John 3:31-36 – Considering Christ

Jesus 6th century mosaic
A 6th-Century Byzantine mosaic of Jesus

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)

When Jesus ascended to heaven, he left instructions to his disciples to pray and to witness (Acts 1:1-11). Jesus only asks of us what he himself does or has already done. The life and ministry of Christ on this earth was marked continually with prayer and bearing witness. Just as Jesus Christ bore witness to what he saw and heard as the Divine Word, so his followers are to do likewise. The evidence and the veracity of Christ’s witness is the giving of God’s Spirit – the One whom confirms this testimony to us.

I, personally, have found Jesus to be precisely whom he claims to be. I have come to accept his testimony as gracious, truthful, and life-giving. I have wholeheartedly embraced the New Testament Gospel accounts of his birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension. This belief came neither quickly nor easily for me – it resulted from an honest straightforward reading of the Bible; and, the wooing of the Holy Spirit.

It really isn’t my job to convince you of Jesus Christ’s authenticity and trustworthiness. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, it is my task to bear witness of the things I have seen and heard concerning Jesus. My life has been thoroughly turned upside-down because of Jesus. With Jesus, I have been invited into the life of God. By the wounds of Jesus, I have experienced healing of damaged emotions and recovery from spiritual hurts inflicted by others. Through union with Christ, I have grace and forgiveness of things I have done and left undone. With Jesus as my Friend, I enjoy loving attention and am never dismissed by him.

For those who have not read the Gospel accounts and refuse Christ, then, for honesty’s sake, please have the integrity to give Jesus a hearing before you dismiss him with a slight of hand. It is one thing to genuinely not know much about Jesus, and it is quite another thing to ignore him when you have knowledge about how to find out about him.

For those of us who have read the New Testament Gospels and accept the testimony of Jesus, we come back again and again to his life-giving words and seek continually to follow him in his way of mercy, purity, and peace. We bear witness to how Jesus has changed our lives and offers a life worth living.

Everyone with faith in Jesus has a life-giving connection with God.  Those who don’t, don’t. If you disagree with this, then contend with Jesus himself. Give him a hearing. Watch him in action.  Observe how he deals with people. See if he lives up to his words. Then, bear witness to what you have seen and heard.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, I pray to you, the God and Father of all:

For empowerment by the Spirit, that I may be a faithful witness

For those who wait on You, that they may find renewal

For all people, that they may acknowledge the kingdom of the ascended Christ

For all who are struggling with broken relationships

I commend myself and all for whom I pray, to Your mercy and protection through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Luke 16:19-31

            Everyone looks for a miracle at some point in life, especially for family.  When we see relatives walking far from God or siblings living without much thought to the Jesus way, it can be disconcerting.  We may reason that if they could just experience or see some great miracle occur, then they will surely believe and embrace Christ. 
 
            Yet, Jesus’ parable to us of the rich man and Lazarus graphically depicts an important message:  God has already revealed himself to humanity through Moses and the Prophets (that is, the Old Testament).  If people are not convinced by what already exists and is, they will not respond when the miraculous slaps them in the face.
 
            Maybe we too often look for the dramatic because the mundane typically rules the day.  Perhaps what we are looking for is already present in God’s revelation to us.  It could be that the greatest task we have is not to beg for a miracle (even though there is nothing wrong with that!) but first to be quiet and listen to the Spirit of God speak through the Word of God so that our prayers to God arise in God’s way and God’s time.
 

 

            Mighty God, you have done miraculous things.  Help me to see what you have already done, and teach me to listen so that your revelation becomes alive to me.  Holy Spirit, impress the redemptive event of Christ’s resurrection on the hearts of all who do not know you in order that they might know your grace.  Amen.

Mark 3:13-19

            Jesus calling the original twelve disciples may, at first glance, seem like a bore.  Yet, like everything our Lord did, Jesus acted with grace and sensitivity to the Father.  This list of names of the people Jesus would spend the next three years with is nothing less than a motley crew of disparate individuals who have nothing in common other than being Galilean Jews.  For example, putting Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot together on the same team would be akin to having Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s Bill Maher paired-up for a three year task force on political action; having James and Judas Iscariot linked in a small group is not much different than thrusting Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi in the same group.
             If we were to judge Jesus on his team building skills based upon contemporary conventional wisdom, this would be a disaster.  The issue would not only be that it is unlikely that they could ever work together, but also that it would create a potentially explosive situation where they might literally ring each others’ necks.  Yet, it was this crazy lot of men that ended up turning the world upside-down after Christ’s resurrection and ascension.
             Jesus knew what he was doing.  The glue that held them together was the person of Jesus himself.  And today’s church must be knit together not on the basis of shared politics, the same ideas of how things should go, or even around who the pastor is.  No, the church is and ought to be centered completely in the person and work of Jesus.  When individuals and churches explode or implode it is because Jesus has ceased to be both the subject and object of worship and ministry.  It is to Christ we must continually look to in order to work together and experience genuine life change as Christians.
             Father, Son, and Spirit, Blessed Holy Trinity, the God whom I serve, may my life totally revolve around you, especially the person and work of Jesus.  Help me to put aside my personal agenda so that I might clearly understand your will for me.  Amen.

John 1:29-34

            In a world where people do whatever seems best and feels right to them personally; on an earth where the environment and people are viewed as commodities to be used, abused, and/or manipulated for personal gain; in a place where sin is rampant and seems to run amok as if it’s ubiquity is a hopeless constant; into this world enters John the Baptist.  His message speaks to the sin of the age:  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
 
            Jesus has come on the scene to tackle this sin issue once for all.  This is truly good news!  I must admit, and perhaps you will confess with me, that we sometimes get quite discouraged with the way things are.  As a pastor I am in the business of constantly dealing with sin issues.  Not only do I interact and shepherd people who traffic in sin, try to manage sin, ignore sin, or genuinely seek to face sin down, but I myself must deal with the presence of indwelling sin in the shadowy places of my own heart.  I suspect that you, too, must engage co-workers, family members, neighbors, and others on a daily basis for whom sin is an ever-present reality while monitoring your own responses to hard hearts and difficult situations.  It can be exhausting!
 
            Yet, since Jesus has come on the scene and has lived a holy life, taught us how to do the same, was crucified, died, rose again, and ascended, the pioneer of our salvation has set us up for success.  We can take courage, joy, and even rest in the gracious sacrificial Lamb who has dealt a death blow to sin’s power.  Jesus Christ always has the last word.
            O blessed heavenly Father, thank you for sending the Son, the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world.  Help me to walk in this reality every day, so that I might face down sin in my life, and gently assist others to do the same.  Amen.