The Gift At Work In Us

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I said, “You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do.” 

That “IF” is a big one. 

I’ll be the first one to admit that I struggle with consistency in this! But before we all get frustrated, throw up our hands and say, “This is so hard! Why even try?” I’ve got a word of encouragement for you: God’s Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected. 

In order to explain this, I need to go back in time. In fact, I need to go all the way back to when Time began. The opening words of the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God the Father, the Nicene Creed says, is “the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

But God the Son is involved in Creation, as is God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:2). Again, the Nicene Creed quotes John 1 about Jesus, “Through Him all things were made,” and the Creed also says the Holy Spirit is “the Giver of life.” 

So the Father created everything through His Word and by His Spirit. 

All of the Godhead is also involved in our salvation too. The Father loved us and gave us His Son. Jesus paid the price for our atonement and justified us with the Father. And the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father through the Son as He sanctifies us. 

The reason I said the Gift in us is both perfect and being perfected is because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” nothing was left to be done: it is a perfect Gift, fully paid for. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. … [But] by one sacrifice He [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:1, 14). 

Do you see those verb tenses? Jesus made our atonement perfect, but we are now being made holy by the Holy Spirit. 

The process of sanctification (or as I like to remember it: “saint-ification”) isn’t a one-and-done work. It’s an ongoing work. The Father wants us to remain IN Jesus and bear fruit, so the Holy Spirit remains IN us to bring out that fruitfulness (see John 14:16-17, 20; John 15:1-7). 

This is often an uncomfortable work. 

When I serve as a coach or a consultant, I tell people up front, “There is going to be a time that you won’t like me very much because I’m going to keep uncovering things that you’ve overlooked. It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement. But if you will stick with me, I promise you that there will be a noticeable improvement on the other side of this uncomfortableness.” 

God disciplines those He loves. He wants His Son’s Gift to be seen by the world, so the Spirit must keep saint-ifying us. He will continue to hover over us, never letting us get complacent, vivifying us so that more and more of Jesus is increasingly seen in our lives. 

It’s going to get uncomfortable before we see improvement! 

So don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t let satan turn the Holy Spirit’s conviction into his condemnation. 

Instead, listen to this prayer from the apostle Paul and make it your own prayer—

For this reason we…have not ceased to pray and make special request for you, asking that you may be filled with the full, deep, and clear knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom—in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God, and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things. 

That you may walk, live, and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition.

We pray that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance, and forbearance with joy, giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints—God’s holy people—in the Light. (Colossians 1:9-12 AMP) 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s gift to the world in everything you say and do. The Gift in you has already been made perfect, and now the Holy Spirit is going to help you demonstrate this Gift more perfectly. Your fruitfulness is being made holy through His loving work in you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find a list of all of the messages here. 

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Sheepish Shepherds

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” Truly there is a special bond when we find someone who “gets” us—someone who not only knows what we’re feeling, but how to help us too. 

Jesus is described as One who went through all of the human suffering we will ever have to go through (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18). So no matter what you’re going through, Jesus “gets” you. He’s been through it and He knows exactly what you’re feeling and what help you need. 

In fact, He’s even given us the Holy Spirit to turn our sighs and groans into a beautiful prayer that the Shepherd of our souls understands. 

This is wonderful news for all of us! But isn’t it also comforting when we have a human companion that “gets” us too? One that will come alongside us through the challenging and painful times to help us? 

In His love for His sheep, Jesus has given us under-shepherds. These are sheep that He has called and equipped to care for His flock. He did this with David—

He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:70-72) 

David never forgot that his source of strength was the Chief Shepherd, and he penned a beautiful psalm of praise and reliance on Him (Psalm 23). David also made it a priority to point the sheep under his care to the Chief Shepherd. He prayed:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:7-9) 

David “got” the needs of the sheep and with skill and integrity he both shepherded them as he was strengthened by the Chief Shepherd, and he entrusted them into the care of the Chief Shepherd. 

In the foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership, Dick Brogden wrote, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants.” 

If you have been called by the Chief Shepherd to be an under-shepherd, make sure you remain a sheepish shepherd—one that “gets” his or her sheep. Don’t be distant from the flock, but stay close by them in the pasture so that you can care for them, pray for them, and lead them to the Chief Shepherd. 

I adapted David’s beautiful 23rd Psalm into a prayer that I hope all under-shepherds will use to gain the strength they need for the work to which the Chief Shepherd has called them—

Because You are my Chief Shepherd, I lack nothing that is needed to care for the sheep You have placed under my care. 

Just as You provide food for me in green pastures, and quiet waters for my thirst, I am equipped to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. 

You continually refresh my soul, so I can offer refreshing hospitality to those who have been beat up along life’s journey. 

You guide me along the right paths for Your name’s sake, so I can show others the path into Your presence. 

Even when I walk through the darkest valleys, I never fear because You are with me; You comfort me and provide all that I need so that I can care for the sick, the downhearted, and the weary without ever lapsing into my own pity party. 

You continually prepare a table before me, even when I’m in the midst of enemies. You have anointed my head with oil and caused my cup of blessing to overflow, so I have more than enough to share with others. 

I am secure that Your goodness and Your love will follow me all the days of my life, so I am equipped to lead others to the place where they too will dwell in Your house forever. 

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New Inside

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

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We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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The Gift Promised

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Have you ever seen kids tearing into a Christmas present and then being disappointed that what they got wasn’t what they wanted? They may say something like, “This isn’t what I put on my wish list!” 

From the response of the religious leaders in the Gospels, it appears that the gift of Jesus on that original “Christmas morning” was very similar. It’s almost like they were saying, “This isn’t the type of Messiah we wanted!” They wanted someone to give them freedom from the Romans, but their Heavenly Father wanted them to have something far bigger and greater: Eternal freedom from the penalty of sin. 

The first humans had the joy of being innocent in God’s presence, where they had everything they needed. But satan got Adam and Eve to focus on something they wanted, and that sin of disobedience brought an immediate separation. They now feared the nearness of God. 

There were immediate and painful consequences for their sin, but God wanted the heaviest of penalties to fall on Himself. To foreshadow this, God sacrificed an innocent animal to cover their nakedness, showing us what the gift of Jesus would do for us (Genesis 3:1-21). 

In The Holy War, John Bunyan tells the story of the town of Mansoul enslaved to Diabolus. The crafty serpent plays on their fears by reminding them how terrible it would be if they allowed Holy God to come near them while they were in their sinful state: 

“‘Gentlemen,’ quoth he, ‘and my faithful subjects, if it is true that this summoner hath said concerning the greatness of their King, by His terror you will always be kept in bondage, and so be made to sneak. Yea, how can you now, though He is at a distance, endure to think of such a Mighty One? And if not to think of Him while at a distance, how can you endure to be in His presence?’” 

Diabolus even tried to make their slavery to sin look like freedom: “I, your prince, am familiar with you, and you may play with me as you would with a grasshopper. Consider, therefore, what is for your profit, and remember the immunities that I have granted you.’”  

As John Piper reminds us, “Christmas is for freedom.” Indeed, that’s just what we see on the first “Christmas morning” in words like salvation, no fear, and great joy (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11). 

Turning again to The Holy War, here’s what the Father said to His Son: “Wherefore the King called to Him Emmanuel, His Son, who said, ‘Here am I, My Father.’ Then said the King, ‘Thou knowest, as I do Myself, the condition of the town of Mansoul, and what We have purposed, and what Thou hast done to redeem it. Come now, therefore, My Son, and prepare Thyself.’”  

Immanuel (or the Romanized spelling Emmanuel) is the One who removes the separation caused by our sin, and rejoins us to God. That prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “El” means God. The root word means God’s kinsmen. Immanuel comes to repair what was severed by taking sin’s penalty on Himself, and allowing us to once again enjoy the closeness of kinship with our Heavenly Father (Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4-7). 

When the people saw this Gift on Christmas morning, they said, “This isn’t what we wanted! We wanted a rich, powerful, conquering King. One who would send the Romans running in fear!” As a result, very few unwrapped this Heavenly Gift. But God reminded them, “That may be what you wanted, but I have given what you need. I want you to have not just temporary freedom from the Romans, but eternal freedom from your sin so that you can be forever in My presence!” 

This is what Jesus rejoiced to do for us with the Gift of His life, death, and resurrection. One more passage from The Holy War tells us, “Then said the King’s Son, ‘Thy law is within My heart: I delight to do Thy will. This is the day that I have longed for, and the work that I have waited for all this while. … I will go and will deliver from Diabolus, and from his power, Thy perishing town of Mansoul. My heart has been often pained within Me for the miserable town of Mansoul; but now it is rejoiced, but now it is glad.’” (The timing for the Incarnation of Jesus and even these words of Immanuel Himself are found in Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:5-7). 

God’s love is too great to be limited to just meeting our wants because in our immaturity and sinfulness we don’t know what we really need—but He does. So His love sent Immanuel to us. 

The Gift was given to us at Christmas, but in our immaturity and shortsightedness, we didn’t realize the full impact of this Gift until Jesus rose victoriously from the grave! Now by placing our faith in His completed work, we can be rejoined to God and live in unshakable hope of an eternity with Him! 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, please check out the links I’ve shared here.

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Who Can Claim God’s Promises?

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It’s a bit scary to me to realize how many people have a scarcity mindset. As a result, far too many people are trying to figure out how to get their piece of the pie, but they don’t really want others to have their piece too. This should never be the mindset of a Christian! Our God has an unlimited supply, so we should be the most generous and abundance-minded people. 

Sadly, sometimes I still encounter Christians who think that only some people can claim some of God’s promises. 

This is part 5 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #5—Old Testament promises are for the Jews, New Testament promises are for the Christians. Is that in the Bible? No! 

First of all, this assumes a dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, it reveals a lack of understanding of what Jesus has done for everyone who places their faith in Him. 

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 AMP). 

Plato told a story about people chained in a cave in such a way that they could only see the shadows on the wall. He said that if the chains were unlocked, some would turn toward the opening of the cave, see the solid figures that had been creating the shadows, and move out of the cave. Plato also said that some would see the reality and choose to stay trapped in the cave—they would prefer shadows over reality. 

Both John and the writer of Hebrews describe how Jesus came as the incarnate Reality of God. Jesus reveals that He is the Substance behind all of the shadows of worship in the First Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:1-14). 

Look at the worship practices of the tabernacle, specifically the practices on the Day of Atonement. Two goats or lambs were brought into the outer court on that day—one had all of the sins of the people transferred to it and was sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat, and the other was sacrificed so its blood could make atonement for the sins of the people. The high priest would take this blood past the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and would sprinkle it on the atonement cover (also called the mercyseat) of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

John said that Jesus came to make His dwelling among humans. The word John uses for “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle.” Jesus Himself became not only our High Priest, but every single item the earthly high priest used on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is the…

  • scapegoat—Leviticus 16:20-22; John 1:29 
  • sacrificial lamb—Leviticus 16:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • curtain in front of the Holy of Holies—Hebrews 10:22 
  • mercyseat—Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 4:6, 5:9; Hebrews 4:16

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.)

By His life, death, and resurrection the shadows became Substance through Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this, but especially note verse 12: “But when this High Priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” 

Look again at the picture of the tabernacle and note that there are no chairs. That was because the earthly priest’s work was never done. But our fully human, fully divine High Priest completed everything that needed to be done, so He could sit down. 

This High Priest not only sits down in God’s presence, but He takes us with Him into the Holy of Holies: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)! 

So now ALL God’s promises are for ALL who are in Jesus! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

I like how the Personalize Promise Bible turns that verse into this prayer: “My heavenly Father is faithful to His every Word. No matter how many promises He has made, in Jesus, He makes good on every one. I have God’s Word; therefore, I have God’s will. Every time that I pray in line with His Word, the answer is guaranteed.” 

My friend, if you have placed your faith in the completed work of Jesus, then EVERY promise in the Bible is a promise you can claim for your life. Hallelujah! What an amazing thing God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the topics we have covered in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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The Approachable Jesus

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A friend of mine who was in a position of leadership in the Assemblies of God used to joke with people, “Since you’re bowing and walking backwards out of my office, would you like to kiss my ring too?” There are some people that we feel are in a special class so that we have to approach them differently. 

If we feel that way about certain people, what might we be thinking when we consider approaching the supreme, awesome, preeminent, incomparable Jesus?! It’s very likely that we could feel Him to be unapproachable, as though we aren’t worthy of His attention. 

But when Jesus Himself told us, “When [not ‘if’] you pray,” He is assuming that we will pray. And then He adds this amazing thought: “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13)! 

Jesus loves to help us. He died a cruel death on the Cross so that He could help us! Jesus ties our trusting prayer with His willingness to serve us (Luke 12:22-37). Note this last line from our approachable Savior: 

It will be good for those servants whose Master finds them watching when He comes. Truly I tell you, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. (v. 37) 

Jesus serves us?! What an amazing thought! But does this make Jesus somehow less majestic? I like what John Piper has to say about this: “Does this belittle the risen Christ—to say that He was and is and will ever be the servant of His people? It would, if ‘servant’ meant ‘one who takes orders,’ or if we thought we were His masters. Yes, that would dishonor Him. But it does not dishonor Him to say that we are weak and need His help.” 

How do we not treat Jesus as an order-taking servant? First, we have to remember that approachable doesn’t mean something we do casually. I think this is discovered in our attitude—it’s the difference between being childlike and being childish. 

The childlike attitude is one of wonder and trust. One that calls God, “Daddy.” One that is lovingly dependent on Him. One that says, “I don’t understand what I’m going through right now, but I trust Your wisdom.” 

The childish attitude is one who treats majestic things flippantly. Perhaps the childish one talks about God as “the Big Guy upstairs.” Or one who remains selfishly independent, or who says, “Do it my way—now!”

The childlike attitude glorifies Jesus as our approachable Servant Savior. 

The childlike attitude also recognizes that there are more dimensions of the majesty of God to be discovered in an abiding relationship with Jesus. Our approachable Savior wants us to come to Him, to call to Him for help, and to know Him more intimately (Jeremiah 29:13-14; Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:16; 10:19, 22). 

Prayer not only unlocks deeper, proper intimacy with Jesus, but it conforms our heart more and more to His heart. As we are conformed to Him, we reflect His approachable glory to others (2 Corinthians 4:6, 3:18). 

We approach the awesome Jesus reverently in childlike faith. It’s in God’s presence that the Holy Spirit matures our faith so that we become glory-reflectors that point others to Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the eight messages in our series Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find the list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop [overseer], he desires a good work.” T.M. Moore commented on this verse—

“The Greek word for ‘bishop’ translates literally to ‘overseer.’ Overseers—pastors, elders, anyone in a leadership role in the congregation—is charged with watching over the souls of God’s people for good (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). While the primary duty of watching over the Lord’s flock falls on pastors and elders, all who serve with them function in a role of overseeing, that all the members of the congregation might benefit from the continuous care and shepherding of those who lead them.”

I am so grateful for T.M.’s endorsement of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter in which I expound more on this 1 Timothy verse, and talk about how shepherd leaders should be raising up more leaders around them.

Our church purchased a building to use as our new homebase for ministry in our city. I am super excited about the possibilities!

Tiny bacteria declare loudly the genius of the Creator. This new study on the ability of bacterium to protect its own DNA from mutations is fascinating!

Dan Reiland says, “Good character takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.” Dan shares 5 practices that build leadership character to last for a lifetime.

Amenhotep I was the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled from ca 1525-1504 BC during the time the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Using 3-D CT scans, Amenhotep has been unwrapped for the first time in over 3000 years!

How are you supposed to follow God when obedience feels impossible? John Piper explains in this post

The Preeminent Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There is only one Jesus, but He is presented to us in the Bible with many facets, and we get to pray in all of those facets of His name! 

One of the facets of Jesus is His preeminence. The dictionary defines preeminent as “above and before others; superior; surpassing.” 

The Bible uses the word preeminence to mean “holding the first place.” The apostle Paul uses this idea of Christ’s supremacy when He describes Him this way—

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN over all creation. For in Him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things have been created through Him and for Him. He is BEFORE ALL things, and in Him ALL things hold together. And He is the HEAD of the body, the church; He is the BEGINNING and the FIRSTBORN from among the dead, so that in EVERYTHING He might have the SUPREMACY. For God was pleased to have ALL His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:15-19, emphasis mine) 

Therefore God exalted Him to THE HIGHEST PLACE and gave Him the name that is above EVERY name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, emphasis mine) 

Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

When we began this series, I mentioned that there were some people who misuse the words of Jesus. Specifically the phrase where Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 15:16, 16:23). They have taken this as license to ask for things for their own comfort, or claiming that praying “in the name of Jesus” means that we never have to experience pain, poverty, or any setbacks. 

But preeminence ≠ prosperity! 

Prosperity wrongly says Christians will never have trouble, never experience poverty or lack, and can claim and obtain lavish things just by invoking “in the name of Jesus.” 

Preeminence correctly says that Christians may have trouble, or poverty, or even martyrdom, but that Christ’s preeminence gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Jesus didn’t pray to be removed from trials. The godly apostle Paul experienced ample trouble, and so did the heroes of faith (John 12:27-28; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Hebrews 11:35-38). Yet even in all of these troubles and pain and hardship, Christ’s preeminence prevails! 

As Paul said in Colossians 1, Jesus was the “firstborn from among the dead,” meaning that He is now preeminent even over death! Jesus said that His followers will—not “may”—experience persecution here, just as those heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 did, but that the rewards in eternity are beyond compare (see 1 Corinthians 15:55, 57-58; Matthew 5:11-12; Hebrews 11:39-40). 

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. One of the stanzas reminds us:

Though satan should buffet though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

Praying in the name of the preeminent Jesus does at least four things for us: 

  1. Gives us a surpassing victory—Romans 8:31-32, 37 
  2. Keeps us humble and God glorified—2 Corinthians 4:7
  3. Detaches us from earthly things that would take our eyes off of Jesus—Philippians 3:8
  4. Keeps us focused on Heaven—2 Corinthians 4:17

(check out all of the verses listed above by clicking here)

Let me say it again: Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

God’s best is not awaiting us here on earth, but it is our promised eternal reward for persevering to the end. It may seem tough at times, but our preeminent Savior walks with us every step of the way! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find links to all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Divine Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I was teaching a class for my team members, and at one of the breaks a new employee came up to me to say how much he was enjoying the day, and to tell me that he would like to do what I was doing. I asked him, “But do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” When I explained that I read about 10-12 books for this training time, and that it took me about 40 hours to prepare for our 4-hour class, he didn’t seem as interested. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the results. As Christians we need to remember these words from William Penn: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” 

The human Jesus understands and empathizes with our painful struggles, and the divine Jesus helps us endure through these painful struggles to get the rewards on the other side. 

What do we mean by divine? The dictionary simply defines it as things relating to God or gods, so we need to use some context to help us understand who this divine Jesus is. After all, the New Testament refers to both Jesus and Artemis as divine (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Acts 19:27). 

One way we can distinguish is by doing what the writer of Hebrews advised: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). We see that the so-called worshippers of Artemis were more interested in their own financial gain than they were her divinity (Acts 19:23-27). In contrast, the apostle Paul demonstrated a totally Jesus-focused lifestyle: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 

Paul was following Jesus, and called all Christians to do the same. He noted that Jesus gave up all of His divine privileges to become our human Jesus, but because of this obedience, God made the divinity of Jesus shine more gloriously than anything else in creation! Then Paul transitioned to a word specifically for Christians: 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13) 

In essence this is like Jesus saying, “I want you to have what I have, but you will have to do what I did to get it: That is, go through the painful struggles of life. But I will be right here with you every single step of the way!” 

The writer of Hebrews echoes this idea by reminding us that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and so are we. So he calls us to “not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He also reminds us that although the times of suffering are not pleasant, there is an unimaginable reward on the other side (Hebrews 2:9-11; 10:35-39; 12:1-11).

I especially like this conclusion: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The divine Jesus has made it possible for us to be rewarded as He was rewarded! His divine power leads to our divine nature. And His divine power helps us defeat the world’s weapons (2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 10:4) 

Jesus asks, “Do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” The power of the divine Jesus can help us be perfected, but we only get to this perfected place by suffering as He suffered. That’s why we need to know our human Jesus understands, empathizes, and helps. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the rewards. Our divine Savior helps us work out what God has worked in us. He helps us get the rewards! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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