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.

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Loving Each Other: John 13:31-38

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On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, immediately following Judas Iscariot leaving to get the soldiers and mob to arrest Jesus, we read in John’s gospel that Jesus wanted to teach something new to the remaining disciples. Now that the final pieces were in motion leading to the cross, Jesus begins sharing more openly and plainly with the disciples now that they only have hours left together.

Let’s read our passage for this episode and discover the first thing Jesus wanted to teach these disciples. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, John tells us that:

31 When he [Judas Iscariot] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

In this short passage, Jesus both challenges Peter and He gives a new command to these disciples. Both of these sections in our passage are worth focusing in on, so in the time we have together let’s start with Jesus’ “new command” and see how far we can get.

I’ve heard it said that this new command is not really all that new. Loving God and loving our neighbor basically summarize both this command as well as all the other commandments in the Old Testament. With this line of thinking, Jesus doesn’t really say that this is a new command, but that He is reminding and reemphasizing a familiar command that was already given. It’s possible that the original Greek language supports this interpretation, however I don’t know this for certain since Greek is not one of my language specialties.

However, while this reminder and reemphasis angle on Jesus’ command makes sense on one level, what if this really was meant to be a new command? What if Jesus wanted to elevate the standard that His disciples would model?

In the original summary of all the commands, Jesus taught that loving God and loving our neighbor were the two commands that all the other commandments can be categorized into. Every other commandment could be grouped as either being an example of loving God, loving our neighbor, or some combination of both. But what if there was a group that was missing, or a group that would be easy to exclude?

When looking at how Jesus described loving God and our neighbor, we have a religious expert ask for clarification regarding how to define the idea of neighbor. From this question, Jesus shared the well known parable of the Good Samaritan, which concluded with the least likeable character being the most helpful – and the one who modeled loving a neighbor the best. From the Good Samaritan parable, we learn that loving our neighbor not only covers the neighborly commands of the Ten Commandments, but also that it covers helping strangers who are in need.

But what about those we know but we don’t really like or get along with? What about those people who seem to get under our skin and those people who know how to push all of our buttons?

In my own mind, it is in many ways easier to love and help a total stranger who is in need than to help someone I know who repeatedly keeps messing up or abusing the system. It is also easier to help a stranger than someone who I don’t agree with.

Jesus’ eleven remaining disciples were about as diverse as you could imagine. While no Samaritans were included, we have fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot – who was someone intent on overthrowing the Roman government, among others. In the broader group of followers, there were former prostitutes, Samaritans, and even some political and religious leaders. Jesus’ followers included people from any and every section of society.

In the command Jesus gives to His disciples, I see Him challenging His followers to love others simply because they are part of the human family. While loving our neighbor is a part of this, this also means loving those who are clearly acting, living, and believing differently than we do. This challenge is a challenge to love others because Jesus loved us, and not because of who the other person is or could be. We love others because Jesus loved us, and because God lives in our heart.

However, as I read our passage, I find it a little humorous that Peter seems to completely miss Jesus’ new command. Giving Peter the benefit of a doubt, the best we could give Peter is that he agrees but pushes this new command to the sidelines.

Peter, like many of the other disciples, is troubled by Jesus telling them that they cannot go with Him. Peter correctly assumes that Jesus could be referring to death, but Peter believes that He is devoted enough to stay by Jesus’ side to the very end.

However, while Jesus is present in Peter’s life, this is true. A little later this very night, when the soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus, Peter is the first to jump to Jesus’ defense. However, after Jesus was arrested, Peter begins to doubt and the doubt leads to denial. Peter wants to learn and know what happens to Jesus, but he also wants to maintain a level of anonymity while being nearby.

When we look at the story of the cross and how it breaks Peter’s life, we discover that we all share similarities with Peter. We all are willing to do a lot more than what ultimately happens, but when Jesus enters our lives, as we see Jesus do through the Holy Spirit after His resurrection, a Jesus-filled-Peter becomes an unstoppable force for God’s kingdom.

In our own lives, we are forgiven like Jesus forgave Peter, and we are called to love each other because Jesus has loved us. Jesus loved us not because of who we were or what we would become, but because of who God is. In our own lives, God has called us to love others because it is who we are when He is in our lives, and not because those we love will do anything differently. This is probably the greatest and most challenging command in the entire Bible – and God modeled it perfectly through Jesus!

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

Be sure to always seek God first and to intentionally love others like He loved us. We see God’s love for us through Jesus coming and dying on the cross in our place. He has called us to love others because He first loved us.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and discover who God is and what He is like through the pages of the Bible. God wants a personal relationship with you and the best foundation to have for a strong relationship with God is a strong prayer and study life. Don’t let your relationship with God be filtered through or dependant on someone else’s relationship with God!

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 25: Discover a new command Jesus gave, and how it is likely the most difficult command to apply in our Christian lives.

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Flashback Episode — Finding Jesus Today: John 7:25-36

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One of the reasons why Jesus may have caused division among those living in first century Judea is that He fit many of the descriptions that they had for who the Messiah would be, but not all of the ones they had in focus. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, there was a growing divide between those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah and those who simply thought He was a good man and a God-supported prophet.

Our passage, which comes from the gospel of John, is one of the best examples of this division among the people. To set the stage, and transition from where we were last week, Jesus had told His brothers that He wouldn’t go up to Jerusalem with them for this festival because He knew there were people in Jerusalem who wanted to kill Him, so they left him behind. But then a day or two later, Jesus does go up, secretly, and part way into the festival, He stands up and begins preaching in the temple to everyone’s amazement.

It is at a break in Jesus’ message that our passage in John picks up. We will be reading from the gospel of John, chapter 7, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Jumping in at verse 25, John tells us:

25 Then some of the people who lived in Jerusalem said, “This is the man they are trying to kill. 26 But he is teaching where everyone can see and hear him, and no one is trying to stop him. Maybe the leaders have decided he really is the Christ. 27 But we know where this man is from. Yet when the real Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.”

Pausing briefly here in the passage, we see the crowd of people talking and discussing amongst themselves. They are trying to reconcile what they see in Jesus and what they believe to be descriptive of the Messiah.

Jesus knows this, and picking back up in verse 28, John tells us Jesus’ response:

28 Jesus, teaching in the Temple, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. But I have not come by my own authority. I was sent by the One who is true, whom you don’t know. 29 But I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

30 When Jesus said this, they tried to seize him. But no one was able to touch him, because it was not yet the right time. 31 But many of the people believed in Jesus. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miracles than this man has done?”

Pausing again, we see the strong case for Jesus being the Messiah shared in the verse we just finished. Jesus performed so many miracles and He healed so many more people than anyone had ever done before, it would seem illogical for God to not have sent Him as the Messiah. I imagine that many of those present thought that if Jesus wasn’t the real Messiah, then His entire ministry would outshine the real Messiah when He did arrive, and that didn’t make sense for God to support or allow that to happen.

There was no question in the minds of everyone present that God’s Spirit was working powerfully through Jesus. There was no escaping this fact. What they were trying to wrestle through was how Jesus did not fit the mold that they believed the Messiah would take.

On hearing the crowd rationalize Jesus as the most likely to be the Messiah based on the sheer quantity of miracles, we pick back up in verse 32 and learn that:

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering these things about Jesus. So the leading priests and the Pharisees sent some Temple guards to arrest him.

John tells us that this was likely the final straw for the Pharisees in the crowd. Not only had Jesus just implied equality with God and that He was sent directly from God, but the crowd was starting to rationalize that He may be the Messiah after all, simply because it was unlikely that God could support anyone more than He appeared to be supporting Jesus.

Whether Jesus said what He said next while guards were standing around, or if He continued preaching before the guards arrived to arrest Him, we pick back up in verse 33 where John continues by telling us:

33 Jesus said, “I will be with you a little while longer. Then I will go back to the One who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me. And you cannot come where I am.”

35 Some people said to each other, “Where will this man go so we cannot find him? Will he go to the Greek cities where our people live and teach the Greek people there? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘You cannot come where I am’?”

We’ll stop reading here for our episode today because I want to draw out a key idea that is shared in this last portion of the passage.

Jesus has just finished describing that He won’t be around much longer, because He is getting ready to return to the One who sent Him. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had described the One who sent Him as “the One who is true”. In the minds of the people, the only One who is 100% truth, or, using another word, we could say righteous, is God in heaven.

It is amazing to me that when Jesus said the initial statement about being sent by the One who is true, the people wanted to seize Him, likely to kill Him, but just a few verses later, when Jesus describes returning to the One who sent Him, the people completely miss the point that Jesus has just described returning to God in heaven.

Those present are stuck trying to rationalize Jesus’ words thinking He is traveling to some other part of the world, but then they confuse themselves with this train of thought because they know they can travel to every part of the world that He can.

But in Jesus’ words that confuse and challenge those present, we find a powerful spiritual truth: Jesus has told everyone that many will look for Him but won’t be able to find Him. This would be incredibly true on a physical sense, but what about spiritually?

In this statement, I see a challenge to everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus, a disciple, or a Christian. If you are someone who claims to follow Jesus, then it would be good to be constantly looking for Him. Sure, technically Jesus is in heaven, but knowing this truth, it is extra important for us to then look for Him there.

While we cannot physically go to heaven before Jesus has returned to take us home, through prayer, we are able to spiritually enter heaven and present our needs, wants, desires, hearts, and lives before Jesus. I believe there is a spiritual angle on what Jesus told the crowd, and it has to do with the state of our hearts and our attitude.

If we choose to pray filled with sin, pride, unforgiveness, or hostility in our hearts – and we are not bringing these issues to God to ask for help with them – then I believe we will be seeking Jesus but unable to find Him. It is only when we shift our attitude and the longing of our hearts to one that desires, wants, and needs Jesus’ help that our prayers will lead us directly to Jesus. The state of our attitude and heart may keep us from finding Jesus when we seek after Him.

With this said, as we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Before you sit down to pray or study your Bible this next time, pause briefly and assess the state of your heart. Are you coming to your study time in a way that is pleasing to God, in a way that is humble and selfless, or in a way that is self-serving or prideful? Before picking up your Bible or continuing to seek God, be sure you have the right attitude and motives for doing so, because searching for God will be fruitless if you are not interested in being spiritually fruitful.

Next, when you do have the right motivation and attitude, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, and not simply be studying it through the lens of a pastor, writer, or podcaster’s perspective. While Bible study guides can be helpful, they can also limit what God wants to share with you because they can limit what parts of the Bible you focus on. Studying the Bible for yourself, and learning how to best do so, is the best way to grow fully into the person God created you to be.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 24: Cam discusses a time where Jesus sneaks into the temple to preach during the middle of a major festival, and what we can learn from the crowd’s reaction to what Jesus spoke about.

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Remembering His Life and His Death: Luke 22:14-20

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On the night Jesus was betrayed, He shares a supper with the disciples and while this supper was officially the Passover meal for Jesus and His disciples that year, Jesus takes this special, yearly meal, and He gives it new significance. This special meal, called the Last Supper, is one of the most symbolic and significant traditions Christianity has kept while moving forward through history.

Let’s read what Jesus does and how He turns this Passover celebration, and points it to His mission. While we could read this event from several of the gospels, let’s read it from Luke’s gospel. Our passage is found Luke, chapter 22, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 14, Luke tells us that:

14 When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. 15 He said to them, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! 16 For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.”

17 Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes.”

19 Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” 20 In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.”

What Luke has just described is the foundation of the Last Supper that is celebrated at various times depending on the church. I’ve visited churches that celebrate this as a part of their weekly meeting, and I have visited churches that celebrate the Last Supper only once a year.

There are churches who celebrate this meal with little tiny wafer crackers and half-an-ounce glasses of grape juice, while other churches celebrate this with a larger meal and/or different forms of wine. When the Bible speaks of wine, it simply means that it is juice from grapes, and it makes no distinction here whether this juice was fermented or not. In other places in the Bible, new wine likely refers to fresh grape juice, while old wine likely refers to grape juice that has fermented.

However, what is it about the bread and the wine that makes it special?

Well, first, Jesus tells the disciples that He will not drink this wine again until the Kingdom of God comes. This is an interesting thing to say, because it tells us that Jesus is waiting in Heaven for His return before drinking this drink again. This points us forward to the second coming as being something we should look forward to, and it tells us that Jesus is looking forward to sharing this special drink, and probably the very special meal that will go with it, when He returns the second time.

Between today and when that special meal will happen, we have symbols in both the bread and the wine that we can remember.

The first symbol Luke tells us is the bread, which Jesus gave thanks for, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. Jesus’ body was given as a sacrifice for others; Jesus’ body was given as a sacrifice for you and for me. When we eat the special bread that is prepared for this occasion, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice that took our place. We deserved death while Jesus didn’t. He died our death so that we could live His life.

The second symbol is the symbol of the cup with the wine in it. This wine represents Jesus’ blood, which is poured out for us. On the surface, this second symbol sounds very redundant to the first, because both symbols point to the death of Jesus. However, I believe when we look at what Jesus’ blood represents, we see a greater picture of what He did for us.

In the Old Testament, the blood represented the life of a person or an animal. It was partially for this reason that Jews were instructed to not eat or drink an animal’s blood. When we take this symbolic meaning and see that Jesus poured out His blood for us, we could just as easily say that Jesus poured out His life for us. This is significant because the symbol of the wine draws together both Jesus’ life and His death, and it leads us to the clear conclusion that everything Jesus did, said, or gave was for others. Jesus gave Himself both while He was alive as well as through His death for you and for me!

While the bread symbolized Jesus’ body and Jesus paying the price for our sins, the wine symbolizes the life Jesus lived and the life that He offers to each of us when we accept Him into our lives and our hearts! Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and He offers to give us His perfect life and His perfect record in exchange for ours. Jesus also offers us a new life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth when sin and death have been destroyed!

This is definitely something I am looking forward to, and I imagine you are looking forward with me to the day Jesus returns and we share the first “Last Supper” together with Him for eternity!

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

As always, be sure to seek God first and always intentionally place Him first in your life. Be sure to remember what Jesus has done for you, through His sacrifice, through the life that He gave, and through the life that He offers to each of us. Remember that our reward will last longer than any trial or challenge we face today and that is one reason we keep moving forward with God!

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn first-hand what God wants to teach you. Pastors, authors, speakers, podcasters, or anyone else for that matter can have ideas worth thinking about. However, with all the conflicting ideas present in the world today, test everything with what you read and study in the Bible. The Bible is the safest foundation to have when times, cultures, and traditions seem to change with each generation.

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 24: With bread and wine, Jesus takes and symbolizes what He has done for us, and what He offers us in replace for our sinful lives. Discover how the Last Supper communion ceremony points us to remember what Jesus has done for us, and what He offers us as a reward for accepting His gift.

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