Spirit of God – Part 3

In part 2 of this series, we finished by looking at passages from the Old Covenant and will now turn our attention to the New Covenant and the work of God’s spirit through the Messiah of Israel…Yeshua, Translated in English as Jesus.

It is in the New Covenant that we are given further insight into the actions of God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit is shown to descend upon Jesus giving him power and enablement for the ministry before him.

I again want to stop here for just one moment and remind ourselves that the actions of God’s spirit here in the New Testament are still given in descriptive ways for us to have a better understanding of the actions and work of the invisible God, whose very essence is spirit. So when we see terms of being led by the spirit or speaking against the Holy Spirit, the writers are communicating to us, the actions of our God in ways that we can understand yet ever so poorly our God. It is Jesus who through the apostle John, will provide us with the fullness of this understanding when he makes this statement about God – “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:23–24, ESV)  Did you catch that – God is spirit!!

I spent a couple weeks in Israel and had the opportunity to talk with some Jewish Brothers who are now following Jesus, and they expressed this in a way that made more sense to them. They said that the Spirit is the manifestation of the power of God and that Jesus is the manifestation of God in the flesh. To these men, the Trinity doctrine that is very prevalent throughout all of Christianity is to them taking those anthropomorphic expressions of the one God who is Spirit and breaking Him into individual persons. This in essence is bringing God down to our human level and borders on the same views that the pagans had of their Gods and the limitations they would have as more human-like in form.  Are these valid arguments or not is one of those areas that can lead to division in the body. Since the early church fathers there have been discussions, councils, and development of doctrine regarding the nature of God both for our own understanding and also to combat false prophets and ideas. The best we should do is to remain open about the study of God’s character while still being on guard to doctrines and ideas that the scripture simply does not support.

As people who are followers of Jesus, what do we take away from all of this? Well, we have a foundation in the Scriptures of God’s spirit already at work in the lives of His people, and with the resurrection of our Lord, the actions of the Spirit of God have been renewed or refreshed in the people that God is calling back to himself. What are those things that we see of the Spirit in the New Testament?

First, as in Genesis, He gives life. Jesus expressed this in the passage that we quote so often – “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:3–8, ESV) Being born of the Spirit is considered the new life of every believer called by God.

Then what happens after that? The spirit (whom we are told is sent forth from the father and son – another expression for our benefit) will teach us (Jn 14:26), bear witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26), guide us in all truth (Jn 16:13), represent the power of God in the lives of his people (Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26, 15:13), bears witness to our spirit that we are His children (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6), instills in us the qualities of God’s character (Gal 5:22), and as it is in Genesis, the Spirit Speaks. (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 3:22) Finally, just as with the people of God in the Old Testament, the Spirit can be grieved or quenched by the sinful actions of His own people. (1 Thess 5:19, Eph 4:30)

So, as followers of this amazing God and the example he has given us in His Son Jesus, what should we do with this amazing gift of His presence living within us. A fresh expression of Life given from the creator of all things. I think Paul wrote it best when he penned 2 Tim 1:6 – “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:6–7, ESV) The power of God, that resurrected Jesus from the grave is the same power that lives in each one who truly follows Jesus, and that power enables us to live a life that is an expression of Love and Self-Control. We just have to choose to allow him to be in control rather than I, for I is the center of sIn. God in His grace and mercy has refreshed his presence in the lives of those who choose to accept this wonderful gift, so then how shall we live?

Spirit of God – Part 2

Continued from Spirit of God Part 1

Throughout the Torah, the early writings that were given to the people of God through Moses contained many examples of God’s spirit and His action in the lives of His people. Not only would the spirit be attributed to creation and life, but it would be seen as the power of God working in and through His chosen people. Examples of this can be seen in passages like Ex 28:3, 35:31, Nu 11:17, 11:25, Dt 34:9. Later writings would also have similar descriptions of God’s spirit at work in his servants. Sometimes anthropomorphic terms would be used to describe the work of the spirit in such a way to emphasize importance or urgency in the Spirits action like we see in 1 Sam 11:6 – “And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled.” (ESV)  The Spirit which is present everywhere and at all times is shown here to rush upon Saul, giving urgency to what the Spirit was doing through Saul.

Later on in the scriptures, David would pen various psalms (Ps 139:7-10) that would also give us more insight into the very essence of God. In many Eastern cultures, their gods were more like humans and were not present everywhere at all times, but in the Psalms, David shows us that God’s spirit is present everywhere and at all times. Throughout the scriptures, God’s spirit would be attributed to His presence, so we could understand that the very essence of God is present everywhere and at all times.

In the prophets we would see even more of the Spirits actions in the lives of his people when they would show that from the Spirit would flow wisdom and understanding, yet, the prophets would also repeat the original theme of life and creative power like in Isaiah – “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:” (Isaiah 42:5, ESV) It is also shown that it is God’s spirit that enables men to continue to carry His image to a world that has lived in darkness and chaos. (Is 61:1)

The prophets also show us another aspect of the very presence of God, that in our rebellion and sinfulness we can grieve the Spirit, which is just a way of showing that we are grieving God. “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore, he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit,” (Isaiah 63:10–11, ESV)  In this very passage the He is God and it shows that He is the one who is in the midst of His people, and it is His spirit, the very essence of who He is that is grieved.

A beautiful passage where we see future actions of the ruah is the wonderful promise to all the people of God is Ezekiel 36:25-27. It is here that God tells His people that he will gather them from the places they have been scattered and cleanse them. Then he tells them that he will give them a new heart, a new or fresh spirit, He will put His Spirit (ruah – breath) within them so that they will walk in His ways. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV)  This should drive the reader straight back to Genesis and the ideas regarding God as the Life-giver.

A similar passage is also given in Jer 31:31, where it is tied to a new or refreshed Covenant that will be given to the people of God. ““Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)  If you ponder these passages you will see an interesting parallel to God’s spirit and God’s Torah. In Ezekiel God says he will put his spirit in them and cause them to walk in His Torah, whereas in Jeremiah he says that he will put his Torah in them and that they will Know the Lord.

This opens the door to the world of the coming of God in the flesh as the Messiah of Israel. We will continue to explore these ideas found in the New Testament in Part 3.

The Spirit of God…Part 1

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV)

            What kind of images does this opening passage from Genesis create in the mind of man? What might this new nation of people that have been redeemed from Egypt by the hand of God think when they heard “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”? The Spirit here is called the ruah of Elohim which can mean breath, wind, or spirit of God. This Spirit of God would become an active agent of God’s power manifest throughout His creation, and would also become a very hotly debated aspect of the nature of God down through the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. Here in the opening of the book of beginnings we have a picture of the Earth formless, void and covered in waters, possibly an expression of chaos and disorder, and the Spirit of God hovering or vibrating over the face of these waters. Many of the creation stories of the ancient eastern cultures feature a theme of chaos to order, with chaos being very much associated with water. It was also expected that order would follow out of this chaos.[1]  So, here in the beginning of Genesis we begin to see one aspect of the Spirit of God’s power and actions in the creation story, bringing order out of chaos. Later when God creates man in His image is it then possible that one of man’s roles as an image bearer (one who acts as a representative of God) is to also continue to bring order out of chaos. (subdue the earth)

God would continue to give us more insight into His very nature as the scriptures would unfold to His people. At this point, we should stop for one moment and consider a very important aspect of how God has revealed himself to man. It is through His Word, and in His Word, we have ways in which God has described himself in terms that we can relate to.  One way this is done is through what is called in the theological world an anthropomorphism. What that means is that God describes himself with human-like terms that we can associate with. When it says God’s righteous right arm, it does not mean that God who is spirit and invisible has arms or legs or anything else of that nature, but that for us to understand an aspect of His nature that is how He is described. This is very important to keep in mind, if we forget that basic concept we can begin to bring God down to our human level rather than keep him exalted.

That said, God’s Spirit, the very essence of who he is, is first revealed in the very opening passage of the scripture. It is the ruah of God that is hovering over the waters closely followed in the text with God speaking. What would Spirit, a word that also means breath mean to a people that had just some come out of Egypt?

Breathing is what shows life, so the Spirit would be seen as the source of life, and it is that source of life that is later shown to have given life to the first man. (Gen 2:7) We now have a theme about the very nature of God in that it is He that gives life to all things. We see this theme, as well as the creative theme, vividly displayed when Job says “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4, ESV).

We will continue this Journey to discover more about the Spirit of God in Part 2.


[1] A Study on the dual form of Mayim, Water; Min Suc Kee, Ph.D. University of Manchester (England), teaches Bible at the Korea Baptist Theological University in Daejeon, South Korea

Whatever you ask

“Praying in the name of Jesus”. This simple phrase has been so abused in our modern era. It is based on a section of teaching from Jesus to His disciples where he was responding to a request from Philip for Him to show them the Father.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:8–14, ESV)

This small phrase has been turned into a quick memory verse that is often quoted to support praying whatever we want in Jesus name and expect that God will honor that request as if it some magic incantation.

The context though really does not support this. Jesus tells them that whoever believes in Him will do works greater than the ones that he has done. Those works are the many acts that He has done throughout the gospels. Jesus tells them that it is the Father working through Him that they have seen.

He then goes on to tell them that whoever believes in Him will also do the works He did. Not only those works, but even greater works. Essentially you could say that Jesus will be accomplishing His works through us, and it will be connected to prayer.

This can be seen in what Paul teaches us in Eph 2:8-10…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8–10, ESV)

We are His workmanship and the works we are to do are the works He has prepared for us. How do we know what those are? The Holy Spirit works in us in combination with the Word of God and Prayer.

I like how the IVP Bible background Commentary puts it…

In this context “name” means something like: those who seek his glory and speak accurately for him, who are genuinely his authorized representatives. Nothing could be further from the pagan magical use of names that sought to manipulate spiritual forces for one’s own ends.[1]

There is a similar verse in John 15 where Jesus is teaching about His disciples abiding in the vine and bearing much fruit.  He then tells them this…

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7–8, ESV)

So, if His words abide in us, the works we do will be in line with His will and teaching. This is tied together with asking whatever we desire because our desires will be in line with His will.

We see a perfect example of this in the book of Acts…

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”” (Acts 3:1–6, ESV)

Peter was acting in the power of the Holy Spirit, accomplishing the works that God had prepared for him to walk in.

What can we learn from this? We must be careful that we do not do what the pagans did and use the name as a magical incantation to manipulate God for our own desires. Instead, we need to abide in His words and seek His will through prayer, so that we can do His works for the Glory of God.


[1] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 14:12–14). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

So that His fear…

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that his fear will be before you so that you do not sin.” And the people stood at a distance, and Moses approached the very thick cloud where God was.” (Exodus 20:20–21, LEB)

Do we today truly fear God? Do we stand in awe and wonder at His amazing works? Do we tremble at His majesty and power? Do we fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell?

I have heard sermons and read articles where both ideas are given weight over the other but the one that has the most weight depends on the position of your heart.

When the Hebrew people get to the mountain of God, He tells them to prepare for 3 days and before He descends upon the mountain to speak to them directly. God was going to test His people to see the position of their hearts. He needed to drive out the world they had known and replace it with a desire to live a life pleasing to God. A life that moves away from sin and toward their savior. The day comes and God descends upon the mountain…

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19, ESV)

The people trembled and were fearful of death. A people still struggling with sin, now stand before a Holy and merciful God, hearing His words and experiencing His presence. They did not yet have the full word of God to guide them into a proper relationship with Him yet. So, the people cry out for Moses to mediate between them and God. This was the fear of the one who could destroy both soul and body in hell.

But God did not leave them there. His desire was to dwell amongst His people. So, he provided instruction on how to live and love the God of their salvation and how to love one another. But it was not the words alone that would change them, but the position of their hearts towards those words.

The people still struggled, but God had a plan and descended again and took the form of a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was crucified, died, and was buried. Then on the third day, He rose in fulfillment of the Scriptures and thus provided a permanent solution to sin and death. Paul would later pen these words….

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7, ESV)

Through Jesus we have life, and in that life, the fear of God has been transformed. We do not have to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell, but that through Him our fear is transformed….

““So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31, ESV)

Through Jesus, the salvation of God, our fear is transformed from being afraid and trembling into awe and wonder.  Soloman, a man who wrote many wise things said it well…

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; (Proverbs 2:1–10, ESV)

To me, this drives it all home. Receive His words, treasure them up within us, be attentive to the wisdom that God provides, turning your heart towards understanding, calling out to God for insight and understanding, seeking out all the God has given us like seeking hidden treasure “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:16–18, ESV)

Jesus is the wisdom of God, and it is through Him that fear is transformed!

Listen to the voice…

And he said, “If you carefully listen to the voice of Yahweh your God and you do what is right in his eyes and give heed to his commands and you keep all his rules, then I will not bring about on you any of the diseases that I brought about on Egypt, because I am Yahweh your healer.” (Exodus 15:26, LEB)

God’s people had just crossed the red sea by God’s mighty hand, and were crossing the desert and came to a place with water. The water was bitter, and they could not drink from it.

Instead of seeking God in prayer, the people grumbled against Moses. But this was not just grumbling to Moses, the people needed to learn to trust God for all their provision. Moses cries out to God as their mediator, so the Lord had him throw a piece of wood into the water and it turned sweet.

In Ex 15:26, it says that God made this regulation for them, and that he was testing them.

The plan is simple, trust the voice of your God and do what is right in HIS eyes. But the opposite of this is to not trust or do right in His eyes which has a consequence.

This pattern is repeated, instead of grateful hearts seeking the Lord in prayer they grumble and complained, so the Lord says again that He will test them to see if they will walk in His ways.

Today, in all that is going on in the world, death, disease, wars, and violence, it would be easy to fall into the same pattern that Israel did in the desert. But this is not what our Lord desires. In the book of James, the spirit led him to write these things…

Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask for it from God, who gives to all without reservation and not reproaching, and it will be given to him. But let him ask for it in faith, without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2–8, LEB)

Testing of our faith will come, but God is using it to grow us and bring us to maturity. It is very important in all of this that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past but seek God out for His wisdom. Pray earnestly and without doubt, for the Lord is good and desires for us to be more like His Son.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians encourages them with these words…

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be made known to all people. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pleasing, whatever things are commendable, if there is any excellence of character and if anything praiseworthy, think about these things. And the things which you have learned and received and heard about and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4–9, LEB)

So, let us not be anxious or grumble. Let us rejoice daily in the Lord and allow His peace to fill our hearts. Thinking every day about the good things that are true, honorable, pure, and commendable. Set our minds on things that are praiseworthy and learn from what we have been given. Practice what Paul said in Colossians.

Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4, LEB)

So, what does that look like…Pray, and pray often. Immerse yourself in the word of God and listen to his voice and not the voice of the world around you.

Not everyone who says…Part 2

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, LEB)

As I mentioned in part 1, this verse comes near the end of the sermon on the mount and is really tied together nicely with Matthew 7:24-27. These words Jesus is teaching are important to understand if we want to get at the heart of this verse.

Jesus opens the teaching on the mount with 9 statements that begin with the Greek word Makarios. This word has the idea of being happy and blessed. I really like how Stanley Hauerwas understood this section…

Too often those characteristics [of the Beatitudes] … are turned into ideals we must strive to attain. As ideals, they can become formulas for power rather than descriptions of the kind of people characteristic of the new age brought by Christ…. Thus Jesus does not tell us that we should try to become poor in spirit, or meek, or peacemakers. He simply says that many who are called into the kingdom will find themselves so constituted. 1

Skye Jethani comments on these words with his own synopsis…

Jesus is not prescribing how to be blessed, but rather describing who is blessed. While the world says the strong, powerful, and happy are “well off,” Jesus turns our expectations upside down by saying it’s the weak, sad, and overlooked who are well off in God’s kingdom. 2

As he continues to teach His disciples, Jesus tells them that they are to be salt and light to the world around them, for the simple reason that as the world sees your good works it will give glory to the Father in heaven.

Jesus then tells them that he has come not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to bring them to fullness and completion.

So, with that foundation, he turns their eyes towards the Law and prophets and begins to unpack the true heart of God in this. He tackles anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, love of your enemies, giving, praying, fasting, where your treasures are, what concerns you each day, and judgment of others.

As he unpacks these things, he is not driving home that you must walk in perfect obedience to these things, but rather it is more about the condition of their hearts. Why is this so important to Jesus, and to the Father?

Back in Deuteronomy 30:15-18 Moses was telling the people about repentance and forgiveness and of the Lord’s circumcision of the heart. In the midst of this speech to the people, Moses says these words…

“See, I am setting before you today life and prosperity and death and disaster; what I am commanding you today is to love Yahweh your God by going in his ways and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his regulations, and then you will live, and you will become numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land where you are going. However, if your heart turns aside and you do not listen and you are lured away and you bow down to other gods and you serve them, I declare to you today that you will certainly perish; you will not extend your time on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to go there to take possession of it.” (Deuteronomy 30:15–18, LEB)

What is God’s concern? If their hearts turn aside and they refuse to listen. Moses even before he dies warns them again…

then he said to them, “Take to heart all the words that I am admonishing against you today concerning which you should instruct them with respect to your children so that they will observe diligently all the words of this law, for it is not a trifling matter among you, but it is your life, and through this word you will live long in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to get there to take possession of it.”” (Deuteronomy 32:46–47, LEB)

Did you get that! The words of God are not a trifling matter, but life! But, God’s chosen people who literally had God’s presence in their midst have a repeating problem, a problem that God through the prophets warns the people of their condition…

Put to your lips the trumpet like a vulture over the house of Yahweh, because they have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law. They cry out to me, “My God! We, Israel, know you!” Israel has spurned the good; the enemy will pursue him. They appointed kings, but not through me; they made officials, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for themselves for their own destruction(Hosea 8:1–6, LEB)

They were doing lots of things, but they were not doing it through God. Later in Matthew Jesus would quote Isaiah while talking to the Pharisees…

and you make void the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Hypocrites! Isaiah correctly prophesied about you saying, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far, far away from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:6–9, LEB)

 Looking at all these things, Jesus is driving home how important God’s words are, but not as rules and regulations, not as religious things to do, but where our hearts are. In it is a stern warning for us not to repeat again what God’s people have done in the past.

  1. (Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 38–39. Found in: Jethani, Skye. What If Jesus Was Serious? (p. 183). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
  2. .(Jethani, Skye. What If Jesus Was Serious? (p. 17). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Not Everyone who says – Part 1

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)

This verse should bring the fear of God into all our hearts. For Yeshua himself has declared that there are many who will be doing mighty works, prophesying, and casting out demons…All in HIS name! But he declares “I never knew you” and calls them workers of lawlessness.

This teaching comes near the end of Yeshua’s teaching called the sermon on the mount. Right after this declaration Yeshua declares that:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” (Matthew 7:24–27, ESV)

There are two questions we need to ask, what words is He talking about, and what is the will of the Father in heaven? To begin to unpack this, let us consider another passage that came earlier in the Sermon…

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–20, ESV)

From this place in the sermon, Yeshua begins to unpack details of the true requirements of the Torah. He tackles anger, lust, divorce, oaths, love for your enemies, giving, praying, fasting, the treasures of your heart, anxiety, judgment, God’s good gifts, and the fruit of good and bad trees.

It would be easy at this point to slip into an attitude of needing to obey every detail of the Torah to live a righteous life and to declare that to know the Lord means following these things as closely as possible. Is this really what is going on?

At this point in time, the details of all the Yeshua will do are still hidden from the people. Also remember, that the crowd is hearing this, but the teaching is being directed at the disciples, who will bring all these things to remembrance after the resurrection of the Lord.

After the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua, Luke records a very revealing event that I believe ties very closely to these teachings and more that He has revealed to His disciples.

The event is the encounter on the road to Emmaus. Two men were discussing all the events that had recently transpired in Jerusalem when Yeshua begins to walk with them but prevents them from recognizing him. Yeshua asks them what they are discussing, and acts puzzled when they mention the events in Jerusalem.

After he lets them explain the story, He says these things…

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25–27, ESV)

After Yeshua opens their eyes to see, he vanishes and they go back to Jerusalem and find the apostles. Yeshua stands among them and they are startled and frightened. He puts them at ease and then tells them these words…

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”” (Luke 24:44–49, ESV)

What a moment that must have been for these men, having it revealed that all the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms pointing to the Christ is now fulfilled in Him. The Greek word used for fulfilled is “plerothenai” which at its root can mean to fill completely, fulfil, to fill up, to complete, and bring to completion. The emphasis of the inflection “ai” as part of the root word “pleroo” is found only here in the New Covenant. Digging into the Septuagint, the only place I found this word used is in Jeremiah 25:12. The context of this passage is God’s judgment of Israel in which they will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. It then says this…

Then after seventy years are completed (plerothenai), I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.” (Jeremiah 25:12, ESV)

I am not an expert in Greek, but in the only use of this spelling it leads me to think that the idea is to bring to completion. I will continue to unpack this idea regarding Matt 7 in part 2 of this article.

Stand in awe

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:8–9, ESV)

What kind of images come to mind when we think of the words awe and fear? If God where to appear before you at this very moment, what would be your reaction?

The root of the word for fear in Psalm 33 is “yare” and can represent emotional fear, the anticipation of evil without the emotional element, and reverence and awe.

The first time this verbal form is used in the old testament is in Gen 20:8 when Abraham had journeyed to the Negeb and claimed to Abimelech the Sarah was his sister and he takes her. God would then appear to Abimelech in a dream and told him he was a dead man because he had taken a woman who was another man’s wife. Abimelech woke from his sleep and called his men and explained what had happened and it says they were very much “yare” (afraid).

The same verbal use is found in Ex 14:10 when the Egyptian army is marching on Israel and as Pharaoh drew near, the text says that the people “yare” (feared) greatly.

The psalms like to use parallelism where the second line repeats the thought of the first line but in different words.

So let’s take a look at the word “awe”. The first time this verbal form is used in scripture is in the book of Job. In Job 41:25 God is challenging Job and is speaking of the Leviathan and during this speech says:

When he raises himself up, the mighty are (“gur”) afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.” (Job 41:25–26, ESV)

“Gur” like “yare” can also mean to be afraid, feared, intimidated, terrified, anxious, and to revere or stand in awe.

In the context of Psalm 33, the complete idea ends with “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm”, where the writer in verses 6-7 boasts how the Lord made the heavens and by the breath of His mouth all their host.

To me, this seems to point towards great respect and reverence of the Lord in verses 8-9. The kind of awe that you get when you see some of the splendor of God’s creation in the mountains, the oceans, and the wonder of the heavens. I do think that there is still a small element of fear in the sense of knowing who God is and what he can do and that our lives are held in His hands.

Later in Psalm 33 it says:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18–19, ESV)

In this section “Yare” is coupled with “hesed” which is translated as steadfast love, and drives home that hope (mehahalim) which is to trust, to wait, and to be patient on the Lord to deliver our souls from death.

Currently with all that is going on around us, hope and trust in God’s steadfast love (hesed) can keep or eyes fixed on the end goal – Gods salvation in Jesus Christ, and not on the chaos that is going on all around us.

In 1 Peter 5, Peter writes these words for his readers, may we hold fast to them and stand firm:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:6–11, ESV)

Let not your hearts be troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:1–7, ESV)

If we stop and consider the year 2020 what things come to mind, maybe it is the fires in Australia that killed three billion animals, or perhaps the flash floods that followed when the rains came. Out in the oceans there have been 26 tropical storms, 25 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In the pacific there have been 13 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. There have been 45,939 wildfires in the US with 8.3 million acres burned. 2020 is the 10th consecutive year that has seen 10 Billion dollar weather or climate disasters. In Africa and the middle east there where record setting locust invasions that in places devoured 90% of the crops. The great lakes, once at all time lows have overflowed and are taking out many homes along their coasts. There is political unrest in many countries and finally the great plague of covid-19.

There is so much we could worry or be fearful about, but Jesus told his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled but to believe in God and in him. Jesus told them that he is going away to prepare a place and that he will come again. Thomas does not understand, asks to know the way. Jesus responded with these words:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.

This statement is one of the many “I Am” statements that Jesus says. The Faithlife study bible puts it this way:

Jesus uses seven metaphorical “I am” statements to define His role as Savior and Messiah . These sayings also carry strong overtones of being claims to divinity. He identifies Himself as the bread of life (vv. 35, 48, 51), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way and the truth and the life (14:6), and the true vine (15:1).[1]

All these terms are very personal, revealing characteristics of our Lord that should drive us to a more intimate relationship with our savior. His desire for us it to be ready, to be focused on him and not all the things going on around us. My favorite “I am” saying is that Jesus IS THE TRUTH, he is the embodiment of all that God has revealed to us in the scriptures. Therefore, we should be spending time in the scriptures and in prayer, finding quality time with our savior, not just facts and doctrine, but to know the one who holds all things in His hands yet desires to be in our midst.

Martin Lloyd Jones once made this comment regarding the study of scripture:

“What foolish creatures we are! Many of us are not interested in doctrine at all; we are lazy Christians who do not read, do not think, and do not try to delve into the mysteries. We have had a certain experience and we desire no more. Others of us, deploring such an attitude, say that, because the Bible is full of doctrine, we must study it and grapple with it and possess it. So we become absorbed in our interest in doctrine and stop at that. The result is that, as regards this question of the love of Christ, we are no further on than the others because we have made doctrine an end and a terminus. In this way the devil trips and traps us and robs us of our heritage. If your knowledge of the Scriptures and of the doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not brought you to this knowledge of the love of Christ, you should be profoundly dissatisfied and disturbed. All biblical doctrine is about this blessed Person; and there is no greater snare in the Christian life than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concerning Him….We should never study the Bible or anything concerning biblical truth without realizing that we are in His presence, and that it is truth about Him. And it should always be done in an atmosphere of worship.2 

Today, so many of the people who call themselves Christian are just going through the rituals, yet God is far from their hearts. Jesus gave us a wonderful parable regarding how we should be waiting for His return:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)

Where are you today with your relationship to Jesus. Are your lamps ready to receive the bridegroom when he comes, or has the bridegrooms delay lulled you to sleep? Have you let the oil burn away so when he does come you will not be ready to enter the marriage feast? Oil in Scripture often represents the Holy Spirit and we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in abundance in our lives so that we will remain in tune with God so we are prepared when He returns. Yet we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit in our lives. Both of these are similar in their effects. They hinder a godly lifestyle. This happens when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, one of repentance and humility, one that takes us farther away from the world and sin. 

We must prepare and be ready, but not out of ritual but through relationship. The passage I started this blog with (John 14) was a very intimate time that Jesus was having with the disciples in the last two weeks of His life. Let these words ring deep in your heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also..

Jesus in the book or revelation warns the churches of the sins that have creeped into the body, the apostles warned of difficult times and great apostasy, but in the end the simple message to all of them was to repent. Let’s get on our knees and repent, not only as individuals but as the body of Christ.

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 6:35). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

2David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ—Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 3