IF you Believe, THEN…

John 8

John 8 31 32

As we have read repeatedly in the last two chapters, we see again in John 8:30, 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

Then Jesus shared this powerful truth:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This passage points out that while belief is important, belief alone is insufficient.  If I’m completely honest, I don’t like the implications of this passage.  I want to just believe and know I’m ok.  Unfortunately, I see a similar warning in James 2:19, where we’re told, “Even the demons believe – and shudder.”

Now Jesus has my attention.  If belief alone isn’t enough, what does He expect? I interpret these two verses as Jesus giving his followers a series of If .. Then conditions:

  1. If you hold to my teaching (which I interpret as meaning: you need to live your life like Jesus told you and demonstrated to you).
  2. Then you are really my disciples (meaning, you’re not really His follower unless you do what He told you to do.)
  3. If you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth. (This suggests to me that people can’t even understand the truth unless they are really Jesus’ disciples.)
  4. Finally, when one knows the truth, the truth will set them free.

 

The believers Jesus was talking to had the same reaction I tend to have.  Wait a minute, set me free?  I’m not a slave.

 

Jesus went on to say that anyone who sins is a slave to sin, and Jesus came to set people free from sin.

 

This is really interesting to me.  As members of a denomination that claims to have the faith of Abraham, we may tend to think we have a corner on the market for faith and truth.  But how focused are we on the holiness message Jesus is sharing in this passage?  This should challenge us.

Verses 35 and 36 go on to say, 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I want a permanent place in God’s family.  But to have that place, I need to be set free – first, from sin, and ultimately from death.

 

This requires adding to belief:

  1. Following Jesus’ teaching
  2. Becoming his disciple
  3. Knowing the truth
  4. Having Him set me free.

Sign me up!  How about you?

-Steve Mattison

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Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler

Spiritual Adultery

Ezekiel 14-16

ezekiel 16 14

Wednesday, March 22

Chapter 14 gives us a picture of the heart of God.  Elsewhere in the Bible it says that God is a jealous God.  God loves His people Israel as a husband loves his bride.  Israel turned away from God’s love, their hearts were no longer given to God.  God wants more than anything else to recapture the hearts of His people who deserted him to pursue idols.  God wants them to repent and turn back to Him.

God wants to have His people love Him exclusively.  He will not let them worship idols, yet still come to him for prophecy.  This would be similar to a woman who both goes to her lover but then comes to her husband as well.  God will have none of this, no two timing wife.  Israel must have a change of heart and that will only happen through judgment.  The prophets were not permitted to prophesy for people who were also consulting idols.  If the prophets did prophesy to those seeking idols, they too would be punished.

God tells Ezekiel that His judgment is certain and that no human being, no matter how righteous or faithful can stop that judgment.  He warns that even if such great men of faith as Noah, Daniel or Job sought to keep Israel from judgment that their righteousness would not be able to save Israel.

In Chapter 15 God promises to make Jerusalem as desolate and useless as a dried up vine that has been thrown into a fire.  Just as the vine will be totally consumed by the fire, so too, will Jerusalem be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment.

Chapter 16 is one of the most graphic passages in all of the Bible.  If the Song of Solomon was rated PG-13, Ezekiel 16 would probably be rated R or NC-17.  It is extremely disturbing to read.  God compares Israel to an unwanted, discarded child whom God rescued from its disgrace.  God later came along when Israel was old enough to be married, but she was naked and dirty.  God cleaned her up, covered over her nakedness, dressed her up like a princess and made her his bride.  Israel was blessed beyond imagination by God her husband.  But then, tragically, Israel turned to prostitution.  Here Idolatry is likened to a form of spiritual adultery.  Israel had brought great shame upon her husband.  In fact, she was worse than a prostitute in that she paid others her gold and silver to sleep with her.  It’s such a disturbing picture.  And it’s designed to give us a visceral reaction.  It’s a gut punch.

The fact that God must punish Israel for her spiritual adultery is not surprising.  Israel is only getting what they deserve.  What is surprising is that God is going to restore Israel.  Not because Israel deserves it now any more than it deserved it when God first cleaned her up and made her His bride.  God is doing it because God is faithful to His Covenant promises.  God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, Israel.  God does not forget His covenant or break his promises.  God is filled with steadfast love for His people.

After punishing Israel, God will then make atonement for them.  He will cover over their sin and guilt and forgive them and take them back.  Then they will remember their vows and be ashamed of their guilt and will become a faithful wife and turn away from idols.

As Christians, we have been grafted into God’s family and we are now included as God’s bride.  Through Jesus Christ God has found us in our sin, cleaned us up and made us His own.  Are we sometimes guilty of idolatry?  Do we ever act unfaithfully toward God and give our hearts to someone or something else instead of God?  Remember, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all your heart.  God wants All your heart.  God is jealous when we give our hearts to another.  May Israel’s spiritual adultery remind us that we must give our hearts fully only to God and no one else.  Otherwise, God may have to win our hearts back the way he did Israel, and we can see how unpleasant that process was for them.  Let’s always keep our hearts faithful to God alone.

-Jeff Fletcher