John – The Gospel of Grace (11)


Jesus knows the real you!

At the end of the second chapter of John’s gospel is a stark reminder that you can’t fool God. I can fool you and you can fool me but neither of us can fool God. Jesus knows our hearts.

 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25)

Jesus “knew all people…” and “knew what was in man”. This is a truth I think we soon forget. Have you ever done something that you knew was wrong and you tried to make sure the pastor or the deacons or other church folk didn’t know? I believe almost all of us have. The truth is Jesus knows us from the inside out.

How many times have we seen this happen or read about it in the Bible. People “believed” because they saw what Jesus did but He didn’t believe them.

In our churches there are possessors and professors, there are believers and impostors, tares among the wheat. I have seen people who were eager to be baptized, were emphatic about the profession of their faith, they then left the water and never came back. Every evangelist knows that only a percentage of those who “go forward” during a campaign will follow through and actually submit to public baptism and of those some will eventually go away.

This same author said in 1 John 2:19

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

The proof is in the pudding as they say. If they don’t stick around other believers, some where, they are probably like these folks John referenced in his writings. They were superficial believers, they were not surrendered to the Christ. It is one thing to believe historically that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead. It is quite another to believe in such a way that your life changes course (repentance) in radical ways (discipleship).

The Scriptures seem consistent on this topic. Those who are truly disciples of Jesus sick it out through good times and bad. They persevere. The Christ life that we are called to life entails continual submission, dying daily to self, and practicing certain Christian disciplines.

We cannot live for Jesus and endure hardship on our own, using our own resources.

…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Keep the faith!

Royce Ogle

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Thinking on Purpose…


If self-proclaimed “Christians” at large were polled, or questioned, I believe it would be shocking how little people who claim to be followers of  Jesus really know. I don’t mean they are unfamiliar with the Bible, or that they don’t have a good preacher on Sunday, or that the Christian books and articles they read are untrue. I’m inclined to believe that most regular church members, if challenged, would be unable to defend what they believe about God or Jesus. Many people who have very strong opinions, and loudly proclaim their pet doctrines, don’t know “why” they believe what they believe.

It is interesting that when believers are told in the Bible how they should love God, one of the ways is with their “minds” (Luke 10:27). What we think about and meditate upon shapes who we are and exposes who we are, ” for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” Luke 6:45b. Another way of saying this is, only what we have put into our minds, and embraced as true, is what we are going to speak. Bible writers give various warnings about how we use our words. In the end, our wonderful ability to communicate thoughts, ideas, precepts, warnings, blessings, etc. are an open window to our inner most being.

The reason we are like we are is because many of us, (I’m referencing believers…) are not operating at full capacity mentally. Here’s what I mean. In Romans 1 Paul explained that God is self revealed in His creation to the degree that the person who observes the world about him, those created things, is not neutral. Once revelation has been received a choice must be made. Either a person will embrace the One who made those magnificent things, based on his or her admittedly limited knowledge, or reject that same revelation and the Creator.

 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:19-21)

Those who reject what they know about God are “without excuse” and “they became futile in their thinking”…..”and their foolish hearts were darkened”. That’s quite an indictment!

Those of us who truly belong to Christ are called to “think” differently than before. How can we do that?

  1. Different thinking.  Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We must with purpose learn to think differently. There is another passage that encourages us to us care in our thinking. “and take every thought captive to obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 2:5. So we are in control of what we think about and are responsible to think they way we should.
  2. A Renewed mind. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We are not left alone to our futile thinking but as we take charge of our thinking our minds are being changed. Our minds, and our hearts, the seat of our emotions and where we make decisions is very complex and the best minds do not fully appreciate the beauty of God’s work seen in our ability to think and reason. But, in our store-house of thoughts there are only two broad categories of  information stored there. Truth and Lies. The more we put in God’s truth, and embrace it by faith, the more our minds will be renewed and our thinking will mature so that we can distinguished what “is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

Popular Christian preacher and apologist Ravi Zacharias has this tag-line for his syndicated radio program, “Let My People Think”. I love that! I fear that critical thinking is fast becoming a lost art. Christians must be thinkers to be what God wants them to be. Right thinkers become right people who know the will of God.

Finally, Peter admonished his readers in 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”.

It is good to know what you believe about God. It is even better to know Why you believe it. Let’s do some thinking and love God with our minds.

#NoStinkinThinkin

Royce Ogle

 

 

 

John – The Gospel of Grace (10)


Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  (John 2:18-22)

The Jews response to Jesus driving the greedy money changers and merchants out of the temple was “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”. Jesus, as he often did, answered  with words they did not understand. Apparently, even the disciples didn’t get his message. But, Jesus was speaking about the temple which was his physical body.

It would come as no surprise for a religious leader to die for his cause. There have been scores of such people, some even in my lifetime. Dying for some cause is not that uncommon. What is exclusive to Jesus was his claim, “Kill me and I’ll be standing on the earth again in three days”. In other words, “I am greater than physical death.”

The Christian faith is a beautiful thing. And, it’s central figure, Jesus of Nazareth said some amazing things. The words he spoke in what is referred to as “the Sermon on the Mount” are some of the most beautiful ever said or written. The way of life Jesus laid out was staggering. “Love your enemies, Pray for them…?” “If you want to be great in the Kingdom be the most humble”.  Many people never get beyond the things Jesus and his followers said about daily living, how to worship, when to worship, and many invented rules that in many cases have become more important than the work of Jesus for sinners.

Make no mistake about it, don’t miss the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The whole of Christianity and even the credibility of Jesus himself rest on this central fact, Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and after three days was physically raised from the dead. If there is no validity to the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is a fraud. The great apostle Paul said it this way.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

“Your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” And, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Any presentation of the gospel that does not include the central fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not the gospel, but a lie.

I had discussions online with a preacher a few years ago who in no uncertain terms flatly denied that Jesus was raised from the dead in a physical body. Never mind that he walked along the road with his followers, ate shore lunches with them, and was seen by over 500 people at one time. That preacher was not a Christian, he was an impostor.

The disciples remembered Jesus seemingly odd prediction on this day in the Temple after he had been resurrected. It was not until Jesus’ closest friends and associates saw him alive after being killed and buried that they finally really believed. Never again did they ever show a hint of fear. And, you don’t need to either. Jesus will raise from the dead every person who believes on him.

R

John, The Gospel of Grace (9)


Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:13-17

The very place that was to be a place of worship and sacrifice to God had become a flea market. Worship and prayer and praise to God had been reduced to commerce.

For the merchants it was good old capitalism. It was an excellent location to turn a quick buck. Lots of people were in Jerusalem for Passover and there were throngs of ready buyers who were willing to purchase an offering at likely high prices. The “money-changers” didn’t have God on their minds at all, they were there for one thing, to make money.

Those visitors to the Temple from all across the known world, and also from Jerusalem, should have been there thinking about God and praising him for the deliverance of their people long ago. Every Jew knew the story. But, apparently they were no more godly than the merchants. It was easy to enter the temple court, quickly buy pigeon or a lamb, sacrifice the animal, and check that box as “done”.

People have not changed very much have they? How many people every Sunday, attend Sunday School and “church” (worship), eat a cracker, drink some juice, mouth some words to a few songs, put some token amount in the passing plate and check off the box, “done”? Jews attend synagogue each Saturday and many go through the ancient rituals and that few moments at the temple is unfortunately the only time during the week when they think very much about God.

This story of Jesus driving out the greedy, ungodly merchants should be a warning that God has not changed his mind about half-hearted worshipers who are only going through the motions. What those people were doing was religion, and God was not pleased. Our worship and adoration of God should be from the heart,  in the Spirit, with our minds set on Christ and pleasing him.

In the gathered churches across the globe there are possessors and professors. There are devoted disciples of Christ and there are impostors. Don’t think you can fool God. He knows his own.

Oh how we all need Christ! Every one of us desperately needs God’s grace as expressed in the person and work of Jesus for sinners like us. We should determine that our worship will be from our hearts to the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. He is so worthy of far more than traditional motivation, religious ritual, and sham Christianity.

Royce Ogle