Do I Have To? H.C. Question 87

 Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and unrepentant ways?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:1-20 – Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:14 – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.



John 11 – Raising the Dead

Read John 11

It’s hard to imagine that a miracle so great as raising someone from the dead warrants the harsh reaction of the religious leaders that we see here.  But for them, it was the last straw.  It isn’t entirely clear here why it comes down to this, but in the end, they put forth a plot to capture and kill Jesus.  For John’s Gospel, this is the turning point in Jesus ministry, the divide between the book of signs and the book of glory.

Yet even in the midst of all the scheming and plotting, God’s will and plan are still being worked out.  Remember in Matthew 27, when the people screamed for Jesus’ blood to “be on us and on our children”?  Here we see yet another irony as Caiaphas speaks to the current predicament: “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  Little does he know how right he is.

All of this, as Jesus often reminds us, has to happen for His glory to be revealed.  As we begin to shift our focus from Jesus’ earthly ministry to His glorification on the cross, we need to keep in mind the recurring themes that John infuses into His writing.  First, Jesus is the light of the world, the one who gives true sight, but the world hates the light and does not recognize it.  The Pharisees are still in the dark here.

Second, and more importantly, Jesus is the great I AM, and the way that this is going is, as He reminds us here, the only way… He is the only way for life, freedom, and true sight.  As Jesus moves forward now, His actions will expand the resurrection from local, one man, to a universal reality.



John 9 – Blindness

Read John 9

John continues with the theme of testimony which he started in chapter 8 and weaves it into to ongoing theme of darkness and light that is present throughout his Gospel.  Here it takes on a deeper meaning as he relates light to the ability to see.  But as we read, we are presented with the question of what exactly “true sight” is.

At face value, we see Jesus healing a blind man.  This is, by itself, miraculous.  The teaching that comes with it, that his blindness is not a result of the sin of him or his parents is important for that culture because the prevailing notion was that debilitating conditions like this were the result of sin.  Sometimes we still think along these lines: “what did they do to deserve that?”  Jesus corrects this cultural assumption and directs their focus away from the idea that God caused this and toward the beauty of how God is working in the midst of it.

In doing so, Jesus helps His disciples to make the transition from thinking about physical sight to having a greater vision of what God is doing.  He also talks about being the light of the world while illuminating their vision of God’s work and the expansion of the Kingdom.

This reaches its climax when the discussion turns to the Pharisees, the religious leaders who claim to have “sight.”  By the end of the chapter it is clear that this man has received so much more than physical sight while the religious leaders themselves don’t even recognize their own blindness, so worried about the Law that they cannot see God at work.  It is interesting that this lack of ability to recognize their blindness, their claim that they have “true sight,” it what ultimately causes their guilt.



John 3 – Nicodemus

Read John 3

Whenever the Pharisees and Jesus engage in a conversation, it is pretty much expected that sparks are going to fly.  This conversation with Nicodemus though, seems rather anticlimactic; Nicodemus’ seems almost normal, at least for a Pharisee.

In many cases Jesus is always on the defensive when it comes to Pharisee interaction, but what we see here is Jesus interacting on a personal level, fielding questions from someone that doesn’t quite understand completely.  While at times Jesus seems disappointed in Nicodemus’ lack of understanding, that is because of his status as a religious leader, not because Jesus doesn’t welcome the questions.

One of the realities that we see here, actually, is that Jesus welcomes the questions from anyone, on any level, at any time.  He doesn’t run away from the questions, doesn’t reject the asker, and doesn’t sugar coat the answers either because reality of the answers, whether we like them or not, always come back to the over-abundance of grace and love that God has for everyone.  We see this in the words of Scripture’s most famous verse: John 3:16.

John’s Gospel is full of recurring thematic imagery that is good to be on the lookout for.  Back in John 1, the Apostle talks about Jesus as the “Light of the World.”  He also talks about Jesus as a light that the world does not recognize.  Here we get some of this imagery again as Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the dark of night, but also comes to Him in the dark of who Jesus really is.

Verses 16-20 reflect this even more as John writes a bit of his own commentary on the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus leading to His conclusion about the state of the word’s love for darkness and also its hope for the true Light.



Psalm 119:105-112 "Light for the Path"

1/17/2016 – Engage the WORD – There are times when our path seems clear and times when it seems cloudy and dark. In those times, we need to turn to God’s Word to give us light, maybe not to illuminate the whole path, but at least enough for the next step.



Day 312: John 12-13; The Book of Glory

We enter today into the second half of the Gospel of John, walking from the book of signs into the book of glory.  As we talked about before, John writes the first half of his book with a focus on seven miracles that are weaved into the narrative of Jesus’ life.  Each of these, in a different setting, are placed as a way of showing the reader Jesus’ power over everything and many of the different characteristics of the kingdom of God which He heralds.  We step away from this, without leaving it behind of course, and move into the book of glory which focuses in on Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem and what John ultimately sets up as the “glorification of Jesus Christ,” the Cross.

There are some debates about when exactly this particular section of the John’s Gospel starts.  Some would say that it is here at the beginning of chapter 12,  others would say that it begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  As I was reading through today’s Scripture, I couldn’t disconnect in my mind the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary.  While neither Jesus nor John mention it, my mind was drawn to the anointing of Saul, David, and many of the other kings and rulers of Israel and other lands as well.  There was a certain symbolism to the anointing process, a sort of divine significance and proclamation of the authority given to the anointed one.  While in some ways this happened at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, this fits perfectly as the transitional point from Jesus’ ministry to Jesus’ passion.

In our reading today we see some of Jesus’ talk about light as well.  He says, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”  Remember back to Jesus’ statement, “I AM the light of the world“?  There are some definite connections here to that, and to all of Jesus’ ministry.  John is showing us that there is congruence between Jesus’ ministry and the coming death that will take place.  We are also introduced to some new language, mostly centered around the word “glory” or “glorification.”  Jesus talks about this when He also mentioned the need for the Son of man to be “lifted up.”  As we said earlier, John is equating the “raising up” of Jesus on the cross as Jesus’ ultimate glorification.

Finally today, we read of the Last supper narrative from the perspective of John.  This particular passage is unique to John and isn’t included in any of the other Gospels.  Part of me wonders why this is; if their perspectives and writings avoided this because of the humbling that took place in the act of foot washing?  The true reason, I guess, is not known, but John makes it a point to record this act in its fullness.  In it, we see something very true about the nature of Jesus as well.  In many ways, this reflects what Matthew and Mark write about Jesus, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ actions is priceless.  His reaction to what Jesus says to Him is even more priceless.  How little the seem to understand at this point… yet so eager to do all that Jesus says.

I think we shall end with Jesus’ words after He has returned to the Table with them.  They are quite meaningful and really sum up both the action that He has taken in washing the disciples feet and the action that He will take to wash them of their sins as well:

Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.



Day 310: John 8-9; Darkness and Light

As we talked about a couple days ago when we began the book of John, one of the things that John masterfully weaves into his writing is the interplay between darkness and light as it pertains to Jesus’ and His incarnation in the world.  John writes in the first chapter:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John is also, no doubt, drawing from some of the prophecies that come from Isaiah as well.  There is one in particular, from Isaiah chapter 9, that I can think of right away that contains the theme of darkness and light, one that we is often looked to during the Christmas season, a passage that Matthew also picks up in Chapter 4:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Jesus bears witness to Himself in our reading for today, saying that He is the “Light of the world” and that all who believe in Him will have “Light of life.”  In this small discourse, Jesus relates what He says to His status as the Son, pointing to the fact that it is through Him, and only through Him that we can know the Father.  He also uses the same wording here as yesterday, the I AM “ἐγώ εἰμί statement.  Jesus is the Light, the Truth that sets us free!

Reading these two chapters more carefully, we see that John is relating darkness, the slavery to sin, and even physical ailments as being part of the darkness that we are seeing here.  In contrast, Jesus says that He is the light, He is the truth that sets us free from slavery, and He is the one who heals the blind man.  I love the narrative of chapter 9 here, when Jesus heals the blind man and he is hauled before the religious leaders.  They ask him all sorts of questions about his blindness and the man that healed him.  They simply cannot put it together that Jesus could possibly be someone sent from God.  The man’s response?  “Whether he [Jesus] is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… I was blind but now I see.  Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has a light shone… The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  Remember that in the past we have talked about God’s dwelling being in darkness.  From the very beginning, when the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters and darkness was over the face of the deep.  Even in the Tabernacle and the Temple we noted that the place that God dwells is in complete darkness.  While this is true, I think that we can see this darkness in a couple of different ways.  First and foremost, darkness is the natural habitat of God and most definitely not for humans.  In the darkness we stumble, we cannot see, we are compelled to sleep, and we are vulnerable.  For us darkness separates, alienates… it is even dangerous.  We are light dwellers.  John’s Jewish readers would have picked up on this almost immediately… the Gentile readers wouldn’t have been far behind.

Yet, in Jesus Christ, those walking in darkness have seen a great light.  Though God has been with us in this dark world, the world that God created but that has been marred with sin.  We are not able to effectively be in relationship with God because of our sin.  It is only in Jesus Christ that our world has been illuminated, that in the presence of God we can now see!  We were blind, lost in darkness, and now we can see.



Day 307: John 1-3; Introduction to and Prologue of John

Today we come to the Gospel of John, the fourth and final Gospel in the New Testament.  John’s Gospel was the last of the four that were written and is not considered to be one of the “synoptic Gospels.”  Much of what is written in John is unique from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and doesn’t follow in the same order as them.  This is not to say that the Gospel of John is in some way, incorrect, but instead takes yet another perspective of Jesus life from presumably one of His closest disciples.  John is writing in an effort to prove once and for all that Jesus the Divine Son of God.  Not only that though, John sought to show His readers, which were likely some of the Church’s that are mentioned at the beginning of the book of Revelation, that Jesus was indeed God almighty as well, the creator of the world who took on human flesh and ultimately sacrificed Himself for the salvation of His beloved children, and ultimately all of creation.

John begins his writing with a beautiful prologue that we have the opportunity to read today.  It is one of the most theologically rich writings in all of Scripture if you ask me.  In some ways, it is a genius move on John’s part, starting with the main point of His writing, almost as a theological plateau or mountain top from which we can look down and survey the whole of the rest of the Gospel (and most of Scripture too actually).  To be honest, I think we could spend a month talking through the prologue of John, and then venture carefully into the rest of His writing, however we aren’t given that amount of time.  So instead we will indeed use this scripture as the point from which we look out over the whole of the next 9 day’s readings, always keeping in mind the dual nature of Jesus on earth.  He is both fully human and fully Divine!  Too often we tend to divide up God and we forget that though we have a Triune God with three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, God is also one and Jesus being God means that God came here to earth and took on human flesh.

The book of John is divided up into two different sections after this first chapter: the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory.  In the first half of the Gospel of John, we specifically see a focus on Jesus’ miracles, in (arguably) seven signs, which are Jesus’ miracles, that are performed as John establishes Jesus Divinity in human form.  We see clearly that Jesus, though a man, has divine abilities and powers over creation.  In some ways, Jesus is also “recreating” many things, showing the true nature of creation and the Kingdom of God in small but important ways.  The wedding of Cana, which is Jesus’ first sign is one of these miracles where Jesus both does something miraculous but also shows the nature of His love and the Kingdom of God in the abundance of what he creates and what it comes from.  These basins were wash basins for those that had to go and “relieve” themselves at the party.  The Jewish community would have considered that water to be completely dirty and unclean.  Yet Jesus takes the dirty and makes it clean.  You can definitely see some of clear foreshadowing to the Lord’s supper here, with the wine that Jesus creates and gives to all the people.  Again, taking the unclean and making it clean.

Notice too, in our reading today, the interplay that John sets up between darkness and light.  There are many of these types of interplay that happen in the book of John.  He is a masterful writer, blending many themes together throughout the whole of His writing, even carrying them on into His letters which we will read in about a month.  John works on making many distinctions between what was before Jesus and what was after.  The unclean and the clean at the wedding of Cana is just one example.  The darkness and the light that we see in chapter one as well.  In chapter three we also see a bit of the interplay between flesh (before) and spirit (after), and John lay this out very well without giving into some of the Gnostic teachings of the time that said that flesh was ultimately bad.  John does not say this, but points to a time when the Spirit will be in our flesh, in much the same way that he points to God incarnate in flesh through Jesus Christ.

As we begin our short journey through John, I think its important to know that John’s book is in many ways one of the most important theological books of the Bible.  I know that this is a difficult thing to say and I wouldn’t even discount the rest of Scripture, however John makes some very specific theological moves in His book that are very important for us as Christians.  While they are present in other places throughout the Bible and especially in the New Testament, John does a great job of weaving them in deeply in His writing.  The whole book of John is worth reading over and over.  We many only have a little time to cover each days’ reading (and I’m sorry if my posts get long these next few days, but there is just so much to say), but it’s still completely worth the read.  John’s Gospel is like a swimming pool: you can play in the shallow end and still get pretty wet, or you can dive down deep into the deep and get soaked.  My prayer this week is that we get as soaked as we possibly can in the good news of Jesus Christ as revealed in the book of John!



Day 40: Numbers 5-6; Significance of Blessings

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

There are several other parts of this particular reading that are significant.  Many of them have to do with the continuing theme of clean and unclean; Holy and common.  In reality, much of what we are reading in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy have to do with this theme.  God has chosen this people, elected them to be His own, and is not describing for them how they should live as people set apart for God.  They need to be free of uncleanliness… and follow certain ways of living.  For those that chose to be set apart from the people that are set apart, there is an entirely different set of rules.  The Nazirite Vow is something that is most notably found in the story of Sampson, which we will cover sometime in the next month or so.

One of the more important parts of this particular reading today, and probably one of the most well known also, is that of the blessing given to Moses for Aaron and the priests to use to bless the people.  I would like to clarify some words in this, bringing in the full range of meaning for them from the Hebrew language and culture:

Bless (יְבָרֶכְךָ֥): To Bless, to Kneel.  The idea of the blessing is not simply a nice word to send you away with or a polite goodbye.  To bless someone is something akin to the transfer of power.  Sending someone away, like at the end of a worship service, is actually to impart the name of (and therefore power of) that one on to them.  In some aspects, it would be like literally writing the name of the one giving the blessing on the forehead of the one being blessed.  As Christians, we believe that the words of blessing, though spoke by the pastor, are actually God’s words empowering us and sending us out in His name.

Keep (וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ): to keep, guard, observe, give heed, protect.  The idea here can be seen in the greater meanings listed.  It the idea is the protection of God.  We not only go out in the power and name of God, we also go out in God’s eternal protection as well.

Shine (יָאֵ֨ר): to be or become light, shine, to be illuminated.  There are several ideas for this particular word.  One would be the idea of us being illuminated by God, shining forth His light in the world to which we go.  The other would be that God illumines our path and brightens our way as we go.  In any case, this is all about the light of God acting on us.

Gracious (וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ): to be gracious, show favor, pity, be shown consideration.  The idea of grace is much more well rounded than I think ours is in modern Christianity.  We’ve made grace to simply be about “me and Jesus” and how God just washes away our sins.  While this is true in every respect, grace has so much more to do with God’s favor toward us, unmerited by our own actions, but having everything to do with the nature of God as being “Gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”  (Exodus 34; Nehemiah 9; Psalm 86, 103, 145; Joel 2; Jonah 2, 4).

“lift up his countenance” (יִשָּׂ֨א): to lift, bear up, carry, take, support, sustain, endure, forgive.  The word countenance actually has to do with the turning of ones face or facial expression towards another.  This is why we sometimes say “The Lord turn His face towards you.”  But as you can see, it is much more than that even.  This particular phrase is about (amongst other things) God’s eternal faithfulness towards us and the fact that He goes with us, supporting and sustaining us, even carrying us.  There is beautiful imagery here that is caught up in the “Footprints” poem.

Give (וְיָשֵׂ֥ם): to put, place, set, appoint, make, direct, lay hands on.  Words like this often get us caught in our contemporary context.  The word “give” brings up images of birthdays, Christmas, and offering plates.  Yet the meaning is so much greater.  God goes with us, as we saw with the last word, appointing and directing us.  This idea, in many ways, represents the idea of touch.  While unfortunately the idea of touching another has been much corrupted in our culture (sexual imagery, inappropriate actions, etc.), what is being conveyed here is the most appropriate, loving, gentle embrace… the wrapping of Gods arms around us as He appoints for us…

Peace (שָׁלֽוֹם): completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, tranquility, quiet, safety, soundness, contentment, friendship.  Again, a word that brings with it connotations.  Yet this isn’t just worldly peace, the cessation of war, or end of violence, this is indeed the ushering in of the true Kingdom of God in which all things are brought to their fully reconciled and redeemed state.  In many ways this is a return to Eden (though I don’t really like that phrase)… when all of creation will again be made right.  The Lion will lay down with the Lamb.  Swords will be beaten into plow shares.  Brother will lay down against brother.  And all will worship together before the Lord.

Amen.  Maranatha!  (Come Lord Jesus)