Seeking The Lost

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

                                                                                                                                                                                Luke 15:31-32

                Over the years I have heard a number of titles given to this parable in Luke’s Gospel.  It has been called the parable of the Prodigal Son, the parable of the Father’s Heart, or as it is entitled in the NIV the parable of the Lost Son.

It is however a long, detailed, and complex parable which Jesus tells and Luke places within the context of the central travel narrative in the Gospel.  Here the disciples are following Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross.  This is in fact a central point in their calling, and in our calling as well,  to be disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ.  We are here being shown what it means to deny ourselves, to pick up our cross daily and to follow Jesus.

The specific context here is three parables which Jesus tells about lost things, a sheep, a coin, and two Sons.  These parables point out the heart attitude of God in heaven towards those who are lost.  These parables come in response to the attitude and the criticism of the Pharisees and
Scribes regarding the fact that Jesus welcomed sinners into His Glorious presence, and even ate with them.

To the Pharisees and their ilk this was proof that Jesus was not a Godly man.  One who claimed to be the Messiah should not do such things.  He should be more aware of who was around Him.  He should also be more circumspect in His relationships.  This raises a question for me.  How often do I exhibit that same attitude towards the lost, especially those lost who bare such clear evidence of brokenness and corruption that they do?  It is those who I find myself feeling uncomfortable around who Jesus spent His time with.  What I am thinking is that I limit those who can be found to those who live up to certain standards of my own making.  The saved are those who I am comfortable around.

As Pamela Erwin writes in “Adoption Extended” (Article in Adoptive Youth Ministry, Chap Clark Editor, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2016, p. 199).

“At a philosophical level most youth workers probably believe that the gospel is for whosoever will may come, but the day-to-day messiness of living that out in a youth ministry setting often pushes us into the reality of only the ones who look right, act right, and play by our rules are welcome.  What this means is only the people who look like us.”

                What Erwin writes about youth ministry can be, I believe, applied to all of ministry.  Who is welcome?  This is what the Pharisees and Scribes were confronting Jesus with.  This is the context in which Jesus tells this parable in which we are confronted by a ruined lost son, an equally lost up upstanding older brother, and a Father with a broken heart seeking out that which is lost, and when it found rejoicing with a great celebration.  This, Jesus tells us, is the Father’s attitude.  It is also the attitude of Jesus who came to “seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10)  This must also be the attitude of all those who would be disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ.

So what does this mean for the modern Christian?

1)      It means that must be 100% committed to following the LORD Jesus Christ.  We are to give ourselves without reservation to the LORD and then to His work.

2)      It means that we must develop an honest and welcoming attitude towards everyone we meet.  This must extend into those areas where we find ourselves becoming uncomfortable.  As Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “the flesh dies well there.”

3)      It means that we must become increasingly gospel conscious in every part of our lives.  Christ-centred prayerfulness and dying to myself are to be a crucial part of my life.

Spiritual Mindedness

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

                                                                                                                                                                James 1:19-22

                A number of years ago, when I first read John Miller’s little book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church I was struck by one of the phrases that he used.  This was that for him faith involved his giving himself to God without reservation, and then taking his courage in his hands and obeying God in everything that God commanded.  I wondered just what Miller meant by such a powerful statement.  It seemed that he was trying to define for us just what a life of faith looked like.  How do we know if we are living by faith or in the flesh?  How do we live in the Spirit, being spiritually minded as we live out our lives?  We use these expressions so glibly.  What does a truly spiritual life look like?

Of all places to find answers to these questions the book of James seems to be an unlikely place.  Here is a book that seems to teach salvation by works.  At least that is what we think.  However, when we take a closer look we discover that James is really calling us to live a lifestyle which is truly spiritual because it has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  What does such a life look like?

James tells us that God has willed to give us new birth through the word of truth.  He anchors the Christian life in regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit bringing us to new life through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.  In the eighteenth century young missionaries like John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield discovered this teaching about regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  Their testimony was that as they came to believe in Christ they found, to use John Wesley’s word, “their hearts strangely warmed.”  They began to preach this Word throughout the villages and towns in Britain and many thousands came to faith in Christ.  They had returned to the Gospel message of the New Testament.

In tremendously practical terms James outlines for us in his letter this message of regeneration.  It is characterized by the righteousness of God being created within us.  This is not our righteousness it is His given to us through faith.  Almost immediately it begins to work itself out in our lives.  It produces the fruit of righteousness transforming our speech and our attitudes.  It causes us to obey the Word of God.  It is almost as if that word is being written into our hearts.  In fact that is what two Old Testament Prophets said God would do.

Jeremiah writes, ““The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah.  It will not be like the Covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my Covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.  “This is the Covenant I will make with the House of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

Ezekiel echoes Jeremiah’s words in this way, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

                                                                                                                                                (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

                James tells us that Spiritual Christianity is a faith that leads us to obey God’s Word through the power of God’s Spirit in all manner of practical ways.  It starts with our accepting by faith the implanted word of God which comes to us in the Gospel.

Saving Faith

I have recently begun to read The Works of Andrew Fuller (1754 – 1815).  This is a massive collection of the writings of a man who was in many ways the Father of Baptist Theology and Missions.  Fuller was instrumental in maintaining support for the missionary work of William Carey in India.  Michael Haykin in his introduction to the collection regarding Fuller’s work in opposing the harmful theological trends makes the following observation.

“Yet another vital controversy in which Fuller engaged was that with the Sandemanians, the followers of Robert Sandeman (1718 – 71), who distinguished themselves from other eighteenth century Evangelicals by a predominantly intellectualist view of faith.  They became known for their cardinal theological tenet that saving faith is ‘bare belief in a bare truth’.  In a genuine desire to exalt the utter freeness of God’s salvation, Sandeman had sought to remove any vestige of human reasoning, willing or desiring in the matter of saving faith.

                In his Strictures on Sandemanianism (1810) Fuller makes a couple of telling points.  First, if faith does concern only the mind, there would be no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from nominal Christianity.  A nominal Christian mentally assents to the truths of Christianity, but those truths do not grip the heart and re-orient his or her affections.  Then, knowledge of Christ is a distinct type of knowledge.  Knowing Him, for instance, involves far more than knowing certain things about Him, such as the fact of His virgin birth or the details of His crucifixion.  It involves a desire for fellowship with Him and a delight in His presence.”

                                                “Andrew Fuller: Life and Legacy a Brief Overview”

                                                Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality

                                                Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

                                                1 August 2007

                The last line of that quotation is the most vital for me.  Genuine saving faith involves a desire for fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and a delighting in His presence.  This is the type of faith which transforms our lives, elevating us above the slavery to the flesh and to our sin that we so often find ourselves struggling with.  Here we find ourselves delighting in prayer, and in the Word of God.  Here worship moves us into a lifestyle of obedience to our Lord for the simple reason that we love Him.  This seems to be what the Apostle John is describing in his first letter.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.”

                                                                                                                                1 John 1:3-4

Isn’t this what we long for?  To have a deepening fellowship with God in Christ is the goal of every Christian.  Such only comes about through the working of the Holy Spirit in the believer.  The appeal of the Scriptures is consistently that we must ask God for this.  Therefore this is our appeal to you that you will come to God in Christ and ask for this blessing from on high.

Hearing God’s Voice

“Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.””

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 8:1-2

                A number of years ago, while on vacation, I had the opportunity to talk with a hotel pool attendant about my choice of reading material.   I was reading a book with the provocative title The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything written by Fred Saunders.  The woman saw my book and began to ask questions about it, which opened up a productive discussion regarding the Gospel of our Lord, which I pray will be used of God to bring that woman to faith in Christ.  That afternoon’s reading was a time that the Lord used to give me an opportunity to be a witness for Him.  Isn’t it amazing how the Lord does this for us?  It was also a wonderful time that the Lord used to draw me into a deepening trust in Him.  To be away from my usual responsibilities was the catalyst in my being immersed more deeply in the Word of God through which I most often find myself hearing the voice of the Spirit.

It is this subject that I wish to reflect upon today.  What I need most is to know the Lord more deeply.  So often in my busyness I find myself losing focus upon who He is and what He wants me to discover about Himself.  What I so desperately need is to hear His voice as He speaks with me in Scripture and directs me by His Spirit into those open doors of service where the Lord Jesus Christ can be made known to this needy, sinful world.  When I read good books that expound the Word of God I find myself being drawn the Lord.  When I read God’s Word itself, then I find that I begin to discover God’s Character as the One revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  At the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper introduces the subject of the reading Pastor with these three quotes.

“Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.”

                                                                                                John Piper

                “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.”

                                                                                                Charles Spurgeon

                “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”

  1. S. Lewis

                What Piper points out in his chapter is that Pastors, I will go farther and say all Christians face a constant danger of becoming barren and lifeless on account of their busyness.  If we do not feed upon our Lord as we read we will find ourselves drifting away from the Lord.  I might add that if our reading does not lead us into a deepening understanding of the Word of God as it is found in the Bible then it will be of little benefit to us.  C.S. Lewis counsels us, and I agree with him here, to balance our reading of modern books with those great classics of old in which wisdom from saints who have lived and testified to Christ in the past is added to our modern voices.

The key thing is that we need to hear from the Lord Himself.  His desire is to make Himself known to us.  We must quiet ourselves down so that we can meet Him in His word.  It is only when we have heard Him that we will be able to share with our world a witness that will be truly life changing.

Thanksgiving Grace

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

                                                                                                                                                1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

A few years ago at the Hope Centre Bible Study we were discussing the ways in which Joseph demonstrated his faith by the decisions he made and the attitude he demonstrated throughout his life.  His whole character seemed to be marked by a trusting in the providence of God.  Even as he discussed the betrayal which he had suffered at the hands of his brothers, a betrayal which had in many ways defined his life, he did so with a deep trust in God’s leading.  “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)  At its heart what Joseph demonstrated was the radical thankfulness which is at the heart of the Christian life.

This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving.  For one weekend we remind ourselves that we need to be thankful for all of the blessings which God has given to us.  Being Thankful is really something much deeper than this.  Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that it is in fact the will of God for us.  It is the character which He has designed us to live in.  As Paul puts it here we are to become people who are walking into a lifestyle which is constantly joyful, prayerful, and thankful.  When it comes to the word Paul uses for thankful we find that it is defined as “properly acknowledging that God’s grace works well.  It works towards our eternal gain and His glory.  We are called to be thankful for God’s good grace.” (According to Helps Wordstudies)  Later in the verse Paul adds this provision for all of the traits he has been discussing, “for this is God’s gracious design for you.”  This is, in other words, what God has designed for you to be.  The circumstances you experience in your life are moving you towards this design.

Joseph understood this.  He knew that God had been moving him through a lifetime of experiences towards the man he had become.  He was strong in faith, and therefore submissive to God.  In all of his circumstances Joseph was seeing God at work.  So too do we see God at work in our circumstances.  In God’s providence we find ourselves being led into the very places where we meet God in all of his graciousness.  Eventually we find ourselves responding to His leading with trusting praise because we are beginning to discover that He is in fact a trustworthy God who is displaying His matchless grace in our lives.

Bruce Theilman in a sermon on the book of Ruth tells a story about his Mother who went through a whole series of great difficulties in her life as a young woman.  These experiences were painful but they led her to a place where she would meet a godly young man who would become Theilman’s Father.  In due time her experiences led to her conversion and marriage.  Theilman told this story to demonstrate how she was in fact walking into the purposes of God just as Ruth had done.   Years later Bruce Theilman was attempting to define expository preaching and he said this, “There is no special honor in preaching, there is only special pain.  The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors.  And like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest.” Such is the life of service we are called to as believers.  God is transforming us into this image of Christ.  Like Joseph we are learning to rejoice in His leading because we know that it is leading us into something wonderful.  Be continually thankful!

When The Son Of Man Comes In His Glory

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 25:31-32

                It is a humbling experience to engage in a prolonged study of the Word of God.  When examining a Gospel like Matthew’s for instance we often find ourselves amazed to see how the whole book fits together, along with the rest of the Scriptures to bring us to a real and Biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Immanuel, God among us.  In Matthew 25:31-46 we are brought to consider the final judgment of God upon the nations.  It is presented within the framework of the work of the Gospel in calling us to real faith in Christ.  When the Son of Man comes in His glory He will gather everyone to Himself for judgment.  Matthew quotes the Lord Jesus Christ as saying here that this coming, what we call the Second Advent, is first of all a certainty.  He does not say “if He comes” He says “When He comes.”  There is no doubt about it.  There will come a day when He will come.  We are never told when it will be.  We are however told that it will be.  Therefore we are called by the Gospel to prepare ourselves for this reality.  We will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Our only hope on that day will not lie in our works or goodness, it will be found in one fact only.  This is that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The second point that Jesus makes here is that this coming will be in His glory.  When He comes we will see Him as He is.  His full character, His holiness, purity, power, sacrificial love, and infinite wisdom will be perfectly revealed on that day.  What we will be confronted with on that day will be such and encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ that all of our pretension and rationalizing of our sin will be done away with.

What seems apparent here is that there will be a clear connection between His first and second advent when He comes.  In His first advent the Lord Jesus Christ came in humiliation.  He set aside all of His glory as God in order to become human flesh.  He humbled Himself in His death on the cross for us.  The Bible makes it clear that the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ was most fully revealed in the cross.  As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-11, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  The backdrop to the judgment throne of Christ is the cross.  Our judge is also our sacrifice.  He gave His precious life in order to redeem us from our sin.  That is the glory which will be revealed when He comes again.  Nowhere is this pictured more clearly for us than in Revelation 5:5-6 where the Apostle John writes, “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.”  What unfolds in the rest of the book of Revelation are warnings and judgments all carried out from the throne of God and right at the centre of that throne is a little slain and resurrected lamb.  Here is the glory of the Son of Man as He comes to gather us together for judgment.

The price for your redemption has been paid by the Lamb.  When you stand before Him on the Day of Judgment know this the judge is also the sacrifice.  Today He is calling you to faith in Him.  Will you come to Him and receive life?

Preaching Christ

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.”

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 8:4-5

When Luke begins to write the second volume of his account of the spread of the Gospel of Christ he introduces is as a description of the continuing work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His Gospel was the beginning of the works of the Christ.  The book of Acts continues to describe what the Lord is doing.

This is a good way to think about the task that we have been given as believers.  We are called as individual believers, and together as the Church to be witnesses.  Darrell Johnson in his Discipleship on the Edge writes about the fact that as witnesses we are responsible to describe the works done by the one who is the defendant in a court of law.  This one is the Lord Jesus Christ who has come as the light and life of this broken world.  We point to Him.  It is He who saves us.  He is the One who gave His life for us.  When the Apostle John describes the two witnesses he points out that they do their work dressed in sackcloth.  Again Johnson points out that this point us to the prophetic call to real repentance towards God.  We cannot follow the living God without turning from every other thing that we worship.

Luke describes the witness of one follower of the Lord, a deacon by the name of Philip who took the Word of God to a city in Samaria.  As Luke describes the witness of this man he uses several powerful words to present the key themes before us.  We wonder about the words that Philip used, looking to discern the correct approach to take in reaching our own city.  Luke takes us much deeper here as he points to the reality of what Philip was bearing witness to.

First Luke tells us that Philip was part of a movement of many believers.  Perhaps this was a work done by the Church together as led by the Holy Spirit.  They preached the word wherever they went.  Luke here uses the term made famous by the Apostle John in his Gospel.  They preached the logos.  David Pao in his Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus writes about this word that it refers to the Word of God in a personal, powerful way, as the one who comes into our world and speaks powerfully.  Whenever this word speaks its sovereign purpose is accomplished.  This personal, powerful nature of the Word we preach is confirmed as we continue to look at what Luke writes here.  Philip went to a city in Samaria and preached the Christ there.  This preaching was attended with the power of the Lord who confirmed its genuiness by the powerful way He worked in that city.  To preach the logos is to preach Christ.  This is our task as witnesses for Christ today in our cities.  It is not our task to produce the power of the word of God.  We are responsible to preach the Christ expecting that His power will be at work among us to convert the sinner.

John tells us that if the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified by being lifted up on the cross, being proclaimed as Christ crucified, then He will draw all men unto Himself.  The question for us is this, “Do we believe that He is still at work in this way today?”  Do I believe it?  Does the Church believe it?  If we do then we will be out proclaiming the Christ to everyone who will listen.  That is in fact our calling.  It takes courageous faith to walk with the Lord in this way, bearing witness to His saving power.  Whenever we do, we become fruitful.  When we find ourselves seeking some other way, then we begin to decline.

For He Himself Is Our Peace

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”

                                                                                                                                                                Ephesians 2:14-15

                Sometimes we are swept away in wonder over the power and the beauty of the Word of God.  It has a way of sweeping away the cobwebs of our cluttered lives in order to breathe in the pure wind of the Spirit.  It is useful, at times, to step back and take a wide angled view of the Word noting the huge context of the message.   In the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul gives us a powerful description of the Body of Christ, the Church in all of its wonder.  God has created something new, a new creation, in which He will overrule all of the distinctions that we draw up in order to determine who we think, is acceptable to God.  In Paul’s world, the Jews rejected the Gentiles, calling them a lesser form of humanity, the Gentiles rejected the Jews calling them the enemies of all peoples.  Each one used human distinctions to reject people who were not like them.  We are guilty of this as well.  We are perfectly willing to accept others provided they change and become like us.

Paul tells us, in the wider view that God’s solution is to create one new people in Christ.  There is now no longer Jews or Gentiles, there is now Christians, those who are like Christ.  That is the wide angled view of what God is doing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must take a closer view however.    John Calvin, in his Sermons on Ephesians (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1998) draws us in closer with these words.

“Furthermore, the title that St. Paul gives to our Lord Jesus Christ, namely, that ‘he is our peace’, ought to be carefully considered,”

A.Skevington Wood in his commentary in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978) takes us further as he writes the following.

“”He Himself” is emphatic (cf. V. 15, “in Himself”).  Christ and no other “has solved the problem of our relationships with God and man” (Barclay, p. 120).  He draws men to God and to each other in His own person.  It is not simply the message He proclaimed or even the message proclaimed about Him that effects this reconciliation.  It is Himself.  There is an echo here of Micah 5:5.  “Peace” is recognised by the Talmud as a name of God.  So Paul can announce that Christ is peace as well as life (Col. 3:4) and hope (Col. 1:27).  The “I am” sayings recorded in the fourth Gospel provided a foundation in the claims of Jesus for such assertions.”

When we take a close look at what Paul writes here it is clear that his focus is not on the message of Christ which urges us to be at peace with others.  It is that Christ Himself is our peace.  It is only in Him that the deepest needs of our lives are met.  It is only in Him that we are reconciled to God.  Wood points us to a quotation from Micah 5:1-5 which speaks to us about the coming Messiah.

“Marshall your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me on who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until them time when He who is labour gives birth and the rest of His brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God.  And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And He will be their peace.”             

I Am He

“Even to your old age and grey hairs I Am He, I Am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will carry you.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Isaiah 46:4

                What a wonderful text of Scripture containing one of the most precious of promises for every human being.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached upon this text in a sermon preserved in the second volume of Spurgeon’s Sermons (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2011, p. 361-379).  The sermon entitled “The God of the Aged” develops the theme of this text in Isaiah 46 by looking at the text’s doctrine and application to believers who are advancing in age.  To me this is becoming a doctrine which grows sweeter with age.  It has now been 41 years since I first gave my life to Christ.  In the beginning years of my walk with Christ my faith was strong but untested.  Now it has been tempered in the testing fires of life and has as a result become more precious.  As Spurgeon focus our attention on the doctrine in this text his desire is for us to focus upon God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise to us in love.  He is unchanging and therefore remains faithful in the carrying out of His unchanging purpose to redeem us through the cross of Christ.  There is more here however.  When we take a careful look at this text some other doctrines leap out at us.

1)      As Spurgeon stated our God is unchangingly faithful to His promise to love us sacrificially.  For Him to become unfaithful would be to deny His very nature.  Isaiah cries out “I Am He!”  God’s Name, His very nature tells us that He will be faithful because He is the eternal, covenant keeping God.  He will not become ill, or weary, or uninterested in the promise He has made to us.  This is true over the whole span of our lives.  It is also true over all of the years since the LORD Jesus Christ was crucified.  In fact it is true over all of the years of recorded history.

2)      The doctrine of humanity is found here as well.  We are described as those in old age with grey hair.  There was a time when we were youths.  All of the future was before us.  We revelled in our strength and energy, feeling that nothing was impossible for us.  The years have passed and the toxic consequences of sin have borne their fruit in our lives.  With each passing day we find ourselves feeling that our best days are behind us.  Here is a wonderful learning opportunity for us however.  The LORD is preparing us for eternity.  We may be weakening but we are also discovering that He is unchanged.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  He is trustworthy to continue to lead us in the same way He did when He first called us to faith.

3)      This is a promise of great scope and comfort for all who put their trust in Christ.  For the youth just beginning to follow Jesus it is a promise that the ending of their lives they will find that He is still faithfully with them.  For the middle aged who are just beginning to see the weakening of their physical bodies it is a promise that He who called you is still faithfully working out that same calling today.  For the aged who feel that they can no longer serve the LORD with the vitality they once had it is a promise that His grace is still sufficient for their every need.  It has always been about grace.  It has never been about our own personal strength.

4)      For each of us, no matter what our age it is another promise as well.  This is that He is mighty to save us today.  Many have reflected upon the necessity of evangelising the young.  It is then that they can most easily be brought to Christ we think.  The reality is that the work of evangelism is an impossible work at any age if we are depending upon our flesh to accomplish it.  It is not our work, it is the LORD’s.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  He can save the youth and how we rejoice when a youth comes to put their faith in Christ.  He can also save the elderly.  It brings even greater joy to us when an aged man or woman comes to faith in Christ.  About twenty years ago an eighty eight year old man surprised his young Pastor with a simple question.  “Can you baptize an old man?”  It seems that after a lifetime of living as an unbeliever this man had come to understand the Gospel and had given his life to Christ.  He then said to his Pastor “I have been living for myself all these years.  Now I want to live the rest of my life for Him.  I must bear witness to my faith in Christ because I have children and grandchildren who must come to know that it is necessary at any age for a person to begin to follow Christ.”  About a year later an eighty year old woman with a heart condition moved into a home near our Church, she began to attend services and gave her life to Christ.  One Sunday she showed up at the Church Service with a doctor’s note stating that her health was sufficiently good for her to be baptized by total immersion.  She had done her homework so that she could bear testimony to her new found faith before family and friends.  As each of these senior saints was baptized there was not a dry eye in the Church such was our joy in what the LORD had done.  The lesson that we learned on those days was that our faithful God has the power to save anyone at any age who comes to the LORD Jesus Christ in faith.

Who Is Jesus?

                ““I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”  “Who are you?” they asked.  “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied.”

                                                                                                                                                                                John 8:24-25

                James T. Dennison Jr. Called my attention to a thought about the Gospel of John in his May 1992 article, The Structure of John’s Gospel The Present State of the Question (www.kerux.com/doc/0701A3.asp).  This was that the centre of John’s Gospel is found in the passage John 8:12 through 12:50 and that it is centred upon the LORD Jesus Christ.  I am with Dennison on the Christ Centred nature of John’s Gospel.  I am still exploring questions about the overall structure of the book.  His thesis is intriguing however and I find myself wanting to explore this question in future months.  For the purposes of this devotional today I want to simply focus on that which John, as an evangelist, makes so abundantly clear here.  He is demonstrating in his Gospel that Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the one who we find in the Scriptures as God with us.  Here in these central chapters in the Gospel John begins to appeal to a wide variety of evidence in order to make his case.  Between chapters six and fifteen John quotes Jesus making a series of seven “I Am” statements which point to Jesus as the fulfillment of the various types of Christ which we find in the Old Testament.  Interspersed among these seven powerful identity statements John also quotes Jesus as using the term “I Am” as a means of identifying Himself as the One whose name means “I Am”, that is God Himself.  In Exodus 3:14 we are given this Name for God, “God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am”.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I Am has sent me to you.””  Jesus makes use of that identification as He seeks to witness to the Pharisees and Scribes in John 8:24.  They will die in their sins unless they believe that I Am.

Jesus is calling these leaders into a state of believing that an astounding truth has been revealed right in their presence.  This truth calls them to a decision.  It is this decision, or point of division that is being confronted in this passage of Scripture.  Eternal forgiveness of sin is at stake.  The only way to receive that forgiveness is by believing that the man Jesus standing before them was in fact the Living God who has revealed Himself first to them through His Word, and now in person.  These leaders, as well as you and I are brought to this point of decision.  The question which John repeats from the lips of the leaders is this, “Who are You?”  This is the question which John forces us to ask Jesus as well.  If eternal life is dependent on Him then we need to know who He is.

Two things are brought to our attention here.  The first is that we are called to believe Him when He tells us that He is I Am.  John points to this fact in the first chapter of his Gospel when he writes concerning John the Baptist that, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:7-13)  This is a faith which dramatically reorients every part of our lives.  It centres every part of the life we live upon the LORD Jesus Christ who is God with us, and who has come to redeem us through the cross.

The second thing that John points out to us here is that the answer that we give to this question will dramatically change us.  God has come to us, and given His life as a ransom for us on the cross.  Faith in Jesus as our redeemer gives us the forgiveness of sin.  Faith in Him become as radical and complete commitment to Him.  John calls it a receiving of Him in which we become born again.

The question is do you believe that Jesus is I Am?