Friday, May 31, 2013

True Freedom (John 8:31-47)

Today's scripture: John 8:31-47

These are pretty heavy verses, full of both encouragement and conviction.

The encouragement is that those of us who follow Christ are free. Free from sin. Free from death. Free from the snares of the enemy. And one day, we will be free from pain, from sorrow, from tears (Revelation 21:4).

Now the conviction: We're either free from sin or slaves to it. And if we're slaves to sin, we serve the enemy of Christ: Satan himself. Satan is, as Jesus says, "a liar and the father of lies." He wants nothing more than to pull people away from truth. While he is not omnipresent or omniscient, he does have a legion of minions to do his bidding. He prowls about like a "roaring lion" spreading His lies and seeks to "devour" as many souls as he can (1 Peter 5:8).

This world is his battleground, and he's using whatever he can to devour those souls. Lies about what brings true pleasure. Lies about eternity. Lies about God.

I teach freshman English at a secular college, and it's tragic to hear how so many young people are buying into the lie that there is no god—at all. Live and let live, they think. Do what you want as long as no one gets hurt, they say. We're all going to be worm food one day anyway, so it really doesn't matter.

Life has no meaning, no purpose. So they fill themselves with substances or try to find fulfillment in other people.

And the enemy chortles with glee that his lies are believed.

We who follow Christ are free, yes. But we have a job to do. We need to be truth-tellers. We need to be on guard against the enemy's lies. We need to share God's truth with as many as we can, showing how God provides true freedom.

The truth, indeed, will set everyone free.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dying in Sin ... (John 8:21-30)

Today's scripture: John 8:21-30

The gospel message is oh-so-simple: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). That's all it takes. And not only will one be saved from her sins, but she will also have "everlasting life" with Jesus (John 3:16).

So simple.

Yet, so many will "die in [their] sins" because they refuse to believe in Jesus. They do so out of ignorance or arrogance. I know there are many who question what will happen to those who never heard the truth, and I have to believe God loves them and understands this. However, very, very few can say they never heard the truth. Even remote villages in Africa or Australia are being reached with God's word.

No, most who refuse to accept Jesus do so because they are too wrapped up in themselves and the world's enticements. They would rather say there is no God so they can indulge in whatever gives them temporary pleasure. Or they follow a "faith" system that says they can be their own god.

This life is so very short. This world is winding down. One day, each of us will stand before God's throne and give an account for his or her life. What will you say? Will you say that you surrendered your life to God? That you chose to believe in His Son? Or will you fall to your knees and confess a wasted life?

Yes, the gospel message is simple. But you still have to make a choice.

As I've written many times ... Choose wisely.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Light of the World (John 8:12-20)

Today's scripture: John 8:12-20

We live in a very dark world. What used to be right is wrong. What used to be wrong is right. Truth is relative. Selfishness abounds. I'm going to do whatever I want to because it's all about me.

Sometimes it seems as though the light is forever dimmed. I don't even like to watch the news any more ... it's just too depressing. This morning, my husband had the news on as I was prepping for our upcoming vacation. I wasn't really paying attention, but a sound bite or two permeated. Five teens were killed because the driver was allegedly speeding. Another rounds of tornadoes are heading to the mid-west ... on the heels of the devastating storms from last week. A young starlet seems to be imploding.

Is there any good news? Sometimes it just doesn't seem there is.

But there is good news. The best news of all, as a matter of fact.

Jesus is still the light of the world. He offers hope, peace, and comfort. He promises hope in a seemingly hopeless world. He is the one light that pierces the darkness.

And because He is in those of us who have committed our lives to Him, His light shines through us as well.

Yes, we live in a very, very dark world. And it seems to be growing ever-darker. But we can have hope ... those of us who follow Christ, that is. One day, there will be no more darkness. God Himself will be all the light we'll need (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).

For now, though, let's shine Christ's light. Let's be those small beacons that guide others to that light.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Story of Grace (John 8:1-11)

Today's scripture: John 8:1-11

I so love today's verses.

I imagine this woman, whom I believe may have been "set up," being dragged from bed. She's with a man to whom she's not married. She's naked. Vulnerable. Knowing she's done wrong.

How did she come to this? Was she lonely? Had she been abused? Had she been seduced in a moment of weakness? We don't know how she got there, but that's where she is found.

A group of self-righteous men burst into the room and grab her. (One has to wonder where the man is ...) Perhaps she only has time to grab a sheet. She's pulled through the streets. Tripping over the ends of her wrap. People point and judge. They snicker and sneer. They know what she's done.

Finally, she's thrown at the feet of the man they call the Teacher. She's heard of Him. That He's done miracles. That He preaches love. That He claims to be God.

And if He's God, He too will revile her. She deserves it, after all.

The men, who have been gathering stones as they stomp through the streets, shout, "“Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”
(v. 4, CEV).

They're right. That's what the law says. She braces herself for the first stone. She waits for the words of the Teacher.

But instead of pelting her with words of condemnation, He doesn't say a word. Instead, he crouches and writes in the dirt. What are those words? We don't know, and many speculate.

I can imagine how the woman's heart falls to her stomach. The anticipation. The fear.

Then a miracle.

After the badgering goes on for a while, Jesus finally stands and says, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”
(v. 10).

Shamed, each of the condemning, hypocritical men drops his stone. And walks away.

After a moment, Jesus looks at the women. “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?”(v.10).

Imagine. She is expecting death. She is offered life. Jesus says, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore" (v. 11).

This is my story. This is yours as well. We have all been caught in sin. Each and every one of us. None of us has "never sinned." Each of us deserves death. Each of us should face God's accusations.

But instead of condemnation, Jesus has written our names in the Book of Life. God has written our names on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16). He has made the enemy drop the stones of guilt, accusation, and unworthiness.

He has not accused us. Instead, He offers forgiveness and life. He makes only one command: Don't sin any more.

Those of us who have been saved through grace are blessed beyond measure. God sees beyond our unworthiness and sees worth in us.

And so we should, in utter and complete gratitude, live for Him. Serving Him. Sinning no more.

Just as I imagine this woman did. For the rest of her life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Only Conclusion (John 7:40-53)

Today's scripture: John 7:40-53

The most critical decision a person can make is answering the question, "Who is Jesus?"

Some people say He never existed, that He was just a myth. This just isn't true. The Bible is one piece of evidence that Jesus did exist, and its historical veracity has been proven. Secular historians, such as Josephus, also wrote of Jesus as having lived. No one who does his homework can say Jesus didn't walk this earth 2000 years ago.

Others say He was just a good man and teacher. And while He did exist, the stories of His miracles are overblown. He never claimed to be God. He was merely a good motivational speaker. Again, however, because the New Testament books were written within just decades of Jesus' death and resurrection, many would have been able to debunk those books if they weren't true. But nothing has been written that says, "No, despite what those Christ-followers say, Jesus didn't raise anyone from the dead. I was there."

In addition, according to tradition, the "inner circle"—Peter, James, Thomas, et al—died martyrs' deaths as they proclaimed Jesus as God. Even John spent his final days in lonely exile writing the revelation of Jesus' one-day triumphant return.

Finally, Jesus Himself said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Never did He claim to be just a prophet or just a teacher. He was God Himself. And only He is the way to salvation (John 14:6). One of my favorite quotes about this comes from C.S. Lewis:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The only conclusion one can come to is that Jesus is exactly who He says He is: He is the Son of God who came to earth to provide salvation for anyone who chooses to follow Him.

Not just a teacher. Not just a prophet. Not just a good man.

He was—He is—the Messiah. He is God Himself.