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Much is said today about the Christian faith as relationship. And there is truth in this idea. When we believe we become children of God and we are brothers and sisters with other believers.
However we need to be careful that we do not overemphasize relationship at the expense of truth. The relationship we have with God, and consequently with other believers, is founded on truth. If truth is missing, then so is the relationship.
We see this is Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” In Chapter 1, the author of Hebrews makes the case for the greatness and uniqueness of Jesus. The author begins 2:1 with “therefore” indicating that what he is about to say is a conclusion or a result of what he has said in Ch.1. The author then makes his charge. In light of the greatness and uniqueness of Jesus, we must pay much closer attention to the teaching (apostles, Jesus, prophets – the Bible) lest we drift away from it. He does not say lest we drift away from “him”, which would seem appropriate since he just talked about “him”. It would also seem appropriate if his primary concern was relationship. But he says “it”, the teaching, the truth, the Bible.
The revelation and truth about Jesus makes the Bible important. Our relationship with Jesus is based on the truth revealed in the Bible. So there is a direct correlation: if we drift away from the Bible, we drift away from him.
What does it mean to love God?
It means listening to and believing in the testimony about Jesus in the Scripture that he is the Christ the Son of God; Jesus’ testimony about himself, John the Baptist’s testimony, God the Father’s testimony in the works of Jesus and in the Old Testament.
It means seeking first the praise that comes from God because we have listened to the Son.
It means the death of self. Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself.” The Faithful, “for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
If you say you love God and all of the above are not true at some level you are merely blowing air.
In 1 Kings 18, the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the main point comes from v.21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah is not condemning Israel for having questions about God, but rather for their hesitation and unbelief in the face of past revelation. In other words, there is no inherent virtue in riding the theological fence. Questions are meant to lead to answers and we are meant to follow the answers.
This is the purpose of the ensuing confrontation. Elijah is providing for Israel yet another clarifying event to show that the Lord is God. And this is exactly what occurs. After nothing happens to the altar of the prophets of Baal, after the fire descends and consumes the alter of Elijah, the people cry out, “the Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” But this wasn’t Elijah’s complete challenge, was it? “If the Lord is God…follow Him.” The event clarified that the Lord was God, the people understood and declared that the Lord is God. But did they follow him? The sad answer is no; perhaps in the emotion of the moment they did briefly, but continuing to read through the history of Israel shows no real change in the people in terms of their following the Lord God.
Today, we are not meant to seek for more events like Mount Carmel and the fire from heaven. In Jesus, God has already provide the ultimate clarifying event. The Lord is indeed God and Jesus is the Lord God. The only question that remains is will we follow him? The short answer is “no, we will not.” But this only highlights the grace of the gospel. God gives us repentance, God gives us faith, and when we believe God gives us a new heart so that we can follow. In Jesus we are graciously allowed to complete Elijah’s challenge, “If the Lord is God, follow him.”
(“sobras” is a Spanish word that can mean leftovers or scraps. Occasionally I am going to post some “sobras” from the Sunday morning sermon, either something that did not get said or just a reminder of truths from God’s word.)
John 5:1-16 shows two different responses to Jesus, neither of which led to faith (as far as we know). Both the healed man and the Jewish leaders were unable to see Jesus for who he was: the Jews because of their focus on their traditions and works based righteousness; the healed man because of his self focus even after being healed. Jesus intentionally provokes the Jews, but he gives the healed man a chance. “See” he commands him…connect the dots…draw out the conclusion; “you are well” he reminds him…your own body is testifying of me…believe in the one who just healed you.
Don’t miss seeing Jesus, either because of your tradition or your personal experience. Open God’s word and see Jesus. Seeing Him clearly leads to believing in Him truly and to following Him faithfully.
Men and women have always needed hope. In the day in which we live, where can true hope be found?
The Bible tells us that our hope is found in God, but not in what he will do for us today or tomorrow. Paul tells us in Romans 15 that hope is found in God’s eternal nature (v.13), the promises God has already made (v.8), and the coming of Jesus Christ (v.8, 12). Because of this, there is nothing in the present or the future than can shake our hope.
The Bible is also a source of hope (v.4) because it is the word of God. As such it reflects God himself. God is hope (v.13), therefore the Bible is hope; God is endurance and encouragement (v.5), therefore the Bible is endurance and encouragement.
When we read the Bible we find a record of God’s promises: “I will do this for you”, “I commit myself to this for you”, “I make my covenant with you”…. These promises carry through the Bible as the revelation of God unfolds in history up to, including, and beyond our day into eternity.
God never promises us:
- that our children won’t die;
- or that we won’t experience the tragedy of natural disasters;
- or that our loved ones won’t be crippled or traumatized or killed in war;
- or that a family member won’t be injured or killed by a drunk driver;
- or that we won’t be ravaged by disease;
- or that we won’t be disappointed, wounded, or abused by others.
What God does promise is that if we believe in Jesus Christ, trusting in his coming, his work on the cross and his resurrection, then we are Abraham’s offspring and everything that God is as God he will be to us (Genesis 17:7), in the midst of all the circumstances just described and everything else, forever.
We know this is true because of two words: Jesus came (v.8).
And this is the hope of Christmas.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)
Psa 100 (1) Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! (2) Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (3) Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (4) Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (5) For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Reflecting on what we can be thankful for every day of the year. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
I am spending this week at home helping my lovely wife recover from surgery. One side benefit of this time is the restarting of a blog I haven’t touched for about 18 months. Not sure all of the reasons for the long hiatus, but hopefully I will be able to continue this time without significant interruption. Stay tuned for a post in the next few days.