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Behold Your God — Week Four, Day Five

23 Jun

The chart on page 74 of the Behold Your God study guide is one of the best things in the whole book. I urge you to take time to think carefully through the implications of this chart. Are you a person who loves Christ, or a person who loves religion?

As you look at this chart, I want to encourage you to consider the issue of trajectory. There is no one alive who always show mercy rather than criticism or who always love to exalt Christ and never love to be praised themselves. There are degrees to which we conform to either love for Christ or love for religion.

But the more important question is not about the degree of your love for Christ but about the direction of your life. Is your love for Christ growing? Are you becoming less enchanted with religion and more interested in Him? Are you finding your relationship with Jesus moving in a direction that is changing your character? Or has your love for Him grown cold? We can’t answer those questions for each other, but each of us can search our own hearts.

Behold Your God — Week Four, Day Four

22 Jun

Today’s study is one to savor. We have been looking this week at Beholding God in the Face of Jesus Christ. Our focus today is Colossians 1:15-19. This passage explains for us the glories of Christ in His deity. At the end of the study today there are five questions adapted from an Isaac Ambrose book from the 1600’s called Looking Unto Jesus.

The five questions are as follows . . .

Considering Jesus as I see Him in this passage: What is this telling me about my Lord?

Adoring Jesus as I see Him in this passage: What do I see here that is worthy of my adoration? What are some practical ways to express this to Him?

Depending upon Jesus as I see Him in this passage: What do I see in Jesus that is worthy of my trust, and what are some practical ways that I can express my trust?

Calling upon Jesus as I see Him in this passage: How do the things I see to be true of Jesus affect the way I call upon Him in prayer?

Obeying Jesus as I see Him in this passage: Even where there are not commands or principles for me to follow, how is it that the things I learn of Jesus in this passage affect the way I submit to Him?

These are truly outstanding questions and we would be well-served to reflect on these questions carefully when we read a passage of Scripture. I have no doubt that thinking through every passage we read in light of such questions would revolutionize our Bible reading and meditation. Try it and see how it works for you.

Behold Your God — Week Four, Day Three

21 Jun

Whereas the Old Testament speaks of Christ in types and shadows, the gospels reveal Jesus in the fullness of His majesty. Jesus’ story leaps off the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We must never allow these accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry to grow cold to us. Read and meditate over the gospels often.

But beyond this danger, there is another danger when we come to the gospels. We may come looking for what the gospels say to us rather than looking to what Jesus’ life says about God. When John says of Jesus in John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side (Jesus), He has made Him known” we see there the truth that if we want to know what God is like, we should look to Jesus.

Jesus came to manifest the glory of God and to display the holiness and mercy of God. If we go to the gospels beginning with what they say to us, we might miss who Jesus really is and not know God as we should. Many people who do not believe in God at all find some value in the teachings of Jesus. How tragic would it be to find moral values or direction for living but not find Jesus? After all, Jesus teaches us many good things: to love the unlovable, to sacrifice for the greater good, to care for human need, to live simply, to live for others, to not be attached to money, to not be caught up in religiosity, to reject hypocrisy, to be truthful. On and on we could go with the excellent moral values of Jesus. But it would be a tragedy to know and practice all these things without bowing to Jesus as Lord. Unless you focus on His person, and what He reveals of God, it is possible that you might like His values without ever coming to know Him at all.

So when you come to the Gospels, ask this question: what does this passage teach me about God? If you start with this question, you will begin to re-orient your life around God and relationship with Him and as a wonderful by-product of this relationship you will find many personal blessings. There are great blessings to be found in the Christian life, but they are tied up in the Person of Jesus. Many people are defeated in their lives because they are trying to live Christian values without a close and growing relationship with Christ. Beholding God in the face of Jesus Christ will reshape your whole life.

Behold Your God — Week Four, Day Two

20 Jun

One of the most significant verses in the New Testament is shared in today’s study. Luke 24 recounts the story of Jesus’ meeting with the two men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walks with them after His resurrection, His true identity hidden from them. Jesus asks the men what has been going on and the men tell Him of the death of Jesus and reports of His resurrection. The men seem bewildered about what has happened, but Jesus stops them cold — “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And then the great verse from Luke . . . “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Luke 24:27 is so important to me because it establishes the fact that the story of the Old Testament is the story not only of God and Israel. It is also the story of Jesus. When Jesus wanted to explain the cross and the empty tomb, He went to the Old Testament. The story of the New Testament is inextricably linked with the story of the Old Testament. And notice not only Jesus’ commitment to Scripture, notice also His view of the importance of the order of things. He began with Moses. Here the text doesn’t mean that Jesus began with the story of Moses, but with the first five books of the Bible, whose authorship is attributed to Moses. So what Luke 24:47 is saying is that Jesus began with Genesis and then traced the story of God throughout the Old Testament.

I love the fact that every time I go to the Old Testament, more than likely I will see some promise, some shadow, some connection to Jesus.

In taking all of this back to the attributes of God, we can trace the continuity of the Scriptures to God’s sovereignty (through inspiration) and immutability. The Old Testament and the New Testament are not two totally different stories because God is unchanging. He hasn’t changed His plan in the New Testament. His plan has been building throughout the Old Testament to reach its fulfillment in Jesus but the plan itself to bring sons and daughters to glory has not changed.

The Final Word

19 Jun

Going along with today’s post from the Behold Your God study, I remember this old song from Michael Card. It has a very meaningful lyric in relation to Hebrews 1:1-3.

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Light became alive
And manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time
So we could understand.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

Behold Your God — Week Four, Day One

19 Jun

Today’s study contains two of my favorite Scriptures — John 1:14 and Hebrews 1:1-3. These passages, along with Colossians 1 and other passages, establish the fact that Jesus is God. Let’s look for just a minute at Hebrews 1:1-3 . . .

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

This passage speaks first of TWO ERAS . . .

Long ago — When God spoke through His prophets to the people of Israel.

These last days — When God has spoken to His people by His Son. Note the last days are marked by the coming of Jesus. We have been living in the last days for 2000 years.

There is continuity in God’s speech, because God never changes. But with Jesus, the promises to the prophets have found their fulfillment.

The passage then speaks of the PERSON OF CHRIST in a very interesting way . . .

He is heir of all things (Emphasis on Jesus’ Lordship)

He is the one through whom the world was made (Emphasis on Jesus’ Power)

  He is the radiance of the glory of God (Emphasis on Jesus’ Divinity)

 and the exact imprint of His nature (Emphasis on Jesus’ Divinity)

He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Emphasis on Jesus’ Power)

He sat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, after finishing His work of   redemption (Emphasis on Jesus’ Lordship).

So in the center of the passage is this message — Jesus is God!

Radiating from this center is the truth that He is the Almighty Lord, the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the world.

It is a beautifully-written passage and a beautiful truth. But the question we must face this week is, do we believe it? And will we live on the basis of this truth?

Powerful Quotes from David Powlison’s “How Does Sanctification work?”

18 Jun

Last week I finished reading David Powlison’s new book How Does Sanctification Work? It is a small volume, but well worth reading. Powlison is the executive director of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). This book is powerful and helpful to all who want to grow in Christ. Here are a few quotes I found helpful . . .

“Jesus’s first three words (from the cross) reach with mercy to others. His last four words reach out in need to His Father. Why is this significant? Jesus’s actual first-person experience expresses the fundamental extroversions of candid faith and personalized love. We can easily imagine how being tortured to death and facing imminent asphyxiation would pull any one of us into a whirlpool of self-absorption in pain and vulnerability. A person in such agony reacts in typical ways: despair, impotent rage, self-pity, terror, and an overwhelming urge to numb or escape pain. But amid intense suffering, Jesus cries out to the Father and cares for the people around Him. We watch and hear how honestly He lives the Psalms. We witness how specifically He lives out the commandments to love His God and His neighbors. We stand in awe.” (p. 38)

“Ministry electrifies when it connects something to someone rather than trying to say everything to no one in particular.” (p. 42)

“There are good reasons why not every Christian is impressed with the one truth that may have revolutionized your life. That one partial truth may have really helped you, and it may be drawing a particular kind of person to your ministry. But when one truth morphs into The Truth — the whole truth — it becomes an ax to grind. It promises a panacea, a “cure all.” As this happens, it slides in the direction of a magic formula, a “secret” to be discovered, not the plain, simple wisdom of God. A word that helps some kinds of people can prove unhelpful — even misleading and destructive — to people who need one of the other kinds of help that God gives. Preachers and counselors, beware!” (p. 42)

I could go on with more great quotes, but that gives you a flavor of some of the wisdom Powlison shares in the book. I benefited greatly from the fruit of Powlison’s life and ministry shared in this book.

Behold Your God — Week Four Introduction

18 Jun

This week in our study we will be Beholding God in the Face of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday, I began reading through the Works of John Flavel. This English pastor from the 1600’s is one of the best of the Puritan writers and I look forward to carefully reading his works as I am able.

The opening lines of volume one of his works are a perfect introduction to this week’s study and really get at the heart of what Behold Your God is all about . . .

“Knowledge is man’s excellency above the beasts that perish (Ps. 32:9). The knowledge of Christ is the Christian’s excellency above the Heathen (1 Co. 1:23,24). Practical and saving knowledge of Christ is the sincere Christian’s excellency above the self-cozening hypocrite (Hb. 6:4,6) but methodical and well-digested knowledge of Christ’s excellency is the strong Christian’s excellency above the weak (Hb. 5:12-14). A saving, though an immethodical knowledge of Christ, will bring us into heaven (Jn. 17:2) but a regular and methodical, as well as a saving knowledge of him, will bring heaven into us (Col. 2:2,3).

Do you want to taste heaven today? Behold God in the face of Jesus Christ. Join us this week in the regular and methodical study of God’s Word through the Behold Your God Devotional Workbook.

Behold Your God — Week Three, Day Five

16 Jun

I was encouraged and challenged by today’s study. When we get a fresh vision of the greatness and goodness of God, our families are affected. Families are drawn to begin setting apart time in the home to focus on God. We normally call this family worship or family devotions.

I have long been an advocate of family devotions, but a poor practitioner. My patient wife has been gracious to me in the fits and starts of our family devotions. My children have seen my inconsistency up close and for this I feel a great deal of regret. Few things in my life seem more of a spiritual battle than family devotions. Perhaps this is so because few things are more counter-cultural and few things are more spiritually significant for families.

I have done many things for family devotions through the years, but if I could encourage others in any way I would just say, just do something. If its reading the Scriptures and praying, reading a devotional book or a Bible story book, whatever it may be, just try to do something.

I must also say in closing that I appreciate the warning John Snyder gives in this lesson about making our lives too family-centered. I have observed instances where I feel the family is almost valued too much, as if the spiritual life can be contained totally within a family unit. This, apart from running contrary to the Scriptures, also tends to make people insular, isolated and sometimes judgmental.

To stay in the center of biblical tension we must value the family as an important part of God’s plan without making the family the center of everything we do in relation to God.

Behold Your God — Week Three, Day Four

15 Jun

The section on meditating over the Word in today’s study is powerful and convicting. You would be well-served to read carefully pages 52-54 again and again. The key truth about meditation which is brought out by the study is that it is not, as we often think, an emptying of the mind. Instead, meditation is a filling of the mind with God’s truth. The quotations of scriptural voices and the voices from church history (pp. 53-54) on the issue of meditation are critically important for us to hear.

To read the Scriptures widely but not deeply will not bring as much growth as a deep attention and meditation over the Scriptures. I would rather a person read five verses a day with real focus and continual remembrance, than five chapters a day in a surface way. Of course, there is value in reading the large portions too.

The other aspect of this that I have found especially helpful in my own life is to bring Scripture reading together with prayer. As you read and meditate over a passage, begin to pray through that passage prayers of praise, confession, intercession. With this type of prayer, I have greater assurance that my prayers are going to be in line with God’s heart, and I think that is a good thing.

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