9. God of Purpose: Jesus

Getting to Know God Meditations:  9. God of Purpose: Jesus

Jn 1:1-3,   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Acts 2:22-24   Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,  put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead

New Seekers or Old Believers?  Because Jesus Christ is such a significant and crucial figure in human history – and in the life of Israel – and because it is being said that the present younger generation is the first biblicaly illiterate generation, it would be wise to identify who we are talking about. But how to do that for seeker and those of you who are believers of long-standing? Well may I simply say what I am going to do here is lay out summary notes of what the Bible teaches about Jesus.

For the new seeker this simply says the Bible says a great deal about him; he is no obscure figure in misty history. There are also limited references to him as an historical figure in other writings outside the Bible but the Bible is full of details about him and therefore acts as our primary source. For long-term believers, may these notes simply act as reminders and maybe a challenge to update and enlarge your knowledge. For those who wish to pursue these things in much greater detail you will find much detail in an earlier series of 62 studies I wrote entitled ‘Focus on Christ’.

Big Pictures: The above two sets of starter verses show us something of the diversity of the descriptions that are found in the New Testament about Jesus. The first three Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – were written within a relatively few years after Jesus’ time on the earth. John was written a number of decades later after he had had time to mull over all the things he had seen and heard in those three most incredible years of his life and was writing, probably from Ephesus where he was still a church elder and probably one of the only remaining original twelve apostles who traveled with Jesus.

John writes for a Greek-thinking dominated world and so he uses this big philosophical language that would be  understood by them. Jesus, he says, is the Word, (Gk. Logos meaning focus of all life, the meaning behind everything). Meanwhile the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, days after Jesus has ascended, declares under the anointing of the Holy Spirit who fell on the believers that day, that Jesus was a man but enabled to do the miraculous by God, for which he was opposed by the authorities, put to death on a cross but rose from the dead. A short, sharp, non-philosophical testimony. This record was written only a relatively few years after the event and the believers struggled with the concept that this man was God. It took John, and also Paul as he listened more, to understand that this was God incarnate, God with us, the ‘Emmanuel’ of Isaiah prophecies.

The Prophesied One:  We said in a previous study that there are over 300 prophecies about a coming Messiah, descriptions noted by the Jewish scholars through the centuries, that fitted Jesus perfectly and, it should be said, never seen in any other figure. Thus the Jews expected One to come who would be:

A prophet like Moses (Deut 18:18), a ruling conqueror (Balaam’s prophecy) (Num 24:17-19), a shepherd (Ezek 34:23), a prince (Ezek 37:25), a ruler from Judah (Gen 49:10), the Seed of David with an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-), one bringing the presence of God with him (Isa 7:14), a mighty ruler (Isa 9:6-7), a Son of man coming with the clouds to rule (Dan 7:13,14), God’s servant  (Isa 42:1-/49:1-/50:4-/52:13-).

Summarizing this we might say that in the OT the Jews saw the coming One as a compilation of:   Son of David, a great ruler, a prophetic messiah, a priestly messiah, a son of man (human in form), and a  suffering servant.

Past, Present and Future descriptions: to fill out this summary overview we might summarize his being and activity as shown in the Bible as follows:

  1. Past History: he came from heaven, lived on earth, taught widely, healed the sick & raised the dead, performed a variety of miracles, cast out demons, was arrested, falsely tried & crucified, took our sins on the Cross, rose from the dead and taught his followers for a number of weeks and then ascended into heaven.
  2. Present Experience:he draws people to God, heals & delivers, moves in affairs of world to bring about God’s purposes, prepares the church for his second coming.
  3. Future Activity: he will return to earth, being seen by every person, will take his followers to be with him, will vanquish the enemy (all evil), will judge every person.

Greater Content: For those who would like a little more detail here, here are some of those things slightly expanded:

  1. Jesus left his glorious position in heaven to come to earth (Jn 17:5 / Jn 6:38).  Jesus didn’t just come into being when he was born on earth; he had existed throughout eternity with the Father in heaven.
  2. He put aside the glory he had previously in heaven and lived in human frailty (Phil 2:7). In heaven he had been the glorious Son of God in full splendour. He put aside all that to come down to earth and wear a human body.
  3. He was tempted in EVERY way we are, but he DIDN’T give way to sin (Heb 4:15).  Jesus lived an ordinary human life with the same sort of human body, had human emotions, and lived among the same sort of people, and therefore faced the same temptations we face in our lives; he understands us! Yet he didn’t succumb to any temptation and didn’t sin.
  4. He came in perfect obedience to his Father in heaven (Heb 10:7 / Jn 5:19). Despite the pressures of living in a human body, at all times he sought the wishes of the Father in heaven and did all he was told to do, even though that was sometimes incredibly difficult.  His rule was “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39).
  5. He allowed the Holy Spirit to minister through him to heal the sick, deliver the demonized, raise the dead, and generally counter the works of Satan on earth. (Lk 4:18,19 / Mt 11:4,5). His life was one of selfless giving, despite frequent tiredness and constant demands of people on him, he poured out God’s love in power.
  6. He was plotted against and falsely tried. (Acts 4:27 / Isa 53:3,8 / Acts 2:23)  Because of his total goodness, the self-centred, godless and unrighteous attitudes of those who should have known better, made them vulnerable to the promptings of the enemy and they rose up against him.
  7. He was beaten, tortured and crucified by Satan’s agents and was railed against by the demons hordes but never responded wrongly (Mt 27:26-30 / Psa 22:12,16 – prophetic insight into the mind of the crucified One)  Every violent expression of sin was turned upon him and he received it all in his body. Every violent expression in the spiritual realms was turned upon him and he received it in his spirit.
  8. He took our sin upon himself on the Cross. (2 Cor 5:21 / 1 Pet 2:24 / Isa 53:12)  As he hung on the Cross, it was as if all your individual sins, deserving punishment, were laid on Jesus, as if to say, “Here are the reasons you are hanging here taking this punishment.”  In that sense it was, in God’s eyes in eternity, as if they were transferred from you to him.
  9. He rose from the dead as proof of who he was (Acts 2:24 / Acts 17:31).  The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate proof that he was who he said he was.
  10. He ascended into heaven to rule at his Father’s right hand. (1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor 15:25 / Eph 1:20-22 / Psa 110:1) See also the following for Jesus seated with the Father: Mk 16:19, Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55, Rom 8:34, Phil 2:9, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 12:2. See also the following for Jesus ruling: Eph 1:22, Heb 2:8
  11. He is now IN THE PROCESS of putting everything in subjection under his feet (1 Cor 15: 24,25  / Eph 1:19-22 / Eph 2:6,7).  As he reigns at the Father’s right hand, Jesus works out the Father’s will on earth, continuing to do the things he started doing, but now through his church. This means Jesus reigns or rules or brings the Father’s will through the church, which is a gradual process.
  12. That process will be completed when he comes as conquering king (Rev 19:11-17 / 1 Thess 4:16,17 / Mt 24:27,30,31, 1 Cor 15:24-26)  The end is quite clear: Jesus will return in glory and all will see him coming. At that point, we who are on earth will be caught up to him. He will then deal with his enemies once and for all.

And So? Whether you believe this or not, this is the clear and specific teaching about Jesus Christ as seen in the Bible. We now need to move on and see how all of this is designed to impact the people we can become, i.e. all about our behaviour.

1. The Incredible Word

Meditating on Great Themes in John:   1. The Incredible Word

John 1:1,14   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Reading through John’s Gospel recently I have been grabbed afresh over how it seems John writes in big blocks,  each block revealing something incredible about Jesus Christ. John doesn’t try to copy the style of the Synoptic Gospels and produce a history of what happened; they have done that already. John has thought over many years of the wonders of what he saw in those three incredible years with Jesus and he has seen things and remembers things the others hadn’t bothered with. Now he writes and every chapter or section seems to light up a whole new area of understanding. Yes, there are overlaps with the Synoptics because he is writing about the same things, but his emphasis is on the wonder of Jesus, not merely the acts of Jesus.

These first fourteen verses of chapter one, so often called the Prologue in John are staggeringly incredible. Have you ever been to a Christian event where they have on the back part of the stage a painter who paints large brush strokes throughout the event until suddenly at the end you see the picture and it is amazing. I find these first fourteen verses to be like that. Massive brush strokes.

Brush stroke number one, a word, The Word.  He takes a concept used by the Greeks of that day and the Greek word is the Logos. There was a different Greek word for the spoken word; this ‘word’ in the Greek means the Thought, the Reason, the Meaning, the power or force of life, the cause behind everything.  John takes this brushstroke and paints in others around it to define it – in the beginning (when it was) – with God (where it was) – was God (who or what it was). Everything about this word, this expression, is of God; it is God expressing Himself.

He goes on in verse 2 – with God in the beginning (one with but distinct). Then in verse 3 more brush strokes – Through him all things were made (he was the agent of Creation) – without him nothing was made that has been made (he was essential to Creation). This word is God and yet distinct within God. This word was there at the beginning of all things, being the agent that brought all things into being.

But then verse 4 – In him was life (life, energy, movement, all came from him). Then another brush stroke – and that life was the light of men (this is life which brings meaning.) Then verse 5 more brush strokes – The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (the meaning came and revealed itself but those there did not understand it.)

So far there have been philosophical concepts, tantalizing in their suggestions but then suddenly there comes a down-to-earth change: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” (v.6) Suddenly there is something simple and clear, almost off to the side of the picture perhaps, the figure of a man, not part of this word but beside it. So what is he doing, this man? “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” (v.7) He is part of the picture to speak about this word, this life bringing light, so that people would understand and respond to the word, this light. But be quite clear as you look on this picture being formed, “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (v.8) He is distinct from this word, this life-bringing light  He isn’t this light; he just comes to tell about this light to get people ready to receive and appreciate this light.

So now we might be wondering about this light, so John adds more brush strokes: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (v.9) This light that is coming is real light, a light that affects every single human being so they will never be the same again. This light wasn’t yet in the world and so the world was in darkness, unseeing, uncomprehending, and wondering, but it was coming. And so this light came. But then we realise there is a personal pronoun used about this light, and it has been there from the earliest verses – ‘he’ – and this says that this word, this idea, this force, this light, is not some theoretical idea but a person: He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (v.10)

This person who had been involved in the very Creation was now in the world he had had a hand in creating, but his creation did not realise who he was: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (v.11) This word comes as a human being but the other humans did not realise who he was, and yet eventually (the story will show) there were those who did respond to him and so, “who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (v.12) Wow!

Where did that come from. Suddenly there was a brush stroke on this picture that brought focus and the focus was the point of his coming – to create children of God! But how? “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (v.13) This was all going to be a work of God. This is all about God coming to earth to create children for Himself! How incredible. But how did He do it? How was this Word, this light going to do that? “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (v.14) Oh my goodness!  The Word, the meaning, the reason the power, the force that was God which had existed from before anything material came into being, this word appeared on the earth in human form, revealing the glory of the One who has always been, coming as a distinct expression of the Godhead, full of the wonderful love and goodness of God and utterly real  THIS is who this Gospel is going to reveal.

Imagine the start of a film. You are in outer space. Wherever you look around you all you can see are stars, millions upon millions upon millions of them. And then the camera focuses on one gleam of light and dashes towards it but then as it nears it, it bypasses it and goes on to a tiny planet and  homes in on it. As the camera dives through the clouds, land becomes visible and as it nears the land features become clear and soon buildings and people and then it homes in and stops in front of one single human being. We have arrived with John. Now who is this incredible one person who has had such incredible things said about him? What are we going to see through the eyes of this aged saint who had been there all those years back and witnessed the wonder of it all? Read on!

16. Son of God

Jesus in John’s Gospel : 16 : Jesus, the Son of God

Jn 1:49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

There are sometimes things in Scripture that seem too obvious almost for comment, and those of us who have been Christians for any length of time perhaps take for granted Jesus’ designation as ‘Son of God’.  Indeed John the Baptist had already testified to this in verse 34, so according to the writer John, Nathaniel is the second person to acknowledge Jesus as “the Son of God”.  John did it because he saw the Spirit come down on Jesus as God had told him he would do.  Nathaniel did it because for a moment he recognized the divine ability to see what no one else could see.

At the beginning of the chapter John had linked God and the word (v.1,2) and then referred to the Word when he became flesh as the only begotten of the Father (v.14,18) who came from the Father.  When we considered this in meditation 6, we considered how he was the same essence as the Father.  This is important to John, this is why he wrote: these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:31).

This was also important to the apostle Paul: Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God… made in human likeness(Phil 2:6,7) and He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) andin Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Col 2:9). Similarly to the writer to the Hebrews: in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Heb 1:2,3). In fact so important was it to that writer that he spent the whole of chapter 1 of Hebrews making the point about the Son.

Why is it so important that Jesus was (and is) God’s Son?  First, because he conveys the very nature of God. If we have ‘seen’ Jesus we’ve seen the Father (Jn 14:9). Nowhere else in all of history has there been anyone who has claimed to be God’s Son, who is the exact representation of God, and then gone on to prove it. Second, because it makes him a faithful and true messenger, the fact that he has come from heaven (Jn 6:38,39) and third, that he alone can be the focus of our faith to grant us forgiveness of sins through his work on the Cross and subsequently, eternal life (Jn 3:13-18, 6:40)

Now there is another dimension to this. The word ‘son’ appears in Scripture over 2300 times! In God’s design, father to son is a crucial relationship. Sons were identified by their fathers. In Matthew’s Gospel the word ‘son’ appears 80 times! In John’s Gospel 43 times ‘son’ is used with reference to Jesus. A son is subordinate to the father (Jn 5:19), gives honour to the father (Jn 17:1), follows in the father’s footsteps and follows the father in the family business (Jn 5:19-23) and eventually has the business put into his hands more and more (Jn 3:35). See this unity of the Father and the Son: 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 can 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.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him and thenWhy then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.” (Jn 10:27-31,36,37). Rejoice in it. Worship him!

14. Mirror of Truth

Meditations in James: 14 :  The Mirror of Truth

Jas 1:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.

Forgetfulness in spiritual matters can be a terrible thing. Such is the waywardness of the human being that a person can sit on a Sunday morning and, under the anointing of God’s presence, ‘see’ the truth as never before, and yet hours later after numerous distractions the reality seems to have faded and the experience forgotten. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower which we referred to recently, Jesus gave two examples of how this happens: The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Mt 13:20-22). In one case trouble and persecution come along and the early joy of receiving the word is quickly forgotten. In the other case it was concerns for the world and making money that had the same effect,

James, as a good pastor, is aware of this tendency when you are living among the world, and so exhorts his readers to counter this tendency. Beware of deceiving yourself, he starts out. It’s easy to just listen to the word being preached but listening isn’t what changes you, it’s doing what you’ve heard. Perhaps James remembers that Jesus told a graphic story of two house builders to emphasise this point (Mt 7:24-27), because he likewise uses a graphic picture to convey the same truth. James uses the picture of a person looking in a mirror.  Having looked in the mirror they go away and forgot what they looked like. Perhaps, the implication seems, they saw that their hair needed doing or their face needed washing, or something similar, but as soon as they turned away from the mirror they were distracted and forget the need to do something. That, says James, is what the person is like who is challenged by God’s word but then gets distracted and forgets to do anything about it.

To press home the point, he shows us the wise person. This person looks into God’s word, responds to it and is blessed. Ah, but there are some words to be considered. James says this person looks intently into it, into God’s word. This person doesn’t give a casual look. No, this person realizes the significance of God’s word and knows the tendency to be casual with it and forget, and so this person focuses on it intently. Simple question: do we realize these things and do we therefore focus purposefully on God’s word to ensure we don’t let it drop away?

How does James describe God’s word? He calls it the perfect law that gives freedom. Now there are some commentators who say this refers to the Ten Commandments but Paul tells us that his conclusion is that all that the Old Testament Law does is make him more aware of sin (Rom 7:7,8) and bring death (Rom 7:10.11).  No, the perfect law has got to be the law of love, the love of God that has been expressed to us through the Gospel. This is what we are called to follow, this is what we are called to respond to, this is what has transformed us and this is what continues to motivate us. As we look into this and respond to it, doing all the things we know are on the heart of the One who has first loved us (so that we now love him – 1 Jn 4:10), this will bring us blessing. As we DO, so we will be blessed.

Why? Because God has said so, and in fact, the very doing of all the things Jesus spoke about, and the epistles speak about, actually bring goodness into our lives and through our lives to others.  We have used the language and the analogy in previous meditations, of our bodies, our lives, working according to the Designer’s plan, rather like running a car according to the manufacturer’s instruction book. The big different is, however, that the manufacturer’s instruction book gives rules to be followed, but the Christian faith is a mix of guidelines and goodness from God; it is a relationship with a living Being and it is as we respond to the love expressed by that Being that we are blessed. We are first blessed by His love that we receive, and then as we respond to His love and His prompting, we are blessed again, because He blesses obedience to everything that comes from Him, because it is good.

Do you catch what we are trying to convey? It’s not hard or difficult to do what God says because IT is good and it brings good, and by definition ‘good’ blesses us. James isn’t trying to impose legalistic rules on us; he simply paints a picture and says, it would be silly to ignore it, wouldn’t it? So, next time you look in a mirror, think to yourself, “Have I been responding to Him today, to what He’s shown me?” Reflect on this!

18. Communicating God

God in the Psalms No.18

Psa 12:6 the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times

In this Psalm in our verse today, we find something that seems so obvious and yet is something that few of us really believe. God is a God of communication. The Bible is all about God communicating. Verbal communication, communication with content, is a feature of humanity because we are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26,27) and the Trinity communicates between themselves, or God communicates with Himself if you prefer that. (Even in our minds we talk to ourselves).  Even to bring the world into being the Lord spoke a word and it was (Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26), and then he spoke to man and gave instructions (Gen 1:28-30, 2:16,17). Even in bringing Eve into being, God spoke about it first (Gen 2:18). Thereafter we find records of God communicating with men of His choosing – after the Fall to Adam and Eve (3:9-19), subsequently to Cain (Gen 4:6-15), then in respect of the Flood and Noah (Gen 6:7 on), then to Abram (Gen 12:1 on), etc. When John refers to Jesus, he initially calls him “The Word” (Jn 1), a means of communications. The writer to the Hebrews starts his letter-book by, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1:1,2). Here is a wonderful truth – God speaks to His people.

Today God speaks to us through His word, the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16,17) and directly by His Holy Spirit (e.g. Jn 14:26, 16:13). Why is it therefore that some of us are surprised at this thought and fear the thought of God speaking to us? Is it perhaps that we’re not sure about His nature?  Have you ever read C.S.Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”? If you have, you may remember the talk about Aslan the Lion, who Lewis uses to portray Jesus. One of the children, Lucy, asks, “Is he safe?” to which the reply is given, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  Some of us have the same fears as Lucy. We fear the Lord in the same way she feared Aslan – but, of course, that was before she knew him. She had yet to meet him and know that he was ‘good’. Everything about the Lord is good. You can be safe with Him. You can trust Him. Indeed when it comes to all that he says, you can trust it, because it is good and right – it is flawless!

When we talk about a diamond that is ‘flawless’ we mean it is completely without defect of any kind, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Now do we realize that the same is true of all that the Lord says?  He makes no mistakes. He is totally truthful and therefore never lies. He never distorts the truth.  In fact, says David, God’s words are like the most purified metals. Imagine the purifying process, taking out all the impurities from silver. Imagine the process being repeated and repeated until eventually there is absolutely nothing more of impurity to be removed, and it is now totally pure silver. That is what God’s words are liked. There is nothing, but nothing, that is impure about them. They are perfect and they can be utterly trusted. So, if the Lord says He will protect the weak, He will!  God never says anything that He will not do.  If He’s said it, He will do it! You can utterly rely on what he’s said. Now this is vitally important to understand as we read God’s word. We can believe it, we can trust it, and we can rely upon it. Remember, what God says, He will do. If it’s conditional, remember, we may have a part to play.