Month: December 2012

“Why Was Jesus Called Immanuel?” by C. Poblete

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus is called Immanuel.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us”(Matthew 1:23).

This is not a personal name. In Isaiah 7:14 it is seen as fulfilled, not in the naming of Jesus, but in the whole account of His origin and naming. It is not that Jesus ever bore the name Immanuel but that it indicates His role, bringing God’s presence to man.

Matthew now explains to his readers what this phrase means. It is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew into Greek—making a new Greek word from the sound of the Hebrew phrase “God is with us.”

God Is With Us Because Of Jesus

This is a statement, not a prayer. The meaning is explained to Matthew’s readers. Matthew’s use of this term may be understood in one of two ways.

  1. The phrase “God is with us” describes the nature of Jesus. He is God who has become a human.
  2. Matthew wanted to show that the virgin conception was not something new, but that it had been predicted by the prophet Isaiah. God is now with the people to save them as the prophets have predicted.

Therefore “God is with us” would not so much describe the exact nature of Jesus, but rather that God has been gracious to His people by sending His Messiah.

Summary

When the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph the angel told him that a son would be born who would be called Immanuel – God with us. The phrase may be emphasizing the truth of the gospel that God became a human being in Jesus Christ. It is also possible that Matthew is emphasizing that God was faithful to His promises in sending the Messiah to His people the Jews.

Daily Devotions: December 31st, 2012

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” — John 7:37

Patience had her perfect work in the Lord Jesus, and until the last day of the feast He pleaded with the Jews, even as on this last day of the year He pleads with us, and waits to be gracious to us. Admirable indeed is the longsuffering of the Saviour in bearing with some of us year after year, notwithstanding our provocations, rebellions, and resistance of His Holy Spirit. Wonder of wonders that we are still in the land of mercy!

Pity expressed herself most plainly, for Jesus cried, which implies not only the loudness of His voice, but the tenderness of His tones. He entreats us to be reconciled. “We pray you,” says the Apostle, “as though God didbeseech you by us.” What earnest, pathetic terms are these! How deep must be the love which makes the Lord weep over sinners, and like a mother woo His children to His bosom! Surely at the call of such a cry our willing hearts will come.

Provision is made most plenteously; all is provided that man can need to quench his soul’s thirst. To his conscience the atonement brings peace; to his understanding the gospel brings the richest instruction; to his heart the person of Jesus is the noblest object of affection; to the whole man the truth as it is in Jesus supplies the purest nutriment. Thirst is terrible, but Jesus can remove it. Though the soul were utterly famished, Jesus could restore it.

Proclamation is made most freely, that every thirsty one is welcome. No other distinction is made but that of thirst. Whether it be the thirst of avarice, ambition, pleasure, knowledge, or rest, he who suffers from it is invited. The thirst may be bad in itself, and be no sign of grace, but rather a mark of inordinate sin longing to be gratified with deeper draughts of lust; but it is not goodness in the creature which brings him the invitation, the Lord Jesus sends it freely, and without respect of persons.

Personality is declared most fully. The sinner must come to Jesus, not to works, ordinances, or doctrines, but to a personal Redeemer, who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. The bleeding, dying, rising Saviour, is the only star of hope to a sinner. Oh for grace to come now and drink, ere the sun sets upon the year’s last day!

No waiting or preparation is so much as hinted at. Drinking represents a reception for which no fitness is required. A fool, a thief, a harlot can drink; and so sinfulness of character is no bar to the invitation to believe in Jesus. We want no golden cup, no bejewelled chalice, in which to convey the water to the thirsty; the mouth of poverty is welcome to stoop down and quaff the flowing flood. Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. Jesus is the fount of hope. Dear reader, hear the dear Redeemer’s loving voice as He cries to each of us,

“If any man thirst,
let him come unto me
and drink.”

“What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus” by Aaron Sellars

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
(Mark 9:30-32)


What sort of disciples does Jesus want following him? (Mark 9:30-32)

Every year my wife and I pray about whether now is the time God is calling us to move overseas. In the process, we consider where we’d go and all of the things we would give up to be full-time missionaries. There is much to give up if we were to ever leave. We have’t left yet, but we remember that if God is calling us to stay, we are still on full-time mission here in Orange County. Many count the cost of only leaving the place they currently dwell, rather than counting the cost of staying.

It is clear throughout the Gospel narratives that Jesus is on a mission. And he was on a mission like no other; Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to die on the cross. His disciples must then know that following Jesus might end in death.

We see in Mark 9:32, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection again. It says, “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him”. The disciples followed Jesus for 3 years and were not usually reluctant to ask Jesus to explain difficult saying. They knew enough to be afraid to ask so they could understand more. They had a holy terror for the things that Jesus told them. He is going to eventually ask them, “Are you with me? Are you willing to suffer with me? Are you willing to follow me and my example?”

As we go through this passage in the next few blog posts, I want you to think about your response to Jesus. There are really only three options: The first is are you READY to follow Jesus wherever he goes no matter the cost? The second, are you a bit RELUCTANT to follow Jesus knowing what it is going to cost? Or lastly, are you RESISTANT to follow Jesus whether you know the cost or not—either because you don’t know what it entails or because you don’t want to listen and follow his command?

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
(Mark 9:33-37 ESV)


Jesus wants humble disciples not arrogant disciples. (Mark 9:33-37)

As we saw last time, Jesus is on a mission, and he calls us as believers to join him on his mission.  InMark 9:30-50, we see Jesus not talking to the crowds, but to the disciples.  These next three sections happen sequentially. They are not disconnected, but meant to be looked at together as a whole.

Who Is the Greatest in the Kingdom?

Jesus knows what the disciples are thinking and talking about.  He asks them, but they kept silent because they were arguing about who was the greatest.

So the question they ask Jesus is who is the greatest in the kingdom?  We’ve all asked that ourselves right? It would be the people we wish would run for president in November right? Are the disciples really arguing about who is the greatest? Have they forgotten about all the things that Jesus did and taught?  How easy is it for us to do the same? Have you had prayers answered only to forget and doubt he can answer again?  Have you had God provide for finances in mysterious ways and then forget he can do it again?

Jesus uses a child to illustrate a role reversal in God’s kingdom. The first must be last and a servant. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mark 9:35). In Jesus’ kingdom humility is key. It is more about defeat than victory.

Childlike Humility

Jesus uses an example of a child. In the mindset of first-century disciples, children represent the lowest order in social scale. Jesus calls us to not only be like them, but to receive and serve like them. The one who follows Jesus in the way of the cross must live a life of sacrifice and service.

Think about Jesus – he was the most humble man to ever walk the earth. He came from heaven as God and took on human flesh. Philippians says “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross” (Phil 2:8).  The God of the universe shows us what humility is. The all-knowing and all-powerful God of the universe is the example of perfect humility.

How do we respond to Jesus’ call to come with him to Jerusalem? How do we respond in humility?Answer: we look to none other than Jesus himself as our example. We respond with the worship of Jesus and pointing people to him. He is the greatest. We look to Jesus, not ourselves. Jesus wants disciples who will follow him on his mission to Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth—disciples that are humble and child-like, not arrogant and haughty.

 

Daily Devotions: December 30th, 2012

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” — Ecclesiastes 7:8

Look at David’s Lord and Master; see His beginning. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Would you see the end? He sits at His Father’s right hand, expecting until His enemies be made his footstool. “As He is, so are we also in this world.” You must bear the cross, or you shall never wear the crown; you must wade through the mire, or you shall never walk the golden pavement. Cheer up, then, poor Christian. “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” See that creeping worm, how contemptible its appearance! It is the beginning of a thing. Mark that insect with gorgeous wings, playing in the sunbeams, sipping at the flower bells, full of happiness and life; that is the end thereof. That caterpillar is yourself, until you are wrapped up in the chrysalis of death; but when Christ shall appear you shall be like Him, for you shall see Him as He is. Be content to be like Him, a worm and no man, that like Him you may be satisfied when you wake up in His likeness. That rough‐looking diamond is put upon the wheel of the lapidary. He cuts it on all sides. It loses much—much that seemed costly to itself. The king is crowned; the diadem is put upon the monarch’s head with trumpet’s joyful sound. A glittering ray flashes from that coronet, and it beams from that very diamond which was just now so sorely vexed by the lapidary. You may venture to compare yourself to such a diamond, for you are one of God’s people; and this is the time of the cutting process. Let faith and patience have their perfect work, for in the day when the crown shall be set upon the head of the King, Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, one ray of glory shall stream from you. “They shall be Mine,” saith the Lord, “in the day when I make up My jewels.” “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”

“Already a Man After God’s Own Heart” by Dustin Smetona

Most of us, at one point or another, have pointed to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 zealously declaring we should be men after God’s own heart just like David! This is a mistake. When we say that, we mean that David is a man who seeks after God’s heart. But do you see the word “seek” in either of those passages? It’s not there and here’s why. King David being designated by God as a man after His heart is about God choosing David, not David’s character.

The phrase “after my own heart” was commonly employed by other ancient near easterners.* It simply means, “this is the person I’ve chosen.” When a god or king chose someone to rule, he would describe the successor as a man after his heart. When God utilized this phrase to describe David, He was not commenting on David’s stellar character (which was anything but stellar), He was alerting the audience that David was the chosen ruler of His people. This is contrasted with Saul who was appointed king as a judgment on Israel for their rejection of God’s kingship and their sinful request for a king like all of the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:1-9).

A Lesson from This Phrase

King DavidDavid’s installment and perseverance as Israel’s king was a result of divine election and promise-keeping (cf.Psalm 78:701 Kings 8:16), not the result of any particular merit he possessed. God is the one with the wisdom and authority to designate this son of Jesse as the “man after his own heart.” When David commits his egregious sins, he is kept in office because God picked him. This points us to one of the most notable features of the Old Testament narrative: the major figures are incredible sinners. And yet, they remain God’s instruments in advancing the redemptive story because He ordained their part in it.

In like manner, we who are chosen by God have confidence in His promise to keep us as His own. God has “predestined us for adoption” (Eph. 1:5) and we have complete assurance that no sin can take God’s favor from us. All former, present, and future transgressions have been paid for by Christ and we can confidently enjoy God’s abounding love. The point is that our character does not determine whether or not we are men and women “after God’s own heart.” God has already picked us. Rather, knowing that God chooses us despite our glaring deficiencies is precisely what shapes our character.

The Anticipated “Man After God’s Own Heart”

The selection of David as a king “after God’s own heart” is not an end in and of itself, but rather serves as a foreshadow. When God promises in Jeremiah 33:17 that David’s throne “shall never lack a man” He is pointing us to a much greater figure than King David. Isaiah 9:7 describes the Messiah as one who would assume the “throne of David.” Then, in Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel explicitly tells a trembling, frightened Mary that “the Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David.” Christ is the eternal King from David’s line. He will be called King of Kings and His kingdom shall know no end. He is the King that God has chosen to rule and reign forever. Jesus is the longed for “man after God’s own heart”, the royal Son of the Almighty, who gave His life to transform rebellious subjects into sons and heirs.

 

Daily Devotions: December 29th, 2012

“Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” — 1 Samuel 7:12

The word “hitherto” seems like a hand pointing in the direction of thepast. Twenty years or seventy, and yet, “hitherto the Lord hath helped!” Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honour, in dishonour, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received “hitherto.”

But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes “hitherto,” he is not yet at the end, there is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet-awakening in Jesus’ likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy “Ebenezer,” for—

He who hath helped thee hitherto
Will help thee all thy journey through.

When read in heaven’s light how glorious and marvellous a prospect will thy “hitherto” unfold to thy grateful eye!

“Where Do You Get Your Truth?” by Jasmine C. Wong

In many Christian circles, there is an abundance of resources going around—from new hot topics to the latest book or sermon series. In all of this, we may forget to go back to the all-powerful, transforming Word of God that is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Sometimes we do not intentionally neglect it, but rather we begin looking to other ‘Christian’ things instead. For example, I remember a time when I misplaced my Bible for a week and I never knew it was missing because I was just reading books and podcasting sermons.

The ultimate book—the source of ultimate truth—is the Bible

What is theology? The study of God.

What is the best way to study God? Is it to read a book about the Bible or the Bible itself?

Think about it.

While knowledge is important, God isn’t interested in just knowledge. He wants a knowledge that will transform your life. He wants you to read the Bible and put yourself under it. We can read what people write about God or we can read what God says about Himself.

I am not saying reading theological books is bad. I am saying that we must remember our priorities—God’s Word is our supreme source of our theology. Dwight Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” As we increase our knowledge of God we better understand Him and fear Him, leading to wisdom and sanctification (Proverbs 9:10). If we do not know God then we cannot understand Him nor fear Him, let alone obey Him.

Let’s go to Paul in his second letter to Timothy, where gave his friend an encouragement to stay with the Scriptures: “…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In the context of this verse the Apostle is referring specifically to the Old Testament writings, but we can apply it to the New Testament as well and consequently the entire Bible. There is a lot of richness in this short statement, but here are two lessons we can learn from Paul’s charge to Timothy.

1. Renewing your mind

Paul writes that the Bible is useful for teaching and reproof. We need to be equipped. We need to be complete. We need to be renewing our minds daily, and the way to do that is by reading God’s Word and allowing the Spirit to illuminate it for us. (Romans 12:2) We have been given the Spirit of God, a gift of grace, who gives us understanding and illumination of the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Let us come to the Word in humility and diligence, knowing that it is a privilege to be able to have this gift of understanding instead of taking it for granted. Also, we should allow it to correct us rather than attempting to make the Bible act as a proof text for our own thoughts.

2. Knowing God’s way through the Word

The Apostle Paul writes about how Scripture is ‘breathed out by God’, meaning that what is written are the very words of God. The word of God brings knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6). InPsalm 119, it is clear that the psalmist is hungry for God’s word. He constantly dwells on it. We are to saturate our hearts with the Bible. We should have a desire to know God because He reveals Himself to us in His word, which is truth (John 17:17). By studying God’s Word we may be trained in righteousness, knowing what God has revealed about His character, His will, and His commands.

Who should we look to?

Jesus sets a wonderful example when He woke up early in the morning to talk to His Father. (Mark 1:35) Setting a devoted time of the day to read your Bible is helpful. Pray that the Lord will give you a diligent, devoted, and active spirit in reading the Word. Pray that He will take away idleness and strive to have self-discipline with your time. In all this social networking, television, and technology, it’s so easy to be distracted. So consider getting off Facebook to get your face into the Book. My encouragement is that you be refreshed daily by beginning and ending your day with the Lord.

Daily Devotions: December 28th, 2012

“The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” — Galatians 2:20

When the Lord in mercy passed by and saw us in our blood, He first of all said, “Live”; and this He did first, because life is one of the absolutely essential things in spiritual matters, and until it be bestowed we are incapable of partaking in the things of the kingdom. Now the life which grace confers upon the saints at the moment of their quickening is none other than the life of Christ, which, like the sap from the stem, runs into us, the branches, and establishes a living connection between our souls and Jesus. Faith is the grace which perceives this union, having proceeded from it as its firstfruit. It is the neck which joins the body of the Church to its all‐glorious Head.

“Oh Faith! thou bond of union with the Lord,
Is not this office thine? and thy fit name,
In the economy of gospel types,
And symbols apposite—the Church’s neck;
Identifying her in will and work
With Him ascended?”

Faith lays hold upon the Lord Jesus with a firm and determined grasp. She knows His excellence and worth, and no temptation can induce her to repose her trust elsewhere; and Christ Jesus is so delighted with this heavenly grace, that He never ceases to strengthen and sustain her by the loving embrace and all‐sufficient support of His eternal arms. Here, then, is established a living, sensible, and delightful union which casts forth streams of love, confidence, sympathy, complacency, and joy, whereof both the bride and bridegroom love to drink. When the soul can evidently perceive this oneness between itself and Christ, the pulse may be felt as beating for both, and the one blood as flowing through the veins of each. Then is the heart as near heaven as it can be on earth, and is prepared for the enjoyment of the most sublime and spiritual kind of fellowship.