Category: Inspiration

Four Aspects of Living a Life Worthy of Your Calling

Posted by on 06/15/2018 in: ,

​​I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love Ephesians 4:1-2 (KJV)

Paul calls out four particular aspects of how to “walk out” a life worthy of your calling, and they are more than personal qualities. For the life worthy of the calling of God is a life in the fellowship of the people of God; and if this is to be maintained these four virtues are vital.

LOWLINESS

The first, emphasized by the characteristic all (cf. 1:8; 4:19, 31; 5:3, 9; 6:18), is lowliness. Very significantly, the Greek noun tapeinophrosynē does not seem to have been used before New Testament times, and the corresponding adjective tapeinos nearly always had a bad meaning, and was associated with words having the sense of slavish, mean, ignoble. Lessons of humility had been taught in the Old Testament, and such a passage as Isaiah 66:2 in the Septuagint is a notable exception to the general pre-Christian use of tapeinos, but to the Greeks humility was not a virtue. To them, as indeed to most non-Christian people in any generation, the concept of ‘the fullness of life … left no room for humility’.

In Christ lowliness became a virtue. His life and death were service and sacrifice without thought of reputation (Phil. 2:6–7). Because the Christian is called to follow in his steps, humility has an irreplaceable part in the Christian character (cf. Acts 20:19), and also for the reason that he has been brought to see the greatness and glory and holiness of God, so that he cannot but be overwhelmed by the realization of his own weakness and sinfulness.

MEEKNESS

The second word, meekness (prautēs), was used in classical Greek in the good sense of mildness or gentleness of character. The adjective (praos), especially, found an important use in describing an animal completely disciplined and controlled. Meekness in the New Testament is used of a person’s attitude to the word of God (Jas 1:21), but more often of one’s attitude to other people (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).

It is closely connected with the spirit of submissiveness which becomes the keynote of this letter when, in 5:21, the apostle turns to speak of human relationships. Moses is aptly described in Numbers 12:3 as ‘very meek’. For, as Mitton puts it, meekness ‘is the spirit of one who is so absorbed in seeking some worthy goal for the common good that he refuses to be deflected from it by slights, injuries or insults directed at himself personally, or indeed by personal considerations of any kind’.

PATIENCE

Thirdly, there is patience (makrothymia), a word sometimes used of steadfast endurance of suffering or misfortune (as in Jas 5:10) but more often, as is the case here, of slowness in avenging wrong or retaliating when hurt by another. It is used of God’s patience with humanity (Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:15), and the corresponding and consequent quality that the Christian should show towards others (1 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:2).

FORBEARANCE

Forbearance, the fourth requirement, is also a divine quality (Rom. 2:4), the practical outworking of longsuffering. ‘It involves bearing with one another’s weaknesses, not ceasing to love one’s neighbours or friends because of those faults in them which perhaps offend or displease us’ (Abbott). It is ‘that mutual tolerance without which no group of human beings can live together in peace’ (Stott).

Such forbearance, and indeed all these four qualities, are possible only in love. For love is the basic attitude of seeking the highest good of others, and it will therefore lead to all these qualities, and include them all (see vv. 15–16 and on 1:4). Paul has prayed that his readers may be ‘rooted and grounded in love’ (3:17), and now he exhorts them to do their part, and to go on to possess all these virtues in love.

Tyndale Commentaries Full Set (49 Vols.)

This excerpt is adapted from the Tyndale Commentaries Full Set (49 Vols.). Are you looking for a biblical resource that is longstanding and trustworthy? Then look into this commentary set! Written by some of the world’s most distinguished evangelical scholars, each book offers clear, reliable, and relevant expositions.

We have the 49 volume set available for purchase on our website! So, learn more about the Tyndale Commentaries Full Set, see how it works in the app, and add it to your library today, here.

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Study Through the Summer [GIVEAWAY!]

Posted by on 06/04/2018 in:

Study Through The Summer

The winter is so dreary in Spokane (where our office is located). The sun rarely makes an appearance. By the time March rolls around we are all desperate for blue skies, warm weather, getting outside and out-of-town—SUMMER. Praise the Lord that it’s almost here!

Although summer is a fantastic for spending quality time with family, being active, and traveling, it can also distract you from important responsibilities. I doubt I’m the only one who procrastinates on getting into God’s Word from June – September. It’s easy to confuse short-term and long-term happiness. If I don’t think before making a decision, I will always choose a hike with friends or trip to Lake Coeur d’Alene over quiet time with the Lord.

LET’S MAKE THIS SUMMER DIFFERENT

How can we keep from making the same mistakes this summer?

ONE: We have a bunch of reading plans in the app! These are a great way to kickstart your summer reading. Set reminders for yourself to get into the Word every day—even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

TWO: Take your Bible study WITH YOU. Remember, Olive Tree Bible… APP. You can get into the Word from your phone or tablet wherever you are because you don’t need wifi. If you haven’t tested this out, here’s a challenge for you. This summer, make it a goal to study God’s Word in the most remote places (or even just places without Internet, which feels pretty remote to me!). Here are some ideas:

  • the beach
  • on a mountain
  • in an airplane
  • in the car (when you aren’t driving, obviously!)
  • some huge gathering where service is minimal
  • visiting family that lives in the middle of nowhere

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

Take a picture of yourself studying God’s Word this summer (anywhere will do, but the more unique, the better!). Then, post to Twitter, or Instagram. Tag us, mention us, whatever you want. Just let us know you’ve shared where you’re at and use #ReadStudyAnywhere. If we see your image, and can send you a direct message through Twitter or Instagram, then we will send you a link to download the Olive Tree Bible Overview for free.

Now, what are you doing!? Get studying!

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Fellowship That Produces Joy

Posted by on 06/01/2018 in: , ,

Fellowship That Produces Joy

“How about coming over to the house for some fellowship?”
“What a golf game! Man, did we have great fellowship!”
“The fellowship at the retreat was just terrific!”

That word fellowship seems to mean many things to many different people. Perhaps, like a worn coin, it may be losing its true impression. If so, we had better take some steps to rescue it. After all, a good Bible word like fellowship needs to stay in circulation as long as possible.

True Christian fellowship is really much deeper than sharing coffee and pie, or even enjoying a golf game together. It is possible to be close to people physically and miles away from them spiritually. One of the sources of Christian joy is this fellowship that believers have in Jesus Christ. Paul was in Rome, his friends were miles away in Philippi, but their spiritual fellowship was real and satisfying. In Philippians 1:1-11, Paul used three thoughts that describe true Christian fellowship: I have you in my mind (Phil. 1:3-6), I have you in my heart (Phil. 1:7-8), and I have you in my prayers (Phil. 1:9-11).

I HAVE YOU IN MY MIND (1:3-6)

 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4)

Isn’t it remarkable that Paul was thinking of others and not of himself? As he awaited his trial in Rome, Paul’s mind went back to the believers in Philippi, and every recollection he had brought him joy.

Am I the kind of Christian who brings joy to my fellow Christians when they think of me?

I HAVE YOU IN MY HEART (1:7-8)

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7)

Now we move a bit deeper, for it is possible to have others in our minds without really having them in our hearts. (Someone has observed that many people today would have to confess, “I have you on my nerves!”) Paul’s sincere love for his friends was something that could not be disguised or hidden.

How did Paul evidence his love for them? For one thing, he was suffering on their behalf. His bonds were proof of his love.

Paul’s love was not something he merely talked about; it was something he practiced.

He considered his difficult circumstances an opportunity for defending and confirming the gospel, and this would help his brethren everywhere.

I HAVE YOU IN MY PRAYERS (1:9-11)

“And it is my prayer…” (Philippians 1:9)

And what did Paul pray for the Philippine believers?

He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment. Paul wanted his friends to grow in discernment, in being able to “distinguish the things that differ.”

Paul also prayed that they might have mature Christian character, “sincere and without offense.

This means that our lives do not cause others to stumble, and that they are ready for the judgment seat of Christ when He returns.

Paul also prayed that they might have mature Christian service. He wanted them filled and fruitful (Phil. 1:11).

He was not interested simply in church activities, but in the kind of spiritual fruit that is produced when we are in fellowship with Christ.

The difference between spiritual fruit and human religious activity is that the fruit brings glory to Jesus Christ.

“I have you in my mind … in my heart …  in my prayers.”

This is the kind of fellowship that produces joy, and it is the single mind that produces this kind of fellowship.

Adapted from BE Series Commentary by Wiersbe. Like this content? Learn more about this series here.

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Yet I Will Rejoice

Posted by on 05/15/2018 in:

Yet I Will Rejoice: Habbakuk

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. –Habakkuk 3:17-18

HE SAW

Habakkuk saw the sin of his day, its impact on the people of Judah and the collective corrosion of the nation. Seeking to frame what he saw with a lens of faith, he waited on God, calling out for divine help. But Habakkuk struggled when God told him his plan to punish evilness with more evilness. Would God actually use the wicked nation of Babylon to punish the (relatively less wicked) nation of Judah (Hab 1:6)?

HE WAITED

Habakkuk waited for God to answer his questions (1:2-32:1). He listened as God explained that the righteous would live by faith (2:4) and marveled as God promised that, in time, the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (2:3, 14).

HE REFLECTED

As Habakkuk reflected on all that was happening in Judah and the devastation to come, he turned to God in prayer. He poured out his praise, his questions his longing and confusion. Habakkuk recalled Israel’s past, the era when God’s glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth (3:3). Then he reveled in the memory of how God had chastened Israel’s enemies and delivered Israel from those who sought to devour them (3:13-15).

HE ACTED

Habakkuk acted in faith during this dark and difficult time. He thought about the future and imagined fig trees no longer budding, vines without grapes, olive crops failing, fields with no food, pens with no sheep and stalls with no cattle (3:17).

On earth, Jesus was a real person, experiencing life as we all do, yet without sin. In his humanity, like the prophet Habakkuk, he experienced a troubled heart. He knew he could ask to be saved from that dark hour to come. But he also knew that the brutal path of crucifixion was the reason he had come to the world (Jn 12:27). So in this intense house he prayed, Father, glorify your name!” (Jn 12:28). In that moment Jesus, the Son of God, lived by faith and perfectly modeled for us complete reliance on God.

How do you focus on and praise God in times of disappointment or difficulty?

THE JESUS BIBLE

This blog is adapted from The Jesus Bible. Learn more about this resource on our website.

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A Call For God’s Protection

Posted by on 05/02/2018 in:

A Call For God's Protection

Psalm 56, written by David, is a call for God’s protection. Read this Psalm and learn more about the meaning behind the Hebrew words from the CSB Study Bible.

Be gracious to me, God, for a man is trampling me;
he fights and oppresses me all day long.
My adversaries trample me all day,
for many arrogantly fight against me.
— PSALM 56:1-2

Trampling (Hb sh’p) appears twice in these verses. There are two meanings for this Hebrew word: (1) “pant” or “long for” (Is 42:14; Jr 2:24) and (2) “crush” or “trample” (Ps 57:3; Am 8:4). Since the first of these is more common, some translations take that as the meaning here. However, the parallel terms fights and oppresses argue for the second meaning.

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
— PSALM 56:3-4

Mere mortals is literally “flesh” (Hb basar), which represents man’s weakness and mortality (Is 2:22; 31:3; 40:6). This word is often used to contrast man’s weakness with God’s power (2Ch 32:8). Similar words are repeated in Ps 56:10-11.

They twist my words all day long;
all their thoughts against me are evil.
— PSALM 56:5

Twist (Hb ‘atsav) expresses the idea of “shape” or “fashion” (Jb 10:8). It portrays these enemies as shaping the psalmist’s words into whatever they wanted for their own evil purposes.

They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps
while they wait to take my life.
— PSALM 56:6

Lurk describes the psalmist’s enemies as predatory animals waiting to attack their prey (10:9; 17:12).

Will they escape in spite of such sin?
God, bring down the nations in wrath.
— PSALM 56:7

The answer to the question is understood to be no, they will not escape. Bring down the nations probably means more than simply defeat them, but rather bring them under divine judgment.

You yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me.
— PSALM 56:8-9

Tears probably refers to prayers or, more specifically, laments that involve crying. The bottle refers to God’s storing of these prayers so he can act on them later. This is similar to the image of incense in Revelation to represent the prayers of the saints (Rv 5:8; 8:3-4). The records are similar to the “books of remembrance” referred to in Dn 7:10 and Mal 3:16. The knowledge that God is for me should bring remarkable peace (see Rm 8:31).

In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere humans do to me?
— PSALM 56:10-11

What can mere humans do to me? again reminds us of Rm 8:31.

I am obligated by vows to you, God;
I will make my thank offerings to you.
— PSALM 56:12

Vows were commonly made during petitions and fulfilled through thank offerings (see note at 22:25-26).

For you rescued me from death,
even my feet from stumbling,
to walk before God in the light of life.
— PSALM 56:13

Light is used as a synonym for life (Jb 3:20) but also may represent joy (Is 9:2) and salvation (Is 58:8). See notes at Ps 27:1; 36:9.

WORD STUDY: BATACH

  • Hebrew Pronunciation: [bah tak]
  • CSB Translation: trust, be confident
  • Use in Psalms: 46
  • Use in Old Testament: 118
  • Focus Passage: Psalm 56:3-4, 11

Batach denotes trust (Jdg 9:26).

  • People are confident (Jdg 20:36) or bold (Pr 28:1). They are (Is 47:10) or feel (Am 6:1) secure.
  • They rely (Ps 21:7), depend (Jb 39:11), and trust (Ps 40:3).
  • Participles imply unsuspecting (Jdg 18:7), overconfident (Is 32:9), or protected (Pr 11:15).
  • Betach (42x) means security (Jr 49:31), confidence (Is 32:17), and safety (Ps 78:53).
  • It appears as securely (Lv 25:18) and unsuspecting (Gn 34:25). Mibtach (15x) means trust (Ps 40:4) or object of trust (Ezk 29:16).
  • It denotes hope (Ps 65:5), security (Jb 18:14), and confidence (Jr 17:7).
  • It appears as safe (Is 32:18). Bitchah is confidence (Is 30:15); battuchot, security (Jb 12:6); and bittachon, hope (Ec 9:4).
  • The latter with batach means what you are relying on or basing confidence on (2Kg 18:19; Is 36:4). Verses say people should trust in God rather than idols, men, or self.

LEARN MORE

These notes came directly from the CSB Study Bible notes, and you can add them to your Olive Tree library today. Also, if you already own the CSB translation, you qualify for an additional discount. Head on over to our website to learn more.

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Silent Saturday

Posted by on 03/31/2018 in: ,

The day after Jesus’ crucifixion (the Saturday before Easter) is one of those interesting, yet unrecorded days in biblical history. If you look at the Gospels, they each give about one verse to what was going on in the world of the Jews: they were “resting.” Whether it was due to traditional obligation or genuine obedience, the majority of people took this day off because of the Sabbath law.

SCRIPTURE

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed His last. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split… Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for Him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:50-51;55-56, NIV) 

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity… After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed His body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where He was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:31; 38-42, NRSV) 

On the Sabbath, they all rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. (Luke 23:56-24:1, NRSV)

Saturday was one of complete silence.

There seems to be no movement; no advancement; no hope. But what screams out for our full attention are the teachable truths found in the moments before the Sabbath began.

You see, Good Friday – though being the day of Jesus’ death – is also known in Jewish tradition as the “Day of Preparation.” This was important because it was the last day for the Jews to collect their needed supplies before taking the next day off.

Think of the day before a big ice/snow storm. Everyone is running around town, stocking up their pantries, and buying what needs to be bought. Rightly so, people are focused on only one thing: prepping for the next day.

So even though Jesus just died, the Jewish tradition demanded for the world to keep moving.

This is why the Jews wanted to rush the removal of Jesus’ body. They had things to do and people to see…and they definitely did not want His body on display during the Lord’s Day.

But all while everyone – even the Lord’s disciples – carried on with their “needed” prep, two very unexpected people were boldly making other preparations.

“Unexpected” in that they were once closet believers. Yet in all four of the gospels (which is a huge deal), the authors make sure to give credit to Joseph and Nicodemus for their care of Jesus’ body.

We know Nicodemus from his secret (and interesting) conversation with Jesus in John 3. But all that we know about Joseph is that he was a timid and fearful follower of Jesus who cared more about remaining safe from the Jew‘s disapproval than being a bold disciple.

But here, both their silence and their fear seem to vanish.

We see Joseph approaching Pilate to boldly ask for Jesus’ body. Being a man of stature and influence, he was able to quickly receive this request. But think about this:

If it wasn’t for Joseph, the Lord’s body would have been treated like that of a murderer – just thrown into a pile of corpses.

But instead, Joseph is seen delicately removing Jesus from His cross, cleaning off His bloody body, prepping it for burial, and carrying Him to a nearby tomb – a tomb that Matthew states is Joseph’s own property.

He takes his day of preparation and boldly focuses it on his Lord. But he is not alone. Nicodemus also decides to make his adoration for Jesus known by bringing expensive spices to aide in the burial process.

And together, they wrap the body in linen clothes, according to Jewish tradition. This is such a beautiful – yet messy – picture. Here are two random men, doing the difficult work that would normally take many skilled hands. But no one else was present to help.

Yet it was because of their preparations – and bold obedience – that the Lord’s body was also ready for the day of rest. The silence of Saturday – though seemingly despairing – was given a ray of hope because of the complete change in heart that these men expressed.

So then, what was it that changed in the lives of these two? What brought them into such boldness? What enabled them to overcome their fears? Their doubts? Their selfish concerns?

Honestly, I think that it is found in what Matthew records:

“Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…” (27:50-51).

At the exact moment of His death – at the assumed “triumph” of evil – something severe happens: the veil in the temple was torn.

For years, the old covenant reigned.

In this system, a priest would go beyond the veil to make the sacrifice in the presence of the Lord (the ark of the covenant). Before Christ’s death, no one but a priest could do this job.

The separation of God and man was visibly seen when looking at the veil: man as fallen and God as perfect. But in an instance, Christ – being the ultimate priest and sacrifice – died, and the dividing wall was torn.

This means that before Jesus’ resurrection ever took place, there were already hints of His victory. His sacrifice took the separating and isolating power of sin and destroyed it.

Where sin intimidates mankind, shames them in isolation, and binds them with fear, Jesus’ work on the cross began an ultimate reversal. And we see this new freedom already at work in two men who were once known by their fear and isolation.

Jesus’ death gave them courage and boldness – not of themselves – but because sin (and sin’s effects) were torn. Before glory was ever vividly displayed in the resurrection, Jesus was already working gloriously in the unseen.

The Saturday before Easter teaches us that peace was already at work even though “victory” was not yet fully expressed.

It reminds us that even in the silence, God is powerfully at work. And it calls us to live with this same level of boldness and obedience despite our inability to see what victory will soon come.

We all find ourselves in days like Saturday. Where life seems mundane and Jesus seems far. Where failure feels defining and hope appears obsolete. It is in these moments that we must realize that the separating power of sin has been demolished; that Jesus has already given us hints of what will soon become reality. He has already given us a foretaste of glory.

Sunday will come; victory will soon be experienced.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for Saturday. Thank you for the reminder that regardless of what I feel and what the world around me expresses – You are here. Thank you for already being at work; for giving me glimpses of Your glory. I pray that I can live with boldness today. Give me eyes to see what preparation You are calling me to make. And with courage, I step forward. Amen.

This blog, capturing the importance of the Saturday before Easter, was written by the team at DeclareGlory.com

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Give Us Barabbas!

Posted by on 03/26/2018 in:

Give Us Barabbas

When we look at the Passion Week, we rightly look to the work of Jesus Christ. We even focus on individuals like the disciples or Pilate. Yet, a character we rarely give any attention to is Barabbas, the man who was freed in place of Jesus. So, as we look ahead to Resurrection Sunday, I want us to take a look at this man and see what we can learn from him.

Who Was Barabbas?

Of all the characters that make an appearance during the Passion Week, Barabbas is one of the few names found in all four gospels (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16). But, who was this man?

At this time in Israel’s history the people were anxiously looking for the Messiah who would restore their former glory and free them from Roman oppression. Because of this, many individuals arose taking on the moniker, only to fall flat on their face. We cannot know for sure if Barabbas ever claimed such a title, but he at least participated in revolts seeking Israel’s freedom. The New Testament authors describe him as: notorious, a rebel, a murderer, an insurrectionist, and a robber. None of these terms are endearing or give you a feeling that this guy had any good in him. Barabbas deserved to be in prison.

Barabbas’ Place in the Narrative

In each gospel account we are told Pilate wanted to release Jesus, finding no wrong in him deserving death or imprisonment. Yet, wanting to avoid another revolt, which would look bad on his part, he thought he would be clever. With the crowd insisting on Jesus’ death, he decided to give them the choice between two individuals: Jesus and Barabbas. Both he and the people knew how evil Barabbas was, so it should have been obvious that Jesus would be the easy choice to be freed. But, by God’s design, that’s not what happens. Instead, the crowd asks for Barabbas’ release and demands Jesus’ crucifixion. So, Pilate obliges and frees the insurrectionist and murderer, washing his hands of any guilt in the matter.

Barabbas, no longer getting the death sentence he deserved, was now a free man who could go about his way.

We Are Barabbas

When we look at the gospel, we are very much like Barabbas. The Bible tells us our hearts are wicked and seeking evil at all times. We are notorious sinners in God’s eyes who rebel against his commands. Not only that, but we rob God of his glory and harbor murder in our heart. In short, we’re just as bad as Barabbas, deserving of every just penalty God brings our way. Our outward deeds might not be as heinous as his, but our hearts are just as rebellious & sinful.

Just like Barabbas, we were on death row, awaiting our penalty. But then Jesus enters the picture.

Jesus Brings Freedom

When faced with the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, it was easy for the crowd to ask for Barabbas because he was just like them. Sure, Jesus was innocent, healing people, and talking about God’s kingdom; but, he was doing nothing to bring down the Roman Empire. At least Barabbas was fighting, so they thought. He was giving the people what they wanted, so he fit right in. Again, that’s us in our sin, we fit right in with the world.

Silent, Jesus took Barabbas’ place and died in his stead. Jesus should have been the one walking away as a free man, but it was the criminal whose trespasses were forgiven. So, Jesus goes to the Golgatha, where he is crucified between two thieves, who very likely could have been Barabbas’ companions.

But, not only did Jesus take Barabbas’ place, he also took ours. He died on the cross for our sins. Barabbas is a visual representation of what Christ did on our behalf. He took the place of a wicked sinner so that he might live. In like manner, Jesus bore the penalty for our sin so that we might live to God and walk in newness of life.

That is the point of the cross. That is the point of Barabbas. This is the beauty of the gospel!

This week as you ponder the work of Christ, remember that you are Barabbas. and Jesus took your place so that you might be free.

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The Faith of a Dying Thief

Posted by on 03/24/2018 in: , ,

In Christ’s Words from the Cross Charles Spurgeon talks in great lengths about Jesus’ crucifixion, including those who were crucified with him The dying thief did the impossible that day. In front of multitudes of scoffers, he used the only part of his body not nailed to the cross (his tongue) to proclaim Jesus’ identity: the Messiah. The following is an excerpt from Spurgeon’s message.

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THE FAITH OF A DYING THIEF

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of His abundant willingness to receive all that come to Him, in whatever plight they might be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident.

Remember that our Lord Jesus, at the time He saved this malefactor, was at His lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark. Stripped of His garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was He “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscour-ing of all things.

Yet, while in that condition, He achieved this marvelous deed of grace.

Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all His glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it that He can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that He has returned unto His glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light!

“He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is that He can do even more now that He lives and reigns. All power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of His grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon One who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe Him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to His kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King.

If the apostle Paul were here,

and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to Him as to One whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain and bound to die.

It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that He was surrounded by scoffers.

It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests in their pride ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn.

His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits.

He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor and defend his Lord.

His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession.

I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour–that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

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Confidence in God

Posted by on 03/19/2018 in: ,

“Confidence in God” is an article found inside the NLT Study Bible—a fantastic resource for anyone in the earlier stages of Bible study.

God gave Nehemiah favor in the eyes of a mighty Persian king so that the king responded favorably to all of Nehemiah’s requests (1:11; 2:8, 18). Nehemiah then had the confidence to present his bold plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the people of Jerusalem responded positively, believing that God was able to give them success in rebuilding the walls (2:20) and to protect them from their enemies (4:4-5, 9).

THEY CONFIDENTLY CONTINUED IN THEIR WORK…

…in spite of opposition because they knew that God fights for his people and frustrates the plans of the wicked (4:14-15, 20). When the walls of Jerusalem were finished, Nehemiah recognized that the entire difficult project was completed only because of God’s help (6:16).

The book of Nehemiah vividly demonstrates that God is all-powerful and able to accomplish his will, both in individual lives and in nations. Nehemiah’s prayer in ch. 9 focuses on praising God for his sovereign and powerful acts: God created the heavens and earth (9:6), called Abram from Ur, and gave the land to Israel (9:7-8, 22-25). The miraculous signs in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the provision of guidance, food, and water in the wilderness all demonstrate God’s power over man and nature to provide for his people (9:9-15).

The Lord had sent the Israelites into exile after generations of persistent sin (9:26-27). Now he was fulfilling part of his promise to restore them (1:8-9).

NEHEMIAH HAD THE CONFIDENCE…

…to pray and lead because he knew that everything that happened was part of God’s sovereign plan. This same confidence in God’s sovereignty led Abram to leave Ur and by faith go to an unknown land (Gen 12:1-3; Heb 11:8-10), caused Rahab to trust in God (Josh 2:9-14; Heb 11:31), and prompted Hezekiah not to give in to the demands of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18–19).

Confidence comes when people believe that God will keep his promises and complete the work he has started in their lives (Phil 1:6).

APPLICATION

Where do you lack confidence? Can you think of any promises God makes that you can rely on as a source of confidence? Share some of God’s promises that have given you confidence in the comments below.

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Jesus’ Leadership Mantra

Posted by on 03/05/2018 in: ,

The Bible has a lot to say about leadership—especially in the Gospels. So, resources like the NIV Leadership Bible Notes are great tools for helping you process these passages and apply them to your own leadership style. In Matthew 20:20-26, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements on being a great leader, clearly defining his view of power. The four steps below, taken directly from the NIV Leadership Bible Notes, will assist you in this effort:

MATTHEW 20:17-19

“Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'”

QUESTION ONE

Reread the passage and envision the scene. Imagine the disciples and Jesus walking along on their way to Jerusalem. What mood does the paragraph in verses 17–19 cast on the scene?

MATTHEW 20:20-23

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'”

QUESTION TWO

Now, notice the conversation between Jesus and Zebedee’s family in verses 20–23. Imagine the Son of God asking you the question he asked in verse 21!

What would you say?

What were they really asking for?

Think beyond the obvious answer and imagine their dreams. From your knowledge of situations like this, what might have been their (good and not-so-good) motives?

MATTHEW 20:24-28

“When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

QUESTION THREE

Now, notice the other disciples’ response in verse 24. What generated their indignation?

QUESTION FOUR

In verse 25, Jesus identified the disciples’ understanding of power positions: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” And in verse 26 he informed them of his approach to power and leadership. Put this approach into your own words.

JESUS’ LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUE

Think about this for a bit. After Jesus’ ascension, these men would be in charge. The disciples would need to be the highest-profile and most authoritative leaders in all of Christian history. They were to take over this ministry with no historical precedent, no written documentation that they could follow. They were the only disciples. However, their highest qualification was being personally groomed by Jesus. They had his example as a point of reference. And here he tells them not to lord it over others or exercise authority in a negative way.

Notice what Jesus told them in verses 25 and 26. He said that the highly visible uses of power around them, namely “lording it over” and “exercising authority over,” were not options. How, then, were they to get people to do what needed to get done? Jesus said, essentially: To be great, be a servant; to be first, be a slave. “First” is higher than “great” and “slave” is more servile than “servant.” Think about it!

Anticipating their confusion about whether this approach would work (actually, most hearers would be quite convinced that it wouldn’t work), Jesus gave a simple and solid closing argument. To those with whom he had lived and worked he concluded that they should serve “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 28).

LEADERSHIP FOR TODAY

Today, countless articles and journals report on hours of empirical research and careful thinking about what makes leadership work. Increasingly, experts compile theories that affirm and explain what Jesus taught: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (vv. 26–27).

Jesus taught it, and then he went out and lived it.

COMMENT BELOW: How have you seen this leadership technique work for yourself?

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