How Will You Respond To Jesus?

Although most nativity scenes show the wise men visiting Jesus alongside the shepherds the night He was born, in reality the Magi showed up much later. 

They came first to Israel’s capital city—Jerusalem—and went to the man who currently bore the title King of the Jews—Herod—with an odd question, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We’ve come to worship Him.”

The call to come to worship the Christ has always stirred different responses in people’s hearts. But I have noticed that the responses today aren’t any different than they were over 2000 years ago at Christ’s first Advent. 

Notice these four responses in the Gospel of Matthew:

  1. King Herodwhen King Herod heard this he was disturbed.

The word disturbed means an inward commotion, someone robbed of any calmness; someone who has become restless and agitated. 

King Herod wasn’t all that different from a lot of people today who have their personal lives organized according to their own plans. They have everything figured out. They are masters of their own fate. They know how everything is supposed to work. They are god of their own world. 

But inside it’s a different story. They may not acknowledge it to anyone else, but they are uneasy. King Herod was political, not religious. He knew how to play the games with the right Jewish leaders and Roman politicians to get and keep his throne. So when he hears, “Where is He who is born KING OF THE JEWS?” you can understand why he instantly becomes so agitated! He feels like his well-ordered world and best-laid plans are about to crash in on him! 

  1. All JerusalemKing Herod…was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 

The people of Jerusalem had a love-hate relationship with King Herod. If you were on his side, he could be quite generous with his gifts and favorable with his influence. But if you were against him, he could be incredibly cruel (just take a look at verse 16!). 

So when Herod got upset, you can imagine why the citizens of Jerusalem were as well. They all longed for the Messiah—the Christ—to come and set them free, but in the meantime they were trying to keep their options open. They wanted the Messiah, if they could have Him, but they didn’t want to abandon Herod yet, just in case the Messiah couldn’t follow through.  

  1. Religious leadersHerod…called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law. 

Of all the people looking for the Christ, you would think the chief priests and teachers of the law would be the most excited! When Herod asked them for the birthplace of the Messiah, they immediately knew the answer, but after they delivered this information to King Herod they aren’t mentioned again in this narrative. Bethlehem was only 6 miles away, but they didn’t do a single thing! The Messiah being born in such a lowly manner didn’t fit the image they had concocted in their minds. Later on, Jesus would challenge them on this (see John 5:38-40). 

  1. MagiMagi from the east came to Jerusalem. 

Whereas the Jewish religious leaders were only 6 miles away, the Magi that came from the east might have been anywhere from 400-800 miles away. They left the comforts of their home to travel perhaps as long as 4 months. But, Oh! the journey was so worth the effort! They got to see the Christ with their very own eyes! We read that they were overjoyed, and that they bowed down and worshiped Him and opened their treasures. 

What’s your idea about Jesus? 

  • King Herod wanted a Savior that would enable him to continue to run his own life, but he didn’t want a King that would call the shots. 
  • The people of Jerusalem wanted access to God’s power, but they didn’t want to give their full allegiance to Jesus. 
  • The religious leaders wanted Jesus to fit their mold, but they didn’t want to have to change anything about their own lives. 
  • Only the Magi accepted Jesus as both Savior and King, willingly laying everything at His feet. 

What about you? What’s your idea about Jesus? He isn’t just a Baby in a manger; He’s also King and Judge and Ruler and Lord. When you hear the call to come worship Him, what will your response be? 

Poetry Saturday—Exhortation To Prayer

William CowperWhat various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy-seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?

Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they fail’d,
That moment Amalek prevail’d.

Have you no words? Ah! think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To Heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
“Hear what the Lord has done for me.” —William Cowper

 

A Leader’s Broken Heart

My heart will cry out for Moab … Therefore my heart shall resound like a harp for Moab, and my inner being for Kir Heres (Isaiah 15:5; 16:11). 

Judgment from God falls on Israel’s enemy and Moab is inconsolable (Isaiah 15:2-4, 5-9; 16:7-8, 10). And yet Isaiah weeps for them!

No gloating.

No “I told you so.”

No smug self-righteousness.

A mark of a godly leader is one whose heart is broken by what breaks God’s heart.

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).

Remember—there, but for the grace of God, go I. 

It is actually God’s mercy that His throne is established and judgment can bring an end to the suffering of punishment (Isaiah 16:5). But in the meantime, we should rescue those careening toward God’s punishment, watering our testimony with our tears.

This is part 27 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Going Into The Heavy Presence Of God

“The King of glory” is a phrase that’s only used five times in the Bible, and all five times are packed into just four verses of Psalm 24. In this psalm, David lets us know who can enter into this awesome, heavy presence of the King of Glory. 

Why do I say “heavy”? The definition of the Hebrew word for glory always refers to a heaviness. There is something majestically, awesomely heavy about going before the All-Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Holy, All-Knowing, Absolutely Perfect God. Can any mere mortal enter into this presence? 

In an earlier psalm, David said, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). But in this psalm, David asks, “Who can ascend Your holy hill? Who can come into Your presence?” (Psalm 24:3). 

He answers the question with these words: the upright, the one with clean hands and a pure heart (he expands this list even more in Psalm 15), then he calls on us to Selah—pause and weigh this as if on a scale. David is asking, “Do you really want to enter into the weighty presence of the King of Glory?” 

If you do, something needs to happen first. David calls his generation (and our generation) the generation of Jacob. You can read the story of Jacob’s life beginning in Genesis 27. Jacob was a pragmatic man. If he could get away with something, he did. He only looked out for his own interests. He deceived, he connived, he bribed, he calculated his odds—he did what he had to so that he could advance himself. He didn’t realize God’s weight. He saw God only through a scarcity-mindset that gave God limits. He thought there was only a limited supply, and if somebody else was getting a blessing, then that meant there was less for him to get.

Then Jacob encountered God and discovered that he couldn’t do a thing against this weighty King of Glory. When he finally submitted to God, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob—the self-sufficient man—would never be allowed to enter the doors into God’s heavy glory. But Israel—the submitted man—may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy presence. Jacob means deceitful; Israel means the man without any deceit. 

For the rest of his life, Israel walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder that he simply wasn’t the man he was before he wrestled with God.

  • Jacob could only obtain what he could finagle; Israel is the recipient of all God’s blessings. 
  • Jacob could only keep his gains for this life; Israel got God’s blessings for eternity. 
  • Jacob might be vindicated by men; Israel is definitely and completely vindicated by God. 
  • Jacob couldn’t enter the presence of the King of Glory; Israel was welcomed as a prince into God’s presence.

Here’s the challenge I would give you… Use either Psalm 15 or Psalm 24:3-4 and let the Holy Spirit wrestle with you. Is there anything that’s holding you back from going through those doors into the weighty presence of the King of glory? If there is, confess it, repent from it, and even limp away from it (if you have to) so that you don’t miss out on God’s eternal blessings. 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

5 Quotes From “Light And Truth—The Old Testament”

I like to think of Horatius Bonar as a tour guide as I read through the Bible, pointing out themes and insights I might have otherwise missed. Check out my full review of Light and Truth—Old Testament by clicking here. 

The elders [1 Chronicles 21:16]. They acknowledge the stroke and the sin: ‘It is the Lord.’ They clothe themselves in sackcloth, they fall upon their faces. So far as we know, they had not shared David’s sin, yet they at once place themselves by his side in confession and humiliation. David had sinned (v. 8), Israel had sinned (2 Samuel 24:1). They identify themselves with both. It is thus that we should take up a ruler’s sin, or a brother’s sin, or a nation’s sin; not blazoning it abroad in private gossip, or in the newspapers, but taking it on ourselves, and carrying it to God.” 

“We do great injustice to the Old Testament saints and to their privileges, and no less so to the God who made them what they were, when we conceive of them as possessing an imperfect justification, or an imperfect and uncertain knowledge of their justification. Paul’s declaration was explicit on this point: ‘I know Whom I have believed’; and yet it was not a jot more explicit than that of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’ When Paul said, ‘It is God that justifies, who is he that condemns?’ he was only speaking what Job had spoken in ages before: ‘I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me?’” [Job 13:18-19]

“Everything in God’s character, has by the Cross of Christ been turned into a reason for trusting Him. The more man knows of Him the more he trusts. Trust is the natural and inseparable response of the soul to the divine revelation of the character of God. It is not what man sees in himself, of his good deeds or good feelings, of his graces, or his repentance, or his regeneration, or his faith; but what he sees in God, that calls out confidence.” 

“It is with no distant, unheeding God that we have to do; but with that God who fixes the bounds of our habitation, who counts our hairs, who feeds the ravens, notes a sparrow’s death, clothes the lilies of the field. He is nearer to us than the nearest earthly object or being; more closely in contact with us than we are with one another.” 

“We disjoined God from creation, and so see nothing in it of divine life and power. … The separation of God from His works is one of the awful features of human unbelief. How much more of Him should we know, were we to interpret His works aright. … These skies of His are not bent over us in beauty without a meaning. These seas of His do not roll for nothing. These flowers of His are not fragrant and fair for nothing. They do not say to us, ‘God is your enemy, He hates you’; but ‘God is your friend, He pities you, yearns over you, wishes to make you happy.’ How full a gospel does creation to preach to us, according to its kind and measure!”

Both Immovable And Flexible

The vision of Isaiah…in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1). 

Israel (the 10 northern tribes) was in the final stages of collapse, with kings only serving short spans, idolatry running rampant, and enemies closing in on every side. Isaiah boldly proclaimed that Judah was on the same path unless she repented and turned wholly to God.

Isaiah had the same message for four kings:

  • Uzziah—who started off well, but fell away from God
  • Jotham—who faithfully served God
  • Ahaz—who never wanted to serve God
  • Hezekiah—who led a powerful revival in the return to worshiping God alone

Isaiah’s message never waivers. Through 66 chapters, 4 monarchs, and 60 years of ministry, Isaiah never compromises, waters down, nor alters the message God has given him.

But he does use different methods to deliver God’s consistent message—sometimes he thunders, sometimes he weeps, sometimes he uses illustrated messages, sometimes he speaks plainly, and sometimes he uses word pictures.

A mark of a godly leader is one who is both immovable and flexible.

Immovable on God’s principles; flexible on his delivery.

Can that be said of you and me?

This is part 21 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

A Leader’s Appropriate Anger

…he became very angry (1 Samuel 11:6).

Sometimes we think of godly leaders as always being cool, calm, and collected. But to remain calm when the situation calls for a vigorous response is unbecoming of the title of “godly” leader, and may even be a sin.

The Israelite city of Jabesh-Gilead had been surrounded by the forces of King Nahash. His terms of surrender to these Israelites was unduly harsh: “I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel! (v. 2).

When this message got to King Saul, “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.” He sent messengers to all of Israel demanding all the able-bodied men to come out to join his army in counter-attacking King Nahash.

Notice that what prompted Saul’s anger was God’s Spirit coming upon him. Since Israel was about to be disgraced, Saul had to act! Also notice this: “And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one” (v. 7).

The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is apathy. God expresses strong emotions without sinning. When the Spirit of God made Saul angry at the oppression and potential disgrace of His people, Saul acted. To not act—to shrug his shoulders in apathy and say, “That’s not my problem”—would have been a sin.

Sometimes Christians want to suppress a strong feeling of hate or anger. But when God hates something or is angry at something, we would do well to pay attention to that and feel and act as God would have us act. The Bible tells us not to sin in our anger, but it never tells us not to be angry. 

Anything that is keeping someone from God’s love or God’s presence should arouse our righteous anger to do righteous things.

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows the right things to hate.

This is part 19 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

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