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Saturday, September 4, 2021

Nicodemus -- John 3 -- New Birth



Jesus had transformed water into new wine illustrating His transforming power. Then He cleansed His Father’s house – the temple. Next Jesus will teach Nicodemus about “new birth.”

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin Council who had jurisdiction over religious matters. Nicodemus was rich, educated and an honored teacher of the Older Testament scriptures. Something about Jesus and His words and miracles made Nicodemus want to hear more. In an abundance of caution, Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night (in darkness). If his fellow Pharisees saw him, they would ridicule Nicodemus because they had nothing to do with Jesus. They felt Jesus was a threat to their power and position. So, to avoid interrogation and judgment from them, Nicodemus came to the Light of the world Jesus in darkness. All humans come to Jesus in the darkness of sin. Given Nicodemus’ background and position, it was a miracle that he came to Jesus at all. Nicodemus will have a one-on-one conversation with Jesus.

In the beginning, Nicodemus saw Jesus as a teacher/rabbi. He said to Jesus, “Rabbi (teacher), we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” John 3:2 Nicodemus called Jesus “teacher” not Lord. Nicodemus and the Pharisees recognized that Christ’s miracles and words came from God, but the others resented Jesus because He was saying things contrary to their beliefs. Their status was being threatened. To the Pharisees, the Law was the most sacred thing. Jesus, however, has piqued the interest of Nicodemus.

Jesus replies to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 4:3 Jesus only speaks truth because He is Truth as the Word of God brought to life. The flesh cannot see and understand the things of God without the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit and holy. In order to see and know spiritual matters, we need the Holy Spirit of God. In the “natural,” we are born from the labor and suffering of our mother and the water and blood that flowed from our mother’s womb. The love of our mother gave us life. Spiritually, we are born out of the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side on the cross and His love and willingness to die for our sins so we can be restored to our Heavenly Father. The cross of suffering was the greatest display of God’s love the world will ever see.

In our natural birth, we are born in sin because of the sin of the first man and woman. When Adam and the Woman sinned, they died spiritually right away, not physically. They lived physically for several hundred years so they could “be fruitful and multiply,” as God had said. Unfortunately, however, they are no longer sinless, so they will birth sinful humanity. All humans descend from Adam and Eve. Jesus was not born in sin because He is the holy seed of God. Through Christ’s blood sacrifice for sin, those who believe in Him can have the Holy Spirit dwell in us. We are covered by His sinless blood. After believing in Jesus, our “natural” flesh must unite with God’s Holy Spirit in order to be born spiritually and understand the spiritual Word of God (Truth). Because Nicodemus doesn’t understand who Jesus is, he cannot “see” and “know” spiritual things. Our “new” birth is very different from our “old” birth. One is eternal and the other temporal. God’s Holy Spirit makes us spiritually alive and will change us from the fleshly to the spiritual. God imparts His life into us by His Holy Spirit and Word/Jesus. 1 Peter 1:23 says that we are born again by the incorruptible Seed of the Word of God. All things were created through the Word (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. The Word and the Holy Spirit carried out the will of God. All things will be recreated by the Word/Jesus and the Holy Spirit by the will of God.

Jesus came from above and was born in the flesh. We are born of the flesh and must be born again in the Spirit. If Nicodemus is to be eternal, he too must be born from above through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus is seeing with fleshly eyes, so he doesn’t understand what Jesus means about being born again. He asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” v4 In Nicodemus’ fleshly mind, this would be impossible. With God, all things are possible!

In the Older Testament, gentiles who converted to Judaism had to be washed in the water and were considered born anew. In the spiritual, believers in Christ are washed in the water of the Word and Holy Spirit to become spiritual. 

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ question, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” Vv4-5 Jesus is the only One to walk the earth that was not born in sin because He is the holy Seed of God, not sinful man. Jesus continues, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Vv7-8 Wind in Hebrew is ruach which means wind/spirit. We don’t know where the wind comes from, but we see what it does. The Holy Spirit is the same. We don’t always know how the Spirit works in us, but we see the changes it brings in human lives. A person not born of the Spirit cannot understand the things of God or enter into God’s kingdom because the things of God are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14: ”The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In the flesh, we are spiritually powerless and spiritually blind. Without the Spirit, Nicodemus is spiritually blind and deaf. He cannot “see” and “know.”

 


Thursday, June 17, 2021

JESUS -- SELFLESS LOVE AND LIGHT

 

Jesus came to earth to shine God’s Divine Light and Love upon humanity. Jesus wants us to know what God is really like so we can know Him in a correct and intimate way. Humans throughout the Older Testament had confused God’s Truth. God had to act. He sent His Only Begotten Son Jesus to earth to speak His Truth. Jesus took on flesh and blood so He could relate to what it is like to be human with its temptations and weaknesses. As Man – God in the flesh, Jesus became like us but without sin. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so He had the fullness of the Holy Spirit even as a baby because He had no sin in Him from birth. He was birthed in the pure womb of a Jewish woman. Mary’s womb had never been touched by the flesh of man or the seed of man because she was a virgin. Her womb was still sealed. Jesus had to come through a human whose womb was untouched by sinful man and his seed because Jesus is holy. The fullness of the Holy Spirit in Christ is what kept Him from sinning against God. Jesus also had the fullness of the Word in Him because He is the Word of God from beginning to end. He is all Truth. Just like God, there is no lie in Him. So, Jesus had an advantage over us. Jesus also understood the spiritual world perfectly because He came from there. but He didn’t fully understand being human because He was a holy, spiritual entity. We are born sinful because of the sin of Eve and Adam in Genesis. All humans descend from Adam and Eve, so we are sinful at birth, but Jesus wasn’t. Mary’s womb was sealed by the Holy Spirit so no sin could touch Jesus. Jesus was also buried in a tomb that no death had touched. This tomb was sealed by a huge rock. God had reserved this tomb for Jesus. The sin and death of human flesh could not touch Jesus because He was, is and will ever be holy. God told Moses to tell the priests not to touch the dead in Leviticus 21:1 and 11. God is consistent in His ways. Followers of Christ are also sealed. 2 Corinthians 21:21-22: “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  Ephesians 4:30 tells us “not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Jesus is the Word of God from beginning to end. He was the Word (voice of God) in the beginning before anything was created. It was through the Word that all things were created. John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. While on earth, Jesus taught the Truth about the Godhead to those who would receive it. It is through the Word and the Holy Spirit that we will be recreated into spiritual beings who reflect the Godhead beginning while we are on earth. The Holy Word, Jesus, was teaching sinful humanity the Truth as He walked the earth. Jesus knew the ways of God and He also knew the ways of Satan because Jesus was with God and the Holy Spirit when Satan rebelled against God. The three – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – were one. They were holy and of one accord (agreement). They did not act apart from one another and pure Truth. The three have one will, one voice, one mission, one heart and one Truth. It was God, Jesus as the Word and the Holy Spirit who created the heavens and the earth in agreement in Genesis 1:1-3. Jesus spoke the mind, will and ways of God out loud as He walked sinful earth. Selfless love for mankind who were created in their image and likeness was the Godhead’s motivation. Jesus illustrated this selfless love on the cross of suffering and death. His selfless love came from the heart of God.

The heart of God’s love is written through all of creation. All of creation has a message from Him except the selfish heart of humans caused by sin. God had to send His Holy Son to earth to correct the human heart of sin and shed His sinless blood to restore us back to the Father. After His death, resurrection, and ascension back to His original position in heaven with God, Jesus sent the power of the Holy Spirit within Him to help us become more like Him who is holy. God told the Israelites, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45 God/Jesus called His people to walk in holiness. Peter repeated this call to holiness to God’s elect in 1 Peter 1:14-16.  As obedient children do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written “Be holy, for I am holy.” We are made holy, cleansed, and saved by the grace of God through Jesus, but we are also called to be holy in all we do. Who we are in Christ should be reflected in our actions, words, and deeds. When we walk in obedience to God’s Word, we bring glory to Christ who laid down His holy life for us. Our obedience to God’s Word and Will will also show Christ that we love Him and will bring glory to Him. Sinfulness does not! John said three times in John 14 that those who love Him obey His commandments. Christ gave His all for us sinners. He wants us to give our all to Him.

 Selfless love was broken in the heavens long before it was broken on earth. Lucifer, an archangel in the presence of God wanted to be God. The Lord uses the king of Tyre in scripture to describe Lucifer/Satan before he rebelled against God. “You were a model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the Garden of God; every precious stone adorned you; ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.” Ezekiel 28:12-14 What God creates is perfect and holy because He is perfect and holy. Lucifer was an archangel in the heavens in the presence of God. He was perfect and holy when he was created by God. He was also adorned in nine precious stones set in gold. When Lucifer rebelled against God and wanted to be God, he had a name change and was cast out of the presence of God in heaven. Evil and holiness are not to reside in the same place. A name change indicates a change in status. Lucifer became Satan, the enemy of God and humanity. The anointed archangel who was in God’s holy garden is now cast out into outer darkness. Satan created Satan by rebelling against God. God wants us to understand His ways and the ways of Satan and darkness. The written Word of God and the Holy Spirit of Truth is given us to help us understand this. God wants us to walk in His ways to the glory of His Name not in darkness. Without the Light of Jesus, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand the difference.

               

 


Thursday, June 3, 2021

RUTH PART 3 --HARVEST TIME

 

Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem after the cold winter at the beginning of the barley harvest. This was the time of Passover when the blood of a lamb without spot or blemish is sacrificed as atonement for sin.  The wheat harvest is 50 days later at the time of the feast of Pentecost. Christians walk spiritually in Christ like Ruth and Naomi walked together in love and unity. The natural speaks to the spiritual.  Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover and the Holy Spirit was poured out at the time of Pentecost in fulfillment of these two set times of God. Like Ruth, those who believe in Jesus begin with accepting the shed blood of the Lamb of God for our sin. Then, we receive the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) to empower, teach, train, and equip us to walk as Jesus walked and do as Jesus did to bring in a harvest of souls to Jesus and eternal life.

The Israelites wait for the early rain that softens the ground before plowing. The plowing and seed planting take place after the early rain making the ground ready for seed.  The ground is broken and turned over, then seeds are scattered and planted. The sun and water provided by God makes the seed grow and eventually mature. This is also true in the spiritual. The Son Jesus sent the water of the Word and Holy Spirit to plant His seed of Truth within us and waters it by the Holy Spirit so we will grow and mature spiritually. The seed is hidden in the ground for a time as the seed of God’s Word is to be hidden in our hearts for a time until it takes root and begins to grow and translate into spiritual fruit. Jesus said that those who love and serve Him will be “known by their fruit.” Matthew 12:12

In late March or early April, after the seeds have become full- grown into grain, the barley harvest begins. The barley harvest is completed in late April or early May. Then the wheat harvest begins through the rest of May and early June.  Though the barley and wheat seeds are sown at the same time, it takes the wheat longer to grow and mature. This is also true of the seed of the Word of God. When we come to Jesus and begin being taught the seed of His Word, we are newbies just beginning to have the truth sown into our hearts and minds. It takes time for this truth to have a harvest in our souls. As the truth within us is watered by the Holy Spirit of God, it grows and matures within us. Wheat ripens at the time of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon believers. In the Newer Testament, Jesus told His disciples to “gather the wheat into His barn.” Matthew 13:30; Matthew 3:12 Jesus wants to mature us in the faith by the power of His Holy Spirit and Word. His barn is His Body/Church.

The Passover Lamb of God Jesus was born in Bethlehem (house of bread). Bethlehem is not far from Jerusalem. Jesus came to earth as a babe but as He grew “became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40 Followers of Christ are to also become strong in spirit through His wisdom and grace. At Passover, Jesus was crucified for both the Jew and Gentile symbolized in Naomi, the Jew, and Ruth, the Gentile. 

KINSMAN-REDEEMER 

In order to fully understand the Book of Ruth, you must understand the levirate marriage, the law of gleaning and the role of a kinsman-redeemer. God who knows the end from the beginning has always had a plan of redemption in His heart. This plan of redemption was foreshadowed in the Older Testament, revealed through Christ, and will be completed at the end eternally when we join our Eternal Redeemer Jesus, and all things are restored back to their original holy condition at the beginning of Genesis.

Naomi and Ruth have nothing to offer God but themselves. They are poor both materially and in spirit. Naomi and Ruth will put the past behind them and move forward to a new beginning in God’s Land. The relationship between Ruth and Naomi will lead them to their kinsman-redeemer. God is the God of new beginnings. He took redemption out of the hands of sinful man and gave it to His Pure Perfect Son Jesus who is the Redeemer of the whole world. As Ruth rejected the false gods of Moab and accepted the True God of Israel, believers in Christ are to reject the false gods of this world and accept and follow Jesus.

The story of Ruth and Naomi began with tragedy, but will end with redemption, restoration, a wedding, blessing, happiness, peace, and a son just as Jesus will do before the time of the end.      

Naomi understands the obligation of a kinsman-redeemer according to the Law because she is Jewish. Naomi cannot redeem herself and her deceased husband’s land. She needs a kinsman-redeemer who is born among her own people to fulfill the law of redemption in Leviticus 25:23. God will use Naomi’s brokenness and willingness to return to God and His Land as a way of preparing her to receive her redeemer and renewed inheritance. Ruth does not understand this, but she is submitted to the elder Naomi and her wisdom of God and His ways. Ruth trusted Naomi and Naomi trusted Ruth. Love and trust are always the cement of any relationship.

Naomi is too old to bear a son who would become an heir of her late husband’s portion of God’s land according to Deuteronomy 25:5, “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go into her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.” Naomi knows that she needs a kinsman-redeemer to restore the land of her deceased husband. The Law of redemption is in Leviticus 25:23-55. Only a near relative through the bloodline of Elimelech can inherit his portion of God’s Land.  God in His grace provided a way for an Israelite to recover the God-given land in Israel through the Law of Kinsman-Redeemer and the Levirate marriage in Leviticus 25:23-28 and Deuteronomy 25:5-6. God did not want His people to be put to shame or impoverished, nor did He want any of His Land lost or a family line discontinued. Once God gave the land of Israel to the tribes of Israel, He wanted it to remain in possession of those to whom He gave it. This is God’s grace and love for His people. Not only did God provide a way of redemption and freedom from debt in the Law, but He also provided a way for the family line to be continued and not be blotted out of Israel just as God provided Jesus so those who believe in Him will not be blotted out of the Book of Life. Followers of Christ are to reproduce by sharing  God’s love and the wisdom of His Word with others, so they too become His spiritual sons and daughters and eventually His Bride.

In the Law of a Levirate marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, the nearest relative of a deceased man without an heir is to willingly marry the widow. The firstborn son of this union would carry on the name of the first husband and would receive his inheritance. If a close kinsman did not redeem them, then they were set free of the debt in the year of Jubilee. God did not want His people to lose their God-given land. The male near-kinsman is to redeem and rescue (save) the widow in need. God is Israel’s Redeemer in the Older Testament. Jesus is God’s Supreme Kinsman-Redeemer of all – both Jew and Gentile -- revealed in the Newer Testament. God has given the whole earth to humanity to preserve and protect. God began His redemption plan with the small land of Israel. Through Christ’s death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit, He expanded it to the whole world. A redeemer is one who buys back a debt or something lost.

Since the Law is a foreshadow of the reality in Christ, the law of the kinsman-redeemer in the Older Testament pointed to Jesus, God’s Perfect Kinsman-Redeemer of the whole earth. Jesus had to have “natural” kinship in order to redeem, so He became a human -- flesh and blood -- making Him our “kin.” In order for Jesus who is God to identify with humans, He became one of us except for sin. He remained sinless. As a child, Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature” like any human. When He matured, He was given deep and pure understanding of the scriptures. Because He remained sinless, Jesus had the full power of the Holy Spirit of God to understand Truth.

Jesus’ holiness even in His flesh body gave Him the right to redeem humanity. Jesus will redeem anyone who puts his or her faith and trust in Him. Jesus also had to be Divine (sinless) because the first Adam who was created in the Godhead’s image and likeness was sinless (divine) when the Godhead created him. The original sin had to be reversed in the manner that it was committed – by a sinless human with sinless blood. Only the sinless blood of Jesus could pay the price of sin and redemption. Jesus is not only our redeemer, but He is also our jubilee because He set us free from a debt we couldn’t pay and from the slavery of sin and bondage. Jesus also gave us spiritual authority over the earth and the devil.

It was in Bethlehem (means “house of bread”) that Naomi and Ruth met their kinsman-redeemer as Christians meet their Kinsman-Redeemer Jesus in the house of bread – Christ’s Body, blood, and Word. In biblical times, barley was the food of the poor. Wheat was valued more than barley and came around 6 weeks after the barley. We meet our Kinsman-Redeemer Jesus when we are poor in spirit as Naomi and Ruth were when they reached Bethlehem.  As we are fed the spiritual seed of the Word of God, we grow in wisdom and mature spiritually. As Ruth the Gentile and Naomi the Jew united as one, Jesus – our Perfect Kinsman Redeemer – will unite the Jew and Gentile as One and lead us home to His Heavenly Promised Land. He will feed us the spiritual food of His Word and draw us together as one Body of Christ. Ruth and Naomi are a picture of the Bride of Christ made up of faithful Jews and Gentiles.

            The requirements of a kinsman redeemer in the Older Testament are:

·         He must be a kinsman (relative).

·         He must have the ability to pay the price to redeem.

·         He must be willing to redeem.

·         He has to actually do it.

Jesus meets all of the requirements to redeem every person who believes in Him. God changed the world in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. In order for Ruth to find her kinsman-redeemer and husband, she had to come to the “house of Bread”—Bethlehem -- as all must come to the House of Bread to find the Redeemer and Savior Jesus.