Such Great Faith

Guest Post by Doug Hoffman


The Phone CallI was impressed last night, again, by the great faith of the Centurion in Luke 7 who clearly saw himself as unworthy in the light of the great authority of Jesus.  It’s interesting to me that the word for “authority” in Luke 7.8 (exousia) is exactly the same word most often translated “power” (ex., Lk. 4.6), identifying Jesus’ ability to accomplish whatever He desires.

I tried to think about what that would look like today. If I had access to our President, a man of great authority/power, and could say, through a couple of advocates close to him, “Mr. President, I know you have the power to erase this parking ticket, would you please do so?” what an incredible power I would have at my fingertips. Imagine I was on death row and made the same appeal knowing he had the power to give me life by pardoning me; what an incredible gratefulness and, maybe even, allegiance I would feel if I could acquire such mercy and grace. And what if I had access, not through some advocate, but by simply picking up the prison telephone?

Then it struck me: I have direct access to an even greater power in Jesus Christ.  He provides the power for me to live FREE, unchained from the grips of sin, addiction, sorrow, and the like.  Why don’t I access that power when it is as easy as simply asking, without the intermediary?  What would I be willing to ask Him to do?  So it isn’t really surprising to read that Jesus was able to say about the Centurion, “I have not found such great faith in Israel.”  Can he find that kind of great faith in me?  I’m working toward that goal.

Why Did Jesus Feed the 5000?

Jesus Teaching
by www.LumoProject.com

Herod, the Bible says, “sought to see” Jesus (Luke 9.9), but it seems he didn’t seek very hard, for in the immediately-following verses a huge crowd went out into a desolate place outside Bethsaida to find Jesus. Surely Herod could have gone out, too, had he really wanted.

But the 5000 enjoyed the words and the powerful healing Jesus brought; all day they listened until the day began to wane. The disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowd into the surrounding villages so they could get something to eat, but Jesus surprised them with a challenge: “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9.14)!

“We have no more than five loaves and two fish,” they answered, not for a moment considering a boy’s lunch (John 6.9) ample provision for such a great multitude. I would have been right with those disciples, I’m afraid. (I sometimes stare into my fridge thinking, “There’s nothing to eat,” when really there is plenty…)

Listen, Jesus was not obligated to feed this multitude. It wasn’t His job, and no one expected Him to provide a meal. He must have had a purpose to this miracle, don’t you think?

So why did He do it? Let me suggest two reasons.

1. To increase the faith of the disciples.

11_Jesus_5000_1024After His disciples basically said they couldn’t feed the multitude, Jesus didn’t just say, “Okay, fine, if you won’t do it I’ll do it Myself.” No, He performed the miracle of multiplying the bread and fish, and He “gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd” (Luke 9.16). In other words, the disciples ended up giving the crowd something to eat, just as Jesus had instructed! Jesus does not command anything for which He doesn’t also equip. Remember that.

Jesus had told these disciples He would make them fishers of men (Luke 5.9-10). These twelve (Luke 6.13) would be the seeds which started a world-wide planting operation. How in the world would they accomplish such a monumental–dare we say, impossible–task? By faith these men would come to understand all they had to do was obey–God handles the multiplication!

God can take an oil jug with just a bit of left-over oil in the bottom and make it outlast a famine (1 Kings 17.8-16). God can feed and water a couple million people in the desert for forty years. Man’s road blocks and impossibilities are nothing to God.

2. To identify Himself.

15_Jesus_5000_1024Continuing the previous thought, Jesus identified Himself with Moses in the wilderness. John accounts the feeding of the 5000 in John 6, and do you remember what conversation the event precipitated? The next day, the Jews tried to provoke Jesus into feeding them again: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6.31). They did well to connect Jesus’ power with the feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness, and Jesus continued the thought, identifying Himself as the true bread from heaven.

Not only did He identify Himself as the bread of life, but this even also identified Him strongly with Moses–Moses being a type of Christ. How could Jesus do such awesome things unless He was truly sent by God? And if He was truly sent by God, His words rang with prophetic power. Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18.15, “YAHWEH your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…”

The feeding of the 5000 proved that God had raised up The Prophet, and He was standing before His brethren!

Are You Confident in Your Salvation? Why?

Trust ExpertsWhat thing or person completes the following for you: “In ______________ do I trust for my salvation”?

Careful, now. Answer honestly.

“Why are you confident in your salvation?”

If you answer, “I am not confident in my salvation,” please shoot me a response e-mail, because that needs to be remedied! God wants you to be confident. Read 1 John 1.1-4, and see that God wants your joy to be full. You should “know that [you] know Him” (2.3), and you should “know that [you] are in Him” (2.5).

But allow me to address the rest of you who are confident in you salvation. Why are you confident?

Are you confident because of your church or your minister?

“I am sure of my salvation because I’m a member of the right church and my preacher preaches the right doctrine.”

Let us immediately dismiss this, for no person or body of men can ever save a soul.

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:

“As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom. 14.10-12)

Trust DadAre you confident because you follow God’s laws?

Does your assurance come from having been baptized (in the correct way and for the right reasons)? Does your confidence swell each first day of the week as you assemble with the saints and correctly partake of the Supper of the Lord? “I do lots of good works. I’m obedient.”

The recurring sermon of every Bible preacher under both Old and New Covenants has been and continues to be, “Repent, and bear fruits worthy of repentance.” So the fruit of a changed heart surely should be seen in us, giving us a level of confidence as to our position with the Lord. However, the fruit is merely a sign of the salvation and not the very thing itself. The good works we do may reveal that we have been saved, but the works themselves don’t save!

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy…” (Titus 3.5)

Are you confident because of your inward repentance and faith?

“I know my heart is right.”

Please don’t depend upon some attitude of your heart, some inherent internal goodness. Can you be saved without faith and repentance? Not hardly! But these, again, simply expose the fact that you are saved!

If we are completely honest with ourselves, each of us knows he is not worthy because the intents of his heart continue to hold traces of evil motives and weaknesses to temptation. When is faith ever good enough? When is repentance ever absolute? We might believe our latest repentance came from a complete and utter brokenness, but then in a few more days our weaknesses resurface again! O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Reaching UpSo From Where Does True Confidence Come?

Our confidence, ultimately, comes from Jesus Christ, the One whose word never falls to the ground, whose promises are never broken. He exists, He lives, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Our confidence should never be in our seeking but in the One Whom we seek! Christ is our Yes and our Amen.

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 1.20-22)

Brother and Sister, rest confidently in this, that God saves in Christ, not because of any works we accomplish but because of THE WORK Christ has done and the work the Holy Spirit continues to do in us.

In Christ do I trust. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2.20).

Who Is Jesus?

Jesus intentionally and consistently challenged His audience with the question: “Who am I?” Was He only a righteous man, a good teacher, a charismatic leader? Did He die a martyr to His cause? Was He more than a good teacher? Perhaps He was the Prophet or the Messiah of prophecy but Israel murdered their hope?

Or was He actually the Son of God?

Jesus TeachingWho is Jesus?

In Matthew 16.13-20 Jesus interrogated His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” A variety of responses were then listed: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. In other words, there were many ideas floating around as to who this mighty miracle worker could have been. Only one truth existed as to His identity, but what was it?

Jesus then asked, “Who do  you say that I am?” Peter stepped up with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus blessed Peter for that statement, insisting, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Peter’s confession was revelation from the Father! According to Christ, Peter’s statement rang completely true.

If Jesus was the Christ, He was the Messiah of prophecy (“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew “Messiah”)–the anointed one–identifying Him as a leader and king. Rather, THE leader and king. But the “Son of the living God” goes much farther than what “Messiah” implies! Peter showed great insight and faith in his confession, and Jesus completely agreed with his statement that He Himself was the Son of the living God.

Son of GodThe Transfiguration

After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain where He was transfigured before their eyes, and they beheld Moses and Elijah sitting and talking with Jesus. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle for each of them, but suddenly they were struck to the ground by a voice from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17.5). Looking up, the three apostles saw no one but Jesus. Now they had received verification from heaven as to His identity! Moses and Elijah were, perhaps, the two most revered prophets of Israelite history, but they were not the Son of God.

Paying the Temple Tax

Later in Capernaum (Matt. 17.24-27), someone inquired of Peter as to why his Teacher did not pay the temple tax. Peter defended Jesus, but, when he went into the house, Jesus brought up the subject:

JESUS: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

PETER: “From strangers.”

JESUS: “Then the sons are free.”

Bible ReadingWhat does that mean? Jesus was explaining to Peter that, as the Son of God, He really should have been considered exempt from paying taxes to Himself! The temple was His Father’s house…literally. Why should He pay taxes to it, since He owned the house?

So…Who is Jesus?

Clearly Jesus considered Himself to be the Son of God. It’s important you answer the question for yourself–but realize only one right answer exists; either He is the Son or He isn’t. You may choose to believe He’s not the Son of God, but reality doesn’t shift based on your belief, does it? What will you believe?

I agree with Jesus: the knowledge (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God) comes from heaven! My prayer is that you will believe Him and accept Him for who He actually is.

Rahab and Jesus

Scarlet CordA prominent figure during the Conquest of Canaan was Rahab the harlot. Even though the Holy Spirit recorded this unsavory fact about her for all time, everything else recorded about her points to a rare faith.

Before Israel stormed into the land, Joshua sent two spies to secretly test the people to check out the lay of the land. The spies went into Jericho but ended up running from the authorities, eventually hiding out in Rahab’s house. She hid them on her rooftop under some flax she was drying, and she sent the Jericho police on a wild-goose chase outside the city.

Rahab’s expression of faith impresses and resonates with us today:

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (2.9-13)

Flowers at JerichoRahab stands as a monument of active faith, and the New Testament writer, James, characterizes her in James 2.25 as having been “justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way.” He continues in 2.26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Not only did she believe; her faith motivated her to movement. God does not seek people who merely mentally assent to Him as God. On the contrary, “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11.6). The Hebrew writer also mentions Rahab in this way: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (11.31). What was the difference between Rahab and all the others of Jericho? Rahab believed in the one true and living God.

But Rahab is also connected with Jesus! How so? If you check out Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1, you will find in verse 5, “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab.” Oh yes, this is the very same Rahab from Joshua 2. Among the firstfruits of the Promised Land, it seems God gathered this woman to Himself and placed her in an auspicious position as one of the mothers of Jesus! What grace God demonstrates in this, that He can take a heathen harlot and bless her on such a grand scale!

What might God do with you?

The Transfiguration (Craig Roberts)

Craig Roberts taught a morning class on January 10 concerning the Transfiguration (Matthew 17). It’s insightful and helpful.

In the evening of the same day, our church had a discussion extending the thoughts from the morning:

Jesus Is the Reason…

Frozen CherriesSo I keep hearing songs and statements around town and on the radio insisting “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Yeppers.

Sometimes it seems to me it’s almost insulting to the Lord to even make such a statement. Jesus is the reason for spring, summer, fall, and winter. Undeniably, without Jesus this world would have never begun to exist and without His continued grace it would disintegrate. How do I know this?

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1.16-18)

Christmas CoffeeIf we must remind someone to “keep Christ in Christmas,” the battle was lost long ago. I’m not saying all Christians must celebrate the birth of Christ during this season, for there are many who know the Scripture never commands such a celebration, and neither do we actually know on what day Jesus was born. Nevertheless, I worry about Christians who celebrate the holiday in such a way as to keep thoughts of the Lord at arm’s distance–as if being spiritually-minded or devotional on Christmas is wrong!

Whatever your stand on Christmas, whether you celebrate it as Christ’s birth or simply as a national holiday or whether you avoid any special celebration at all, I hope you still continue to celebrate Jesus Christ as you have all year in 2015 and will in 2016. Jesus is the reason for life!

May God’s richest blessings be with you who trust in Him. Peace be with you.

Jesus Is Exclusive!

InterFaith-256pxI shared with our church gathering last night an NPR story from December 13, 2015 which covered a “Tri-Faith Initiative” in Omaha, NE. Gathered in the room were a professing Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Rabbi. Among the inane statements I heard, one in particular from the “Christian,” a minister for a United Church of Christ, caught my ear:

Well, you’d think in light of today’s climate that the range of opinion – the opposition came from people who were afraid to associate with Muslims. But actually, most of the people who were opposed were simply opposed because we have a beautiful building, been there for 65 years, and people didn’t want to pick up stakes and moves. There’s really no good reason at all for Countryside to do this other than the beauty of the vision of the Tri-Faith Initiative, which really matched our values and our ethos as a church – that Christian love of Jesus – or of God rather – includes walking fully in the path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may create for humanity.

Um…what?

This man leads a large congregation of profession Christians, and he’s not even a Christian himself! He does not even minutely know Christ or His teachings. I’m sure he holds a caricature of the Lord in his mind, but whatever or whoever he worships does not resemble the crucified Son of God of the Bible.

As anti-PC as this world may deem Him, Jesus gave no wiggle room to come to God apart from Him. Jesus said to Thomas on one occasion, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14.6). The apostles responded to their persecutors in Acts 4.12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

exclusive_640Can a Muslim really know the Father, God? A Muslim claims Allah to be the One True God, and Jesus Christ, at best, to be a great prophet–certainly not the Son of God. They claim you must find God by following the teachings of the True Prophet Muhammad. Can a follower of the Hebrew religion know the Father, God? A follower of the Law of Moses rejects Christ as the Messiah and Savior of the world. Yet Jesus stated in Matt. 11.27, “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Who shall we believe? “Whoever is not with me is against me,” said Jesus in Matt. 12.30.

Those who profess to know and follow Christ and yet attempt to welcome the Muslim faith and Hebrew faith as “legitimate paths” God created for humanity throw out most of the Bible. They create their own religion and rewrite Scripture to suit themselves! They are idolaters bowing at the feet of some fabricated fiction of their own minds. May God judge those who corrupt scripture and spread such nonsense.

They believe their agenda is admirable because they are bringing everyone together, but true unity cannot be found on human terms. We will only find peace, harmony, and unity when we all bow before Jesus Christ, Lord of all. That’s not PC. But that’s Bible truth.

With love for our enemies, we simply preach the truth and let the word of God have its way among men. Hold fast to Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters!