Saturday, January 26, 2013

Christ Our Example


"And it came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and much people. Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited His people." Luke 7:11-16
   In everything, Christ is the example to the believer. Too many of us would like to be like Christ in some things but not in all things. A Christian cannot pick and choose which characteristics he will imitate and which he will leave alone, because the Spirit that indwells every believer is the Spirit of Christ (Ro. 8:9). A person can choose to fight against being like Jesus, but such a life is fraught with emptiness and trouble. Because every Christian has been made a servant in Christ positionally (Ro. 6:18), we have no choice but to allow God to mold us into obedient servants practically if we are ever to know consistent, sweet fellowship with Him. In this passage, Jesus sets forth at least four characteristics that we do well to observe and imitate in the power of the Spirit. He is faithful, compassionate, victorious, and submitted.
 
   First, we see Christ Jesus our Lord- Faithful. The text says, "And it came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and much people." Jesus can be entrusted with the souls of people. Many needy folk trampled along beside and behind, but the Son of God could be relied upon to meet their needs. At what time did Christ ever misappropriate the souls of men? He never led any astray. He never oppressed a soul for greedy purposes. O! That this could be said of His disciples! God wants to entrust needy people to the care of His disciples. God wants to entrust the Christian husband and father with a wife and children. He wants to entrust the pastor with a flock, the teacher with a class, the mother with children, the singles with friends. He wants children to be able to come up close to those older than themselves and find godly comfort, correction, instruction, and help. Much people followed Jesus. What a thought! Can much people follow you and me, or will God have to keep them back from following us lest we oppress, abuse, and neglect them? Let us be faithful in all things, but particularly in caring for the spiritual and physical welfare of others.

   Second, we see Christ Jesus our Lord- Compassionate. The Bible says, "Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not." Being a widow in the days of Scripture was not like being a modern day American widow. If the husband was not alive, the son was expected to care for his mother, but should there be no son, she would often be at the mercy of others. This sheds some light on Paul's statement in I Timothy, "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." Paul encouraged widows to cast themselves upon the care and mercy of God, and in this passage, God shows himself faithful to the needs of this widow in bringing Christ her way that fateful day. The verb had compassion comes from a root which means bowels or entrails. In fact, the noun form is translated bowels many times (see I J. 3:17). As Christ looked upon this poor woman in her heartache and woe, His bowels yearned for her. He felt a deep, deep pity for her needs. In the Old Testament, God is said to be full of compassion (Ps. 111:4). This word comes from a root which means womb. The pity and compassion that God has for people is a sincere, deep compassion which is motivated by a love that none of us can fully understand. God wants every believer to allow the love of God to flow from his heart. Someone who cannot love people is said to be lost according to I J. 3:15-17. A believer that is not walking with the Lord will also gloss over the needs of people and be severely lacking in his compassion. Let us allow the love of God to flow from our lives. May it touch lost and saved souls alike.

   Thirdly, we see Christ Jesus our Lord- Victorious. After Jesus had comforted the widow verbally, He then followed through with action, "And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still." He touched a coffin?! Such things would have been unthinkable to the Old Testament Jew, because a dead body and anything associated with it were considered unclean and brought about ceremonial defilement (Num. 19). This, however, did not affect the Son of God because He is the Prince of Life. He is absolutely victorious over the death that sin has brought about. Consider this passage concerning Christ's victory over sin, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes (Ho. 13:14)." Commenting on this passage, Paul wrote, "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory (I Co. 15:54-55)?" By the power of God, Christ is absolutely victorious in all things. This principle should govern our lives as well. The submitted Christian who is walking with God in humble faith can come to God for victory and strength in any situation. However, rebellion and disobedience are robbers of power. Christ did always those things that please the Father and so He could expect God's blessing, but a life which is not crucified will not be empowered. Let us deny ourselves, take up our cross in the power of the Spirit and go forth, trampling under foot the lion, and the adder, and the serpent (Ps. 91:13). "And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother." The work backed up the words. Christ does not merely speak of power, He shows it. A Christian who is truly walking with God will also demonstrate this same principle. They will not simply speak of God's greatness, their lives will demonstrate it.

   Lastly, we see Christ Jesus our Lord- Submitted. Christ was always submitted to the will of the Father. In the order of the God-head, this is how the Lord has chosen it to be. In Christ being submitted to the will of the Father, His actions prompted two responses from the people. First, they feared God. "And there came a fear on all...." True spiritual works will prompt a reverent response, not a fleshly feeling. Too many so-called revivals, seminars, services, gatherings, and meetings are plagued with the stench brought about by the death of man's works; which are performed in pride and pretence. Secondly, "...they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited His people." They gave God all the glory for what was done. Man-centered works prompt man-centered movements, but works performed through the power of God will stand out as unusual. We all need to step down from the thrones of our hearts and allow God, the King, to step up. He must be glorified and He must be honored in all that we do.

   The crucified life will demonstrate the character of Jesus in all things, but the life that is holding onto self will attempt to pick and choose what part of Jesus it wants. This cannot be done with any success. Let us flee in humble faith to Christ our Example.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Feeding the Five Thousand (Part II)


"And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and
above unto them that had eaten." John 6:10-13


   Verse six says "...for He Himself knew what He would do...." The source of provision was no secret to God even though it was a cause of perplexity to the disciples, as it often is for us today. God presents us with obstacles which are overwhelming with the intent that we flee to Him in faith.

Grassy Area Near the Sea of Galilee
   The verb so often translated "sit down" means to recline at a meal. The picture of course is that of a middle eastern culture where people would lie on one side, supported on one elbow, while eating with the opposite hand. In a place which was seemingly incapable of feeding such a multitude, Christ commands five thousand men (not including women and children) to recline in preparation for a meal. Such wonders should not be a rare thing in the believer's life, they should be commonplace. The children of God will often find themselves in a position where they are uncertain as to how they can continue, and yet, it is in this exact place where the King of Heaven commands us to "recline" in preparation for a meal.

   "And Jesus took the loaves...." He used what the people had, feeble as it was. God does not demand that we bring more than what we have, but He does expect that we surrender what He has allowed us to have. Consider Moses; God gave him a simple shepherds staff, and yet, through the power of God, it became the agent of display for God's power to Pharaoh. Notice also the chain of authority. The disciples did not take the loaves because they could do nothing with them. Christ took them because only He has the power to make much out of little.

   "...and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would." After giving credit to the proper Source, God Almighty, Christ the Son distributes the multiplied loaves to the disciples who, in turn, feed the hungry people. After the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the same pattern may be observed throughout the New Testament and up to the present day; and certainly it may be observed throughout the whole Bible. God is the authority; He takes what He has allowed us to have (if we are willing to surrender it) and makes it into much, thus giving it back to us so that we might have the privilege of serving up the divine course to the spiritually hungry. Not one of these disciples could boast that the multiplied food was his own work, so neither can any Christian boast that the things which he ministers are his own. All that each believer receives is by the gift of God and by the grace of God as Paul says in I Corinthians, "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" How foolish it would have been for these "waiters" to boast that they had prepared the meal. In like manner, every Christian is simply a "waiter" who has been given the rare privilege of serving the divine food prepared by the Holy One of Israel. It is just as foolish and sinful for us today to boast that we have anything to offer anyone outside of Christ, whether it be intellect, personality, charisma, character, humility, philosophy, possessions or any host of other things that a person may boast about. It says that they distributed "as much as they would." Each person was fed to contentment. God's provision does not fall short. Had the disciples attempted to make five loaves and two fish stretch among thousands of people, all would have gone home hungry or only a handful would have eaten, but the need would have been left unmet.

   As a testimony to the disciples and us today, Christ commanded that they pick up the fragments. One basket full of food remained for each of the twelve disciples as a physical reminder that God is able. God is also not in the business of waste. He provides and expects us to use what is left over.

   This miracle stands out as a hallmark to the incredible provision of God. Much has been said of it, some bad some good, and much more will be said. Let us come away with at least this lesson in our hearts, God alone is the One Who must feed us.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Feeding the Five Thousand (Part I)


"When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy
bread, that these may eat? And this He said to prove him: for
He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him,
Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them,
that every one of them may take a little.  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad
here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but
what are they among so many?" John 5:5-9
 
   "...[He] saw a great company come unto Him...." As sheep without a shepherd, the masses of spiritually neglected people flow toward the King of all the earth. In the millennial kingdom it will be the same. Isaiah gives us a beautiful picture of the spiritually hungry nations rushing to Jerusalem to hear from Christ the King, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

   As the throngs of people press toward Jesus in this wilderness area, Christ presents a problem to His disciples. He says, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? " Of course this is not a problem for God, but He often asks us questions in order to spur us on to Christian growth. As the Lord allows various tests into our lives, we have a choice within each one. Will we remember that He is the God of all the earth, and humbly turn to Him for help? Or will we immediately begin to investigate the carnal resources at hand. As these disciples did, so we do. They focus only on what they can do to meet the need and not upon what God can do. Phillip says, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." Immediately following this statement, Andrew says, "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" The most bread that they could buy and the most food contained within their midst was still insufficient to meet the need. Thus will it be whenever a problem arises. All that men can do and all that they can collect will always fall short of truly meeting the need.

   Many Christians furiously follow after the help and resources of men in an attempt to meet the needs at hand. Evangelism has linked up with liberals and apostates, hoping to gain a foothold in order to reach the lost millions; yet, what has happened? All these attempts have fallen short. Does God require the financial aid and institutions of men in order to carry out His work? Has His hand somehow waxed short that it cannot save? Does He need our "two hundred pennyworth" to see His will realized upon this earth and in heaven? I think not. These tests placed before the Church are not distressing to God; they are there to prove us and glorify Him. One positive aspect of Andrew's answer is that He noticed the insufficiency of the best that men could conjure up. May we learn from his prudence. Our best will always be insufficient for the King's work. This is why He must be our Provider.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Unfaithful Following

"After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh." John 6:1-4


   According to Matthew, this is about the same time that John the Baptist was killed by Herod (Matthew 14). Upon hearing of John's death, Christ sails to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. This sea is called the Sea of Tiberias three times in Scripture. Tiberias was a town on the western shore, and the Lake of Gennesaret was sometimes called after this town.

   The text says, "...a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did...." These individuals were not following Christ because of the doctrine that He preached but because of the miracles which He performed. Everyone enjoys the physical benefits of God's good hand, for "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," but not many want the holy doctrine that comes with the Person of Christ. This statement is not made upon assumption, because the text will soon declare the true motives of the multitude. God wants true followers that have been changed from the inside out. Anyone can hold to be a disciple of Jesus as long as they are having all their needs taken care of, but few want to face the inward changes that the Holy Spirit wishes to perform in a man's soul.

   Jesus Christ was always merciful to people, even when He knew that they would eventually turn away. This passage declares that He healed the diseased, and we will soon see that He fed those who would, in just a few verses, deny His deity.

   As was His usual custom, Jesus resorts to the solitude and height of a mountain with His disciples. The second of three Passovers is mentioned here. By following these Passovers, one can clearly see the three and one half year earthly ministry of Christ.