Tag Archives: God’s presence

God the Son Cleans House!

6a00d8341d171f53ef01156f3ca329970bHave you ever done any spring housecleaning? What about weeding your garden or doing some of those summer projects that you can only do when the sun is shining and before the rain begins again in the fall, like painting your house or fixing the roof? Why do we take time to do these things?

So Proverbs 24 doesn’t happen to us! Solomon warned, “I passed by the field of the sluggard and the vineyard of the man lacking sense, and behold, it was overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it…I received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.”

An older Christian sister warned me years ago, “You can tell what a woman is like by the way she takes care of her home and her hands, and you can tell what a man is like by how he takes care of his car and his shoes.” So I washed my truck this week, bought new shoes, and started painting the trim around our house not just because they needed it, but to please the Lord who gave us these things to manage for Him, which brings me to tonight’s topic—“God’s Housekeeping Project” found in John 2:12-25.

1By way of review, we’ve been following Jesus along with His disciples, for a week and about 35 miles now—from the Jordan River where John was baptizing to Bethsaida, 25 miles north where He met Philip and Nathanael. Then we hiked 9 miles west to Cana where Jesus He performed the first sign of His Deity by turning water to wine. For those of you who are visual learners, you can see how it was laid out with Bethsaida to the east at the right of the screen, Capernaum in the center, and Cana of Galilee off the screen to the west in the foothills above the Sea of Galilee.

2But now John says in verse 12, “After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.” The Hebrew name is Kafer Nahum, meaning “the village of Nahum.” That’s where the minor prophet Nahum was from. Why stop there? Because from this point on, that’ll be the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry when He’s in Galilee! Because though it was small, Capernaum was located on the trade route connecting Africa and Europe and with all the traffic between the two passing through that village.

4Capernaum was also the village where Peter’s home was located and out of which Jesus conducted His ministry. That’s also where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever early in His ministry. Cheryl and I visited there on our trip to the Holy Land several years ago, not only seeing the stone house that belonged to Peter and was later the meeting place of the church in Capernaum; we also visited the first century synagogue there and stood on the very spot where Jesus preached on the Sabbath!

5But as verse 13 says, they only stayed there a few days at that time because “the Passover of the Jews was at hand.” So Jesus made Aliyah—He “went up to Jerusalem,” as the Law commanded every adult male to do at Passover. John records four times He did that with His disciples, which is how we know His ministry lasted just over 3 years.

78366017But there was also a second reason He went up to Jerusalem. For the first 30 years of His life, Jesus was always busy about His mother’s business, working in the carpentry shop to provide for her and His younger siblings after Joseph, His stepfather, died. But now that they’re old enough to provide for themselves, it’s time to be about His Father’s business, presenting Himself as Messiah to the religious rulers in Judea and cleaning up the mess they’ve made of His Father’s House. In fact, He’ll spend the entire first year of ministry in or about Jerusalem proving His Deity by the miracles He performs.

But the first task at hand is spring cleaning in the House of God. In doing so, we’ll witness 3 things about Him we haven’t yet seen—His anger, His authority, and His omniscience—each one a clear sign of His Deity. But as John warned us in chapter 1, verse 11: “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.” So He knows He won’t receive a warm welcome. And yet, He’s absolutely fearless about it, letting the chips fall where they may, His Deity evidenced in His anger towards sin.6

  1. The Anger of Jesus

Did you know that Jesus gets angry? That may be difficult to believe in this day and age when we’re told we have to tolerate every kind of sin and abomination, or we are guilty of hate speech. You know what a crock of baloney that is! We take our lead from Jesus who gets very angry and uncompromising when it comes to sin! Oh, He’s good and kind and forgiving towards those who repent. But even then, what does He always add? “Your sins are forgiven you. Now go and sin no more!”

That’s the tough love we see in verses 14 to 16. It says, “He found in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers seated, and made a scourge of cords and drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” Why did Jesus become so angry about this? 3 reasons:

jesusclearstemple31) Their defilement of the Temple with their buying and selling. You see that phrase “house of merchandise” in verse 16? That’s the Greek word emporium!” They had turned God’s House into a livestock exhibit like you’d see at the State Fair. It was noisy; it was dirty; it was smelly! Not that it was wrong to sell animals or exchange money for use in the Temple. But that was to be done outside in the streets leading up to the Temple. For what was the Temple’s purpose? Jesus said in Mark 11:17: “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves!” The Temple was to be a quiet retreat away from the world where a person could get alone with God and pray. Can you think of anyone who did that? What about Anna the prophetess who met Mary and Joseph when they dedicated Jesus in the Temple? Luke says, “She never left the Temple serving night and day with fasting and prayer.” But how do you do that with a carnival going on around you?

2) It wasn’t the Jews only who were hindered by it. Jesus said His house was to be house of prayer for all “nations.” The word “nations” means “Gentiles,” and there was only one place in the Temple where a Gentile was allowed to worship, and that was right here in the Court of the Gentiles where all this hawking of wares was going on, making it impossible for a repentant Gentile to meet God. Is it any wonder then the Lord Jesus was angry about it!

73) The third reason for His anger was the way the poor were being cheated when they came to worship. First, there was a cover charge to worship in the Temple. So the pilgrim would save up his pennies for the trip only to be told when he got there that his money was no good. “That’s Caesar’s image on your coins! You can’t use those in the Temple! That’s idolatrous!” But to buy the special coins used in the Temple, He had to pay an exorbitant exchange rate. And that lamb he raised and brought to the Temple to sacrifice? “That’s no good either! Just look at those scars and blemishes!” Forcing him to sell his perfectly good lamb at a discount, buy a more expensive one, and then watch as the buyer turned right around and sold it to another worshiper for a big fat profit.

But did Jesus have the right to get angry? Let me say two things about that before we move on. First, it was a holy anger. No one was hurt with His whip, nor did He spark a riot that endangered anyone. For if He had, the Roman cohort stationed at the Antonio Fortress overlooking the Temple would have taken action right away. But they didn’t need to, for Jesus was in perfect control of every aspect of the situation. He was simply driving trespassers off His property and claiming what was rightfully His! I know you’d do the same thing yourself if you could. Imagine, for example, going on vacation and returning home two weeks later to find someone holding a garage sale in your yard. How polite would you be in asking them to leave? Not at all! You’d order them to get off your property immediately, and if they didn’t, you’d call the sheriff to remove them. But Jesus couldn’t do that because the authorities were in on it.

8Nor did He need any help removing them. Why not? Because His anger is also infinitely powerful! It’s amazing when you think about it. Josephus the Roman historian says the attendance at Passover exceeded two million pilgrims at this time, which means there would have been tens of thousands crowded into Temple square. Think Safeco Field when Felix is pitching and one person trying to clear the stands and concourse with a homemade whip! You think you could you do it? No way! Someone would wrestle you to the ground before you got started! That’s the herculean feat Jesus took on, faced, and yet, He had no problem doing it. Why not? Because He is God!

safeco-fieldWe’ll see the same thing again in chapter 7 when guards are sent to arrest Him. They return empty-handed saying, “No man ever spoke like this man?” Then again in the Garden when they come to arrest Him, He asks, “Whom do you seek?” And when they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He says, “I AM!” and it says they all drew back and “fell to the ground.” No one could arrest Him if He hadn’t wanted to be arrested.

Of course, that’s only a tiny foretaste of the unrelenting anger He’s going to pour out on His enemies at His return. His anger is so powerful that those on earth in the time of Tribulation will hide themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains begging them, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” For though He’s forgiving toward those who repent, His anger is unrelenting toward those who persist in their rebellion! So Psalm 2 warns, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way. For His wrath is quickly kindled.” But then it graciously adds, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

13But you pay a price when you stand up for what’s right in this world, even if you do it with the right type of anger. Our Lord knew that and refused to be cowed by His enemies. We see that more clearly as we look at the second sign of His Deity. We’ve witnessed the anger of Jesus. Now let”s consider the authority of Jesus.

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  1. The Authority of Jesus

Notice what comes to His disciples’ minds when they see His anger. They may not have been book smart, but they knew their Bibles. That’s how they spent almost all their time in synagogue school—memorizing the Old Testament Scriptures. And what immediately comes to mind as they watch Jesus, the Son of David, cleanse the Temple are David’s words in Psalm 69:9—“Zeal for Thy house will consume me.” In other words, they thought, “This could destroy our Master if He’s not careful.” And they were right to think that, because notice what John adds in verse 18! He says, “The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”

farisei-caifaThere was no question in their minds. This was a direct challenge to their authority as the religious rulers of Israel. By the way, critics of the Bible have a heyday with this passage because Matthew, Mark, and Luke put His cleansing of the Temple at the end of Jesus’ ministry, whereas John has it at the beginning. “So try to explain that if you can! See! This is just one more example of all the contradictions in the Bible!” OK. Here’s the explanation, and it’s very simple. Jesus cleansed the Temple two times—once at the outset of His ministry and again just days before His death. In fact, His second cleansing of the Temple is what confirmed His rejection by the high priest and his cronies and brought on Jesus’ promised death for our sins. For they weren’t about to tolerate any more disrespect for their authority by this young preacher from Galilee. Why such a sudden dismissal of His claims as Messiah? They had four reasons for doing so:

Questioned1) He was a “nobody” who lived in humble obscurity the first 30 years of His life, and He had no credentials to speak of. He wasn’t a priest, He never tried to join in any of their “reindeer games,” and He didn’t look special. No Superman cape or logo under His shirt. Of course, they could have asked John the Baptist about Him or checked their Temple records to see where He was born and what His lineage was. Born in Bethlehem of the House of David and the Tribe of Judah, just as the prophets predicted! “But don’t confuse me with the facts! I already know what I believe!” Besides, credentials didn’t matter to them. John the Baptist was the son of a priest, and they never listened to him!

3-elders-judging-church-discipline2) They were sure when Messiah came that He’d attack their enemies. But He attacked them instead! Of course, if they’d read their Bibles, they would have known to expect that. For Malachi 3:1 warned them, “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple…and who can stand when He appears!”

3) He hit them where it hurts. I heard another preacher say that there’s a major nerve running from the pocketbook to the pain center in the brain, which is why people start to squirm when you talk about money in church. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to do so. He talked more about money than any other topic, for what we do with money is the #1 indicator of what’s important to us. And money was of utmost importance to the high priest and his cronies. For they didn’t just tolerate what went on in the Temple; they were the ones behind it—rich Jewish thugs who got a kickback from everything that bought or sold in the Temple, and ready to break legs if they didn’t get their cut.

jesus-christ-with-pharisees-1138108-print4) But the most infuriating thing Jesus did was call the Temple “My Father’s house.” Don’t be confused about this! Jesus didn’t come to set an example or teach us a new way of relating to God. He came to assert the truth about Himself, and He did so from the outset of His ministry. What truth was that? “I am God manifest in human flesh!” And they knew that’s what He was claiming. That’s why they wanted to kill Him, because He a mere man (they thought) claimed to be God. That will become even clearer in John 10:33 where Jesus says to these same religious thugs, “I and My Father are One.” To which they’ll respond by picking up stones to stone Him. Jesus will say to them, “I showed you many good works from My Father, for which of them are you stoning Me?” And they will answer Him (John 10:33), “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy because You, a mere man, make Yourself out to be God.” They knew what He was claiming, and they were right! He was claiming to be God.

35_jesus-cleanses-the-temple_900x600_72dpi_1So they ask for a sign. John 2:19—The Jews said to Him, “What sign do You give us, seeing that You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Herod’s Temple had taken 46 years to build at this point and, in fact, when it was finally destroyed by the Romans 40 years later, it still wasn’t finished. But as John explains, that isn’t what He was talking about. What Jesus was referring to was the Temple of His body. The Jews misunderstood that and misquoted Him and the gossip, as it usually does, went viral, so that three years later at His kangaroo trial, false witnesses were still accusing of saying, “I will destroy this Temple and raise it up in three days.” But that isn’t what He said or meant. He was referring to His body, and He never said He would destroy it. He said they would destroy it—another evidence of His Deity in that He knows they’re going to kill Him even before they know they want to kill Him.

At the same time, He also claimed to be omnipotent. For He adds, “Destroy this Body, and I” (Not the Father, though you can never separate Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) But “I will raise it up!” How does a dead man raise himself from the dead? Not a problem if you’re God, and that’s who He is! Jesus is God! That’s even more obvious to His disciples, and I hope to you too, as they witness the third mark of His Deity. We’ve seen His anger and His authority. Now let’s take a closer look at His omniscience!11

  1. The Omniscience of Jesus

When we come to the final chapter of John’s Gospel, John will say: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” For he adds that if all the miracles of Jesus were written down, “I suppose even the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.” I mention that because many of those unwritten miracles take place here in verse 23 where John closes the chapter like this. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

43_i-am-the-bread-of-life_1800x1200_300dpi_1Jesus performed countless miracles in Jerusalem before, during, and after the Passover with countless people coming up to Him and saying, “I believe in you, Jesus. I believe that you are the Messiah.” Do you know what today’s preachers would do if they got a response like that? “Quick! Count how many hands were raised, take an offering, and add their names to my email list!” But Jesus didn’t do that.

Instead notice John’s play on words in verse 23. I’ve underlined the key words: “believed” and “entrusting”—because they’re the same word in the Greek—pisteuo meaning to believe or trust in someone. In other words, what John is saying is that the people were believing in Jesus, but He wasn’t believing in them! Why not? Because He knows what’s in each one of us, and what’s in us is not good. As Paul admitted in Romans 7:18, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Have you recognized that about yourself, that apart from Jesus, there isn’t one good thing in you, for within in your flesh are the seeds of every evil thing under the sun!

12In fact, John says even your faith in Jesus may not be a faith of the right kind. Over and over again he’ll warn us of that in this book—that there is a belief which is not a belief, a belief that is superficial, self-serving, and certain to sell out our Savior just as Judas the traitor did. And Jesus knows the difference between the two. That’s why Peter, who denied Him 3 times and was later asked by Him 3 times, “Do you love Me?” finally blurted out, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you!” We need Him to test our faith as well, because the sad fact is there are millions of souls in hell today who thought they were believers and weren’t and will say to Him, “Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out devils in Your name, and do good works in Your name?” And He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you evildoers!” How do we make sure that doesn’t happen to us? By cleaning out our temples now before His anger flares up and He does it Himself!

Most of you have heard the story of my little sister’s party when I was in college and she was still in high school living at home. My parents were gone for the weekend, but I stopped by on Friday night to pick something up on to find 50 to 100 teenagers in their house drinking beer, smoking dope, and doing others things they shouldn’t have. So what did I immediately do? I drove them out and then helped my sister clean up the mess before the neighbors called the cops and my parents found out about it.

9Jesus is also coming back very soon! When He does, will He find your heart ready to be His home? As you may know, John the Apostle also wrote a letter with this warning. Let me finish with that. In it he begged use, “Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. For if you know that He is righteous, you know it’s only those who practice righteousness who are born of Him.” So let’s stay close to Him and keep ourselves righteous, for He is coming soon—much sooner than any of us think.

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I’ve Gazed Upon The Face of God

GoodNews_cvr-500x706I have good news for you. It turns out the bad news we’ve been hearing about marriage the past 30 years is a myth. We’ve been told, for example, that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and that the divorce rate of those inside the church is the same as those outside the church. Isn’t that right? And yet, according to a new book by social researchers, Shaunti Feldhahn and Tally Whitehead, who’ve been conducting a scientific study of the subject for the last 8 years, it turns out that 72% of everyone who is married today is still married to their first spouse, and the chances of your current marriage succeeding increase by 25% to 50% if you go to church together. Hence, its title – The Good News About Marriage, for it means that getting married is one of the best decisions you can make in life!

Think of what you gain when you marry. The Bible says the two become one, which means a second person is added to the equation with strengths you don’t have and completing you in a way no friend could. For example, when I married Cheryl, I gained a better half who is kinder and more sensitive than I with years of experience as a pastor’s daughter, which I didn’t know I’d need at the time.  I didn’t plan to be a pastor. But God had other plans and gave me the ideal wife not only to be my partner in ministry, but an expert money manager who’s stretched every cent of the modest salary I’ve earned as a pastor, kept us out of debt, is the best mother our girls could have, and a beautiful companion who has filled my life with joy the last 40 years. I got the whole package when I married her.

hope-of-glory-dolores-develdePerhaps you’re wondering where I’m going with this. The reason I’m emphasizing the benefits of marriage is because that’s the picture the Bible paints of our relationship with Christ. It likens it to marriage calling Jesus our Heavenly Bridegroom and the Church His Bride. And just as in marriage, the moment we are united to Him by faith, we gain what was previously lacking in us. In fact, in His case, He gives us everything we need and more! We share His glory, we receive His grace, and we meet God for the first time in our lives.  For “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:20-21) That’s our outline, then, if you’ll open your Bible to John 1:14-18 — just 5 verses, but 5 eternally important verses!

And like every verse in John’s Gospel, they’re intended to accomplish his goal as stated in John 20:31, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Read the passage.  Then we’ll see what it means.  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  The question we want to answer, then, is: What are the benefits of meeting Jesus?

  1. You Share His Glory.

The last two weeks our study has focused on the Word or Logos, which in Greek philosophy was the principle on which all of creation rests; to the Jew, on the other hand, it was the revelation of God contained in the Holy Scriptures, both of which are true in part. But here John reveals something new and surprising. The Word is not an impersonal force or a writing; it is a Person, the Eternal Son of God who, according to verse 14, “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

2To understand what he means, notice 3 key words with me. The first is “flesh” referring to the very weakest aspect of our personality. This is the part of humanity of which Jesus warned, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Paul added, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” So how could God possibly become a man? As the Greeks said, the body is too corrupt and God is too holy for the two of them to come together.

By the way, many who call themselves Christians believe the same thing, that Jesus couldn’t possibly have had the same kind of body as ours. He must have had a perfect body like Adam before he sinned. But that isn’t true. In order to take our place as our Savior and sympathize with us as our Great High Priest, Jesus had to be like us in every way—except one. He was without sin.

I mention that because sometimes you’ll read in one of those books by someone who claims to have visited heaven that Jesus appeared to them as a bright light leading them through a tunnel to heaven. That’s nonsense! John says the Word became flesh, at which point Deity and humanity were forever fused together in One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man. His humanity never diminishes His Deity nor does His Deity ever overpower His humanity. He is now and forever 100% God and 100% man.

celestial-christ-print-8x10-2042915That means when you see Jesus in heaven, He’ll look exactly like He did when He appeared to His disciples following His resurrection. He’ll have a real human body you can see and feel and hug—a body which is fully human and yet glorified and without sin—just like the bodies you and I will one day enjoy.

The second word to is “dwelt.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The word is skenoo which means “to pitch a tent or set up a tabernacle.” What does that bring to mind? John is alluding to the Tabernacle in the wilderness where God first dwelt with His people. And yet, like many other objects and events in the Old Testament, the Tabernacle with all its offerings and furnishings was intended to be a type of Christ to come who dwells, not in a tabernacle made by hands, but in a resurrected and glorified body.

In fact, one of the things we learned when we studied the Feast of Tabernacles is that most Bible scholars agree that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, when most of the world celebrates His birth, because it’s unlikely that the shepherds would have been out in the fields keeping watch over their sheep with snow on the ground. Instead, given the fact that John the Baptist was born 6 months before Jesus during the Feast of Passover, it’s likely that He was born in October during the Feast of Tabernacles. Which would be fitting, wouldn’t it? For the Light of the World to be conceived at Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and pitch His tent with us during the Feast of Tabernacles!

3But the most important word is “glory.” “We beheld His glory.” Again, the first time His glory was revealed was as a blazing fire hovering over the Tabernacle called the shekinah glory. Shekinah simply means “His presence,” which is so glorious that no one could enter the Tabernacle until it subsided. That, John says, is what he saw in Jesus. “We saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The most obvious time is when he, Peter, and James were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. Suddenly His body was transformed before them, and “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light,” so that they all fell down before Him in fear. In fact, it was so glorious that Peter was still talking about it 30 years later in his letter to the churches. “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales,” he says, “when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of His majesty…when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

the-transfigurationBut it wasn’t only on that occasion. It was something they witnessed on a daily basis. For example, on the next page Jesus will perform His first miracle by turning the water into wine, and John will say, “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” Nor was it only in His miracles that they saw His glory. They also saw it every day in His words, His wisdom, His teaching, and the brilliant manner in which He answered the perplexing questions they perpetually asked Him. To quote the temple guards who returned to the priests empty-handed, having failed to arrest Him as they were sent to do, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

But it was seen most clearly in His kindness and compassion. This week I read the story of a pioneer in the treatment of catatonic schizophrenia, one of the most severe forms of mental illness. Day after day patients would lie curled up in the fetal position on their beds, neither moving, speaking, or acknowledging anyone else existed, until a new doctor moved onto their ward. There he set up his cot and lived among them. Sometimes he’d even take off his jacket, crawl into bed, and gently wrap his arms around them. That one wordless expression of love was often enough to bring one of them back to the world of the living.

esquirolplxiii

So in Christ, God moved into our world and dwelt among us, even dying on a cross to pay for our sins.  And in that also, John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And that can’t help but change you!

In the case of Moses, the skin of his face glowed with the glory of God whenever he met with the Lord in His Tabernacle. So he would cover his face with a veil, so that the people wouldn’t be afraid to come near to him.

mosesfacemountain-632 But in our case the change is far greater. In fact, one day the Bible says it’s going to change us forever. 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him just as He is.” But we are not to wait until then for the change to take place. If we love Him, we’re to let His glory begin changing us even now. 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Picture1What do you get when you meet Jesus, then? You share His glory, a glory that He has shared with the Father since before time began.

  1. You Receive His Grace.

Verse 14 continues, “And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And he adds in verse 16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

Here we come to the most beautiful word in the New Testament—charis. In Modern Greek it means “charming.” Can you think of anyone like that? We have several people in our fellowship like that. Marty is a very charming woman. That’s why we like to have her welcome us to our meetings. Herman is also a very charming man. That is why so many attend his small group.

Disney-princes-make-hot-cover-models-like-Prince-Charming-GQBut the word in the New Testament is even more beautiful. It means “grace, favor, and undeserved kindness.”  Think, for example, of someone who’s earned your anger, but instead of retaliating, you’re kind to them. That’s grace.

I can think of one time when I was very gracious. Our daughter Heidi was 6 years old at the time. She and Becca were up early – about 6:30 in the morning. It was my day off, so I was sleeping in. But the girls knew it was OK to get up and watch TV, as long as it was our approved list. All of a sudden, boom! I heard a crash from the other room. Running to see what it was, I found the television set in the middle of the floor with its head smashed in. Heidi was frantic, not knowing what to do. She just kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Daddy,” sure she was going to get punished. She’d tried to turn the television set on its stand so they could see it better and accidentally knocked it onto the floor. But I couldn’t punish her for that. Instead I hugged her and said, “Don’t worry about it, Honey! You’re more important to me than a TV set. I’m just glad you’re OK.”

Heidi 4But she did worry because later in the day as we were riding together in the car, she turned to me and asked me, “How much is a new TV set, Daddy—about $4?” That’s how much she had saved in her piggy bank. “No,” I said. “Probably more like $400.” “Oh,” she gulped.” “But you don’t need to worry about that, Honey.” I said. “It isn’t your job to pay for things like that. It’s my job as your daddy.” At that she took a deep breath, sighed, and began to relax. She also snuggled up to me and said, “I love you, Daddy.” And I said to her, “I love you, Heidi.”

By the way, you know the only thing I regret looking back on that? That I wasn’t gracious in a thousand other ways was well. Because that’s the greatest gift you can give another person and the best way to show them that Christ is real. For it’s in Him, John says that grace and truth have been “realized.”

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t grace in the Old Testament. There had to be or no one would have been saved. But “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” as did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the other Old Testament saints. But the most prominent thing about the law was its strict judgment and warnings of death. Whereas Jesus is “full of grace and truth…and of His fullness,” John adds, “We have all received.” Isn’t that true? Wasn’t He gracious to you even before you began to follow Him? Oh, now you know to ask Him and trust Him for your daily bread. But He has always been good to you, every day of your life!

5Notice also how much grace is available to you! John says: “Of His fullness we have all received;” which means it’s infinite, for according to Colossians 2:9, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” so that whatever belongs to the Father, belongs to Him, for He and the Father are One. Furthermore, John says what we have received “grace upon grace” meaning that the supply is unlimited and unending. You ask for grace in time of need, He gives it to you, and more grace instantly fills the vacuum like the widow’s oil in the days of Elisha that kept flowing as long as she had vessels to hold it. It’s grace after grace after grace without end. That’s why the Lord could say to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” and why He urges us to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. “His love has no limits. His grace has no measure. His power no boundary known unto men, for out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”

Notice one more thing before we move on. Notice that He is full of grace and truth. Why does John mention that? Because you can’t have one without the other! To receive His saving grace, you have to believe the truth about Him—that He is the eternal Son of God who was in the beginning with God and shares the very essence of God with the Father. For as gracious as He is, He can’t give you His saving grace unless you’re willing to believe the truth about Him! But once you do, amazingly gracious things happen to you.

As we learned last week, whoever receives Him, to them He gives the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, which means all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven forever, your name is written in heaven, and an everlasting home is reserved for you in God’s kingdom. Talk about grace. That’s the summit of grace! How it works, no one fully understands. But that it works, I know for sure because I’ve received it, and that’s something no one can take away from me. So if you’ve never asked for it before, ask Jesus to give you the faith to believe in Him this very moment, and His promise is, “He who comes to Me, I will never, no never cast out.” (John 6:37)

DrawMeClose2_Soft_Edge You share His glory. You receive His grace, and—

  1. You See God the Father.

Verse 18 says, “No one has seen God at any time.” That phrase is emphatic. “No one has ever, at any time seen God.” But is that true? Moses, for example, saw the afterglow of God’s glory as He passed by, but he didn’t see His face. In fact, there’s some question as to whether or not the face of God the Father can ever be seen. For, as Jesus said to the woman at the well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” 1 Timothy 6:16 adds, He “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

Perhaps you’re worrying and disappointed about that. Does that mean, then, that you and I will never see God? No. John clarifies it here. He says, “No one has seen God at any time,” but then he immediately adds, “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Phillip worried about that, you’ll remember. Having heard Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me,” he begged Him, “Show us the Father, and it is enough for us!” Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?’” To see Jesus, then, is to gaze on the face of God and behold the most glorious sight human eyes can see.

Jesus-Face-Paintings-01But you say, “I don’t understand! How can Jesus reveal God to us?”  There are two reasons: 1) He is the Son of God who is forever “in the bosom of the Father.” That’s a Hebrew expression referring to a son who is especially close to and loved by his father. Think of Isaac, the son of Abraham, whom he loved with all his heart. That same phrase is later used to describe the Apostle John, Jesus’ closest friend who leaned upon his bosom at the Last Supper.  But here it’s used of Jesus of whom the Father declared from heaven two times during His ministry on earth (first at His baptism and later on the Mount of Transfiguration), “This is My Son the Beloved One, in whom I am well pleased,” for everything Jesus did and said was a perfect reflection of who His Father is and was.

But even more important is the second reason John gives. He is “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” You may notice in the margin of your Bible that some of the more recent manuscripts read, “Only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.” And if they’re correct, that no poses no problem for us, for in Hebrew thought, a son shared all of his father’s attributes, meaning that just as God the Father is all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, and every-present, so is Jesus the Son, for He and the Father are and forever have been two Persons sharing the One Divine Essence.

If that translation bothers you, don’t let it. Because what the oldest and most reliable manuscripts say is “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” You see just as bird begets bird, lion begets lion, and man begets man, what God begets is God. So that Paul could say without hesitation, “He is the image of the invisible God,” and “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form!” In other words, when you see the face of Jesus one day in heaven, what you’ll be gazing at will be the face of God Himself, the most glorious sight human eyes can see, and that will change you immediately and forever!

1So let me ask you as I draw this study to a close, would you like to share God’s glory, be a recipient of His grace, and gaze upon His glorious face? Then meet Jesus, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father. How? You don’t get it by trying harder to believe or do good works. It comes to you as a gift of His grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not works, lest anyone should boast.” So stop trying and start trusting. Call out to Him in helpless childlike faith. Little children are helpless to care for themselves, aren’t they? So are you when it comes to God’s glory and grace. So call out to Him with me right now in helpless childlike faith, and His promise is: “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

(To listen to or download the audio version of this message, click Audio. To download or read the written version, click Written.)

Prayer: The Most Joyful Resolution!

When you set out to make something new—build a picnic table, knit a scarf, cook a gourmet meal—do you like to follow a pattern or recipe? Or do you like to make it up as you go along? Most of us, unless your name is MacGyver, feel much more confident if we have an example to follow. In fact, even those who are experts in their field usually like to have a pattern to guide their work. Very few of us are creative enough to invent something out of thin air.

Picture14My wife Cheryl, for example, has been making and mending clothes since before we were married. In fact, that was our first big investment as newlyweds. At the time we had an old sewing machine that someone gave us – a White machine. I’m sure it’s an antique by now. So we decided to step out in faith and spend $300 on a new Bernini machine that came with a 30 year warranty. And 40 years later, we got our money out of it! And yet, even though Cheryl is great at sewing and making alterations, ask her and she’ll tell you, she always looks for a pattern before she sets out to make anything new.

Or here’s something you may not know about me. I took 10 years of piano lessons as a boy and played in 25 or 30 recitals. But unlike Cheryl, I was a technician, not a musician, because instead of playing by ear, I had to have the sheet music sitting in front of me. So when I saw how much talent she had and how the music just flowed out of her, I decided to invest my time and energy in other projects. And you may be like that too. When you employ a new skill, you want a model or mentor to follow.

Now, transitioning into our study, I can’t think of a place where that’s more important the area of prayer. You’ll remember the disciples asked Jesus at one point, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus then went on to teach them what we call the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus-Christ-Praying-Wallpapers-13But the example I want to focus on tonight is Daniel the prophet whose prayers were so life-changing that King Belshazzar of Babylon said of him, “I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.” (Daniel 5:14) But my question is: Where did Daniel get such unusual wisdom and winsomeness? He found it (And we can find it too! (in a regular quiet time alone with our Lord where we ask Him to fill us with His love, His wisdom, and His joy.

To see what’s involved in that, let’s look together at 3 lessons we can learn from Daniel’s pattern of prayer. The first lesson is: He had a fixed time for prayer.

1. He had a fixed time for prayer.

If you read our last study, you know that we finished Daniel chapter 9, which means we have just three chapters to go—chapters 10, 11, and 12. But before we move on, I want to backtrack and zero in on Daniel’s prayer in chapter 6. I do so because I don’t believe there’s any better way to invest our time and energy in the year ahead than by developing a daily habit of spending time with God.

Picture2You know the back story. Babylon has just been conquered by Persia, and Darius the new governor is in need of a few trusted advisers who can help him understand the language and culture of Babylon. So guess who rises to the top! Daniel who impresses him so much that he not only appoints him to his cabinet; he plans to set him over his entire staff. But that does not sit well with the other advisers who are jealous of Daniel and set out to find a way to destroy him. But try as they might, they are unable to find any fault in him. So they turn instead to the most predictable and vulnerable area of his life, and that’s his prayer life. It’s so consistent that it provides a way for them to trap him. They trick Darius into signing a law that bans prayer to anyone for 30 days but the governor himself. So Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, and the Lord comes to his rescue.

That’s the back story. But what I want us to focus on now is verse 10, where Daniel describes his practice of prayer and how it gave him the courage, the wisdom, and the faith that set him apart from everyone else. It says: “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God just as he had done before.” Daniel loved spending time with God, so much so that he was unwilling to give it up even in the face of death! Is it any wonder, then, that his prayers were so powerful? Imagine how powerful our prayers would be if we were willing to sacrifice everything else in our pursuit of God and His holiness.

By the way, do you know what Daniel’s habit of praying three times a day brought to my mind? The Muslim call to prayer! That’s how Cheryl and I were awakened every morning at 5 am on our trip to Cairo—the call to prayer going out from the top of minaret with faithful Muslims all over the city rolling out their prayer mat and kneeling in prayer – not just three, but five times a day – which is impressive until you realize why they do it. It isn’t out of love for their god. Allah is not a warm and loving deity who invites his followers to enjoy intimate fellowship with himself. Theirs are rote prayers that come not from a heart of love, but from a fear of punishment.

Picture16That is not what Daniel was doing! Daniel knelt before his Lord three times a day not to win His favor or earn salvation, but because he loved Him and didn’t want to miss the joy of spending time in His presence. And Jesus extends the same invitation to you and me: “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28)

But you say, “I’m not really a ‘structured person.’ I’m what you’d call a free spirit. I like to pray whenever the urge strikes me—riding in the car, washing the dishes, folding clothes.” And I do too! I like to pray about everything all day long. That’s what the Bible calls praying without ceasing. But I believe it’s also important to make a date and set aside a special time every day to meet with God in prayer and worship.

Picture5But I realized I could be wrong, so I tried it on my wife. We’ve been busy lately and haven’t spent as much time together as we’d like. So I made a date with her this last week. I promised her that we’d spend time together during the halftime of the Seahawk game. And you know what? She wasn’t excited about it. Wasn’t that ungrateful of her? To tell you the truth, I didn’t actually do that. After 40 years of marriage, I know what draws us together and what doesn’t. And the same thing is true of God! You’ve heard of the five love languages through which people like to give and receive love? Well, time is God’s love language! That means if you want to get closer to Jesus, the only way to do it is by spending lots and lots of time with Him, not during the halftime of a football game, but when it costs something, early in the morning, just the two of you alone together.

If you don’t believe that, go down the list of those who have been especially close to Him: Martin Luther the great reformer, John Bunyan the Puritan preacher who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in prison, John Wesley who helped ignite the First Great Awakening, in America, William Carey the first Protestant missionary sent out into the world, David Brainerd the missionary to Indians, and George Mueller the lover of orphans and man of prayer. They all pursued the same persistent pattern. They spent two or three hours in prayer every day, which is how they also became the great saints that they were. And I urge you to do the same, even if it’s just five or ten minutes to begin with.

Picture6Like Daniel, set aside a fixed time to meet with God every day. That was his first habit of prayer. The second was this: He had a fixed place for prayer.

2. He had a fixed place for prayer.

Read verse 10 again. It says, “When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home and in his upper room with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

Picture7No fear, no shame, no hiding! Daniel simply did what he’d always done in the place where he’d always done it. He knelt down in his upper room with the windows open facing Jerusalem, praying and giving thanks to God. This is why we call it a spiritual discipline. It’s called that because it’s something we do again and again until it becomes such a natural part of our lives that we no longer have to strain to do it. Think about it! Taking a shower, brushing your teeth, tying your shoes—does it take a lot of mental energy to do those things? Not really! Why? Because they’re habits! That’s how God designed the human personality. He designed us so that what would normally be very difficult becomes easier the longer we do it. That’s also the difference between trying and training. Trying is putting out one big effort on one big day to get the job done, whereas training is something that becomes easier through regular exercise and practice.

Some of you may know that I started power walking a couple years ago. When I first started I could barely make it a mile, huffing and puffing if I had to climb a hill. But now that it’s a habit, I can do that very easily. And I always do it in the place that works best for me, especially during these rainy winter months. I do it on my treadmill in the comfort of my own home at 5:30 or 6:00 o’clock at night.

So let me encourage you, if you want to experience a spiritual breakthrough with God, set aside a regular time and place where you meet with Him—a chair in the living room, a place at the kitchen table, a little corner in your upper room with a Bible, a pen, and a notebook next to you, so you can write down what the Lord says to you. Again, the important thing is not where you do it but finding a place that works for you. The only caveat I offer is: Don’t do it in bed or you’ll find yourself falling back to sleep.

Picture8 John Wesley, the evangelist who helped spark the Great Awakening, prayed so consistently in the same spot every morning that if you visit his home today, you can see two worn spots in the wooden floor where he knelt in prayer three hours every morning. Where you do it isn’t the important thing because wherever you meet with God becomes a holy place. Remember what the Bible says about Jacob when fleeing from his brother Esau? It says that God spoke to him in a dream promising to bless him. So what did he do the next morning? He said to himself, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” Then he took the stone he used as a pillow, set it up as a pillar, poured oil on it, and called it Bethel, meaning “the house of God.” And the same thing can be true of the place you meet with God! You can literally make it the “house of God” by setting it apart as a special place where you spend time with God every day.

By the way, while I’m talking about the place of prayer, let me remind you what Jesus said about it. In the Old Testament, God’s people worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s why Daniel prayed with his windows open facing Jerusalem.  He was praying towards the place where God’s Temple had once stood. But no longer is there a temple standing in that place. Instead, where does God’s Word say that God’s Temple is today? 1 Corinthians 3:16 says that we the church are His Temple and that the Spirit of God lives in us who love His Son. Therefore, wherever we meet for worship is holy because God is there. Furthermore, Jesus said our first priority when we meet together is to make it “a house of prayer.”

Picture9That’s why we open the room next-door to our worship center every Sunday at 4:00 o’clock inviting you to come and pray with us. And I hope even more of you will choose to join us in the months ahead, not because you ought to, but because God is with us when we pray. That’s why we also set aside time in our services for prayer. We do it, not because we ought to, but because we love God. Knowing Him is our passion and joy. So that’s what we want to be known for. We want to be known as a people of prayer.

Daniel had a fixed time for prayer. He had a fixed place for prayer, and most important of all, he had a fixed purpose for prayer.

3. He had a fixed purpose for prayer.

Read verse 10 one more time. It says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you’ve said to yourself, “I’m going to do this even if it kills me!”? That was Daniel’s attitude, except that it wasn’t an occasional feeling on his part; it was his daily resolution even in the face of death!

Picture3So I say to you with all love and seriousness, if you make any resolution in the year ahead, make it this one. Determine, with all the grace God gives you, that you’re going to spend time with Him every day, even if it kills you! It won’t, of course. It’ll be difficult at first, like most new habits are. But it won’t kill you to do it. It will bless you beyond anything you can imagine, just as it did Daniel.

You know the rest of the story. Daniel is caught in the act of praying, as his enemies plotted, and sentenced to didin the lion’s den. But what’s amazing is that it was Darius, not Daniel, who was racked with anxiety. Verse 18 says that once Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, Darius returned to his palace, refused all entertainment, and spent the night in fasting and prayer, unable to get a wink of sleep. Whereas Daniel? He was at perfect peace. Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You will keep him perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”

That takes us to Daniel’s purpose for prayer. Sometimes we get the mistaken notion that the reason we pray is for God’s benefit, as if He’s dependent on us for His happiness. Nothing could be farther from the truth! God is by His very nature an infinitely happy God who has from eternity past enjoyed perfect fellowship with His Son, making Him dependent on us for nothing! God has no unfulfilled needs. But we do. And that’s why we pray! We pray not because He needs us, but because we need Him.

To illustrate this, let me finish with the example of another great man of prayer, George Mueller pastor of the Baptist church in Bristol, England for 64 years -from age 28 in 1834 till the day he died at age 92 in 1898. (Credit goes to Pastor John Piper for his biographical message on the life of George Mueller from which I learned much about this great man and his passion for prayer.)

Picture13But what he’s best known for is his work with orphans. Before Mueller, there were 3600 orphans being cared for in all of England with twice that many under the age of 8 in debtor’s prison with their parents, whereas 50 years later, because of Mueller’s work, there were over 100,000 orphans being cared for in England. Mueller himself built five orphanages where he cared for over 10,000 orphans, even though he was penniless. In fact, he said that’s why he did it. He wanted to find a way to prove to the people of England, who had lost their faith in God, how good God is to meet His children’s needs. So he took on a project that could only be explained by the power of God. He also did it without asking for donations, for he wanted it to be clear that it was God who did it through prayer alone.

Mueller also happened to be one of the biggest givers to missions in his day, even though he took no salary from his church, nor did he have any money of his own. For example, he was by far the biggest supporter of Hudson Taylor, giving more than $3 million to his ministry in China all by kneeling in prayer and asking God for money that he could give away.

Imagine having thousands of orphans depending on you for their daily bread with no means to provide it! Would that make you anxious? Not Mueller! He said he welcomed every problem as a chance to prove the sovereign goodness of God. In fact, he talked about that a lot: God’s sovereign goodness electing him to be saved, preparing good works for him to walk in, and providentially ordering every detail of his life.

Picture15For example, when Mary his wife died, whom he loved with all his heart, he could say with perfect peace, “I am fully satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father and seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him. I continually kiss the hand that has afflicted me for whilst He smites with the one hand, He supports with the other.” And when he was about to lose a piece of property he wanted for an orphanage, he said, “If the Lord were to take this piece of land from me, it would be only for the purpose of giving me a still better one; for our Heavenly Father never takes any earthly thing from His children except He means to give them something better instead.”

Picture11Where did he get such great faith in God? From hours and hours enjoying the presence of God. He said in a message to his students, “In my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you and the Lord’s work may make urgent claims on your attention, but I deliberately repeat: It is of supreme and paramount importance to keep your souls happy in the Lord Himself. Seek to make this day by day the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years! The first few years after my conversion, I knew not its importance but now after much experience, I specially commend this to my younger brothers and sisters in Christ—the secret of all true and effective service is joy in Christ.”

Why is that important? He explained, “I have stated he deep importance of being satisfied with the will of God not only for the sake of glorifying Him, but also as the best way in the end of satisfying the desires of our own hearts. Whatever we do must be the result of joy in God.” And again, the way he did that was by spending daily time reading God’s Word and talking to Him in prayer.

Here’s how he finished his message, so that’s how I’ll finish mine. He said, “My dear Christian friend, will you not try it this way? Will you not learn for yourself the preciousness and the happiness of casting all your cares and necessities on the Lord? This way is as open to you as to me. Everyone is invited to trust in the Lord, to trust in Him with all your heart and cast all your burdens upon Him and call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brother and sister? I long for you to do so, to taste the sweetness of that state of heart in which, though surrounded by difficulties and necessities, you are yet at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you.”

Do you believe that? Then begin to put it into practice right now in prayer.

prayer-challenge2

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