I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life…

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Our Verse of the Day provides another “I AM” claim of Jesus.  And, perhaps, this one is the most controversial for our culture given the “exclusive” content and tone – Jesus IS the only path to the one true God!  This same TRUTH is reflected in all of the other I AM statements we have studied the past few days. In our world, there continues to be division among people of different religions and faiths.  Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and the myriad of other belief systems all claim to be enlightened and serve to connect individuals with their God or gods.  And this division is not to be unexpected. Consider what Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 10:34-39 (NIV)

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Citing Micah 7:6) 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Luke 12:51-53 (NIV)

51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

What is the division that Jesus came to accomplish?  Is it not the separation between light and darkness … truth and falsehood … believer and unbeliever … sheep and goats? In our Verse of the Day, Jesus declared exclusivity! Read it again. Jesus claimed, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And that is the line drawn in the sand!  A person either places their faith in Jesus and the atonement He offered on their behalf, or they have rejected the will of the Father.  Jesus said that He is the only way to receive reconciliation with the Father … to receive salvation.  As Peter preached, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. (Citing Psalm 118:22) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:11-12)

This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus and His coming into the world.  This is why we share the Good News … the Gospel of Christ Jesus … that He was SENT by the Father.  This is also why Christians are maligned because of their perceived “narrow-minded” conviction.  Christians are not seen as being inclusive of other beliefs and faiths … but neither was Jesus! Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) He told Phillip and the disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Cf. John 14:9) And, “If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. (Cf. John 15:24) No, according to Jesus, a person cannot enter into fellowship with God the Father except through Him … through the mediation of the New Covenant in His blood as a covering of atonement for our transgressions and sin.  The holiness of God requires it. And I believe Jesus’ resurrection confirms the veracity of His exclusive claim; and the Holy Spirit affirms it as well. (Cf. John 15:26)

So, what does this mean? What is the application?  Well, believers are in the world for the purpose of testifying the truth and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is clear we are commissioned and empowered as believers to do so. But we are to be wise in the way we act toward unbelievers; making the most of every opportunity … letting our conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone. (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6) Yes, we are to speak the truth in love … so as to grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Cf. Ephesian 4:15) At the end of the day, all we can do is share the truth with others.  Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Cf. Romans 10:17) And this will continue to be a tremendous spiritual battle because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4)

Even though Jesus said that He came to bring division … to separate believers from unbelievers … He did teach and does expect unity among believers. Consider what Jesus prayed:

John 17:14-23 (NIV)

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is Truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Our unity, our love for one another as we have been loved, is essential to the message we proclaim to the world.  The purpose is for the world to know that God the Father sent Jesus His Son into the world … to rescue, redeem, reconcile, restore, and resurrect the souls of people. He came to give us the light of life … true life … abundant life … eternal life.  And so, I pray we will be faithful stewards of His Word and gift of faith through grace.  I pray that we will be ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. Yes, let us implore others on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Words of My Mouth…

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

As I read our Verse of the Day, the first thought I had was: “What words? What meditation?” So, I stopped to read the entire Psalm and find out.  I have reprinted it here for you:

Psalm 19 (NIV)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 2 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wow! King David had a remarkable awareness of God … an intimate relationship with Him. He understood God as the loving Creator of all things … the entire universe and all of its inner workings, the stars and galaxies, the planets, and all that fill them. David understood His inconceivable power and divine being and that God is worthy of reverence and worship from all created things. He even meditates here that the heavens testify of God’s being and His glory. Then David moves to recognition of God’s Word. Words … speech … languages are nothing more than the articulation of thoughts … of concepts. They can be descriptive or definitive. But words (and sounds) are connected to the ideas intended to be communicated and shared between living creatures. In this context, the Word of God is the articulation (revelation) of God’s thoughts and of His will. David declares the thoughts of God are perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, radiant, joy giving, wisdom instilling, righteous, pure, highly valuable, and eternal. In keeping (observing and obeying) the Word of God, we receive the reward of knowing Him in an intimate way. We discover the passion of His thoughts toward us and His sovereign will for us. We conceive and experience the “heart” of God … full of love (agape) for us – creatures made in His own image. I cannot think of any greater reward than His gift of everlasting life and being surrounded by His presence and glory.

So, what are the meditations of your heart today? What thoughts have you or will you share with God today? David gave us an awesome example that I believe God found “pleasing” to Him. As for me, my thoughts drifted to this verse in Isaiah as I began to write:

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

1 Corinthians 2:6-14 (NIV)

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”the things God has prepared for those who love Him10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:18-30 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. 30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Lord God, may it be that only your words become the words of my mouth. May it be that the meditation of my heart is upon you and you alone.  May I see the wisdom of your Word … may it be my only guide … a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path. (Cf. Psalm 119:115) This is the meditation and desire of my heart, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. There is no one like you.  There is none besides you. You alone are Creator. You alone are Savior. You have blessed my soul with thoughts too deep for me; and yet, my soul rests in you. Indeed, those who know your Name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation! Yes, I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Is God Testing You?

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

I want to spend some time on our Verse of the Day because it resonated so deeply with me. I believe the most important thought or concept that God wants us to embrace is His Being. He IS! God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Cf. Exodus 3:14) He is the self-existent One … and that is difficult to wrap our finite minds around. Yet the God who created all things … who created us in His image … did so with intent. His purpose was to have fellowship with His creation…. And I believe that He has communicated His will for that fellowship to be expressed in relational terms – according to the word He spoke to Moses. So, let’s put our verse into context so that we can understand God’s passion for us to truly know Him:

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (NIV)

1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

If you read the rest of Deuteronomy 13, you will continue to sense the great concern God has for us to know Him … the only true God. We are to worship Him and Him alone … not follow after anyone or anything besides Him. This exhortation from Moses is prominent throughout His inscription of God’s word to us:

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (NIV)

32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other. 36 From heaven He made you hear His voice to discipline you. On earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from out of the fire. 37 Because He loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, He brought you out of Egypt by His Presence and His great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. 39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.40 Keep His decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.

King Solomon, when he had finished building the temple and prepared the people for its dedication, testified to the faithfulness of the one true God toward His people and how devoted worship of Him is the proper relational response:

1 Kings 8:54-61 (NIV)

54 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: 56 “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors; may He never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands, decrees and laws He gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may uphold the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by His decrees and obey His commands, as at this time.”

The Prophet Isaiah captured this same theme in his prophetic writings as well. Isaiah Chapter 45 hones in on the uniqueness of God as creator … who declares: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” This same God reaches out to us … reveals Himself to us … calls us to believe in Him:

Isaiah 45:18-19; 22-23 (NIV)

18 For this is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—
He says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. 19 I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.”

So why is knowing the “true God” important for us? Well, a deep concern of Paul and the Apostles, is that people will fall into apostasy … abandon faith in the one true God … and forsake His covenant of love. The loss of fellowship with the Father was the very reason Jesus Christ was sent into the world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17) Yet, this good news, and its power to redeem people, has been subverted. And it continues even today in both subtle and overt ways:

1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV)

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

2 Peter 2:1-2 (NIV)

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

1 John 4:2-3 (NIV)

2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Jude 1:3-4 (NIV)

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

So why has God allowed deception to continue since Adam and Eve? Why are we warned to recognize it and to resist it? I think the answer is found in the context of our verse: “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The issue is whether we truly desire to follow God … whether we want to believe the Truth in our own hearts. The Apostle John offered this sobering insight into the human heart: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (Cf. John 3:19-20)

So, I want to encourage us to be aware of false teachers, deceiving spirits, and to acknowledge the test we have been presented. Jesus Christ has revealed the Father to us. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (Cf. John 14:6) Because of His great mercy, we have been shown these things so that we might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other. And as Moses reminds us: “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him … so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” This is my prayer for us all … to pass the test! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!