Snapshots: Day 4

Snapshots of the Bible Story: Day 4

The Snapshot: “In the beginning… God created…”: They purposefully expressed Himself, they purposefully revealed Himself, they purposefully thought of beings to whom He could express love and from whom receive love, in His likeness; purposefully and with great pleasure  they created a world of provision for mankind, of variety, of pleasure for the man He would form; purposefully formed man as a purposeful expression of love, man and woman to complement each other, people who could enjoy Him, enjoy each other and enjoy the world they had made for them. Perfect. Nothing random, no chance, no accident, but pure purpose. Be thankful and worship.

Further Consideration:  Being pedantic about God the Creator is unwise. In Gen 1 we see mention of the Spirit but it is ‘God’ (?the Father) who speaks and the changes happen. Yet in Ecclesiastes there is a beautiful yet tantalizing picture that speaks of wisdom personified working with the Father: “I was there when he set the heavens in place…. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind,” (Prov 8:27,30,31) that surely must refer to the Son, existing before Creation, now part of the Creation process. What an amazing description, “delighting in mankind”. Wow! Why else would God create mankind if not to delight in him.

To see the other side of that coin we have to turn to the Shorter Westminster Catechism that starts out, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That was the conclusion the men of God started with, as they drew up that Catechism to be taught to their people. It starts with God. We are to glorify Him AND enjoy Him!  How many of us have that concept tucked away – you can enjoy God????? To appreciate and understand that, we have to ponder on the fact that the world – the earth – we inhabit was made by God for our pleasure No wonder we read, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gem 1:31)

The whole package – this planet and us on it – was good. His provision on the earth was everything we would ever need. He gave us senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch – and a superabundance of things to give pleasure to each sense. Take some time to think through each of those five senses and then the wonder of the world that makes them good. And when you have done that, ask Him to enlarge your perception of them even more, and help you be thankful even more. Contentment is good. Complacency is bad (Rom 1:21). Now, give thanks, offer praise.

Snapshots: Day 3

Snapshots of the Bible Story: Day 3

The Snapshot: “In the beginning… the Spirit of God hovered….” : (Gen 1): As the Thought and the Word expressed themselves outwards, the Force flowed from them, the Force who was one with them, the Force who was the very perfect expression of them, almighty, perfect, love, goodness, and the Force expressed the Personality that was Him, and whatever He wanted, the Force performed and brought about, perfectly expressing their will, so Thought and Word and Force expressed perfect harmony, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as they would come to be known, the Trinity, the Godhead, just One but three in One. Ponder, marvel and worship.

Further Consideration:  The Holy Spirit is to many, a mystery and yet the Bible clearly reveals God in three forms: the Father, Supreme over all, the Son sent to earth to redeem mankind, but now back in heaven ruling alongside his Father, and then the Holy Spirit, the ‘executive arm’ if you like, of the Godhead, the power seen as He (they) move in our time-space history. “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1:2) What a picture of the power of God hovering over the already existing earth, covered with water, just watching and waiting for the next move of God in the Creation saga. The Father speaks and it starts to change.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) However we view this graphic and perhaps picturesque language, we live because God breathed energy into us, apparently His Spirit. But later we find, “Then God said, “I’m not going to breathe life into men and women endlessly. Eventually they’re going to die; from now on they can expect a life span of 120 years.” (Gen 6:3 Message) We think we live because of food and drink but the Bible challenges that limited understanding.

There is a mystery beyond our understanding and, yes, only accepted by faith, that we live because He enables us to. Centuries later a writer was to declare about the Son, he is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3) again adding to this mystery. ‘Life’ is more than meat and drink. The message is that the Holy Spirit is not only the One who moves in power expressing the will of the Godhead on earth, He is also the one who maintains ALL life, or should we say, They all maintain our life. Moses knew it: “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things….” (Num 16:22) It is both a mystery and a sobering thought, a thought that puts my life in perspective. Lord, thank you for the gift of today, of life.

18. Self-glory or…..

(We’ll put aside reflections on the Church and pick up John 7 again for the next week) 

Short Meditations in John 7:  18.  Self-glory or….

Jn 7:18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

I sometimes conclude a prayer of petition with, “Father, may it be for your honour and glory,” or “Lord Jesus so that your name will be praised.”  I do it not only because I want that but also so that it will act as a reminder to me that this is what it is all about. We would be foolish to think that we never have mixed motives but praying like this does act as a reminder (and challenge?) that we serve the Lord of Glory, not the other way round.

The crowd have wondered how Jesus can teach as he does and Jesus declares it is from his Father in heaven (v.16) and the person who is committed to God will recognize this (v.17). But then he speaks what is a general principle but one that directly applies to him.

It is very simple, a speaker who comes of their own volition, speaks on their own behalf and, therefore, for their own glory. One who comes at the behest of another, coming on their behalf, seeks their glory or prestige. Now the clear implication in the light of v.16 is that Jesus speaks to the honour and glory of his Father in heaven and, being His Son, he speaks absolute truth and there is nothing false either in him or in what he says.

Again and again we see it in the Gospels, Jesus speaking and pointing the world to his Father. He is not there for his own glory but for the glory and honour of his Father in heaven. That is what these three years of ministry are all about – about pointing people to the Father and revealing the love of the Father for them. It is that simple. His even bigger task will be to die on the cross to take the sin of the world, but before that he is there to testify to his Father.

Perhaps this should come as a challenge to us. Our temptation may be to see the woes of the world and seek to address them through the ‘Law’ of the scriptures and seek to remedy the world’s problems in this way, but that is inadequate. Simply saying, this is how we ought to be living, is inadequate.

We have the problems we have because mankind is at odds with the Father in heaven. It is only by coming back into a right relationship with Him – made possible by Jesus’ finished work on the cross and now administered by the Holy Spirit – can lives be truly changed and problems addressed. If this is not foremost in our understanding then everything simply becomes another ‘self-help’ approach and we might as well write a book, “Following God’s laws is the answer.” Well it isn’t, it is coming back to the Father.

46. The Hidden God

Short Meditations in John 6:  46. The Hidden God

Jn 6:46 “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.   

It is perhaps the fact that God cannot be seen that is the biggest stumbling block to Christian and non-Christian alike. God is spirit said Jesus (Jn 4:24) and you can’t see spirit. There have been times in the Old Testament when there have been ‘visions’ of heaven but that is different from the reality and so Jesus’ statement in this verse is simple and true. The fact is that we may have seen representations of God (angels) but never God Himself – until Jesus came. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9)

But Jesus said those words to his close disciples at the Last Supper, and they struggled with it, so here with the crowd he isn’t that specific – but he does imply that he who has come down from heaven has obviously seen the Father. Again, it is a simple statement but so simple and true. But it does require a great leap of faith – that one has come from God, and that one is Jesus.

Now, interestingly, this verse doesn’t claim divinity; it’s a little less than that, simply that he has come from God and that could be taken by the crowd in a variety of ways. It is almost as if Jesus is putting it in ways that are gentler and more easily accepted. The fact that he performed miracles, such as the recent feeding of the five thousand, lends credibility to the claim of having been sent by heaven: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.” (Acts 2:22)

But this verse doesn’t lend itself to the interpretation that he was simply a man, like John the Baptist, sent with a mission. No, the clear and unavoidable implication is that he has seen God face to face in heaven and that, now as a human being, makes him unique.

That is the extent of this particular but the overall teaching of this chapter is much more than that. First and foremost it is that he existed in heaven and left it: “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” Second, he is constantly claiming a unique relationship with God in heaven who he existed with and calls Father. The strong implication is that he is saying he is the Son of the Father, the unique Son of God.

I think it is fair to say, looking at the Gospels and Acts, that the early disciples struggled with this idea and it took a while for it to settle in, but now we have the full canon of Scripture and have the whole New Testament before us, we should never doubt the claims that we are considering here, that Jesus Christ, was (always has been) and is (and will always be) the unique Son of God. Hallelujah!

45. Prophecy

Short Meditations in John 6:  45. Prophecy

Jn 6:45 “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.”

The Message version builds this verse as follows: “This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it first hand from the Father.”

There are really three parts to this verse. First there is the prophetic reference, a quote from Isa 54:13 that referred to Israel’s future, a time of blessing when God would teach the future generations. Life for the people of God includes receiving revelation from Him, teaching that would guide, lead and change them and make them be seen across the earth as the unique people of God. That was how it was supposed to be.

Second, there is reference to those who have “heard the Father and learned from Him.” The clear implication is that not everyone hears and certainly not everyone learns from Him. Hence the Message version’s, “really listening” emphasis. But this is the condition upon which the verse pivots. The first part is God’s intent, this second part is the response of those with open hearts to God, which leads on to, third, the outcome or response of such people who will take on board what they read or hear, they will turn to Jesus.

There is a sharp logic in this verse with a teaching that is easy to forget. God speaks, that is always stage one. When it first happens, before we turn to Christ, most of us don’t realise what is happening but the conviction that follows only comes because God has spoken into a receptive heart. When that conviction comes it is because we have heard God. As I say, I am sure most of us don’t realise this is what has happened, but it is. When His words penetrate our prepared hearts, we show we have heard by our response, which is always to turn to Jesus.

The apostle Paul asked the Galatians, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” (Gal 3:2) They had heard the gospel and then believed it and as a result were born again. To the Ephesians he said, “That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (Eph 4:20,21) i.e. you were taught, you heard, and that provided a basis for how you were to live out this new Christian life. God’s word draws us to Christ and then Christ’s word guides us into the future. Make sure it happens.

38. The Descending Son

Short Meditations in John 6:  38. The Descending Son

Jn 6:38   For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.   

We finished yesterday with the thought that none of us is worthy, and it is the words of the prodigal that come to mind, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Lk 15:19) We, as sinners, gave up our ‘right’ to be called children of God at the Fall, but Christ has come to change that and restore us to that role – children of God (see 1 Jn 3:1), and it is that activity of Christ, that is encapsulated in this verse.

In this verse Jesus is not specific about what the will of God is – simply that he has come to do it. At the Last Supper discourse Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10) Later he prayed to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (Jn 17:4) Earlier he had taught, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’” (Jn 10:17,18) Thus again and again we catch this sense of Jesus overriding desire to be seen to be doing his Father’s will. What he was doing was not just his bright idea, it was that which the Father had laid down before the foundation of the world and which the Son was now working through.

But there is something else here that appears nowhere else so clearly, something of immense significance: “I have come down from heaven.” Wow! There it is, the ultimate claim to divinity. Heaven was his home and he has left it to come to earth. It reveals his pre-existence, he existed in heaven long before he was born in the form of a human baby to a girl named Mary and a token father, Joseph.  Later in the chapter we find, “what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” (Jn 6:62) The hints continue on. In a later argument he said, “‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ (Jn 8:58) There again the ‘I am’ formula that was often used by him that subtly alluded to his divinity, his standing with the Father and his eternal existence as God.

Again and again there is a sharpness, a clarity in John that is absent in the other earlier three Gospels, that culminated near the end with that absolute clarity of purpose in writing: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:31) On every page of John there is something of this intensity that he had come to see as he remembered back to those wonderful days. Here in this verse we have one of the key gems, I believe, that show that purpose in such clarity.

37. The Father’s work

Short Meditations in John 6:  37. The Father’s Work

Jn 6:37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 

The danger of meditating on individual verses is that it is so easy to lose a sense of the overall picture. The flow here is that the people in the crowd ask for the bread Jesus has spoken about (v.34). Jesus then spoke about himself as the bread of life (v.35) but declared that he knows they are not believing him (v.36). He then puts that into the bigger context of this present verse.

The first thing he is saying is that the reality is that people will not believe in him and come to him unless the Father (God) draws them, people whose hearts have been prepared and are receptive. Becoming a follower of Jesus (a Christian) is, first and last, a work of God. He (the Holy Spirit) convicts the individual and when they respond to Him with repentance He indwells them, God having justified them and then adopted them into His family. Our bit, the bit in the middle, is simply to surrender to Him and repent and seek His forgiveness. The rest is His activity.

There appears within this a sense of peace over who comes and who doesn’t, and perhaps we should rest in this ourselves, for there may be those we would like to see come to Christ – and we can certainly pray for them – but ultimately it is a work of God, a work that He brings to bear, I believe, on those He sees will be open to Him. Who that is always remains a mystery, but it should never take away our sense of optimism, that this one we have been sharing with and praying for, may yet turn and be born again.

Our part, seen in this verse, is seen in the words, “will come to me” and “whoever comes to me…” There is a significance in this which should not be missed. I recently was in a service where at the end a man responded to what had been going on and joyfully said, “I have found God in this service,” and I couldn’t help feeling, no you’ve been pointed in the right direction but we need to introduce you to Jesus.  ‘Coming to God’ is one thing but unless our seeker is introduced to Jesus and told that Jesus is his/her saviour who died for their sins, that initial excitement will go nowhere and will simply be dissipated and will result in a nominal church-going, not a transformed life.

For the person with the weak conscience or low self-esteem, Jesus affirmation that, “I will never drive away,” must come as a great assurance. Somebody said to me the other day, ”But I’m not worthy,” and I had to agree but added, “None of us is, but He makes us worthy by receiving us, accepting us then changing and transforming us, but that is a lifelong exercise.” He will not push you away, whatever.