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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Faith that Grows from Jesus’ Words

One thing I make very clear in our home church is that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[1] Because of this, it has been fascinating for me to look at how the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead shows the importance of the words of Christ in contrast to what people saw.[2] 

First question: what is God telling you in his word lately that contradicts what you see going on around you? 

I ask this because it should be a way of life for us to put our faith in what we are reading from God’s word, not in what we see happening around us. It is also quite common for God to speak to his people about things that sound different than what we see in our circumstances. For that reason, it is good practice to identify what God is saying in his word clearly enough that when situations seem to contradict it, we hold fast to what God has said. 

What stood out a few mornings ago, as Jesus was standing at Lazarus’s tomb, was the expression, When he had said these things…”[3] It was like the spotlight moved to this phrase and narrowed its focus so there was no doubt which actor was playing the lead. 

Second question: what stands out for you today as the “these things” God has been telling you that lead up to the next thing he is doing with you? 

In other words, are you watching for the connection between the “these things” God is teaching you in his word and what happens next? Do you see the next things as stepping-stones to what God has spoken (even when they seem to be a glaring contradiction) rather than stumbling stones to your faith? 

I know that the expression, “these things,” relates to the immediate things Jesus had said in telling the people to roll the stone away from the tomb. He reminded them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” and reiterated his purpose in setting the stage with a death instead of an illness, which was to bring people to believe the Father had sent him. 

However, this seemed to draw attention to the thread that was woven quite brightly through the whole tapestry of this scene, that the words Jesus spoke preceded the actions that he took. And, it draws our attention to that thread as it adds to the unfolding scene that appeared to contradict Jesus’ words. 

Third question: what thread of words has Jesus spoken into the death-scenes of your life that speaks of a hope that contradicts any hopeless circumstances you can see with your eyes? 

And, lastly, this took me back to the beginning of the account where the very first thing Jesus did in response to the news that Lazarus was ill was announce the theme of the whole play: “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”[4] 

This simply emphasized that God speaks before he acts, and our faith comes from hearing what he says, not from watching how a scene unfolds. It makes me look back over things God has already said that have already unfolded in ways that appeared contradictory to his words but ended up being right on the bull’s eye. 

Last question: What has God told you about the death-scene you may be facing that makes sense of every contradictory thing that has happened since he spoke those words to you? 

Okay, story time.

Just as I finished writing that last question, I had the idea to go back to the start of the situation that is matching the Lazarus account for me. What was the very first thing God said to me about that journey? 

What I discovered was like seeing Jesus giving me one of those loving smack-upside-the-head expressions of endearment to let me know I could have saved myself a lot of grief (kinda the point of the Lazarus experience) if I would have kept in mind what he said instead of reacting to what I have seen going on in our church. Yes, lots of necessary Beatitudinal lessons that God is working for good, but still, the point is taken. 

So, I looked up my prayer-journaling and sharing from the morning that an “illness” hit our church parallel to the Lazarus situation. Wow! 

What had God spoken to me to prepare me for what would happen? That the miracles Jesus performed as signs (like turning water into wine) were to so reveal his glory that we would believe in him when the signs of the times, so to speak, contradicted his words. The golden thread God has woven through everything since then (and I am sure through many other scenes of the tapestry where I wasn’t paying attention), was the way God “manifested” Jesus’ glory so Jesus could manifest the Father’s glory. NOTHING has changed that. 

Then I looked at my prayer-journaling and sharing from the day after the “illness” hit. The theme was, “The Battle is On!” Meaning, we were presented with an opportunity to join God in his work, and Satan did NOT want to see Jesus glorified in it. Time to put on the whole armor of God, take our stand, and be the church to one another. 

As I look back, I can see how I was hearing Jesus’ words of promise the way his disciples would have understood him to mean that Lazarus was not going to die. I actually felt excited about the opportunity we were presented at that time because it looked like Jesus would do something that I had already seen him do before. I had high hopes and led accordingly. 

And next thing I know I’m spending a week standing at a tomb grieving! Lazarus had died when I thought Jesus said he wouldn’t. Yes, lots of that smacked-upside-the-head lovin’ included in this lesson! 

The reminder from a few days ago that faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes from the words of Christ, had already ministered to me when I started writing my sharing about this. It expanded for me even more as my sharing developed. And then it blew me away by taking me back to what Jesus was speaking to me about that stands out just as contradictory to what I ended up “seeing” as Jesus’ first words to his disciples turned out to be in stark contrast to the unfolding scene of Lazarus’s death. 

I know that talking about death-like experiences in our lives can stir up negative emotions we don’t want to spend time thinking and feeling. I have actually had some people become quite irate with me for even suggesting that there are things from the past that should be explored for our freedom. 

However, my testimony is to encourage you to look at whatever you’re going through, or even just the ugly deterioration of our evil world we are all facing together, and ask yourself whether the things God has spoken to you about in his word in the past are building up your faith in the present. 

Can you relate to the scenario where Lazarus was ill, Jesus said the situation would not end in death, but he waited until Lazarus had died before he went to do anything? Can you see how people who believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus needed to get to know him as the one who raises people from the dead? 

After all, isn’t that the point of Jesus’ coming? Didn’t he come to give life? Didn’t he come to raise sinners from the dead spiritually with the promise that the gift of eternal life would mean we are one day raised from the dead physically as well?[5] 

In spite of what negative emotions may be stirred up by even speaking of death-like experiences in our lives, I challenge each of you to go back to the beginning of your story of such an event and see what God was speaking to you about before you entered that scene. 

For sympathy’s sake, I know the grieving of facing things like this honestly. I also know how the journey can be both painfully and wonderfully helpful for me. Today I am strongly reminded to keep in mind the Savior’s words, and I am quite sure that his words will lead us through even the “strong odor” of death that is a significant part of the scene. 

Epilogue: before I shared this with our church, I wanted to see who and what was shared by our group that morning before anyone knew what God was doing with me. I considered all our sharing to be like puzzle pieces God was putting on the table before any of us knew what other things God was saying or doing among us. In a sense, I wanted us to see what God was saying to our church before he showed us what he was doing. 

Let’s just say that the sharing from others was a perfect fit to the puzzle pieces God had given me. It actually sounded a lot like Jesus’ telling the people what to do about the resurrected Lazarus stumbling out of the tomb: “Unbind him, and let him go.” Perhaps you have a death-like experience that needs to hear these words as well. 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 



[1] Romans 10:17

[2] You can read the whole account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. You can find it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11&version=ESV

[3] John 11:43

[4] John 11:4

[5] When Jesus returns, any believers who are still alive at his coming will not be raised from the dead, but simply transfer from their earthly bodies to their glorified bodies. Yes, lots of exciting stuff to explore if you have never heard about these things yet!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

What Jesus Feels for What We Feel

Yesterday morning, my heavenly Father invited me to enter the stage he had set for discovering how Jesus his Son relates to his loved ones who are grieving.[1] I have been in this section of his word for about a week, so the next scene I have come to begins like this: 

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was…” 

A man named Lazarus had died. Jesus had come to the hometown where this happened and had already met with and comforted Martha, one of the sisters. Martha had gone to get her sister Mary, directing her to where Jesus was waiting to talk with her. 

As I enter the scene and see how Mary “came to where Jesus was,” I consider how this is part of the picture for me. Yes, there are times when the Good Shepherd comes to his sheep to save them out of their latest tangle in the brambles. However, this scenario was one where someone had to come to Jesus. This is simply a thing, that sometimes I have no right to expect him to come to me; I must come to him. 

“and saw him…” 

I could picture Mary taking one step after another, not seeing Jesus with one step, still not seeing him with another, and suddenly there was that last step where it could be said that she now “saw him”. Every step but the last one was not being with Jesus yet. 

This made me think of what it looks like in my life when I am expected to take steps to go to Jesus when it will only be the last one that brings me to him. I will not see him in many steps the Father leads me to take in the right direction, but I am to take those steps knowing that there will be a last one where I see him and can be with him in whatever the Father is doing. 

“she fell at his feet…” 

At first, I read into this that Mary was worshiping Jesus, something that I am sure was involved. However, as I considered the emotional state Mary was in grieving the death of her brother, I suddenly saw a woman overcome with the weariness of her grief, drained of strength in the way that only sorrow can do, and when she reaches the Savior she had trusted in, she fell at his feet as a helpless child. 

This also was an invitation for me to be as helpless in my overwhelming sorrow as Mary was with hers. 

“saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” 

This was easy to attach to. How many things have happened in my life that felt like someone or something died and Jesus did not come in time to heal the situation, or save the relationship, or give life to a dream. Mary’s words are God’s invitation for me to grieve with her all the things that have been lost because Jesus hadn’t been there. 

“When Jesus saw her weeping…” 

John had already written that Mary saw Jesus; now he adds that Jesus saw Mary. This has been a slow lesson for me to learn, that my time with God each morning, even in my seasons of grief, are characterized by Jesus seeing me and knowing what I am going through. 

“and the Jews who had come with her also weeping…” 

Both immaturity and grief tend to isolate people so we think only of what is going on with us and our Savior. However, Jesus was always relating to his individual children in connection with others. No matter how lonely and isolated we feel, Jesus sees the different degrees of grief that are on the stage (or in each church scenario) so we can see how Jesus responded to everyone. 

“he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” 

Jesus was overwhelmed with weeping with those who weep so that he was having trouble holding back his emotions. That is what the description means, that Jesus was having difficulty holding back the flood of emotions he was feeling in relation to the people who were grieving. I’m certainly not done meditating on that!   

In this present journey, God is surprising me with what he wants me to share with him of my griefs and sorrows. Even though I know he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, that only makes it all the more amazing that he set the stage so he would be able to first attach to his loved ones in their grief. 

Jesus truly is both, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and, “the Resurrection and the Life”. He clearly wants me to know him in every multi-faceted expression of his glory. You are invited to do the same.

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)


[1] John 11

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Stage of What is Wrong With Us

On the morning I wrote this, some obnoxious people woke me up early as they were walking up and down our avenue pushing a shopping cart and talking and laughing in that loud way that suggests they were under the influence (shopping cart wheels are very LOUD in the middle of the night!). My sark suggested some things I could do to them, and the Spirit told me to pray for their salvation. I’m glad I have matured enough to not waste time fighting over such things.

The next thing I come to in my Bible study through John is a whole chapter dedicated to Jesus healing a blind man, along with all the relational dynamics that came into play. What starts with Jesus healing a blind man ends with the man believing in Jesus (the “seeing” Jesus was aiming for) and Jesus showing the religious hypocrites they were blind no matter how arrogant they were that they could see.

However, what stood out was a statement Jesus made that was parallel to one we looked at in home church on Sunday. Today the threads of the tapestry seemed all the brighter, perhaps for the way they were woven together. Here they are side-by-side:

Parallel 1: It is not what is wrong with us that is the issue. The first man’s blindness, or Lazarus’s illness killing him, are not the focus. It doesn’t even matter what we have done or what our parents have done. It doesn’t even matter if it is the worst-case scenario ever (someone dying). This is the common denominator, that what is wrong with us isn’t the issue. It’s just the stage.

Parallel 2: Everything is about how God would display his works in our lives for his glory and our good, or for his praise and our joy. It doesn’t matter if blindness gives God the opportunity to grant us sight, or death gives him the opportunity to reveal himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Everything is about God glorifying the Son in what is wrong with us so the Son may glorify the Father in our lives no matter what we are going through.

John concludes his gospel with, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but 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.”[1]

The purpose of the signs was to lead people to believe in Jesus so they could have the life he came to give. The result of Jesus healing the blind man was that he came to believe that Jesus was “the Son of Man,” the Savior of the world. It also exposed that the Pharisees were blind, calling them to the poor-in-spiritness that would open their hearts to the blessing of God.

Processing all these things led me to feel a very distinct urging of the Spirit to crucify any focus on my sins or what is wrong with my parents (as he directed attention away from these things with the blind man). At the same time, my attention must be on things that are wrong with me in order to surrender to God’s activity of displaying his work in my life so that the Father is glorifying the Son in order that the Son can glorify the Father.

I was quite thankful to have that opportunity to be up early seeking God about something that was so deliberately prepared to bless me. I do believe that God will continue tweaking this in me so I can turn my attention from how I  or others have sinned, to letting God use things that are wrong with me to put his glory on display.

My response is to follow Paul’s counsel myself, and together with you, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[2]

God has a work he wants to do in my weakness. With fear and trembling I will let him use my weakness to set the stage on which he can do his work. Yikes, sigh, Praise the Lord!!!

 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 

 



[1] John 20:30-31

[2] Philippians 2:12-13

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Certainty of Life

Getting older makes me think about death. A lot. So does the story of a rogue virus. So does the data on the vaccines. So does the Taliban taking over Afghanistan. So does the increase of euthanasia, abortion, and wildfires.

No matter what we think of anything going on around us, the human mortality rate is still at 100%. As God says in his Book, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”.[1]

As I have grown in relationships over the years, one thing I have learned is that genuine attachment to people never grows old. I understand that loss of relationships can leave an elderly person so lonely they want to just be done with life. I understand that so many painful experiences with rejection can cause someone to lose the will to live. I can even appreciate that we may deteriorate so much in a physical way that we are unable to maintain any personal attachment to people at all and so the desire to be alive fades away.

However, genuine attachments with people never grow old. There is never a feeling that we’re done enjoying attachments with people and we’re ready to die. And, in many cases, even when an elderly loved-one can’t hang on any longer to physical life, those left behind never see it as a good thing that the attachments are gone.

With death threatening us from every direction, these words of the Creator stood out to me in wonderful comfort this morning: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”[2]

This is a scenario where Jesus was talking with people who thought they believed in him while he knew they did not.[3] Jesus couldn’t leave them like that because then they would die in their sins while thinking they were good with God. Jesus had to direct them to the only way they could truly know that they had eternal life.

What stands out is the promise that people “will never see death” if they keep Jesus’ word. Keeping Jesus’ word is not switching from Old Testament Law to New Testament Law. It cannot be performed by outward behavior alone. Jesus’ word is about loving one another as the Triune God loves us, so only when the love in the vine flows into and through the love of the branches is someone truly a disciple of Jesus Christ.[4]

Earlier in his ministry, Jesus introduced this same theme by saying, Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”[5]

Hearing Jesus’ word and believing what the Father says about his Son is what opens the door to eternal life. As a result of experiencing this kind of faith, we are no longer under the condemnation of judgment, but have already passed from death to life. Jesus meant that this is true even for all the millions of believers who have died while waiting for his return.

Jesus put this straight into the context of death when a man named Lazarus had passed away. Jesus told his disciples, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”[6] It is so clear that this does not mean Lazarus wouldn’t die, but that it would not end in death.

When Jesus went to the town where Lazarus had died, he told the sisters, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”[7] Jesus was telling them that, when someone believes in him, they will either live even if they die, or live without ever dying. Both are possible; it simply depends on where anyone fits into the unfolding events of history.

The apostle Paul explained this quite clearly when he wrote that, because Jesus died and rose again,

we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.[8]

The dead in Christ who rise first are those who fit Jesus’ words, “though he die, yet shall he live”. Those who are alive and are “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” are those who fit Jesus’ words, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

It all says the same thing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”[9] We will never see death even if we die because our soul/spirit goes to be with Jesus. We will never see death if we are still alive at the return of Christ because we are simply taken up along with those who are raised from the dead. Either way, Jesus gives eternal life to all who believe in him.[10]

In our day, when it is so evident that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” it is absolutely necessary to know the Savior who, “came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”[11]

The way things are going in the world, it is entirely possible that the evil things perpetrated by one government after another could lead to my premature death. In that case, as Paul testified, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”[12]

At the same time, the way things are going in the world, Jesus could appear at any time. Some of us may be the ones who never see death but are gathered together with those who are raised from the dead. The key is that, “we will always be with the Lord.” And that is what really matters.

I started with the dire warning that, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. However, what God says next is what gives hope to all who trust in Jesus Christ. God’s word continues, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”[13]

Jesus will “deal with sin” with all those who have rejected him. But, for those who have received him, we can wait eagerly for his return. Either we will die before Jesus comes and immediately go be with him while waiting for our resurrected bodies, or we will be alive when he returns and go to be with him without passing through death.

Either way, there is coming a grand event of receiving glorified bodies in which we will forever be with our Savior in the presence of his Father and the joy of their Holy Spirit. Trusting in Jesus Christ now is all it takes to receive this incredible gift of grace forever.

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

 

 

 

 



[1] Hebrews 9:27

[2] John 8:51

[3] John 8:1-59

[4] John 15:1-17

[5] John 5:24

[6] John 11:4 (in the context of John 11:1-57

[7] John 11:25-26

[8] I Thessalonians 4:13-18

[9] John 8:51

[10] John 3:16 makes this clear, of course.

[11] John 10:10

[12] Philippians 1:21

[13] Hebrews 9:27-28

Saturday, August 21, 2021

To Be Like Ourselves

One thing God is giving me to help me see myself as he does is the emphasis on us being like ourselves.[1] By “ourselves”, I don’t mean who we are in our natural selves, what God calls “the flesh”,[2] but who we are in our salvation, the new creatures God has made us.[3] 

When we look at things from the standpoint of whether we are being ourselves, instead of using the law like a measure of whether we are good or bad children, the focus is on our identity, whether we are acting like the people we are in Christ. 

On one side, this makes it easier to look at how we are doing. It isn’t legalistic. It isn’t judgmental. There is no room for favoritism or partiality because we don’t measure ourselves by externals. Instead, it is relational. Are we being ourselves? Are we acting like ourselves? Are the things we see happening in relationships in our churches the things that express our identity in Christ? These are fairly easy yes-or-no answers, so it is fairly simple to differentiate between when we are acting like ourselves and when we are not. 

On the other side, this easier way of understanding how we are doing makes it more difficult to self-justify things we are doing wrong. When it is just who is right and who is wrong, it is easy to argue with our relational circuits off. We can make our law-based lists of who did what, probably with a bias that makes ourselves look better than others, and then justify why being non-relational towards someone is a good thing for us good boys and girls to do since they are being bad and deserve what they get. 

However, when the standard is whether we are acting like ourselves, and the, “ourselves” is who we are in Christ, and the measure of what we are doing is what Jesus is doing, it is WAY MORE difficult to think that we are doing the right thing. How can we tell ourselves we are better than others when the thing staring us in the face is that we are not like Jesus? 

So, here’s a good question: what is it about Jesus that God is focusing on to help me see how he wants me to learn to be myself by learning to be like him? 

Because God’s aim is to make me like his Son, and his preferred modus operandi is the Beatitudinal Valley,[4] we can always expect God to personally show us areas of improvement in ourselves alongside things about Jesus he is presently working into our lives. The more we fix our eyes on him, the more we become like him. 

How does this apply to me? 

First, there is a general way in which agapè love seems to be this program running in the background that applies to everything else, always testing whether agapè-love is in operation. I cannot escape the fact that without agapè, I am nothing.[5] Reading Paul’s description of love in I Corinthians 13 shows us what it looks like to be ourselves because that is what Jesus is like.[6] This makes it fairly simple to know when we are not being ourselves because we only need to ask ourselves, “Am I being patient and kind, rejoicing with the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things, or am I envying others, boasting in myself, acting arrogant or rude, insisting on my own way, and/or being irritable or resentful?”[7] 

Secondly, corresponding to this focus on agapè-love is Jesus’ clarification that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”[8] As Jesus does nothing apart from the Father, I am like him in needing to do nothing apart from Jesus. When I operate independently, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong in externals, it means nothing because I am not attached to Christ in the activity. Until my independence (relational circuit off, dependence on self-protection) is crucified, I cannot act like myself, and am hurting others no matter how I self-justify my actions. 

Thirdly, I always aim to look for the most specific things God is teaching me, what he is doing in me with those teachings, and how I am to join him in his work in those ways. At the moment, this has included a focus on this Scripture: 

For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.[9] 

Through this, there is one characteristic of being myself I cannot escape; it is called, mercy. To understand how mercy makes me who I am now, I also need to acknowledge that “disobedience” was just as much a characteristic of being myself in the past. I acted disobediently because I was disobedient. As Paul wrote it, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”[10] When that was who I was, that is how I acted. 

Because every human being has that exact same identity of disobedience, when anyone is in Christ their new identity is characterized by mercy. No one is saved by works; anyone who is saved is the recipient of abundant mercy. 

This is why, when Jesus taught the Beatitudes,[11] he first gave four realities that demonstrate our need of the blessing of mercy. He then followed this with the fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful…” because those who truly receive his mercy become merciful people like him. Mercy is a chief quality of those who have received mercy, and it keeps us attached to God with our continuing need to experience mercy every day of our lives. 

When I put this all together into a very personal description of the activity of God, I know he is addressing things in me that are not like Jesus (things like bitterness, irritability, and resentment). At the same time, he is calling me to abide in Jesus like a branch attached to its vine so that I become more like him every day. He calls me to know him in his agapè-love so I can agapè-love others as he agape-loves me. And he calls me to know his mercy towards a disobedient child like myself so I can be the merciful who is like him in the mercy I show to others.    

To really grow in this, we must be completely honest with Father about how we are doing, admitting to whatever is not like Jesus in how we are relating to anyone, and letting ourselves hunger and thirst for the impossible work of God to make us like Jesus more today than ever before. This will always show us real and personal things God is working on and build our attachment to God as we join him in his work. 

The result is that everyone in our lives gets a better version of ourselves to deal with since we have become a little more like our Savior today (“from one degree of glory to another”).[12] And, the good works that come out of us being who we are in Christ will shine like a city on a hill so that others “may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”,[13] just as Jesus promised would happen when we are like him.

 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)



[1] I am indebted to Jim Wilder for this focus on thinking out of our identity rather than our behavior. Behavior follows whichever identity we live in.

[2] Galatians 5 gives a good contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. The New Testament is full of this contrast.

[3] II Corinthians 5:17 says we are “a new creation”. Jesus said we had to be “born again” to make us this new creation (John 3:1-21 particularly vss 3-8). God told Ezekiel that he would one day “give you a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26), and Paul described it as putting off our old selves, renewing our minds, and putting on “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

[4] The way the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 affect us as God leads us through them both in salvation and in daily transformation.

[5] I Corinthians 13:1-3 explains that doing things without agapè-love is like a child clanging a toy to the point of utter irritation (vs 1). It means, “I am nothing” (vs 2), and, “I gain nothing” (vs 3).

[6] The same is true of Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control”), followed by a summary of the positive, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (vs 25), and the negative, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (vs 26).

[7] I Corinthians 13:4-7 reveals what love looks like and what it does not look like so that it is fairly easy to know whether we are acting like ourselves. I Corinthians 13:8-13 shows the supremacy of agapè-love over spiritual gifts (even though Paul taught us to use all the spiritual gifts to this day).

[8] John 15:5

[9] Romans 11:30-32

[10] Titus 3:3

[11] Matthew 5:1-12

[12] II Corinthians 3:18

[13] Matthew 5:16

Thursday, July 29, 2021

John Bible Study ~ John 2:13-25 ~ Jesus Cleanses Hearts for his Father

There is a side of Jesus that a lot of people have trouble relating to. The world is okay with a wimpy Jesus who just loves everyone and leaves them as they are. The thought that he is our Creator, that he can come into the world and judge what people are doing, and that he is the only way anyone can know the only true God, is quite repulsive to a prideful world that imagines itself the master of its own destiny. 

Our next study in John’s gospel shows us how Jesus confronted something so horrible in the world because it was a direct attack on his Father. The Temple that was to be the dwelling place of God among his people had been turned into a marketplace for the religious elite. When Jesus arrived, it was time to cleanup the mess. 

Jesus’ response to the evil things going on in the Temple not only shows how he felt about what the people were doing, but also reveals him as having the authority to judge those activities. At the same time, Jesus’ expression of God’s judgment on that day gives a glimpse into his right to judge us all in the end. It also presents an idea of what it will look like for Jesus to carry out his greater purpose of cleansing hearts now the way he cleansed the Temple then. 

John Bible Study ~ John 2:13-25 ~ Jesus Cleanses Hearts for his Father[1] 

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. 

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2 ~ ESV) 

The first thing John told us in his gospel account was that Jesus was the Word who was with his Father in the very beginning. Jesus was not only with God, but he was God. We cannot fathom what it was like for the eternal Father and Son to set in motion the plan of salvation that would involve the Word leaving heaven and becoming human flesh. However, their relationship was quite alive and well on planet earth the whole time Jesus was here. John also said that Jesus came to make the Father known to us. This passage focuses on the first time Jesus identifies himself to Israel as the Son of God and how he expresses his relationship to his Father. 

Part 1: Jesus Defends His Father’s House 

As the plan of God unfolds, we now see the theme of Jesus’ relationship with his Father expressing itself in the way he handled his Father’s earthly House. It not only shows us what Jesus’ relationship with his Father was like, but gives us an introduction to what our relationship to God as Father might be like. 

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2) 

1.     In the previous scene we saw Jesus relating to a need at a wedding. Now we see him relating to a national commemoration for Israel where he addresses a far greater need than running out of wine. What do Jesus’ actions in relation to the things he found in the Temple tell you about his view of what was going on there? 

 

2.    What was Jesus’ showing the people about himself in his declaration, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”? 

 

3.     What does it tell you about Jesus that his disciples considered his actions a fulfillment of prophecy? 

 

4.    We know that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth,” and, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known”. What is Jesus making known to you about the Father that fits his announcement, “Take these things away,” because they do not match what it looks like to be in Father’s House? 

 

Part 2: A Sign That Leads to Faith 

One element of getting to know Jesus is discovering that what he means by something he says is likely to be different from what we initially imagine. The encouragement is that, when our first thoughts about what he means don’t seem to make sense, his words are still like a signpost pointing us to things that will definitely build up our faith when we get there. This section shows us that journey in one short paragraph. 

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2) 

1.     Why do you think the religious elite demanded a sign from Jesus after his surprising actions in the temple? 

 

2.    What does the contrast between what Jesus meant by his reference to “this temple” and what the Jews understood encourage us to do when we read God’s word, the Bible? 

 

3.    What place does Jesus’ resurrection hold in helping us as we read this section of God’s word today (vs 22)? 

 

4.    How does this part of God’s word offer you the same opportunity to believe the Scripture and the word that Jesus has spoken?  

 

Part 3: A One-way Faith 

There are many things in God’s word that indicate that something works in one direction but not another. For example, we worship God our Creator and Redeemer, but would never expect him to worship us. We absolutely need Jesus to give us life, but he does not need anything from us for him to be fully alive. Faith is another thing that is absolutely essential from our side of relationship with Christ but not from his. This concluding focus of this passage shows how the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ attaches us to a Savior who is not the least bit influenced by the faithlessness of people. And, if you think about it, this is a very good thing. 

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2) 

1.     One of the patterns in Jesus’ life and ministry was to show the way he was treated by the religious elite in contrast to the response of the general population. After seeing the way the leaders challenged Jesus about what he did in the Temple, what are we told was the general response to him from the rest of the people? 

 

2.    What does it mean that Jesus “knew all people” and “knew what was in man”? 

 

3.    How did Jesus relate to people based on what he knew about them/us? 

 

4.    How does it encourage your faith in Jesus that his trustworthiness is unaffected by how untrustworthy we are? 

 

Conclusion: Hearing, Seeing, Joining 

After seeing the way Jesus took authority over the sinful things that were going on in his Father’s House: 

1.     What do you hear God speaking to you about? 

 

2.    What do you see God doing in you through this part of his word? 

 

3.    How are you going to join God in his work? 

 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8

Email: in2freedom@gmail.com

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)