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All Can You Trust the Bible? Christian History Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Missing Jesus in God’s Word

Author: Charles Hegwood

 

Reading God’s word is essential to following Jesus. We need those marching instructions. The Bible is a place that we meet with God as we read. Reading scripture invites us into the presence of the King of Kings. At least this is what reading the Bible is supposed to be. Many times we read with an assortment of motivations. But we must hear John as he writes to us, “Don’t read the Bible and miss Jesus.” Finding Jesus in the text is the greatest invitation to the greatest scavenger hunt in the history of the world. As you study God’s word make sure that you do not miss the Word, Jesus, God in human skin.

 

A Read and a Miss

 

In John 5:39 Jesus essentially says, “go and find me in the Scriptures.” By the way this includes the Old Testament as well. In the immediate context of John chapter 5, the Pharisees, “pore over the Scriptures.” That is a reference to the Old Testament. John is saying that it is more than simply finding Jesus in the Scripture. Instead, this verse implies we must find Jesus. I find Jesus’ words both a blessing and a warning. The blessing is that we can go to all Scripture with the expectation of finding Jesus. But it is also a warning. We must not miss Jesus in the Scriptures. This was the problem with the Pharisees.

 

Earlier in chapter 5 Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath. This was a big problem for the Pharisees. Jesus’ healing violated their rules regarding the Sabbath. They begin to confront Jesus and turn up the pressure. It is in this context that we arrive at the conversation that is going on in 5:39. Jesus does not deny the fact that the Pharisees knew the Scriptures. On the contrary, they “poured over them.” The Pharisees and the scribes were experts in knowing their Bible. They should have seen Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. They should have had no problem with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They should have known Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath. The problem lies in their motivation and interpretation. Jesus did not fit what they wanted. They missed the Word of God despite knowing God’s word.

 

The Mirror of Scripture

 

We often read the gospel accounts of Jesus and the Pharisees with blinders on. We think, “those Pharisees just did not get it.” And yet we must see that when we read Scripture it is a mirror. We cannot simply laugh at the ignorance of the Pharisees without seeing the warning of Jesus to the modern reader. Let the Holy Spirit use the Bible as a sword to cut away our callousness. We are often like the Pharisees. When we read scripture it should be like looking at ourselves in the mirror in the morning. We might not like what we see, but that is what we need to repent and change. As Jesus called out the Pharisees’ mistake, we too are being called out.

 

Brothers and sisters let us not pore over the scripture everyday and miss Jesus. This is the warning that John, in writing this account, is trying to tell us. Read the Bible and find Jesus in the text. Meet with Him there. When we do, we will see our sin laying out exposed. We repent and are ushered into the presence of Jesus. But when we read with wrong motivation and interpretation we miss Jesus and miss time with Him. How sad it would be to spend time reading the Bible and never see Jesus, and never seek Jesus. We miss the whole point when we do this. The results are that we become the Pharisees. We become calloused toward the working of the gospel in our lives and in the lives of others. If that is you today, the good news is it is not too late.

 

Conclusion

 

It would be a tragedy to miss Jesus as we read, but if that is you, as it has been me in the past, then I have good news. You can meet with Jesus in His word today. Open your Bibles to the Old Testament or New Testament and find Jesus. It is like the greatest scavenger hunt you could ever embark on. When we seek Jesus in the text it brings a sense of excitement as we read God’s word. And something else begins to happen.

 

We begin to see how wonderfully interconnected the Bible really is. We see how truly all of Scripture is telling one story. It is telling the story of how God steps down into human history to take on flesh and redeem His lost children. Jesus is whispered throughout every corner of the Bible. Only go and find Him. See the wonderful tapestry that Scripture weaves. Embrace it and be inspired by it. Read the Bible with the expectation to find Jesus and you will find Him. The more you do this the more you will see. This truth has guided me throughout my journeys through the Bible. It has been one of the increasing joys in my life. So enjoy the blessing and heed the warning. Do not read the Bible and miss Jesus.

 

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All Christian History Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

Lifted High

Author: Charles Hegwood

As we go through this season of Lent, we want to take a moment and reflect on the conversation that Nicodemus had with Jesus. Their conversation went from being born again to the cross. The mention of the cross may sound odd to our ears. However, as John wrote his gospel, the shadow of the cross and the promise of the empty tomb is found throughout. Even in the conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, we see that the cross has much to do with our spiritual birth and our spiritual birth has much to do with the cross.

 

So let us first talk about this term born again. What does being ‘born again’ mean? This is a phrase that is tossed around Christian circles throughout the world. The reason we hear this phrase so much is that Jesus uses the term in John 3. Today we will look at what Jesus meant by being born again and its relation to the cross. We will see that Jesus is telling us that our spiritual birth is from and accomplished by the power of God. Therefore we must run to God to have a spiritual birth. It is the only way we can be saved.

 

The Context

 

Before we dive into Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, we need to look at what happened right before this story. Jesus went into the Temple and drove out those who were selling sacrifices to make dishonest money. The old way of belief and spiritual practice was broken down. Sin had polluted people’s worship of God at the Temple. This part of the story is important to understand what follows. We, like the people in the Temple, have polluted our worship of God. Sin has corrupted us. We thus need to be cleansed and cleaned. What we need is the same as the Temple needed. We need Jesus to purify our hearts. We need a new heart.

 

Jesus’ purifying the Temple by running the people out with a whip earned him the ire of the Pharisees. This is why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He does not want to be seen talking with Jesus. This would be hazardous to his career. But Nicodemus is interested in Jesus’ teaching. He desired to hear what Jesus had to say about the matter.

 

New Birth

 

Nicodemus realized that Jesus was from God. That is how the conversation began. However, Jesus side stepped Nicodemus’s comment and instead talked about a second birth. Here Nicodemus is confused. He knew that Jesus was not talking about a literal second birth. That would make no sense, but what was a spiritual birth? And how do you do that? How does someone get spiritually born again? To Nicodemus’ ears, both a literal and spiritual rebirth sounds odd and impossible. He is not far off.

 

Jesus first pointed to the reality that we must have a spirit change to be born again. New birth results in a new creation, a new nature. So how do we do that? Jesus’ answer to that is spiritual birth comes from God and God alone. This is not something we accomplish. Your work will never lead you to a new spirit. You cannot purify your own heart. But God can and does.

 

The Shadow of the Cross

 

As mentioned earlier, John wove the shadow of the cross in this story. And to this point, you may be wondering where it is. Jesus then shifts the conversation to a story from the book of Numbers in which venomous snakes were attacking the people of Israel in the wilderness. A bronze snake was raised up and all that looked upon it were saved, quite literally from the poison.

 

And now you are thinking that the Old Testament story is all well and good, but it is not the cross. But let us look a bit closer. Jesus now connects the story of the bronze snake to Himself. The story from the Old Testament was a shadow and illusion to the cross. He will be raised up when He is crucified. All that looks to his death and resurrection will be saved. But whereas the story in Numbers was a shadow, Jesus is the substance. Looking at the bronze snake may have saved your life for a moment. Looking to Jesus will save you for eternity. It leads to new birth and being purified by the blood of Jesus.

 

Jesus said that through his death on the cross we can experience new birth because his death creates in us a new spirit. This is the way that Jesus chose to purify our very souls. So that now the old corrupt sinful nature is dead and we are given a new nature, one that desires God. This is a new birth. We are, as Paul said, a new creation in Christ.

 

Conclusion

 

So let us take a moment and reflect on the cross. As we think about what it means to be born again, let us never forget that new birth is entirely God’s strength and work. His death on the cross purifies us and brings us into a true fellowship with the Father. Being born again is looking to the cross, so that Jesus purifies our heart, birthing us into a new creation that longs to worship God rightly. We cannot have a new birth without the cross. Jesus did not hide that reality. He embraced it. So should we.

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All Christian History Church Development Digging Deeper into the Word

The Sign Language of John

Author: Rachel Kidd

Objective: To introduce the Gospel of John and understand its major themes and purposes.

The Gospel of John is the favorite gospel of millions of people because of how God has used it to bring them to faith in Jesus and to show them who He really is. It is unique in many ways; its purposes, its literary style, and its content are different from those in the other gospels.

Literary Style and Codes

The Apostle John wrote in a specific style, a beautiful and inspired Hebrew language of signs. Breathed by the spirit, John wrote a message to the people of God in a sort of code in both the Gospel of John and in the book of Revelation. In order to understand that message, you need the key in order to break the code.

1. Uniqueness

The Gospel of John is unique in that it was written approximately 60 years after the first three Gospels. The book is also made up of 90% original content, diverging from the content covered in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

2. Purpose

There is an idea that comes from Paul’s words in 2 Timothy, that scripture is addressed to the believer. That its purpose is to perfect and mold Christians to become more Christ-like.

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 

God wants us to be prepared, to be equipped to be good servants. The book of John contains quite a bit of these teachings that would prepare good and faithful servants of Christ.

However, the Gospel of John also serves another purpose; to present the Gospel, the Good News to the unbeliever. John records signs, miraculous evidence that proves that Jesus was and is the Messiah, the savior of the world.

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. –John 20:30-31

John presents a compelling record of Jesus’ ministry that proves to all readers that Jesus was and is who He says He is; the Son of God, the Messiah.

3. Sign Language, a Deeper Meaning

The Gospel of John is written on two different levels, one which a child just learning to read can understand, and another more complex and symbolic.

On the surface, the language reads simple and is easy to understand. He uses more one-syllable words than any other Gospel writer.

While it appears to be simple, John uses complex allegory to delve into the complexities of faith.

4. A Systematic Argument

Unlike the other Gospels that simply recount the life of Jesus, John presents a cohesive and systematic argument. He is proving that Jesus is the Son of God with a very clear through line that you can trace from start to finish.

Now that you have the code, how should we approach the book of John? As you read, ask yourself these questions to help you understand the deeper meaning of John’s rich language.

1.      Who is Jesus?

2.    What is faith?

3.    What is life? (What is eternal life?)

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a revelation as you read the Gospel of John, to help you see Jesus for who He is.

The Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. –John 1:1-2

John tells us that Jesus is the word of God. A word is a vehicle of thought, a way to communicate. As John says in the first verses, Jesus was the expression of God’s thoughts, the manifestation of His thoughts to humanity. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. –John 1:14 

God wanted us to experience Jesus, to see him and know him in the flesh. So He sent Jesus to earth, becoming flesh and bone, to show great love in the most tangible of ways. 

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. —John 1:12 

John also tells us that while His own people, the Jews, rejected Jesus, He offers eternal life to those who believe. He calls them children of God, who have been born of God, or of Spirit. Those who believe and follow Jesus are born again and given the birth right of children of God.

John the Baptist

John presents the case of John the Baptist and his relationship with Jesus as further evidence of His identity as the Messiah. Most importantly, we see the baptism of Jesus and how John the Baptist continually pointed to Christ.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” –John 1:19-20

John tells us that when John the Baptist was questioned by the Jewish council, he adamantly denied being the Messiah himself, like many of his followers believed he was. Instead, he continually redirected them to Jesus.

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. –John 26-27 

John’s unique style presents a compelling case for Jesus, written in a deceptively simple style that is layered with deeper meaning. In this Gospel, we see illustrations of who Jesus is, the light of the world, the Son of God, and a beautiful story of faith and eternal life found in Him.