Articles from November 2019

Safe in the World

It is true that God loves the entire world. But just as every parent has an attraction and special love for their own children, Jesus also has a special love for “those whom the Father has given him.” It is apparent that the Father has given “love gifts” to His Son (Jn 17:6,11). These gifts were possessed by the Father in eternity past (Eph 1:4), but given to the Son for Him to save. Jesus has a special love for those who have “believed” in Him. In fact, He doesn’t pray for the world, but prays for believers alone. Jesus has an incredible love for His own sheep who have been called out of the world and this love is the basis for every believer’s safety in the world.

While we are left in the world, and may experience every potential harm (Acts 14:22), Jesus prays for us (John 17). The High Priestly prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for His disciples (v. 6-19), and for every believer in the Church age (v. 20-26) was one of the most thrilling prayers ever prayed. And the content of that prayer is certainly the content of Christ’s prayer for us even now as He sits at the right hand of the Father “interceding for us” (Rom 8:34). We often forget that the ministry of Jesus extends beyond the atoning work that He accomplished on the cross. For sure the major earthly atoning and forgiving work of the cross was the central focus of His love toward us. But we must never forget that Jesus’ ministry continues for us in heaven as He prays for us! John 17 gives us an indication of exactly what Jesus is praying for us right now!

Prayer for Glory: We often wonder why we are not taken straight to heaven once we are saved. Jesus certainly wants us to be with Him, and that is His ultimate goal (Jn 17:24), but He specifically leaves us here knowing that “[He] is glorified in [us]” (Jn 17:10). The purpose of saving us is that we might magnify the glory of Jesus to the world. Jesus leaves us in the world with the task of telling others the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 5:18-21). Paul said that we are to live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). We are to be the light of the world set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt 6:14). Jesus is praying for us right now that we would glorify Him.

Prayer to be Kept: While on the earth, Jesus promised that the will of the Father who sent Him was that He would “lose nothing of all that He [had] given [him], but raise it up on the last day” (Jn 6:39). When He prayed in the garden, He prayed to the Father specifically that those whom the Father had given Him would be “kept” (Jn 17:11). While Jesus was with the disciples on the earth He “kept” them and “guarded” them so that none of them were lost, except for Judas, which was prophesied according to the Word of God (Ps 41:9, Ps 109). Currently Jesus is praying for all of us that we would be preserved in our faith. He is praying that we would not be lost. And we can be sure of this, that the Father hears His prayers and answers Him. Yes we will have tribulation in the world, but we can have assurance that we will be saved in the end because Jesus is praying for us!

Prayer for Joy: Furthermore, Jesus is praying right now that we have His “joy fulfilled in us” (Jn 17:13). This joy transcends the pains and difficulties of this life. This joy is much bigger than happiness that is tied to the circumstances of our lives. This joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit and is a supernatural gift. It is a joy that is rooted in hope! This hope looks forward to the promises that will be ours in heaven, where we will receive not only eternal life, but an eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Prayer for Protection from the Evil One: Not only is our soul protected by Jesus, but Jesus is praying for us specifically that we would be protected from the evil one (17:15). The evil one is certainly Satan and his demons. When Peter was on the earth, Jesus reminded him that Satan demanded to “sift him like wheat.” But Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32). Satan has no authority or power of his own, but has to be granted permission to do anything. Satan is simply a pawn in the hands of the omnipotent Father who does what He is told. Satan’s number one goal is to destroy our faith. He only attacks our health, wealth, and possessions in order for us to lose faith. This was his goal with Job (Job 1-2). But we can have confidence that we will stand firm against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11), because Jesus is praying for us even now.

Prayer to be Sanctified: The last prayer that Jesus prayed for us in the garden was a prayer for sanctification. He prayed, “sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). To be sanctified means 1) to be “set apart for God as a peculiar people and for God’s service.” As the special people given to Jesus, we have been set apart and taken out from the world. To sanctify also means 2) to be made holy (Lev 19:2). So, Jesus’ prayer for us is that we would be taken out of the world and be purified, cleansed, and made to look like Jesus. Unlike justification which happens in a moment, sanctification is a life-long process. And the primary means for that sanctification is the Word of God. It is the Word of God that is able to train us for all godliness.

Remember Whose We Are
So then we are safe in this world because we are “love gifts” given to Jesus by the Father. The Father loves us as much as Jesus loves us. They have no intention of losing any of us who are true believers. Jesus gloriously finished His earthly task and currently continues with his heavenly ministry of prayer for all who are His. And those prayers of Jesus are that we be kept, protected from the evil one, and sanctified in this world. We must never forget whose we are and what Christ has promised for us. When we know that we are safe in this world, we will live more productive lives. The joy that Christ has promised us will also be experienced.

 

Magnifying God with Thanksgiving

Once again it is time to give thanks! Americans have been celebrating this national holiday since the time of the Colonies in the 1600’s. The holiday was established by George Washington in 1789, but became a federal holiday under Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln established the holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November, stating it to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” It wasn’t until 1942 that the holiday was established on the fourth Thursday of the month of November. Early in our country’s establishment, our leaders recognized that thanksgiving should be offered to God in heaven from which every good blessing comes (James 1:17).

Like many of the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving has fallen prey to the culture and has lost much of its meaning. Thanksgiving is often celebrated only as a gathering of families, eating turkey and watching football. While these activities are certainly important and make the holiday special, we must not forget the importance of giving thanks to God above for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us, especially our salvation that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross (Eph 2:8-9). By giving thanks to God, we magnify the goodness and glory of God. King David writes in Psalm 69:30, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.”

Be a Human Telescope
The word “magnify” can be used in two different senses. Microscopes and magnifying glasses are used to enlarge the smallest objects making them appear bigger than they really are so they can be seen properly. On the other hand, telescopes are used to magnify very large objects and bring them closer to the naked eye allowing them to appear as magnificent as they actually are. It is this second sense which the Psalmist has in mind. God is not some small object but is rather glorious and beyond magnificent. We who love God are called to help the world see the greatness of who God really is. Everything we do, whether we eat or drink should be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), which means that our desire is to make God look as great as He truly is. We are called to be telescope Christians for the world helping them see the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God.

Giving Thanks
The Psalmist tells us explicitly that we can magnify God by simply giving thanks! When we give thanks to God from our hearts, God is magnified and glorified. The reason for this is simple: givers are more glorious than receivers. When we give thanks to God we recognize that God is the source of our blessings. Giving thanks to God recognizes that He is greater and more glorious than we are. It is certainly not natural to give thanks to God. Most people in the world do not want to give thanks to God because it detracts from their own glory. People, by sinful nature, love their own glory more than the glory of God. The root of all ingratitude toward God is the love of one’s own greatness. The natural man loves to recognize his own self-sufficiency and hates to think of himself as someone who is needy, helpless and dependent on God to provide. But the man who is truly heavenly minded will understand that everything they have is from God above, and out of humility of heart will inevitably give thanks to God.

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
The Psalmist tells us that God prefers thanksgiving over extravagant gifts like oxen or bulls. In Bible times, an ox or a bull was an expensive gift that was often used as a sacrifice to God. But the Psalmist says that those expensive gifts are less valuable to God than simply a heart that offers genuine thanksgiving. God is not pleased and is actually insulted with such expensive gifts because it is possible that the giver thinks that they are contributing to God as though He needed something. God owns everything including every beast of the forest and every cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10). What God wants most from us and what magnifies Him is recognizing that we have nothing to offer Him, but that He has everything to offer us.

This Thanksgiving begin by offering thanks for your great salvation which comes to us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as a gift. Thank God for your family, your job, your provision, and everything you can think of. In all things give thanks to our good Father in heaven and you will magnify His glory to the world.

 

A Prayer for Glory

The Gospel writers reveal that Jesus had continual communion with His Father in prayer. Jesus made it the habit of His life to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35). He would often retreat to the mountain top or the wilderness and pray alone to His heavenly Father for extended times (Mark 4:46, Lk 5:16, 6:11-12). While we know that Jesus prayed often, the content of those prayers is largely unknown. We only have limited snippets of His prayers (Jn 11:41-42, Luke 22:42). Furthermore, we shouldn’t be mistaken that the prayer of Matthew 6:9-15 was a prayer that Jesus prayed. Customarily, that prayer is called “The Lord’s Prayer” but it is really the “The Disciple’s Prayer.” Jesus used it to teach His disciples how they should pray. Certainly, it’s a prayer Jesus never prayed, being that it includes asking for forgiveness of sin. While most of the prayer life of Jesus is hidden from us, we do however, have the last prayer that Jesus made to His heavenly Father recorded for us only in John 17. The prayer of John 17 should actually be known to us as the real Lord’s prayer. In this prayer, in the last hours of His life, Jesus prays intently for Himself (17:1-5), for His disciples (v. 6-19), and for believers throughout the ages (v. 20-26).

Glorifying the Father
Jesus opens His prayer by praying for Himself, and the supreme passion of His opening words to His heavenly father is all about glory. Five times Jesus mentions the word glory, and the one petition that Jesus has is simple, “Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1). To glorify someone means to praise them to the highest degree, or to make their glory known to the fullest. The Psalmist said that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), that is the heavens make God’s glory known in the universe. The heart of Jesus was to make the glory of His Father known, and He knew that the only way to do that was to go to the cross.

The cross was the plan of the Father from eternity past (Rev 13:8). Peter was clear when He preached his first sermon (Acts 2:23) that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” So, the death of Christ on the cross was not a mistake, nor the simple outworking of bad circumstances. In fact, as Jesus entered into Passion Week (the last week of His life), He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24). The hour that had come was the hour that all of history had been moving toward. It was the hour that the Father had planned in eternity past, and the hour which Jesus agreed to accomplish. Jesus knew clearly that the plan for His Father to be glorified was for Him to go to the cross and die for sinners. This is why He had come (Mark 10:45).

The Cross Magnifies God’s Glory
Certainly, the cross of Jesus is foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:18). They don’t understand how the shame of such a horrible death could have been planned by God. But for us who have been saved, we see the glory of God in the cross. The cross of Christ supremely puts on display God’s glory by magnifying every attribute of God to its fullest. Consider the following attributes that are magnified by the cross of Christ.

  • Holiness of God: The cross shows us that there is an infinite chasm between a holy God and unholy man. The cross is the testimony that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all, and that no sinner can come into the presence of a holy God.
  • Righteousness of God: In the cross we see the righteousness that is required by God for anyone to enter into His presence. No one can be righteous enough by keeping God’s Law. We have all broken the Laws of God and need a righteousness outside of us. The righteousness of God is made available through the cross that sinners might come into His presence faultless to stand (2 Cor 5:21). The righteousness of God is given to us by faith in the work of the cross (Rom 3:21-26).
  • Love of God: It is easy to see the love of God at the cross. God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). God loved sinners enough to send His Son to die for them in their place as a substitutionary atonement (1 Cor 15:3, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18, Is 53:5).
  • Grace of God: The cross is the undeserved payment need to cover the debt sinners owe to God. That debt is forgiven as a “gift” given to those who receive it by faith (Eph 2:8). No one deserves salvation, but it comes to sinners by grace.
  • Eternality of God: Scripture is clear that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 5:9, 12, 13:8). The cross was not an afterthought or plan B, but was devised in eternity past in the purpose and plan of God.
  • Immutability of God: Immutability means “unchangeableness.” God never changed His plan, but for centuries worked out his plan of salvation for all humanity. Down through the centuries the one plan of God was to provide a sacrifice for sin, someone who would destroy sin. God’s plan began in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) when God promised to provide the “seed of a woman” who would crush the head of Satan.
  • Wrath of God: The cross supremely displays God’s wrath against sin. The Father poured out His vengeance on His own Son and crushed Him as Jesus bore our sins (Is 53:4-5, Matt 27:46). In that moment, Christ took God’s wrath for sinners, and therefore we will never experience it.
  • Sovereignty of God: The cross displays the sovereign work of the Father from eternity past, in which His plan of redemption was fully worked out as the second member of the Trinity, and He became a substitute for all who would believe in Him.

The Glorification of the Son
Not only did the cross glorify the Father, but it also ultimately ended in glorification for Jesus. Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him through the cross. This is more clearly seen when Jesus simply prayed, “glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). Jesus longed for the glory of his eternal origin (see Proverbs 8:22-31).  When Jesus entered the world, He stooped with humiliation and took on human flesh (Phil 2:6-8) and, in a sense, lost glory by being made a human! Now as He plans to go to the cross, He knows that these days of humiliation are over! Once Jesus fully obeyed His heavenly Father by going to the cross, His prayer was that He would once again return to the glory that He had before He came. And this is exactly what happened. After providing a sacrifice for sin, being buried and raised from the dead, Jesus ascended back into heaven where He once existed (Acts 1:6-11). The Father has now “highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

Our New Passion
Since the glory of God was the passion of Jesus, it should also be our number one passion. When we become children of God by faith in Christ, we should have new passions. Having been given a new heart, and becoming a new creation we should no longer desire to exalt ourselves. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:14-15). Our new passion is to exalt Christ in this world. Our focus must change! Our mission must be for Christ to be glorified (1 Cor 10:31). Just as Jesus prayed for Himself that the Father might be glorified in His work, so we must also intensely pray that our work and lives would also bring glory to God (Col 3:17, 23).