into one Body—whether Jew or Gentile. (see 1 Corinthians 12:13) The power of the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit will bring us to the knowledge of the Truth and will help us grow spiritually. Our desire will be to love and please God and avoid and defeat evil within and without. The Kingdom of God is where God’s will is done completely and perfectly. Citizens of God’s Kingdom will be willingly submitted to Him and be willingly obedient to God and His will.
          Jesus and the Holy Spirit must take possession of our hearts and minds. Because the written Word was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit helps us know and understand the Word. Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of Truth – Holy Spirit – would:

·         Dwell with us and within us – John 14:17
                              ·         Will testify of Christ – John 15:26
                              ·         Guide us into all Truth – John 16:13
(to be continued)

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Shepherds and the Magi – Luke 2:8-20; Matthew 2:1-12 -- Part 1

       Only One who knew the height and depth of the Father’s love could reveal it. So, God sent the Word/Jesus to earth to share God’s love, grace and truth. Jesus left the place of no limitation to come to earth which is limited. He was further limited by being confined in a womb and placed under the Law to fulfill it and release humans from its penalty of death for disobeying one part of the Law. He came as an infant who had to rely upon others to feed and care for Him both physically and spiritually. Jesus gave up His glory in heaven to become human, suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. There is no greater love than this. While on earth, Jesus’ glory, splendor and beauty were hidden. He had no outward appearance that would draw people to Him. Jesus wanted people to recognize Him through the Word of God and His miracles. He still wants people to recognize Him this way.
            God will work out His plan of salvation and redemption. The Word/Jesus became flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary. God sent an angel to Zechariah to tell him that he would have a son who would announce the coming of Jesus and prepare God’s people to meet Him. God also used the decree of Caesar Augustus to get Mary to Bethlehem by decreeing that a censor be taken of every family in their hometown. The census was so the Romans could collect taxes from everyone.God is in control.
Mary was a descendant of David, and Bethlehem was David’s town. The prophet Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (see Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6) Joseph and Mary could only find rest in a stable where animals are sheltered from worldly elements, and rest in the darkness. Jesus was born in a stable for animals and laid in a feeding trough for the animals. As the Word of God brought to life, Jesus would become the feeding trough for sinners! He came to earth to save and be our feeding trough of Divine Truth that feeds us spiritually. Our flesh is beastly to the Lord who is holy! Jesus will be our shelter from the storms of life. Our rest and peace from spiritual darkness is in Him.

God’s Angel Appears to the Shepherds – Luke 2:8-20
          These shepherds are Jewish. They were in the fields of Bethlehem near the place where Jesus was born. God had given this territory to the tribe of Judah. Where David, the Jew from the tribe of Judah, had cared for and protected his father’s flock, the shepherds were keeping their watch in the night to protect their flocks. Some of these lambs would be used for sacrifice to God in the temple. Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, keeps watch over His sheep and protects them from the spiritual enemy of their souls. We are the sheep of His pasture.
            An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory o f the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:9-10  When the Angel of the Lord appeared, the glory of the Lord was all around the shepherds which terrified them. This Angel reflected the light and glory of God. The angel of the Lord told them not to be afraid. This is a term Jesus spoke many times to His disciples to assure them that He was with them, so they had nothing to fear. Jesus is the light and glory of God. His glory and light were hidden within His flesh body while on earth. Only once, on the Mount of Transfiguration, did Jesus reveal His hidden inner glory to His disciples. As we walk as Jesus tells us, His glory and light will shine forth through our flesh body to others.
The angel of the Lord brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” V11 This is the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy in 5:2. In this scripture in Luke, Jesus is called the Savior. As Savior, He will deliver us from sin and Satan’s domain. He is not only our Savior, but also Christ the Lord who rules over His people. No one can have Jesus as Savior without submitting to His Lordship. He came to save us from sin. The way to do this is through letting Him be Lord over our lives and remove sin in us by the power of His Holy Spirit and Word. Our “self” must be dethroned, and our pride humbled to know the glory and life of God’s spiritual kingdom. By dethroning our fleshly ways, we will rise higher with Jesus and radiate His glory and light to a lost and spiritually dying world.
            Next, the angel gives the shepherds a sign. “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” V12  The greatest event in the history of the world took place in a stable in the humblest and simplest circumstances.
            Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” Vv 13-14  This heavenly host gave glory to God for the great thing He had done. When the angels had gone, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” V15  When they saw  baby Jesus in the manger, they told others what the angel had told them about this baby, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. And they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” V20 They gave God the glory for the great thing He had done.
            God who loves all of humanity will reveal the good news of His Son Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles, as He revealed Jesus to both the Jewish shepherds and the Gentile Magi. All are included in God’s redemptive plan through His Son Jesus Christ.

                           ( Next week: The gentile Magi)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

David Escapes Saul and Goes to Samuel

David Escapes Saul and Goes to Samuel

         Saul’s attempts to kill David have been thwarted by David dodging his spear, and warning by Jonathan and by Michal, Saul's son and daughter. Saul’s fourth attempt to kill David is thwarted by Samuel. David began his anointing with Samuel. He will return to Samuel probably for advice, strengthening of his faith, comfort, rest and prayer.
David reported to Samuel what Saul had done to him.Three times, Saul sends his men to take David. However, when Saul’s men saw a group of prophets with Samuel as the leader prophesying, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul’s men and they too prophesied. They forgot about their mission. God intervened! As Saul intensified his pursuit of David, God intensified the power of His Spirit against him. Finally, Saul himself went to get David, but the spirit of prophecy fell upon him also.V23 Saul “stripped off his robes and prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and all that night.” V24 Saul stripped off his royal robes and lay bare before God indicating humility and openness.
        Saul’s jealousy of David escalated to envy, then anger and then wanting to take David’s life.These sins of Saul became his bondage and ultimately led to his  death. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23

David Goes to Jonathan Again
       Eventually, David leaves Samuel’s place to go to Ramah to see Jonathan. David seeks counsel from those he trusts in the Lord. David asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?” 1 Samuel 20:1 David’s humility is displayed once again. He wants to find out if there is anything he has done to cause Saul’s desire to kill him. David trusted Jonathan. They have a deep covenant bond because of their love of God and each other like spiritual brothers. Proverbs 18:24: A man who has friends, must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Jesus tells us who are His mother, sisters and brothers in Mathew 12:48-49, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
 Jonathan doesn’t believe that his father is still trying to kill David. Jonathan wants to believe the best about his father. But David swears an oath to Jonathan that this is true. It was Saul’s custom to not do anything without informing his son Jonathan. Jonathan is surprised by what David is telling him. David tells Jonathan that the reason that Saul probably didn't tell his son is because he knows that Jonathan is David’s friend and cares about him. Therefore, Saul didn’t want Jonathan to know his plans because it would grieve Jonathan and Jonathan would probably warn David.  Jonathan now believes David and tells him that he will do whatever David wants him to do to help.
David has a plan. David is to dine with Saul at the New Moon Festival. David will hide and not show up until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, “David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.” 20:5-6 If Saul says this is okay then Jonathan will know David is safe. But if Saul loses his temper, Jonathan will know that Saul is determined to harm David. David then tells Jonathan to be honest with him because they made covenant with each other before the Lord. V8 David goes on to say to Jonathan, “If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?” “Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?” David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” Jonathan swears to God and David that he will warn David either way. If he doesn’t, Jonathan said, “May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely.”

Jonathan asks that the Lord be with David and then wants David to promise that he will “show Jonathan unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family – not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself. 20:14-17 Again, Jonathan and David made a covenant oath to each other before God. David honored this oath with Mephibosheth. (see 2 Samuel 9:10)
The Law in Leviticus 19:18 said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and Jesus said  in Matthew 19:19; 23:29 and Mark 12:31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Mark, Jesus added, “There is no greater commandment than these.” When a “word” is spoken three times, it is established. (see Matthew 18:16) Jonathan and David lived this.The Law said that the Israelites should love their neighbor as themselves, but Jesus started with loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Then we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and learning of His pure, perfect love that enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves.