Category Archives: Bible Study

“None Greater”

How do you define greatness?  Who are your role models?  What does it take for someone to be a “hero” in your mind; their occupation, wealth, power?  It seems like our society, especially among the youth, is constantly migrating from famed star to athlete to performer to the next big name in search of someone we can look up to as a model of our life.  This list certainly isn’t limited to Hollywood entertainers or sports personalities; our “idols” can be anyone- pastors, authors, co-workers, family members.

The problem with placing any of these people on a pedestal is that they are fallible, mere humans, nothing more, each one just as depraved as we are.  Yet because of their platform they’re recognized as great examples of success and we, intentionally or not, give them a higher status in our lives and then become shocked when a fall inevitably occurs.

Despite the labels of greatness that we freely assign, the single greatest man in all of history was proclaimed such by none other than Jesus Christ and his platform transcends all time.  In Luke 7:28, Jesus declares that, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.”  Jesus is speaking of John the Baptist.  John was called into service for the Lord nearly 800 hundred years before his birth as foretold in the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi.  John’s ministry provides a model for all those who are called the children of God because of the recognition of his calling, his wholehearted desire to answer that call, the boldness with which he preached, his lifetime of obedience, and the ultimate sacrifice of his life.

Without question he was great because he was given the highest, most honorable position ever, preparing the way for the Messiah.  Think about this: it wasn’t anything that John earned, through no ability of his own, certainly no wealth as we know from his camel skin attire and meager meals of locust and honey.  He had no status in society, didn’t come from a noble family.  His father was a priest, but he was not priestly himself.  He lived isolated in the desert of Judea, alone, with nothing.  In fact, not only would he be called a failure by the modern definition of success, he would’ve been looked upon as a poor homeless man who was insolent toward government and religious figures because of their sins.  Yet here he was, declared in the womb by the angel Gabriel to be great.  Luke 1:15 states as the angel Gabriel is speaking to John’s father Zacharias, describing in great detail how he will be used by the Lord, he proclaims, “for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”  This verse suggests that it didn’t matter what man thought about John.  He wasn’t to be measured for success based on the perception of society.

John’s greatness was defined by his character as Gabriel alludes to in the middle part of verse 15, “He is never to take wine or other fermented drink.”  Here we see that his outward behavior was to be different than others, not conformed to the world, so much so that the Bible provides evidence that people considered him a “demon” based on his abstaining behavior.  Matthew 11:18 At the end of Luke 1:15, Gabriel provides a second characteristic of John’s greatness, “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.”  This attribute alludes to his internal character and allowed John to perform his mission of bringing back Israel to the “Lord their God” and turning the “hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” Luke 1:16-17

In John the Baptist we have a man that was declared “great” from the womb. His position was higher than anyone else’s in history, except of course that of Jesus Christ. His ministry was invaluable to preparing the way for the Savior.  Yet he deflected all praise and glory to God by constantly declaring that he was not the light, but merely a “voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'” John 1:23 As Jesus’ ministry began to increase, John declared that his own must decrease. John 3:30 He knew his role and did not try to share the spotlight, but despite this he was imprisoned and beheaded.

Considering of all this, his call, ministry, character, boldness, humility, willingness to die, Jesus followed up his comment on John’s greatness by declaring that “the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he [John].” Luke 7:28 Why would He claim John’s greatness and then assert that all those in the Kingdom of God are greater?  The answer to this question provides the reason why we should not declare any of those people we mentioned earlier as role models or great heroes.  It’s simple, spiritual greatness is always superior to human greatness, because it transpires through no work of our own.  Our justification occurs through the redemptive saving grace of Jesus Christ. That’s what makes us great.  There’s no doubt John’s ministry was special, but when we accept Christ as Savior we are called from the womb of rebirth and we too are filled with the Holy Spirit to likewise pave the way for the Messiah by serving as witnesses to the world.

Have you experienced spiritual rebirth that will allow you greatness in the sight of the Lord?  Call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.  Accept him as Lord and Savior of your life; believe and trust in Him and He will make you greater than greatest, that on the day you should stand before the Lord He might declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The Highest Form of Love

There are some interesting theologies being tossed around in the mainstream church these days.  That’s not to say there aren’t some excellent, Bible-based preachers and teachers, because I know there are.  But often, like leaven, these false ideologies are pervasive and rise quick throughout the entire body of believers.  There’s not anyone person that teaches this particular belief, but it is a common model for the “seeker sensitive” movement and it really detracts from the most amazing quality of God because it paints only half of the picture about His love, leaving out the most important, integral part in a Christians life.

God’s love is something I think a lot of us hear about, but do not truly understand.  Love is such a basic word in our language and we toss it around so frequently that too often its meaning get’s glossed over.  But when used in context with God there is no comparison because God’s love is the Highest Form of Love.  Like all of His other attributes, our finite minds cannot grasp this.  What we commonly hear are phrases to create a warm and fuzzy feeling in our hearts.  Don’t get me wrong, “Jesus loves you” should create in us a level of humbleness so great that we fall before His cross worshiping Him with everything we have.

But there’s more to His love, so much more that’s not frequently taught.  To even begin to understand the love of God, we have to look beyond what we want to feel from His love and look toward what we need to receive from His love.  Likely, the methods of those I mentioned earlier tickle our ears by teaching us to look at what we want from God’s love, essentially anything that will enhance our personal lives.  Christians, these concepts are weak and do no justice to God’s love.  Instead, what each of us needs to hear is that God disciplines those He loves.  This great aspect of God’s love has been left out because it’s less appealing or may not attract large numbers to a church because nobody wants to think of a God that hands out discipline.  The sensitive seeker would prefer to ignore repentance, ignore the guilt placed on us by the Holy Spirit, and completely disregard the chastisement of God.

That mentality waters down the love of God, to say nothing of the ramifications it has on ones Christian walk.  Hebrews 12:4-11 is such a great passage that speaks on God’s discipline towards those He loves:

 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

How loved we should feel when we receive the discipline of God.  To know that He loves us so much, that when “all we like sheep have gone astray” the Good Shepherd uses His rod to correct us and bring us back into the fold.  Do not think it harsh dear Christian, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 What special attention the lamb that wanders receives when the Shepherd breaks its leg for its own corrective good. How cared for that sheep is that the Shepherd then carries that little lamb on His shoulders with such love.

Do not run from the Lord’s discipline Christian, embrace it.  When it comes cherish the disciplining love of the Lord, thankful for this special attention.  When He needs to use His rod to break your wandering legs, let it bring you broken before the cross so that like the lamb, Jesus will carry you too on His shoulders.  Oh to know the wonderful love of God, the Highest Form of Love.

Prayer:  Thank You Lord for Your discipline.  Thank You for loving us enough to chasten us.  Thank You that when we think we have it all figured out on our own, You correct us and break us, so that all of our dependence is on You.  Lord I pray for those running from your discipline.  I pray for those who push aside the guilt brought on by the Holy Spirit.  Awaken them to the power of Your love, that they may they welcome Your loving discipline that brings forth righteousness and peace.

Humble Yourself

humbled-before-the-cross

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

Our human spirit is sometimes a funny thing.  We refuse to ask for directions, are hesitant to ask for help, and generally stick to the “I can do it myself attitude.”  Now in many cases there’s nothing wrong with that, unless of course your spouse or friend is sitting in the passenger’s seat begging you to stop and get a map or ask for help.  But like it or not these are small examples of pride.  While we can all probably think of several mostly harmless instances like these, there are probably more we can think of that cause us to stumble.  Recently I’ve been thinking of an encounter I was told about of a wealthy young man who is sick and hospitalized and my own interactions with an elderly gentleman I know who is also very wealthy.  The common denominators between the two are as I pointed to, their wealth, their unbelief in the Lord, and their pride.  The story, as it was told to me, of the younger gentleman involved a friend of mine ministering to him in the hospital.  After several verses and passages were read to him, my friend said to him all you have to do is humble yourself before the Lord and receive him as Lord and Savior of your life.  No doubt she was stunned in his response as he rose up in the hospital bed and said, “I’ll never humble myself before anyone.”

Shift now to the elderly man that I know.  A small group of us have been sharing the Gospel with him every chance we’ve gotten for probably 6 months.  Each time he makes sure we know that his beliefs fall right in the middle, believing in neither God nor the Devil, heaven nor hell.  His pride rest in his money, everything he does, every business move he’s made has been for financial gain.  His response to us resembles that of the rich young ruler from Matthew 19, thinking that he has led a good life, by his own standards, but ultimately if he were told to sell everything in order to gain eternal life, he would share a similar response to, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matthew 19:22

I started thinking about these two men and how pride had them snared, and it’s quite unlikely they’re alone.  It never really occurred to me before just how powerful pride can be and just how detestable it is to God.  But one verse kept coming to mind over and over, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5.  This verse is a quote from Proverbs 3:34 by the Apostle Peter and the same reference is made in James 4:6.  Maybe like me you’ve heard this verse numerous times, but did you ever stop to really think about it?  How strongly God must abhor pride that He resists the proud.  The Greek word for resists in these passages of the New Testament is antitasso meaning to range in battle against or to oppose one’s self.  Think about what the Scripture is saying here, God literally battles the proud.

In the continuation of the passage we see that just as God resists the proud, He gives grace to humble.  The Greek word for grace as used here is charis.  This same word is found throughout the New Testament, but specific attention can be given to the familiar Ephesians 2:8,For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”  It is by grace we are saved, “it is”, referring to saving grace, the gift of God.  This is the same grace that the Bible points out is given to the humble.  In context we can read the passages of I Peter and James to mean that if God resists the proud, and gives saving grace to the humble, then He does not give this grace to the proud.  It’s not available, not offered, the proud are opposed and resisted by God.

But there’s hope for those bound by pride.  If we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up. James 4:10  God will not only supply that wonderful, amazing grace, but will do so abundantly and just as James 4:6 says He will give more grace.  Because just as God is able to resist the proud, He’s so abundantly compassionate to the humble, the broken and contrite heart that comes desperate before Him.  Are you prideful today Christian?  Has it crept up and ensnared you in its web?  Maybe you’re a non-believer, like the two gentleman I mentioned, refusing to humble yourself before anyone.  No matter how much wealth, how high your position, or how great your power, the path you’re on leads only to destruction and God is resisting you.  Come broken before the cross of Jesus, seek forgiveness, and accept the free gift of grace necessary for salvation in Christ.

Proverbs 16:18-19  Pride goes before destruction,  And a haughty spirit before a fall.  Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 3:34  Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.