Monday, June 25, 2007

Dig In

Jesus says in his prayer for us in John 17:8, “For the [uttered] words that You gave Me I have given them; and they have received and accepted [them] and have come to know positively and in reality [to believe with absolute assurance] that I came forth from Your presence; and they have believed and are convinced that You did send Me.”

Jesus did a perfect job of delivering all that God intended Him to deliver, yet we are told that he often spoke in parables and “dark sayings,” and also that He was sometimes deliberately obscure, so that only those “who had ears to hear” could understand.

Therefore, it is puzzling that Christians as a general rule feel that Jesus made everything we need to know absolutely clear and even written down in such a way that it should be perfectly understood.

In John 16:12, Jesus says, “I have still many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them or to take them upon you or to grasp them now.”

Dallas Willard, in his book, “The Divine Conspiracy” p 293, makes an interesting observation concerning the cost following Christ. On the passage in Luke 14:26-27, 33 where Jesus says one must “hate” their family and even their own life, and take up their cross etc. forsaking everything or they “cannot be my disciple”. He (DW) says, “The entire point of this passage is that as long as one thinks anything may really be more valuable than fellowship with Jesus in his kingdom, one cannot learn from him. People who have not gotten the basic facts about their life straight will therefore not do the things that make learning from Jesus possible and will never be able to understand the basic points in the lessons to be learned. It is like a mathematics teacher in high school who might say to a student, ‘Verily verily I say unto thee, except thou canst do decimals and fractions, thou canst in no wise do algebra.’”

There is a lot of pressure on followers of Christ to not go any deeper than the surface. Anyone who has a desire to do so will suffer persecution from those who do not. They will be accused of thinking they are more spiritual or know more than others. The truth is that we are expected to gain a better and deeper, and more complete understanding, knowledge of and relationship with God as we go through life. If this were not the case, why would Jesus have gone on to say, in John 16:15, “But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future]. He will honor and glorify Me, because He will take of (receive, draw upon) what is Mine and will reveal (declare, disclose, transmit) it to you.”

This passage supports the fact that the Holy Spirit was given in order to take us higher and deeper in the things of God.
Christians seem so afraid of being led in to error or deception that they don’t want to look any deeper into the things of God than what is on the surface, but there is a spirit to the word of God, and we are meant to look into it with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit to learn about the ever widening circles of Gods purpose in creation. To fail to do this is to remain spiritually infantile.

The book of Hebrews indicates support for a deeper level of understanding of God’s word. Not only is the whole book of Hebrews full of references to types and antitypes, but as it states in the introduction to this book (in the Amplified) that “better” is a key work in the entire book of Hebrews. Jesus is a better spokesman for God that the prophets; we have a better intercessor, a better priest, a better covenant etc. So we are encouraged by the book of Hebrews to look for deeper meanings and the larger antitypes to which the types direct us.

Chapter 6 of Hebrews directs us to better promises. Verse one says, “Therefore, let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity.”

And what is he referring to when he talks about the elementary things. This is made clear in the next sentence of the same verse. "Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God, with teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment."

This is amazing! When have we ever got much deeper than these things? To most Christians, these are the height, depth and breadth of deep as it gets, and should we do as it says in Hebrews 6:3, and proceed [to advanced teaching.] We will be called heretics and worse.

If your three year old asked you how babies are made, you might give a very simple answer and it would be sufficient for their level of interest and understanding. But at higher levels of maturity greater levels of understanding must come into play. Not only that, but sometimes the answers given to a three year old have been more than simplified… to the point that while they satisfied a three year old, they are false… for example….”Mommy has to go to the hospital to get the new baby.”….might be a true statement, but it isn’t a true answer.

We are far too quick to say, “Now we see through a glass darkly,” (1 Corinthians 13:12) and to dismiss even the idea of a better understanding, and it’s true…we don’t see with perfect understanding. But that doesn’t mean we should not look for increasing enlightenment because the Bible also says “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18

I wish we had more of Jesus’ words. I wish we had recorded, what he told the two on the road to Emmaus. I wish we could have studied with Paul in his personal university of the Holy Spirit. But there is no use complaining about what, for reasons known to God, He has not given allowed us to see. He has promised us the Holy Spirit as our tutor, and said that, “He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth)”. And we don’t need to fear that He will lead us away from the teachings of Christ. He will broaden and expand and make them more comprehensible. It is God’s plan and desire that we grow into full maturity.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Comments on John 11

John 11

This Chapter is the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I have always been curious about how Jesus was able to hear Father’s instructions and feel so confident that He was following directions implicitly. My desire is that I would be given ears to hear like He had.

A couple of years ago, I noticed in this chapter and in chapter 12 what I have referred to as the three signals.
I’m sure that there were other signals along the way, and Jesus was always aware of whether or not “His hour had come.” But these three signals stood out to me.

The first signal was when Jesus received the news of Lazarus’ illness. Jesus’ response was immediate. (V. 4) He said, “This sickness is not to end in death; but [on the contrary] it is to honor God and to promote His glory, that the Son of God may be glorified through (by it).” It seemed that He was aware of wheels being set in motion.

v. 5 describes the love of Jesus for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, so it is a little surprising that v. 6 begins with the word “therefore” …”Therefore….He still stayed two days longer …where He was.” Possibly the disciples assumed that fear kept Jesus from going to heal Lazarus, because two days later, when Jesus said it was time to go, they warned Him that the Jews only recently were intending to stone Him. (v.8)

Jesus reply is a bit puzzling at first, He answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10. But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him] Jesus’ references to light are always of interest to me. In this passage He is letting them know that He is the light, and He knows exactly what action to take and where it leads so there is no uncertainty or cause for concern. When taken with his statement in 12:35 it also lends strength to the idea that Jesus had received a signal that the process has begun that will lead up to the ending of His temporal life. In ch.12:35 Jesus is talking about his death and he makes the statement, “You will have the Light only a little while longer. Walk while you have the Light [keep living by it], so that darkness may not overtake and overcome you. He who walks about in the dark does not know where he goes [he is drifting].

This is another incidence of “the tur.n” It seems he is talking about daylight, but what He is really saying is “I have the light of another world…Light from my Father, so I will be that light for you. You can follow me trusting that I know what to do and why…” They don’t really trust Him though, as evidenced by Thomas’s statement, in v. 16 Let us go too, that we may die [be killed] along with Him.

In v 23 Jesus tells Martha that her brother shall rise again, and in an interesting twist, she spiritualizes the meaning of His promise. Jesus says in v 25 “I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live.” He has told the disciples that He is the Light, and He told Martha that He is the Resurrection and the Life. This takes me back to chapter one where the statement is made, (v.4) “In Him was Life and the Life was the Light of men.”

Jesus has turned from the natural to the spiritual now too, and he goes on in v26, “And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] die at all. This makes me think of Enoch of whom it is said (Hebrews 11:5) that he was “caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death.” But it could also refer to the fact that the death of the believer will be like Christ’s death…which was actually a resurrection to the life that he had previously had with The Father.

I wonder why Jesus wept. He had deeply disappointed three people who He considered beloved friends. Although Jesus was not a “man pleaser” it must still have been painful to have seemingly been unresponsive to those who had trusted Him and hoped for His help. He must have had empathy for their feelings. Still He knew what God’s plan was…to raise Lazarus up… v. 33 says, “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed.]” v. 38 says He repeated sighed and was deeply disquieted. Perhaps He was dismayed at the fact that people seemed to have no hope after death…that it was such a thing of dread” But it seems to me that His passion began here.

I love it where Jesus prayers are recorded. Here, He spoke to Father as a demonstration to the people. He was already in complete unity with Father’s plan, but He said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger].”

He raises Lazarus…with a word. What God purposes to do…he speaks….and it is done.

The Jews go back to Jerusalem and report to the chief priests and Pharisees, and almost immediately, the plot is initiated to kill Christ. They said, v.48 If we let Him alone to go on like this, everyone will believe in Him and adhere to Him, and the Romans will come and suppress and destroy and take away our [holy]place and our nation (our temple and city and our civil organization). Once again, there is a choice to be made and the elite choose the institution over the truth. In v. 50 Caiaphas, the high priest,(and unwitting prophet), makes the statement that it is better for everyone that one man should die on behalf of the people than that the whole nation should perish. v. 51 says, “Now he did not say this simply of his own accord [he was not self-moved]; but being the high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation. V.52 And not only for the nation but also for the purpose of uniting into one body the children of God who have been scattered far and wide”

No doubt Caiphas meant something quite different than what God meant in having him make this prophesy. No doubt he meant that if they got rid of Jesus, the Jews would be drawn together again, instead of splintering off. But God’s meaning alludes to the “one flock” of John 10:16. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Jesus had to die in order to expand the range of the gospel beyond the limited context of the Jews. (the third signal shows this as well)

v.53 “So from that day on they took counsel and plotted together how they might put Him to death.” And Jesus was careful about appearing in public from then on because although He knew the wheels were in motion, leading Him to Calvary, He had two more signals to receive before His hour…