Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Disciple Jesus Loved

During the last supper when Jesus revealed that one of those present would betray Him, the disciples looked at one another anxiously, wondering who it was, each one worrying that it might even be themselves. Peter therefore beckoned to John to ask Jesus which of them it was.  For John, they all knew, had a special relationship with Jesus.  He was very close to Him, as we read in John’s own account of that night.

 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (Jn. 13:23).

That’s the King James Version. My Greek/English Interlinear has, “But there was reclining in the bosom of Jesus one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

You can see them in your mind’s eye; that’s the way they dined back then: reclining on couches around a low table likely in the shape of a U. This enabled the servants to come into the centre of the U to set on the table the dishes of food for the guests.  John, leaning on his left arm, was reclining so that his head was close to Jesus’ bosom.  With some distance between the disciples around the table, and with the servants coming and going, and everyone talking, John was able to quietly ask Jesus who the betrayer was, and Jesus was able to answer him without others being aware of what He was saying.

I won’t go into that. What I want to focus on is this.  A while ago I was reading John’s opening words in His account of the Gospel, and I came to this:

 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Jn. 1:18 NKJV).

There were those same words, “in the bosom of…” I stopped reading.  In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus reclining in the bosom of the Father just the way John reclined in the bosom of Jesus at that supper.

It is a beautiful image to me, a precious image: the Son of God reclining in the bosom of the Father.  And I think that when John wrote these words he could well have had in his own mind’s eye that supper, and himself reclining in Jesus’ bosom.  If he knew that he was the disciple Jesus loved, he also knew that Jesus was the Son the Father loved.

It was, in a sense, an exclusive love.

 This is My beloved Son in whom is all my delight…”

The Father loved no one else the way He loved His Son. But it was never God’s intention that this exclusive love be forever confined there.  It was exclusive, but it was not confined.

For, Jesus said during that same supper, speaking to them all, “As the Father hath loved Me so [that is, even so] have I loved you: continue ye in My love” (Jn. 15:9).

We know He was speaking to them all. But if that is so, what was there about John?  Why did John call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved? Was this too a special love, something exclusive, for John alone?

Not according to the verse we just quoted. As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves all His disciples.

I think that John called himself this—the disciple whom Jesus loved—simply because there was a certain trusting childlikeness about John, a certain open facedness, that enabled him to receive Jesus’ love, whereas the others (much like you and I?) had questions and doubts about themselves, and therefore doubts as to Jesus’ love for them.

I do pray that you and I become more sure of the love of Jesus for us, and, like John, take the risk of reclining our head in His bosom. We will surely make a wonderful discovery.

One more thing. We find John writing many years later:

We have known and believed the love that God hath to us (1 Jn. 4:16).

How did John know that? It was because John had seen this love before his very eyes in the Son of God.  The love he saw in this Man… somehow he began to realize, to know, that it was the love of God, that it was God the Father dwelling in this Man, and revealing His love.  John saw it, and believed, and came boldly to Him—I don’t mean brazenly, I mean boldly, openly, trustingly—and reclined his head in His bosom.

Who’s bosom? Since the Son of God Himself reclines in the bosom of the Father, it was the Father’s love that John was reclining in when he reclined in Jesus’ bosom.

For that is the nature of the Son of God. The Father dwelt in Him; He was the revelation of God the Father—the Father’s love.  Paul called Jesus, “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).  The Son of God’s love.  It is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).

And what was the result of John reclining his head in Jesus’ bosom, and knowing, believing, that God loved him?  It is that John himself was filled to overflowing with that same love.  It is a continual stream through all his writings.  “Beloved, let us love one another…”  John knew he was beloved, knew he was loved, knew he was the disciple Jesus loved.  Therefore, he loved.

That is God’s intention in loving us.  God intends that same love—the love of God that dwelt in Jesus—to dwell in you and I. Jesus prayed as much during that same supper.

I have declared (made known) unto them Thy Name, and will declare it (make it known), that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17:26).

You mean the very love of God dwelling in you and me as He dwelt in Jesus?  The love of God?  And people seeing that love before their very eyes?  When this happens, beloved (I don’t use that word tritely), we might well discover others around us taking the risk of reclining their head in our bosom.

 

The Shemitah Holds My Future?

Apparently the hearts of many Christians are all astir again these days over Jonathan Cahn’s exciting new book, The Mystery of the Shemitah. The blurb on the book’s  cover calls it, “The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!”

Wow.  I better get a copy.  But fast; its sellers warn that it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Cahn’s previous book The Harbinger was a “runaway bestseller” on the New York Times Christian books list.  Looks like this one is on the way to joining it.

What is the shemitah? It’s the sabbath year as laid out in Leviticus.

When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather the fruit thereof;
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field or prune thy vineyard (Lev. 25:2-4).

Failure to keep this and other things set forth in the Law would bring judgment (Lev. 26:34, 1 Chr. 36:21).

And so Cahn propounds that it is failure to observe the shemitah (pronounced shmeeta) that has caused cyclical devastation every seven years in the earth.  I have not read the book but saw it advertised on Charisma News along with an interview Sid Roth (It’s Supernatural) had with Jonathan Cahn.  So I watched the interview.  Cahn proclaimed to a very excited Roth that it is failure to keep the shemitahs that has brought down judgments upon the world in seven-year cycles going a long way back.  He listed several.  It included the world wars.  The Great Depression.  9/11 in 2001.  The last one was the financial crisis of 2008.  Apparently the next shemitah is from September 25, 2014 to September 13, 2015, which could bring down on us… who knows what.

There is only one little problem with this teaching.  It is entirely false.  It is derived from a covenant—the old covenant— that is no longer in effect.  Don’t take my word for it; get it straight from the writers of the New Testament:

 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb. 7:18 NKJV).

In that He says, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete (Heb. 8:13 NKJV).

If we dare to believe our New Testament, then, the only covenant now extant with God is the New Covenant.  The covenant God made with the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is not a covenant independent of Christ; it is fulfilled in Christ and His New covenant (Acts 13:32-34, Gal. 4:16).  And (according to the verses quoted above) the covenant God made with Israel under the shadow of Mount Sinai is obsolete.  It is null and void.  It is no longer in effect.  According to an online site on legal definitions I checked out, “a void contract imposes no legal rights or obligations upon the parties and is not enforceable by a court. It is, in effect, no contract at all.”  And so the Sinai covenant, the old covenant, because it is void, because it has been annulled, cannot be enforced.  That would be tantamount to trying to enforce a business partnership that has been legally disbanded, or a marriage contract that has been nullified, or trying on the basis of an old title deed to lay claim to land that has been sold to someone else.

God has brought in a BETTER covenant now (Heb. 7:22, 8:6)—better not only for Gentiles, but for Jews (with whom, actually, it was first made).  As a result, the old contract is no longer in effect.

But even if the Old Covenant were still in effect there is not the slightest suggestion anywhere in the Bible that the shemitah was in force for any nation other than Israel.  In fact the Old Covenant was a covenant God made with Israel alone.  How then could the shemitah be something that “holds the secret of America’s future, the world’s future, and your future?”

I find it very distressing, even frightening, that so many Christians are being duped by this kind of teaching.

Distressing… because it is evidence of how grievously lacking they are in their understanding of the basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New; there is such a blindness, it seems, as to the astonishing terms of the New Covenant.  And many believe God still holds out the Old Covenant for Jews that don’t believe in Jesus, and they can still come to Yahweh on the basis of that covenant. It is a teaching that does despite to the blood of Christ.

Frightening… because (and I know I am generalizing) this present generation of charismatic/evangelical Christians has strayed far, far from the truth– God’s controversy is with their teachers– and as a result they are abysmally ill prepared for the hour that is at hand. I tell you, there is trouble at the door.  Great trouble.   And it is going to result in the great and frightening collapse of a realm of Christianity that ought to have prepared its people for that hour, but did not.

Jesus My Forerunner

I have been dwelling much these days on the significance of Christ being at the right hand of God, and, as one who is seeking to come to God by Him,  I am increasingly aware that His being there is as good as my being there… while I am yet here.

For, as I mentioned last time, God has made Him my surety.  He who is both a king and a priest is my surety—yes, my surety—that God will bring me into the same relationship with Himself that my surety enjoys.   For, He who is my surety is also a forerunner.

That’s what we discover earlier in Hebrews in another passage where we are told that Jesus is before God on our behalf.  He is a forerunner who has entered into “that place within the veil” on our behalf.

Whither a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

As with the surety passage, this too speaks of the great assurance we have—God’s promise and His oath.  Here he is talking about the promise God gave Abraham, confirming the promise with an oath.

Wherein God, willing (that is, desiring) more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel confirmed it by an oath;
That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong  encouragement who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil:
Where a forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20).

What love.  He has entered there “for us.”  And notice the dynamic here—“we… who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.”  On the one hand we are fleeing something—fleeing—running away from something with all our might. Running for our lives!  But not aimlessly; we are headed toward a specific destination, running to a refuge that is set before us, where we can lay hold of a hope that is set before us.

And so there is something behind us, and something set before us.  But our pace tells on us, whether or not we take this seriously.  Are we just ambling casually along, stopping here and there to enjoy “the good life” this world has to offer?  If so, it is apparent that we do not see the peril we are in.  We have not seen that this present evil world is not our friend.  Its god is intent on our destruction, and has laced all the things our carnal appetite loves to feed on with a sleeping potion that will keep us in the sleep of death.  Do we not see this?  It grieves me deeply that there are so many who do not see it… or, if they have seen, are determined to continue deceiving themselves so they can enjoy its pleasures for a few more seconds.

Some, who have awakened, and do see, have fled, as from a building on fire, have “fled for refuge…”  That is the strength of the original Greek word here; it is fleeing with a destination in mind.  Now we come to another strong word: “to lay hold of the hope that is set before us.” There is a hope set before us—the hope.  Have we laid hold of this hope?  It is an anchor of the soul that cannot drift, and cannot break, for it enters into that Place within the veil where a Forerunner has for us entered—even Jesus, whom God has made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  He is saying, actually, that it is the Forerunner within the veil to whom our hope is anchored, joined.  And He cannot be moved.

The Lord Jesus Christ our hope (1 Tim. 1:1).

I think we see this same forerunner a little later in Hebrews, where the writer exhorts us to run with endurance the race that is set before us “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:1,2).  He is there!  He has arrived!  “Where a forerunner is for us entered…”  But the significance of a forerunner is that other runners are about to arrive.  So, those in the bleachers on that side of the veil… I see them craning their necks to look behind the Forerunner to see who else is coming in.  Who would that be?

Forerunner for us, it says.  Are we running, then?  His being there is on our behalf—so that we might have strong encouragement, not just to hope, but to lay hold of the hope set before us—even that same relationship of eternal life that our Forerunner enjoys with His Father.  “Fight the good fight of faith,” said Paul, “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).  It is the same eternal life that our Forerunner abides in—but abides in as a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Meaning, He is there for our sake.  He is there (in the throne of God in the Heavens) in the power of an endless life, an indissoluble life, eternal life, His own eternal life, to the intent that you and I may live that same victorious eternal life—here on earth.  Christ has ascended to the Throne of God for this very reason—that in the power of His life we too might live.  “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also” (Jn. 14:19).

What wondrous words.  He lives—at the right hand of God, that we also, who are joined to Him by His Spirit, may live that same victorious eternal life right here on earth, might reign here on earth in the power of the throne of Heaven, reign in life, in the power of His own eternal life, in the midst of all we are going through…

…Right here in this present evil world.  Because, though we have fled this present evil world, though we are no longer part of it, though it is no longer our home, though we live in a realm above it all, we are not only kings, but priests.  We are still here for the sake of others around us, who, when their world collapses all around them, as it is going to, will be looking for a king and a priest.

 

Jesus My Surety

The book of Proverbs has several verses about surety, and they all have one thing in common.  They warn against suretyship.  Never, they say, never become surety for anyone else. Never.

What is surety?  It’s one of those old King James Version words which means making yourself responsible for someone else’s debt or venture.

Here is one passage from Proverbs:

 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure (or, prevail with) thy friend.
Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler (Pr. 6:1-5).

Another is:

 A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend (Pr. 17:18).

Another:

 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee? (Pr. 22:26,27).

Striking hands with the other person would be in modern finance the same as co-signing his loan.  Other translations of the passage in Ch. 6 have, “if you have made a pledge for your neighbour, and have become a guarantor for a stranger…” (NET); “if you have put up security for a neighbour,  given your pledge for a stranger…” (ESV).  Once you do this you are on the hook for what that person owes someone else.  You have committed yourself to your neighbour’s project, and if suddenly your neighbour is unable to follow through, or pay what he owes, it is you who are bound to complete the venture, or are in debt to some stranger.  In Bible days, even if you had to sell everything you own, or even yourself into slavery to keep the commitment, you were bound to do so.

And that is why the wise man said we should never get into any such commitment.  It could mean great loss to yourself, and there is no way out.  Once you have committed yourself to be surety for another, you are legally and morally bound to do so whatever the cost to yourself.

The thing is, after all of Solomon’s counsel advising us to never become surety for another… lo and behold, God Himself did this.

And that, I believe, is the very reason why we find all those passages in Proverbs warning us against suretyship.  It is so that we, who all too often are very unsure of God, will “get it.”  Suretyship is an unbreakable commitment?  Once you have made the commitment there is no way to back down, no way out of it?  God wants us to know that He was prepared to make this very commitment.  And did.

He entered into suretyship with us—that is, with those who look to Him for the fulfillment of the New Covenant in their lives.  God has made Jesus “the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22).  He did this by the oath wherewith He swore that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 The LORD sware, and will not repent: thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek: By so much [that is, God’s oath] was Jesus made the surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22, see Ps. 110:4).

Jesus enthroned as a king at the right hand of God, and made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, is God’s guarantee, God’s pledge, His oath—His surety—that He will make good the terms of His better covenant with you and me.  The only way He might fail in this is if something happens to our Surety, and Jesus is somehow deposed, or dies, and is no longer high priest.  Which cannot happen.  Christ our high priest is before God on our behalf “in the power of an indissoluble life” (Heb. 7:16).  So He cannot fail to fully mediate the New Covenant in the lives of those who believe Him for this.

And what are the terms of this covenant?  Simply put, when they are fully wrought in our lives, we in this world are just like our Surety who is before the throne in Heaven.  Yes, just like Him.  Having the same heart and mind.  The same righteousness. The same love.  The same relationship with the Father that He has.  A very tall order, no doubt.  But this is what we are sure of because He who was slain to redeem us is God’s surety before the very Throne of Heaven on our behalf.

 For thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood… and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10).

Meaning that,  just as our great high priest reigns in the Heavens, we are a kingdom of priests who reign in the earth.  We manifest His kingdom in the earth—a kingdom that is over all.  We are priests here in the earth ministering this heavenly kingdom to those around us in the grip of the kingdom of sin and death.  For, since our Surety is dead to sin, and alive to God, we too are dead to sin and alive to God– with the same eternal life our Surety reigns in the power of.  It is life that reigns in all situations (Rom. 5:17).  You say you’ve been trying to do that but find the battle overwhelming?  I know all about it.  Let us not be discouraged; let us continue to fight the good fight of faith; victory is as certain as the Surety of the Covenant before the Throne.   He ever lives above to make intercession for us, and we who are in the earth, we too make intercession for the saints who are in this hard-fought battle.  It is the authoritative intercession of priests who are kings; it is effectual intercession because of the power of His indissoluble life.

Beloved, with all the uncertainty of our day, with evil unleashed (or so it seems) and even talk of being on the brink of World War III, one thing is certain.  God has given us a Surety.  That Surety is before His Throne.  His purposes in your life and mine, and in this troubled world of ours, are as certain as that Surety.  Just as certain.

And that is the only answer for this troubled world of ours.