Love One Another

Jesus on Earth was the epitome of Love. He showed Love to the unlovable. He viewed every person with whom He came into contact as having value, no matter who it was or what they had done. Love. What does that mean for us in 2019?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

Jesus gave this command to His disciples as they celebrated Passover in what Christians have come to call the “Last Supper”. It was here that He washed His disciples’ feet. It was here that He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was here that He began to explain to His disciples what was about to happen. Jesus is about to return to the Father, leaving his disciples to a call of ministry.

As I read the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Jesus’ love for humanity was unflappable. It was consistent. It was patient. Jesus approached people differently than we humans approach them. And, because of that, Jesus stood out; He was different.

Think about it. We tend to prejudge what a person might be like based on skin color, the clothes they wear, the neighborhood they live in, the car they drive, the career they chose… You get the point. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus offered His love to everyone, even those who rejected Him.

Jesus stood out from the world. By commanding (note: this was not a suggestion or a recommendation – it was a command) His disciples to love one another, Jesus knew that they would look different from the world. They would stand out. They would be Jesus’ representatives to the lost and fallen world that so desperately needs to know Him. This kind of Love is contagious!

What was Jesus’ purpose in giving this command? “By this everyone will know you are My disciples…” Boom. Friends, I am guilty as charged. Thank God that He forgives me through Jesus Christ. In response, I am committed to doing my best to obey this commandment, not just in my church but in my home, my office, behind the wheel – everywhere, all the time. “By this everyone will know you are My disciple…” What doors might this open for me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ? What doors might this open for you?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Treasure of God’s Word

I often refer to Scripture as “the treasure of God’s Word.” From Genesis through Revelation, God reveals Himself to us through different authors, writing styles and over a large span of time. It’s truly amazing. But the most important thing to remember about Scripture is it’s all about Jesus – every bit of it.

“Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:27

I would love to have been walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with these two followers of Jesus. I can only imagine what they were feeling and saying as they recounted the events of the past few days – Jesus’ trial, conviction, crucifixion, disappeared body and reports of a resurrection. I’m sure their minds were racing with confusion as they tried to sort this out. As they walk a stranger appears and asks them what they are talking about. Unbeknownst to them, the stranger is Jesus Himself. Perplexed, they ask Him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (24:18). Jesus asks, “what things?” to which they reply by describing Jesus – His powerful teachings, His death and reports of His resurrection. Jesus responds by chastising their lack of faith and proceeds to “…explain to the them things concerning Himself in the Scriptures.”

I am dismayed that many Christian churches rarely, if ever, include Old Testament Scripture in worship and teaching. I’ve heard many Christians say that the Old Testament is no longer relevant in these New Testament days. Oh, how wrong they are!

Let me ask you a question:

Would you buy tickets to a great play and skip Act 1, going straight to Act 2?

Of course you wouldn’t. That would make no sense at all! Without seeing Act 1, you will not understand what is happening in Act 2.

“Why is she doing that?”

“Why did he say that?”

“How did they get there?”

Have you ever sat next to this person at a play or a movie? I have, and, man, can they be annoying!?

The Old Testament is God’s Act 1. In it, He reveals His creative nature and His sovereignty over His creation. He gives us the Law and exposes us to our sinful nature. He tells us of the separation from Him that comes through sin. He reveals His plan to remedy that by sending the perfect Sacrifice, His Son, to take the punishment we deserve. The Old Testament shares the bad news we need to hear while assuring us that the Remedy is coming!

To fully understand God’s Act 2, the New Testament, it needs to be set up by Act 1. Read, studied and preached with the context of the Old Testament, the Gospel rings out loud and clear. To ignore the Old Testament is short-sighted at best, foolhardy at worst. I am convinced that the tendency towards ignoring the Old Testament in many churches today is a major reason we see an increase in lukewarm, watered-down Christianity.

All of Scripture – the entire book – is God’s redemptive story and worthy of our time and attention. This really began to resonate with me the first year I worked through a reading plan through the complete Bible. And, as I make my way through my third, God continues to expand my understanding. If you have never embarked on such a plan, I strongly encourage you to do so. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to start; today is as good a day as any. The YouVersion Bible App is free, and offers a plethora of reading plans from which to choose, including topical, seasonal, and full Bible plans. Give it a try – I double-dog dare you.

Final note: One of my favorite preachers, Alistair Begg, offered the analogy of a great play to explain why the entire Bible is worthy of study. To not credit him would be disingenuous on my part. If you’re into podcasts and good, solid Bible teaching, I encourage you to give Truth for Life a listen.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Marvelous Indeed!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The pastor of my youth opened every Easter Sunday service with this ancient declaration and response. This Truth and its acknowledgement is a succinct statement of what makes me tick.

“But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

Luke 24:12

Luke tells us, early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James gathered the spices they had prepared for the anointing of Jesus’ body. They headed to the tomb where He had been laid and discovered that the tomb was open and His body was gone. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds. Just as they stood there, “perplexed,” Luke tells us, two men appeared to them “in dazzling clothing” and declared the shocking news:

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)

The women, remembering Jesus’ words, went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples didn’t believe them. But Peter had to go see for himself.

I have focused on Peter these past few days. Peter was one of three disciples, along with James and John, who seemed to have a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Jesus took only these three up the mountain to witness His transfiguration for example (Luke 9:28-36). Peter was the disciple who vowed to stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, but soon afterward deserted Him, denying Him three times. Luke wrote that Peter wept bitterly upon hearing the rooster crow, just as Jesus said. Here, we see Peter, gathered with the other ten disciples, receiving this incredible news from the women who had visited Jesus’ tomb. As the others expressed doubt, Peter went to see.

I love what Peter did upon looking into the the tomb, containing only the linens that once wrapped Jesus’ body, but otherwise empty just as the women had said. Luke doesn’t say he returned to the place where the disciples were gathered; maybe he did. But what Luke tells us Peter ultimately did really resonates with me:

“…he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

This is a lot to take in. Sometimes we just need time alone to ponder, consider and pray. Peter “marveled” at what had happened. Have you ever marveled over the works of God? Have you ever watched the sun set over a vast ocean or mighty mountain range and marveled at the glory of God’s creation? Have you ever found yourself in need, really in need, and have God meet that need seemingly out of nowhere? Have you ever opened Scripture and heard God’s voice as you read it? Does the reality of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for those who believe hit home?

Today we Christians celebrate the most important event in all of history and the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord from the grasp of death. The victory lies not with those who killed Him. The victory is His, and through His victory, we have assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven. This, my friends, is something to celebrate. This is something worth marveling. This is most certainly and eternally true.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

What Now?

I’ve never really known what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It seems that it should be different from other Saturdays, given the events of Good Friday and the coming celebration of Easter Sunday, like we’re sort of on “pause” as we await Jesus’ resurrection. Reading my Holy Week devotional this morning, God offered this:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

While this is not a direct answer to my Easter Saturday dilemma, it made me think: what do I do with Good Friday? Do the events of Good Friday have any lasting influence on my life here on Earth? Or do I simply coast, awaiting the day when God calls me home to be with Him, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?

As I pondered this, it struck me that the man who wrote this letter is Peter, the disciple who swore vehemently that he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34) Through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples still did not understand what God was unfolding. I can only imagine the disciples on Saturday, sitting together, wondering what to do next. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, was gone. His enemies had won (or so it seemed). I’m sure they feared potential repercussions upon themselves. Scripture does not tell us how they spent Saturday – probably because that is not what God wants us to focus on.

In reading Peter’s letters, we see a different person than the man who cowered by the fire that Thursday night, denying Jesus as the young girl and others pointed him out to those who had gathered (Luke 22:54-61). Jesus was right. Peter would deny Him three times. When that reality hit, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples finally got it, thanks to Jesus’ appearing to them and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1-2). Peter and the rest were changed forever and God worked through them in incredible ways.

So here we sit in 2019 with the benefit of Scriptural insight, including eyewitness accounts of the events that first Easter weekend. And, Peter, the one who denied Jesus, offers this. Jesus, by His sacrifice, healed the wounds that our sins heap upon us. It was His action that saves us for all eternity. Our response: to reject sin (“die to sin”) and seek a righteous, God-pleasing lifestyle (“live to righteousness”). The fact that we are freed from sin’s bondage and eternal consequence offers the opportunity to open our arms wide, embrace life and approach it from an entirely different perspective – the perspective of one who is free, one who is loved, one who is saved. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is, I believe, the ideal time to ponder this. What does this mean for my life? What changes will I make? What will I do to live a life that honors and pleases my Lord and my God?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Mission Accomplished!

“Good Friday”. What an ironic name for the day on which Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and suffered a horrible death by those He came to save. But – that was exactly why He came to Earth.

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, was on a mission that only He understood at the time. As the people celebrated what they thought would be a conquering king and warrior, Jesus knew what was to take place over that coming week. He knew His mission. He knew it would be agonizing. He knew it would be humiliating. He knew it would be excrutiatingly painful. He knew it was necessary. And, so He went.

So, on Friday, after being betrayed by one of His disciples and deserted by the rest, after facing severe beatings and being convicted of false charges, there He hung as soldiers and bystanders mocked His name and cast lots for His clothes. When I was young, I thought these words of Jesus were words of defeat. The Pharisees and scribes had been plotting His death since the beginning of His ministry three years’ prior. They finally got their way in most dramatic fashion. But that is when I was young and naive.

“It is finished!” That mission that Jesus came to exact was completed! Jesus, God incarnate, true God and true man, achieved the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was no victim; He “gave up His spirit” willingly for you and for me so that we might be saved.

Dear friends, this is indeed “Good Friday”. And you know what? That conquering king and warrior the people wanted? That is exactly who Jesus is: King of kings and Lord of lords. By His sacrifice, Jesus won the victory over sin and death once and for all. It was not the victory that the people anticipated on Palm Sunday, but it was the victory they most needed. Indeed, Jesus achieved the greatest victory of all time. By His sacrifice, we who believe in Him are saved for eternity by grace through faith.

Soli DEO Gloria!

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(c) workisministry.com 2019

Betrayal & Desertion

Maundy Thursday. The events of this day always give me pause. I am simultaneously disappointed in His disciples, amazed by His love, and reflective of what my reaction would have been had I been there with Him. Indeed, it is an active day that culminates with Jesus standing alone before His accusers.

“‘…but all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets’. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

As I read Matthew’s account of the events of this day (Matthew 26), I’m struck by how much happened in the span of just a few hours. Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover, during which Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion. He announced to His stunned disciples that one of them would deliver Him into the hands of those who seek to kill Him as the rest of them flee for their personal safety. His disciples promised to stand by Him, but Jesus knew they would not and stated so.

Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was real. Here we see His nature as Son of God (true God) and Son of Man (true man). As a human, He asked God to remove the burden He was about to undertake. He expressed His frustration at His disciples who did not grasp what was going on, and could not stay awake and keep watch as He prayed. As God, Jesus knew exactly what was coming, He knew it must be, and He went willingly. As Judas betrayed Him with a kiss and He was seized by soldiers with swords and clubs, the 11 disciples fled, just as He knew they would. Jesus faced His accusers alone, just as He knew He would.

I would like to think that I would have reacted differently had I been one of the eleven. I would like to think that I would have stood beside my Lord as He was carried off to face the authorities. I would like to think that I would have spoken up in His defense and, if need be, have gone with Him to death. I would like to think these things, but I know I wouldn’t have reacted any differently than the 11 did. How do I know that? Because, like them, I am human. Pondering the events of Maundy Thursday, I think about opportunities to witness that I have squandered, avoiding the subject because it can be uncomfortable to discuss. When I squander those opportunities, I betray Him. I think about the times when I say and do things that I know displease and dishonor Him. When I say and do these things, I betray Him. Just as Jesus knew His disciples would abandon Him, He knows and understands my shortcomings and failures. Knowing all of this, His love never wavered. He went to the cross for them, for me, and for you.

When Jesus distributed the bread, “…this is My body…” and the wine, “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” (Matt 26:26-27) He announced a new covenant. He would be the perfect Sacrifice, sufficient to achieve perfect, everlasting atonement for our sins. I look forward to Maundy Thursday worship tonight. Tonight, with my church family and with Christians all around the world, I will celebrate Holy Communion. I will receive, once again, His forgiveness for my sins. And I will remember the events of this night over 2,000 years ago – the night on which Jesus went forth to die for you and for me.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019