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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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John

A New Commandment

John 13.34 35.JPG

John 13:31-38

How are we to love one another? Well, Jesus just told us! We are to love each other like He loved us. That doesn’t mean we have to climb up on a cross and die, just like us picking up our cross is not to be taken in an ultra-literal sense. When we talked about picking up our cross, we came to understand that to follow Jesus we ought to “sacrifice,” ourselves in service to Him. So, the same applies here. If we are to love others in the same way He loved us, then we need to only take a look at what that means. This is easy. Jesus put my needs, your needs and the needs of the entire universe above His own. Jesus the man, literally gave everything to us. This is not rocket science, friends. To love the brethren as Jesus loved us, we just think of them first and ourselves second.

The real issue is WHY we ought to do this, other than the pretty clear idea that Jesus commands it. While that should be enough, our Lord was gracious enough to explain why this matters. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Friends, we don’t prove to the world we are Christians by going to church, abstaining from sin, calling out sin or even by preaching Jesus on the Street corners. I actually think those things are pretty good ideas, but they prove nothing.The only thing that proves to the world that we are the real deal, in the end, is our love.

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Jesus Sees the Inside

John 13.21.JPG

John 13:18-30

Jesus knew what lay waiting for him later this evening; as God, in the flesh, He knew not only that He would be betrayed, but who the betrayer would be. That of course, was Judas Iscariot. What is interesting is that none of the other disciples had a clue; in fact, the passage tells us that they assumed Jesus had sent Judas out to purchase things for the needy or even for themselves. Something to remember here is that Judas was likely thought well of and held in some esteem by the rest of the group. They trusted him enough to be the keeper of their funds after all!

So here we have it, a man held in high esteem and placed in a position of trust; yet, he would be the one to sell our Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Judas played the part, said the right words and did the right things. In all respects, he was what we would call today “the perfect Christian.” He was the one we would say of, as we often do when someone falls, “Wow, we never saw THAT coming; they were so proper and faithful.”

Judas had them all conned, and nobody knew the truth. That’s not quite true is it, friends? We know from our story, that one knew, and the one was Jesus.

Jesus knew then, and He knows now. It doesn’t matter what airs we put on. It doesn’t matter how “faithful” we are. It doesn’t matter how nice we dress, or how nicely we speak. Jesus knows. Our Lord is able to look into our hearts and know the truth of our lives and our relationship with Him. If He is looking in our hearts (and He is, by the way), what is He seeing?

The Authentication of the Book of John

John 21.25

John 21:24-25

Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted for approximately three years; during this time much of what He did and said was documented in the four Gospels. Jesus probably preached, healed and cast out demons most days of those three years; that would be 1095 days, minus some days of rest. I certainly have never taken the time to add up how many days of preaching and miracles Jesus did in the Biblical accounts, but I am certain it is nowhere near 1095! John addresses that here, telling us that a full accounting of all Jesus did would fill more volumes than the world could hold. Friends much took place during this time that is not accounted for.

Despite the untold number of great things that took place, no evidence has yet come forth to show any falsehood in the life of Jesus. These things happened; history verifies it and the Apostle John provides additional authentication here. It is no accident and further authenticates the things Jesus did, that His teachings began spreading like wildfire immediately after His death and Resurrection. As we have covered before, the Resurrection is the pivotal event that sealed the deal. It provided proof that God was satisfied with the payment Jesus made, and that Jesus actually had power and authority to speak what He did and to do the things He did.

The power of the Resurrection is available in the lives of believers today; the only question is whether we allow it to work through us.

 

Jesus Prepares a Meal for His Disciples

John 21.13

John 21:8-12

This entire episode described in our devotional passage is fascinating. Many like to make the resurrection of Jesus an allegory, saying things like “Jesus was raised in spirit and in our hearts.” Some say His appearances were not the real Jesus, but simply an apparition put in the minds of people, yet not a real man in a real body. This is not so my friends and we see that here. Jesus sat with His disciples and prepared a meal for them; then He Himself partook of the same meal He had prepared. He sat, talked and ate as if he were a real man. Of course, we know this to be true; Jesus is as real today as any one of us.

We see that from these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to the end of the book of Acts that the disciples became changed men. Who can forget the changes in the Apostle Paul after his meeting with the resurrected Jesus? These men, propelled by the personal knowledge of the still living Jesus, became our ultimate example of obedience and action. Most of them obeyed through great persecution and ultimately their own deaths.

Friends, we have this same knowledge ourselves. We may not have seen the resurrected Jesus personally, but we have the testimony of history and God’s Word. This is more than enough. The only question is whether we will also be obedient and leap into action. Will we also obey?

The Resurrection to Life and to Death

John 5.28 29

John 5:25-30

Friends, despite what all of the so called “science” might try to teach us, we do not simply cease to exist when our physical lives end. Back in Genesis, we see where “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7 At the moment God breathed life into us, we became eternal beings, and each of us will in fact live into eternity.

Someday Jesus will speak, and all the dead from the ages will rise from their graves. Those who have done evil (rejected Jesus,) will arise to face a forever of eternal damnation and separation from God. This is horribly sad, but not the point today.

There is another resurrection, and that is the resurrection of they that have done good (meaning, saved by God’s grace.) Those raised to this resurrection of life will be rewarded for what was done for Jesus in this life under the power of the Holy Spirit, and spend eternity worshiping our Lord.

This knowledge of our eventual eternal resurrection to life should cause a couple of things to happen in the life of every believer. First, no matter what life hands us in this life, what is coming will make all worthwhile. Second, if we are to be evaluated and rewarded for what we do in this life, ought we not to be busy living productively for our Lord Jesus?

 

This Is How They Know

John 13_35

John 13:34-35

In this simple verse, Jesus gave the world the authority to evaluate the quality of our Christianity by how we, as believers, love one another. He didn’t say they would know we are Christians if we go to church, read our Bibles, not drink beer or cuss or anything else. Jesus said the world would know we are His if we love each other.

The world cannot know that we love each other unless we show the world that love. As we have previously discussed, love has to become an action and an act of the will much more than just a feeling. People cannot see our feelings; they can only see the evidence of our feelings, whether bad or good.

What do people see when they come to our church? Do they see a group of people who rejoice in the opportunity to be with one another worshiping God? Or do they see a bunch of sullen people glued to pews? Are they themselves welcomed as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (unless we find out otherwise, and that’s another love topic), or do we ignore them at best or make them feel like intruders at worst?

What do people hear when they hear about our church? Do people report it as a place known for love and getting along? Or are we the church that always has some drama going on? What do we ourselves say about our church and the people in it? Are we kind and supportive of them in public or are we running around stabbing them in the back?

Are we ourselves showing every person we encounter the kind of love we are supposed to show to a brother or sister in Christ? We can’t go wrong treating everyone that way, really. Even if they aren’t, that might be the beginning of them becoming one.

Love is the key. We already know that everything God expects of us as believers flows from love, first from our love for Him, then our love for each other. And love is how we show the world who we are. Just ask Jesus.

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.

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.

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