A Type Of The One To Come: Seeing Jesus in the Story of Adam & Eve

What is the Bible really about? Is it about us-what we should do, how we should act, laws we should obey? The Bible isn’t about us. It’s all about Jesus-even the Old Testament. Join us as we  identify the amazing symbols, themes, and types of Jesus and salvation in the Old Testament. If you’ve grown up thinking the Old Testament is boring, buckle up and be prepared to see the Scriptures come to life.The

True Christian Conviction

What is true conviction? Is it necessary for salvation? How can we feel it? What are we to do with it?

Last week, we discussed with our college group that Christian faith has three essential parts: understanding, conviction, and commitment. This week we looked at the conviction piece, and how understanding it leads us in our pursuit of holiness, sanctification, a much deeper walk with Jesus. If we misunderstand this essential aspect of faith, we will seriously hinder our own walk with God, fellowship with others, and witness to the world. But if we do understand it, it will open the door for a vibrant, free, and exciting life in God.

 

 

Six Key Benefits of the Necessary Evangelism Component in Discipleship

Yes. I am afraid. Every time I begin to share about Jesus with someone, millions of thoughts run through my head about how I may offend or be received wrongly. Have you ever felt the same?

This is the log jam in the discipleship process and to fulfilling the Great Commission: evangelism. Sharing our faith. Why? Often times it is because we haven’t seen it modeled, or haven’t been taught “how.” Even in our rigorous attempts at discipleship have not fixed the problem, because discipleship has come to be regarded as a practice without the necessary component of evangelism training or practice. However, treating evangelism as a necessary part of discipleship helps to grow mature disciples, and is absolutely necessary. I read a great article recently highlighting 6 reasons why. Here they are: Continue reading

My Gentle Wife & God’s Chisel

“…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:4

 

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My wife is a quiet and gentle woman; I am not a quiet and gentle man. I want to be. I pray daily to be…but I am constantly acting in pride, selfishness, and harshness. I grieve these sins, because I know they grieve my Master. But thank goodness, my God has given me an amazing wife-a daily reminder, and frequent conviction, to pursue gentleness, and to be slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen. Continue reading

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.3)- The Birth of a Savior

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”   Luke 2:11-12

The virgin birth. In America, most of us hear this story every year during the Christmas season, so much so that I believe we have become calloused to the extraordinary way that Jesus entered into our world. The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Often times, we think of Jesus starting His whole life as an infant, but the Bible also teaches that He existed with the Father for all of eternity past. In the book of John, the author describes Jesus as the “Word,” stating that He was with God the Father in the beginning, and that God created all things through Him (John 1:1-3). God says before He creates man, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). So, lets think briefly about the transition from Jesus’ life in heaven to His “birth” on earth….what do you think it was like?

Hard to think about, isn’t it? Thankfully, in Philippians, the author lays out for us what Jesus did when He chose to come to earth:”Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7). Jesus completely humbled himself in leaving his heavenly throne to come live as one of us….to ultimately die for us and save us. He was born in the likeness of men, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for men.

Speaking of Jesus’ humbling himself, look at where He was born! In our first text in Luke, we saw that it was said that Jesus would be found lying in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough used to feed farm animals. It was in the center of the holding houses and likely the dirtiest part of the barn. When animals eat…they often relieve themselves in the same spot. This is likely what the scene actually looked like:

manger

Jesus, the Son of God, came into the earth and spent His first few minutes on earth in one of the dirtiest environments. Why? Humility. Jesus humbled Himself, remember? Is this the way for an earthly King to enter the world? Certainly not. But we will learn of Jesus throughout our study, that He does nothing like an earthly king would do. “My kingdom is not of this world” Jesus says in John 18:36. But I also believe that this was God’s way of showing that Jesus was the real deal. Jesus was humble and a servant from the get-go. He was willing to do whatever it takes to complete His purpose, and in this case-that meant being born in a dirty manger.

The last piece of this story that I want to unfold is: why was it necessary for Jesus to be born of a virgin?

All throughout the Bible, God required a perfect sacrifice to be made before Him to pay for sin committed. In the Old Testament, God’s law required His people to sacrifice “unblemished” lambs, bulls, and goats. If the sacrifice wasn’t perfect before God, it was unacceptable. In the same way, for Jesus to be the perfect and final sacrifice, He must be perfect and unblemished before God. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, every human being has been born into sin, and the Bible depicts sin nature passing down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12,17,19). It was critical Jesus not to be “born in sin” so that He could fulfill His role as the perfect sacrifice. This is why the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus could circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and become a perfect man.

This little story has more depth than you thought, didn’t it? Its read every year at Christmas, but certainly worth celebrating the entire year. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth, and is absolutely crucial to the fulfillment of the rest of His mission. Jesus wasn’t only born in a dirty manger, but He would die on a bloody cross.

Tune in next week for part 4 of this series.

Discovering The True Jesus (pt. 2)

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In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at the historical perception of Jesus among theologians, scholars, and historians alike. We did this in order gain a holistic view of the basic knowledge that most people have about Jesus. We learned that He was a man who lived 2,000 years ago, who claimed to be divine and changed the world through His followers after His death. But who was He, really? What did He teach? What did He do?

We said that in order to answer these questions, we must take a look at the eyewitness accounts of those who knew Him best- His closest friends. Thankfully these documents have been faithfully recorded, handed down, and translated through many generations, producing an English text that is 99.9% accurate when compared to the original documents.

But, we will dive into those accounts in the next post. For now, I want to take a look at what was written about Jesus before the New Testament…what was written about Him even before He was born!

These writings about Jesus before His birth are called “prophecies,” and they are recorded in the Old Testament. In biblical times, if a “prophet” was truly sent of God, then what He said would come true. Many of these prophets (most writing about 600-1200 years before Jesus birth) spoke about a coming Messiah (a savior) that would save their nation, Israel. In fact there are over 353 of them!

Here are 13 of them: (Remember, all of these were written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth!)

  1. The Messiah would be born of a virgin woman in Bethlehem
  2. The Messiah would come from the line of Abraham
  3. The Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced
  4. The Messiah would be crucified with criminals
  5. The Messiah would be forsaken by God
  6. The Messiah would be betrayed and falsely accused
  7. The Messiah would be mocked a ridiculed
  8. The Messiah would pray for His enemies
  9. The Messiah would resurrect from the dead
  10. The Messiah would ascend into Heaven
  11. The Messiah’s throne would be anointed and eternal
  12. The Messiah would be called King
  13. The Messiah would sit at the right hand of God
  14. The Messiah would be declared the Son of God
  15. The Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin

All of the above were written about in the Old Testament, and then fulfilled by Jesus life (and then recorded in the New Testament). This is one of the biggest proofs that Jesus was who He said He was…He fulfilled all 353 of these prophecies. The “chance” of Him doing this could be equated to covering all of Texas in 3 feet deep in silver quarters, with only ONE red quarter, and then going to somewhere in Texas blindfolded and trying to select the red one with only one attempt. It simply cannot be by chance! Jesus was the foretold Messiah!

All of these prophecies pointed to Him as the Messiah, as someone that would save Israel by being a sacrifice for their sins. In order to be “right” with God, Israel had to continually sacrifice lambs, goats, bulls, doves, food, and other things to cleanse themselves of their sins and receive forgiveness from God. But now, Jesus would become the true and final sacrifice, available to all who would accept Him.

Now we are a little farther in our understanding of the true Jesus- the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets. In the next post, we will examine His entrance into the world, the starting point to His life here on earth.

**For all of the scripture references to the prophecies, their place in the OT, and their fulfillment in the NT, please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu

Seeing the Goodness of Our God

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The more closely we study ourselves, the more beneficent our Creator becomes. Look at the highest of God’s earthly creatures-man. We have plenty of reasons to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that I know full well” (Psalm 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attest to the goodness of our Maker. How suited are our hands to perform work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh our wearied bodies! How benevolent His provision to give to the eyes lids and brows for their protection! We could continue indefinitely!*

The goodness of God is also seen in the variety of natural pleasures that He has provided for his creatures. God could have decided to satisfy our hunger without allowing us to really enjoy the taste of it- yet how good is He that he gave us such flavors as those in meat, vegetables, and fruits! He has not only given us senses, but also things that will gratify our senses, and this too reveals His goodness. The earth could have been fertile as it is without its surface being so delightfully multicolored. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to please our eyes with their colors, and our nostrils with their sweet perfumes. We might have walked outside without hearing the music of birds. Why then, is all of this loveliness so freely diffused over the face of nature? Because the tender mercies of the Lord “are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).*

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same (C.H. Spurgeon).

Gratitude and thankfulness is the return justly required from us, the objects of His goodness. Yet we often do not give it to God because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it!* We must labor to not allow this to be so!

Praise the Lord for His Goodness!!

*My translation from A.W. Pink’s “Old” English language (Attributes of God, Ch. 11, The Goodness of God)

The Never-Changing God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our God NEVER changes. One may think, “great, how is that of use to me?” It is of great importance to us! Think of the ways that Jesus responded to the crowds in the first chapters of Mark: there were three different instances when Jesus was almost crushed by crowds of people. He even had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat that He could get in if the crowds started to crush Him (yes, that many people were running to Him!) When He went home to sleep that night, the scriptures say that the entire town was at His house! Yet, He skipped his meal, stayed and ministered to and loved on the people so much that his own family remarked that he was “out of his mind.” So, if He never changes, He still has this disposition, and He still reacts this way to those who run to Him.

Here is solid comfort. Our human nature cannot be relied on, but we can rely on God! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God does not change. If He changed as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if He were controlled by His mood, who could reveal their secrets to Him? However, we can bring Him praise and worship, because He is ever the same! His purpose is fixed, His will is stable, His Word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty oceans of life try to sweep us away. (My translation of A.W Pinks Attributes, pp 692 Kindle)

Think about it. His character is permanent. He could never change for the better, for that would imply that there was something about Him that needed improving before, and thus, He wouldn’t be a perfect God. He has always been, and forever will be, the same, perfect, God. The permanence of His character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises:

For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”               Isaiah 54:10

His promises are true. His hatred of sin endures forever. His love for His children never changes. His satisfaction with the sacrifice His Son paid for our sins will never change…Aren’t you glad that our God never changes?

God’s Sovereignty In the Book of Acts: Ordaining the Cross

God’s-Sovereignty

“His Sovereignty rules over all.” – Ps. 103:19

I have often heard the phrase, “God is sovereign” in a way that has been spoken to me to give me encouragement in a tough time or situation. But I never really took the time to meditate on what it meant for Him to be sovereign. The term is defined by having supreme power and authority, a free ability to do as one pleases. In other words, God is in absolute control over every situation, and works out everything according to His will. Think on it for a while, and it will drive your brain into massive confusion. However, we are called to submit ourselves to and believe what scripture tells us, and trust in his sovereignty.

These past few days, I have read through the book of Acts, and I was struck with how much it reveals about God’s sovereignty-with regards to salvation! I simply would like to share them with you in a 3 part series, so that you too can see how God has worked out salvation for his people, and how you, too, if in Christ, were brought into salvation by his amazing grace.

In this first post, Lets look at the major theme of sovereignty in how God ordained the cross:

  • Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I had a very interesting conversation with a Muslim man the other day, who asked me if Christians hated Jews, because they were the ones who “killed Jesus.” This was the first time that I had really come across this misconception. Before I could reply, my friend with me answered, “No,no,no, we don’t hate them at all. We believe it was God’s plan all along, that he used the Jews and the Romans to accomplish his purpose of sacrificing Jesus!” This can be a tough pill to swallow, but Acts 2:23 clearly states for us that Jesus was crucified because it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Let’s look at another verse:

  • What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:18

In this verse we are told that not only did God plan it from the beginning, but you can see his plan through reading the prophets in the Old Testament. Lets look at one of the most well-known passages. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isn’t is incredible that these words were written 600-700 years before Jesus birth? There are over 300 in the Old Testament like it! God surely had a plan, and was voicing it to his people all throughout history.

If you haven’t been convinced yet, lets look at one last verse,

  • For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus…Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your hand had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28

In the most heinous crime committed in the history of mankind, God was behind the scenes, sovereignly ruling. His hand predestined for Jesus to go to the cross, and to bear the weight of our filthy sin. He planned it all, so that whosoever would repent and believe in Him, would have eternal life. This was the depth of his love for us, that he would send his own Son, who would be despised and rejected, so that we might have life with Him. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. Recognizing this plan helps us understand the cornerstone of the gospel, seen in Isaiah 53:10,” Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him.” Him- meaning Jesus.

People everywhere are commanded to repent and believe in this incredible gospel (Acts 17:30). How could we not accept so great a Savior? How could we not devote our lives to a God, who in his sovereignty planted the very tree that he would be crucified on-all to give us life and relationship with Him?

Truly, He is sovereign.