Tag Archives: Assurance

Sunday with John – The Control

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, I am he.”aJudas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” ESV
[a] Footnote: John 18:5 Greek I am; also verses 6, 8

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus is the only one who understands the Father is in complete control.  Everyone else is under the assumption they have some control over this situation. Judas has come to this familiar place prepared to betray Jesus.  The soldiers have come to this garden prepared to execute that betrayal once Jesus’s identity has been confirmed.  Peter has come prepared to fight to save Jesus.  Jesus “knowing all that would happen to him,” is the only one who’s come prepared with the truth of His identity.

“Jesus answered them with this curious phrase, two words in both English and in the original language (ego eimi). It is curious because Jesus didn’t say I am He, but simply I am – the He was added by the translators and is not in the original text. With this Jesus consciously proclaimed that He was God, connecting His words to the many previous I am statements recorded in the Gospel of John, especially in John 8:58 (but also John 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:9, 10:11-14, 10:36, 11:25, 14:6).” Enduring Word

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, identifies Himself as I am!  In those two simple words He acknowledges His compete identity with the Father who IS in control; “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

What does it say about people?
People make decisions within the context of control.  It’s a human part of the reasoning nature the Father has built into His people.  Step 1: accumulate and compile information, Step 2: make an informed decision and Step 3: take action.

Is there truth here for me?
It’s not those three steps that are the problem, it’s the sin of losing sight of who’s in control of our identity.  Sin has distorted reasoning.  Judas for some inexplicable reason had accumulated and compiled his information, knowing Jesus considered him a friend, but chose to believe some lie of reasoning that could justify betraying his friend.  The soldiers chose to rely on the informed decisions of their leaders reasoning, but were knocked to the ground by their own. Peter in this context of wanting to save Jesus had no time to reason but chose violence as his knee-jerk reaction. 

None of these responses are unfamiliar to me.  John has continued to remind me how important it is to remember Jesus is THE control over the context of my identity.  I have a reasoning nature that is improving because of Jesus in my life but it is still distorted.  I can make informed decisions until I’m blue in the face but I just can’t trust they’ll all be perfect.  The one assurance I have is that Jesus is THE control over every action I take.  Jesus has promised He will inspect, correct and redirect every clumsy step I take in my journey with Him toward eternity “to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 

Wednesday with John – Obedience

John 12:44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandmentwhat to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
It isn’t the still small voice this time, “Jesus cried out!”  Listen up…I am the Light God has given for you to believe and see Him.  I’m not your judge, the Word God has given me to speak will be your judge. My commandment is to say and speak His Words in order “to save the world.”  “His commandment is eternal life”…yours!

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus assurance to Himself is His obedience to His father’s commandment…“For I have not spoken on my own authority.” Of course that‘s His assurance to us too.

What does it say about people?
Is there anyone alive who can’t hear Jesus’s frustration in the words of that first phrase “And Jesus cried out”?  Is there any believer alive who doesn’t know first-hand the frustration of longing for someone we care about to believe, hear and accept the truth from Jesus about life from God’s viewpoint of forever?

Is there truth here for me?
This exercise of answering these questions each post is where I often learn the most.  I want to assure God of my commitment to Jesus so I write.  I want to assure you of the reality of Jesus so I write.  There is another truth I saw this morning about why I spend so many hours each week writing. I saw Jesus assuring Himself because of His obedience.  I write every day to assure myself I am obediently learning to be like more like Jesus and writing to you challenges me to find the truth.a  I have one prayer before I press “publish” each time.  Lord do not let your Word be voided by my thoughts.  If there is error, correct me and let it be so obvious to the one who reads that it compels them to find the truth in your Word.

a So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 2 Peter 1:12 NIV

Wednesday with John – Do Not Be Afraid

John 6:
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,
17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.
20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 
21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
It had been a labor intensive day organizing a massive crowd miraculously fed as Jesus spoke and taught.  The day had excited the crowd.  Jesus’s power must mean He was the King they’d been waiting for.  It had surely exhausted the disciples and Jesus.  Matthew and Mark both mention Jesus giving instructions to His disciples to cross the sea while He stays behind to dismiss the crowd before going off alone to pray.  Their Master had given them instructions.  I can imagine there was a debate there by the sea about waiting or going, because “Jesus had not yet come to them.”  What was supposed to be a short journey to meet Jesus was soon to become an hour’s-long battle of tired men, trying to get to where they had been told to go, as they physically struggled to control their small boat being tossed around by the strong wind, waves and the tides.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit)?
Jesus does come to them in the midst of their struggle.  He recognizes His presence is needed for both their emotional and physical assurance for a safe landing.

What does it say about people?
Fear is a natural response that makes it hard to recognize Jesus when situations are out of control.

Is there truth here for me?
Even a Jesus-directed journey is not a guarantee of an easy one.  Struggle and fear are real but if you can recognize Jesus walking with you in the storm and accept His personal assurance “It is I; do not be afraid” He will give you the courage to “take him into the boat” and you will get to the “the land to which [you are] going.”

The Real Purpose

NASB Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8 is one of the most meaningful chapters of the Word of God for me.  It’s the ultimate message of just how loud the love of Jesus is.  It all starts with verse 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I have joked that I was raised to be in charge of peace in the entire free world.  That exaggerated sense of what I should be able to control and my inability to manage that responsibility has been the source of personal condemnation for me more than any unacceptable personal behavior.  Maybe you’re there too.  Let me comfort you with this truth.

Jesus would never, NEVER use condemnation to correct you.  Period!  The one who has placed his own Spirit inside you has invested himself completely in changing your mind about the real purpose of his life in you.  “By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he [Jesus] offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God.ª”  

That’s the assurance of the correction that will change your mind about the reality of what loving God, Jesus and, yes, even yourself looks like. 

ªHenri Nouwen – Spiritual Formation.

The Right Reward

Psalm 58:6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!  7 Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.  8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun…10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

This Psalm is really hard to read because of David’s frustration and anger about the injustice, violence and lies of the wicked.  Me too, but… It ends with what reads like a gruesome emphasis on how good the righteous will feel when God steps in and wipes out those wicked people. 

I understand the need for the assurance “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;  surely there is a God who judges the earth.” Those assurances are absolute and timeless truths but all I can think of is how important is is to not make the mistake of enjoying the wrong reward.  God’s justice IS going to defend the righteous but just as surely it’s “still” HIS righteousness that’s our right reward to enjoy, not the judgment of others.

This Then…Yours is the Kingdom

6. Matthew 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray:..[“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”]

I was surprised to discover the familiar last line I know of the Lord’s Prayer is only footnoted in many versions of the Bible.  There’s a complicated issue of texts, dates and translations but the bottom line is many Christians have used it in worship since about 90AD when the Bible was completed. [click here for more details]

The words “familiar” and “complicated” in the same paragraph seem important to me. Familiar is comfortable and that’s what makes it complicated.  I’m often quite comfortable in this complicated world.  It’s easy to remember this is definitely not heaven…but forget it’s still part of God’s kingdom.  He’s given familiar things to remind me His glory can be found even in such a complicated place.  There’s comfort in the power of his Word and prayers to strengthen my desire to pray for the assurance he will unite our today with His forever.

Assurance – Submission

cRomans 8:38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. TLB

“Nothing can ever separate us from his [Christ’s] love.” Nothing! “That’s a big promise, isn’t it? Of course I believe it. Do I live like I believe it? This is one of those big promises it’s easier to “believe” than to integrate into the patterns of real life. An odd turn of mind happened as I pondered these two verses. What if they require my submission in order to believe and accept their assurance?  I was surprised by that thought. That’s what made “nothing” something to think about.

Some time ago I discovered a one-word prayer to remind myself to face up to the reality God is organizing the fine points of my life according to his plan, not mine. There are times my greatest need is to pray that one word…”Whatever.” Praying “Whatever” is sometimes only resigned acceptance but sometimes it’s the one-word relief of accepting things that are too big to comprehend. That’s submission. Pray “Whatever” when you can’t figure out God’s plan but you’re convinced he has one.

That one word “nothing” in these verses is so all-encompassing it’s hard to comprehend too.  I’m going to add another one-word prayer of submission…”Nothing.” Submission is more complicated than I know how to live but I know offering God these two unlikely words of surrender and acceptance are a good place to begin. Remember “Nothing” is really everything. That makes “Nothing” a good one-word prayer to remind you of the vast scope and permanence of God’s love for you “demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. Pray it!

Just Because I Said So

1 Peter 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

“It needs no proof that it is of infinite importance to know aright what God has called us to…You may have heard that God calls you to salvation or to happiness, to receive pardon or to obtain heaven, and never noticed that all these were subordinate…It was to Holiness in the first place…” From Holy in Christ by Andrew Murray

I Peter and Andrew Murray’s quote made me wonder “why” God didn’t just go ahead and “make” us holy while he was doing all that other good stuff? “Be holy” reads like an impossible demand and basically ends with the more familiar parental response…”just because I said so.”

Then I remembered how well that response had worked for God so long ago when he first spoke all of creation into being…just because he said so.  Much later it was that same “just because I said so” that spoke my own salvation into being.

It’s much more personal now that God would say “Be holy, because I am holy.” It’s not an impossible demand at all but the much needed assurance that personal holiness really will come to pass…just because he said so.