Monday, July 30, 2012

The Trinity of Love - "Jesus the Son"

Spirit & Truth
“The Trinity of Love--Jesus the Son”
By Rev. Greg Smith
© 2012

Who is Jesus?  A regular guy--like the song asks, “What if God was one of us?”  Was He a good teacher?  An historical figure and cult leader?  A philosopher or prophet?  A myth?  Was He The Son of God, who takes away the sin of the world?  A lot of people say that they believe in Jesus--but which Jesus do they mean?  It makes a great deal of difference what you mean when you say His name, because the Master said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21 NIV).”  In order to do God’s will, you have to know God.  In order to know God, you have to know Jesus, because He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV).”

What does this mean?  We believe in one God with three distinct, yet indivisible, persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.  While these three are inseparable, they each relate to humanity in different ways.  Last week, we talked about the nature of God the Father. Today, we’ll ask, “Would the real Jesus please stand up?”  Next week, we’ll meet the Holy Spirit, and discover His plan for your life.

The author of Colossians puts it this way:  “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV).”  This means that Jesus is the source of all things, and the sustainer of all things.  If you removed Jesus from the equation, everything you know would cease to exist.

Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV) says that “...God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  The real Jesus is more than a teacher or prophet.  He is the creator and preserver of all life.  He loved all life so much that He gave His own life, that all things that are estranged from Him might be brought near.  And that means YOU!

Have you ever felt distant from God?  Have you ever felt insignificant?  Everything changes when you know that the God of the universe loved you so much that He shed His glory in order to take on frail human flesh, to exchange His everlasting life for your self-destructive sin.  Who is Jesus?  Jesus is the One who gives your life value and meaning by drawing you near to the heart of God.  I hope you’ll trust Him today.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Trinity of Love - God the Father

Spirit & Truth # 281
“The Trinity of Love – God the Father”

By Greg Smith


            For the next three weeks, I want to go back to the basics, and talk about your relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is a divine mystery that can make your head swim—if you look at God philosophically.  But God wants us to know Him relationally—and that’s something quite different.  The Sunday School Chronicle tells the following story about a father’s relationship with his child: 

In one of Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman's meetings a man rose to give the following remarkable testimony: "I got off at the Pennsylvania depot one day as a tramp, and for a year I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, `Mister, please give me a dime.' As soon as I saw his face, I recognized my old father. `Father, don't you know me?' I asked. Throwing his arms around me, he cried, `I have found you, I have found you, I have found you; all I have is yours.' Men, think of it, that I, a tramp, stood begging my father for ten cents, when for eighteen years he had been looking for me, to give me all he was worth."

            God the Father is constantly seeking out His children, eager to restore broken relationships and lost love.  The idea of God as heavenly Father challenges many people who have had a difficult relationship with an earthly father.  When they think of Father, they think of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.  Feelings of guilt, shame, and betrayal may come to mind.  But God the Father is altogether different. 
            Ephesians 3:14-15 (NIV) says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”  Catt, Kendrick, and Kendrick, authors of the Honor Begins at Home Bible study, write:  “In verses 14-15, Paul reveals God as the perfect Father.  We don’t call God Father because He is like us earthly fathers; rather, we are called fathers because we need to be like Him!  While your earthly father may disappoint you at times, your Heavenly Father is the perfect example you need (Pg. 19).”[i]
            God the Father loves you more than any earthly father ever could.  He completes whatever is missing in your own earthly father, giving you a love that goes beyond human frailties.  Romans 8:14-15 (NIV) tells us what it means to be a child of God—someone who is led by the Spirit.  “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
            You can go to seminary and try to grasp the concept of the Trinity—or you can reach out and take the Father’s hand, walk in fellowship with Jesus, God’s Son, and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that, for you, God is more than a concept—that when you think of God, you think of the greatest love you’ve ever known.  Join me in this three-week journey into God—and rejoice with me as you discover the Trinity of Love.

[i] Michael Catt, Stephen Kendrick, and Alex Kendrick.  Honor Begins at Home: The Courageous Bible Study.  Lifeway Press: Nashville, TN.  2011.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's in a Name?

Spirit & Truth # 280
“What’s in a Name?”

By Greg Smith

And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
(Genesis 3:20 KJV)

My wife and I have been married for over twenty years, and I love her more today than I did the day we pledged eternity together.  I know couples who have been married twice as long as Beth and I, who say they’ve never had an argument.  I say that they’re either lying, or they’re not communicating, or they just don’t feel passionately about anything.  Most couples have arguments from time to time—that’s the nature of marriage.  Beyond marriage, most relationships experience disagreement.  It’s up to you, what you do with that disagreement—whether you take it to a place of blessing, or whether you use it as an opportunity to curse the other person with negative speech.

If anyone had a reason to curse his spouse, it was Adam.  After Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam was forced to make a difficult choice.  Either he had to lose the wife that God had given him, or he could remain with his wife, join in her sin, and lose the garden that God had given them.  While he complained to God about “This woman you gave me,” we also know the choice he made.  He chose to remain with his wife, and his sealed his fate with his own bite into that fateful fruit.

But while he complained, he never cursed her.  Genesis never gives a name for the woman until after the Fall.  It was only after the Fall that Adam named her.  He could have named her anything he wanted to—just as he named all other living creatures.  After their experience in the produce section, he could have called her “Troublemaker,” or “Temptress” or anything else.  But instead of cursing her, he chose to bless her.  Instead of looking to her painful past, he looked to her promising potential.  He called her a name that reflected, not what she had been or had done, but what she would become.  He called her Eve, which means, “Mother of All the Living.”

In your relationships, you have a choice to make, between blessing and cursing.  You can develop a perspective on people that looks only to their past.  You can sum them up based on what they’ve already done.  You might feel like you have a right to be rude to them, based on what they’ve done to you.  Or, you can focus on the future.  You can appreciate them for what God is doing to shape them into a new and better person.  

Once I knew a man named Billy who had been in prison.  He had served his time, and was ready to be released.  During his time in prison, he had repented of his sin, grown close to God, and become an entirely different person.  In essence, he had made his prison cell into a monastery cell.  On the day before his release, I went to visit him.  I told him that I was going to give him a new name.  He was no longer Billy, I said, but Will—because he had found God’s will for his life.

Whose name do you need to change today?  Who do you need to gain a fresh perspective on, looking at them not with human eyes, but through God’s perspective?  I invite you to look to the future and not to the past, to bless and not to curse.  When you do, just watch and see how productive that person can become.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Power of God's Word

When people don't have electricity, they invent all kinds of creative ways of gettng around their problems.  They get water from the stream instead of the well.  They take sponge baths instead of showers.  They go to the Walmart electronics departmrnt to watch TV.  Finding alternate methods takes innovation, but nothing beats working with full power.  Many people try to live without God's power in their lives, and come up with creative ways to get what they want, functioning on their own strength.  But nothing beats living with God's power in your life.  God's power comes only through His living Word, Jesus Christ.  We come to know Jesus through God's written word, the Bible.  Through the Word, we can live in God's power.

Last week we talked about the Bible's inspiration, how apostles and prophets wrote what they heard from the Lord.  Many people debate what that inspiration means, throwing around phrases like inerrantinfallibleand plenary verbal.  These have become fighting words for many, and cause more conflict than they're worth.  Instead, I prefer to look at what the Bible says about itself.

So, what does the Bible say that it is?  2 Timothy 3:16 says it is God-breathed, or inspired.  Psalm 19:7-11 (NIV) says God's word is perfect, trustorthy, right, radiant, pure, firm, righteous, more desirable than gold, and sweeter than honey.  

What does the Bible say that it does?  Psalm 19:7-11 (NIV) says that it refreshes the soul, makes wise the simple, gives joy to the heart and light to the eyes.  It says that God's word endures forever, and offes great reward to those who keep it.

With a resume like that, I don't think the Bible needs any other character references.  However, churches are full of people who testify about how God's word has changed their lives.  I remember when I was young, following the wrong people, and heading down the wrong path.  God spoke to me from the first two chapters of the book of Proverbs, yanking me out of my sin and into repentance.  As tears filled my pillow, I learned the power of God's word to rescue me from myself.  Many others have similar stories of God speaking to them from the pages of His word.  Do you know His power to transform your life?

God's word offers great power for you life--but you have to read and believe it in order to fully grasp its strength.  Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible although he had “gone through it several times.”  “Let it go through you once,” replied Smith, “then you will tell a different story!”  Let God's word go through you, down to the very core.  Then you won't need to argue over theological terms.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing and Reading

Spirit & Truth # 278
“Writing and Reading

By Greg Smith

            Recently, I read a story about a new pastor who was asked to teach the boys’ Sunday school class.  Wanting to test their biblical knowledge he asked them, “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”  Every one of them flatly denied having done it.  The pastor was so upset about the boys’ biblical illiteracy that he brought it up at the next deacons’ meeting.  After a moment of stunned silence, one older deacon said, “Pastor, I’ve known those boys all their lives.  They’re good boys, and if they say they didn’t do it, then they didn’t do it!  So why don’t we just pay for the repairs from the maintenance fund and forget about it?”[i]
            There’s a deplorable lack of biblical knowledge among American Christians today.  This is tragic, because, as the psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”[ii]  In a world of darkness, hopelessness, and moral ambiguity, God’s written word, The Bible, sheds light by which we can see the truth.
            2 Timothy 3:16 (NCV) tells us the origin and purpose of the Bible:  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right.”  2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) confirms the Bible’s divine authorship through human ghost-writers, saying, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 
            But while the Bible is God’s perfect written word, we have to keep it in perspective.  We don’t worship the Bible.  Rather, the Bible points us to Christ.  2 Peter 1:19 (ESV) says, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  The Bible is the lamp that lights our way until the day dawns, and Jesus brings His true light to our lives.  It’s Jesus that we worship, and it’s the Bible that points to Him.
            Not only was the Bible written by divinely inspired people, but we must also understand that our reading of scripture needs to be inspired by God.  You can own a thousand copies of the Bible, yet still not believe.  You can read the Bible a hundred times, yet never invite Jesus to be your Savior.  Divine inspiration of the Bible’s writing is only half the story.  Divine inspiration of your reading is the other half.  Before you sit down to read God’s written word, the Bible, I hope you’ll pray that Jesus, the Living Word, will illuminate your heart.  If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask Jesus.  It’s His book, and by His Holy Spirit, He can interpret those things that are difficult for you. 
            Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV) says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”  The Bible, written by apostles and prophets, is good—but only until it directs you to God’s Living Word, Jesus Christ.  I pray that as you read God’s word that you’ll find God’s Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us.[iii]

[i] Original source unknown
[ii] Psalm 119:105 NIV
[iii] John 1:14 ESV