The Death of a King

Wednesday

Romans 5-8

There are a handful of ways to think about the meaning of the death of Jesus. From a Jewish point of view Jesus was killed because he was a false prophet. From a Roman point of view, he gathered a large following that was counter-cultural to Roman authority, so they executed him. Or if you’re a muslim, Jesus wasn’t killed at all on the cross. Almost all people recognize that Jesus actually did die, but the question is why? The New Testament has several different ways of understanding why Jesus died. These include, Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil, to satisfy God’s need for justice, to justify us apart from Torah or the law, and to give us eternal life. However, the most ubiquitous reason the New Testament gives as to why Jesus died, is that he died for our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us from this present evil age…” Gal.1.3-4

“…he bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I Pet. 2.24

“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Rom. 5.8

“…when he had taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin’” – Matt. 26.27-28

The reason Jesus’ death is so significant is because it solves the problem of sin. Sin is a barrier between us and God, it is impossible for us to be in the presence of God because he is holy and perfect and we are not. Jesus’ death satisfies God’s need for justice. The cost of sin has been paid for by Jesus. So through Jesus we can have a renewed relationship with God through Jesus. Apart from Jesus, God sees us as worthy of wrath and death, he sees all our mistakes and rebellion. But in Jesus, he sees us being right before him and clean and pure. Because of Jesus we are able to be in the presence of God. Jesus’ death is the means by which we can enter the kingdom. Hope, forgiveness, contentedness, and so much more can be found when someone accepts the gift of Jesus’ death for them.

For someone to be restored to God and to be a part of the kingdom when it comes, they must accept Jesus’ death. Through Jesus’ death all can live.

-Jacob Rohrer-

 

 

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Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

John 8-9

Sunday, May 28

Jesus is an awesome teacher. I have read Dallas Willard’s amazing work, The Divine Conspiracy, where he discusses the Sermon on the Mount. One of the points that Willard makes is that Jesus is not just a smart guy, but the smartest guy. He is not just a wise person, but the wisest person. Jesus confirms this when he says that one “greater than Solomon is here”. (Matt. 12:42, Luke 11:31) So if anyone asks you who the wisest person in the Bible was the answer isn’t Solomon; it’s JESUS!
Jesus shows his masterful hand at teaching here in John. In these first 12 chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is performing miracles, which the author calls signs. We have already read about the sign where Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-12). There have been a couple healings, one of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) and one of a paralytic on the Sabbath (5:1-15). Then he did two where he overcame the normal laws of nature by feeding the five thousand with only a little food (6:1-15) and by walking on water (6:16-21). All these signs are connected in John, because all these signs point to an important truth: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing in him, we can have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
In John 8 and 9, Jesus connects both his teaching and a sign to point to his Messiahship. In chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples see a blind man. Instead of tying the blindness to anyone’s sin, Jesus says that God’s glory, and the glory of the One and Only Son, would be displayed in the man’s life. Jesus taught previously, in chapter 8, that he is the light of the world. He declared that if we follow him we will not live in darkness but walk in the bright light of life. He then makes his point vivid by giving this blind man sight!
The once-blind man is taken in, questioned, harassed and abused by the religious leaders of his community. Instead of listening to this man tell his testimony about the truth of Jesus, they were intent on shutting down Jesus and claiming that he was a fraud. The man’s testimony is only the truth: “I was blind, but now I see.” Jesus comes to the once-blind man and basically tells him, “You can see that I am the Messiah.” Even Jesus loves puns! Jesus teaches that the blind will see and those who think that they can see are truly blind.
This story is a wonderful picture and full of rich imagery on its own. But I also come away with three thoughts for how we live today.
First, the once-blind man was “giving a testimony” about Jesus. He wasn’t even close to a “believer” as we might define it. He trusted enough to go and wash and he came back with sight; nothing more than trust that the washing would work was asked of him. That is pretty amazing. He says nothing of faith before the miracle takes place. And when people ask him about his life, all he does is tell his story. That’s all God and Christ call you to do when they say to share the good news of the gospel. It does not mean you have to have a suave and sophisticated philosophical demonstration of the proofs of God. You simply tell people how Jesus found you, and why you are better now. Were you blind and now you see? Were you addicted to something and no longer? Are you more loving to your family and friends? THAT is your evangelism, that is the good news God calls you to share.
Second, do you feel like the once-blind man? There are times when we experience God doing something in our lives that doesn’t make sense. We CAN’T explain why something is happening. This guy just says “All I know is that I was blind, and now I see!” Sometimes, we feel God moving in ways that may make our families, our churches or ourselves uncomfortable. The people who should have celebrated this man’s miracle the most, his family and his religious leaders, turned their backs on him and cast him out. When God is moving, trust in what He is doing, keep looking for Him, and no matter who let’s go of you, God will find you. 
Third, take care that you are walking in the light of Christ so that you can see and live. Just like the people of Jesus’ day, this sign is pointing us to Jesus so that we can believe and have life in his name. Take care that you don’t lose sight of that purpose. The purpose is not for us to say “I wish I could see a miracle.” The miracle has been done. Will you believe because of it? Will you trust that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Remember, if you don’t want to believe, that is still an option. But there is a cost: rejection leads to a life of darkness, and the ultimate darkness of death. Christ offers us so much more with life in this life that leads to eternal life. He is the light of the world and he offers us himself. Praise be to God through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World!
-Jake Ballard
Jake Ballard is Pastor at Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN. He is a husband to Amber, father to Melody Grace, and proud “daddy” to a black kitty named River (for my Dr. Who and Firefly fans). Jake is a graduate student at Bethel Seminary, where he is kept busy. When he does have free time, he likes to read (Tolkien and Riordan at the moment), watch Netflix (Star Wars: Deep Space Nine), and play video and board games. (Always open for suggestions, as I am less busy in the summer). He hopes that his devotions will help you, dear reader, fall in love with the Gospel of John, because if he had to pick a favorite book, it would be this one! God bless! 
(Photo Credit: http://www.boldcupofcoffee.com/blog/i-am-the-light-of-the-world)

Promise Keeper

The Beginning of the NEW TESTAMENT – Matthew 1-4

matt 1

Thursday, April 27

So after years of prophecies and waiting, the Messiah is finally here!

Matthew 1: 21-23       21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”

After reading through Zechariah and Malachi I’ve come to appreciate Jesus as the Messiah even more than I already did. Understanding the ups and downs of God’s relationship  with the Israelites helped me understand the need and reason for Jesus. He was born as a fulfillment of prophecy and that’s exactly the life he lived.

 

God keeps his promises.

 

-Elleigh Dylewski

 

 

heb 10

 

(Matthew 1:21 Photo Credit – http://my-savior-lives.tumblr.com/post/69954608098

Hebrews 10:23  Photo Credit: http://www.mygivingback.com/2016/08/)

No “Works Cited” In Prayer!

Psalms 85-89

psalm86_11

Monday, January 9

Have you ever stopped to think about copyrighting? In our world, even words can be trademarked and copyrighted. For example, if I was going to start making a comic called “Superheroes of Scripture” (which would be awesome), I would be infringing on the trademarked word “superhero”, a trademark of Marvel and DC Comics. That’s pretty impressive that the word “superhero” can’t be used in a product that you desire to sell unless approved by Marvel/DC! Also, if I use someone else’s words or even information in a paper for school, it is considered stealing unless I cite my source. (I know my seniors doing research papers understand the pain of a “Works Cited” page.)
However, the authors of Scripture felt no such compunction to cite their sources or honor “copyrights” of previous authors. You’ll see tons of quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, when you get there. But there will be parts without quotes that you may recognize were pulled out of the OT without a reference to the original author. The authors of Scripture quoted, summarized, paraphrased and referenced previous books of Scripture with abandon, because the books and words were part of how they thought.
A prime OT example of this is Psalm 86:15. The author (David, here) writes “But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth.” If you have been following along since August, you may catch what is being referenced. Know what it is? It is Exodus 34:6 – “Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth…”  In this Psalm, David turns the narrative of Yahweh passing in front of Moses, hidden in the cleft, into a prayer. YOU, Yahweh, are compassionate and gracious, etc. David knew that this was written before, but he is not writing something new, he is not breaking ground, he is using what God has already said about Godself to speak to God.
We can do the same. Sometimes, we have no words to say about God or our words to God sound so small. I’ve been there; thinking that what can I say to God? If you don’t know where to begin to pray, one of the best places is to look to Scripture and use the words you find there to pray. We have permission to pray using the words of Scripture in the Psalms and the Psalms themselves are great passages to use. If your prayer life is struggling, or if you are wanting to grow closer to God, may using God’s own words bless you!
-Jake Ballard
Pastor Jake attended Atlanta Bible College, and has been a professor there in the past. He would like to encourage those who want to know more about the Bible, about leadership and about Christian Spirituality, to get in contact with the college. It is a wonderful opportunity, and if you are one of those juniors or seniors working on research papers, as you are applying to and investigating different college options, don’t forget ABC!
(Photo credit: http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/psalm86_11.html)