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)

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.

Start The New Year Remembering Your Identity In Christ

As the new year begins, I believe that the church at large, myself included, needs to remember our identity in Christ- as it pertains to sin. If your like me, when you think about who you are in Christ-you often think of yourself as forgiven, loved, set-apart, saved, etc. These identities are very true and important, but God has reminded me early in this year of another aspect of my identity in Christ- dead to sin.

Paul writes in Romans,

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

We as believers are told not only that Christ died for us (substitution) but that we died with Christ (identification). He not only provided the forgiveness of sins, he provided the deliverance from the enslavement of sin. Watchman Nee says, “Our sins were dealt with by the blood,we ourselves are dealt with by the cross.” The blood of Christ seals and provides our forgiveness (“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins- Hebrews 9:22b); But the cross of Christ delivers us from what we are in Adam- slaves of sin!

You see, we were joined with Jesus on the cross. One may ask you, “who was crucified at Calvary?” Certainly most Christians would answer with Jesus, but how many would answer that we were crucified there with him, too? It is a beautiful fact–that we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. We were united to him in death, as our old selves were crucified with him, and also united in his resurrection, as our new selves were given life!

Fellow believers, we are set free from sin! We are not only forgiven from our past, present, and future sins, but we are a new creature! (2 Cor. 5:17), able to have victory over sin, and to say “NO” to temptation. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “You cannot be married to Christ until you are first divorced from sin.” You may ask, “How can we be divorced from sin?” The answer is that Jesus provided the very divorcement papers! He declared us divorced when we were crucified with Him at Calvary.

Does this describe your walk with Jesus? Can you say that you have accepted this great truth by faith, and leaned on the Spirit to live by it? This is God’s desire for us: to trust in Christ, receive the forgiveness of sins, and to walk a new life in the Spirit, a life characterized by freedom from sin. Throw yourself upon Christ! Trust in Him! This was our greatest need- to be made dead to sin, and alive to God- and He perfectly provided for us. Our old self has been crucified, and our new self has risen with Christ in power. Will you join me in pursuing a life that lives out this identity this year?

Jesus: Giver of Living Water

At the very beginning of the story of the woman at the well, we see Jesus do something that yet again sets himself apart from most religious leaders at the time. We are told that he had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4). Most devout Jews would avoid Samaria on this journey to and from Judea, taking a much longer route, due to their racism and hatred of Samaritans. Jesus, however, walks right on through, and sits down for a divine appointment with a sinful Samaritan woman.

Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” -John 4:14

The woman suddenly makes a request for this water, but she does not understand what Jesus is saying. This is clearly shown in the latter part of her sentence, “..so I will not be thirsty

Jesus came to quench the “thirst” of those longing to know God. He alone provides the “living water” for us to be in a relationship with God and be satisfied with Him forever!

To aid the woman’s misunderstanding, Jesus helps her understand who he is by telling her he knows of her five husbands (4:18) and prophesying that people will eventually be able to worship anywhere (because God will no longer dwell on a mountain or in a tabernacle, but in the hearts of believers). When the woman tells Jesus that she knows that a “Messiah” is coming, he responds with what would be an incredibly dramatic scene in a movie by saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

I trust that at once the woman knew who Jesus claimed to be, and she believed- she drank of the living water.

In verse 28 we are told, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into the town..”

She left her water jar! This is not astounding to 21st century readers as it should be, because we do not understand the difficulties of retrieving water. Most women in the 1st century would walk some great distance to fill their jars for the necessities that the day held: cooking, bathing, drinking, etc. Also, the fact that the woman came at approximately noon is a possible indicator itself that she felt ashamed and didn’t want to be seen in public (potentially due to her having 5 husbands)- which makes it all the more interesting that this is the woman that Jesus speaks to. Nevertheless, what we do know for sure is that the retrieval of water was a big deal-so to leave the jar behind and return to town without it-was a big deal!

This is to say that the most important thing in the woman’s life at the time was dropped when she encountered Jesus. I believe she understood that she had encountered something far greater than a necessity for this physical life- she encountered the necessity for a spiritual life in God- Jesus.

You see Jesus offers this living water to us, it is ours for the taking. To trust him, to drink of the water that he offers, to be brought in relationship with Him, and to never thirst again- is the offer on the table. Will you take it?

If you are dying of thirst in a desert and you stumble upon a pool of water, would you look at it? Would you admire it? Would you try to understand how it got there? Or how you stumbled upon it? Would you memorize its color and study it? No- You would drink it at once!

The woman not only left her jar, she ran into the town, among the people she was ashamed to be seen by, and emphatically told them about Jesus. Her previous worries of being mocked or looked down upon were gone! She knew who she had encountered- the King of the universe. You can encounter him, too.

My friends, please drink of this living water! Drop everything else your worrying or thinking about. Nothing is as important as this- Have you accepted Jesus? Have you drank of the living water? Throw yourself upon Christ. He is waiting to quench your everlasting thirst!

Please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu with any questions!

John 2: Jesus Turns Water To Wine: Amazing Symbolism

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Most people have heard about Jesus turning the water into wine, but do they really know what it means? Do you really know what it means?

If you have not read this portion of scripture, please read John 2:1-12 now so that we may be taught of the Spirit together as we analyze this passage! This miracle of Jesus packs a deep meaning that radically sets the stage for the rest of his life, ministry, and purpose.

First, its important to know the setting for where He performed his first miracle. We see that he performs it at a wedding feast (John 2:1), one of the most treasured celebrations in 1st century Jerusalem. He is attending with his mother and a few of his disciples, and it is brought to his attention that there is no more wine to be served. To us, this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but the point of all Jesus’ miracles is to demonstrate spiritual truth, and what a amazing truth he reveals through this miracle!

Key Point: Jesus uses the ceremonial cleansing jars to create the wine. (John 2:6)

We need to note what Jesus used to turn the water into wine. He used ceremonial cleaning jars, which probably already had a decent amount of old water sitting in them. The Jews would use these water jars to purify themselves: to wash themselves, and make themselves “clean” before God. By using these jars, Jesus is giving us a sneak peek of what is to come. Jesus is showing us that the cleansing of His blood (as we know, in the Bible, the blood of Christ is represented by wine -Matt 26:28) is far greater than any ritual washings – and the transformation of this very water into wine symbolizes the transformation of Judaism.
The fact that Jesus changed the ceremonial washing water into wine proves that he will do away with the rituals of Judaism, and that we will be made clean before God through his blood. Jesus filled the containers to the brim (John 2:7) to show that no space is left for ritual washings after his sacrifice.

Jesus instructs the servants to take a pitcher of this water to the master, and so they did. We don’t actually know when the water turns to wine, but when the master of the feasts takes a sip, he says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Is this recorded just to show us that Jesus should start a new career as a wine-maker? Certainly not. The Spirit is showing us something here:

The statement made by the master of the feast implies this: That typically, the best wine is served first, so that the people “get their fill” (get drunk) and can’t tell when a cheaper wine is introduced. In the same way, The Jews had been “drinking wine” (aka. performing their ritual washings) for so long that they weren’t able to recognize when something better came along (Jesus)!

Jesus conveys this truth again in the same chapter when he drives out the temple. He exclaims, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus was talking about his own body, and it was through the “destroying of it” and his rising from the dead that was able to accomplish this new system, where his blood covers our sin, not our ritual washings or other works.

Jesus came to make everything new, and he clearly demonstrated that by turning old water used for bathing into brand new wine. He also came to make the heart new. We will see that tomorrow in John 3!

(please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu for further explanation or questions)

John 1: The Word Became Flesh

This year, my family, some friends and I are reading through the book of John counting down to Christmas. Each day we are reading a chapter and I am writing an analysis. Please join us! Today is John Chapter 1.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God.” (verses 1-2).

In the very beginning of the book of John, we are given a clear representation of who Jesus is. From these first two verses, what are we told? That in the beginning, the Word was there, with God, and was God. So who or what is this “Word?” None other than Jesus himself! Skim down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aha! Now we can read these “Word” verses with this knowledge in mind. Lets summarize what this section tells us about Jesus:

  • In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. (v.1)
  • He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (v.2)
  • All things were made through him (Jesus), and nothing was made without him. (v.3)
  • In him (Jesus) is life, and he is the light of men. (v.4)
  • Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (v.14)

Is this odd that John starts with these deep truths about Jesus right at the beginning? Why would he do that? I believe he was intentional about it, because he believed it was absolutely crucial to understand that Jesus was God in the form of a man, to understand the gospel at all!

So what else is unique here? (besides John the Baptist, I will write of him in a later post). Look at this verse, “No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18). What does this tell us? The 2nd time the verse says “God,” it is referring to Jesus! Some older manuscripts read “The only Son…..has made him known.” We could also read this verse now thinking of Jesus: “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

So Jesus has come to make God known, and so that we can know Him! As we read on in John, we will see that because of our sinful condition, this was the only possible way that we could be made right with God. The Bible calls this “knowing God” eternal life; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We will see as we continue reading that Jesus came to accomplish this very purpose, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). But first he must live a life of perfect obedience, offer up his life by being nailed to a cross, and rise from the grave to do so. I hope you will join my family and me as we continue to read the gospel of John this Christmas season, as we strive to know God through the amazing gift he has given us: Jesus!

Rethinking Heaven….The New Earth

landscape09In a bible study that I had with a couple of guys last night, we talked briefly about the topic of the new earth, and how our eternity will not be spent in some foreign sky called “heaven” but that we will walk the new, transformed, perfect earth, with Jesus reigning as Lord!

Revelation 21:2-3,”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.

After our discussion, I went home and broke open one of my favorite books, Eternal Perspectives, by Randy Alcorn, and I read,

“At Christ’s return, the earth will be healed from sin’s wounds. These include not only toxic waste and chemical pollution but also cultural and moral pollution. The healing of wounds implies the return to an original condition. If our new bodies will look enough like the old bodies to be recognizable, doesn’t this suggest that the New Earth will look enough like the old Earth for us to recognize it?

…The New Earth will still be just as much Earth as the new us will still be us. Our resurrection bodies will have our eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Like Christ’s body, ours will maintain their distinguishing features. If our new bodies will so closely correspond to the present ones, won’t the New Earth just as closely correspond to the present one? Will there be a New Mount St. Helens and New Himalayas and New Alaska under the new northern lights? Will there be a New Bermuda, a New Canada, a New Australia?

…My understanding of Scripture suggests that the New Earth will include not only resurrected geographical locations but also resurrected cultures. The kings of the nations will bring their tribute, splendor, and glory into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24,26) There will be not one nation but many. This reference gives us biblical basis to suppose that the best culture, history, art, music, and the languages of the old Earth will be redeemed, purified, and carried over to the New Earth.

Surely these kings and cultures who bring their “splendor” and “glory” into the new world won’t start from scratch. They’ll bring into the new world a national and personal history, an ethnic identity, and a wealth of customs, art forms, and knowledge. All these will be purified, but that leaves plenty of room for distinctive cultural celebrations, holidays, meals, sports, and many other customs.”

So much for floating around in the sky as robots!! How could we not look forward to whats coming? First and foremost, WE GET CHRIST! IN FULL! and then there are so many other amazing things such as these, yet we cannot even begin to grasp them, because “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9.)

I hope this is encouraging for you today!

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/New-Heavens-And-New-Earth#sthash.h0Pny9OU.dpuf
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/New-Heavens-And-New-Earth#sthash.h0Pny9OU.dpuf