God’s Choice: Luke 9:28-36

Focus Passage: Luke 9:28-36 (GW)

28 About eight days after he had said this, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a mountain to pray. 29 While Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, both Moses and Elijah were talking with him. 31 They appeared in heavenly glory and were discussing Jesus’ approaching death and what he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.

32 Peter and the men with him were sleeping soundly. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Teacher, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s put up three tents—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter didn’t know what he was saying.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them. They were frightened as they went into the cloud. 35 A voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!”

36 After the voice had spoken, they saw that Jesus was alone. The disciples said nothing, and for some time they told no one about what they had seen.

Read Luke 9:28-36 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Often, when I am reading a passage in the Bible about a specific event, and then compare it with other gospels that also include it, a word or phrase in one of the gospel accounts jumps out at me. With the transfiguration event on the mountain – something that three of the four gospels include – Luke’s gospel wins with a unique phrase that the other gospel’s don’t include.

In Luke’s gospel, we read that when God the Father comes in the cloud and speaks in verse 35, He says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen . . .” Some other translations say instead “My chosen One”, while the other two gospels instead say “whom I love”.

Don’t miss this distinction, because it is powerful: God chose Jesus. God chooses people who He loves and He loves people who He chooses.

It is easy for us to picture God the Father having love for Jesus the Son, but too often we stop there and miss the other side of the coin: God chose Jesus. Perhaps we don’t like thinking about this idea from this angle, because it implies that God could have chosen to not choose Jesus, but even on this line of thinking, we see a powerful part of God’s character. God chooses people based on His view of history, not based on our view – and once He has chosen someone, He will not “unchoose” them.

This is easy to grasp when looking at God the Father, and at Jesus the Son, but what about you and me? Are we left to wonder where we stand in God’s eyes?

Nope. Jesus came to show us the Father, and He died to show us how much love the Father has for each of us. This demonstration of God’s love has other implications: God chooses people who He loves and He loves people who He chooses.

If Jesus came and died for you (which is 100% true), then equally true is the idea that God loves you – and if God loves you, then He has chosen you. This could be choosing you to be someone special/significant, to do something subtle/important for Him, or to be an example for others by leaning on Him for strength in your weakness.

God chose Jesus for a task that only He could do. God chooses you and I for tasks that He specifically created us to do.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Giving Anonymously: Matthew 6:1-4

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:1-4 (GW)

“Be careful not to do your good works in public in order to attract attention. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.

Read Matthew 6:1-4 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He covers a number of broad topics. Matthew, one of Jesus’ followers and the author of one of the four gospels, dedicates a good portion of his gospel to sharing the details of this famous message. In this message, Jesus taught briefly on the subject of giving, and about the significance of giving anonymously.

One statement that strikes me as interesting is when Jesus says, “When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (v. 3)

While this statement is most likely figurative – representing the “body” of the church (also called the “body of Christ”), is there a practical reason for being anonymous other than simply to avoid receiving praise from others?

As I think about it, not only does anonymous giving help keep one clear of the appearance of hypocrisy and pride, it also keeps the giver in control regarding the giving. A gift that is received anonymously is harder to track and it can deter the one receiving the gift from becoming entitled. Perhaps if many people anonymously gave to the one individual over the course of time, they could become entitled, but they really wouldn’t know who or where to go to receive more help. Giving anonymously makes it harder for the one receiving the gift to become entitled and try to “milk” the generosity by asking for more.

But while this is very practical, Jesus is talking to those who are the givers in the crowd. He concludes by telling us to “Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” (v. 4)

When we give and help others privately, it changes us as individuals. Jesus (i.e. God) wants us to be givers by nature. He wants giving to be a central part of our character. If our good deeds always became public knowledge, and they were a part of our character, then we may become a target for those with an entitlement mentality.

Our good deeds should be common place in our lives, not one or two big fanfare-laced events for the crowds to look and speak in awe. Many of those who glorify their good acts are likely to have very few good acts, because if their acts become too regular, then they would lose their audience because it will have been expected. If you do something in secret, then there is no limit on what you can do (only your available resources would limit you then). You may even have more fun giving as well.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Stoplight-like Belief: John 8:21-30

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Picking back up were we left off last week, we find Jesus teaching in the temple during this same festival. However, now our passage for this week focuses on the conclusion of Jesus’ preaching in the temple during the festival that He snuck into unannounced, and in this conclusion, Jesus restates some of the key ideas we focused on last week, while also pushing the crowd further.

Let’s let John tell us how Jesus circles back around to His key point. We will be reading from John’s gospel, chapter 8, using the New International Reader’s Version. Picking back up in verse 21, John tells us that:

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘You can’t come where I am going’?”

Pausing our reading briefly, Jesus says almost the exact same thing as He said in last week’s passage, but this time, the Jews instead wonder if Jesus is planning on committing suicide with His statement. Last week, they thought He would be traveling to some other part of the world, and now they have decided that Jesus must mean something different.

With the emphasis on death, the Jews now wonder if Jesus is talking about death rather than extended travel.

However, Jesus continues in verse 23 with a clearer answer, and John tells us how Jesus answered:

23 But Jesus said, “You are from below. I am from heaven. You are from this world. I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.”

Pausing again, but only very briefly, here in verses 23 and 24 is a simple explanation of salvation. The criteria Jesus shares for experiencing salvation is that we must believe Jesus the One God sent, and believe that Jesus is the Messiah God promised, and our belief must include our faith and trust being placed onto Jesus. If we don’t believe, then Jesus tells us like He told those present in the temple that we will certainly die in our sins.

Continuing in verse 25:

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.

We’ll stop reading at this verse because I want to really draw our attention onto a side-note John has just inserted. In verse 30, John tells us that “Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him”. This is significant in my mind because while the crowd was confused at what Jesus was saying, their confusion did not hinder their belief.

This is not the case for everyone. Some people use their lack of understanding to be the cornerstone of their reasons for not believing, but the challenge with this line of thinking is that rarely in any other case do we need to know all the answers to believe.

For example, if we are driving down a street and we come to a stoplight, do we need to understand how electricity and relays work in order to understand what makes the different colored lights switch back and forth? Do we need to stop everything else we are doing and do all the research necessary to come to a full understanding of how the stoplight works before believing the color of light and the position of the light are instructions we would be smart to follow?

Or do we simply need to know that red means stop, green means go, and yellow means a red light is about to come?

I think that faith and belief in Jesus are very similar to how we should view our trust in a simple stoplight. While one or two reasons and answers are sufficient to begin our belief, it is only after we begin to obey the stoplights instructions for us that we really understand the benefits that obedience offers. While one can rationalize that they don’t understand why the Bible advises people to live a certain way, or they try to discount it as an archaic or dated way to live, only by truly living a life that is obedient to the Bible will one fully learn why the Bible’s way is superior.

Sure, the Bible does not discuss technology or electricity, but it does give a full spectrum view of human relationships, and society structures, and time and time again, even with sin factored into the equation, the Bible’s plan is the most solid. Also, while the Bible doesn’t speak to technology, it doesn’t tell us to stay locked in the past. It simply points us to the best way to live during whatever century we are living in.

Jesus concluded His statement to the Jews and the crowd in the temple by saying that He did nothing on His own, and that everything He did was pleasing to the Father. I wonder if we could say the same about our lives 2,000 years later. If God were to look down at the world today, which is a very different looking world than it was when Jesus walked on it, would He approve of how we are living, and representing His Son to those who are longing for Godly love?

Through the way Jesus lived His life, everything He did included the Father and the Holy Spirit. While we don’t always see this in our own lives, the question I challenge myself with is whether I would continue doing what I am currently doing, or living how I am currently living, if I truly believed that God the Father and the Holy Spirit were right next to me. Would the Father approve of my life, and would my life, both the online and offline portions of my personality, reflect Jesus accurately.

As Christians, we are called to represent Jesus, and the only way we can do this well is if we understand how Jesus lived, and then intentionally model His character in our world today. While it might seem strange or uncomfortable to do, only after we have committed and begun obeying Jesus’ words will the Christian life be truly Christ-like.

As we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Intentionally model Jesus and choose to obey Him without having all your questions answered beforehand. Choose to obey, then keep your eyes open for why God would recommend for people to live this way. Like I described earlier in the episode, obey God like you obey a stoplight, because only by obeying can we better understand why it is best to obey the stoplight’s instruction.

Also, intentionally study the Bible for yourself and look for principles that you can apply into your life. While some parts of the Bible are technically dated, because society and technology have changed, the principles the Bible shares are timeless, and it is these principles that we are challenged to apply in our own lives.

And as I end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short or back away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 25: Cam discusses how Jesus concludes a sermon and why it is important for us to choose to believe even though not all our questions are answered.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Coming Back Empty-Handed: John 7:37-52

Focus Passage: John 7:37-52 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Read John 7:37-52 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the final days of a major festival that happened in the middle of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus. Jesus had chosen to finish the festival teaching and preaching in the temple, and the leaders saw this chance to arrest Jesus.

So they sent guards to arrest Him, but the guards end up returning empty handed. The Pharisees demanded to know, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (v. 45)

The guards responded, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (v. 46)

It is here that the Pharisees reveal their motives and their character. The Pharisees believe Jesus to be an imposter and a liar. We can see their thoughts through their response: “You mean he has deceived you also? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” (v. 47-49)

The Pharisees and chief priests have incriminated themselves. They accuse the crowd of being cursed, but the crowd’s true thoughts are divided. A curse on the crowd could cause confusion, but this statement simply shows how closed-minded these leaders have become. They claim the mob knows nothing of “the law”, and in the context, they are referring to the Old Testament scriptures – but just a few verses earlier, John points out one cause of the crowd’s division being over something that was prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament prophecy stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Jesus was raised in Galilee. The crowd’s division over this apparent contradiction shows that they all knew the Old Testament writings.

And this leads into a big truth I see displayed in this passage: When someone has closed their minds to an idea, they will then begin to justify their decision in often irrational ways. The Pharisees and chief priests irrationally claimed the crowd was cursed just to emphasize their point to the guards. All this ended up doing is confirming that they had chosen to stand against Jesus and what He was doing, and regardless of what happened, they were closed-minded towards anything that didn’t confirm that Jesus might be the Messiah people were believing Him to be.

While the chief priests had closed their minds to believing in Jesus, the guards returning empty-handed tells us they were still undecided regarding whether Jesus was the Messiah. We are in the same position as the guards today. If we are still on the fence regarding who Jesus is, it is worth wrestling out this question for ourselves because our choice on this matter has eternal results!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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