In His Time

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”

Galatians 4:4-5

Like many phrases in the Bible the first few words of this passage have been adopted by some into their regular speech. The “fullness of time” means at the right time. It was God who declared the time right. The people involved had no foreknowledge and it was unexpected on their part. Neither Mary nor Joseph had any warning.

The reason Jesus came is stated for us here. His mission was to buy back that which Adam had given away to Satan. The price was the Son of God crucified. The law could not redeem people and neither could any person redeem themselves or anyone else because all were born in sin and have sinned. All that the law can do is reveal people’s condemned state. It would take incarnate deity to pay the price for our sin; One without the sin disposition and who has never sinned. At its root sin is rebellion against God: “I want to do it my way, not His way.”

On the cross Jesus not only delivered us from justifiable punishment but in His resurrection He gave us a new position that we could never attain ourselves. An adopted son is equal with a biological son concerning inheritance. In Christ’s death and resurrection He has taken away the penalty for sin and also the very root of sin and placed us as sons with Christ to share in His inheritance.

Only as we have the same nature as God can we commune and coexist with Him. Jesus accomplished that for us and that is the Gift of God to undeserving sinners. The magi from the east brought gifts to Jesus in worship and thanksgiving. Everyone who has truly trusted Christ will be thankful to God. Paul writes that it is therefore reasonable that we should present ourselves as a living sacrifice in thankfulness, and as an act of worship, for His unspeakable gift (Romans 12:1).

The times are in His hands and at the right time He will again invade the earthly realm and assume His rightful place as KING of kings and LORD of Lords. Then, and only then, there will be: Peace on earth and goodwill toward men. May you experience a very happy and blessed Christmas with joy that endures all year.

Choose Life

“We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God”

John 19:7

There are some who say that Jesus never claimed deity – but that is not what the religious leaders in Israel at the time understood. There are a number of occasions when they believed Jesus was claiming deity for Himself and each time they sought how they might put Him to death (e.g. John 5:18; 7:29-30, 32, 44; 8:58-59; 11:49-53). At no time did Jesus try and correct them which confirms their understanding of what He was saying. Some have claimed that “Son of God” is not equal to being God but if that were so, the response of the chief priests would make no sense. They clearly understood that only deity could be the Son of God.

Under the law, anyone falsely claiming deity was to be put to death – so Jesus would be very foolish to falsely claim deity. Ultimately this was the only true accusation that they could make against Jesus. What they, and many since, have not grasped is that He is God in flesh (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-4), an essential fact in redemption.

Each time Jesus was asked if He was the Messiah or Son of God He affirmed that He was (e.g. John 9:25; 18:37). Throughout His ministry He provoked, through His words and miracles, people to query who He is. This was repeated several times in regard to the Sabbath.

In John chapter 19 it is interesting to observe the banter between the chief priests and Pilate on this question. Pilate referred to Jesus as “the Man” and the chief priests said that Jesus claimed to be “the Son of God” making Himself equal with God. The Jews then demanded His death by crucifixion. Pilate, knowing he was trapped showed his hatred for the Jews by calling Jesus, “your King.” This he also put on the cross in three languages (v 20) to publicly humiliate the Jews and yet unwittingly declare the truth. In the exchange the chief priests uttered their final renunciation of Jesus demanding His death by crucifixion (v 15). We live in a world that is rejecting Jesus’ words and thereby rejecting Him. We are observing a rapid rising of opposition to that which Jesus taught and attempts to silence His word through laws befitting the spirit of antichrist. Nations and people who reject Jesus and His word, and refuse to accept His love-gift of salvation will be judged by His word and rejected by Him (John 3:16-18, 36; 1 John 5:11-12).

Choose life; choose Jesus.

The Root of the Problem

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

1 John 5:12

There are many species of plant that will regrow from the base even if all growth above ground is removed. Unless the root is put to death the plant will simply regrow. For many plants that is an advantage utilised by gardeners but it is a problem when we want the plant dead. The growth above ground is the expression of the life below. We may remove the above ground expression of that life but that will not kill the root.

It is the same with sin. Acts of sin are an expression of the root nature of sin. They are the symptoms of the root of sin. Unfortunately the world is often occupied with trying to remove the symptoms of sin without destroying the root. Various ideological and religious groups are trying to impose their view of utopia on others by education, intimidation or by force. However, none deal with the root cause and they wonder why they are not succeeding.

The media has its ideology which for the most part is of the spirit of antichrist. Part of the problem is that most people only consider the symptoms. Many Christians, both nominal and true, continue to express the symptoms of sin in grievous ways. The way that some deal with the symptoms of sin is to suppress acts of sin by force, or deny sin’s existence. Others believe that we can change people’s hearts through education.

The fact is that only Jesus can deal with the root of sin. John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). On the cross, Jesus didn’t just take away the symptoms of sin; He took away the root as well. John expresses this in his first letter. “If we say we have no sin [the root], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [the symptoms] He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins [the symptoms] and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [the root] (1 John 8-9).

The uproar in the media over a particular tweet on social media is in regard to people who express certain symptoms of sin not being worthy of heaven. The debate misses the point entirely. None of us are fit for heaven until sin is destroyed at its root. Jesus alone can put the root to death. If the root is not dead the symptoms will reappear. John writes that only those who have Christ have put to death the root (1 John 5:12).

Our View of God Challenged

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

Job 2:10

Job had lost all his possessions. His ten children had been murdered. While in this destitute state he also had his health taken from him. His view of God was challenged to its core even further when his wife abandoned any notion that God was good or loved him and told him to “curse God and die.”

It is not uncommon to hear unbelievers challenge the goodness and love of God by pointing to the many tragedies and the horrendous suffering occurring around the world. We are particularly challenged when it is close to home. The years of severe drought in vast areas of eastern Australia, bush fires and floods in other places have served to bring a lot of pain and suffering to many people. What is particularly overpowering in emotional pain is when crops are near harvest and they are wiped out by flood, fire or frost. Months of hard work, financial expense and high expectations wiped out in a moment. Christians who experience this would have a strong sense of how Job felt.

In such a situation our view of God is severely challenged. We may be inclined to doubt God’s goodness and His love in such times but the remedy and response is readily available when we reflect on the cross of Jesus. John wrote, “By this we know [God’s kind of] love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Job did not understand why he was enduring such pain and loss. His friends made matters even worse and more confusing. But even though he was at a loss as to why he was in this situation he was not at a loss as to the nature of God. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22) and “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:18, 28). God’s aim is to conform us to the image of His Son (v 29). What we experience is the expression of God’s goodness and love to achieve that end even though it may be painful at times.

Following Jesus

“Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men”

Mark 1:17

The Gospels record Jesus calling men to follow Him several times. At times it was just one person being called at other times more than one.

The initial call to follow Jesus is that one may learn who He is and learn His ways but Jesus attached an outcome for those who genuinely followed Him – they would become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). They would reproduce. In order for reproduction to occur several things need to be in the heart of the disciple.

Not everyone will accept Jesus’ terms. Some make excuses (Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62). Some weigh the cost and see it as too high, preferring the riches of this world rather than riches in Christ. The rich young ruler was this kind of man (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22).

The cost of self sacrifice, taking up one’s cross, is too much for many, even many who claim to be followers of Jesus. How can one be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ and not be willing to become a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1)? Jesus willingly went to the cross and died for our sin so how is it possible to refuse to follow His lead to be a living sacrifice and still call ourselves followers of Jesus?

The great commandment is that we love both God and our fellow man (Matthew 22:37-39). The kind of love that we will have when following Jesus is His kind of love described in 1 John 3:16“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” and John 3:16. To refuse to love in this way is a refusal to follow Jesus.

Recorded by all three synoptic Gospel writers are Jesus words, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). That they all recorded this surely means we must accept that this is a water-shed condition of any disciple of Jesus especially if we wish to work with Him in making more disciples (Matthew 28:19).

Many of us want to choose our own place of sacrifice and ask Jesus to come along and bless it but for us to be followers it means discerning the place of sacrifice that He has chosen for us and follow Him there. As Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 12:26).

Don’t be Sorry

“Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me”

1 Samuel 8:7

School children will be well aware that they are now in the final term for the year and that means Christmas is drawing near. They will soon, if they haven’t already, be making a list for parents and grandparents. No parent will give their child that they love a gift that will harm them.

God loves all people and will not give any gift that will bring harm but He sometimes allows people to have what they demand so they can experience the consequences with a view to a change of heart. Those who do not know God in a personal way interpret God’s restrictions as hatred and so they respond to God and His people with hatred. They fail to understand that the commands of God are to lead us into green pastures and keep us from the dead barren desert.

In Ezekiel 18:32 we read, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God.” God has no pleasure in judgment after a person dies (Hebrews 9:27). God has provided the greatest Gift possible in Jesus Christ who takes away our sin by bearing it in Himself. The Lord is not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9). The evidence of this is that Jesus Christ has already borne our sin on the cross.

While some may attest that they want to go to hell to be with their friends, if they had any real idea of hell as described by Jesus (Mark 9:42-48) they would not wish for such a thing. There is only one reason a person will end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 15); they have rejected Jesus as God’s only remedy for sin. They will have what they wanted; existence without Jesus Christ but they will not be at all happy or content.

As with Israel in Samuel’s day, God sometimes gives people what they demand but they will be sorry they rejected Him. There is no way to God except through Jesus because He is the only One who has dealt with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter wrote “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

People who do not know Jesus see God as a harsh dictator out to spoil their fun. In reality He loves them and sets boundaries to protect us in the way a good shepherd does his sheep.

Liberty in Leaving All

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33

This verse is the third reason in this passage that Jesus says prevents one from being His disciple. The first is in verse twenty six where He demands supreme love. Since we are commanded to love our spouse, our parents, our children, other Christians and even our enemies Jesus is surely not saying that we should actually hate them. What He is saying that if we really are a disciple of His our first and greatest love will be easily seen to be Him (cf. Revelation 2:4). An aspect of this love will be to love others as we are often told but it will leave an observer in no doubt that He has the absolute pre-eminence. Anything else is idolatry and rebellion against the first commandment (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 22:37)

The second reason that prevents a person being a disciple of Jesus is that they have other loyalties. Jesus demands supreme loyalty. Anyone who has ambitions of their own has not taken up their “cross.” Taking up one’s cross means to die to one’s own ambitions and will. Not my will but His will is the way of life. It is possible to give the appearance of dying to self without giving loyalty to Jesus. It is cloaked in terms like, “I am doing this for Jesus.” No, you are doing it for the praise of others and the feeling that you are doing good and merit Jesus’ “Well done.” I have heard many testimonies of people who started out this way only to realise later that the Lord was withholding blessing because their motive was wrong.

The third reason why a person may not be a disciple of Jesus is that they are held captive by materialism. The wealth is not the issue but the attachment to it is. Even a relatively poor person can be held captive by material possessions. Jesus came to set the captive free so a disciple is one who is experiencing supreme liberty by not being held captive to temporal possessions or the admiration of others. It is this liberty that makes him free to obey Jesus in any matter. When one knows this liberty in Jesus Christ he will not be held captive to anyone or anything else and is therefore His disciple.

The three excuses for not attending the wedding in the parable preceding this passage (vv 18-20) seem to parallel the three reasons for refusing to be a disciple of Jesus. They all had other priorities that might be considered legitimate and reasonable but they all displaced supreme love and loyalty for Jesus and liberty in Jesus. The things that prevent a person being a disciple may not be evil or wrong in themselves but they become that when they displace Jesus as Lord. We need to be careful that we do not deceive ourselves on any of these points and thereby disqualify ourselves from being a disciple of Jesus. We do want to be profitable servants of his so let us serve with Jesus following His direction and lead and not trying to do something of our choosing for Him.