Do You See Him? – Part 2

Do You See Him?Do You See Him?“Now that very day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about all the things that had happened. While they were talking and debating these things, Jesus himself approached and began to accompany them (but their eyes were kept from recognizing him). Then he said to them, “What are these matters you are discussing so intently as you walk along?” And they stood still, looking sad.” -Luke 24:13-17

Have you ever wondered, “Why were their eyes kept from seeing Jesus?” It does seem rather intentional on God’s part, and I think, like with all that God does, there are multiple purposes in it. However, let’s focus on one.

Keep in mind, this is not a physical blindness, but a spiritual one. The disciples had yet to see Jesus as He truly was. Sure, they had seen His physical form for several years and spent much time looking into His face. But they were constantly perplexed by the things He did and the things He said. And at this point in the narrative, they are all in deep sadness, and they remain there despite all the evidence that Jesus actually did what He said He was going to do—die and rise again on the third day (Mat 16:21; 17:9; 20:19). Apparently, there was the important element of suffering that was missing from their equation (Luke 24:25); and thus, when Jesus appears to them in a more glorified state, (Luke 24:21), they missed Him entirely.

Suffering is often the missing element from our own equation that leaves us reeling in sadness and often feeling as if we are walking alone. I often hear people say that God doesn’t really give us answers to why we suffer and cite the book of Job as evidence of this. Yet, I believe Job tells us the opposite. God does give us answers (Job 33:14; 36:10, 15), for we are His “friends” if we seek to obey Him (John 15:15-14). And He has promised to be by our side (Lev. 26:12; Mat. 1:23; 28:20). Perhaps the reason we do not perceive that He is giving answers is because we are listening to another god (Ezek. 14:4) … a false image of Him, an idol in our heart that cannot answer (Isa. 115:3-5). In our suffering, perhaps the reason we are so often saddened by circumstances and feel God has abandoned us, that we are walking alone, is because we are looking for another messiah. The true Jesus is present with us, but we perceive Him not.

Joni Erickson Tada, in an old interview with James Dobson (“God’s Purpose in Tragedy I”, Family Talk, July 5, 2018) spoke of her own suffering. She had many questions those first few years after the accident that left her paralyzed. She was filled with questions longed for answers from God but got none. BUT, she said, “Once I came to the point of accepting my disability fully and entirely,” things started to change. “My trust in God did not depend on my ability or inability to perceive His plan or figure out His mind. My trust in God simply rested on His nature and His character… THEN I began to piece together some of the insights and reasons behind my disability.”

God is sovereign, and He does as He pleases (Isa. 115:3). He will not cater to our demands for immediate answers, nor should He (Job 35:9-15). Nor will He be manipulated and controlled by our assumptions and false images (1Sam. 15:23). He is the great I AM, and it is WE who need to bend our will, not Him. Because, He is that GREAT.

Yet God is also incredibly good, promising us gracious love (Exo. 34:6), abundant blessings (Isa. 78:15; John 10:10; Eph. 1:3; 2Pet. 1:3), and ultimate good (Rom. 8:28; Jer. 29:11) through circumstances and men’s wicked intentions (Gen. 50:20). In addition, even though a single sin is worthy of death, we go on living day after day breathing in His mercy. Even though we rebelled and became His enemy (Rom. 5:10), He pursued us and rescued us from our bondage to sin. Because He is that GOOD.

Therefore, as we go through this life, may we remember that suffering is a part of God’s redemptive work in a fallen, sinful world. Our Lord and Messiah HAD to suffer (Luke 17:25; John 1:29; Acts 2:23; Heb. 10:10; etc.). And since a servant is not greater than his master (John 13:16; 2Tim. 2:3), so as His servants we participate in His suffering so as to participate also in His resurrection power (1Pet. 4:13; Col 1:24; Phil. 3:10; 2Cor. 1:5). If we stay focused on Jesus as He is truly revealed in His Word, trusting in His character (His sovereignty and goodness and the necessity of suffering), then we will indeed see His presence walking with us, and in due time hear the answers we long to understand.

Billy Neal

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Do You See Him? (Part 1)

Do You See Him?“Then they sat down and kept guard over him there.”
–Matthew 27:36

How often do I pass over a simple verse such as this, discarding it quickly thinking it not worth my time to mine for spiritual jewels? Yet it is precisely here the Spirit stopped me.

Following the horrific crucifixion of Jesus, four soldiers divided up our Lord’s garments and then gambled for His tunic (Joh 19:23). Then, they sat down and “watched Him there.” How strange… to be so close to Christ during this moment; to be the very men in fact who raised Jesus Christ up to be the salvation to all those who gazed upon Him in faith (John 3:14), to be the closest of witnesses to the most profound moment in history, to have heard the very Son of God’s labored breathing as He endured the very wrath of God until He drank every last drop from its cup (Mat 26:42; Joh 19:30). As MacLaren writes in his commentary, “How they were so close to the great event in the world’s history and had to stare at it for three or four hours, and never saw anything!”

Oh, how often have I beheld beauty beyond imagination, stared at supreme significance, looked upon lavish love and saw nothing special. Am I not just like these soldiers every time I read the very Words of God and walk away unimpressed? Am I not just as heartless as these executioners when I hear the gracious Gospel preached and am not overflowing with gratitude? Am I not just another cruel mocker every time I live for my own selfish pleasure and glory and give no thought to the will of the One to which I owe everything (for He not only created me and blessed me with everything I have, but also saved me from my own sinful spiritual suicide)?

Yet I often miss the true nature of my trespasses, because I fail to see the value of the One I scourged and mocked in my rebellion. How I give such little thought to the pain I inflict to the heart of God, or to the marring of His image (Mat. 27:30; Isa. 52:14; Gen. 1:26), because I failed to see how majestic, and glorious HE is.

What might it do for our Christian walk, brothers and sisters, if we but saw ourselves as those blind soldiers, who mocked the King of Kings with mouths carefully crafted by Him in creation (Col. 1:16); who spat in the face of the One whose own spittle opened blind eyes (John 9:6); who callously gambled away His precious garments which held the power to heal old wounds (Mat. 14:36; Mark 5:27-29); who pierced the precious hands in which held the power to take away all our guilt and shame (Mat 8:3).

Oh Lord, help us catch greater glimpses of Your glory this week. Help us behold Your precious value so that we can begin to see more clearly our part in Your crucifixion. Not for us to wallow in guilt but bask in gratitude (Luke 7:42). Help us see how our own hand swung that hammer and how we shamefully sit down and go about our business, giving no thought to Your sacrifice. Please forgive us of our thoughtless injustice, our willful ignorance, and the mockery in which we participate. Thank you for Your astounding grace, Your immeasurable mercy, Your limitless love. Amen.

Billy Neal

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Entrustice: the state of continually putting (something) into someone’s care or protection.

“Then he released Barabbas for them. But after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head. When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

–Matthew 27:26-31

Have you ever considered the silence in which our Lord endured such torture. Never a vengeful gaze, never a deserved curse passed from His lips. How often I see my guilty children clinch their fist and scrunch their face in rage when they endure their just sentences and declare them unfair. And how often am I quick to protest any circumstance that fails to fall in my own favor.

Jim Caviezel, in his portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, recounts the difficulties he had in portraying Jesus during those horrific suffering scenes. During the scourging scene, where they shot Caviezel from below and placed a board on his back to receive the severe lashings from the two Roman guards, “broke character” after one of the whip’s throng’s came over the board cutting a 14-inch gash in his back. “I turned around and looked at the guy, and I tell you, I may be playing Jesus, but I felt like Satan at that moment. I turned to him, a couple of expletives came out of my mouth.”1

“It’s one thing to act as Christ, it is another thing entirely to be Him for a single millisecond,” (Tom Nelson). Who of us can truly suffer with such grace as Christ, who willingly gives His back to those who beat Him (Isa 50:6)? Even forgiving the very soldiers (Luke 22:34) who mocked his kingship, spat in his face, nailed his precious hands into wood, and callously gambled away his clothing. “This was infinite meekness and goodness, truly worthy of God’s only-begotten Son; an example of forgiveness which, though it never can be equaled by any, is fit to be imitated by all,” (Benson Commentary).

Brothers, may the Spirit guide us in absolute humility when we encounter situations that seem to weigh against us. May we stop to consider the meekness of our Lord before we call a situation “unfair” and demand justice (on our own behalf), and seek to entrust our lives to the only righteous judge above.

Billy Neal

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Are Your a Good Disciple?

Good Disciple

We think about or have heard a lot about what a good teacher, or a good pastor or elder should look like. We all know that when spiritually mature we are all to go make disciples. But do we think about what it looks like to be a good disciple today, regardless of our maturity? You say, “I am in a leadership role; I am working to make disciples”, but are you a good disciple?  Who is mentoring you today? Are you teachable?  And what does a good disciple look like?

Excluding Judas, were the other 11 disciples of Jesus good disciples? In many cases we mainly focus on their failures (lack of understanding, dumb questions, expressed doubt, demonstrated lack of faith, focus on the physical) prior to Christ’s ascension to heaven, but the Truth is, they really were very good disciples. What were their characteristics that made them so good?

  1. They were ardent seekers.
  2. They were consistent followers
  3. They were rapidly growing spiritually
  4. They were breaking away from ‘religion’

Do ALL of these characteristics describe you and me?

Jesus chose each of His disciples (John 15:16) and He chose disciples that were seeking Him (John 14:1). These disciples were looking for the Messiah and when they found Jesus, they dropped what they were doing and followed Him.  Many others were called to follow Jesus, but for a multitude of reasons, they would not follow Him.  Some couldn’t leave their possessions (Matthew 10:27).  Some couldn’t leave their families (Luke 9:59-61). Others simply ignored the call and went about their own business (Matthew 22:5). But the disciples followed Jesus.  While others said, “But first let me” do this or that, the disciples followed Jesus immediately.

And they were absolutely trying to learn from Jesus. In fact, they stayed in a state of wonderment, with a subsequent constant line of questions (kind of like a young child, right?).  And Jesus answered their questions.  Sometimes they asked the question out loud directly to Jesus, and sometimes Jesus was simply ‘aware’ of the questions before they asked Him (Matthew 16:8), and He answered them quickly, almost immediately, while the question was on their mind.

Are you and I continuously seeking Jesus?  Are we asking questions and staying in the Word? If so, the questions of our growing spirit will form in our mind and the Holy Spirit will answer.  John 16:12-13 says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.”  When we are ‘in Christ’ (surrendered to Him and acting in His will) and walking in the Spirit, the Spirit will often answer our questions before we have even put the question to words and spoken it out loud; very similar to walking with Jesus back in the day.

Are you spending time with Jesus and growing? The disciples spent time with Jesus. They traveled around with Jesus.  They ate meals with Jesus.  They heard Jesus’s words, a lot, and they were rapidly growing spiritually.  Are you having supper with Jesus (Revelations 3:20) and taking your lessons from Jesus (John 14:23)?  Sunday pot-luck at church is good, and the fellowship of Wednesday supper is good, but are you spending time with and taking your lessons from Jesus through His Spirit?

The disciples had been raised under a Pharisee, Sadducee, and Scribe system that absolutely worked hard to control the ‘religious’ methods of the day.  The goal of that system was not truth and grace and pursuit of God, but rather pomp and circumstance and methodologies and priest-controlled worship, knowledge, and forgiveness.  These leaders had created systems of men to replace the free-flow of God’s spirit and grace.  They had created a huge religious ‘box’.  Are you in any box today?  Is there any system of ‘religion’ that controls the flow of God’s word (flow from God to you and from you to God) and spirit (the growth of your spirit facilitated by the Holy Spirit) to you and subsequently your family, even to your children’s children, or to any in your circle of influence?  Disciples of Jesus, yesterday and today, will not be boxed, and constrained from knowing Jesus.  Rather, they will pursue Him directly, through the written word and the living Spirit, and they will worship Him corporately in systems that put Christ first and man second.  Un-boxed and direct we seek Him, and He answers us directly and quickly and we grow in an ongoing manner.

Are we good disciples? Seeking daily? Following regardless of cost or excuse? Growing rapidly in the knowledge of Jesus and His kingdom? And breaking from ‘religion’ and choosing Jesus, both personally and corporately?  If not, what hinders us?  In Luke 9:62, Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’  Let’s continue to be about His business, seeking, following, and growing.  Whatever ‘good’ thing, or bad thing that hinders us, let’s cut it loose as we continue to pursue great discipleship of Christ today.

Derek Dougherty

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