Who Will Fall on this Stone?

We have been meditating on Jesus’ teaching of the Parable of the Vine-growers in Luke 20:1-19. The Lord taught that judgment would fall on the nation of Israel because of their rejection of the Messiah, the Son of God (Scroll down for previous meditations). The crowd’s shocked response to Jesus’ parable had Jesus explaining to them that He Himself was the One to whom the Psalmist referred to in Psalm 118:22, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’ (Luke 20:17). Peter the Apostle says a similar thing:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (1 Peter 2:7).

Jesus then went on to give just two options, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (v. 18). We are to be broken or to be crushed by the stone. What could He be meaning? Why would God want us to have a broken spirit? In what ways can a broken spirit be a blessing? Can you think of a time that God visited you in your brokenness? Did the experience make you more open to spiritual things?

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Only in our brokenness will we begin to rely and lean on Christ. Like the chief priests and elders of Israel, our pride and self-confidence keep Messiah at arm’s length. He will not force His way into our lives. His desire is that we come to Him broken of our selfish will. C.H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said: “When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and breaks him. We are but men, frail, feeble, and apt to faint.” Charles Swindoll comments on Spurgeon’s thought in this way:

I am intrigued by the word ‘broken.’ ‘It means, literally, ‘shattered.’ My sacrifice to God, according to Psalm 51:17, is a shattered spirit and a bruised heart. It is not until the pride of our heart is shattered that we will begin to understand the deep things of God.”[1]

We need to admit our weakness in order to be healed. It is better to let yourself be broken and humble yourself before God rather than letting life break us down because of painful choices. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9). We can fall on the stone in repentance, brokenness, and adoration, or the stone will fall on us, crushing us in judgment. That was the choice before the leaders of Israel who were listening. Peter the Apostle wrote:

4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:4-6).

When you are presented with the truth of Jesus’ words, you, too, must decide. Will you give His words room and let them enter your heart? Will you open the gate of your soul? We will all respond one way or another to the claims of Christ’s authority. In chapters 19 and 20 of Luke, we have glimpsed a different Jesus than the one, perhaps, that you have envisioned. We see His passion as He weeps in unrestrained, heaving sobs over Israel. We see His anger and courage as He cleanses the Temple and challenges the unjust authority there. We see His tenderness alongside remarkable bravery. What a wonderful Savior we have in our Lord Jesus!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I recognize Your authority as the Great I Am. Open my eyes to know You more. I want Your truth to flood my soul. I know that You have my best interests at heart and that there is nothing that I can hide from You. Give me fresh understanding of your Word and Your ways. Transform me through Your words of life. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

[1] Chuck Swindoll, Men of Action, What it Means to Be Broken, Spring 1996.

The Plan to Kill the Heir

We are continuing from yesterday (Scroll down for yesterday’s devotion) on the topic of the Parable of the Vine Growers. After talking about those that refused to give the owner His due of the fruit of the Vineyard, in the middle of the parable, Jesus said to them: 13“The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? After allowing the question to settle a few seconds, Jesus said, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (v. 13). When the Lord instead spoke of the Owner’s sending His son, perhaps many in the crowd suspected that was not a good thing to do. But Jesus carried on with a shocking statement: 14“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” All the people listening were bought into the story. Perhaps, the tenant farmers thought that, maybe, the owner of the vineyard was now dead and this was the heir coming toward them. This was their opportunity to gain complete control of the vineyard. Those that were listening to the story were not thinking or cogitating on the ramifications of what He was saying. They were emotionally involved in the story until, suddenly, He posed another question: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (v. 15). There were gasps in the crowd, “What should he do?” It was obvious to all of them. The logic was so sound—He should destroy them! I believe at that point Jesus stopped again and let the response come from the people before finally He said, 16“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” (v. 16).

In verse 16, the Greek word that is translated as heard means to see with all the implications what Christ was saying. They understood. It clicked. The full consequences of what the parable was about was brought home. That is why they responded with, “May it never be!” The Jewish leaders and nation would lose the authority they had abused. Jesus could foresee the judgement that was to come in 70 A.D., and He had a glimpse into the suffering that would come upon the nation, but this would not stop the forward movement of the Kingdom as Jesus said; “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The Kingdom ministry was about to be released to all nations through the body of Christ, the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile.

Jesus carried on by saying, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’?” Their horror at Jesus’ words of judgment brought Christ to respond by reminding them of the prophetic word in Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” Many translations of the English Old Testament translate the Hebrew word Rosh Pinna into the word Cornerstone. According to my Logos software, the Hebrew word means: “head; hair; a person, individual; height, peak, upper end; beginning; topmost, outermost, best; leader, chief; value, total amount, sum.” When He came the first time, He didn’t fit the blueprint the builders thought they needed, so they tossed Him aside as wrong and rejected Him. They didn’t recognize Him. Later, much later, they will recognize Him for who He is, and give Him his rightful place as the capstone.

The capstone was what completed the building at the apex and brought the walls all together. In an arch or a temple, the capstone carries the weight of the two sides completing the arch. It is a logical thought that, just as the sides of an arch lean over onto the capstone, so the spiritual building that God is constructing leans all its weight on the capstone, Christ Himself. Does the building of your life lean on Christ? Have you constructed this spiritual building that we call life on the Rock of Christ or on the sand of your own opinions? (Matthew 7:24). The leaders may have rejected the Stone, but to us who believe, He is precious! Not only is He the Cornerstone of the spiritual building being built, but He is also the One holding the building together. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 22:13). Jesus is the beginning and the end! He is both the Cornerstone and the Capstone!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

 

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

Does the Bible Teach Soul Sleep? (Continued from Part 1 below)

In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 17:17, we find a story about a little boy who was raised from the dead. He was the son of a woman who had helped the prophet Elijah. She was a widow, and this was her only son. The boy was ill and getting worse, until he finally stopped breathing (NIV translation). In the Hebrew, it literally says that his soul (Heb. “nephesh”) had left. In verse 22 of the same passage we are told that the boy’s life returned to him after Elijah prayed for the boy. The Hebrew word again used is “nephesh,” which literally means that the boy’s soul returned! Like Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, we again see the invisible part of a person’s being, his soul, returning to his body.

We are told that at this moment, in heaven, are the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), and in another place, that when Christ returns for His church: “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Their bodies were in the grave but they themselves, the unseen part of their nature, their spirit and soul, are with the Lord. They are very much alive, but in a different realm, a different life. Paul the apostle wrote: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also writes to the church at Philippi about his desire to die and be with Christ:

22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:22-24).

Note that Paul is not expecting to be unconscious in sleep when he dies; he fully expects to be very much alive. He calls it better by far! The word “depart” in verse 23 above, is translated from the Greek word that was used for the loosing of an anchor. A.T. Robertson translates it, “To weigh anchor and put out to sea.” What a beautiful picture! It reminds us of the scene in the movie “Lord of The Rings,” when Bilbo Baggins departs the Grey Havens and puts out to sea to start a new adventure! It is a wonderful analogy of what some perceive as an end, but instead it really is a new beginning. If Paul was readying himself to go to sleep for two thousand years, I don’t see how that could be called “better by far.” No, Paul was getting ready to go to another place, a place that was “better by far!” A place where; “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

Just imagine if a butterfly were to try to explain to a caterpillar what his new life would become. The caterpillar would have no frame of reference to comprehend what it would be like to fly, in a glorious new body, not bound to the earth. If the caterpillar were able to comprehend this, would it choose not to go into its pupa state and be transformed? During our time out of our body, we will have fellowship with the Lord in a spiritual place. The only reason that spiritual things are not as real to us now, is that we are bound to this earth, and only able to function on one level, one realm. But a day is coming when we will experience all that God has prepared for us. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2-3). Our purpose in this life, is to be prepared for this most excellent adventure into a realm which is described as: BETTER BY FAR! Keith Thomas

Come; for Everything is Now Ready

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’…(Luke 14:16-18)

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work as one of the pastors in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for their coming and our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 37 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how He longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return. These are days of preparation. Before Passover and deliverance from Egypt the Jewish people went through days of preparation (they still do) as the Passover lamb was brought into the house for four days before it was slaughtered (Exodus 12:3-6). The houses of the Israelites were swept completely clean before Passover because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and every crumb of yeast or leaven was swept up and gotten rid of. Yeast or leaven speaks of sin. In the preparation time before our deliverance we are to get ourselves ready to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We are to be ready and watching for His return. This is no time for sleeping spiritually. Turn off the TV! Forget the sports! People are dying without knowing the Savior! We must do what we can to reach them with the truth! Prepare yourself for eternity!

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day. Amen!

Keith Thomas