Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

The Word Became Flesh

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

I’m enjoying some thoughts from a Greek Grammar by William Mounce called “Basics of Biblical Greek” (Zondervan 2003). A quote in that work is as follows. Sit back and take it in… and worship.

A casual first-century reader of the fourth gospel’s prologue (John 1:1-18) would have little difficulty understanding John’s description of the Logos (Word). As a concept it was simple enough. Logos was the intelligible law of things. The Logos of God was God’s transcendent rationality that gave the universe order and purpose. A Hellenized Jew would quickly reach for a volume of wisdom literature explaining that God’s wisdom, His word (or logos), provided the universe with its form and coherence. As such the Logos of God was foreign to human ways, above us and distant from us, guiding us from afar.

John 1:14, on the other hand, would make any such reader pause in stunned silence. “And the Word became flesh (sarx) and dwelt among us.” Sarx is the earthly sphere, the arena of human decisions and emotions, human history, and human sinfulness (cf. John 1:13; 3:6; 17:2, etc.). John 1:14 contains the risk, the scandal, and the gospel of the Christian faith: the Logos became sarx. The center of God’s life and thought entered the depths of our world and took up its form, its sarx, its flesh, in order to be known by us and to save us.

This affirmation about logos and sarx is the very heart of our faith. God has not abandoned us. No lowliness, no misery, no sinfulness is beyond God’s comprehension and reach. He came among us, embraced our world of sarx in His incarnation, and loved us. It is easy enough to say that God loves the world (John 3:16). But to say that God loves me, in my frailty and my faithlessness–that He loves sarx–this is another matter. This is the mystery and the power of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

– Gary M. Burge

A Burnt Offering

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

There were two categories of offerings for which God gave instructions to His people in the Old Testament in Leviticus chapters 1-3 and 4-6. One type was offerings for sin. When an Israelite took their sin or trespass offering to the priest, they were essentially saying, “I deserve to die, but this lamb is going to die in my place.” The other type of offering was for a sweet savor to God and was not related to specific acts of sin. I believe this second type of offering was in view when God asked Abraham to offer up His only son to God as a burnt offering (though the Mosaic covenant had not yet been given). It appeals to me that the burnt offering, being an offering of free will, was also an expression of identification with the animal that was to die. The offerer laid his hands on the offering, identifying himself with it. In Leviticus 1:4 we learn that the burnt offering was for atonement– that God might accept the offerer– but it seems to me that this offering was deeper than a simple acknowledgment of a wrong action. This was not now an acknowledgment that I deserve to die, but rather was a willing laying down of one’s own life before God in consecration, acknowledging the LORD’s worth and worthiness, while at the same time acknowledging the offerer’s own unworthiness and inability to serve God acceptably in his own strength. As the lamb of the burnt offering died, the offerer said not now, “I deserve to die,” but rather, “LORD, I give myself as a consecrated offering to Thee. In myself I cannot please Thee, but through this offering, accept my heart and life as I lay it down for Thee to use” (Romans 12:1).

God asked Abraham to give back to Him the most precious possession that he had– his own son. The miracle child. The one God had said would be the heir through whom God would bless the whole world. But now God was asking Abraham to offer him. Would not this destroy the promises? God had said specifically, “Through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Gen. 21:12). But Abraham and Isaac were walking up a mountain, and Isaac was asking, “Father, where is the lamb?” Abraham, like Job, refused to charge God and become angry with God for requiring the return of that which He had given. Instead of being angry at God for negating His own miracle, Abraham believed God and trusted Him for another miracle. The same God who could bring life out of death at his son’s entry into this world was the God who could bring life out of death at his son’s exit from this world (Hebrews 11:19).

There on that mountain, with knife in hand, it must have felt like he was about to take his own life. His own son was on the altar, and surely Abraham would have chosen to give his own life rather than his son’s. And essentially, that is what happened on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22). It was the climax of Abraham’s song to God… “Take my life and let it be,  Consecrated, LORD, to Thee.” Abraham put the Giver before the gift and the Blesser before the blessing. God did provide for Himself a lamb that day, but He also provided the Lamb of God, His own beloved Son, as a blessing that flowed and continues to flow out to the whole world. A blessing that flowed from the faith of one man who was willing to trust God and die to himself. A burnt offering.

Self-worth

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

God created a masterpiece. He made the first man and the first woman in all their perfection and beauty. But mankind chose to rebel against their Creator, and God’s masterpiece was ruined. Since that day, every person born into the world is born incapable of truly pleasing God. Like a master’s painting all covered with graffiti or a sculptor’s work shattered to bits, we have been ruined by sin. Yet God in infinite grace stepped in. He didn’t gather up all His creation and throw it away. Instead, He sent the Master, the Almighty Sculptor to this world to save the marred masterpiece from eternal ruin. Here, the Creator was marred more than any man. He was nailed to a tree, and suffered beneath the wrath of Almighty God, taking our punishment in order for our sin stains to be erased. It is when we acknowledge our lost and ruined state that the grace of God reaches down and says, “Fear not, I have redeemed you, you are Mine.” Placing our faith in the One who took our place, and dying to our own self-righteousness and self-worth, we fall at the foot of the cross and rest in the worth of our Lord and Savior– and there find acceptance before God. Our acceptance is in God’s Beloved One. Our right to be in God’s display room of grace called heaven is the One who came to earth to take away all our stains and transform the shattered figure into a totally new creation.

Could we say that Jesus Christ came from heaven’s glory to die for us because we were so special, so precious, so valuable that He had to die and pay such a tremendous price for our salvation? Did our worth demand His coming? Is the price that He paid equal to the value of the thing purchased? No, it cannot be! To say such a thing actually exults us and minimizes the worth of that precious blood. It also would ignore our wretched condition before God–we did not deserve such love. To say that our worth was the reason for His sacrifice would be to minimize the wondrous grace of our God. The greatness of the price does not show our worth, but rather demonstrates the depth of how ruined we had become. It also reveals the righteous requirement of a holy God that had to be met before He could accept us. The Lord Jesus was separated from a holy God while paying for our sin. He suffered as we deserved to suffer. The price He paid demonstrated the awesome holiness of our God and at the same time God’s infinite, selfless love.

God’s way is not to choose to love worthy objects, but rather, unworthy objects. He does not help us to save ourselves, but rather chooses to save the helpless. In so doing, He engenders thankful worshipers rather than boastful braggers. God’s love does not exult its object, but rather demonstrates the glory of His character; the character of God’s love is that it is not dependent upon the recipient but rather upon who He is.

Think of it. When God saves, He places the Spirit of His Son within us. He shares His life with us, and enables us to live in Him, by His power, enjoying His love. He makes us heirs of eternal riches in His Son. He binds us inseparably with the greatest Lover in the universe. He gives us worth. He makes us into a radiant painting that is far more beautiful than the first, that radiates His glory. We become a vessel that He can fill and use, something of value to Him, that brings Him delight. We find our true purpose in life as we walk with Him and get to know Him more intimately. A vessel is valuable because of the substance it holds. Without the contents, it has nothing to boast in. Even so, Christ in us makes all the difference.

How precious to know that God’s love does not depend upon our performance or self-worth. If that were the case, we would have to continually be trying to measure up to His (unreachable) standard, hoping that He would still love us. God’s love is an eternal love. To be eternal, it must depend upon God Himself rather than upon the recipient. When we respond to that love in worship and appreciation, that brings immense pleasure to our heavenly Father.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NKJV).

Do we have worth in Christ? Resoundingly, yes! What is Christ’s worth to God? God has united us with His Son, and our worth is in Him. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ” (Romans 8:32 NKJV). 

“But you are a chosen generation… His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).

I think our focus really needs to turn from considering self-worth to considering that Christ is everything, and I am in Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

Scriptural references: (hover over reference to read the verse)
Romans 5:18; 8:8; John 3:16; Isaiah 52:14; 53:6; 43:1; Luke 18:13; Ephesians 1:6; 2:8-9; Romans 5:6-8; Isaiah 43:25; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:20-21;  Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:21; Also consider: John 1:27; Luke 15:21

To Clarify: This article is not meant to minimize the fact that God has created mankind in His own image and that God values life. Genesis 9:6 shows us that it is a serious thing to take the life of another human being: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man” (NKJV).  Life is from God and belongs to God, and to kill one who is made in the image of God is a very serious offense. Matthew 10:29 reminds us that God even cares about the death of a sparrow (though not created in Him image) and lovingly provides for His creation. There is a difference, I believe, between (1) the fact that mankind has been ruined and rendered useless by sin to the point of enmity against God and is therefore unworthy of God’s blessing and (2) the fact that we were made by God, belong to God (in the aspect of creation), and still have something of his image upon us, though it is severely marred by sin. We are a soul that will exist eternally, a soul with feelings and emotions which the heart of God longs to win to Himself (Luke 13:34). The human spirit, when made alive, has the capability of interacting with and appreciating his Creator, and in that aspect, there is a potential value to God found in each individual born into this world.

112. They led Him away

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.  (Matthew 27:31)

I marvel at those words… “led Him away.” And who were they leading away to crucifixion? God’s King (Psalm 2:6)! God’s Shepherd (Zech. 13:7)! Consider the humility of the Savior. They mocked Him by clothing Him in royal apparel and bowing down to Him. They led God’s shepherd as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), and He did not open His mouth in protest. They did not want the righteous rule of God’s King, nor did they desire the tender care and guidance of God’s Shepherd. They led away to execution the very One who desired to lead them to God, and they executed the only one who was able to bring righteousness to this groaning world. Yet in the all-wise purposes of God, Christ was not really following men to the cross. No, men could not force Him to give His life, and God had a plan to bring deliverance to this world and defeat the devil with his own weapon of death. God’s perfect Servant (Isaiah 42:1) was following His Father’s will to that hill called Golgotha. The sword of judgment awoke upon God’s Shepherd, and the Lamb of God paid the price of our salvation with His blood. Now that One whom they led away in rejection draws all to Himself through that same death (John 12:32).

Men once said “we have no king but Caesar.” But a day is coming when all will glorify God’s Son when He sits upon the throne of David, and God’s king will reign over all the earth. God’s Shepherd “shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). What a day that will be!

111. Sorrows unseen

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

The day of the Passover came. It was the day when the Passover Lamb “must be killed.” Many viewed the suffering of the lambs that died that day as they remembered how God had graciously and mightily delivered His people out of Egyptian bondage to be a people for Himself, which was symbolized by the redemption of every firstborn by blood (Ex 4:22-23). Many saw a suffering lamb, but few appreciated the suffering Lamb of God who was taking away the sin of the world.

And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. (John 19:17)

The weight of the cross that day must have been enormous, but far greater than this was the weight of our sin that He bore (1 Pet. 2:24).

And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. (John 19:37)

As the hard hammer came down on those rough nails, the pain from the piercing of the nails had to be excruciating; but far greater than this were mankind’s hard-hearted words against the loving heart of the Son of God (Luke 23:35).

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34)

When all His disciples forsook Him and fled, it must have brought sorrow to the Lord’s heart; but this was nothing to compare with the hours of darkness where He was separated from His God on account of our sin. None could go through that valley of death with Him. None could know the depth of that suffering and separation which He endured.

Lord, kindle within me a renewed appreciation for Your incarnation, humiliation, consecration, sufferings and crucifixion, and yes, Your exaltation in resurrection, and redemption.

110. Three Mountains in Hebrews 12

Friday, March 13th, 2015

I thought I would share with you my contemplation of three mountains in Hebrews 12:18-24.

In this passage, we note two mountains representing concepts of tremendous significance: Mount Sinai, and Mount Zion. Mount Sinai represents law and the old covenant. Mount Zion represents grace through a new and better covenant.

You will remember the experience of the children of Israel when they first received the law at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses went up into the fiery mountain and received the law and the two tablets of stone from God. When he came back down from the mountain, the people were already breaking the very commandments they had just promised to keep, resulting in fearful judgment (Exodus 24; 32). With the intercession of Moses, the nation was spared (Ex. 32:11-14).

But where is Mount Zion, and what happened there? In the Old Testament, the term “Zion” is linked with Jerusalem, the city of David. Many times it is linked with victory, glory, and divine presence and favor. Hebrews 12:22, the term Mount Zion symbolizes the location of “the heavenly Jerusalem.” This is the place God has promised to bless. This is the place to which God’s Lamb will return, and this is the place where the King of kings will reign in all His glory in a future day. The Hebrew writer links it with the church’s position of grace, in contrast to Mt. Sinai’s law.

The contrast in Hebrews 12 is clear, and the physical contrast brings out some spiritual differences between law and grace. Let’s consider them briefly.

At Mount Sinai, we read “Moses exceedingly feared.” It was a place of dread, a fearful place. There was an all-consuming fire, the symbol of the awesome holiness of the God of the universe, a God who must judge sin. A whirlwind and violent earthquake shook the mountain, showing the tremendous power of the unapproachable, unseen God.  A holy God must have holy requirements: thus, at Sinai, duty was demanded. The law brought fear, because it displayed a holy God who required absolute holiness in His people, a holiness which they could not live up to. The character of God was in stark contrast to a sinful people. Lightning flashed, and thunder rolled as God spoke from the mount. The mountain was shrouded in darkness: God was hidden from human view, and death was declared with the blast of a trumpet for any man or beast that would even touch the mountain where God came to meet with one man, Moses. When God commenced to speak to the people, they could not bear to hear the words of such a holy God and cried to Moses for him to speak to God on their behalf.

Come now to Mount Zion, the mountain of grace. What a contrast! If at Mt. Sinai, there was fear and dread, at Mt. Zion we find peace, for Jerusalem means city/foundation/possession of peace. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 8:1). If Sinai brought darkness, exposing the sin of the people, and obscuring God from mankind, at Mount Zion we find light, and access to the very throne room of God (Rev. 21:23). “Now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). “We have boldness and access with confidence” (Eph 3:12). If Sinai displayed the all-consuming fire of God’s holiness and the warning of certain death, Mount Zion displays the all-sufficient cleansing of the water of the Word and the blood of God’s Lamb. If Sinai shook with the power of an omnipotent God as if it could fall at any moment under the Almighty, Zion stands in an unshakable, eternal kingdom. If at Sinai the people were bound by duty to keep the whole law, or die, at Zion there is rest in the all-sufficiency of the work of Christ to cleanse from all sin, bringing eternal life to the thirsty soul (Rev. 21:4). Finally, if at Mount Sinai the people could not bear to hear the words of God, at Mount Zion, the very Word of God dwells with men (Rev 21:3). He spoke and said, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” He speaks the words of eternal life. To receive His word is to receive life, and in place of a whirlwind of divine fury, we receive, within, the Spirit of God in all of His transforming power.

Two mountains. Two stark contrasts. “But,” you say, “you spoke of three mountains.” And that I did. For without the third mountain, we would have no way of getting from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. The valley is too deep. The passage is impossible. We need Mount Calvary.

Was Calvary truly a mountain? Christ was crucified outside of Jerusalem, and we have already considered Jerusalem as being located on Mount Zion, so I think the term is appropriate. It is the mountain of divine provision and substitution, where Abraham gave up his only son to God and God provided a substitute for his Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It is the mountain of divine sacrifice, where David offered to God a sacrifice to put away the plague of sin (2 Chronicles 3:1). It is the mountain of the divine presence, where Solomon built a sanctuary in which the LORD dwelt (2 Chronicles 3:1).  (More on that here.)

Mount Calvary takes us from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. It is the bridge between sinful mankind and a holy God. At Mount Calvary we find the answer to man’s problem that he has had ever since Adam’s fall: the problem of his sin.

Calvary’s dread purchased our peace (Luke 22:44). Calvary’s fire purchased our healing (Lam 1:13; John 19:28; Isaiah 53:5-6). Calvary’s dark separation purchased our union to God, bringing us into His marvelous light (Psalm 22:1-2; Mark 15:33-34; 1 Peter 2:9). At Christ’s death, the earth shook and the rocks were split (Matt 27:51) as the Author of Life went into death to take our place and offer us life. Calvary’s duty purchased our deliverance from the bondage of sin and provided eternal rest (John 19:30; Titus 3:5; Heb 4:10). We hear unforgettable words from Mount Calvary: words of distance–“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”– and words of grace, “Father, forgive them.” Yes, Mount Calvary transports us from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. This Mediator had the power to deliver us from judgment (Heb 12:24). What grace! What love!

The character of our God has not changed. He is still a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). But thank God, by His infinite grace the veil separating us from God was rent at the cross. We can now enter into a relationship with Him in which we are enabled to serve Him acceptably, not now out of duty, but out of devotion as our hearts overflow in love to the Savior who did so much for us.

Have you arrived at Mount Zion? Have you been to Mount Calvary? Sinai’s terror is the lot of all those who reject the Savior and refuse to hear His voice. Mount Zion’s rest is the bliss of all those who bow to Him as Lord and accept Him as their own Savior. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).

All things to me

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

I was enjoying these thoughts again from June 24, 2012 and thought I would share.

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The more we find out about ourselves and others, the more we will see how imperfect and flawed we are. The more we find out about Christ, the more we will appreciate His perfection and sufficiency.

Ps. 62:6 – He is all my SALVATION

He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.

Ps. 87:7 – He is all my SATISFACTION

Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, “All my springs of joy are in you.”  (NASB)

Phil. 4:13 – He is all my STRENGTH

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Phil. 4:19 – He is all my SUPPLY

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

2Cor. 9:8 – He is all my SUFFICIENCY

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: