Yes! There Is Good News!
Bill Rollins has been publishing each week a column in the local Elk Horn, Iowa paper for the past several years.
Note the original publication date on each blog post
Note the original publication date on each blog post
Picking up the last line of our previous article, we asked the question, “But what about this ‘following Him’? He was going to His death. Must we follow Him there?”
The Greek word used here for “follow” literally means, “To be in the same way or path so as to accompany.” Jesus used this word in saying that we must follow Him and be His servant: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”
Wow! I surely want to be where He is, but I’m not sure I want to suffer as He suffered. And yet, I’m not sure he gives us any wiggle room. We need to be on the same path so as to accompany Him.
In the book of Luke, Jesus says it this way: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
Are we getting too deep here or is this really the way to follow our Savior? Well, one thing we know is that we do have a Savior. He gave His precious blood for our sins in order that we may have life eternal in His name. And we also know that there is nothing we can ever do to merit or earn this salvation.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians chapter 2, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this, not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
OK, you say that you have accepted the blood of Jesus Christ, repented of your sins and have undergone the waters of baptism as Peter tells us to do in Acts 2:38. What is this “following Him”? What is this “denying self”? What is this “taking up our cross daily”?
Perhaps we need to go back to the metaphor we looked at in our previous article. The scripture we were looking at was, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you the truth, yes the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. … Who ever serves me must follow me.”
Do you find the gift that God offers to us, His children, is worthy of our delight? Does the thought of spending eternal life with our heavenly Father and His Son fill you with joy and gladness of heart? Remember, Jesus, by His death, was to produce a tremendous harvest that is still bearing fruit today. Remember, all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death (Romans 6:3). If you have undergone the waters of baptism, into the death of Jesus, then you have followed Him there! And so the question begs to be asked, “Are you bearing fruit?” Are you sharing this joy, this delight, with others so as to produce a harvest of righteousness for the glory of God?
Good news indeed!
It might be an odd thing to say that the death, burial and resurrection of someone is good news, but in the Gospel of John, a few days before the death of Jesus, John tells us that “there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the feast.” These were either Jews from the Grecian Isles or they were God-fearing gentiles from Greece. We learn in the story (John 12:20-36) that these Greeks wanted to meet Jesus. And true to form, when Andrew and Philip told Jesus about them, He used the opportunity to teach a lesson.
Jesus never really recognized this request but immediately replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, yes, the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” On the surface this is a very cryptic statement in reply to the request of the Greeks. But let’s take a closer look.
Jesus first words were that His hour had come. This is the fourth of nine statements in the Gospel of John concerning His hour/time. The first three tell us that His time had not come. This, the fourth, is the first to tell us that “the hour has come.” We learn from this just what was on His mind: “The Son of Man is to be glorified.”
He knows the sacrifice of His life was as hand. It is weighing heavy upon Him. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name.”
How beautiful this next statement is: “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’”
The Father, seeing the heaviness of the heart of His beloved Son, spoke through the heavenly realm such words of comfort. But what about this “kernel of wheat dying”? There are so many references in the Bible, in parables, in blessings, in prophecies etc. about food. Food for us is just something we stop at the grocery store and pick up, and yet in biblical times, there was nothing more important than food and water.
The kernel of wheat is a metaphor applied to Himself. It was He that was to die and so by His death much fruit would be produced. The kernel of wheat “dies” when it is planted in the ground. It sprouts, flowers, and produces many more kernels of wheat. Jesus, by His death, was to produce a tremendous harvest that is today still bearing fruit.
We skipped over one statement in this episode, verse 25: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” This is the concept of salvation and eternal life. Yes, this is the good news that we can rejoice in. But what about this “following Him”? He was going to His death. Must we follow Him there?
Until next time…..
The death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God! It really is quite a story. It begins, well … before time began, actually. We catch a glimpse of this in the book of 1 Peter 1:20, “He (Jesus Christ) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” The Apostle Paul says it this way in his letter to Titus 1:2, “… the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness and rests on the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the beginning of time.” This understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done is really the crux of all that may be called “good news.”
Do we really understand all of this? No, I mean really understand what this means to us?
I try never to shy away from talking to others about this very important topic, and yet when it comes right down to it, most people have no concept of the depth of love our Savior has for us! Yes, we pay some lip service to it. It is as a friend of mine once said to me, “Most people only want 10 cents of Jesus Christ – just enough to save their consciences. They don’t want to change their lives so as to live for Him.” I have thought of that statement a lot, and I have thought of my own commitment to my God and His Son.
Paul in his letter to the Romans starts off with the statement, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” James in his letter says, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Peter’s second letter, he begins the same way – he calls himself a slave. Now, we may read these statements and our translations use the word “servant,” but the Greek word is one that means “slave.” These guys were not fooling around. They understood who their Master was and they acted like it.
The Bible says that God changes not – He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is still the sovereign ruler over the entire universe. The heavenly hosts around the throne of God are found to “fall down before God and worship Him who is seated on the throne.” And it was not for angels that He gave up His life. Should we behave differently?
In last week’s article, I wrote a little bit about the 120 mile journey that Jesus and His disciples took as they wended their way to the city of Jerusalem. He was going there to give His life up in a most horrifying death and even after telling these men about it four times, they still did not fully understand. Do we understand? We sit here with almost 2000 years of hindsight – do we fully understand?
The good news began before the start of time. The good news came to Mary as she was with child. The good news came to the shepherds tending their flocks one night. The good news came to the multitude of Jews living in the land of Palestine. The good news came to 12 young men, 11 of whom were to be sent out into the world to preach and teach. The good news came to a man named Pilate and he washed his hands of it. The good news came to 4 Roman soldiers who nailed Him to a cross after beating Him almost to death. And now the good news is come to you – what shall you do with it?
Until we meet again ….
In the previous article, I mentioned that my favorite season of the year is spring. I also must not fail to mention that it can be the busiest time of the year with mowing the lawn, planting and weeding the gardens, spring cleaning and just plain getting ready for outdoor activities. But what about spiritual activities? For our Savior, the time in that spring when He was about to give His life for us sinners became extremely busy. We don’t often consider His time frame that led up to His week of passion. As I see it, His journey begins in the region of Caesarea Philippi, an area some 120 miles north of Jerusalem.
We see this in Matthew 16:13. This is where Jesus asks the disciples. “Who do people say the son of Man is?” I believe we know the story - some said John the Baptist, some say Elijah, still others said Jeremiah or perhaps one of the prophets. Once Jesus got all the rumors and common scuttlebutt out of the way, He got to the crux of the matter: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” The disciples, having now spent almost three and a half years with Him, had to answer differently. Peter bravely said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And we sit here with 20/20 hindsight and say, “No kidding, Peter.” But this was a bold statement for Peter to make and Jesus knew that he had stepped out in faith to say it. Jesus told Peter that this was revealed to him by the heavenly Father. But the line we are looking for in all of this is found in verse 21, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Again, this was spoken 120 miles north of Jerusalem.)
Long story short, they make their way south to Galilee; about a fifty mile journey. They are now 70 miles north of Jerusalem. Chapter 17:22 tells us, “When they came together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the hands of men. They will kill Him and on the third day He will be raised to life.” This is the second pronouncement of His suffering. Now they resume their journey to Jerusalem and on the way (Chapter 20:17), Jesus takes the 12 aside and says, “We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. 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.”
The fourth and final pronouncement of His sufferings comes while they are in Jerusalem. Again He takes aside His disciples and says, “As you know, the Passover is after two days and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” These four pronouncements are made over the course of a long journey, a walk of more than 120 miles. He knew His destination and He knew His Father’s will. During this journey He was mindful of you and me. We are given freedom from the bondage to sin because of His sacrifice.
But we’ll talk more on this in the future - God willing.
Do you have a favorite season of the year? There are only four to chose from so we haven’t many choices. The answer to this question depends, of course, upon who is asked, what the weather is like when the question is asked, and where the one who is asked lives. Okay, so we live in Iowa. The weather this day (that I am writing) is beautiful. And since you can’t answer, I’m going with spring!
Have you noticed the green lawns? Sally and I have a dozen beautiful yellow daffodils at our front step. Oh, the rhubarb is up and will be ready for pies in about another week! I could go on and on - I like spring. But there is a better reason to like spring. Yes, there is a more marvelous, more wonderful, and more spectacular reason. This time of year brings us a reminder of the greatest event; yes, the greatest miracle in the history of mankind: the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God!
Do you believe that? If you do, do you live your life in accordance with that belief? Let us take a look at the time frame surrounding this event that took place approximately 1,987 years ago (give or take a couple years). Let’s begin in the book of Luke, chapter 22. In verse 8 we read, “And Jesus sent Peter and John saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” The Passover was the most important time of the year for the people living in Judea. This was for them a celebration and a memorial of the time when God brought their forefathers out of bandage in Egypt. Jesus was getting ready to bring people out of the bondage of sin.
In verse 15, Jesus says to His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Did you catch that? Jesus was about to experience a most excruciating death with beatings, insults, floggings, mocking and the torture of having His hands and feet nailed to a cross and still He says He was “eagerly desiring” to eat this Passover.
He sat in that upper room with the twelve; and in the book of John 13:1 we read, “he knew the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” Picking up in chapter 14:1, Jesus says. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He was going to His own death and He was comforting His disciples; not just once but three separate times (see verse 27 and 16:7).
Jesus knew what was coming and He knew what He was doing, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘take and eat; this is my body; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” (See Luke 22:19 - 20, and 1 Corinthians 11:24 - 25.)
There is a lot more to come.
Did you read 2 Peter 1:16 - 18? You did? Well, good; then you know that Peter was talking about his experience with the two brothers, James and John when Jesus was transfigured before them. This episode, “The Mount of Transfiguration” and is found in Matthew 17: 1 - 13. To paraphrase the story, Jesus takes Peter, James and John on a mountain and in verse 12-15, he tells them he wants to “remind them” (Verse 12), “refresh their memories” (verse 13) and have them remember these things (verse 15). I would say he felt this to be important! But he also wants them to know that he is not pulling these directives from thin air. He wants to give to them his qualifications for this admonition.
There were many things Peter could have drawn from in establishing his credentials; he saw the healings, the lepers cleansing, the blind receive sight and Lazarus raised from the dead. He watched his Lord die on the cross and then saw Him resurrected. He stood with the others upon the Mount of Olives and watched Jesus rise up into the clouds to be at the right hand of the Father in heaven. But the event he used was the transfiguration. “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty,” Peter wrote. “We saw Him receive honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ ”
Peter’s template, the type he chose to use in this letter, was not one that illuminated the past, but one that clearly shows forth into the future. His experience on the Mount was for him a guarantee of the return of Jesus in all His glory. He experienced the vision of Jesus in the company of the resurrected Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets). And he heard the voice of the heavenly Father say, “This is my Son...listen to Him.” And so he gives us this “type” that perhaps changed his life, then he tells us to “Pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (verse 19). Friends and Brethren, I told you some time ago that this episode would not be just good news, but great news. I, for one, am humbled by Peter’s words.
Until next time...
Continuing from the last article, let’s begin with a few examples of figures of speech. The simile: a comparison using the words “like,” or “as.” The book of Revelations can be called “the book of similes;” there are somewhere near 60 uses of the words like or as. One example: “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing water (Rev. 1:15).
A metaphor is an implied comparison, such as “all the world’s a stage.” In scripture we read, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). An analogy is the likening of one thing to another, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
The allegory is a story where people, things, or happenings hold a hidden or symbolic meaning. The entire book of Ruth is an example of allegory; where Ruth is a type of church and Boaz is a type of Jesus Christ.
I believe we are all familiar with the use of parables in the Bible (see Matthew 13).
Then we have “types.” In the book of Genesis, chapters 37 - 50. One example is in chapter 45, where Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and he tells them not to be distressed for having sold him into slavery for God was actually sending Joseph ahead of the family in order to prepare a place for them. This is what Jesus tells the disciples in John 14: 1-2 where He tells them not to be troubled because He was “going to prepare a place for you.” The Old Testament gives us many “types” that point us to our Savior. We see in Genesis 22 where God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son. Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Isaac is a type of the Messiah who was God’s Son, His only Son whom He loved. We learn later in the Bible that this Mount Moriah is found to be at the spot where Jerusalem was to be and where Jesus was sacrificed as the “Lamb of God (see 2 Chron. 3:1).
Last of all we have what I call “a template.” The template is used for forming an accurate copy of an object that will appear in the future. In one sense this figure of speech overlaps with some of the others we have looked at, but it also stands out in regard to something Peter saw and tells us about. Sometime ago I was speaking to a group of believers and asked them what, in their opinion, was the greatest template in the Bible. We had some very good answers and after some discussion I mentioned that we have one of the disciples, Peter, tell us in his second letter, of his answer to this question. Perhaps we would do well to pay attention to it! It is found in 2 Peter 1:16 - 18. God willing we will take a closer look at this “type” in our next article. It holds for us some very good news.
Figures of speech; we use them all the time, to emphasize a statement, to help explain a difficult idea and some times we use them to introduce a mystery into our conversation. It is not always the best thing to blurt out the answer to every question; sometimes we should desire to get people to think about the conundrum we might have.
I have, in my bookcase, a 1000 page book by the 19th century Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger that deals with the use of “figures of speech” in the Bible. I have on another shelf, a translation of the Bible that is less than 1,000 pages. Wow! Someone wrote a book explaining one aspect of the Bible, and it took him more pages than the Bible itself.
The Bible is full of figures of speech. In fact, Bullinger tells us that there are 217 different types of figures of speech. I’m not sure I understand them all. But I do know a simile, metaphor, allegory or parable when I see one. And I believe we all know that our savior used many parables when He walked the face of the Earth.
I have heard people say that He used them to make plain to His listeners some difficult idea. But He was once asked why He used parables, and He gave a very curious answer. This is found in Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew. There are seven separate parables in this chapter and after He spoke the first one it says this in verse 10: “The disciples came to Him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables.’”
Well that says a lot! There are some people who were not supposed to understand what He was saying. The rabbis in Jesus day were not known for giving an answer, but rather posing a difficult question, and thereby forcing their disciples to think.
I believe we have it too easy these days when we are handed answers to our own questions and not taught to think. Perhaps that is why we sometimes think the Bible is hard to understand. We just don’t want to think too hard.
I would like to take some time in future articles to consider some metaphors, analogies and parables and so come to what I call a living parable that the apostle Peter used in his second letter. This “living parable” is not just good news, it is great news! Bear with me, as we look at some “figures of speech.”
Until next time ...
Not too long ago I was speaking to a group of believers and asked the question, “What is your ultimate goal in this life?” There was silence in the room for a couple of minutes (I am sure they were striving to come up with the best answer possible). Then a middle aged woman put her hand up. And this is what she said, “My ultimate goal in this life is to have my Savior place His hand upon my shoulder and say to me, ‘Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your Master’.” This woman, a true discipline of Jesus Christ, gave, from her heart, an answer that could not be improved upon. This must have been the opinion of all the rest of the people in the room for there were no other answers but only nodding of heads in agreement.
This powerful answer was a quote from a parable that Jesus gave in Matthew 25:14 - 30. Perhaps you are familiar with the parable. It speaks of a man going on a journey and giving his servants differing amounts of talents; one received five, another two, and one other one talent. This parable never clearly tells the servants what they should do with the wealth, but the one with five put his to work and gained five more. The second, with two, likewise put them to work and gained two more. The third took his one talent and buried it so as not to lose it. The ones that doubled it were commended with the very words, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Are you a “good and faithful servant?” If you belong to Jesus Christ, if you have been purchased with His precious blood and if you call Him “Lord and Master,” then what are you doing with the talent He has entrusted to you?
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good ... All these are the work of one and the same Spirit and he gives them to each one just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 11:4 - 11.
I quote this scripture because it lets us know that if you have the Holy Spirit, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and obey the will of our God and Father, then you have received a certain gift from Him! In this portion of scripture, Paul lists nine different gifts that are imparted to the brethren (see verse 8 - 10). This is not a complete list, for Paul mentions other gifts in other passages. But have you recognized your gift and put it to good use?
“My ultimate goal in this life is to have my Savior place His hand upon my shoulder and say to me, ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master’.”
Wow! Yes, that is good news and I’m not sure there could be any better.
Until next time ...
In our previous article we were concerning ourselves with the topic of “names.” Our God has a specific name and that name from Hebrew is “Yehovah.” We looked at what this Hebrew name might mean when translated into English. Moses asked God what His name was, and God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM. This is what you say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.” This is not an easy concept to grasp. God is who He is. He exists because He alone has life. We, His creation, exists only because it is His will. We have life, only because He has given us life.
Okay, let’s move on. Last week we mentioned that in both David’s Psalm and that of Nehemiah we are admonished to praise the name of God. Why should we praise His name? Shouldn’t we praise His person and His works, instead?
Well, actually, when we praise His name we are indeed praising who He is and what He does! In the first chapter of Luke, after Mary finds out that she is to give birth to the Son of God, we have a prayer from her recorded scripture. Verse 46, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ... for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is His name.” Mary’s statement about the holiness of His name is synonymous with the great things He has done for her. In other words, we cannot separate the name of God from His works. His name describes who He is!
It is interesting that after Moses asks God to tell him what His name is in Exodus 3, we have Moses asking to see God’s glory in chapter 33:18. At this point God tells Moses that no one can see His face (His full glory) and live. But God does tell Moses that He will cover Moses’s face with His hand that He will pass by Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness rebellion and sin ...” And so God proclaimed His name to Moses as a list of His personal attributes.
When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, they were told to worship God “in the place where I have placed my name.” In the book of Isaiah 25:1, Isaiah says, “I will exalt you (O God) and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things.”
So in conclusion, let me go back to the start of last week’s article and ask, “Do you oft praise God?” When you begin in a prayer, do you start by giving thanks and praising God? Psalm 100 verse 4 comes into play here, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Much of the time we come before our Father with our own requests; perhaps we should come before Him and offer our thanks, praise, honor and respect to the one with such an amazing name.
Until next time ...
Bill Rollins resides in Elk Horn, IA, with his wife, Sally, and has pastored the Church of God of Omaha, NE for more than 35 years.