The Advent Of The Son Of Man

When we read the four gospels, we find that Jesus seldom referred to Himself as the Messiah. The phrase He used most often to describe Himself was “The Son of Man.”

The phrase “son of man” by itself, just means “a human being.” But Jesus did not say “I am a son of man”, He said “I am The Son of Man.” 

Jesus was pointing His listeners back to a figure found in the book of Daniel.  

Daniel was an Israelite prophet who was carried away captive to Babylon. Babylon was more than just a pagan empire. In the Bible, Babylon represents mankind’s rebellion against God. Daniel was made to serve in the king of Babylon’s court.

One night Daniel had a prophetic dream. He saw four beasts crawling out of a dark sea. They were grotesque hybrids of different animals. The fourth beast was so terrible, there was no one beast to compare it to. Daniel is told that these four beasts represent four empires.

The images of these empires as beasts are telling us something important about us.

God created animals and humans from the dust of the ground. But He gave humans a special purpose. Adam and Eve and their offspring were to have dominion over the earth and represent God on earth as God’s image bearers. Adam and Eve were tempted by a beast and fell into sin.

They were expelled from the Garden paradise that God had formed for them, and they forfeited their place of ruling as God’s representatives on earth.

As mankind fell further and further away from God, and organized themselves into empires, they became more and more like the beasts of the field. When we rebel against God, we start to act like beasts towards one another. One Babylonian king—Nebuchadnezzar—was lifted up in pride and God humbled him by making him like the beasts of the field.

In Daniel’s dream, he sees God’s throne room, and he sees more than one divine throne. There is one throne that was vacated by the human race—the throne Adam and Eve were to occupy.

Then Daniel sees “One like a Son of Man” riding on the clouds of God’s glory and ascending to God the Father’s presence to take His place on that throne, and rule the world as God’s perfect image bearer.

The beast is then judged and destroyed.

Jesus is the One who has overcome the beast of the garden. He is the One who has succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. He is the One who has overcome evil empires. And how Jesus overcame is the story of the gospel! When we understand how Jesus overcame, we will also understand His calling upon our lives; how we can overcome the beast, and how we are saved!

Lets look at three related topics:

  1. Why Jesus used the phrase “the Son of Man” to describe Himself.
  2. What the Bible has to say about dominion and domains.
  3. What salvation actually is, and what it isn’t.

Topic #1 Why did Jesus us the phrase “Son of Man” to describe Himself?

The Ancient of Days Reigns Daniel 7:9-12

“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like

white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were

a burning fire. “A river of fire was flowingAnd coming out from before Him;Thousands upon

thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat,

And the books were opened. “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.  “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

  • The Ancient of Days is God the Father
  • This is a judgment scene: rivers of the water of life are not coming from the throne (Rev. 22:1) it is a river of fire/judgment.
  • God’s throne has wheels; it is called the “chariot throne” of God–God’s throne appears with wheels in Ezekiel also.

Daniel 7:13-14

13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and ba kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” Dan. 7:13-14 This figure is coming “with the clouds of heaven” This is very important symbolism!

God’s presence in the Bible is often accompanied by this “cloud of glory.”

At Sinai,  “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.”

Ex. 24:16 “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord.” Ex. 34:5

At the Mount of transfiguration: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Matt. 17:5

  • The Son of Man being carried up with the cloud of God’s glory is telling us something about Him; it speaks of His divinity! The cloud of God’s glory is always associated with God Himself! He is more than a man.
  • This vision in Daniel is a vision of Jesus’ ascension into heaven; when He returns He will be riding on the cloud of God’s glory as well:

“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matt. 24:27

“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His celect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matt. 24:30-31

  • When Jesus answered Caiaphas the High Priest’s demand, Caiaphas understood exactly who Jesus was claiming to be:

“And the high priest said to Him, “I cadjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matt. 26:63-64

Topic #2  What does the Bible say about dominion and domains?

In our passage in Daniel, we see that the Son of Man is given a domain—dominion over the earth and over everyone and everything in it.

This concept of domains goes all the way back to Genesis; it is built into the fabric of creation.

  • God formed His creation be creating domains and then filling them—the heavens, the sky, the sea, and the land: filled withstars, birds, sea creatures, animals and mankind on the land.
  • Domains are everywhere! Our houses are domains; if someone crosses the threshold, they are entering into our domain. Streets are domains; it you cross over the line to oncoming traffic, you have entered the domain of the traffic going the other way and bad things can happen!
  • Land boundaries, city boundaries, counties, states, and countries are all domains.
  • The garden in Eden was a domain. Adam and Eve had freedom within that domain.
  • There was a domain within the garden, that belonged exclusively to God—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • To transgress (sin) is to violate God’s boundaries; God’s domains. It is to cross over a line.
  • Adam and Eve took something from God’s domain and were expelled from the safety of their own domain in the garden, living under the rule of God. They were cast out to the place of the wild beasts, outside the garden. They were exiled from the land.
  • The Son of Man left His own domain—heaven—to come to where we are and bring us back into the domain of God—paradise—His kingdom.

Topic #3 What is salvation? What is not salvation?

How does Jesus, the Son Of Man bring us back into His domain? Into paradise?

  • The Apostle Paul uses a mysterious new phrase in His letters: He refers to followers of Jesus as being “in Christ.”As we were all in a sense “in Adam” when he sinned, so are we who have been born of the Spirit of God “in Christ” in His death and resurrection!
  • Just as Jesus overcame the beast through death and resurrection, so we overcome the beast through our death—to sin and to self—and our resurrection with Him. His death becomes our death; His resurrection becomes our resurrection!
  • Salvation is not about being “good enough” to go to heaven. It is being united with Jesus in His death and resurrection! (Phil. 3:7-14)
  • We don’t have to fully understand all of this to experience it!
  • We are united with Him in His death and resurrection through repentance, self-denial, and surrender to do His will! When we realize that we cannot save ourselves, and call upon Him!
  • Repentance is not reforming; it is not, “I made a mistake, I promise I will do better.”
  • Repentance is realizing that we have sinned, and that we are fully responsible for the sin
  • It is realizing that we cannot “make up” for our sin; sin is a stain that we cannot remove.
  • Salvation is what happens when we put our trust in Jesus; that He has done something for us on the cross that we could not do for ourselves.

How do we apply these truths to our lives?

  1. Just as this vision gave hope to Daniel and God’s people in captivity—the beasts will be overcome and destroyed, so this vision gives us hope for the future! We know that when we see nations act like beasts, we also know that they will come to an end, and Jesus’ kingdom will outlast and replace them forever!
  2. When mankind turns its back on God, we start to become like the beasts of the field. One of the characteristics of beasts, is that they never “look up” to heaven. They only have one perspective—live life to satisfy their immediate need—no eternal perspective. Are you living life from an eternal perspective? Or are you only living for the moment, or are you living life with the Age to Come in view?
  3. The first step towards living life from an eternal perspective is repentance. If the Lord has brought to your mind sin in your own life; make the decision to confess it to Him and turn from it.
  4. Make the word of God the “lens” through which you see the world. This means intentionally making time to read the Bible and pray every day.
  5. Make the decision to surrender to the will of God as He reveals it to you through the word of God.
  6. We, like Daniel, are living in a state of exile; we are absent from the paradise we were made for. We are living among the “beasts.” We need the word of God and the Holy Spirit to navigate life in this world until we are brought back into the land that God intended for us–Paradise!

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His

judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His

counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and

through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Rom. 11:33-36

The Advent Of Jesus Our King

The Hebrew Bible paints a picture of a coming Messiah who will hold a combination of three offices, that of Prophet, Priest, and King. It is the last office, the office of King, that I want to focus on in this article.

One of the reasons I want to focus on Jesus’ role as King, is because I think we tend to focus more on Jesus as Priest; Jesus as our intercessor; Jesus as our Savior. And I do not mean in any way diminish the importance of this role. All three offices are of equal importance!

But since we do not live under the rule of a king in the 21st century, and we may think of Jesus as king of the Jewish people only, I think we may tend to miss the importance of this aspect of who He is.

Let’s look at:

  1. Jesus’ role as King.
  2. Our call to follow Him.
  3. The meaning of grace.

Jesus’ Role As King

  • Understanding Jesus’ role as our King is vital to our understanding of His plan of salvation!
  • Understanding Jesus’ role as our King is vital to our understanding of what heaven is!
  • Understanding Jesus’ role as our King is vital to our understanding of what grace is!

To understand why the Messiah would be a king we have to go back to the beginning of the Bible, the book of Genesis. There we find God’s plan for the human race was to dwell in fellowship with God, in an ever-expanding paradise, and have dominion on earth as God’s image bearers. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden/temple—which is called paradise–because of their sin. Rather than expanding God’s rule over creation, Adam and Eve’s offspring spread sin, violence, and death.

The Bible tells the story of God’s plan to return the human race to paradise.

What is paradise? What is heaven?

Heaven is the kingdom of God, sometimes called the kingdom of heaven. It is the place where God rules; it is the place where God’s will is accomplished perfectly.

God’s plan of salvation for the human race is to return us to paradise/heaven. God’s plan of salvation includes the forgiveness of our sin, and His enablement to live out His will for our lives! To enable us to live in paradise–and desire to live in paradise–living under His rule! That is what the Bible means by the phrase, being under grace, or saved by grace.

Heaven is the garden paradise that we were expelled from!

We don’t have to speculate too much about what it is. We can read a description of it in Revelation chapter’s 21-22. We will see in the description the Tree of life, God’s throne, water, gold, and the mountain of God! We speak of “going to heaven” but in fact, the Bible shows us in Revelation chapter’s 21-22 that heaven is coming to earth!

There are many prophecies in the Hebrew Bible of the coming Messiah; here are just a few:

God gave Adam and Eve a prophecy that one of her offspring would crush the head of the serpent, and in the process would be crushed Himself (Gen. 3:15).

Abraham’s son Jacob prophesied (Gen. 49:10-12) that a ruler would come from the tribe of Judah—the Messiah—and all people—the Gentile nations–would pay homage to Him.  

God promised king David that He would raise up one of his descendants and establish the throne of His kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:12-13).

The angel Gabriel told Mary the mother of Jesus:

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:26-33

What will the King do?

As Jesus was raised from the dead, so He will raise all who have followed Him to eternal life in His Kingdom when He establishes it in the New Heavens and Earth: (Note: I have said “follow Him” rather than “believed in Him” for a reason which I will explain.)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Cor. 15:20-28

  • Interpretation: The resurrected Son is reigning now as Lord; the Father will subdue the enemies of the Son under His feet; the Father is excepted from this–He is the One who does the subjecting. Once the Son’s enemies have been subjected under His feet, the Son will subject all things to the Father, so that God may be “all in all.”
  • All those who have “died” with Christ, ie., repented of their sins and given Him their lives—lost their life of living for themselves—He will raise up with Him in the resurrection.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Matt. 16:24-27

Our Call To Follow Him

Jesus has called all people everywhere to “Follow Him.”To follow Him means to become His disciple. To become His disciple means to follow His example and obey His commandments. To be His apprentice.  

In fact, Jesus’ call to follow Him as a disciple includes some aspect of each of the offices of prophet, priest, and king that I have just described!

He has called us to a prophetic ministry—that of making disciples, being His witnesses, and warning others of the wrath to come. The Apostle Peter, in his sermon at Pentecost (Shavuot), stated that the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they were witnessing was the fulfillment of a prophecy in the book of Joel: that of God’s Spirit being poured out empowering all of God’s people to prophesy!

“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this iswhat was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:15-18

He has called us to be a kingdom of priests:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 2 Pet. 2:9-10

He has called us to a kingly ministry—to rule and reign with Him: 

“‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” Rev. 3:19-22

Jesus is God’s anointed One, His Messiah, His King. He will only come into our hearts and lives if we embrace Him as King—desiring His rule over our hearts and lives. Anything less than this is just pretending to be a Christian.

The Meaning of Grace

To understand the importance of Jesus’ role as king and life lived in the kingdom God, it is vital that we understand grace as the Bible defines it. I am afraid that some in the church have drifted from a Biblical understanding of grace to a perversion of it. The perversion goes something like this:

“When I asked Jesus into my heart, He forgave me of all my sins. I still sin, but since I am under grace, God just looks the other way and accepts me anyway. “Following commandments” and that kind of language is “legalism.” Since I am under grace, God makes no demands of my life. Being a Christian basically means just trying to be a good person.”

The Apostle Paul explains to us that being “under grace” means being free from sin, not free to sin. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with (made powerless), so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Rom. 6:1-14

  • Being “under grace” means being set free from the guilt and the power of sin, and being empowered to become an “instrument of righteousness” in the hands of God through our death and resurrection with Jesus!
  • The New Covenant is God fulfilling His promise to write His Law (Torah) on our hearts, and His enabling us to live according to His commandments by the power of the Holy Spirit! (Jer. 31:31-34, Eze. 36:25-37).

Why did I say “follow Him” instead of “believe in Him” earlier?

If I were to ask you the question, “Which is more important: trusting the Lord or obeying the Lord? How would you answer? If you answered, “There is no difference; they are one and the same.” You would be correct. They are two sides of the same coin. You cannot trust without obedience. Adam and Eve knew God’s commandment and will for them; they did not trust God, so they did not obey Him.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that the goal of his apostleship was to bring about “the obedience of faith” among the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5). To have faith is to obey.

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Matt. 7:21

How does this apply to us?

The passage we read earlier from Revelation, “Behold I stand at the door and knock” in context, has Jesus standing outside the door of the church at Laodicea. Think of it; Jesus standing outside the door of a church, knocking to see who will invite Him in a as Lord of their lives. Jesus is doing the same thing today. Will you invite Him in as King?

The call to follow Jesus as our King is a radical call! How do we answer that call?

God reveals His will for us through His word, the Bible.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16-17

Here is a list of questions that we should know the answer to, or be seeking the answer:

  1. What should be my relationship with my Bible? (Ps. 119:9-11) It is our most valuable possession!
  2. As a father, what is my relationship to my wife, my children, supposed to be? (Eph. 5:25-30, 6:4)
  3. As a wife, what is my relationship to my husband supposed to be? (Eph. 5:22-24)
  4. As a young person, what is my relationship with my parents supposed to be? (Eph. 6:1-3)
  5. As an employer, how am I to treat my employees? As an employee, how am I to do my job? (Eph. 6:5-9)
  6. What spiritual gifts has the Lord given me? How am I to use them? (1 Pet. 4:10-11, 1 Cor. 12-14) Don’t be a person who attends church for decades, and does not know what his or her spiritual gifts are, because they have never been willing to serve others in the church which is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth!
  7. What should my prayer life look like? What should I pray for? (read the Psalms, the prayers of Paul)
  8. How does the Lord want to use me as His witness to others? Sharing the gospel? (Matt. 28:18-20)
  9. What is God’s will for me regarding church attendance? (Heb. 10:23-25)
  10. What does the Bible have to say about money? (Matt. 6:2-4, 2 Cor. 9:6-7) Jesus had a lot to say about money!

May the Lord bless you and empower you to live for Him!

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Heb. 13:20-21

“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

These are the first recorded words of Jesus to His disciples Peter and his brother Andrew in the gospel of Mark. It doesn’t seem to fit the method that we evangelicals use to present the call to salvation, or the call to follow Jesus nowadays, does it?

Perhaps there is something very important for us to learn here from the very words of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but when I was a youth and looking into becoming a Christian or finding a religion to believe in, I was looking for something that I could do in private. Something that did not involve me being very public about my faith. When I finally made the decision to turn from my sin and follow Jesus, I had come to the realization that following Jesus meant that I would need to tell others about Him; I would have to be very open about my faith to everyone! This made the decision to follow Jesus much more difficult for me! But Jesus never said the call to follow Him was an easy decision to make! He described it as “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”

By following Jesus His way and learning to become a fisher of people, we experience death to self, and His resurrection life by the power of His Spirit who now indwells us. We are actually being used by God to accomplish His will and His purpose to redeem the nations and bring them into His kingdom!

Unfortunately, in many cases the presentation of the gospel has become a glorified self-help program. “Jesus will help you overcome all your problems” “Jesus will help you achieve all your goals and dreams,” Jesus will make you wealthy,” “Jesus will make you become the person you have always wanted to be.” None of these self-help “gospels” are true; they are all about fulfilling self, not denying self!

Jesus’ call to follow Him is difficult; and many, once they realize the life Jesus is calling them to, decide not to follow Him. But when a person does understand, and chooses to follow, it’s the real thing! And it’s better to have five true disciples of Jesus than to have a hundred people seeking to fulfill selfish desires, but with a religious cloak to cover it.

The Gospel Of “Missing Thomas”


Who is “Missing Thomas?”

Even those who are not very familiar with the Bible are aware of the story of the Apostle Thomas. He is known as “Doubting Thomas.” He was the disciple who was not there the first time  that Jesus appeared to His Apostles after He rose from the dead.

“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to then, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord…But Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” John 20:19-20, 24

I like to think of him not as “Doubting Thomas” but as “Missing Thomas.”

Think of what was happening for a moment. Jesus was gathering with His disciples; He was among them; it was a Sunday; sound familiar? In the book of Revelation, chapter one,  Jesus is pictured as dwelling among the seven golden candlesticks (menorah). We are told that the candlesticks are the seven churches. The message is obvious: Jesus dwells in the midst of His churches. (I define “church” as a congregation of people who are actually following Jesus’ commandments and loving one another–not just an organization or building that calls itself a church). Think of that gathering of Jesus’ with His disciples as the first church meeting held on a Sunday. At this church service, Thomas was missing!

It reminds me of people who profess to be followers of Jesus, but who are missing when Jesus gathers with His disciples on Sunday for church service. When I first looked at Thomas as “Missing Thomas” instead of “Doubting Thomas” I wondered if there were things the text has to teach us about missing church on Sundays; I believe there is.

“So the other disciples were saying to him (Thomas), ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'”

“After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” John 20:26-28

As a result of not being with Jesus and His disciples on that Sunday morning, Thomas did not have an encounter with Jesus the way the other disciples did. As a pastor, I have a certain perspective when we meet on Sunday. Those who only attend church sporadically miss something–an encounter with Jesus. Every time we have an encounter with Jesus, we gain something by it. Every time we miss an encounter, we lose something.

As a result of not being with the disciples when they gathered with Jesus, Thomas struggled with faith. He didn’t believe that Jesus was alive, and he didn’t even believe the testimony of the other ten Apostles when they told him that they had seen Jesus alive!  Thomas was in a state of unbelief until the following Sunday when he did gather with Jesus and the disciples. Scripture teaches us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17. When we put ourselves in a place where we are among God’s people, worshiping God and hearing the Bible taught, our faith will be nourished, strengthened,  and grow! When we deprive ourselves of that, our faith suffers. And not only our faith, the faith of our children. If you are a parent, you are setting the example for your children. If attending church every Sunday is not a priority for you, do not be surprised when your children grow up and go out on their own, it’s not a priority for them. They will very likely stop attending church altogether. We parents will one day give an account of our parenting to God; it’s an awesome responsibility!

The good news is that there is hope for “Missing Thomas’s.” When Thomas gathered with the disciples the following week, his faith was restored! Thomas had a close encounter with Jesus, and went from being “Doubting Thomas” and “Missing Thomas” to being “Believing Thomas!”


Israel and the Church

Olive branch

Having a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches us about Israel and the Church has a huge impact on how we interpret the Bible as a whole. Unfortunately, I believe the Gentile church has a long history of misunderstanding in this area of theology which continues up to the present day.

What happened?

Jesus, the Apostles, and the first disciples of Jesus were all Jewish. At the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples of Jesus who were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. Thousands of Jews including Priests and Levites heard the gospel, believed, and were baptized. The first disciples met in the temple and in private homes. There was no concept among the early disciples of Jesus that to become a follower of Jesus as Messiah meant that you would have to abandon your Jewishness. In fact the first controversy among Jesus followers was whether Gentiles could be “saved” without first becoming Jews–by being circumcised and becoming Torah observant. This issue was resolved in the first church council recorded in Acts chapter 15. The council decreed, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, that Gentiles would be allowed to become part of the people of God as Gentiles–without being circumcised and becoming Torah observant–through their faith in Jesus.

With the success of the Apostle Paul’s mission to the Gentiles, the number of Gentiles in the church grew to vastly outnumber the Jews; Jewish influence in the churches all but disappeared. The Gentile church grew to see itself as a separate entity from Israel, and Gentile believers in Jesus as replacing Israel as the people of God. As early as the 2nd century, church fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110-120), Justin Martyr (c. 160), and Melito of Sardis (c. 170), wrote that the Christian church had replaced the Jews as the people of God. This view is called “replacement theology” or “supersessionism” and has been the dominant view of the church for most of its history. However, there is a growing number of scholars who are challenging the supersessionist view.

What do we find in the Bible on this subject?

We need to understand what the church is; but in order to understand what the church is, we must first understand how the Bible defines Israel. Israel–the Jews–are the physical descendants of Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham, and gave him circumcision as a sign of that covenant. God told Abraham:

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7 

After the rebellion at the Tower of Babel, where what would become the nations of the world rebelled against God, God decided to create a nation for Himself, through which He would redeem the straying nations of the world. He created this nation from the descendants of Abraham. After His covenant with Abraham, God entered into a covenant with Abraham’s descendants, the entire nation of Israel,  at Mt. Sinai, where He gave them the Torah, the priesthood, the tabernacle, and His divine presence came to live among them in the Tabernacle.

This did not mean that every Israelite who was ever born had a relationship with God by faith the way Abraham did. Some Israelite’s did not. Many fell into idolatry. The unbelieving Israelite’s were not “true” sons of Abraham, because they did not follow in the footsteps of Abraham by faith. Both Jesus and Paul addressed what it meant to be a true son of Abraham. When Jesus was speaking to Jews who opposed Him,  He said this:

“‘I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.’ They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.’  They said to Him…’we have one Father: God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God…You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.'” John 8:37-44a

The Apostle Paul wrote that not everyone who was born of Jewish descent is a true son of Abraham, but those who have a relationship with God by faith:

“For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.'” Romans 9:6b-8

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7

The Apostle Paul wrote of the faithful remnant of Jews who lived during the time of Israel’s apostasy during the days of Elijah. Elijah thought he was the only one faithful to the Lord left alive. Elijah prayed to God:

“‘ Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.’ But what was the diving response to him? ‘I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.’ In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” Romans 11:3-4

There has always been a faithful remnant. The New Testament gives us examples of Torah observant Jews who were faithful sons and daughters of Abraham, living at the time of Jesus: the parents of John the Baptist–Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon, and Anna the prophetess, who met Joseph and Mary in the temple when Jesus was presented before the Lord. They all had one thing in common: they were living by faith under the Torah before Jesus came, and they recognized Jesus as Messiah when He came into the world. Those Jews who recognized Jesus as the Messiah and followed Him are the faithful remnant who constitute the Israel of God.

Jesus is the true vine, the true Israel

There is a connection between Israel is pictured as a vine/vineyard in the Bible, and Jesus as the true vine. Israel is pictured as a vine in Psalm 80:8-11, and Is. 5:1-7.

“You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it.” Ps. 80:8

“For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His delightful plant.” Is. 5:7

Jesus told His disciples in John 15:1 that He is the true vine. Many see some of the events in Jesus’ life and ministry as reliving Israel’s history. He went down into Egypt as an infant and came out again as Jacob and the twelve patriarchs went to Egypt and came out at the Exodus. He was tempted by the adversary in the wilderness for 40 days; Israel was tempted in the wilderness for 40 years. He led the people into the wilderness and fed the 5000; the Israelite’s were led into the wilderness and fed manna to eat. But in every way that Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus is the consummate Israelite. He told His twelve Apostles:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it will bear more fruit…If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” John 15:1-2, 6

Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the true vine is in an entirely Jewish context. He is not talking about whether Christians can lose their salvation. This language of branches connected to the vine and branches broken off is very similar to the language the Apostle Paul uses in his analogy of Israel as an olive tree in Roman’s chapter 11. Paul  pictured the Jews who believed in Jesus as branches who remained connected to the olive tree (Israel), and Jews who rejected Jesus as branches who were broken off because of their unbelief. Paul pictured the Gentiles who believed in Jesus as wild branches who are grafted in to the olive tree. The believing Gentiles are not a newly created entity replacing Israel as the people of God, they are joined to the Israel of God! As Messianic scholar Mark Kinzer put it, Gentile followers of Jesus are a “multinational extension of the people of Israel.”

What is the church?

If you were to go around and ask  people how they would define what the church is, you would probably get a variety of answers. Many think of the church as a building where Christians meet. Others realize the church is not a building, it is the people, which is a step in the right direction.

One thing we need to realize is that the word church does not appear in the Bible. Of course the word appears in our English translations of the Bible. But “church” is the word that translators have chosen to translate the Greek word ekklesia, which means “called out ones,” “congregation,” or “assembly.” What we need to remember when it comes to understanding words used in the Bible, is how the Biblical writers understood them, which may be different from the way we use and understand the same words today.

When Stephen was giving his defense before the Sanhedrin in Acts chapter 7, he referred to the Jewish people who had come out of Egypt recorded in the book of Exodus as the “church (ekklesia) in the wilderness” Acts 7:38. The church was not created at Pentecost, which is the common view of most Gentile Christians. There is not one verse of Scripture which states that the church was created at Pentecost. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jewish followers of Jesus. The New Covenant was never made with the Gentile church, but with the nation of Israel. This is clearly stated in the book of Jeremiah:

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘but this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law (Torah) within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'” Jeremiah 31:31-33

When Jesus told His disciples, “Upon this rock I will build My church…” (Matthew 16:18) I do not think He was saying that He was going to create something entirely new; I think His intended meaning was closer to the prophecy of Amos that James the brother of the Lord quoted in Acts 15:16-18 regarding the Gentiles:


The work of Jesus building His ekklesia, is one of restoration! His presence and teaching among the Jews was a gigantic “course correct.” The religious leaders had corrupted the service in the temple, and mis-represented to the people what true worship of YHVH and Torah observance looked like. Jesus, the Light of the world, shone light on all these things.

The prevalence of replacement theology in the church over the centuries has done tremendous damage to the relationship between the Jewish people and the church. Some claiming to be Christians have done violence to Jews believing that the Jews were forsaken by God and accursed. Jews who wanted to follow Jesus in Gentile churches would have to leave behind their Jewish heritage and “convert” to Christianity. That is one reason why so many Jews believe that you cannot be a Jew and believe in Jesus as Messiah; you cannot be a Jew and a Christian.

Thankfully, this is changing. There is a rising number of Jews who are believing in Jesus as their Messiah, and fully retaining their Jewish lifestyle and heritage! This is what the Apostles did, as well as the thousands of Jews who were the first disciples of Jesus.

The New Covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah where God removes the guilt of sin through the sacrifice of His Son, puts His Spirit within His people enabling them to walk in His statutes, writes His word upon their hearts, and allows the Gentiles of the world the same spiritual benefit; to freely join His people, as Gentiles, no longer as “strangers and aliens” but as equal members, “fellow citizens with the saints” and members “of God’s household…” Eph. 2:19. This is Israel and the church (ekklesia). This is the gospel!

We Were Made To Eat!

Fig tree

We were born with an appetite!

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them the tree of life to eat from, and live forever (Gen. 3:22). Food enables us to live. Before Adam and Eve fell into sin, before they were expelled from the garden, while they were still walking with God, it would be perfectly natural for them to experience  hunger, eat and get full, and grow hungry again. This was true for them both physically and spiritually.

It was in the arena of hunger and seeking to satisfy that hunger that Adam and Eve fell into sin. The danger that existed for our first parents exists for us as well!

We all know what it is like to get hungry physically; it’s when we experience spiritual hunger that we can get confused. It’s easy to think that when we are restless, unsatisfied, sensing a lack of something in our lives, that something is wrong. But this sense of need may be a sign that something is right with us–and normal–that we are experiencing spiritual hunger.

Our spiritual adversary, wants us to try to satisfy our spiritual hunger by looking at sin, desiring it, taking it and consuming it, as Adam and Eve did. If we do that, the results are always the same–death and destruction!

So how  do we satisfy our spiritual hunger? Jesus has a lot to say to His disciples about spiritual food:

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” John 6:63

First we must be willing to hear!

The Greek word translated “words” in our English translations in John 6:63 is the word rhema. This word is used to designate a particular word, not, for example, referring to the whole proclamation of the gospel, but of a specific message. This is the case when God takes a particular portion of His written word and applies it to us in our situation; it is very personal. It is hearing from God. Before we can hear God in this way, we must come to a place of humility; we must become teachable! We are teachable when we come to a place where we realize that our way of doing life has not worked, and will not work! When we come to that place–and sometimes this takes decades–then we are ready to hear–to do the will of God for our lives.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about…My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.'” John 4:34

Eat the same food that Jesus eats!

When Jesus spoke these words, He was speaking to His closest disciples! They were with Him, learning from Him. Yet they had not yet learned about this food. It is relatively easy to attend church, be around other disciples of Jesus, do “Christian stuff” and not be doing the will of God. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but it’s true.

So how can we tell if we’re doing the will of God in our lives? The answer is that our lives will start to resemble the life of Jesus!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do…” John 14:12

“By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way as He walked.” 1 John 2:5b-6

We ought to periodically take inventory of our lives and what we are spending our time and energy on, and seek confirmation from the Holy Spirit and the word of God that we are following the example of Jesus in the gospels; that we are keeping His commandments, functioning as a disciple, learning as a disciple, and actively involved  in making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Are we using the spiritual gifts God has given us to serve others? If not, what are those gifts and where does God want us to use them?

Feed upon Jesus!

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…” John 6:51a

How do we partake of the Bread of Life? The short answer is: by faith! Not a purely intellectual faith that is invisible to others since it has no works, but true Biblical faith!

“Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'” John 6:28-29

Our choice of food is basically the same choice that Adam and Eve had. We have to walk past  the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–resist temptation to sin–in order to partake of the tree of life by faith, the Bread of life who is Jesus!

Are You A Christian Or A Disciple Of Jesus?

Jesus and His disciples great pic

Words get their meaning primarily by the way they are used. Sometimes the meaning of words change over time, and that is certainly true in the case of the word “Christian.” This word is found only three times in the Bible–Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and in 1 Peter 4:16. What exactly does the word “Christian” mean?

In Studies in Jewish and Christian History, Elias Joseph Bickerman wrote:“Christians are ‘those of Christ’…they belong to Christ, as his possessions, because Christians are ‘slaves of Jesus Christ’ Of course, this is why Jesus Christ is known as our ‘lord,’ literally ‘master’ (as in slave-master). Therefore the words Christianus (Latin) and Christianos (Greek) imply slavery. For this reason, these words were applied to Christians by non-Christians as a derogatory epithet, for the condition of servitude (slavery) was ignominious. However, believers in Christ cherished the epithet because it was a honor to be slaves of Christ, unlike other masters.”

The meaning of the word “Christian” has changed over time. In the 21st century, the word Christian is used of anyone who affiliates with Jesus Christ in any way. It is not uncommon for a person to identify themselves as a Christian even though they do not attend church, read the Bible regularly, pray (except when in trouble), and they do not know what Jesus’ commandments to His disciples were or study the life of Jesus to follow His example. Therefore they cannot honestly call themselves “followers” of Jesus. Their faith is merely an intellectual one. Self interest is the guiding principle in their lives, so they can hardly identify themselves as “slaves of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus called men and women to follow Him; to follow Him was to become His disciple. Jesus never referred to His followers and Christians; He referred to them as His disciples. The rabbi/disciple relationship was commonplace in the first century, so when rabbi Jesus called someone to follow Him, they understood that He was calling them to become His disciple. The word disciple means “learner,” but not in the sense of sitting in a classroom and receiving information. To be a disciple means to become a learner in the sense of being an apprentice. As a woodworking apprentice learns to do what his teacher does. The goal of the disciple is to do what their rabbi does; to become like their rabbi (Luke 6:40).

In order to understand Jesus’ call to discipleship, a definition of what a disciple is can be very helpful. Here is a definition of what the life of a disciple of Jesus looks like, with Scripture references:

A disciple of Jesus follows Jesus[i] in love by keeping His commandments[ii], learning His ways[iii], and by becoming a disciple maker[iv], in order that all may become like Jesus[v]. A disciple’s life is characterized by abiding in Christ through reading, meditating, and obeying God’s word[vi], and a daily conversation with God through prayer[vii]. A disciple of Jesus recognizes their need for inner transformation by the Holy Spirit and the word of God in order to become more like Jesus. A disciple recognizes their need for fellowship with other believers[viii], and regularly attends church[ix] with the attitude of a servant seeking to love others[x] and use their spiritual gifts to meet the spiritual and physical needs of others[xi]. A disciple cheerfully gives financially to the church to support the needs of the ministry. 

[i] Mark 1:17, Mark 6:1, Luke 14:25-33 [ii] John 14:15, 1 John 2:4-5 [iii] Matt. 11:28-30     [iv] Matt. 28:18-20 [v] 1Cor. 11:1 [vi] John 8:31, John 15:7-8 [vii] John 15:7-11 [viii] Acts 20:7 [ix] Heb. 10:25 [x] John 13:34-35, John 13:12-17 [xi] 1 Cor. 13:1-7

Jesus’ strategy for evangelism was never to “get people saved” and then make disciples out of them. He never separated the call to salvation from the call to discipleship. His message was to repent, believe in the gospel, and follow Him as one of His disciples. He told His listeners to count the cost of discipleship; that if any one wished to be His disciple, they would have to “deny themselves, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23b-24.

We would do well to use the terminology that Jesus used to describe His followers, and to imitate His method of evangelism. If we did, this may help clear up some of the misconceptions people have of what it means to be a Christian.


Why Does The Gospel Need To Be Defined?

St Paul icon

If you were to ask fifty professing Christians to give you a definition of the gospel, you would probably get close to fifty different answers. It’s a term used so often in the church, many people would be embarrassed to admit that they are not quite sure how to define it.

The Apostle Paul gave us a brief definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (NASB) In the  mind of many evangelicals, the plan of salvation is the gospel. In other words, the gospel is what you need to believe so that when you die you will go to heaven, and not go to the other place! The plan of salvation is certainly part of the gospel, but there is much more to it than that! Why do we need to revisit and define our understanding of the gospel?

Imagine you are starting a new job; this is your first day. Your employer tells you that you need to come to work at 8am, punch the time clock when you arrive, do what your supervisor tells you to do for eight hours, and then punch out when your finished. If you do that, you will receive a paycheck each week. That’s all you are told. This is the bare minimum information you need to get your paycheck–which you need–each week.

What if instead on your first day your employer told you that at this company makes widgets, and these widgets enable people all around the world to have clean drinking water, and triple their food production. The widgets we make have the potential to end world hunger; and the company is exporting them and a fair and reasonable price! By working at this company, you play a vital role in helping our company end world hunger and save countless lives! What a difference this added information will make in your enthusiasm and sense of purpose on the job! You are now part of something big!

If our understanding of the gospel is limited to what we (and others) need to do to get to heaven, we miss the big picture of God’s plan of redemption for the human race, and our role in it! That is why we need a comprehensive definition of the gospel! Here is a definition of the gospel that the elders of Cypress Church Of Gonzales came up with after many hours of labor. It is certainly not the only correct definition, nor is it perfect. But we feel it gives our congregation a good start in understanding the gospel that Jesus and His Apostles preached!

Definition of the Gospel

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[i] to be His dwelling place[ii]. He created mankind to be His image bearers[iii] to dwell in, and have dominion over, the good world[iv] that He had created[v]. Through disobedience, the human race fell from their position of unhindered fellowship with God, into a fallen state of spiritual death and separation from God[vi]. In order to restore mankind into a right relationship with Himself God sent His Son to die upon a cross as the perfect sin offering and through His resurrection, to restore mankind into a perfect relationship with Himself[vii], and restore the kingdom of God upon the earth[viii].

Through a series of promises beginning in the book of Genesis[ix], God promised that His Messiah would come through the descendants of one man, Abraham[x], and God chose Abraham’s descendants to be His chosen people out of all the people groups on the face of the earth[xi]. God chose Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel, to enter into a covenant with Him, and to reveal Himself to them, dwell among them, and give them His commandments[xii]. Israel was to be a light to the nations[xiii], bringing the knowledge of God to the nations of the world. Israel did not succeed in this mission.

Jesus the Messiah, the promised “seed” of Abraham[xiv], at the proper time[xv], was born of a virgin[xvi], conceived by the Holy Spirit[xvii], lived a sinless life[xviii], and took upon Himself the sentence of death for the sins of the world[xix] by dying upon a cross[xx]. Jesus was buried[xxi], and rose to life on the third day[xxii]. He ascended to the right hand of the Father as both Lord and Christ[xxiii], and poured out His Spirit to dwell in, and upon, all who repent of their sins and follow Him[xxiv]. His resurrection from the dead marked the beginning of the restoration of all things[xxv]; a restoration that will culminate when He returns to establish His kingdom upon earth. At that time He will usher in the New Jerusalem, the new heavens and earth, and the age to come[xxvi].

All who repent of their sins, believe in this gospel[xxvii], and follow Jesus as a disciple, will be forgiven of their sins, receive the gift of eternal life[xxviii], and will be granted entrance into His kingdom[xxix]. They will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—to dwell in them[xxx]. They become united with Jesus in His death, and united with Him in His resurrection[xxxi].

At the end of this age, all will be resurrected and judged according to their deeds[xxxii]. Those who belong to Christ will be resurrected to eternal life, their bodies raised incorruptible, and the wicked will be raised to condemnation and eternal death[xxxiii]. In the age to come, the eternal state, there will be no more death, disease, or sorrow. All these things will be abolished, and God will dwell with His people fulfilling His original plan for the human race, ruling in the new heavens and earth forever through an obedient and restored humanity[xxxiv].

[i] Gen. 1:1 [ii] Rev. 21:3 [iii] Gen. 1:26 [iv] Gen. 1:31 [v] Gen. 1:26 [vi] Eph. 2:1 [vii]Col.1:13-14, Eph. 2:1-7 [viii] Dan. 7:13-14 [ix] Gen. 3:15, Gen. 12:1-3, [x] Gal. 3:16 [xi] Gen. 12:1-3 xii] Deut. 10:12-15 [xiii] Is. 49:1-7 [xiv] Gal. 3:16 [xv] Gal. 4:4 [xvi] Is. 7:14, Matt. 1:23[xvii] Matt. 1:20 [xviii] 2 Cor. 5:21 [xix] 1 John 2:2 [xx] Gal. 3:13 [xxi] 1 Cor. 15:4[xxii] Ibid., Acts 2:32 [xxiii] Acts 2:32-33, 36 [xxiv] Acts 2:38-39 [xxv] Luke 20:35, Phil. 3:11-12, Col. 1:13-20, 2 Pet. 3:10-13 [xxvi] Rev. ch. 19-22 [xxvii] Mark 1:14-15, 17, [xxviii] Acts 2:38[xxix] Col. 1:13 [xxx] John 14:17, Gal. 2:20, Eze. 36:27 [xxxi] Rom. 6:3-11[xxxii] John 5:25-29, Rev. 2:23 [xxxiii] Matt. 25:46, Rev. 20:11-15 [xxxiv] Rev. ch. 21



Why Be Holy?


The Apostle Peter wrote: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to to the desires of your former ignorance but as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’  1 Peter 1:14-15 HCSB

We understand that God wants us to be like Him; He is in the process of re-creating us in His image from within. But it’s easy to get off track in our thinking as to why God wants us to be Holy, set apart, and pure, for Him.

The answer lies at the heart of the Pentateuch. The first five books of Moses tell the story of creation, fall, flood, and the formation of the people of God. God chooses the descendants of Abraham, forms them into a people for Himself, brings them to Mt. Sinai, where He reveals Himself to them, gives them the Torah, and enters into a covenant with them.

At the center, or “summit” of the Torah is Mt. Sinai, and the 16th chapter of the book of Leviticus–which gives the Laws concerning the Day of Atonement. It shows that God’s plan for cleansing His people from the guilt of their sins, is so that God may dwell with His people! With the completion of the sacrificial offerings, and the construction of the Tabernacle, God’s presence, His shekinah glory, comes to dwell in the very heart of the Hebrew camp! You could sum up the entire story of the Bible by saying that it reveals God’s purpose and plan for His creation; the heavens and the earth were created to be a “temple,” a “house,” in which God will dwell with His people!

It’s easy to misunderstand why God wants us to live holy lives. We have a tendency to think that personal holiness is like a scorecard that God will add up at the end of our lives and give us a grade based upon our degree of holiness. But that’s missing the point; the reason God wants us to live holy lives is so that He can dwell with us, and we can dwell with Him! To dwell with Him means that He will reveal Himself to us, and we will dwell in a loving relationship with Him–in this life, and even more so–in the age to come!

Fragrant Prayer


“May my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2 

When we begin to cultivate a prayer life, one of our first concerns is how we should pray, and what we should pray for. We want to pray in the right way; we want to pray correctly! And this is very important. The way we learn to pray the “right way” is to use the Bible as our prayer guide. How did Jesus pray? How did He teach us to pray? What examples do we see in scripture to help us to know how to pray? How did Paul the Apostle pray? What do the Psalms teach us about prayer? The Bible should be our guide as to how we should approach God in prayer, what we should pray for,  and the Holy Spirit will also guide us and enable us to pray.  Most important of all, we need to actually spend time praying! Like anything else in life, we learn how to do it by doing it!

But as we grow in the practice of prayer our focus will shift from praying correctly to praying in a way that brings pleasure to God. Prayer becomes a spiritual romance! As we spend time in God’s presence, He will reveal Himself to us, and transform our desires! 

In the Tanakh, (Old Testament) the incense offered in the temple represents the prayers of the saints. The same is true in the book of Revelation (Rev. 5:8). Why incense? Because incense rises and gives pleasure to those who inhale it.

It brings great pleasure to God when we come to Him in prayer! We are a “fragrance of Christ to God” (2 Cor. 2:15). Yet there are things that hinder our prayer lives. The most obvious is sin. If we want to walk with God, we must be in agreement with Him. If we have sin in our lives, we must confess and forsake it. Other distractions include feeling inadequate, unworthy, and wandering thoughts. Let me encourage you to work through these things! The truth is that “…we are a fragrance of Christ to God…” and the Father loves it when we come to Him! He welcomes us into His presence! Persevere, and linger in His presence!