He is Able to Help…

We are finishing off our meditation on Judas—why did he betray Christ? (Scroll down for earlier meditations). Some suggest that Judas was seeking to force Jesus’ hand to revolt against the Romans so that a confrontation would take place and Jesus would use His power to overcome Roman rule. Who knows what was in his mind as he walked to visit with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard? (Luke 22:4). What we do know is that Judas was watching for an opportune time and place to betray his master with a kiss on the cheek (verse 6) and that he had already received the thirty silver coins in payment for betraying Christ before the Last Supper:

14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:14-16).

Thirty silver coins was the cost of a common slave in the time of Jesus (Exodus 21:32). The supreme Servant of all was valued and sold for the price of a common slave. Clearly this was not a rash decision made by Judas. In the verse from Matthew’s Gospel above, verse 16, Judas took time to think through how he was going to call the temple guards and betray Jesus. He waited for an hour of darkness, not knowing that it was also God’s hour for His Son to be glorified as the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Many of us go through this test of being betrayed by a friend, business partner, or relative. Has someone very close to you ever hurt you with their words and actions? No one can ever say to God, “You don’t know what it’s like.” Jesus took the worst that this world could throw at Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas walked up to Christ, greeting Him and kissing Him on the cheek, Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, do what you came for” (Matthew 26:50). There was no anger, hatred or bitterness in Jesus’ heart toward Judas. It must be so with us too.

Whatever you and I go through in life, Jesus has been there and can be sought for help. As our leader, He has endured every fiery trial that can be thrown at us by our enemy and, yet, harbor no bitterness and resentment. His trust was in His Father every step of the way through the pain of being rejected and betrayed. Whatever you are experiencing in life, He has been there before you and is able to come alongside you in every trial and help you to go through it.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Doctor Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of a certain man who had a beautiful estate upon which were some magnificent trees in which this man took great pride. It was his custom to walk among the trees and gaze upon their beauty. This man had an enemy who hated him sorely; this enemy was always seeking ways of annoying the master of the estate. At last, the enemy conceived a plan, which he thought would greatly wound the heart of the estate owner.

He decided to go to the estate in the dark of night and cut down one of the most beautiful of the trees. He laid his plans well. He took with him a saw and an axe and worked energetically. All night, he toiled until his muscles were sore and his hands were blistered. As morning dawned, he saw the estate owner riding with a companion toward the trees where he had been toiling. He redoubled his efforts and finally the great tree began to creak and to totter. As the tree started to fall, the enemy began to shout in triumph. However, one of the branches fell on him and mortally pinned him to the ground in agony.

His hatred, however, was strong, and in his death throes he jeered at the estate owner approaching him. The owner called his companion to him and said to the enemy, “You thought to do me a great harm, but I want to show you what you have done. This man with me is the architect of a beautiful home that I intend to build here in the midst of these trees. In order to make room for the house, it was necessary to cut down one of these trees. Look at this plan. The tree upon which you have toiled all night and which is now the cause of your death is the tree, which must be cut down to make room for my house. You have worked for me without knowing it, and your toil is for nothing, and bitterness is your food in death.”

In his opposition to God’s kingdom, Satan may be thinking that he is clever, but there will come a time when he will see that he has just been totally out-smartened by God. We know because we have read the end of the book!

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas

Whose Son Is the Christ?

We have been meditating on the week before the crucifixion of Christ. After Jesus had confronted the selling of animals in the temple courts, a place dedicated to prayer for all nations, the leaders of the Jewish nation argued with Jesus, trying to undermine the spiritual authority that Christ had with the people. The Lord won each and every argument, before turning to give them a question to answer:

41Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? 42David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 44David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” 45While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46″Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (Luke 20:41-47).

The Lord finishes the whole debate session with a warning to His followers and a reminder of Who He really is. He reminded the leaders that David called the promised Son of David to be “Lord.” In ancient times, great respect was paid to the eldest head of the family. God told King David that one of his offspring would be established on the throne of David forever (2 Samuel 7:8-16). This Son of David would be the Messiah or Christ, which literally means “the Anointed One.” David speaking prophetically called this descendant of his “Lord” (Psalm 110:1). As to His physical nature, Christ was this Son of David, but He was (is) also the Lord of heaven. Jesus was going back to the very statement that incited the anger of the religious leaders. He wants them and us to understand Who He really is and from where His authority comes.

The warning about the religious elite is very pointed and serious. He is calling out the hypocrisy and the corrupt lifestyle of these leaders, saying that they will receive severe punishment. He was concerned about protecting His followers from false teaching and from those who would try to lead them astray. Soon, He will be taken from them, and at that time, it will be important for them to look beyond the present evil physical world and to see Who He really is, viz. the Son of God, the Christ. The whole concept of the Resurrection is about to take on new meaning for His disciples when Christ Himself will be raised from the dead. This will cause them to replay in their minds all the things He had taught them.

Prayer: Open our eyes to see Who You really are. Grant us grace when we experience opposition to our faith in You. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

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 place with the sign Too Late over the door

We are continuing to meditate on the topic of eternity, and for the next few days specifically thinking about what the Holy Scriptures say about that awful place called Hell. Some would say that there is no place called Hell and we are not brought to account before the Judge of the living and the dead. Let me ask you a question: If you were standing in line to board an aircraft, and coming off the plane you see an old friend who was the pilot. What if he were to tell you that there was only a one in six chance that the plane would get you to your destination, would you take the chance? Do you believe that there is a one in six chance that God is telling you the truth of a place called hell? Will you take the chance or respond today to the gospel? To believe in heaven but not in hell is to declare that there were times when Jesus was telling the truth and times when He was lying. Thomas Brooks wrote, “God has but one hell, and that is for those to whom sin has been commonly a heaven in this world.” Although it is hard for me to write about such things as hell, the love of Christ compels me to reach you before you are called to eternity at the end of your life. I do not want you, dear reader, to ever see that place where some say written over the gate are the words, TOO LATE.

While we wait for the return of Christ, our mission as Christians is to rescue people from Satan’s control in order that they should not be separated from God for eternity and sent to a place called Hell. Every man, woman and child are deeply loved by God who does not want any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But what if they don’t? What if they die without coming to know Christ? What if they are unresponsive to God’s message of love and good news? At the Second Coming of Christ, He will separate the sheep (believers) from the goats (non-believers), and Jesus said twice that the punishment will be for eternity:

 41Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life  (Matthew 25:41-46. Emphasis mine).

The Lord talked often about Hell, and He devoted several of His parables to the subject of heaven, hell, eternal judgment, and eternal rewards. If it were important for Him to tell His disciples about such things, then we need to give serious attention to the subject of eternity and what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell. We must also remember that Satan is a deceiver, the father of lies, and is called an angel of light. Some of the near-death stories we shared yesterday may glorify God, and they could be true. However, our faith rests in God and in His Word. Satan seeks to counterfeit true accounts that give glory to God in order to dupe some into believing that all roads lead to God. We can only trust the Scriptures.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

Hell: A Subject not to be Avoided

We come today to study the subject that is most avoided by pastors and teachers, and one that we would all rather avoid if possible, that is the topic of Hell. The story has been told of C. S. Lewis’ listening to a young preacher’s sermon on the subject of God’s judgment on sin. At the end of his message, the young man said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” After the service, Lewis asked him the question, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to Hell?” “Precisely,” was his response. “Then say so,” Lewis replied.”[1] Even though we may be uncomfortable in studying it, the topic is important for all of us.

Some would say, “Can’t we just bypass the topic of Hell?” Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, “Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who delivers you from them.” It is possible that some people avoid the issue of Hell because they want to view death as the end, when it is just the beginning. When we truly understand what is at stake, i.e. what was our destiny without Christ, we will much more appreciate what Christ has done for us at the cross.

There is a great deal of interest today in the topic of life after death and near-death experiences. It is not hard to find a book on the subject. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, in his book, To Hell and Back, researching near-death experiences, reports that some people experienced Hell, but had the memory of it repressed in a few days’ time. He said that, as a general rule, people remember that which is good and forget that which is bad, and so, if the interview is delayed just a little bit, days, weeks or months later, only the positive experiences will be found.

Dr. Rawlings tells the story of a young man who recounted his experience to him after an operation to insert a pacemaker into his heart. He told Dr. Rawlings what he saw and experienced, which he considered to be hell. He states that he saw a tunnel which led to light, then the tunnel caught fire. He had the sensation of moving fast toward a lake of fire, which looked to him like an oil spill on fire. He saw elongated shadows of people that were moving back and forth, like animals do that are caged in a zoo. The man called out “Jesus is Lord” and then suddenly, he was aware that he was back in his body.

Dr. Rawlings also gives an account of giving CPR to a patient who had also had a pacemaker installed, and who was in the throes of death. The patient kept coming back, slipping in and out of consciousness, and pleaded with Dr. Rawlings to pray for him, as he cried out that he was in hell. Dr. Rawlings did not want to pray for the man because he was not yet a believer himself, but finally because of the man’s distress, he did give the man a prayer to pray. He asked Jesus Christ to keep him out of hell. The man immediately calmed. He was no longer a screaming lunatic. Dr. Rawlings states that this incident impacted him so much that he gave his life to Christ. Dr. Rawlings is not a theologian or a minister; rather, he is an unbiased doctor who has written the findings of the patients he has resuscitated.

There are many people who claim to have had near-death experiences, but there is no way that we can really know for sure which ones are valid. It is reasonable to assume that, if God allowed Paul to be caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), and if Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father before he died (Acts 7:55), then there may be those today who have been permitted to have a glimpse of what lies beyond this life.

Our faith, however, must rest on God’s Word and not an experience. After all, there are those who would have us believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs or regardless of the life they lived, will be welcomed by brilliant light and ushered into a peaceful eternity. However, this does not agree with what we are told in Scripture. Jesus personified both love and truth. He did not hold anything back from His disciples, and we should not avoid this topic, for none of us wants to go there. Over the next few days we will talk about what the Holy Scriptures say about this topic.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Taken from: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/Hell.html