Thursday, June 22, 2017

REBORN



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

John 3:1-11

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

A reading of the four Gospels found in the New Testament might lead one to believe that all Pharisees were enemies and opponents of Jesus. But as we see in today’s scripture passage from the opening verses of John, Chapter 3, there was at least one Pharisee who was actually a part of Jesus’ fan club, a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus. Look again at these verses:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  John 3:1-11

Nicodemus wasn’t just some fringe member of the Pharisaic community. Rather, He was a member of the Jewish ruling council, a position of great significance within the Jewish religious community.

Note here that he came to Jesus at night, possibly to conceal the fact he was meeting with a man who his peers disliked greatly, a man who his peers would eventually kill. After finding Jesus, Nicodemus honors Him with words of praise saying:

“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with Him.”

Think about the compliment Nicodemus paid Jesus because his reputation and a part of his work with the Israelites was to instruct them on the scriptures. And yet, Nicodemus was elevating Jesus to a special plain by acknowledging that He had surely come from God because “no one could perform the signs” Jesus was performing, unless they had God aiding and abetting them in the process.

How did Jesus respond to these accolades?

With a statement that obviously drove Nicodemus into a state of confusion. For we find Jesus telling the Pharisee leader:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Huh?

Nicodemus may have been asking himself why Jesus would have made such an assertion out of the blue when he had not even asked about the “kingdom of God”. And what was all this talk about being reborn? We get a sense Nicodemus was trying to process it all in a worldly vice a spiritual context as he asked Jesus:

“How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Perhaps anyone, not versed in the matter of becoming a new creation in Jesus would translate what Jesus was saying in the same way. It all was very confusing for Nicodemus as a whole and so he needed enlightened as to what Jesus was getting at; he needed advisement from the teacher he had lauded earlier and so Jesus accommodated him with the hope of clarifying His comment:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Of note here, Jesus doesn’t say anything about the physical act of childbirth. There was no reference to anything that Nicodemus had mentioned in his questions. Rather, Jesus cut to the chase as to what He was talking about and that was spiritual rebirth. If a person was interested in entering the kingdom of God, in other words, entering into heaven for all eternity, they would need more than mere birth by water. They would need baptized by the Holy Spirit and that came when someone accepted Jesus as Savior, a commitment which caused one to be “born of the Spirit”, also referred to as being “born again”. Paul would later write these words:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

In other words, a person is reborn when they receive Jesus as their personal Savior. They become a new creation.

Well, Nicodemus didn’t quite get it still and so he asked Jesus another question, “How can this be?”, one that drew the chastisement of Jesus who answered:

“You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.

Herein was the big rub between Jesus and the Pharisees. For as Jesus brought a new teaching, one that didn’t serve to replace the law but rather take it to a whole different level of producing righteousness within believers, the inflexible thought process of the Jewish religious leaders refused to invite the notion that Jesus could teach them a new thing or two, a new thing or two that would bring them into a closer relationship with the God they served. In the end translation, the Pharisees were not interested in trying to understand what Jesus was trying to share with them, consistently rejecting the testimony of Jesus and His disciples.

And so, we find the Pharisees for the most part moving on with never having been reborn. They had the chance for eternity right in front of them and they were too stiff-necked and stubborn in their ways to even consider for a moment that Jesus was telling them the truth and they needed to change their ways. Instead of listening to Jesus, the Pharisees decided to eliminate Him and in doing so, would see for themselves that He was valid in talking about rebirth because of His resurrection from the tomb three days after His crucifixion.

Given the content of this devotion, I’ll close with a few questions for you:

Are you like Nicodemus and his fellow Pharisees, refusing to trust Jesus and seek His truth regarding life, now and forever?

Are you rejecting the notion of being born again in Christ Jesus and in doing so, pass up being born of the Spirit?

or

Are you all in for Jesus, placing your full faith and hope in Him as your personal Savior and becoming a new creation, receiving His promise of salvation?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

JESUS KNOWS



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In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs He was performing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person.

John 2:23-25

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

How much do people know about you?

I mean, how much do they REALLY know about you?

You see, we are very good, maybe too good, at only letting people see what we want them to see. Complete transparency isn’t something you see in a person these days and this isn’t just in reference to our casual relationships with people. For there have been more than a few occasions when people who have been partners or acquaintances for a long time ended up discovering something that let them know that they only thought they knew their spouse or friend after having something come to light that had been long concealed.

In the end translation, no one can see inside another person’s heart and mind and soul to know who that person really is. Thus, no one can say they truly know someone.

Why even have this discussion?

Because it’s directly connectional with our scripture passage today as we are reminded about how Jesus relates to each and every one of us. Look again at these words as we continue our study of the second chapter of the Gospel of John:

Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs He was performing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person.  John 2:23-25

After Jesus had driven out the animal brokers and money changers from the temple courts and provided the Jews who questioned Him a description of the sign they would soon see to validate His authority, the scriptures tell us that many people believed in Him, seeing the signs and wonders He was performing. Jesus was winning people over, people who were entrusting themselves to Him.

Unfortunately, the sentiments were not reciprocated.

We know this because God’s word tells us that Jesus refused to entrust Himself to the people who were coming onboard with Him. He was yet to push the “I believe” button showing any sense of confidence in the imperfect sinners who were giving Him their allegiance.

So why didn’t He? What was keeping Jesus from rewarding those who trusted Him with His faith in return?

It was simple. He knew them.

In fact, the scriptures for today remind us of one very fundamental truth when it comes to Jesus and how we relate to Him:

Jesus knows everything about us. Everything.

Indeed, nothing is hidden from Him. He peers into the deepest depths of our hearts and souls, into those places where no one else goes. And all that we have thought, all we have said and done in secret, thinking we had concealed it effectively, is in plain sight of a Jesus who conducts what could be described as spiritual x-ray on all of us.

So what did He see when He looked at the Jews who were pledging their loyalty to Him?

Obviously, enough to keep Him from going all in with them as He probed within and ended up knowing “what was in each person”. Perhaps He could not only see the present state of their inner beings but a glimpse into the future and what would be His destiny to die on the cross for the sins of mankind. Maybe He saw ahead a time of how the people who would be praising and worshiping Him in one moment would be shouting, “Crucify!”, in days yet to come. Whatever was the case, Jesus wanted to have no part of a special union with the people who were uniting themselves to Him.

And that brings us to today and our personal relationships with Christ. What does He see when He looks into the minds and souls of each of us? Would He want to partner with us or reject us as He did the Jews in John’s day?

I can’t answer that question for you because I don’t know you.

What I can say with absolute confidence is that Jesus knows. And I guess that’s what matters most.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

THREE DAYS



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In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?”

But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

John 2:18-22

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

After His behind the scenes wedding miracle in Cana, Jesus wasn’t anywhere near as subtle when He arrived in Jerusalem with His family for the annual Passover observance.

As you’ll recall from yesterday’s devotion, the scriptures told us that as Jesus went to the temple courts, He witnessed a scene that totally set Him off for in the place reserved for the Gentiles to worship and pray to God was a marketplace where animals were being sold for atoning sacrifices and foreign currency being exchanged at tables. Angered by what was nothing short of desecration of a divine and holy space, Jesus fashioned a whip out of cords and proceeded to drive everyone away, upending the tables of the money changers in the process.

So what would happen next? How would the Jerusalem Jews react to Jesus’ actions?

We find the answers in today’s scripture passage and our continued study of John, Chapter 2. Look again at these words here:

The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?”

But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

As this passage opens, we find the Jews who witnessed Jesus’ fit of rage asking a very pointed question:

“What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”

There words were akin to asking, “Who put you in charge?” or “Who do you think you are coming in here and clearing the temple courts in that way?”

In answering their question, Jesus let them know the sign He would provide, one that had to baffle the Jews who were questioning Him:

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

Jesus telling this while standing within the confines of the temple grounds only amplified the weight of His words, ones that were met with a very skeptical reply from the Jews:

“It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?”

Leave it to the Jews to not get it, to completely miss what Jesus was getting at. Because when the Jews heard temple, they were only thinking about the physical structure that surrounded them, a majestic structure that their ancestors built over a forty six year period. The unbelievability factor with the Jews was off the charts and, of course, in their hearts they knew there was little to no chance Jesus could do what He was claiming He could and would do.

But as we read in the scriptures, Jesus was talking at a level way over the heads of His inquisitors, as was often the case during His ministry. For He wasn’t talking about the temple from a building standpoint but rather a bodily one and His words wouldn’t bear the intended meaning for anyone until Jesus would be crucified, laid in a sealed tomb, and then resurrected three days later. It would only be then that His own disciples would comprehend the words He spoke here and, in doing so, believe the scriptures.

From this testimony of a delayed understanding and appreciation of Jesus’ proclaimed assurances and promises, we see a snapshot of how a lot of believers approach Jesus in their own lives. For Jesus makes promise after promise after promise in the Gospels and He has never failed to perfectly honor every promise He has ever made. And yet, so many Christians seem to take a wait and see attitude. Like the disciples, they won’t push the “I believe” button until they witness something first-hand that aligns with what Jesus vowed to do. Only then will they accept His claims as truth.

To prevent this, perhaps we should just remember two simple words: three days. For although Jesus’ words were a mystery to the Jerusalem Jews He spoke to in today’s passage, His subsequent death and resurrection are both common knowledge points for believers today. Jesus said that if His temple (body) was destroyed then He would raise it back to life in three days and that’s exactly what happened. It was the guaranteed sign the Jews would see and it’s arguably the most important fulfilled promise Jesus had ever made.

For because He rose again after three days, we too will have a chance to rise again after death to abide with Him and God, His Father and ours, forever when we accept Him as Savior.

Won’t you join me in celebrating that truth today and every day?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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INSULTING DIVINITY



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

After this, He went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts, He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”

John 2:12-17

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Jesus had saved the day at the wedding feast, converting water to wine so as to spare the embarrassment of a shortage of imbibement for the master of the banquet and others in attendance. As we covered in yesterday’s devotion, it constituted the first miracle Jesus conducted and quite a miracle it was.

So what would Jesus do next?

As we see in today’s passage, He caused quite a scene in the city of Jerusalem. Look at these words as we continue to study from the second chapter of John:

After this, He went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts, He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”  John 2:12-17

From Cana, Jesus traveled to Capernaum, not alone but with a whole host of family members and disciples. Ultimately, they were heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover as was Jewish custom.

Before we go to Israel’s holy city and cover what Jesus did there, we need to not gloss over the fact that Jesus was not an only child. We know Joseph and Mary parented Jesus but what gets lost sometimes is that they had other children. Mark, Chapter 6, verse 3 tells us:

Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?”

Now most students of the Bible know the New Testament Book of James is attributed to Jesus’ brother but he wasn’t the only male sibling. The scripture from Mark tell us there were also Joseph, Judas, and Simon. We also learn that Jesus had sisters even though we aren’t introduced to them in the Bible outside of their mention here. The main takeaway was that Jesus had quite a family outside of Himself.

From Capernaum, Jesus and His entourage traveled to Jerusalem, a distance of 85 miles so it took some time to get there. Considering that people could walk close to 20 miles a day, the trip would have taken nearly five days total.

After arriving in Jerusalem, we read where He paid a visit to the temple courts and what a sight He saw there. For in the place where the Gentiles were allowed to come, worship, and pray unto God, the Israelites had erected a marketplace of sorts, one filled with people selling animals for temple sacrifices and exchanging money. The scene drew the anger of Jesus who chose to take action.

The scriptures tell us He fashioned a “whip out of cords” and proceeded to drive out everyone “from the temple courts” including all the animals. He then overturned the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins everywhere.

I’m sure everyone present who saw what was happening had to wonder what had gotten into this man who was a Passover festival visitor in their city. Jesus made sure they knew why He had done what He did saying:

“Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!”

God’s temple was to be a holy, sacred place reserved for honoring Him with worship, atoning sacrifices, and prayer but there was no opportunity for any of those things to be done within the Court of the Gentiles with the market taking over the grounds. Essentially, the Israelites had insulted divinity by failing to respect the consecrated ground they were on.

Well, as Jesus was consumed by a passionate rage to restore reverence, His disciples harkened back to the Psalms and these words of David:

“Zeal for Your house will consume Me.” Psalm 69:3

Jesus loved His Father and was not about to allow anyone or anything to disrespect or desecrate Him in any way. The Gentiles deserved a place to worship God just as much as the Jews did and Jesus was going to make sure that happened by standing up for what was right and just. He wasn’t afraid to make a stand for the Lord, even when He knew it would draw negative reviews within the Jewish community in Jerusalem, especially from the religious leaders of the day.

Friends, we need to learn from and then follow the lead of Jesus here. For every day, I think we see instances where people insult divinity either by the things they do or the things they say. When we see those things happening, will we be as bold and brash as Jesus, calling people out and defending the sanctity of God, our Father in the process?

My prayer is that we all will do whatever needs to be done to honor the Lord above all things, even if it means we need to ruffle a few feathers. In those times, when courage and strength is needed, rest assured God will give you everything you need to carry out His work, now and forever more.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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