Category Archives: Who is Jesus

Studies and devotional thoughts about Jesus.

Snapshots of Compassion

I have always loved pictures painted, drawn, or photos taken.  Currently, I am taking a photography course and it has opened my eyes even more to the beauty and the story (ies) within each picture. As I read the Bible I realize there are pictures of God, of man and even videos (so to speak) of God and man together. I would like to present some to you. In my photo album of God these are filed under compassion and love.

Snapshots of Compassion
Picture this: A man is dressed in dirty clothes with holes and shreds. As we approach we see he is disfigured and has scaly, crusty white patches on his arms. Some of his fingers are missing, People begin to move away from him and murmur sounds of disgust.

Then we see a young man and a small group of his friends nearing the man. The man calls out something. He is calling out for help. His friends shrink back, but the young man moves forward and reaches out and touches the man.  Almost instantly, we see the man’s flesh restored to normal. His fingers are whole. His skin is not scaly and crusty, but smooth and new. Onlookers, still at a cautious distance, gasp. The man in tatters praises God.

Maybe this is what it was like when Jesus looked on the leper with compassion.  This photo is found in the gospel of Mark in chapter 1, we read of the incident in which Jesus looked upon a leper with eyes of compassion and a will to help him.

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing,  you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.  Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Mark 1:40-42.

I love the part that says the Son of God was “moved with compassion,” and “I am willing.”  It is reassuring to know that God sees me with eyes of compassion, and that He is willing to help me. On the days when I feel like a leper on the sidelines of life, ignored, cast off, weighed down in my sin, or hurt by another’s sin; I pull out this picture and see God and His compassion. It reminds me of the truth about God and me. I return the photo to the album and move forward with new courage, faith and strength.

Snapshot: A Guilty Woman
There is a small crowd. Men’s angry voices can be heard. Wait! They have stones in their hands. Who is that in the middle of the circle? A women partially clothed is cowering in the dirt. A young rabbi looks on the scene with sadness and indignation. He enters the ring and scratches something in the dirt. Men drop stones and turn away. He turns to the woman, and speaks gentle words of forgiveness and direction. She rises and returns home. (See John 8:1-12).

When I am distraught about my sin, about wrestling with overcoming it, and failing; I pull out this snapshot of truth and am encouraged. Knowing that God views my distress through eyes of compassion helps me trust in Him, stand up, and move forward.

Snapshot: Men with Hard Hearts
The next picture was taken on the Sabbath in the synagogue. The synagogue was a great location for a picture. It was the focal point of the Jewish religious community. People went there to hear the law of God read and discussed.

In this picture we see men sitting, some are in the chief seats and there is a commoner seated on the floor. If we look closely at the expressions we see critical eyes and cold hard stares of the men in the “chief seats.” The man seated on the floor has a withered hand. Look closely at the picture and you will see sadness and fear in his eyes.

Also in the picture is a young rabbi who is looking with compassion on the man with the withered hand. He calls this man forward and heals him. In the next photo we see indignation and grief on the young rabbi’s face while we see anger and hatred on the faces of the men in the chief seats.

It is said that after this compassionate healing took place, the men of the chief seats met in a group and conspired to kill the young rabbi. (See Mark 3:1-6)

I love the fact that Jesus’ compassion for the man leads Him to act on his behalf even when it posed a danger to Himself.  While Jesus felt compassion for the man with the withered hand, He felt deep sadness at the hardness of heart of the other men. Seeing this picture of God helps me to trust Him. He is righteous and has a sense of justice. I can feel safe in confiding my hurts and problems to Him. He stands up to evil and champion my cause.

What’s in Your spiritual Wallet?
The compassion of God is well documented in the scriptures. Jesus manifests the character and nature of God to us (Col. 1:18; John 1:1-3). As we read the gospels we see pictures of God’s compassion.

When I was younger it was the custom for people to carry a wallet for their cash, but also most of these wallets had a section of plastic holders for pictures. Usually people put pictures of their family and close friends. It was a reminder to them of their loved ones and they could whip it out to give others a true description of their family and friends.

It is important to picture these truths about God in our minds and carry them with us in the wallet of our hearts.

In times when I am discouraged; feeling hurt and alone; misunderstood; let down by others; weary and tired of life, or guilty of sin, I pull out these truths of God. I look at them carefully. I put my faith in God anew and trust His compassion for me.  I am reminded I am not alone. I have a Father who understands, who cares and whose compassion is active in my life.

I urge you to read the Word of God, find and keep pictures of God in your spiritual wallet.

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the distress of my soul.”  Psalm. 31:7

Get a Lawyer – Second Look III

The idea that I would need an attorney is a scary thought to me, because it means I broke the law and am going to be liable for some type of punishment unless I can prove my innocence. The closest I ever came to this was when I was attending graduate school in Abilene, Texas. I hopped in my car to go to a friend’s house and forgot my purse, in which was my wallet, in which was my driver’s license. Wouldn’t you know that on that day as I approached the campus there was a police car in the middle of the road with a police officer stopping all cars and checking driver licenses!

I confidently reached for my purse, which was not there, and immediately was filled with fear. To my relief, I did not get hauled off to jail, but I did receive a citation stating that by such and such a date I had to show up at the police station and prove I had a current driver’s license. I went on my way, relieved.

However, about a month later, I received a notice saying there was a warrant out on me and that I could be picked up at any time because I did not show proof of a driver’s license. (Just another thing I forgot)! I was instructed to report to the courthouse on said date. I immediately was filled with panic, fear and dread. I wasted no time, called an older friend and asked for help.

We both went to the courthouse. It was comforting to have someone by my side as I faced the judge. The friend who stayed by my side was there for moral support, so to speak. He did not do any pleading on my behalf.  It turned out that I did not have to go to jail or even pay a fine. I simply had to show the judge my valid driver’s license. Nevertheless, it was a frightening experience, which if I had been found guilty would have had a penalty to pay.

I Need a Defender
When I studied the scriptures to learn about Jesus and the salvation He offers.  I understood that Jesus took my sins on Himself, and that He paid the penalty for my sins which was death and separation from God.

However, after I believed and was baptized into Jesus (Gal. 3:27), I thought I was done with sin and that I would be sinless from that point on. So, when I did sin, I became fearful and anxious forgetting what God did for me in Jesus. Obviously, I was very naïve about my fleshly nature.

Since I came to Jesus I have overcome some sin tendencies, but I still sin. Infact, I have been a disciple for many years and through the years God has helped me to see sins I had committed that I never realized. This became a new source of anxiety. Have you ever felt that way or wondered about these things?

The thought of sinning bothers me, because I thought I would no longer sin and the scripture calls us to stop sinning. There are many verses in the New Testament that call us to live a holy life, such as Col. 3:4-7.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Col. 3:5-7

I have since come to realize that putting off my old self and putting on and growing in Godly character is a lifelong process. But the problem of sin remains. So, what do I do with the sins I commit after I have come to Jesus? In 1 John, a letter written to 1st century believers, the Spirit reveals the truth about this dilemma and provides God’s solution.

Jesus Our Defense Attorney
Jesus is not only our Savior, but also He is our advocate as stated in 1 John 2:1.

 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”1 John 2:1

The term in New Testament Greek for advocate is parakletos which is two words. Para means “alongside” and kaleo means “make a call”. It refers to coming alongside someone to give aid. This word is often used in the New Testament when the scripture refers to the Holy Spirit. However, in 1 John 2:1-2, it is specifically applied to Jesus.

In this verse the term advocate is used in a legal sense. It was used to indicate one who pleads a cause before a judge. Our equivalent today might be a “defense attorney.”

A defense attorney comes alongside a person to plead their cause before a judge. By using this word in describing Jesus, John paints a picture of Jesus as our legal representative coming along side us, in a spiritual sense, and pleading our case before the Father.

Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God presenting evidence to God on my behalf. The interesting thing is that Jesus’ advocacy is not a onetime thing, but rather it is a continuous process. The word “have” in the phrase “we have an advocate with the Father” is a present tense indicating a continuous action!

Jesus advocated for me on the cross and he continues to advocate for me. So, when I first came to believe in Him He presented my case to God, and He continues to advocate on my behalf as I walk along with Him. This is so reassuring to me, because I “mess up” a lot.

Jesus Is the Evidence
What evidence could Jesus possibly be presenting on my behalf since I know I am guilty of sinning, of going against the commands of Jesus? As a skilled defense attorney Jesus presents His evidence before God. The evidence that Jesus presents in not what I have done, but what He has done. All of His evidence on my behalf is based in His sacrifice, 1 john 2:1-2.

Article of Evidence#1: Jesus Became the Criminal
Jesus took my sins on Himself. In other words He became me and my sin. He gave up His status of being without blame, of being righteous or sinless. He took on my status as the transgressor, the law breaker, and He choose to give me His righteousness.

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the      righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Article #2: Jesus Took My Punishment
He took my punishment of death on Himself and gave me life.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
  • “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9

Article of Evidence #3: Jesus Made Restitution for My Sin
Jesus made up for my transgression by offering His blood to the Father. He met the requirement of the law by doing this.

  • “… He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12

Article of Evidence #4: Jesus Wiped My Record Clean
Jesus cancelled out all the charges that were against me and He satisfied the requirement of the law in His sacrifice on the cross. So my “record,” so to speak, is clear and clean before God.

  • And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14)

Yes, these are some of the pieces of evidence that Jesus presents to the Father on my behalf. Maybe He says to the Father, “Father, this woman is innocent. I carried her sins on me. Actually, Father, I am the sinner. I already took the punishment and I offered to You my blood to make up for her sins. She is righteous and blameless, free to live life with You, Father.” I don’t know, maybe that is carrying things too far. I am not sure how Jesus advocates for us, but I believe 1 John 2:1-2 is true and presents reassurance for me and you.

The purpose of this article is not to say we can sin and it is ok, but rather, it is to magnify God and Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross and what He continues to do for us.  When I take sin lightly, it dishonors Jesus and makes a mockery of His sacrificial death.

The truth that Jesus is my advocate reminds me of Jesus’ steadfast love for me. It is reassuring to know that when I do sin and have a repentant heart, Jesus is talking to the Father for me. He is presenting His evidence and interceding for me. I can be at peace and rest in the sacrifice of
Jesus.

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34

 

A Second Look

In the early 1970’s, I remember driving around in my VW Beetle listening to a song by Johnny Cash in which were the words “I see men as trees walking.” This song told the story of the encounter of a blind man with Jesus in Mark 8:22-25. This passage relates how Jesus spit on the man’s eyes, put His hands on him and asked him what he saw. The man said,” I see people, they look like trees walking.”  Jesus touched the man a second time and the man saw clearly.

Do you ever feel that way, like you need a second touch? Like you need to read it again or take a second look at it? I do!

Routine Obscures the View
I think I can get busy with life and busy doing the activities associated with a “walk with God” that my sight of Jesus gets off. My sense of wonder and awe become veiled. Sometimes things begin to become more of a routine performance than heart relationship.

That is when I need a second touch, a second look into Jesus. The story in Mark 8:22-26 reminds us that true sight comes from God, so I start with prayer, asking God to show me Jesus, to take me deeper into knowing Him. As I progress in “knowing Jesus” I am sure I will need more of these second looks.

I started this quest by looking at what we have “in” Jesus and “through” Jesus. These are little words that open up another dimension to knowing Jesus.

Created In Jesus For
In the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 and verse 10, Paul reveals an eye opening truth about Jesus. It reads:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Three important truths come from this passage.  I am God’s handiwork. That word is also translated workmanship. I am His workmanship. When I think of “workmanship,” I think of a carpenter or a violin maker holding the wood,maybe even caressing it as he cuts, bends, shapes, shaves,  joins and engraves it. God enthroned above is actually involved in forming something in and through me and my life. This truth should dispel any doubt about my value or His love for me.

This working of God is happening in me as I am “in Jesus;” and this creative action is towards the purpose of my doing good works.

A Truth to Sustain
So in Jesus, I am given value and purpose for life. In the more mundane or ho-hum moments in life I can be tempted to think, “What am I doing here? What is my meaning or value here?”

This passage gives me meaning and purpose “in Christ Jesus.” I learn what the “works prepared in advance for me” are as I read more of His Word, and as I participate in the community of believers, the body of Christ, His church.

Encounter God Through Jesus
It is an amazing thought to think we can be near to the One who creates and sustains all life. Yet we can do this “through Jesus,” and only through Him. Salvation through Jesus brings us into the presence of God.

In the context of the letter of Hebrews to the Hebraic disciples the writer is explaining how Jesus is the true high priest and what He has done before God on our behalf. We read:

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25

This thought is associated with understanding of the system of priesthood and atonement recorded in the Old Testament. But, the truth remains that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and His eternal priesthood, we can draw near to God through Jesus based on His merits, not ours. Through Jesus we can approach God, actually through Jesus we have consent to come near God.

This is an amazing thought to me, especially when I am plagued with self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. The truth is that I, in and of myself, am not “good enough.” I cannot come into the presence of God, or achieve a close relationship with God through my performance and achievement.  Jesus, through His atoning blood and resurrections from the dead can bring me into the throne room of God.

Jesus Prays for Me
Another amazing truth in this passage in verse 25 is the fact that Jesus intercedes for me. He, so to speak, prays for me.  Jesus presents me and my case to God the Father.

Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14) came to earth, showed us the character and heart of God, died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, was raised from death to live eternally, is seated at the right hand of God, and continually intercedes on our behalf. Amazing and true!

Jesus always lives to make intercession for me. His sacrifice on the cross was a one-time event, but Jesus continues to work on my behalf. His approaching the Father on my behalf is one such way I am blessed through Him.

There are times when darkness obscures light and truth in my life; when I am discouraged; confused, tempted or worn down. At times like these, I bring this truth to my mind, remembering that Jesus is bringing me before God and speaking on my behalf to our Father, gives me hope.

And There Is More
There are so many blessings that we have within our salvation in Jesus. Sometimes we just need to take a second look into Jesus. We have much in Him, with Him, by Him and through Him. He truly is our all in all.

 

Simple but Profound Truths about Jesus

Not too long ago I read John 5:23b which says, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.” These words were spoken by Jesus about Himself and His Father. Being someone who wants to know God and honor Him, I took this seriously and began looking more closely at Jesus, in particular His sacrifice on the cross. I want to honor and value Him in truth rather than in rote or in an unthinking or shallow manner. I am still learning many truths about Jesus, but here are a few.

Jesus, Immanuel, God in the flesh, had a body. Many people think Jesus had a body so that He would be more relatable to us. It is true, that Jesus having a body makes Him more relatable to us. He was able to show us who God is and what He is like in a more visual way. However, the fact that He had a body like us has more to do with salvation truths than anything else.

 Jesus Had a Body for the Explicit Purpose of Dying
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…” Hebrews 4:4-5.

This is a partial quote from Ps. 40:6 and other Old Testament passages. It is used to indicate that a spirit of obeying God is more important to Him than all the ritual sacrifices that people offered unto God. But, there is a deeper meaning in the expression “a body you prepared for me.”

A body was prepared for God in Jesus, because it is that very body that would be the one true sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world. A physical body was necessary for Jesus to have not just to relate to us, but actually to be able to die for us.

Phil. 2:7-8,  states that Jesus being in very nature God put on the form of a man, took on the appearance and qualities of man in the flesh. He did this, humbling Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. I find this very compelling that Jesus literally became a “man, a human” so that He could die for our sins.

A Flesh and Blood Body Provided Atoning Blood
Hebrews 9: 11-12 – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (NASB)

Jesus took on a flesh and blood body so that His actual blood was poured out for our sins. Isolating this truth and thinking about it makes it more real and meaningful to me.  Think about this -before Jesus came to earth He knew He would give His earthly body to be killed and His blood would bring spiritual life to us who believe in Him. Romans 3:25 emphasizes this truth, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

A Physical Body – Resurrected
Jesus had a physical body so that He could suffer and die on our behalf, but also so that He could be resurrected. This resurrection is crucial to our life.

In Luke 24:39  we read  what Jesus said about Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Acts 1:3 emphasizes the truth of this resurrection. “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

John in the book of Revelations states the most powerful truth about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, Himself, tells us who He is and what His resurrection has accomplished, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus, because He had a body that was resurrected, holds the keys to death for us. He is truly, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Resurrection of Jesus’ Body Leads to My Resurrection
The resurrection of the body that God prepared for Jesus is crucial to our spiritual life, to our freedom from sin. Paul notes this in 1 Corinthians 15:17 – “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

As a result of Jesus’ resurrection I can be resurrected from death, because He was the “firstborn” from the dead. (Col.1:18- “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”)

The power of Jesus’ physical resurrection brings about both physical resurrection from the dead for me, but also a spiritual resurrection in me through His Spirit in me. As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, I can die to my fleshly self and be resurrected as a new creation in Jesus.

Romans 6:4- 7 describe this resurrection process: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Who does not want this? How many times have you asked yourself, “How can I be different? How can I change? How can I do this better or do this over?”  We have hope in these things through the resurrection of Jesus.

Basic Gospel
Paul describes these truths that I wrote about as being the Gospel, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

As for me, I see nothing simple in these truths. They are rich with meaning and complex with implication for us in our relationship to Jesus. My sense of honoring Jesus is deeper, and more entrenched in truth than ever before.  I encourage you to look deeper into the truths you know about Jesus. Let your faith be encouraged.

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16