John 14: 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me…I do as the Father has commanded me…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…”. I’ve left my peace with you so after I have gone to the Father you will remember I said ‘I am going away, and I will come to you’…The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” and you will rejoice!
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Father is sending the Helper in Jesus’s name. Jesus loves the Father and obeys Him because the Father is greater. The Helper is a teacher and a reminder of all Jesus demonstrated about loving the Father.
What does it say about people?
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Is there truth here for me?
The day-to-day world is broken by dull memories of the intimacy people once had with the Father. Time and distance from that long-ago original home have erased much of the awareness of that intimacy. But God’s heart has remained faithful and He still remembers the past! It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent Jesus in the flesh to demonstrate how to live that perfect relationship with the Father day-to-day. It’s was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that brought Jesus to the moment of knowing His death would restore what His life could not. It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent an internal Helper, a Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name to teach dull hearts “all things” about how the Father would insure their future. It’s interesting to consider that I am here this Sunday to write, remember and rejoice with you because of the completed plan that began with God’s own memories of our lost intimacy with Him.
John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
A sheepfold in a central location where shepherds from many places could bring their flock for the night sounds like a good idea. The shepherd could rest easier knowing his flock was not scattered all over the hillside but at the same time it made all those sheep a convenient target for a thief. It’s not too hard to to imagine how chaotic the noise of all those shepherds and sheep must have been. Jesus tries the subtle approach first; it’s not the sheepfold that keeps the sheep safe. They didn’t get it! Now comes the hard truth for those self-declared watchmen of Israel; “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” What keeps the sheep safe is they recognize and follow only the voice of their own shepherd. “I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers.”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Could this be Jesus hinting at the mystery of his own multifaceted identity? “…He [the Spirit] “when he has brought out all his own…goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. “He [Jesus] is “the Door of the sheep.” “To him the Gatekeeper [God] opens.”
What does it say about people?
“…the sheep follow him, for they know his voice”…and…” If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Is there truth here for me?
Everything I wrote about the sheepfold began to sound familiar to me. My world is a not-so-safe place today. Life has become noisier, bigger and crowded with chaotic voices and activity. Everyone is part of some flock or other hoping to find a little security. This is the reality of a modern day sheepfold: safety depends on hearing the right Voice. Are you listening? Jesus is the only safe place; “the door of the sheep,” the Shepherd/Gatekeeper who speaks, trying to be heard over the noise; “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.a” [NIV]
“That day, next day, one day and someday” is a tongue-in-cheek description I recently read to describe the confusion of keeping track of time and days when the routines of life are altered during long-lasting life circumstances like this pandemic. I’ve experienced that confusion about time and days myself. It’s a real thing that caused me read this Scripture as if it was speaking about the confusion of time and days, then, as a danger in the spiritual life of believers in Jesus Christ now…and the much needed protection offered for “today.”
We have been so blessed for so long as a nation, as a democracy and as individuals that we’ve become confused about how real, and subtle, the danger of a “sinful, unbelieving heart” is. “Today” is the one word in this Scripture that made me realize “that day, next day, one day and someday” is really about missing the warning and protection available “now.” “Now” is our God-given opportunity to to “share in Christ” and “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…a”
a Psalm 95
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ESV
This morning I was thinking about an article I’d read by Billy Grahama that referenced this verse from Matthew. It was only one part of the big truth the article contained but it was the catalyst that opened my eyes to a new idea about that one last word…”rest.”
It’s such a simple revelation but I think it’s a meaningful one. Life, even a privileged one involves labor. The good life certainly has moments that are heavy laden. We know the Word is a reliable place we come to find rest in Jesus. The daily reading of the Word is a blessing. We plan to read daily and we’re frustrated with ourselves when we don’t do it. We know that devotional time seems to be impacted by…well…everything!
There will be circumstances when your “daily” devotion may fail you but your rest is not dependent on that circumstance. Rest is a relationship with Jesus and His devotion never fails you. THAT dear friend is His perfect provision that overcomes circumstances that interrupt best-laid plans. Jesus’s relationship with you is what makes it possible for you to enjoy the “rest” of your day…today, everyday and forever.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11 NASB
Dominion and domination are very similar words in construction but neither word is commonly used today. Hearing “dominate” be used in public reporting this last disturbing week was startling. That made the other uncommon word “dominion” stand out when I read it as a Verse of the Day from 1 Chronicles in the same week.
Dominion is a descriptive noun used to identify God’s complete sovereignty and power to partner with His people to protect and preserve His creation. “And God blessed them. “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 ESV
Domination is an action verb the Bible uses to indicate an exercise of power. A very simple word sturdya of “domination” resulted in two conclusions: 1)The most important one was it was never God who was dominating and 2) God’s displeasure at Israel’s opposition to His dominion was clear and the natural consequence of their rebellion was domination.
In some places it’s “domination to, of or by” that represents God’s action to move Israel “to” repentance. In other places the references were “delivered from domination” that represented God’s repeated rescue for Israel “from” those who would destroy them. In all those places the Word reveals the same timeless truth of 1 Chronicles: God is still prepared to respond to repentance and deliver His people from the domination of an enemy.
“Yours is the dominion, O Lord,
and You exalt Yourself as head over all. “
Yet today’s attitudes tend more towards the domination idea. Domination has undertones of manipulation, coercion, and force. Bending the earth to our will, rather than working in a state of collaboration and cooperation. Extracting what we want at the expense of others. Not caring about the broader impacts of our actions…” currentcoach.com
There are only two choices: Dominion or Domination
NLT Hebrews 1:1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days…he has spoken to us through his Son.” This is it folks, the absolute truth that has lasted through such a long history that it’s beyond our calculation of time. Christ is “the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised.” [Hebrews 9:15]
God has promised you a changed life for today and an inheritance for all eternity. We have this inheritance because “in these final days, he [God] has spoken to us through his Son” not because of all the do’s, dont’s, could’s and should’s we cling to. “When he [Christ] “cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” to celebrate your inheritance with you…got it?
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
1. opposite in nature, direction, or meaning.
2. perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired.
The word “contrary” came to mind when I read these verses from chapter 12. They are so contrary to our human mindset of justice. It’s tempting to add “today” at the end of that last sentence but it seems the Bible would remind me to add “always” instead.
Romans 12 confronts our need to live by the grace of God that will enable us to express true and proper worship through a renewed life. Clearly the old laws of blame and punishment were intended to reveal sin and they worked. What seemed new to the Romans was the idea that God was in charge of renewal as well as justice and revenge.
We may pride ourselves as modern-day believers that we understand that kind of grace but it’s apparent to me those long-ago instructions from Paul are still a necessary reminder that our human nature has to struggle against the desire to repay evil with revenge. That’s contrary!
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
This first day of 2017 reminded me of that long-ago first day in Genesis when out of “the empty darkness” God created the dependable cycle of days and nights we still live by.
The first light of this first day is dependable evidence of the bottom line of what God created so long ago; an essential difference between yesterday and today. That cycle held the promise of brand new days that could separate what was from what could be.
“In the beginning God…said…“Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good…and there was morning—the first day.”…the first day of a year of brand new days, 2017.
Luke 2:10 The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Thoughts by Martin Luther from Watch for the Light.
“See to it that you do not treat the Gospel only as history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith. Rather, see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you….The Gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates.
Luther’s words sound like the essence of what we call being born again, don’t they: “…see to it that you make this birth your own…” The angel’s words made this story a current event: ”there is born to you this day…”
Every day of this Advent walk is “this day” for us. The angel’s words have become more than history: “there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” They have become a current event for us and that’s what makes Advent about our Birth of FaithToo.