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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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John

Laying Down Your Life

John 15.13

Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring to the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?

We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.

We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.

We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34.  We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us

We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.

We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.

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What Is Love Anyway?

John 21.15

First of all, this devotional is not going to be a deep theological dissertation on all the various meanings in the passage above. Someday perhaps we will do that, but not today. I am only using it to illustrate what love means.

Both of the types of love mentioned in the Bible can be found in the above passage. The Bible commonly uses two different Greek words, with quite different meanings. The two words from the Greek which are translated love are, “agape” and “phileo.

The above passage goes something like this:

  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes Lord, you know I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes, Lord, I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you phileo me? Peter, mildly put out, replies, Lord you know I phileo you.

As I said, here we are not going to analyze that passage; it just works well for what we are going to do briefly, which is explain just what love is.

  • Agape love is the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love which God the Father has for us. It is not based on feelings or based on if the recipient deserves it or not. It is the kind of love that is willing act and sacrifice even when another is totally undeserving. It is the kind of love both God the Father and Jesus Christ displayed when God sacrificed His Son for us, even though we did not deserve it. Agape love is the kind of love we are commanded to practice towards our fellow humans.
  • Phileo love is the kind of love we might have for a friend, or brother or anyone who we are fond of. This love is feeling based; in other words, this is based on whether we actually like a person or not. It might be sacrificial in some circumstances, but only insofar as it meets the needs of the person sacrificing.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The kind of love He commanded was not phileo love, but agape love. Because we are not commanded to love just those we actually feel something positive for; we are commanded to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Stay tuned for a future post on that very subject!

The Cowardice of Many Chief Rulers

John 12 42 and 43

John 12:42,43

We sure like to throw rocks at those lousy Pharisees, don’t we? We like to sit back and judge them for their legalism, hypocrisy and rejection. Here is the bad news; we can very much be them. Atheism, the simple lack of a belief in any god or gods, has been replaced by the New Atheism. Rather than simply resting in their state of disbelief, the New Atheists have a plan and an agenda; that plan is the eradication of faith in general and the Christian Faith in particular. The tools of this are mockery, name calling, cultural pressure and even legislation. They want to put us out of the Synagogue so to speak.

As non-believers, we fall prey to this pressure and reject Jesus ourselves. Even as saved children of God, we fall prey to this and wander away under the pressures of this world. We, too love the praise of that world more than the praise of God.

Friends, Jesus has this. Some 2000 years ago God made Himself in the form of the man Jesus Christ, and walked this Earth for the specific reason to save us from ourselves and offer us a place eternally with Him. Jesus IS God, and has all the power of God. The praise and approval of men today may satisfy us in the moment, but our eyes need to be on the praise of God in the forever.

The Prophecy of Isaiah

John 12_40.JPG

John 12:39-41

Here, things get a bit complicated, as we see the almost incomprehensible balance of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The prophet Isaiah had foretold the massive rejection of Jesus by His own people; in fact, in the eternal plan of redemption, this rejection was actually absolutely necessary. This is a difficult thing, for sure. It might even seem that God caused the Jewish nation to reject Jesus, as we see hinted at in the above passage. Yet, we see clearly the idea throughout Scripture that men make choices about God our Father and Jesus.

The eyes of the Jewish nation certainly did become blinded, rendering them unable to see. They absolutely made choices not to see the clear evidence before them. Friends, these non-believers hardened their own hearts, and God certainly allowed them to do that, and even knew that they would.

Despite our nature and tendency to reject and harden our hearts, God still reveals Himself to us all and offers all men and women the opportunity to come to Him. Jesus came as God in the flesh not for a few, or a pre-selected group of humanity; He came to extend His offer to all humanity. The choice is ours and ours alone. As you take a look at your own relationship or lack of with Jesus always remember that. If you have that relationship always remember it as well as you move through a largely non-believing world.

Lazarus a Living Testimony

john 12 10 and 11.JPG

John 12:7-11

John 12:17-23

The non-believing world in the day of Jesus was hostile to our Lord, and got more and more hostile as His ministry continued. It seems fairly amazing that, in light of the clear and evident fact that Jesus raised Lazarus that the Pharisees still refused to believe in Him. Instead of believing, they were angry that others were choosing to believe in and follow Jesus. The solution of the Pharisees was to eradicate the evidence! Clearly, many of these men had seen the miracle of the raising of Lazarus and that many of those who chose to believe also had; yet, their response was to not simply ignore the evidence but to attempt to make the evidence go away. “If we only kill this guy Jesus raised from the dead, then our problems are solved;” this seemed to be the rather convoluted logic of the non-believing Pharisees.

Guess what, friends? Not a thing has changed. Even today, the non-believing world thinks if only they can erase the evidence of God, then God will cease to exist. Eternally sadly for them, that simply will not work. Just like the Pharisees could not actually erase the fact that Lazarus died and came back, the clear evidence of God and our Lord Jesus Christ likewise can never be erased. The only question is: who will we choose to believe?

The Evil Heart of Judas Iscariot

John 12_5.JPG

John 12:4-6

Martha was not the only guest at this gathering who had something to say about what Mary was doing for Jesus. First, it seems beyond doubt that Martha loved her Lord, but was just somewhat distracted by the things going on; she had simply lost sight of priorities. Judas Iscariot, clearly, did NOT have good intentions in his heart. In fact, we know he rejected our Lord, and even today is eternally separated from Him in the torment of Hell.  What we see here is the posturing and preening of a man pretending to be righteous while really hiding evil in his heart.

Friends, that is true for many today. Of course not all are hiding overt evil in their hearts while pretending to do good as Judas was. Many are simply convinced that they can actually do enough proper and good things to warrant the favor of God. It simply does not matter, as the end result is the same. We cannot earn the favor or our God, nor can we even do enough to balance the scales in our favor eternally. We may not be hiding the level of evil in our hearts as Judas was, but the fact remains that our hearts are evil due to the fact that we have all fallen short of the perfection of God’s glory.

We have a choice. Will we rely on empty posturing and good works, or accept the full payment Jesus made on our behalf?

The Precious Gift of Mary

John 12_3

John 12:1-3

Many of us are very, very busy. Many of us are Marthas, so wrapped up in the things that we are “doing,” that we lose sight of many things more important. If we take a look at this story in Luke Chapter 10 we can see that Martha was “cumbered about much serving;” one translation says “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

In the middle of all of the excitement and preparations we see Mary seemingly doing nothing. If fact, in the Luke account, Martha calls out her sister for just that! To paraphrase, Martha more or less asks Jesus to make Mary get up and get busy doing something useful. Jesus quickly points out to Martha that Mary is actually doing the one thing that is important.

Friends, if you are one of the “busy” people, maybe it is time to take a step back and figure out if what we are “doing,” is the needful thing. Sometimes, let us just be a Mary, and spend some time with our Lord devotedly loving, worshiping and fellowshiping with Him. In this story, Jesus was heading quickly toward the appointed time at which He would allow Himself to be sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. Today, this is finished and the sacrifice has been made. Will we respond like Mary, or will be get so busy running around “doing” things that we forget what really matters?

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