But take notice, the hour is coming, and it has arrived, when you will all be dispersed and scattered, every man to his own home, leaving Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]
[John 16:32-33 AMPC]
In these terrible times — particularly now, when we are forbidden from gathering in Jesus’ name — it is easy to succumb to feelings of anxiety, depression and lassitude — or even feeling the need to struggle against the onset of these things. These things — nowadays placed under the heading of ‘mental health issues’, and ‘problems of the mind’ — ignore the spiritual dimension.
Modern healthcare has become greatly adept at dealing with the body and the mind, often leaving the Spirit on the sickbed, fighting for life. The insidious feeling of ‘losing control’ seeps through every fibre. In this way, the world is the overcomer, seizing the opportunity to claim yet another victim.
When in such a state, we can read the words of Jesus; “I have overcome the world”, but struggle to believe those words for the amazing lifeline they are. “The hour is coming, yes, has now come”, or “is now come” as the King James Version has it. For what? It is the time when “you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave [Jesus] alone”
What our Lord is showing us is that such moments will come into every believer’s life, and that those moment will always be a ‘now’ in our experience, but that we should not despair — difficult though that may appear to us — because He who abides at our very centre, when we centre ourselves in Him will perform a resurrection miracle, just as He did with Lazarus...
Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger].
When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!
And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.
[John 11:40-44 AMPC]
Turn your eyes toward Jesus is always the answer and sometimes immediately, sometimes in a measured way He will raise you up to His side. That is why we should be of good cheer no matter what May befall.
Let me plead with you, as though Christ besought you, do not be disobedient to the heavenly vision. There is only one purpose for your life, and that is the satisfaction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
[Hebrews 11:1-3 KJV]
I have found great blessing in starting the day with reading the word of God and a commentary on what it reveals from a commentator I trust. No one has proved more consistently enlightening to me than Oswald Chambers.
In the books that were produced by his wife ‘Biddy’ (Gertrude) after his death in 1917 — and based on her shorthand notations of Oswald’s talks and lectures — I have found a wealth of Holy Spirit wisdom that always points me toward the source of that wisdom — Jesus Christ.
What follows was my reading this morning, from the book “Devotions For A Deeper Life” ...
“Faith is too often viewed as “a habit of the mind whereby we assent to a testimony, upon the authority of the one who testifies.” But New Testament faith is infinitely more than this.
When we lie like fallow ground, God puts in new seeds and the harvest is the ripe fruit of God; otherwise it is ripe fruit of naturalness only. Lying fallow is always the secret of spiritual growth.
So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
[Daniel 3:7 NKJV]
The libretto for ‘He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him’ from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ uses passages from Isaiah and Matthew. The words of the song are:
Air (or Duet) (Alto &) soprano
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40: 11)
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest.
Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11: 28-29)
His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. (Matthew 11: 30)
The words of Jesus have been changed so that the personal ‘come unto me’ of the New Testament becomes the external impersonal ‘come unto him’. It shows how subtly and easily Jesus’ message can be manipulated to distance us from His presence. Am I making too big a thing of this — it is a fine and beautiful song from a brilliant oratorio, and a much-loved favourite?
I use the example of Handel’s ‘The Messiah’ merely because I had been listening to the song ‘Come Unto Him’ (see below) this morning. The same applies to many songs or hymns that we hold dear. A misquoting of Jesus words or purpose is a distortion, which over time, can lead to false beliefs settling in the mind — gold images which look good and sound good, but which lead away from the real thing.
The Bible itself was compiled over centuries from the writings of many men in several different languages; translated into other languages, which have been used to re-translate into more still. Add to that the fact that words and usage evolve and change and it is a miracle that we have anything of the original at all.
Yet Jesus’ words prevail. They are ‘God-breathed’ truth and eternal. Thus, it is immeasurably important that we seek the reality and essence, the deeper meaning that God reveals in His word. Do not settle for superficial gloss, but let The Holy Spirit guide each one of us in our understanding, and continue to let His heavenly music lift us in Him.
The one great enemy of discipleship is obstinacy, spiritual obstinacy. We deify independence and wilfulness and call them by the wrong name.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
[John 18:36 NKJV]
There are many examples in history of Christians influencing the politics of a nation in hugely beneficial ways. In the late eighteenth century, an evangelical Christian, William Wilberforce, was a significant leader of the movement to tackle the sinfulness of slavery. For twenty years, he headed up the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade, his efforts culminating in the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
We can certainly say that the ‘Christianising’ of politics can be of great value to a nation, but how about the ‘politicising’ of Christianity? Jesus didn’t promote political beliefs or political affiliation in His teaching. In fact, when Pilate was trying to understand His political motives, Jesus made it clear that the Kingdom He was describing had nothing to do with the power struggles of the religious and political leaders of that time.
We need to be careful about allowing ever-changing political ideologies into the activities of the Body of Christ. We are called to promote justice through spiritual reconciliation with God, not by absorbing the trending beliefs of this fallen world. Sadly, the unchanging Word of God will frequently be at odds with the attitudes of society, not least in standards of morality, but the aim of a follower of Jesus is to please God, not to appease those who carry political power. Our calling is to influence the attitudes of world with the righteousness of Jesus, not to invite the beliefs of the world to influence attitudes within the Body of Christ.
We live in days when the challenge of these issues will become ever more difficult, with the Christian perspective on life likely to be increasingly ridiculed. Thankfully, we have only to stand firm where God places us in the outworking of His plans and purposes, and to remember that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Prayer: Father God, I’m so grateful that we don’t have to be swayed by public opinion or the strength of political argument, for Your plumb line of truth remains unchanging as the answer to all the injustice of this troubled world. Give us strength and grace to share that radical answer, as You give each of us direction. Amen.
Today's Writer : David Cross David Cross David is part of the Executive Leadership of Ellel Ministries, with particular responsibility for the Ellel centres in Western Europe. He is married to Denise and they have three grown up children and eight grandchildren. David has been a civil engineer and ski-touring instructor in the Highlands of Scotland. He is passionate about the teaching and practice of the healing and deliverance ministry of Jesus and has written several books: Soul Ties, Trapped by Control, God’s Covering, The Dangers of Alternative Ways to Healing(co-authored with John Berry), an A to Z Guide to the Healing Ministry, and, most recently, What`s Wrong with Human Rights? You can follow a daily thought from David on Twitter: @dmcross62
Click here for a link to Carter Conlon, ‘It’s Time To Pray’ one minute audio “We aren’t called to escape trouble”
Peter couples suffering “according to the will of God” with active well-doing (1 Peter 4:19). The folk who are most actively beneficent to you are those who are being crushed with suffering that would send you staggering.
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”
They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”
He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).
One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
John 1:35-42 NKJV]
Jesus’ invitation when first we meet with Him is always “Come and see”, or “Come and Dine”; to go with Him to meet Him “where He was staying”. We are not told exactly where that is in these verses; but by following Him, he will be leading us to a temple made without hands — the place He called The Kingdom of Heaven
Andrew and the other disciple, were swiftly convinced that they had met with The Messiah; and we know that they became His disciples as His teaching grew in them and they came to see — that is, understand — the amazing revelation He brought.
Coming to Jesus is the important first step, and opening ourselves to understand His teaching is the second; but it requires us to remain “with Him that day” — for His Spirit to transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. [Philippians 3:21 NKJV]
Jesus came to us to reveal many things, but mainly to reveal the way, the truth and the life — all found in The Kingdom; all found in Him, if we will listen to His “Come and see”.
Finally — in these verses — we see the Holy Spirit recreate or regenerate an individual. Jesus looked at Simon and saw the new nature within; renaming Simon, ‘Cephas’, (the stone, or rock). In Matthew’s gospel, Simon Peter is named by Jesus as “the rock on which I will build my church”, and here is the moment — John places this event at the first meeting — showing us that the change of nature begins immediately we have contact with Jesus. Come and See.
When God puts His Spirit within us, we can say—“even now” it is as black as night, but I will not accept a slander against Jesus Christ.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
[John 1:29-34 NKJV]
My mother loved to see what she called “newly-minted lambs” appearing in the fields. Just like snowdrops and lengthening days, they heralded rebirth and new life. That at its simplest is what John the Baptist is proclaiming here, as we know.
The apostle John also heartens back to the Genesis chapter 22 story of the sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham heeded the instruction of an Angel to substitute a ram caught in a thicket.
So, just as in the Old Testament, a lamb was slaughtered and burnt on the altar as an atonement for sins; in the New Testament, Jesus took the place of the sacrificial lamb, and took on the burden of sin for all.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
[Romans 5:8-11 NKJV]
In the painting, we see Jesus approaching — separated from the crowd by a halo of atmospherics. Most of the people are watching The Baptist or engrossed in the task in hand. Only one or two may be paying attention to their approaching salvation.
The resentment of discipline of any kind will warp the whole life away from God’s purpose.
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
And he answered, “No.”
Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
[John 1:19-23 NKJV]
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness is John the Baptist’s answer to his inquisitors’ “Who are you?” The quotation, we are told, is from the prophet Isaiah and from chapter 40, where Isaiah begins to unfold his prophecy of the coming Messiah.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth;
The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
[Isaiah 40:1-5 NKJV]
John the Baptist in this way declares the fulfilment of that prophecy, and this moment is stated in all four gospels, no matter to whom they were speaking. (Matthew was writing to the Jews; Mark to the Romans; Luke spoke to the Greeks, while John wrote to everyone regardless of their ethnicity.) This moment is the first heralding that this was the hour of The Christ’s manifestation.
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed is effectively stating three times (not just for emphasis, but to state the complete truth of the assertion), that he, John, was not The Christ that he was proclaiming, but that he was the herald also foretold by Isaiah — the lone voice shouting God’s message to the lost and the sinful that their salvation was approaching.
If you have not yet discovered Michael Card, he is well worth listening to. Milady and I went to a concert of his when we lived in Ireland and he was amazing. Deeply felt lyrics and a spiritual understanding pointing to a great faith in The Lord making for a very uplifting experience.
Reserve gives us an air of aloofness, and though it may start with being outward only, it will slowly and surely eat its way into the heart and result in a base form of self-centredness.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
[John 1:6-13 NKJV]
John — in speaking of his namesake John, the Baptist — twice says that he came to ‘bear witness to the/that light’. This works on two levels; for emphasis of John the Baptist’s role as a witness, and that ‘two’ is the number used in Scripture to denote ‘witness’, or ‘agreement’.* John is also making a clear distinction between John the Baptist’s purpose and that of the Light that he came to announce.
Furthermore, these verses speak of two people, ‘The Baptist’ and ‘The Light’, who was Jesus, who was to become ‘the Christ’. In the beginning was one, ‘The Word’, and now we have two. Now we have the embryo of a movement; a seed planted which will grow and bear fruit, which is shown in the third part of these verses — that those who follow, as many as received Him ... who believe in His name, is given the right to become children of God. This was no advertising gimmick or foolish promise, as we know. This seed has grown to become still — despite the decline of Christianity in Western society — the largest religion in the World today, by far. What began as ‘the true light’ has become an incandescent flame illuminating the whole earth, if only many more had a heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear. [Deuteronomy 29:4 NKJV].
And if each of us who have ‘seen The Light’, bear witness to The Light, we shall be helping keep that flame alive.
* Two. Denotes difference. If two different persons agree in testimony it is conclusive. Otherwise two implies opposition, enmity, and division, as was the work of the Second day. Compare the use of the word “double” applied to “heart”, “tongue”, “mind”, &c. [E W Bullinger ‘The Companion Bible’, Appendix 10: “The Spiritual Significance of Numbers”]
The Apostle James will have nothing to do with pious talk that is not backed by the life. Pious words without works are so much wind.
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 nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
[John 1:1-5 NKJV]
What a beautiful name. ‘The Word’. Verse 1 expresses and explains in a few short words the conundrum which is Jesus Christ to us, and it does so, not from our perspective, but from God’s. These five verses which announce John’s Gospel have an unsurpassed resonance in the New Testament — an echo of the first five verses of Genesis announcing the Old.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
[Genesis 1:1-5 NKJV]
Both of these quotations are ‘eternal’ in their expression. John’s Gospel is the most overtly Spirit-led of the four; but that is not to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke are not. John seems less interested in ‘telling the story’ of Jesus, than he is in revealing the Son of God. John, we understand, was the disciple ‘that Jesus loved’ and we sense the closeness of the relationship throughout the book. This, after all, was the disciple who was lying on Jesus’ breast, hearing His heartbeat; the one would ask Jesus the question on behalf of the others (see John 13:18-30).
John also wrote his three letters and the book of Revelation, quoting Jesus as saying “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” [Revelation 22:13 NKJV]. John, as author of a gospel and the final book of the New Testament, provides his own beginning and end to Jesus’ purpose for us all — a beginning which had no beginning and an end which is never ending. Jesus is forever; He is ‘The Eternal Word’
This song, to which Annea introduced us, seems easily the most appropriate song for this meditation and scripture reading.
If you are a saint God will continually upset your programme, and if you are wedded to your programme you will become that most obnoxious creature under heaven, an irritable saint.
GEORGE and GILL STEWART