For the Christian, everything hinges on this statement. Paul made it very clear that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). But there are indisputable proofs that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (15:20); “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6).
But the point Jesus was making in John 11:25, to a family who had just lost a loved one to death, was that resurrection power resided in His person! If you are in Christ by virtue of faith in His death for your sins, then HIS life is yours by virtue of HIS resurrection! Again, Paul expresses this far better than I can; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
To live this resurrection life is to live knowing that nothing in this world can take away, diminish, mar or by any power separate us from Christ! “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37–39). Begin the New Year with this confidence!
As we look back on 2015 and every year of our lives that came before this one, it is good for the heart to look back, take a piece of paper and make a list of all the things the “I AM” has done for you as “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). Let me start your list; He has laid down His life for you (10:11)! Before we even realized we needed such a shepherd, He made the ultimate sacrifice for the following reasons:
1. To save us from “the thief [that] comes only to steal, and kill and destroy” (10:10).
2. To give “life…abundantly…I give them eternal life and they will never perish” (10:10, 28).
3. To protect us from “the wolf [who] leaves the sheep…flees…snatches…scatters…and cares nothing for the sheep” (10:12-13).
4. To know us intimately and call us by name so we recognize His voice (10:16).
5. To unite all His sheep into one flock (10:16).
6. “NO ONE will snatch them out of [His] hand…and NO ONE is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (10:28-29).
Just as Jacob was breathing his last, he spoke of God as the one “who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day” (Genesis 49:15). David as a shepherd knew “The Lord [as] my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). In all the ups and downs in Peter’s life, he knew the Lord as “the Shepherd and Overseer of [our] souls” and “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21).
What a glorious way to end this year, at rest in the arms of “The Good Shepherd”!
There is a common complaint among people of other religions that the Christian faith is too exclusive. The problem that is often overlooked is that if God had given us a million ways to Him, we would want a million and one, just so we could control the path to God by our own wills. If humanity made the rules of how to approach God and be accepted by Him, then he would no longer be God.
What is overlooked in all these religious arguments is that God has provided a perfect way for mankind to be reconciled with His perfect holiness through making peace via His Son on the cross (Ephesians 2:13-16). Because of this perfect way, Jesus rightly said, “I AM the door of the sheep” and every other way is used by “thieves and robbers” (John 10:1, 7, 9). When Jesus spoke in chapter 14 about going “to prepare a place for us” in the Father’s house, Thomas wanted to know how to get there. Jesus replied, “I AM the way…no one comes to the Father except through me” (14:1, 5-6). The human heart struggles with the simplicity of this way to God because of the lie that Satan has told us; we must do something to earn acceptance with God. If that were true, no one would ever achieve the standard of God’s holiness, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23).
The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus Christ perfectly satisfied God’s holiness for us. We can come to God through His Son, the “I AM” who is the “Door. We are accepted by God because Christ made us acceptable through His sacrifice – becoming our substitute!
John begins his gospel by referring to Jesus as “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9). He is making a very important distinction between “true light” and the light which Paul mentions, as deceptive; “for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14). When Jesus came into the world, His light was the only light that could dispel the darkness of man's heart through sin. Those who receive Christ as Savior are given His light and are called “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Again, Paul makes this beautiful statement; “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Now that is a sermon in itself! This world never know what “true light” really was until Jesus came into the pages of human history. Through His presence here on earth, His light has replaced the darkness of sin in those who receive Him.
When Jesus said in John 8:12 and 9:5, “I AM the light of the world”, He was giving us a message for those who still sit in darkness. Since God “has shone in our hearts” this “true light”, He is sending us out as torch bearers that will enlighten everyone with “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is God’s glory to cover sin and remove darkness. What torch do you carry? Where will you carry HIS light?
Have you ever compared the amount of time spent in purchasing groceries at stores, preparing the groceries and cooking so they can be eaten, and then the time spent eating the food, with how much time you spend feasting on the “Bread of Life” at HIS table?
Let us compare the extremely brief benefits of physical food with the eternal benefits of spending time with Jesus who said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). The satisfaction from each really has no comparison. Jesus points to this huge difference to the Jews in verses 48-49, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” I have never seen anyone escape death who just eats physical food without a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. But this bread that Jesus offers is “so that one may eat of it and not die” (6:50). In fact, just to make the point abundantly clear, Jesus continues; “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:51).
How much time are you spending gathering with the Lord and His Word (“the living bread”), preparing your heart to eat at His table, and allowing the Holy Spirit to apply this bread to your life? The difference has eternal consequences!
Many people have gone to extreme lengths and extraordinary expense to meet someone they esteem very highly; some figure in human history that has accomplished what no one else has done. They will wait in long lines for many hours, camp out at gates and security fences, endure the extremes of weather, and even risk their life to see one person who everyone thinks is very important by human standards.
What if the Creator of the universe, the Son of God, the Savior of mankind were to come to a place that you frequent; sitting, waiting for you to come, just you? Would you recognize Him? Jesus did just that for “a woman of Samaria”. After some discussion about her personal life, which He already knew, she says, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you AM HE.”” (John 4:7, 25–26).
Such a personal visit can be yours and mine, not just at Christmas, but every day! “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). The door knob is on your side of the door of your heart. He is here, but you must answer the invitation. He wants to reveal more than you can imagine about Himself, and you.
We live in a world of uncertainty where it seems that the purpose of public media is to fill our eyes and ears with as much negative news as possible. My observation is that those who feed on such venues of information become fearful, paralyzed by doubt, and worst of all, miss their purpose for being here at all. What is the antidote to such a sad outlook on life?
Of all the writers of the New Testament, John was given a view of Jesus as the “I AM” that none of the other writers had. At least ten times in his Gospel, John refers to some characteristic of Jesus along with the title “I AM”. The most impressive “I AM” statement that John records of Jesus is in the first chapter of Revelation. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17–18). Notice the effect this encounter had on John and should have on us:
1. To see Jesus (literally or by the eyes of faith) evoked reverence and worship (“I fell at his feet as though dead”).
2. His presence is reassuring by the power of His “right hand”.
3. His first words to John, “Fear not” give confidence that everything is under His control. Absolutely nothing in our lives or in the universe escapes His attention (Hebrews 1:3). This is a critical point for each of us. Too much attention to the media’s bad news blurs our vision to what God is doing in this world and dims our light that God wants to use in this dark world.
4. There was nothing before Christ and He will be the end of all thing (Hebrews 1:10-12).
5. Death and the grave could not hold the Son of God (Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:20).
6. Jesus has conquered the power of death as well as Satan who had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14).
My dear reader, let the power of the “I AM” fill the vision of your heart and mind so that you no longer live with fear or doubt, but in the power of Christ in you by the Holy Spirit! THE “I AM” IS ALWAYS PRESENT!
It is evident from Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2:8-14 that the “wise men from the east” and the “shepherds out in the field” traveled some distance to come to the place where Jesus was, “in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”. Whatever difficulties or hardships were necessary to be at the place where Jesus was, are not even mentioned. What is mentioned is that “they fell down and worshipped Him” and the shepherds were accompanied “suddenly…with…a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:13-14)! God’s universe was vibrant with praise as Jesus entered this world.
Simeon lived his whole life waiting for this one moment when he would hold the child Jesus in his arms. For Simeon, this was the pinnacle of everything that had meaning. Anna, at the age of eighty-four had the same feelings (2:36-38). These perhaps did not travel distance in terms of miles, but they traveled life’s path with one objective – THE REDEEMER OF MANKIND!
If your objective this Christmas is what you will receive in gifts from others, then you have missed the whole purpose of Christmas. As Jesus is the center of God’s universe, so He must be our whole reason for celebration, worship and praise. Our love for Jesus is best measured by what we will sacrifice to be worshipping Him in His presence. Everything else in life receives meaning and value because of Him. Apart from Jesus, nothing has meaning or value. Is God changing your values?
Usually the most important things in life that have the highest value are not understood or properly appreciated without spending time thinking about what they mean. After the angel told Mary what God was going to do through her, then her visit with Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist, the birth of Jesus in such humble circumstances, the shepherds and angels appearing, Luke says that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). This took time.
As I said yesterday, the “thief” wants to steal our time with busyness, particularly at this time of year, to the point that we have no time to “ponder” what has the highest value. Over the years I have come to prize my time alone with the Lord more than sleep, food or anything else. Jesus is my treasure! Time with Him results in treasuring more and more His person and His truth.
Why not begin a new habit or tradition with yourself, your family and friends by taking time this Christmas to “ponder…in [your] heart” the wonder that God came to us in humble human form that we might have an eternal relationship with God, free from sin or condemnation. If you have children, teach them to “treasure up all these things” that speak of the glories of Christ. They will learn to “treasure” what you “treasure”.
The closer we get to December 25th, the more people hurry to buy and wrap gifts for those we love and prepare lavish meals that have a short life span or are consumed within a few hours. The frenzy of activity is a thief to the real meaning and remembrance of Jesus’ birth. Jesus put this paradox into perspective when he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
The context is where Jesus presents Himself as the “I am door of the sheep” and “I am the Good Shepherd” (10:9, 11). To His sheep, those who hear His voice, He gives eternal life (John 3:15).
The thief on the other hand “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (10:10). While there may not be anything wrong with giving presents and eating good meals, we must be alert to the “thief” using a good season in the Christian experience to “steal” the most precious part of Christ’s coming – “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” If the thief can “kill” our experience of abundant life in Christ, he has been successful.
Make sure your Christmas is Christ FIRST! He wants you and me to feast at His table – a fellowship of eternal life! This is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). Your purpose for being here is to continually enjoy this eternal life NOW! Then we will spontaneously want to share it with those who still do not have it.
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