Tag Archives: Bible Study

Walking In Light

photo by Janus Y
photo by Janus Y

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jesus spoke a lot about light. The book of John begins by calling Jesus the Light of the World that the darkness could not overcome, or comprehend.

Jesus told the disciples to walk while the light was with them (alluding to himself) so they would not stumble.

Light is really important. The lighthouse saved ships from running aground on rocky shores that might not be visible at night. We all know those times when we don’t turn on the light because we’re just crossing the room to … yeah, and that doesn’t work out well every time we do that.

When you stop to think about the statement Jesus made, though, it is truly remarkable. He didn’t claim to be  light. Rather, He was the light. He wasn’t the light of some people. He was the light of the world!

Going deeper, Jesus was calling to mind things that these Jewish Israelites would know from their scrolls and religion: The wilderness wanderings of the Hebrews.

He claimed to be the “bread of life,” referencing the manna. He claimed to be the source of “living water,” calling to mind the stone which Moses struck and from which water poured out for their needs.

Here, Jesus declares that he’s the light of the world that leads the way God wants us to go. This points back to the pillar of cloud and fire that led the people through the wilderness toward the promised land. That mystical cloud that shone brightly with God’s divine light, similar to the flame that illumined, but did not consume the bush, would move, and the people would follow. It would stay, and the people remained. It led in paths that didn’t appear to make sense. It remained when maybe other places might be more appealing. But it directed them in the way of the Lord.

Jesus claimed that role, the light unto our path. Where He leads, we must follow. Where he stops, we must stay. We must walk with Him, or we’re liable to stumble, as we do when we lean on our own understanding.

Go And Sin No More!

One Way copy

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The scene was artistically portrayed in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. A woman dragged before the Lord, caught in the very act of adultery! Jesus’ hands reach down, tearing through the dusty soil, writing something on the ground. Slowly, feet stamp away, leaving only Jesus and the woman.

It is the condition in which many might find themselves: Remorseful, humiliated, caught in the act! Alone with Jesus on a dusty path. Then, we get a view of our Savior’s heart. He delights in pardoning sin and passing over our transgressions for his children (Micah 7:18).

It isn’t, as some might interpret, an unjust pardoning where God looks the other way at some sin (like adultery) while being severe toward another form of sin (pious arrogance of the religious elite).

Rather, Jesus is deeply concerned with the woman, far more than the crowd had been in their self-righteous zeal.

The crowd was jeering and demanding blood in their own concept of justice. Instead of Jesus weighting one sin over the other, it was the accusers who falsify the scales of sin, deeming adultery to be worse than, say, pride.

Instead, Jesus sees the condition of the sinner as a lost sheep, wandering away from the love of God, and weeps.

What he wrote in the sand is the topic of much speculation. Maybe it was the various commandments that they had broken? No one knows because scripture doesn’t tell us.

Perhaps that’s the point: Jesus doesn’t divulge the sins of others to us when defending against our accusers. Those of the Religious Order delight in exposing other people’s dirty deeds. But our Lord loves, concealing the matter, then paying for it Himself.

It is this kindness, this unfathomable love that draws Christ’s sheep to Him. We love Him because He first loved us. We chose Him, because He chose us! One might say, the woman’s very public sin actually brought her to Jesus, demonstrating how God will use the very evil in this world to bend to His sovereign purpose.

If Jesus did write the sins of the Pharisees in the sand, they did not notice His gentleness, or accept His forgiveness in the sacrifice that only He  could provide. If He showed them this mercy in writing out something that should be a call to repentance, humbly employing his finger in the dirt rather than in their faces, they spurned his grace.

Would you enter the Kingdom of God, the mysterious status of being clothed in Christ’s righteousness and being at once in the presence of God the Father as well as living in this earthly realm with the Spirit of Christ within you?

Then you must enter through the gate of poverty in spirit, having nothing to bring, being accused for your sin, but knowing there is no excuse. You were caught in the very act!

You must mourn for your sinfulness and for the lostness of this fallen creation.

You must be meek, falling at your Savior’s feet.

You must receive His peace that comes at great cost to Himself.

There is no condemnation for those who are found in Christ. There will be no one to accuse you because your sinful rebellion, along with every sin that poured forth from that foul fountain has been cleansed.

“Go, and sin no more…”

When we accept Jesus’ forgiveness, bought by His sacrifice, we can count on His strength to leave our sinful lifestyle behind us. We will struggle with the desires of the flesh, but we will no longer bear the mark of one caught in the very act.

Entering the True Sabbath

Photo by Lotte Lohr
Photo by Lotte Lohr

John 5:16-17 “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

Sunday is a day of rest! Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby and perhaps other less high-profile Christian-owned businesses are not opened on Sunday. In the not-too-distant past, American businesses at large were not opened on Sunday in observance of the “new” sabbath of Christ’s resurrection.

*the old Sabbath was Saturday, the 7th day of the week. This is still observed by traditional Jewish and Messianic Jewish religions.

Where I live, alcohol of high percentage cannot be sold on Sunday, meaning those who wish to imbibe must make provision for that want on the Jewish Sabbath or before.

When I was young, my family tried the approach that no work, no play clothes, should be done or worn on Sunday.

All of this is very consistent with the religious nature that is in all humans! The Pharisees and the devout in Israel during Jesus day took careful note of who was working on the Sabbath (Saturday, for them).

So, it’s very interesting to see that Jesus healed many people on the Sabbath. 

The verse in John 5 underscores this. They persecuted Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. Verse 18 goes on to say they sought to kill him because, in addition to doing work on the Sabbath, He claimed equality with God (by what he said in verse 17).

So, what’s the importance of Jesus working on the Sabbath? What did He mean when He said, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working?”

It is entirely possible, and extremely likely, that we misunderstand what the Sabbath is.

The first “sabbath” was on the 7th day of Creation. It is not important to argue the literal 24 hour days of Creation week, or theorize whether God needed to rest. God doesn’t grow weary, He’s God. The act of Creation didn’t drain Him. The Rest Day was His way of telling us something. But, we often misinterpret things and boil them to the simplest, and often most ridiculous thing.

God “rested” when His Creation was complete. He took Creation from darkness to a full, thriving creation with mankind as His image-bearers presiding over all He’d made. Man-Adam was perfect and in authority over the lower creatures and ecosystems that God had made.

The work of sustaining the cosmos, however, never stopped. So, God was still working, spinning the planets in orbit, creating new stars, active in each molecule and atom that holds our reality together.

The Fall, Adam’s choice to rebel against God to be one with his bride, stripped the world of this state of rest. Suddenly, all of Creation groaned with pain, thorns and futility, striving to keep the perfection it had, but failing to meet the demands of God’s design.

In the Fallen world, there is no rest, only vain toil.

Immediately, God gave a promise of His Son who would crush the serpent, the symbol of evil and the tempter who introduced rebellion to our race, and would satisfy the justice of God by bearing the penalty for our sin.

In the Law, God gave the people of Israel this idea of the Sabbath rest. not only on the 7th day, in recognition of God’s completed work which required no additional act of creation, but pointing to something else! There was also the 7th year of rest where they’d not plant crops and let the land rest.

Jewish people seldom kept these Sabbath rituals, working on their own for their increased profit.

Our mistake, however, is to see this as God being concerned that His people simply follow some religious rule.

God’s not interested in us following a list of rules. He wants our hearts!

The recognition of the Sabbath rest was to point, once more to God’s completed work, not our efforts on our own behalf.

The Pharisees observed the Sabbath, but had hearts that were thinking that their religious acts were saving their souls! They were the most pious, most religious people you could imagine. They prayed out loud in the streets. They let everyone know they were fasting. They gave money to the Temple instead of their aging parents (look how they loved God!).

And they expected that all these “righteous” acts proved their salvation as God’s special people.

They were so exclusive in their works-related religious salvation that they persecuted Jesus for performing miraculous healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus performed those deeds because, as He said, His Father is working … and He is working. The work of mending this broken world is always happening. All things are held together by God. Each sunrise, each breath of every person on this planet is ordained and maintained by God. Even the wicked mass murderer is alive at the will of God and will ultimately serve His purpose and will glorify Him (either in judgment in Hell or in repentance and new life).

So, what does the Sabbath really mean? What is the true Sabbath?

The Sabbath always pointed to God’s completed work. First in Creation, second in the New Creation, Salvation.

When Jesus took on Sin outside the camp of the world, bore the full wrath of God and died, was buried, he performed the full “week” of work required for the New Creation to which all humanity is called. With His resurrection, He has declared the New Creation, the New Man, very good. With the ascension, He has brought us, physical humans, back into direct fellowship with God, in Heaven.

The state of Creation before the Fall has been restored in Christ. The work of God is complete.

But there is still work that goes on all the time. The work of sanctification, bringing us along the path of taking off the works of death that are no longer compatible with our new natures, continues 24/7. In other words, the work of Jesus healing us is not stopped by the Sabbath.

Our “works” for acceptance with God must stop! That’s the point of the Sabbath, to remind us that we cannot work for our salvation. We need to accept Jesus’ completed work and enter the rest that no additional work is needed to secure us with God.

Then we need to let Jesus continue to work His healing every day.

Probing the Sinner’s Heart

Photo by Jacob Walti
Photo by Jacob Walti

For me there’s nothing more frightening than oral surgery. consequently, I cringed more during a torture scene in The Running Man than I probably would during some slasher movie (though I don’t watch them). Why? Because the Nazi doctor begins drilling out Dustin Hoffman’s teeth to get at the secret of “is it safe?”


But there might be something even more terrifying than oral surgery–or whatever strikes the most fear in your heart.

Imagine the classic blackmail scenario. Someone whose career is on the rise and is respected in the community suddenly receives a package with photos he or she would rather be kept secret.

We have a term for such secrets: Skeletons in the closet. And we all have them.

God has a term for this, too: Sin.

That’s not a very PC word these days, or any days–unless we’re talking about someone else, like a death row inmate or some convicted child molester or a corporate fat cat who bankrupted millions of investors. In our own lives, however, we have reasons for what we’ve done against God’s law. If you knew why you’d understand. Anyone else would do the same thing under the circumstances.

Anyone except Jesus.

And there’s the rub, as they say. We are not the measure of one another’s goodness. Jesus is the standard. Before His earthly life, the Law was the standard (which Jesus met completely).

We, unfortunately, do not meet God’s standard and can never do so this side of Heaven. Many will try. In fact, many believe that when they accept Jesus as Savior (more on that in a minute) God gives them the power to meet all the demands of the Law, perfectly.

The answer to that is both yes and no.

I’ll explain.

Yes! The process of the New Birth, or Salvation by Jesus is this: We must confess our sin and repent. By faith, we trust that our sinfulness was then placed on Jesus on the cross where He took the full wrath of God that we deserved, dying in our place. Every believer died on that cross with Christ. Every believer then rose from the grave three days later, with new, perfect life in God’s Spirit. Every believer ascended to Heaven with Jesus and is in the very Presence of God, pleasing to God on account of Jesus completed work. We believers have entered the Sabbath Rest of Heaven. The work is done.

No! While our position in Christ through our repentance, death burial, resurrection and ascension is complete and pleasing to God, satisfying the requirements of the Law (we died for our sin’s in Christ, which satisfied the death penalty), we are not done living in this sinful world, and we are tied to a dead body of sinfulness that drags us down. This body of death, as the Apostle called it, is our self-life which is at war with the new life within us. As long as we’re tied to the self-life, we will continue to break the requirements of the Law and require daily cleansing by Jesus our Lord and brother (as He washed the feet of His disciples). This keeps us from boasting that we can earn our salvation in any way, shape or form.

What happens throughout our Christian growth is that Jesus will continue to probe the depths of our sinful heart, the old self-life that is rotting and tied in our earthly nature in order to help us put these things to death.

But we can never expect to be free from that body of death without true Salvation, without actually being reborn.

I love how our tender Lord addressed the woman at the well. He didn’t say, “believe in me and all your sins are just swept under the rug and you get to pretend it never happened.”

That’s what we like to do. Let’s just forget that ever happened!

No, Jesus told her about her life of immorality. He told her how many men she’d slept with. And he offered her a chance at spiritual satisfaction that didn’t require her to go outside herself to get it!

Picture this, humanity going to the well to get satisfied, always looking outside of ourselves for refreshment and fulfillment. Then, God in flesh tells us, “Drink from my water (spirit) and you will never thirst again!”

No longer would we need to turn to the wells that dot the world, hauling pitchers and letting them down, wondering if we’ll get clean or filthy water. Jesus’ Holy Spirit will be a fountain of fresh water welling up inside, satisfying us in our loneliness, feeding us with bread that no one knows about in our hunger, and assuring us that we belong when we’re cast outside the camp of the world’s society.

But first, in order to receive this water, Jesus had to awake the woman’s memories of her sinfulness. He had to un-sod the grave of the woman’s past. He had to lay bare her life’s secret. Why?

The wound of our soul needs to be cleansed to the very bottom in order for us to be fully healed by the Great Physician.

There must be true confession before there can be full forgiveness.

We must put all of our rebellious sinfulness on the cross with Christ, all of it must be consumed, none of it kept back in order for Salvation’s atonement to be complete.

Have you let Jesus probe the depth of all your sinfulness? Or have you put only the most obvious things on the alter and kept back some of the portions for yourself like Ananias and Sapphira who attempted to lie to the Holy Spirit (recorded in the book of Acts)?

If you haven’t confessed all and repented, and you’re still breathing right now, you have time to do it. If you’d like to talk to someone about this, you’re welcome to Crystal Lake Baptist and we’d love to buy you coffee and talk this through.

A Fresh Holiness

Photo by Bill Williams
Photo by Bill Williams

They’d followed John, the sinewy desert-dweller for several months, perhaps longer. These rough fishermen from the downtrodden district of Bethsaida were ready for the arrival of the Messiah and were enthralled with the stories of the strange happenings that surrounded John’s birth. They listened to his fierce tone like a man possessed of the spirit of Elijah! They willingly followed this loner and admired his ardent, if austere holiness.

Then, John points to another and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world!”

One by one, these eager young men leave John to follow this new teacher, this “Lamb of God.”

The next three years would be the most memorable of their entire lives. They were likely more profound than any three years of anyone since.

At each turn this new teacher, the very Son of God would astonish them.

The very first event to which they are invited is a wedding ceremony.

There’s such significance here: A wedding feast. A sacred union of man and woman. A party, in fact.

A far cry from John’s solitude, Jesus laughed, talked and played with children as the festivities took place. How odd for these new friends of his to watch this fresh, new holiness.

Jesus ate, drank and enjoyed the celebration of marriage.

When the wine ran out, he did something even more remarkable.

There, to the side were large pots for ritual cleansing. He instructs the servants to fill them with water and to take them to the wine-taster.

Scriptures do not say whether Jesus caused all the water to be changed to wine, or whether each dip of the ladle was transformed. It wouldn’t be more miraculous in either method.

What is significant is that Jesus launched his ministry at a wedding feast. He will consulate his Kingdom at a wedding feast.

He began his ministry by turning people’s religion of outward cleansing to one of inward renewal.

Jesus brings us such a fresh, new holiness, too. It doesn’t brag or do things for show. It is always humble and quiet. It can relax and enjoy festivities, but is never touched with the dirt of this fallen world.

I hope those who read this pick up the Bible and dig in to the book of John. Or stop by Crystal Lake Baptist on Sunday to hear more from this wonderful book.

People Loved the Darkness

Photo by Redd Angelo
Photo by Redd Angelo

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19

Everyone who has watched sports for any amount of time should be familiar with one verse in the Bible. This is the verse that makes the top ten–top five, even–memory verses for kids going to Vacation Bible School, AWANA, Sunday School, you name it.

John 3:16.

It’s so well-known that I probably don’t need to type it out in this blog. It is the #1 evangelical go-to verse. If someone in the Western world doesn’t know it, they would likely recognize it pretty soon after it gets recited:

For God so loved the word …

yes, that’s familiar. And who doesn’t like that. Even Richard Dawkins probably would find that appealing.

that He gave his only Son …

When you think about this, it’s controversial. For Muslims, the notion that God has a Son is a point of offense. To our minds, considering that God is giving His Son for the world might seem rather mixed. He loves the world more than His Son? But it speaks to the fervor of His love.

that whoever believes in Him should not perish …

No one wants to die, but this speaks more about an eternal death than mere physical death on this plane of existence. Still, it’s a good promise for people.

but have eternal life.

This is the promise that everyone in the world would love to have. Eternal life! We have stories of the fountain of youth. We have industries devoted to keeping us looking younger and extending our vitality, as if we could add a single day to our life through creams, pills and surgery!

Of course, eternal life can also be a curse. There’s an old myth about a man who wished for eternal life, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, as well. The quality of his eternality was grueling!

All of this brings us to … the rest of the story. God loves the world. But He hates sin.

If we stop at John 3:16, we get a nice verse with a promise of eternal life (which indicates the quality, not just some quantity).

Moving on, we are further encouraged because the Apostle tells us that Jesus did not come into the world as a man to judge us, but to save us.

Good news! Many cling to that, and for good reason. But they miss the next few verses.

God sent Himself in the form of His Son on a rescue mission in order to save us from the condemnation we deserve for our rebellion against Him.

What other ruler would do that? What ruler would sacrifice Himself to spare a rebellious group of outcasts?

Hint: The previous verses give that away.

But notice the following:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Whenever you see “name,” think “nature.” The person who rejects God’s Son, rejects the very nature of God. What is the nature of God? Love.

Love that is rescuing.

Love that is sacrificing.

Love that is patient.

But also, love that cannot allow evil to go on forever. Light has no part of darkness. Love has no relationship with evil. The one must drive out the other. And, for anyone aware of how the world works, light drives out darkness. Every time.

So, we come to verse 19. The judgment. Jesus came to rescue us. He is the Light of the World. But people loved the darkness because their works were evil.

All of us share that judgment, that our works are evil. From day one we serve our own interests, not God’s. We gather glory for ourselves and we resent that God would demand the glory He deserves.

I pray that those who read this, if you have rejected God’s loving nature in Jesus, that you will repent–turn from thinking that your works of evil cannot be forgiven and accept Jesus as your substitute for God’s punishment. Let Jesus clothe you with His righteousness so that you can receive God’s love.

Born Again!

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“… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Nicodemus, like many who read the Bible, was perplexed! He was a respected man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews. No doubt he was blameless with religious pedigree and solid moral character. Had anyone seen this man of the upper-crust religious society, they would have known him and paid due respect.

If this were today, we might celebrate Nicodemus because he sought out Jesus! Although he did so under the cover of night, hoping for his earthly curiosity to go unnoticed by those of his social standing.

He confessed Jesus as a teacher from God. The high-churchman acknowledged Jesus as being from God and having words of instruction (though he felt ashamed to approach him in daylight).

Nicodemus knew that Jesus had power from God to perform signs. Anyone seeking fame in this world would accept these words of high praise from such a lofty man. “Rabbi,” “Teacher” from God.

Perhaps Nicodemus expected Jesus to be grateful for this recognition from the seat of religious power. In his mind, perhaps he thought Jesus would join with him and establish himself alongside the other religious elite.

Instead, Jesus looked at this man, impeccable by any human measure, and saw that his nature was earthly, not spiritual. This man, cloaked in darkness and seeking the Lord was as far from experiencing the spiritual kingdom as an unborn child is to experiencing the world at large.

“unless one is born again…” 

Nicodemus must have been taken aback. Here he’d just flattered this poor man with divine titles and he condescends to tell him what he needs? And what is this nonsense of being ‘born again?’

“… unless one is born of water and the Spirit…” 

Jesus’ reference to water, being so close to the ministry of John the Baptist certainly shouldn’t have been lost. John baptized with a baptism of repentance. Not only were people acknowledging their sinfulness before a Holy God, but they were repenting of that life in expectation of the Messiah and the new life He would provide.

Jesus referenced the water of repentance and the Spirit, His Holy Spirit, as the two parts of a new birth which would allow a person to experience the kingdom of God (which is, at this point and currently, a spiritual one. See John 18:36, “my kingdom is not of this world”).

Nicodemus remained amazed. He recognizes that something powerful and uncontrollable is happening, like the wind (vs. 8 ” the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it”) but Nicodemus doesn’t understand it and doesn’t know its source.

In the end, despite his religious rank, he was a man of the world, unable to experience or understand the work of the Spirit.

Are you a Nicodemus?

Many will admit Jesus was a prophet or teacher … and even that he was “from God.”

Many admit Jesus is God’s son, one part of the Holy Trinity, God in the flesh!

Many, because of this creed, will perform religious acts, penance, baptism, church attendance, festivals, dietary rules, etc. Such people may be extremely virtuous and moral. They are admired by those around them for their charity and piety.

But they seldom want to go deeper into God’s Word than the superficial. Christianity is an outward religion for a healthy life, not an inward birth of a new life. 

In reading this, you may admit that you haven’t experienced anything new. Church and religion is nothing more than a habit or a culture of comfort for you. When you read the Bible, you see strange tales of talking donkeys, animals on boats, waters parting and bolts of lightning shooting down from some dark, mysterious mountain. Jesus teaching sounds vague and enigmatic, like that of some guru.

If that’s the case, despite some clergy christening as an infant, or some well-practiced catechism, you haven’t been born again. You experience no more of the kingdom of God than does an embryo the world that is  yet in its future.

But you can be born again. By the water of repentance and the Spirit of Jesus’ resurrected life.

Today could be your birthday.