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Psalm 52

“To the director of music: a Maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite came and declared to Saul, saying to him: ‘David has come to the house of Achimelek.”

(Psalm 52:1-2 [Superscript in English Translations])

 

Though this psalm can be sung and prayed in many contexts, those with superscripts like this one give us a great deal of help in understanding the context within which the psalm was written. At this point in history, David is still on the run from Saul; he and his men are weary and hungry, and he goes to the priests at Nob (where the Tabernacle was at the time) and received the shewbread as well as Goliath’s sword (1 Samuel 21). Jesus himself refers to this event when he teaches that the Pharisaical restrictions on the Sabbath day did not apply to him or to his disciples (Mark 2:23-28).

What follows is disturbing to say the least. Doeg the Edomite tells Saul that Achimelek (whose name interestingly means: “Brother to the King”) has collaborated with David. While Saul’s own men refuse to strike down the priest of God; Doeg does not share that reservation, takes his men, and slays Achimelek and his family — 85 persons in all. Only Abiathar (whose name means: “My Father Gives Generously”) escapes to warn David (1 Samuel 22).

Thus in his time of distress and righteous anger (for the priests of God were slain), David turns to prayer and writes this psalm. We don’t know whether he wrote it immediately as his response to the news that Abiathar brings or later as he recalls this event, either way, these words reflect his heart’s response in the face of such tragedy.

It raises the question as to how our hearts respond to tragedy as well. Do we resort to prayer? Do we lift our hands in frustration and anger? Or, can we stand with David in utter astonishment at the brazen acts of sinful men and proclaim that we will wait patiently for God to vindicate his name. This does not mean that there is not a time to act, David did often, but often we get confused between the expression of our own difficulties and standing for the honor of our God and King. Also, are the words that come from our mouth in times of trial like these characterized by slander or worship? David’s words have guided the worship of God’s people for generations; can we say the same about our own words uttered at such times?

The Desires of our Heart

“Take pleasure in Yahweh;

And He will give to you the petitions of your heart.”

(Psalm 37:4)

 

Recently, I my wife was listening to a popular Christian radio station in our area and I heard, during one of the breaks between songs, a commentator saying, “God wants to give you your heart’s desires…” Ultimately the man went on to explain that the more we delight in God the more God will bless our lives. And as I was standing there listening to this, I said to myself, “that’s surely not what David meant when he wrote these words.” By human terms, David’s life was a mess. His brothers did not like him much, his first wife was embarrassed by him, his father-in-law (King Saul) tried to kill him multiple times, and he spent much of his life hiding in the wilderness from the King and his men. Even as a king, David spent much of his time at war, he murdered one of his close friends, committed adultery, lost a child because of his sin, had another son take his kingdom out from under him, was denied by God in terms of building the Temple, etc… Yet, David understood where to go for peace and sanctuary. A life of trial and strife surely could not have been the desire of his heart (read the Psalms!), but he did take ultimate pleasure in Yahweh. If the radio commentator is right, David is doing something wrong. I think that the radio commentator is wrong…and so go all those who would read the Bible out of context.

In many ways, Psalm 37 reads more like a chapter in Proverbs than in the Psalms (then again, it would be one of David’s sons who would write the former). It contains a series of reflections or ponderings about living life well in this fallen world, and here in verse 4, we find the language that the radio commentator was drawing from. English translations tend to render the language similarly, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The language seems pretty straightforward, and it is, but to understand this passage we need to make sure we do not gloss over the implications of what it is saying. The problem arises when people separate the first part of the verse from the latter part of the verse. The commentator was reading the verse this way: “If I delight in God then God will give me the things that I desire.” But, if we genuinely delight in something (or in this case, someone), isn’t that one in which we delight the desire of our heart? Indeed, it is!

The point is that God does not want to give us the desires of our hearts; God wants to be the desire of our heart! And when God is the desire of our heart, God gives more and more of himself to us, not the “stuff” that this world is filled with and we so often allow to become our treasure. Jesus said to set your treasure in heaven (on God! — Matthew 6:19-21) for where our treasure is there our heart will be. The reason that David could write these words in the midst of so many trials of life was precisely because God was the one in whom David delighted. And as David delighted in God, God gave to David more and more of himself…a place of refuge in a time of trial.

This world is filled with things and people that will try and become the desire of your heart. This world is also filled with well-meaning people who study their Bibles in the light of their own preferences. All of these things are pitfalls and traps that we must avoid. John the Apostle instructed us that we are to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), that means all the spirits you encounter, even those that wear the garb of Christianity. There are many that will mislead and under their influence we will set our hearts on other things. Do not fall into that trap. Make God your soul desire in life and he will richly bless you with himself.

David in the Wilderness: Psalm 63 (part 1)

“A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah”

(Psalm 63:1 {superscript in English Bibles})

 

It is always helpful when psalms contain superscripts, which can introduce for us the context and the historical setting of the psalm (remembering that in the Hebrew Bible, the superscripts are part of the inspired text).  Even so, many of the superscripts still leave us with the responsibility of doing some footwork in the historical books if we want to narrow down the context more exactly.  And, in this case, we really have two possibilities that could provide the context for this psalm.

The earlier of the two possibilities would be found in 1 Samuel 23, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul.  He spent much time in the Judean wilderness (for example, see 1 Samuel 23:15).  The difficulty that some have with this earlier dating is that David refers to himself as “king” in this psalm (verse 11 in English Bibles) and technically, Saul was still the king of Israel.  At the same time, David had already been anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel by this point (1 Samuel 16), and though he had not yet assumed the role of King, the office was rightfully his.

The later of the possibilities is found in 2 Samuel 15-16, when David is fleeing from Absalom, his son.  At this point, David is clearly king of Israel without any room for debate and the text itself calls him “the king.”  David is found to spend time in the wilderness of Benjamin (which is often seen as part of the Judean wilderness) and Judah as he flees for his life again.  In turn, this second, later, choice may be a better option to fit the context of the psalm, though both are possibilities.

Whichever option you choose, what is perhaps more important is that the early church saw this psalm as a hymn that was reflective of their condition.  The church is a church in the wilderness heading for an eternal promised land that Christ has prepared and preserved for us, but for now, we are tested and tried here in this sinful world.  The early church especially also clearly understood what it meant to have people seek to destroy them as persecution abounded during those days (and still does today in other parts of the world).  Thus, tradition tells us, that men and women in the Early church often sang this particular psalm daily as a reminder of where they were and of God’s hand of provision in their lives.

Beloved, as you reflect on the words of this psalm, remember the context from which it comes—it is one of trust in God even in the midst of having to flee for your life.  Oh, how we can learn from those ancient saints who clung to this psalm for encouragement in the midst of their great trials.  Oh, how we would grow if we saw trials for what they are—not things to be feared, but opportunities for God to demonstrate his provision to us.  Loved ones, do not seek the easy life that finds its comfort in worldly things; seek the life that rests in God’s hand for all needs even in the midst of great tribulations.

A Broken Spirit and Crushed Heart: Psalm 51 (part 18)

“The sacrifices of God are a spirit that is broken and

a heart that is broken and crushed—

O God, these you will not despise.

(Psalm 51:19 {Psalm 51:17 in English Bibles})

 

There are two ways in which we can look at David’s statement about the “sacrifices of God.”  The first way is the way that this verse is typically seen and that is to say that the sacrifices that are “of God” or are “acceptable to God” are a broken spirit and a broken and a contrite heart.  This interpretation clearly fits the context of the passage as a whole and joins hand in hand with the language about sacrifices that is found in the previous verse, and indeed, those who come before the Lord with hearts that are proud and haughty, filled with a sense of their own achievements, will be sent away in shame.  We are a people who have nothing in our hands to show or offer—our lives and works can only earn us condemnation if it is what we are trusting in to bring us to God. 

Yet, there is a second way that we can understand this verse, and that is as a prophetic statement of the coming of Christ.  For it is God himself who would offer himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of his people—beaten and broken, and suffering not only in his death, but suffering in life as he grieved the state of his covenant people.  Thus, in Christ, God himself offered up the sacrifice of a broken heart as demonstrated in Christ’s suffering and death.  In addition, do not the scriptures speak of our sin grieving the heart of God?  Indeed, out of God’s grieving heart he offered up the sacrifice of his Son so that any who would cling to Him as their Lord and Savior would be redeemed from their sin. 

Oh, loved ones, how the cost of sin should cause us to grieve sin all the more.  Someone else paid the price, took the punishment on our behalf—it cost God what we could not pay.  How, then, knowing this, do we so often take sin so lightly—do we take forgiveness so casually?  Beloved, examine your hearts; see where they are broken and supple, but most importantly, look to find those areas that have gotten proud and hard and pray to God that He will crush those parts to dust.  It will hurt when God does so, but beloved, it is only in brokenness that you can have a heart that is right before God. 

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

-George Matheson

My Sin is Before Me: Psalm 51 (part 4)

“For my transgressions I know,

and my sin is continually before me.”

(Psalm 51:5  [Psalm 51:3 in English Bibles])

 

David switches gear from using the emphatic chiastic structure to a simple parallel structure—even so, we will not lose the clear emphasis of what he is communicating.  Here he is, staring at his own transgressions and recognizing that there is nothing he can do on his own about his sin, for it stands continually before him as an accuser.  Beloved, never lose sight of your own inability to atone for your own sins—it simply cannot be done.  How often we like to do this or to do that, thinking that we might earn God’s favor in light of our sin; loved ones, it cannot be done.  We stand helpless before God’s throne of judgment if we are trusting in anything short of Jesus Christ for our salvation.  No amount of works can get you there, no amount of deeds can earn your place; no matter how bright you are, how well versed you are in scripture, how many people you have helped—all of this will avail you nothing before God’s throne.  It is only by clinging desperately to Christ that you will be saved.  And though David did not know the name of Christ, he trusted in the promise of Christ given in Genesis 3:15 and he clung to that promise of a coming redeemer, and he recognized that even he, the anointed king of God’s people, Israel, stood guilty and condemned as a result of sin, and he threw himself at God’s feet seeking mercy.  Oh, how we need to learn from King David.

There is something more that is very important for us to note.  David says that he “knows” his transgressions.  Do not neglect to note that “knowing” in the Hebrew mindset reflects far more than an intellectual recognition, but it reflects a relational understanding.  David is not simply assenting to the fact that he has sins, but he is saying that he recognizes that he has sins and he does so because he knows his sin intimately and deeply.  Beloved, do not miss the importance of this imagery.  Before you can truly repent of your sins, you need to have an understanding of what those sins are and why those sins are so grievous to God.  You need to dig deeply into your soul and grieve over those sins yourself.  You need to see the sins for what they are:  rebellion against a living and holy God. 

Beloved, all too often we do not recognize sin for what it is—an outward rebellion and offense against God.  In turn, we often are very casual when it comes to repentance.  David is saying here that he has searched his heart and has found it wanting and deeply sinful before God, and it is in that stance that he comes before God pleading for his mercy.  Friends, as you search your own hearts and seek to know yourself deeply, recognize your sin for what it is, and in knowing that, lay it before God’s throne in the name of Jesus Christ seeking God’s forgiveness.

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,

Weak and wounded, sick and sore;

Jesus ready stands to save you,

Full of pity, joined with power:

He is able, he is able, he is able,

He is willing; doubt no more;

He is willing; doubt no more.

-Joseph Hart

Wash Me From My Iniquity: Psalm 51 (part 3)

“Completely wash me from my iniquity;

from my sin, purify me.”

(Psalm 51:4 [Psalm 51:2 in English Bibles])

 

Once again we find David employing a chiastic structure (something he will do through the bulk of this psalm) to add emphasis, bringing together two parallel ideas, yet mirroring them in their order.  These are not casual words of David, but the language that he employs demonstrates the intensity of this prayer.  And that intensity is heightened even more by David’s choice of the Piel stem for the two primary verbs (wash and purify).  In Hebrew, the various stems of the verb are used to convey different ideas (passive tense, causative action, etc…), not unlike what we do with adverbs in English.  The Piel stem conveys not only an intensification of action, but it also conveys the idea of an action that must be repeated over and over.  And, indeed, David understands his own need—our own need as humans—to be constantly on our knees before our God repenting of our sin and pleading for his forgiveness. 

Beloved, there is an intensity that comes through in this prayer that must not be missed—oh, how often we take repentance casually, as if it is something that we deserve because of who we are.  Not only is that not the case, but that concept could not be any further from David’s mind.  David clearly understands that he does not deserve the mercy of God, yet here he is, before God’s face, pleading for just that—not based on his own character, but upon the character of God.  Pleading that God would wash and cleanse him from his sins.  How we can learn from David as he expresses his grief; how we should learn to model our own prayers for forgiveness upon his.  Beloved, one of the reasons that God has given us the psalms is to teach us how to express every emotion that we have in a way that is glorifying to him and edifying to us—do not neglect this tool that he has given us—use these psalms within your own life and use this one especially as you seek our Lord’s face in humble repentance.

To the Director: Psalm 51 (part 1)

“To the director:  a psalm of David—when Nathan the prophet came to him just as he had gone to Bathsheba.”

(Psalm 51:1-2 [superscript in English Bibles])

 

It is always good, when you come to a psalm, to have a superscript as detailed as this one.  So often, it is hard to determine with any degree of certainty just when a particular psalm was written, yet, with this one, that is not the case.  After the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba, as he grieves over his sin and over his dying child, it would seem that David penned these words (see 2 Samuel 11-12).  Oh, what a dark time in Israel’s history this was—King David, the model king of Israel, entered into one of the worst sins that could be entered into.  At the same time, here is the mark of the believer—repentance.  Oh, how we stumble and fall, particularly when we seek to resist sin on our own strength, but we have a God that is so much greater than our sin—the mark of the believer, though, is repentance.

Beloved, as you read the words of this psalm, never separate them from their context.  Though we may apply them to our own lives, never forget that they come from a heart that is deeply grieved by sin—to write this, as his lay dying as a direct result of his sin—his tears must have flowed with each verse he wrote.  Never lose touch of that, sometimes it is all too easy to read passages of scripture as abstract words and systematic teachings—cold and distant from our emotions—and beloved, that could not be further from the truth.  These words, as were all the words of scripture, were penned through human beings much like you or I, with all of the same kinds of fears and concerns, hopes and dreams, that you or I have.  Could David have felt any less agony as he watched his baby son die before him that you or I would feel were our child to die in our arms.  Friends, this is the context of this psalm of repentance—it is out of a heart that has been wrenched and torn asunder as a result of grief over his sin.  Indeed, I wonder if this agony and pain is not so distant from the pain that God the Father must have felt, as he watched his Son die on the cross—this time not for his sins, for God knows no sin, but for the sins of a rebellious and wicked people who he yet loved with a love deeper than can be described with words.  Indeed, I wonder if it was all that different.

Yet, beloved, as we read this psalm, let us see this as a model and a guide for our own repentance.  King David has laid bare his soul before us not simply as a means of his own repentance, but to teach us how to repent as well.  John Calvin called the book of Psalms an “anatomy of the human soul,” and indeed, every emotion common to mankind is expressed within this book.  Within the psalms we cannot only be taught how to worship God, but we can also be taught how to express pain, misery, grief, and even holy anger.  Beloved, do not neglect the psalms, and especially do not neglect the difficult ones, for they are meant for you to be a guide and a standard to teach you how to live every aspect of your life to the glory of God.  Take them to heart, and apply them to your soul.  Listen to these words of David as he repents of his sin, and let them be a guide for you as well as you struggle to repent of that, which has caused you to stumble in your life.  And never forget, forgiveness is not earned, it is a free gift given out of God’s abundant grace to those who come to him in faith and repentance.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, Grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

-Julia Johnston

No One Comes To the Father, But Through Me: John 14:6

“no one comes to the Father if not through me.”

 

            Jesus begins and ends this passage by focusing on himself.  Friends, salvation can be found in no other person or path.  It cannot be found in philosophy, in science, in achievements, in wealth, in family, in humanism, in Buddha, in Mohammed, or in anyone or anything else.  Our world presents many options and paths—some of which even sound convincing—but the only way to the Father is through Jesus.  The only hope of a resurrection is found in the one who was resurrected.  The only hope of eternal life is in the eternal one who is the life.  And the only truth in this world is found in the person of Christ, who has revealed to us the mysteries of God’s redemptive plan. 

Jesus Christ is not only the focal point of all of scripture, but he is the point on which all of history revolves about.  You might enjoy talking about politics, but politics has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about sports, but sports has no eternal significance.  You might enjoy talking about literature, but literature has no eternal significance.  The only thing that has eternal significance in the history of mankind is Jesus Christ and the work that God had done and is doing through him.  That is the bedrock of your faith—I urge you to stand upon it without wavering and without doubting when the winds of trial fill your days.  Trust in Him, and Him alone, dear friends, even though the world would tell you otherwise.

 

No One Comes to the Father: John 14:6

“no one comes to the father”

 

            Do you see how the Trinity is at work in redemptive history?  We offended God by our sin and our rejection of his law.  Yet, rather than leave us to our deserved fate, God chose to work in our lives to redeem a people for himself.  God the Son provided a sacrifice to atone for our sins, bridging the chasm of sin between us and the Father.  And God the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of each member of the elect, and through faith, draws us to God the Son, and through God the Son, we are brought to God the Father.  The symmetry of God’s redemptive plan is a beautiful thing to behold.

            But what is even more beautiful is the face of a believer when he or she truly realizes that they have been redeemed—not that they have earned redemption, but that they have been redeemed by a work of God himself.  In this life, we struggle with a load of burdens and cares, brought on by our fallen state, when Jesus lifts that burden from the shoulders of one who is newly redeemed, oh what a joy does fill their heart.  And the joy does not end there, the angels in heaven rejoice in praise to God as well (Luke 15:10).

            Friends, take the time to remember your own conversion, the time when you finally realized that you could stand before the Father’s throne not on your own flawed righteousness, but in the righteousness that is Christ’s.  Don’t ever forget the joy and the desire to worship that filled your heart on that day.  Some of you may not remember a time when you did not embrace Christ as Lord, and the blessings of a lifetime in fellowship with him have richly blessed your soul.  This is one of the great mysteries of God’s love—that he would choose to redeem a fallen and sinful race—that he would choose to redeem you and me, and that we might have fellowship with him.   I am reminded of the old Bill Gaither hymn:

Shackled by a heavy burden,

Neath a load of guilt and shame—

Then the hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.

He touched me, O He touched me,

And O the joy that floods my soul;

Something happened, and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.

 

Christian, rejoice and praise God for the fact that Jesus has brought you to the Father.

No One Comes: John 14:6

“no one comes”

 

            I once heard a preacher say that if you are feeling distant or separated from God that it is you that moved, not he.  There is a great deal of truth in that statement.  Sin is a great divide that separates us, a sinful people, from a Holy God.  And the divide was caused by our sin.  Yet, praise be to God that a bridge has been provided for us in Jesus Christ! 

            The debate in Christian circles is not over whether we come, but over what causes us to come.  This debate is often called the Calvinistic/Wesleyan or the Calvinistic/Arminian debate, but the roots of the debate go back much further than John Wesley, Jacob Arminius, or John Calvin.  The roots of this debate lie with a man named Pelagius and Saint Augustine.

            Pelagius denied the doctrine of Original Sin (I guess he never had children).  He said that all sin was learned and that we could live a sinless life if we just tried hard enough.  Of course, were even one person able to live a perfect life, then there would be no need for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Eventually the church pronounced Pelagius and his view heretical, as it denies the need for the atonement.

            While Arminius did not deny Original Sin, he did build on Pelagius’ premise that we are capable of coming to faith in Jesus on our own strength, that faith is something we bring to salvation.  While Arminius and his followers’ teachings were never well received in their native Netherlands, a young English preacher named John Wesley became enchanted by their teachings.

            Ultimately, John Wesley would affirm God’s sovereignty over everything except the human will.  He said that God woos us to himself through his “prevenient grace” (grace that goes before), but the ultimate choice was left up to us.  In Wesley’s view, Jesus’ death was to atone for the sins of everyone, it was just up unto each individual as to whether they would accept the gift he offers.  God regenerates the sinner, but not until the sinner comes to him in faith.

            We who are in the Reformed tradition of Calvin and Augustine disagree vehemently with this position.  Through sin, death entered into the world (Genesis 3) and we die not only physically, but apart from the spirit, we are dead spiritually (Romans 8:5-8).  One who is dead can do nothing to aid his own cause—he is dead, and can only rot and become more corrupted.  It is impossible for the spiritually dead to please God in any way (Romans 8:8).  Thus faith is not something we are capable of providing; rather, when the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer, He also instills faith into the believer. 

            Wesley was never comfortable with the ramifications of this theology.  For if faith and regeneration were a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, then God must be doing the choosing when it comes to redemption.  To this, the Calvinist says a hearty, Amen!  The scriptures are filled with references to God’s election of his people.  All through history, God chose certain people to bring to himself and others to leave to their sinful ways.  If you take the scriptures seriously, you cannot get away from this fact.  Christ’s death was fully effective for all of those whose name were written in the Book of Life from before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:3-6).  Upon just this issue, Jesus himself says: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will not ever cast out.”  (John 6:37)

            Friends, we are surrounded by people who teach that faith is something that you generate from within yourself, and because of that, you can lose your salvation if you don’t stand strong enough in the faith.  This is not the teaching of scripture.  If God does the working in you, he will do the keeping of you until the very end (Romans 8:28-30).  Though we need to work hard to live a life for God’s glory, not backsliding into sin, we can take a great deal of encouragement that it is God himself who will ensure that we finish the race.

            Loved ones, take heart.  God has called, he has awakened your soul, and he has given you faith so that you might come to his son, Jesus.  You have been brought out of the darkness and into the light of Christ, and Christ will not turn away any who his father has given him—no never, will he cast you away.

No One: John 14:6

“no one”

 

            Jesus has moved from making a positive statement of the truth to a negative one.  First he says, “Yes, I am the way…” and now he is saying, “No, there is no other way.”  In this way, Jesus makes sure that we understand the exclusivity of the Christian faith.  There is no room for any compromise or alternate ideas.  Jesus is the only way and apart from him, no one comes to the Father—at least in any sense that they would want to encounter the Father.

             While our culture, and in turn, many of our churches, has embraced inclusively, this is not the position of Jesus.  He was very clear that it was only in him that salvation can be found.  There is no sneaking into heaven by any other way.  No matter how good or kind a person is, if they are trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus, they will face eternal condemnation.

            Sometimes I wonder just how seriously we take this part of the message.  When someone dies, the first thing that we say, is, “well, they are in a better place…”  Are they?  If they knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are in a far better place, but if they did not know Jesus personally—given all of the Biblical descriptions of Hell, it is a far worse place than here.  When we have loved ones who are exhibiting no evidence of God in their lives, how often do we refrain from asking about Jesus?  How often do we turn our heads, hoping that in the end, everything will work out OK?

            Jesus is phrasing this statement in both a positive way and a negative to make in unmistakably clear in our minds that while there are many roads, there is no other road that leads to salvation.  Friends, if we understand that no one who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has any hopes to go to heaven, let us be more serious about sharing the Gospel with those we love and those who are around us.  You are never too young or old to do so.  There is absolutely no other path to heaven but in Christ, let our hearts yearn to see more souls join us on that path.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life”

 

            Not only is Jesus the true way and the truth within the world, but he is the life.  There is no life apart from life in Christ.  Though some people may think that they can find life in this world; they look for life in wealth, or wisdom, or achievements, or pleasure, but as Solomon tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes, anything that is done apart from God is vanity—it is like trying to chase the wind.

            But Jesus is making an even more profound point.  Back in Genesis, Adam and Eve were warned that the penalty for sin would be death.  And though, when they ate of the fruit, death entered into the world in a physical sense, it also entered into the world in a spiritual sense.  At the moment that Adam and Eve chose to sin, they died in a spiritual sense.  The relationship that they had with God was severed and broken, and unbridgeable by anything that we could do.  They were dead to sin and just as a corpse is unable to do anything but corrupt, so their souls were unable to do anything but corrupt as well.

            Yet, Praise be to God that this is not the end of the story!  Right there in Eden, God gave to Adam and Eve a promise of a redeemer, one who would crush the head of Satan and his influence on man forever more.  Jesus is that promised one.  The Old Testament Saints placed their faith in a promise, but Jesus wanted us to be very clear that in him that promise was fulfilled.  God breathed life into the dead spiritual corpses of Adam and Eve on that day, just as he continues to breath life into spiritually dead corpses today—regenerating them and instilling in them a faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the life; he is the way a believer must walk and the truth a believer must trust in, but he is also the life, which allows the believer to believe in the first place.  As the Augustus Toplady so eloquently put it: “Nothing in my hand I bring; Only to the Cross I cling.”

            Christian, do not take for granted what God has done for you even before you recognized yourself as a believer.  Though your heart beat and your flesh felt strong, you were no more than a walking corpse prior to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in your life.  Your soul was rotten and decayed.  But just as God can breath new life into the old bones of Israel (Ezekiel 37), so too was God able to breath new life into your soul and remake it new.  This life you have is in Christ, it is the only life that is available—all who deny it are but walking dead.  Beloved, trust in Christ with your all, because he is your all.

I am the Way and the Truth: John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth”

 

            Once again, we find Jesus using a definite article before the word truth.  Not only is Jesus the only way that leads to life eternal with the Father, but he is the only truth that we have access to in this world.  Think about that for a moment.  If Jesus is THE truth, then ANYTHING that contradicts or stands in opposition to Jesus must, by definition, be a lie.  And since Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), then the Bible, which is the Word of God given to us, must also be THE truth and irrefutable.

            In our post-modern culture, where the rules of logic and reason are thrown out of the window and where everything is considered to be relative, a statement like this does not sit well.  Yet, it has not sat well with people through the ages.  Men would rather hear what pleases them than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3).  Philosophers are not interested in the truth; rather they are interested in being novel. 

            Yet Jesus says that he is the truth and he leaves no room for any competition.  Jesus is the truth and if we desire to know the truth about any and all things, we must turn to him and to his word.  This means, then, that the Scriptures must be the basis for our understanding of everything else that is.  In other words, the Scriptures are the only glasses that we can look through so that we can see the world clearly.  If anything seems to contradict scriptures, it must be wrong.

            Science will tell us that the world is about 5 billion years old.  There certainly seems to be some evidence in nature to support that hypothesis.  At the same time, scripture tells us that the world is only 6,000 to 8,000 years old.  The scriptures must be right.  How are we to understand the scientific evidence?  One of two ways:  either that the scientists are not interpreting the data properly (though this is probably not the case) or that God created the world to look older than it really is. 

            Does this mean that God is being dishonest?  Not at all, he never claims that the world is billions of years old.  What it means is that the scientists are only looking at part of the evidence.  There are logical reasons why the world seems as old as it seems, and were scientists to look to the Bible and not just nature, they would understand these things.  All of creation is part of God’s general revelation to the world, for it all points to his handiwork.  If people choose to ignore that general revelation in search of a naturalistic explanation, how can God be held responsible for their error? 

            But more important than general revelation is special revelation:  The Bible.  The Bible is not a systematic encyclopedia which gives us a little bit of information on all things, rather it is an exhaustive work that gives us all the information we need to know about the relationship between God and man.  It is the manual that instructs the saved and leads others to the object of salvation, the Truth made flesh, Jesus.  Our culture is fond of thinking that there are many truths; yet, there is but one.  Jesus died for the sins of all who would put their faith in him as their Lord and Savior.  He died in their place, taking their just punishment on his shoulders.  And he was raised!  And because Jesus was raised, we who have our faith in Jesus have been promised resurrection as well.  Friends, this is the truth.

            In a world that glorifies “tolerance” as its chief virtue, it is easy to get deceived into thinking that there might be other legitimate faiths.  But this is not so.  All who are not trusting in Jesus for their salvation will stand in judgment based on their works, and no one can stand before a righteous God on their own merit.  Jesus is the only way to salvation, and he is the only truth.  Everything else is no truth at all.

I am the Way: John 14:6

“I am the way”

 

            It is important that you read this statement very closely, because many people in our culture do not understand the language that Jesus is using.  He says, “I am THE way,” he does not say, “I am A way.”  Our culture seems to think that it does not matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, “whatever you call God,” they say, “is all the same.”  They feel that everyone is going to heaven and what is most important is that we simply all get along here on earth.  Because of that, they accuse evangelical Christians of being narrow-minded and pushy with our faith.  They see us evangelizing on the street corners, in hospitals, or at disaster scenes and they say we are offending their privacy.  They would rather that we leave them alone for a few years on earth than avoid an eternity of damnation.

            Yet, what is most interesting about this culture’s position is that it wants to affirm that a group of mutually exclusive religions as being compatible.  That is like trying to affirm that a coin is a nickel and a dime at the same time—it just cannot be.  Jesus said that he was “THE” way!  It is a statement of total exclusion.  There are no other ways or paths that can be followed; Jesus is the only option if you want to avoid the fires of judgment.

            If we are true to scripture and true to the teaching of Jesus, we can take no other stance than this; there are no other options.  You are either trusting in Jesus for salvation or you are not, there are no in-betweens and no grey areas.  There may be other roads, but those roads, though easy, only lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  Jesus is the only way that leads to life.

            The thing that we often struggle with is being truthful with other people, especially those closest to us.  We fear offending them.  Truth, be told, though, these people are those we ought to work the hardest with, for is it not those who we love the most who we ought to desire the most to spend eternity with?  Beloved, if these people are truly your friends, they will be the least likely to recoil from you if you share the Gospel with them.  If they are willing to walk away from a friendship because you are concerned for their soul, then you should bring into question the caliber of friendship that you had with them in the first place.

            Friends, do not be so worry about offending that you quietly participate in the eternal destruction of those you care about.  Love them with the truth.  Just as an animal cannot be a cow and a dog at the same time, so too, if your goal is heaven, you can look to no other place but Christ.   

I Am: John 14:6

 

“I am”

 

            Not only is Jesus drawing attention to himself when he emphasizes the “I” of this statement, but he is making another connection as well.  In Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks the Lord what name shall he give to the Israelites as to who is sending him, the Lord says to tell the Israelites that he is “I AM WHO I AM.”  In the next verse, God simply tells Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM sent me.”

            The language of “I AM” is important in our understanding of God, for God simply is.  He exists independent of time and space, he is boundless and timeless, and he has always existed and always will exist.  Before God created the world, God was and only God was.  There is nothing that was created that did not have its origins in God’s work and nothing is outside of God’s divine and sovereign control.  God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  And by Jesus making the statement, “I, I am…” one of the claims that he is making is that he is the “I AM” of scripture; he is Yahweh having taken on flesh.

            Jesus is stating that all of the attributes that we attribute to God belong to him as well.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and to know him is to know the Father (John 14:7-11).  Friends, do you see what Jesus is claiming here?    He is making an explicit statement of divinity.  He is saying that he is God, the one who created all things and preserved a people for himself, and is all-powerful—and he has chosen to take the way of the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is not offering an ordinary sacrifice, but a perfect, flawless, and divine sacrifice for the sins of you and me.

            Jesus is preexistent and eternal, and he chose to put aside his rightful glory to walk this earth.  He chose to endure the abuse and the spite of our race, yet he is God himself.  He chose to suffer and die for sins that did not belong to him, but belonged to us, so that we might come to him.  Jesus had all of the agony of Hell dumped on his shoulders so that we might not have to face its fires.

            Friends, this is the Gospel in a nutshell—to those who put their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior, he has suffered in their place and given us a promise of redemption instead.  What is sad is there are people in this world who would try and make us believe that Jesus was not really God.  Friends, there are many examples where Jesus claims his deity, and this is just one.  Rest in the promise that the Lord you serve is God and that he loved you enough to pay the penalty for sin on your behalf.  I can think of no more blessed a promise than that.

I: John 14:6

“I”

 

            This statement begins with the Greek word “ejgwv” (ego), which means “I.”  Though this may not seem significant, it is significant in the Greek language, for in Greek, the verb carries its own subject, in other words, it is redundant to use the actual word for “I” unless you are doing so for emphasis.  Literally, this statement begins, “I, I am the way…”

            Jesus is drawing attention to himself.  Not only is he the only pathway to the father, but he is the focal point of all Christian living.  It is his life, not ours, that is of utmost important.  The key is not the destination, but the guide that you are following.  It was more important for Thomas to understand that he must follow Christ than the destination to which Christ was leading him.

            Is that not all of our difficulties?  Do we not often get impatient with the journey, wanting to get to the destination more quickly?  Are we not a society of shortcuts and impatience?  We want everything yesterday and wish to wait for nothing.  Yet, Jesus tells us to stop focusing on ourselves and trust him.  We become impatient when we fail to trust the guide that is leading us, which in turn causes our eyes to wander.  Jesus is not saying to take our eyes off the goal of Heaven—never must we do that, but what he is saying is that we need to trust in him and in his timing. 

We can only see the road to heaven clearly when we are looking through the lens of Christ.  Jesus begins with “I” because everything for the Christian begins, ends, and revolves around Him.  Remember, it is not the human “I” that will guide you to your heavenly goal, but it is the divine “I am” who will bring you safely to your destination.