Archive for February, 2012

Health for the body and soul

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2

While the rest of the world seems to have gone crazy about healthy living and longevity, the church seems to have been absent entirely from this movement. The Hindus boast Yoga, the Buddhist boast Shaolin Kungfu, the Taoists boast Taichi and Qigong, Christians have taken the stand that spiritual health is more important than physical health (1 Timothy 4:8). I’m not saying that we are inferior or that we need to learn from them, but I do feel like something is missing somewhere.

I do know that there are books such as “What would Jesus eat?” or “The Bible Diet” but I have never heard any preacher stand on the pulpit and say that God wants us to eat right, exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps we feel that it would condemn those in the congregation who are more horizontally gifted, or that the congregation will see it as vanity and glorifying the carnal/flesh, or trying to obtain our own version of eternal life – longevity. Afterall, it is no secret that living healthy does extend your life. God is not shy in saying that longevity is much desired and considered a blessing (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalm 91:6; Proverbs 3:1-2).

So what is the problem here? The problem is that our spiritual health is not opposed to our physical health. In fact, the more healthy we get spiritually, the more healthy we desire to get physically and the more we desire longevity. Our spiritual health is complementary to our physical health and in more ways than one. 

1. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health supernaturally

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body 
and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:7-8

He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; 
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty…
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
Job 5:17, 26

By God’s grand design, good health is a supernatural blessing from God. He is the provider of physical health, not just healing, but health and strength. The Old Testament talks about how fearing the Lord and following His commands will reap the benefit of good health (perhaps because some of the Law deals with hygiene). How that works exactly, I don’t know. But the bible says it does – its supernatural. In the New Testament, a Christian knows that Christ has fufilled the Law on our behalf and thus we expect to reap the benefit of health. It is simply a supernatural effect of accepting Christ.

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never get sick, fall ill or die, I said we expect. Meaning, while our attitude is that we expect good health, we do not deceive ourselves; we also understand that our flesh is constantly dying.

2. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health naturally

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (See also Psalm 24:1)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

Lets face it, our bodies are not our own. God has full ownership over our bodies by means of creation and redemption. He even owns the copyright, what we see in the mirror is the image of His body. The more we grow in spiritual health, the more we understand that we are to be good stewards of all that we have, that includes our physical body. We are all familiar with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). We are also familiar with the Parable of the Shrewed Manager (Luke 16:1-9) – who used what he had now to prepare for what is to come. Should we not take care of His image as best we can?

Consider the importance of our life (and it’s longevity), it is the first gift to each individual even before he or she is capable of understanding the gift of eternal life in Christ. The living has hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6) and has the ability to save souls (Luke 16:19-31), the dead on the other hand has neither. God places a very high premium on human life, there is no equal to human life (Leviticus 24:17). Now if life is so important to God and we want to serve Him effectively for all of our days on earth, why are we trying (consciously or unconsciously) to shorten our life with our lifestyle?

The writing is on the wall, if we sow an unhealthy lifestyle, we reap a short life. It is a natural consequence. If we constantly eat foods that are bad for us and refuse to take care of our bodies with exercise and rest, we reap illnesses that will hinder our effectiveness in ministry.

I preach to myself when I say these things because I am as guilty as anyone else for not taking proper care of this great gift from God. Now, I must prove myself faithful to this health and life I have been given.


The hardest question I suppose is what we intend to do about it. Here are 3 things that we can do right now:

  1. Eat right (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  2. Exercise moderately (Proverbs 31:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  3. Rest well (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 6:32; John 4:5-6)
  4. Do it all with someone else (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

If it is difficult to get started, get someone to go along with you. If you have difficulty getting someone started, ask them to go along with you. My father is a very wise man, when he wants my mum to get some exercise, he doesn’t scream at her to go walking, he says, “I’m going for a stroll, come with me please?” and he makes it an enjoyable experience by holding her hand, walking around nice places, sometimes even buying a little snack that they can eat when they’ve finished their stroll. Works everytime.

Read also:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charlotte-hilton-andersen/when-religion-and-exercis_b_157714.html

Of confidence and asking

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Scripture

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
1 John 3:21-22

 Observation

  • “Dear friends” (2:7, 3:2, 21) is a change from “Dear children” which was used in previous verses (2:1, 12, 14, 18, 28, 3:7, 18)
    • “Dear children” is a common expression used by teachers to call disciples “children”
    • “Dear friends” seems to be used interchangably with “Dear children”; however, the meaning is different, the word agapētos (ἀγαπητός, meaning beloved, esteemed, dear, favourite, worthy of love) is better translated as “Beloved” (NET), it is a reminder that they are loved, they are not rejected by the author or by God
  • “if our hearts do not condemn us” this is the premise that has been established previously – that our hearts have no right to condemn us; since God doesn’t, our hearts can’t
  • “we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask”, the effect/benefit of having this confidence before God is that we “receive from him anything we ask” (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14); note that “before him” in 1 John 2:28 is spoken in future terms of Christ second coming, but it seems here to be a present thing
  • “because we obey his commands and do what pleases him”, because is the causal link to the receiving above
    • “obey his commands”, another recurring theme of obeying Him from 1 John 2:1, 3-5 (which is written from a more negative point of view – to not sin by hating your fellow Christian);
    • “do what pleases him”, the following theme from 1 John 3:7 (written from a positive point of view – to do the things that please Him by laying down our lives for our fellow Christian)

Building on the instruction “to lay down our lives” for our fellow Christians, the author points out that doing so, we will be sure of our belonging to God and be confident of our standing before God because we don’t condemn ourselves. The benefits of not condemning ourselves and standing confidently before God is that we “receive from him anything we ask”. This is because we seek not to grieve God and seek to please Him – the fight on two levels.

Even though it seems like the author is advocating for faith by works, it clearly is not. The author writes this letter to combat the Gnostic teachings of the time, which was gaining popularity; knowing that this letter sounds harsh, He reminds the reader right at the start that God is ready to forgive our sin (1 John 1:8-2:2) and then in the middle, He reminds the reader again that God lavshly pours love on them as His children (1 John 3:1) and at the end, states that the reason He writes this is that the reader can be confident of having eternal life (1 John 5:13).   

The key to understanding the paradox (of faith and works) is in this 1 John 2:8 “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” The dichotomy of the Christian life is that the darkness in us is passing and the true light in us is already shining – two seperate things happening in us at the same time. While we are saved, we are not prefect yet, but we are being perfected. It is the process of becoming Christ-like (1 John 2:6) while being plagued by our carnal desires. Part of the process as outlined in 1 John is dying to sin and loving others, what underscores all that is beliving in the incarnate yet divine Christ.

Application

Ask for anything. When I hear that, it seems almost impossible. How could I possibly ask for anything?! Yet that is what it says. Anything literally means anything.

Prayer

Father, I come before you with a humble and grateful heart because I know that I still do sin and yet you still forgive. Daily I ask that you would forgive me. I come before you with confidence, knowing that my advocate is Christ Jesus. Grant me the boldness to be frank with you. I seek not to be my own Saviour but to obey you and follow your ways because I love you. I seek not to take your grace for granted but to have my faith worked out in my life. I want to be just like Jesus in all that I think, say and do.

Amen.

Of truth and hearts

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Scripture

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:19-20

Observation

  • “This then” refers to loving practically by using our material possessions to meet a fellow Christian’s lack (v19)
  • “is how we know that we belong to the truth” it is the evidence of the truth in us, to love in truth is to belong to the truth; this connects that which we belong to (to belong to the truth) and that which flows out from us (to love in truth, v18) (v19)
    • We know of only one objective truth, Jesus Christ (John 1:17, 8:32, 14:6), it would be correct to say that we belong to the truth and that the truth flows out from us (John 4:24, 16:13)
  • “how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” it is how we are confident of our standing before Christ
    • A better translation would be “will convince our conscience in his presence” (NET); meaning our conscience will be clear before Christ, we can be assured of our position in His presence
  • “whenever our hearts condemn us” from this we know that our own conscience is able to condemn us – we can be prisoners of our own guilt and shame
  • “For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” this almost needs no explanation
    • A Christian needs nothing to be above God; when we elevate our own conscience above God as our judge, we have belittled God. We must at all times remember that God is greater than our hearts/conscience, He is the ultimate Judge
    • There is nothing that we can hide from Him that we should feel guilty or ashamed about

Here the writer outlines some practical and spiritual reasons to love practically – to combat our own guilty conscience. When we love practically, using our material possessions to meet fellow Christian’s lack, we are confident of our belonging. With this, we are assured of our standing before Christ. When our own conscience throws guilt and shame at us, we can remind ourselves of 3 things:

  1. That we have loved in truth and thus belong to the truth, in that we can confidently stand before God
  2. That God is bigger than our conscience, we should never let our conscience be bigger than God. Since God doesn’t condemn us, our conscience has no right to
  3. God already knows everything there is to know, so there is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about; in fact, He already knows that we feel bad about what we’ve done

Application

I have no right to feel guilty trip or shame myself about anything that I’ve done, God is my Judge, not my conscience. He is a graceful and all-knowing Judge, I can always approach Him knowing that He will forgive (and already has forgiven).

I can assure myself of my standing before Christ by loving others practically – since it is the evidence of my salvation and standing.

Prayer

Father, I thank you that you are a merciful and graceful Judge. I thank you that you have made a way for us to know for sure that we can rest in your presence and we need not condemn ourselves. Thank you for freeing us from our own conscience and our own guilt and shame. There is freedom in You. Help us to love practically everyday, and more and more as we walk with You.

Amen.

Of possessions and need

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Scripture

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18

Observation

  • “If anyone has material possessions”, the author makes no exclusions in this message since everyone has some sort of material possession (v17)
  • “sees his brother in need but has no pity on him”, here brother is better translated as “fellow Christian” (NET) as a general term for any genuine Christian who is in the community (v17)
    • The use of the word “pity” isn’t quite correct, I find other translations more helpful – “closes his heart” (ESV) or “shuts off his compassion” (NET); that paints a much stronger picture of what goes on in our hearts, it is an intentional deadening of our compassion
  • “how can the love of God be in him?”, an obviously rhetorical question to which the answer is clear to the author – the love of God simply cannot be in such a person (v17)
  • “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” an exaltation for all his disciples whom he calls “children” (v18)
    • “actions” or “deeds” (ESV/NET) gives the idea of actual work; the direct opposite of not working or simply speaking
    • “in truth” seems like a strange thing to say here, but if you connect the sentence together, it makes sense to “love… in truth”; the author exalts us to love with a genuine love (Romans 12:9)

The implications here are extremely strong. John says that the love of God cannot be in a person who does not love with his actions by sharing / giving of his own material possession to a fellow Christian who has a need. Such a person is described in v15 as a “murderer” who “hates his brother” and has “no… eternal life in him.” That makes it absolutely impossible for us to receive the love of God and not give of ourselves to love others. Love that doesn’t move a person to action is not genuine love at all, it is non-committal, false, superficial love.

In context, the author says that if God has loved you to the extent of giving His own life, you should also give your own life to others. This is done practically by filling a fellow Christian’s lack with your much. It is impossible for a person who has the love of God to not do so. It requires an intentional shutting off of our heart to do so.

Application

My father always told me “talk is cheap”. This is exactly what my father meant. Love that does not act on a fellow Christian’s need it is not love at all.

Prayer

Father, give me a heart like yours. Let me look at how you gave and how much you gave and follow your lead. I admit that it is easy to cling on to possessions, help me to hold on tightly to you and loosely to the blessings you abundantly pour on us.

Amen.

Mantle 2012

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

 

2012 for me is a year of new places with old things.

Mantle is kinda like that for me.

Mantle is a mens discipleship group in my church (Centrepoint Church) that meets every Tuesday night for 2 hours. Sitting under the teaching of our Senior Pastor, we 12 men are privileged to receive discipleship directly from him. The demands include our attendance at every session, daily bible reading, praying in tongues everyday, weekly memory verses and a daily journal (which is on this blog; that explains why the blog entries have all been journals).

What new places will this old faith take me to?

2012 will tell.


It seems that my dear wife is on the same journey with me. She has started a dance class and art (drawing) class, old art forms that she is familiar with, to take her to new places. So far, its taken up our Monday nights and Saturday mornings, but we’re enjoying it. I enjoy giving her the freedom she needs to explore her gifts and talents and she enjoys exploring them.

Social gospel

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Scripture

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 3:16

Observation

  • In John 3:16, the extent of God’s love is magnified in the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ’s life for us.
  • In 1 John 3:16, we come to understand love by receiving Christ’s love  and act of love. His love is our definition of love. This act was entirely of His own will.
  • It goes one step further to say that the practical implications of Christ’s love for us and His act of love is that we are to show this same love for our brothers with the same act of love.
  • Our love for others is to be of the same nature. The extent of His love is also the extent of our love, the extent of His actions is also the extent of our actions.
    • Our love is to be voluntary, not forced or under compulsion
    • It calls us to give of our entire life, not just part of it
    • It is to our fellow Christians (NET) – yes, even the weird ones

Application

I desire to love other Christians with all my life voluntarily, not just because God said I should, but with my own will.

Prayer

Father, give me a greater love for others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ. I admit that sometimes it is very difficult, but I know that your love empowers me. Help me to look at the cross always and be reminded of your great love for me!

Amen.

Of evidence and belief

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Scripture

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
John 10:37-39

Observation

Context

  • Jesus was being challenged in the Temple courts by the Jewish authorities to publicly state His position about His divinity
  • This is Jesus’ final extension of grace towards His opposition before the cross, to help them understand that He is the Messiah
  • The tension is high and Jesus has been charged with blasphemy and they had wanted to stone Him there and then
  • Jesus even at the risk of being stoned to death isn’t afraid to extend grace to them and defend His case

Passage

  • “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it”, Jesus seems to identify with the Jewish leaders for a short time and says “if i don’t do what the Father does, then don’t believe me”
  • “But if I do, even though you do not believe me, believe the works” Jesus is not asking them to believe in Him, He is going for a smaller ask Jesus says at least believe the evidence and see if those are from the Father
    • Jesus points to the His deeds and miracles as evidence
    • You would think that the Jewish leaders would have at least considered His miracles after interviewing the blind man in John 9
  • “that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” His deeds undeniably point to the Father
    • Jesus’ end goal of saying all this is that they would “know and understand”; knowledge was not sufficient, they had to understand (and in some translations: believe)
    • Jesus wasn’t a sales man of any sort, He didn’t try to confuse or con them; when they didn’t understand, He clarified and explained. When the Jews had the wrong idea of Him as a political Messiah, He corrected them. He stuck to the straight and narrow – to convince them. That was His goal the whole time.
  • “Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.” this wasn’t the first time they tried to seize Him (John 7:30, 44)

Even with His opponents holding stones in their hands and ready to pounce in Him, Jesus is still calm and graceful. He exerts His grace upon them by allowing them to consider His works, in a hope that they would believe. Yet, the Pharisees’ hearts were stubborn.

Application

Our actions speak where our words don’t. When we are faced with opposition and our words mean little, our actions mean much.

What is the end goal of our deeds? Is it that others may know and believe? Is it God glorifying?

Prayer

Father, I want hands that show your glory. I want hands that cause people to believe. I want hands that silence the opposition. But so often I am selfish in my ways, I repent of that today and ask for your forgiveness. I lean on your Word to transform my heart and hands.

Amen.

Of gods and God

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Scripture

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?
John 10:34-36

Observation

Context

  • The tension is high in this final passage where Jesus speaks to the Jewish religious leaders to persuade them to believe in Him after He is cornered at in the Temple courts and challenged by them
  • Jesus has just questioned the Jewish religious leaders about the charge that they are stoning Him for
  • Even in questioning them, He gracefully tried to help them see the errors in their reasoning
  • Here Jesus answers to the charge of blasphemy and pleads His case

Passage

  • “Is it not written in your Law” the verse that follows is from Psalm 82:6 (v34)
    • The Psalm is technically not a book of Law and does not feature in the Torah, however there have been times where law was used to mean OT books (John 12:34 and 15:25 are similar cases)
  • “‘I have said you are gods’”, Psalm 82 is about God exalting judges not to “judge unjustly” (Psalm 82:2) and “give justice to the weak and the Fatherless” (Psalm 82:3) (v34)
    • gods here  (and Psalm 82:1) are used to describe the Jewish leaders who judge according to the OT Law
    • Psalm 82 reminds the judges that God is the ultimate Judge and as judges, they too are men and will one day die and face judgement before God, therefore judge justly
  • “If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came”, the word of God (here refers to the OT Law) is administered by the Jewish authorities, so it is said that it came to them (v35)
    • Jesus is saying, “if you judges who are mere men are called gods”
  • “and the Scripture cannot be broken”, what is written in the Scriptures cannot be “broken” meaning changed or altered, therefore what is said in Psalm 82:6 about judging justly cannot be changed or altered (v35)
    • Jesus says here, “and what is written stays true”
  • “what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?”, a comparison is made between the judges and God’s son (v36)
    • Here Jesus makes a point that God’s son is more special than any judge who is a mere man, He is “set apart” by the Father, and is His “very own” and is “sent into the world”
    • This is the logic: If a small fry like a man can be called God, surely God’s son can also be called God
  • “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”, that exactly is Jesus’ claim – to be God’s son (v36)
    • We start to see the development of His case when we put it together – “If you judges who are mere men are called gods and what is written stays true, then I can claim myself to be God’s son and be called God as well!”
    • He is argument is that if the judges who were men can be called God, then His claim to be God (as God’s son) isn’t blasphemy, if not, the judges themselves would be blaspheming as well (or the word of God would be).

Very quickly we see how the Jewish religious leaders have double standards. They would allow themselves to be called gods and not be blaspheming, but once anyone calls themselves god, they scream out “blasphemy”! But they are both mere men, yet the Jewish leaders elevate themselves over others with the Law rather than use the Law to provide justice and protection.

Application

Do I have double standards? Do I look at people one way and myself another, just because I think know God (more)?

Prayer

Father, help me to see through your eyes and feel through your heart. I want to see the injustice that happens around me and bring justice to them. Let me first see the plank in my own eye before pointing out the splint in other’s eyes. Let me first apply your Word to my life and not use it on others. At the same time, give me wisdom and courage to speak the truth in love to myself and to others. Father, where I lack, would you transform me.

Amen.

Of works and judgement

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Scripture

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
John 10:31-33

Observation

Context

  • Jesus is giving His final speech to sway the Pharisees to believe in Him
  • In this final discourse, He has spoken unreservedly about His divine identity as God and Messiah
  • The tension between the Jewish leaders and Jesus is at the critical point, Jesus has done all He could to show and tell them about Himself and His mission, they however simply could not see and understand the truth

Passage

  • “Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him”, this isn’t the first time they’ve tried that (John 8:59) (v31)
    • Even after Jesus has taught them something about themselves and the Law – that in the eyes of the Law they have all been guilty of sin and deserve it’s wages (John 8:7), they are stubbornly quick to judge
  • “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”, the fact remains that Jesus is faultless in word and deed (v32)
    • His works are no doubt good! He has healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk, multiplied food and raised the dead. These are not normal charitable deeds, these are morally excellent and miraculous deeds
    • Jesus as always is trying to get the Pharisees to see how their own logic does not make sense. In essense, Jesus says, “Look at my good works and hear my words, since you say that a sinner and demon-possessed cannot perform these things then consider what is the only last reasonable explanation?”
    • At this critical point, Jesus is still trying to save the Pharisees!
    • If someone is to be stoned, there was to be a charge, a trial (with testimonies from witnesses) and a sentencing, however at this point, there was none of that! So Jesus ask, what has He done to deserve stoning?
  • “We are not stoning you for any good work”, the Pharisees do not fault His work (v33)
    • It would seem that they acknowledge His work, in all that Jesus has done, He is faultless
  • “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” the Pharisees finally lay down their charge (v33)
    • They were somehow not able to connect Jesus’ deeds with His words, and it is a shame because His deeds prove His words
    • Blasphemy is a serious charge and punishable by stoning (Leviticus 24:13-23), the way the Pharisees it, Jesus has made a fool of God by bringing God down to His level as a man
    • Little do they know (or believe) that the truth is right before their eyes! What they think to be blasphemy is God’s redemption plan for the world
    • In the end, the Pharisees stubbornly judged no different from what they began with even after seeing His works and hearing His authoritative teaching (John 7:47-48, they didn’t even entertain the possibility that he could be a prophet); in all of Jesus’ efforts, they (John 7:50, all but one) have not moved an inch to even consider otherwise

Application

If the charge of being a Christian is put before me, what “good works” have I got as evidence of my faith? Are they just simply charitable deeds or undoubtably “from the Father”? If anyone charges me as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to be undeniably guilty in both word and deed!

Has my idea of Jesus Christ changed over the years or have I stagnated like the Pharisees have? Do I now see a more glorious, more powerful, more loving God than when I was first saved? Perhaps it is time to evaluate my mindset about God in the light of all the “good works” that He has done in my life.  

Prayer

Father, I want to be good in both word and deed. I want that quality of yours so that the world can see and know that I too am “from the Father”. I know that you do not change, but my small mind cannot conceive how good are and how glorious you are. Open my eyes to the work that you do in my life. Help me to see more of you everyday. Help me to have a bigger picture of you everyday.

Amen.

Of election and predestination

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Scripture

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:25-30

Observation

Context

  • Jesus, walking along Solomon’s Colonnade during the Feast of Dedication is speaking to the Jewish leaders who have come out to question Him and push Him to make a public statement about His claims
  • This would be the last effort Jesus makes toward the unbelieving Jewish leaders before His crucifixion
  • Every discourse Jesus has with the Jews and Jewish leaders have ended with hostility and division:
    • The hostility that Jesus has met with are attempts to challenge him (John 8:13), seize Him (John 7:30, 44, ) or stone Him (John 8:59)
    • The people are divided about who Jesus is, many believing (John 7:41), just as many unbelieving (John 7:20) and perhaps even more believing with preconceived ideas of the Messiah (John 8:31-32)
  • The cummulated hostility and questions have brought the tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders to it’s peak at this point
  • This is the pinnicle of Jesus’ explaining Himself, it does not get any clearer than this
  • So far, Jesus has not scooted around the question of His divinity, He has many times spoken of His connection with God and divine identity (John 8:18, 42, 54) 

Passage

  • “I did tell you, but you do not believe.” Jesus gets right to the heart of the issue (v25)
    • The issue wasn’t ignorance, they were not asking as if they didn’t know. They have been told multiple times before and in a direct manner (John 8:58)
    • They were very familiar with Jesus’ claims but they simply refused to believe.
  • “The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me,” the logic here is this: if you don’t believe my words (John 8:13), at least believe my actions (v25)
    • They have stumbled over this logic multiple times, they have asked themselves “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21) , “How can a sinner perform such signs?” (John 9:16), but their unbelieving minds could not comprehend their own logic
  • “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” Jesus backtracks to the core reason for their unbelief (v26)
    • It is not illogical thinking that has clouded their minds; it isn’t the devil deceiving them; it isn’t their selfish nature that hinders their belief; these things play a part and are obvious on the surface, but right at the core, that is not the reason
    • The core is a matter of election and predestination
  • “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” this verse sums up the whole of John 10:1-18 (v27)
    • This verse perfectly describes our election and calling (“my sheep listen to my voice”) and transformation that takes place in lives in word and deed (“they follow me”)
    • At the heart of all that is “I know them”, a two way relationship that is mirrors God’s own relationship with His Son (John 10:14-15)
    • This is the core of our belief, that God himself initiated our salvation by electing and calling us; the transformation that happens in our lives (in word and deed) is no more than a response to Him that is centered around a relationship with Him
  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”, here He makes perhaps the boldest claim of the last 3 chapters – to give eternal life, something that only God grants (v28)
    • This is a reiteration of the eternal safety of the sheep fold and the eternal providence of pasture, that is life eternal (as opposed to death eternal which is without safety and providence)
    • The word “perish” here obviously does not mean natural death, but eternal death, in the same way that “eternal life” does not mean an eternal natural life
  • “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” this is the most comforting truth about salvation – eternal security in Christ (v28)
    • This is the best support for Calvin’s Perseverence of the Saints (“Once saved, always saved”) in Jesus’ own words, often used by proponents of this theology
    • Our salvation is entirely dependant on God and not on our actions, words or deeds; there is nothing that we (or anyone else) can ever do that would take us out of His hand
  • “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all”, even more, our salvation is hinged on God the Father, who is God in every sense of the word (v29)
    • We need to take this verse as it is, when Jesus says “greater” that is simply what it means, it means God is bigger, stronger, ultimately more powerful, more all knowing than everything
    • As hard as it is to comprehend “greater than all”, we should never take God to mean less than He is; “all” literally means “all”, no less
    • If my salvation is dependent on the one who is “greater than all”, there is only full confidence and no fear
  • “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”, this is a parallel verse to v28 (v29)
    • This verse confirms Jesus’ divinity and one-ness with the Father in the mystery of the Trinity – by implication “my hand” equals “my Father’s hand”
  • “I and the Father are one.” the answer to the Pharisees does not get any clearer, this is the truth about Jesus’ divine identity and the mystery of the Trinity
    • This brings us back all the way to John 1:1-3, He is and has always been God

Application

Be sure. Be very sure. Because my salvation rests in the hands of Jesus Christ, who is the God that is greater than all. I need not be plagued by fear, worry or stress that I won’t make the mark because it is not dependent on me making the mark at all.

Be thankful. Be very thankful. Because if God did not set up salvation in this way, all of humanity would be doomed.

Prayer

Father, I thank You that You, the greater than all God, holds me in Your hands. I could not ask for anything more. Remind me daily that my salvation is as sure as You are great.

Amen.