The Road to the Cross: Jesus' Authority Questioned

The Road to the Cross: Jesus’ Authority Questioned

“What gives you the right?” Have you ever heard this in an argument before? It’s a question of authority. It means the other party wants to see your credentials. They want to know by what authority are you able to speak and behave in such and such a manner.

Jesus was asked this question by the “chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders (Mark 11:27).” They had just witnessed Jesus “clean house” in the Temple and they were enraged. They wanted to find a way to kill Jesus. Not only did this man from Galilee claim to be the Son of God, now He was threatening business!

The easiest way to prove someone is a fake is to ask for their credentials. If you go to the doctor you will probably see his diplomas hanging up somewhere in his office. If you don’t see the diplomas…well, you may want to consider changing doctors. I don’t know about you, but I like to know that my doctor has earned the right to put “Dr.” before his name.

But, Jesus did not hand over any identification or diplomas to these people when they questioned Him. Instead, he gave them a question of His own. He asked, “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me (Mark 11:30)!” We know from the following verses that this question created a huge dilemma for the leaders and scholars. If they were to say that John did by the authority of heaven, everyone will ask why they didn’t believe him. If they say it was by some human authority, the people will become very angry. That’s because many people believed John to be a true prophet of God. To save face, they answer Jesus with a “we don’t know.”

Friend, Jesus doesn’t need a business card to prove to you He is God. First, the works of Jesus testify to who He is. Second, the Father spoke from heaven about His Son, Jesus. Third, John the Baptist made clear that Jesus was far more than simply his cousin ( see John 5). People can try to dance around the truth like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. People can even play it safe by saying “we don’t know,” but it won’t change reality. Jesus’ opponents didn’t want the truth; they wanted an excuse to keep things the way that they were.

Maybe you are reading this and you are not a Christian. Please, whatever you do, don’t straddle the fence. Either Jesus is God or He is a liar. Either His authority is from heaven or it is man-made. However, if you are honestly seeking the truth you only arrive at one answer:

Jesus is Lord of all! 

And if you’re still looking for credentials…look no further than the empty tomb. We will talk more about that very soon.

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Have you ever expected something to be so great, but when it finally came you were utterly disappointed?

A few years ago, I sat down to lunch with my wife and mom at a restaurant that I enjoyed eating at when I was little. I decided to order the fried chicken dinner that day. When the waiter brought it to our table it looked so delicious. I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, once I took a bite I knew something wasn’t right. The chicken tasted of cleaning chemicals—a far cry from buttermilk and spices. Even though my plate looked like the one in the menu, in reality, it was all for show.

When Jesus became hungry on his way to Jerusalem, he thought he would find some sustenance from a fig tree along the way. He saw the leaves on the tree from a distance. That was a good sign; that meant figs! For fig trees, the leaves and fruit come at the same time. A fig tree doesn’t blossom, instead the fruit is the blossom; it is an inverted flower. But, when Jesus came to the tree He saw that there were no figs for Him to eat, and He cursed the tree. Apparently, the leaves were all for show. The next day, the disciples found that the tree had withered (Mark 11:20-21). Truly, no one would ever eat from that tree ever again.

Now, was this story simply about a fig tree? No, I don’t believe so. It believe it is a lesson for us all. For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a physical representation of their spiritual condition. From a distance things looked great! Just the day before, people were cheering and laying down their cloaks. They were claiming things were ready and in order for the Messiah’s coming. But, upon closer inspection, it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Do you remember what Jesus did later this same day? He drove out the money changers from the temple courts. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer.” Jesus said that it was, in fact, a “den of robbers.”

Like this fig tree, we can be “all leaves and no fruit.” We may look like the greatest Christians to ever walk the face of the earth from a distance, but if Jesus came close would he find any fruit? Is our faith genuine and thriving, or is it all for show? Perhaps the better question is: “when will Jesus’ patience run out before He sends His judgement?”

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

When you think of a king what comes to mind? I immediately think about someone with the most power, wealth, and authority in the kingdom. I can almost picture the kings of old riding their chariots through the streets with their swords sheathed to their sides. Trumpets are blaring and flags are waving. The people cheer and bow before him as he passes by.

I can almost hear the thunderous sound of the war horses as these kings led their armies into battle. I can picture them fully armored, ready to take on their enemies. You won’t see them crying. If men have to die in order to ensure the king’s victory, then so be it.


Now imagine this:

You are a young Jewish person living in Jerusalem. You’ve heard a rumor that a man from Nazareth raised someone from the dead who had been dead four days. Suddenly, you hear from a distance people you know crying out:

Hosanna (Save)!” 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

The people are talking about the promised Messiah! They are quoting Psalm 118! Could it be that the anointed one has finally come?

You make your way through the crowd to get a closer look. You see people paving the road with palm branches and their own cloaks. This means victory! Your heart is pounding now! And then you see him…and…you’re confused….

You were expecting to see a great warrior who would be able to take on the Romans. But this man they call Jesus doesn’t look like a king. He looks like any other rabbi in town. He isn’t riding a horse; he’s riding on a donkey. He looks like a man on a business trip, not like a man preparing for battle. He isn’t leading an army, just a rag-tag group of his disciples. And to make matters worse, he’s weeping (Luke 19:41-44)! 


It is true that Jesus did not look like an earthly king. That is because He wasn’t ushering in a kingdom of man; He was ushering in the kingdom of God! He wouldn’t do it with the strength of horses and swords. The Christ would do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on destroying the works of the Romans. He came to destroy the works of the true enemy of God’s people—the devil.

And though no one asked Him to, Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died for us so that He could be the king of our hearts. Under the rule and reign of our sin, we will surely die. But, if we trust in the Resurrected King then death will have no victory over us!

The people of Jerusalem missed the Savior in their search for salvation. I pray that we would not make the same mistake. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, praise God that He didn’t give us the messiah that we wanted. Instead, He gave us the Messiah that we needed.

Empathy vs. Sympathy Christian

Empathy vs. Sympathy

It is relatively easy to be sympathetic towards someone. Sympathy involves simply understanding someone’s current situation and having compassion on him or her. Empathizing with someone is far more difficult. Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is going through because you have gone through it yourself. To put it another way, sympathy extends a card, whereas, empathy extends a hand. Don’t get me wrong, they are both important in life. But ask yourself this question: are you more prone to listen to someone who has never been in your situation or a close friend who has?

I think Christians do a pretty good job of being sympathetic when people are hurting. We visit people in the hospital, bring meals to the shut-ins, and provide blankets to the homeless. But, non-Christians do these things too. The thing that sets us apart from the world is not how we sympathize with people. What sets us apart is how we use the painful experiences from our past to minister to people experiencing them currently. Empathy means we cry with the person, not simply for them. It is a subtle difference, but I believe it is important one.

The Scripture says that the Church is the body of Christ. When one part hurts, we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12:26). When one person mourns, we all mourn (Romans 12:5). We are connected to each other in such a way that the spiritual health of my brother affects my spiritual health. We have been called to more than pity for others. We’ve been called to love one another from a sincere heart—a heart that feels. I think a lot of Christians, especially guys, are afraid to feel anything, citing verse like Jeremiah 17:9. But, have we forgotten that this verse is in reference to the unregenerate heart? If we have been born again then God has removed our hearts of stone and replaced them with hearts of flesh. Are they perfect? No, not at all. But, one day they will be. It is important we understand that growing in Christ-like maturity doesn’t mean we become more and more unfeeling. Rather, it actually means we feel more and more, but as Jesus would (1 Peter 2:21). And no one feels more love for the Church and for the lost than Jesus.

Do you know what Jesus’ incarnation tells us about God? It tells us that He is a God of empathy. He doesn’t just know about the human experience, He has lived it Himself. Hebrews 4:15 says:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus has been through it all. He has been tempted. He has suffered trails. He has lost loved ones. He even experienced death. And He did it all for us. Jesus is sympathetic and emphatic towards humanity as He is both our high priest and perfect sacrifice. A priest knows that the sacrifice is painful for the animal, but he doesn’t feel the cut of the knife. Jesus understood the wrath of God that we deserved and took our place instead. There is no greater display of empathy than this that Jesus would take the judgement for our sins upon Himself. If this is the way in which God loves us, how should we be loving others? How does our empathy towards people point them to the empathy of God?

What Will Heaven Be Like?

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 1

I am sure that many of us have asked this question at some point. We all want to know what it will be like when we go to be with Jesus. I know that there are a lot of stories and movies out there about people’s near death experiences. Heaven is For Real is one that comes to mind. I find it interesting that so many Christians will go to see a movie about heaven instead of reading with God has already revealed about heaven to us in His Word. This week I will be sharing a few things that every Christian should remember when thinking about heaven. Here is part one:

There is no sin or death in heaven.

We know that the wages of sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. Death is the result of mankind’s sin. God created us as eternal creatures, made in His image. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God, they would have lived forever with God. Death entered the world in order the prevent them from living eternally in disobedience and rebellion towards God. God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden so that they would no longer have access to the tree of life.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Notice that the Lord stopped Himself in mid-sentence. It is as if He couldn’t bear the thought of not being with His people for all of eternity. But, if nothing is done about our sin, we will still be separated from Him. This is why Jesus died for us. Eternal life can only be found in the One who suffered the eternal punishment for our sins, in six hours on the cross. If Jesus had not died and rose again, we would have no hope of heaven; we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).

But, because Jesus Christ is alive, we can live forever with Him if we repent of our sins and believe upon His name in faith. But make no mistake, if we do not trust in Jesus, we will not go to heaven when we die. We will go to a place of eternal torment called Hell. And it won’t be undeserved. Even one sin against the eternal, holy Judge of the universe demands an eternal, holy judgement. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Heaven is holy because it is where our Holy God dwells. The reason that there is no sin in heaven is because there are no sinners in heaven, only saints (Revelation 21:27). Will your name be found in the Lamb’s book of life? Will I see you in heaven one day? If you aren’t sure, please send me a message. I would love to explain to you how you can be sure.


If you liked this post, come back tomorrow for Part 2: There is No Sorrow or Pain in Heaven.

 

Confronting Male Body Image Issues

Confronting Male Body Image Issues

Did anyone ever make fun of your appearance growing up? For most of my life, I was the skinniest kid in my class, so I heard a lot of teasing. I often heard things like “you need to eat a sandwich” or “man, drink a milkshake or something.” I never had any real bullies in school, but I had my fair share of people laugh and make fun of me for my size and appearance.

I wish I could say that their words didn’t hurt me, but they did. I felt like I was less than a man compared to some of my more muscular, athletic friends. And I wish I could say things were different at church, but they weren’t. In fact, some of the most hurtful comments came from brothers in Christ. Ironically, at church, I was learning about how my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. But at home and school, I was constantly dwelling on how much I disliked the temple God have given me. Dislike may be too soft of a word. In reality, I hated my body at times.

For a long time, I thought I was the only guy who felt this way. Boy was I wrong. As I got older, I realized that most guys struggle with body insecurities. And it doesn’t matter how old they are, how much muscle they have, or what their body fat percentage is. Every guy has something about their bodies they wish they could change. It is no exaggeration that men think if we could just change that one thing then all of our problems in life would be solved. But, I can tell you from experience that this simply isn’t true.

Men, the only thing that can free us from self-hatred is to understand how God sees us. Whether we look like Gumby or Hercules, God says that we are all made in His image. Masculinity cannot be obtained. It doesn’t come through bench presses or dead lifts; it is part of our identity.  We are masculine because God created us this way.

The Bible says that Jesus “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2).” Nowhere in the Gospels does it say that Jesus was handsome or had a six pack, even though some artists depict Him in this way. That doesn’t mean He was “ugly.” But it does tell us that Jesus didn’t need good looks in order to do the will of the Father. Jesus didn’t need a strong jaw line and winning smile to be the sacrifice for my sins. I have yet to see Jesus face to face, but I already know that His beauty is beyond compare because of who He is and what He has done for me.

If our eyes are fixed on the cross, brothers, that leaves no time for us to look in the mirror. We should devote time to exercise and taking care of our bodies, as this pleases the Lord. I have come to really enjoy working out as a family. But we should devote our entire lives to becoming more godly, more like the God-man Jesus (1 Timothy 4:8). There will be days we struggle with our body image, but we will be more prepared to deal with them if we’ve been devoting ourselves to the Lord.

Finally brothers, a few suggestions:

  1. Know God loves you. It is He who created You for His glory. He knit you together in your mother’s womb.
  2. Lift up your fellow brother more than you lift a weight.
  3. Don’t include or exclude someone based on their appearance.
  4. Repent of any self-hatred. Ask God to help you see yourself the way He sees you.
  5. Forgive people who had said hurtful things. It is likely they are battling insecurity as well.
  6. Rejoice in the truth that one day we will be given resurrection bodies, unmarred by our sin.
Our God is a Gardener

Our God is a Gardener

Many Christians are familiar with Jesus’ I AM statement in John chapter 15, but few remember Jesus’ “my Father is” statement in the same chapter. Many of us have  memorized John 15:5 in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” But have we memorized verses 1 and 2 of the same chapter? They read:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Did you know the Heavenly Father is a gardener? He’s got pruning shears in His hands. And according to Jesus, He actually uses them. He checks on each of His branches to see how they are doing. If they aren’t bearing fruit, He simply takes them away. Why? Because they are already dead. They can’t and won’t bear any fruit if they are dead. Jesus teaches that these branches will eventually be gathered up and burned (John 15:6).

Now if a branch is bearing fruit, the Father doesn’t just leave it alone. He doesn’t walk on by. No, he starts pruning and does so in love. He rejoices to see that the branch is producing fruit, but like every good vinedresser He desires to see even more. A vinedresser glories in the fruit of his labor, right? He doesn’t want just any fruit— He wants to see healthy, ripe, and abundant fruit. It should be our desire to bring glory to the Father by bearing the most beautiful fruit the world has ever seen. After all, this is how we prove to be His disciples (John 15:8). But, if this is going to happen, the Father has to use His shears. It can be a painful process; in fact, it will be a painful process. But ultimately, if it for our good and His glory. English theologian and Bible commentator, John Trapp, had this to say about God’s pruning:

And if it be painful to bleed, it is worse to wither. Better be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.

This is true, is it not? What is a cut compared to fire?

In the end, this all boils down to bearing good fruit. But, don’t forget the verse I said you probably already memorized, John 15:5. We can’t bear any of this fruit on our own. We must be abiding in Christ. Like branches to a vine, we must be attached to our source of life if we are to live! Praise the Lord for sending us His Spirit to help us to abide in Him.

Finally, remember that when the Father is pruning, Jesus never leaves us. He is with us through all the pain. He clings to us ever so tightly. And it isn’t just that He is close by or near in proximity. Rather, we are truly in Him and He in us.

John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you…”