More than a Pithy Saying

More than a Pithy Saying

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
Proverbs 1:1

Today, we look at the word proverb to discover what it means and why Solomon used this form of teaching to communicate God’s wisdom to us.

As we learned yesterday, Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs during his lifetime but the Holy Spirit decided to only use the ones found in this book to reveal His unchanging truth to us.  It doesn’t mean the other sayings of Solomon aren’t important.  It just means they aren’t inspired.  They’re not “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16).  They’re simply the sayings of a wise man and not the infallible, inerrant words of our sovereign God.¹

And the wise sayings of Solomon aren’t the only ones the Lord considered inspired.  In the Proverbs we find sayings from “Agur the son of Jakeh” and someone known as “King Lemuel” (Prov. 30:1; 31:1), although many feel King Lemuel was another name for King Solomon.  That may, or may not be the case, but we’ll look into that matter in more detail at another time.

Suffice it to say, the Book of Proverbs is a collection of… well, proverbs.  God-inspired proverbs.  And since most of them are from the lips and pen of Solomon, the book is rightly known as the Proverbs of Solomon.  But for me, a better title would be:  The Proverbs of God Given to Solomon to Give to Us.  But that’s just my opinion.


What’s a Proverb?

Which begs the question, “What’s a proverb?”  A proverb is defined as a “short, pithy saying in general use stating a truth or piece of advice.”²   Biblically speaking, a proverb can be defined as “a short saying that expresses a general truth about God for practical, Godly living.”  For us, the Proverbs of Solomon contain the wisdom of God that shows how to live above the sin and degradation of our society and how to understand and fully embrace the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  The Proverbs give clear, practical examples on how to “walk in the Spirit” and not “fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  They teach us how to live everyday as an “overcomer” (1 John 5:5) and reveal to us that the “abundant life” Jesus promised is truly obtainable and not just beyond our grasp (John 10:10).  And they present us with a vivid, in-your-face contrast between the painful consequences of choosing the path of the foolish or the wondrous blessings that come with walking in the way of the wise.

But there’s so much more.

Not all the God-inspired proverbs are found in the Book of Proverbs.  Other proverbs can be found spread throughout the Old Testament and many are quoted in the New Testament.³

Plus, proverbs or proverbial sayings are not exclusive to the Scriptures.  Every culture has their own set of proverbs, their own collection of “homespun wisdom” or “short statements of truth.”  See if you recognize any of these sayings from American folklore:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Better safe than sorry.

Great minds think alike.

And in our culture, a common-sense saying like these, often repeated, is considered true.

But this is where the two part company.  The difference between a man-made proverb, which may be true, and a God-inspired proverb, which is always true, is that often the man-made proverb contradicts itself.  But that’s never the case with the Proverbs of Solomon.

Let me give you a couple of examples of this type of inherent contradiction:

“Opposites attract” and “Birds of a feather flock together.”  How can they both be true?

“The early bird gets the worm” and “Haste makes waste.”  Again, seems like a contradiction to me.

“Clothes make the man” and “You cannot judge a book by its cover.”  If both are true as individual statements, they should also be true when combined.  But they’re not.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind.”  Ouch.

Do you get the point?  Human proverbs or common, cultural truisms cannot be trusted to be true in all situations.  They really can’t be trusted at all.  But the proverbs from God, the proverbs found in the Book of Proverbs are, like all Scripture “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  They are God’s Word and absolutely true regardless of man’s evolving mindset or changing moral compass.


But Why Short, Pithy Statements?

And that’s a great question.  The simple answer is because each proverb summarized the core nugget of a much larger truth and it does it in a way that’s easy to memorize and later remember.  For example, John MacArthur can preach an hour long, 10,000 plus word sermon on pride and we would be hard pressed to remember much of what he said Monday morning.  But Solomon can summarize God’s teachings and warnings about pride in just a few, short, easy to remember statements like these:

The promise and warning:  “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18.

The warning and the contrast:  “When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom” – Proverbs 11:2.

Another warning and contrast:  “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom” – Proverbs 13:10.

And finally, the promise and contrast:  “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” – Proverbs 29:23.

See the difference?

This is why God so effectively employed, through His servant Solomon, the art of speaking proverbs so He could implant in our heart His power-packed, short statements of truth in such a way we could easily remember them and “not sin against Him” (Ps. 119:11).  Ask yourself, which is easier to understand and remember?  The 10,000 word sermon with all its examples and rabbit trails, or a concise, eleven word lesson on the consequences of pride?

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18.

Yeah, I’m with you.  Give me the eleven words, the catchy song lyric, the “short, pithy statement” anytime.


Nothing Left Unturned

So as we go through the Proverbs of Solomon, remember each of these proverbs contain a condensed summary, or a bullet-point type collection of God’s truth found elsewhere in the Scripture.  They’re compact by design.  But don’t be misled by their size.  They’re incredibly powerful, like the power that comes from the splitting of a single atom.

God has chosen, for our benefit, to pack as much of Himself as possible into the few words that make up each proverb.  And if He took the time to specifically choose each and every word, then we will need to spend some time unpacking those words to help us understand the meaning and implication of everything He said.

Why?  Because God never wastes a word in the Book of Proverbs.  He never wastes anything.  After all, He chose the design of the book and the very words He would use, each consonant, vowel, and syllable to communicate His wisdom to us.

So don’t take this study lethargically.  Don’t sleepwalk through the next 39 days?  Why?  Because God is about to rock our world by revealing to us His wisdom from the Proverbs of Solomon.

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Getting Serious

  1. Have you ever read the entire Book of Proverbs?
  2. What was your experience like?
  3. How long did it take you to complete all thirty-one chapters?
  4. Did you then, or are you now, reading more than one chapter a day?
  5. Have you ever considered reading just one chapter each day for a month?


Next Step Challenge

Would you commit, for the next 40 days, to read the first chapter of Proverbs at least five times each day?  Would you also commit to reading it out loud?

And would you commit to praying the following each day before reading?

Dear Heavenly Father,
I deeply desire to know You more and to understand You.  Would you speak to me today through Your Word and change my life with what You show me? I pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.

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1.  Warren Wiersbe gives us the perfect interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in his book Be Skillful by saying:  “All Scripture is profitable in four ways:  for doctrine— that’s what’s right; for reproof— that’s what’s not right; for correction— that’s how to get right; and for instruction in righteousness— that’s how to stay right.”

2.  The word pithy means “something concise or forcefully expressive” and is a word brought back into popular use primarily by Bill O’Riley.

3.  For example, Proverbs 3:11-12 is quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6; Proverbs 3:34 in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 25:21-11 in Romans 12:20; and Proverbs 26:11 in 2 Peter 2:22.  See Wiersbe, W.W. (1996).  Be Skillful.  Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Day One:  From Proverbs 1

Day One: From Proverbs 1

But Fools

Today, Day One, we are looking at the first Proverb.  And, as often happens, I am arrested by the simplicity of the Lord’s words:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).

First, let’s see exactly what these words say.

“The fear (or, awe, profound respect, but also frightening terror) of the Lord (and not man) is the beginning (or, the first, chief, best, choice part, the firstfruits) of knowledge (or, knowing, learning, discernment, insight, perception), but (by contrast) fools (or, one who hates wisdom and walks in folly despising both wisdom and morality, one who mocks when found guilty, a simpleton) despise (or, to hold in contempt or as insignificant, to scorn or greatly disrespect) wisdom (or, skill, prudence, shrewdness) and instruction (or, discipline).”

Then, let’s see what these words mean.

The great contrast between God and fallen, unredeemed man is clearly seen in this single verse.  In fact, we’ll see this contrast all through the Proverbs.

Human wisdom, or man’s wisdom, is the ability to understand and communicate the highest truths or virtues based on this world’s logic and values.  It’s the ability to articulate what this world thinks and the path one should take to successfully navigate this world’s system to some sort of desired end.  But what is that end?  Fame, riches, temporal pleasure or perceived happiness, freedom from pain or suffering or calamity— at least for a short time?  What else can this world offer?

We still age, we still get sick, bad and hurtful things still happen to us that we cannot control, and eventually we all still die.  So what can human wisdom do to mitigate the inevitable?  Even if I am the richest person on the planet, like Solomon, I will still someday die.  And then what?  What will I do with my treasure trove of man’s wisdom?  How will it help me then?

It won’t.  And only a fool fails to recognize that.


It’s Just the Beginning

The Scriptures say the fear of the Lord is the beginning, not the end, of knowledge.  It’s the profound respect and awe we give to our Creator that begins our understanding and insight, our perception and discernment of Who He is.  And once we catch just a glimpse of the majesty of God Himself, we rightfully fall on our face before Him in worship and contrition knowing we are just men, fallen created beings, nothing more than dust and ashes, who have rebelled against the Holy One.  And then we shake in sheer terror and fear for our pride, our arrogance, our prized inflated ego and our disdain for any God other than ourselves.

To honor and revere the Holy One begins to open the floodgates of His mercy and love and knowledge of Himself.  After all, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”  But there’s a great contrast.  The verse continues by saying, “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”


But Fools

But fools.  Is that who we are?  Are we fools?  Do we hate the wisdom of God codified in His Word?  Do we walk in folly and mockery despising His moral commands and living in the filth of our own sin?  Look around.  I think the answer is obvious.

It says that fools, those who reject God’s Word and live in “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) actually despise His wisdom and instruction.  They just don’t not like it, they hate it, they mock it, they hold it in contempt, derision, as something worthless and insignificant, as not worth their time.  They defiantly refuse and reject spiritual discipline and instruction.  They have not the time for God nor His Kingdom because they are trying to make their own way through this world to receive the accolades of man and their own fleeting version of fame and success.  Why?  Because the immediate trumps the eternal.  Because they would rather have what they can see and hold in their hands today than what is promised them for tomorrow, no matter how wonderful that promise may prove to be.

There is great contrast conveyed in these sixteen simple words that have eternal consequences.  Which one are you?

Are you the one who fears the Lord and is beginning to experience true knowledge and the joy of intimacy with the Holy One?  Or are you the fool who is content to live in the midst of an inner city sewer when the Lord wants to take you to Disney World?    And you refuse to go with Him because you can’t imagine how anything could be better than living and playing in the sewer .

How little are you settling for right now living for the immediate and not for the eternal?

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Day Nineteen:  From Proverbs 19

Day Nineteen: From Proverbs 19

The following are a few passages that specifically spoke to me this morning.  Two great truths and a prayer.

First, the prayer:

Lord, help me listen to only Your voice and not blindly forge ahead in my own so-called wisdom.

Proverbs 19:21 – There are many plans (or, thoughts, intentions) in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel (or, advice, plan, purpose)— that will stand (or, rise up, to be established, to remain).

Then, a wonderful promise from Scripture (if we meet the conditions):

Proverbs 19:23 – The fear (or, awe, reverence, profound respect) of the LORD leads to life, and (condition) he who has it (life and the fear of the Lord) will abide (or, rest, remain, stay, to make one’s home) in satisfaction (or, to be satisfied, full, abounding); He (promise) will not be visited with evil.

Finally, something God is slowly creating in my life.

Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion (or, intelligence, good sense, insight, understanding) of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook (or, pass over, to cover) a transgression.

I wonder what I will learn about Him tomorrow?

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The Price of Extravagant Worship

The Price of Extravagant Worship

Sometimes, as true followers of Jesus, we have to stand alone.

Now I’m not talking about standing alone against the onslaught of evil in our society or the corrupt individuals in our government or even the forces of darkness that align themselves against us. No, I mean to “stand alone” when it comes to worshiping our Lord in the manner He is most pleased with, in a way that brings Him the most glory.

Let me explain.

True Worshipers vs False Worshipers

When Jesus was confronting the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar He made a statement about true worship that has rocked me to my very core.  And it should have the same effect on you if you are one of those who truly desires to leave the spiritual lukewarmness of our Laodicean heritage that has become the mainstay of much of what we call church today.  His words have put a longing in my heart for more of Him, that “I may know (1097 – ginōskō) Him and the power (1411 – dynamis) of His resurrection, and the fellowship (2842 – koinōnia) of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).  And it’s my prayer His words will do the same for you.

So what exactly did Jesus say to the woman at the well?

Their discussion was about worship.  The woman was playing on the inherent prejudice between Jews and Samaritans regarding the location where proper worship should take place, either on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem (John 4:20).  But Jesus would not be goaded into a fruitless argument. Instead, He said:

“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship (4352 – proskyneō) the Father.  You worship (4352) what you do not know (1492 – eidō); we know (1492) what we worship (4352), for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship (4352) the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking (2212 – zēteō) such to worship (4352) Him” (John 4:21-23).

Did you catch that?  Jesus said the hour is coming when the true worshipers, as compared to false worshipers, would worship the Father in spirit and truth and that the Father is actively seeking true worshipers to worship Him that way.  In other words, there is a type of person who worships the Lord in a way He actively seeks, that He earnestly desires, that He is striving to find.  And it’s possible, even probable, for you and I to become that type of worshiper.

But what does that mean?  And what does that look like?  And what does that have to do with “standing alone” in regards to true worship?

Standing Alone in Worship

Fast forward a year or so and we now find Jesus coming back to Bethany just six days before His last passover.  He’s at a party given by Simon the Leper (Matt. 26:10) along with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha (John 12:1-2), and His disciples.  After supper, Mary quietly comes up behind Jesus and breaks an alabaster jar of very costly oil of spikenard and begins to anoint the head and feet of Jesus and then wipe His feet with her hair (John 12:3).  The sight of Mary’s raw, open, unashamed devotion to her Lord was unnerving to both those at the party and to us had we been there.  It’s far too extravagant, way too lavish, and an extremely unwise use of money.  It was a classic example of financial irresponsibility, especially when you consider her gift of spikenard would cost about $25,000 in today’s dollars.

In fact, those who also loved the Lord, His disciples, felt like we probably would about what Mary did.  Their conviction at her love and devotion, and embarrassment at their own lack of love and devotion quickly turned to anger, condemnation and judgmental indignation.  In fact, they called the anointing of Jesus, their Lord and Master, a “waste” and said the money could have been spent better on the poor, on a stranger, on someone less deserving that they didn’t even know (Matt. 26:8-9).

But Mary kept on worshiping her Lord by wiping His feet with her hair while the whole “house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3), with the sweet aroma of her worship to the One who meant more to her than life or reputation or acceptance or the approval of her family and friends.

Jesus Understood

No one came to her defense.  No one said, “Hey man, cut her some slack.  If she wants to worship our Lord that way, so be it.  It’s a free country, she can do what she wants.”  Even Peter, who just a few days later would categorically deny any knowledge of the very existence of Jesus, stood with the others in condemnation of her appalling and disgraceful actions.  And even John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), remained silent.

No one came to Mary’s defense.  No one stood by her side.  No one offered a kind word of encouragement or a nod of understanding or a polite smile.  She was standing alone among those who also loved her Lord but were indignant and resentful of the way in which she chose to express her love for her Lord.

But in the midst of that hostile crowd, someone noticed Mary.  It was the same someone who permitted her to worship Him the way she did and even defended her actions.  Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12:7-8).

Jesus graciously accepted Mary’s act of worship and devotion.  He was pleased at her willingness to give so sacrificially and recognized that Mary understood the whole picture of why Jesus came, she grasped the rest of the story, she got the point.  Mary knew that Jesus was born to die.  And this lavish, loving, costly gift of hers was in honor of His death and burial.

And I think Jesus wanted Mary to know that He knew that she knew that He was soon to die.

But she had to worship Jesus alone.  In the midst of friends and fellow committed followers, those, like her, who had given their all to Jesus, she still stood alone in her worship.

And sometimes, so will you.

Often the greatest enemies of a faithful follower of Jesus are those who claim to be His faithful followers, but aren’t.  Our churches are sadly filled with lukewarm, half-hearted, tepid, followers of the one and only Son of God.  When confronted with an act of devotion like Mary’s, these Laodicean church members will criticize and denounce the true worshiper only to make their lukewarm efforts seem worthy.  They will viciously tear down others to make themselves feel better.  They live in the gray, the shadows, and are frightened of those, like Mary, who live in the light.

After all, didn’t Jesus say the same?

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).

Leaving Laodicea

So understand this, if you truly desire to know Jesus more and more, you will find you’ll make some enemies along the way.  And often, actually, more than not, those enemies will be found nestled in your church and family and among your friends.  Why?  Because they have a vested interest in keeping your spiritual temperature about where theirs is.  Lukewarm.  And if you get too hot for the Lord and make them feel guilty or ashamed or embarrassed, you’ll face, like Mary did, their indignation, rejection and condemnation.

In essence, you must commit yourself to leave Laodicea at all costs and run, full speed, into the non-lukewarm world of fervent worship directed to an audience of only One.  And His name is Jesus.

So if you truly desire to be the kind of worshiper the Lord seeks as His worshiper, you may have to do that alone.  And that’s totally OK.

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Notes:

1097 – to know intimately or by experience, to place favor upon, to choose, a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
1411 – explosive, dynamic, achieving, miracle working strength, power, or ability.
1492 – to know cognitively, to perceive with the mind, to comprehend, to understand.
2212 – to actively seek after, to look for, to strive to find, to desire earnestly.
2842 – participation in, communion, partnership, the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them, being a member of a family.
4352 – to worship, to fall or prostrate before, to kiss as a token or respect or homage.

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Is There Something I’m Missing?

Is There Something I’m Missing?

One of the most glorious pictures of our Lord Jesus is found in the first chapter of Colossians. Here, in these few words, Jesus is revealed as God Himself.  He is the imprint, the exact representation, the perfect image of the invisible God. Jesus is presented as the Preeminent One, the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).

But what does that mean?  What are the specific implications of these verses?  And what impact does it have for me today?


Theologically or Devotionally?

Do you mean theologically?  Or do you mean devotionally?  Let me explain.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, I tend to look at things from a theological vantage point and not a devotional one.  For example, when I view a passage of Scripture theologically I am wanting to know what it says and what it means.  I want to define the original words and terms in the passage and I want to make sure I understand them in their proper contextual meaning.  I then want to make sure my understanding of the truths of a passage fits within the framework of the other truths expressed elsewhere in Scripture on the same subject.  It’s pretty much an intellectual study whereby I cognitively hope to comprehend new truths or understand old truths in a new way.  And when I am done, I now intellectually know something new.  Or I know something I already knew— better.  Either way, it’s academic at best.  Why?  Because I may, or may not, be changed by what I have just learned.  God’s Word may remain stuck in my mind as just theology and never be allowed to move down into the core of my being, into my soul, my heart, to the place where I live and feel and believe and trust.  It remains lodged in my head, and not my heart.  After all, theology is defined as “the study of God.”  And the operative word is study.  Academic.  Mental.  Sterile.  Non-emotional.  Simply the acquiring of knowledge and data and facts.


Is there Something I’m Missing?

But when I view a passage devotionally, I’m asking a whole new set of questions of God and the text.  And those questions have to do with me personally.  They may sound something like this:

“I believe that Jesus is God.  But how can I become more like Him by just knowing that fact?  Is there something I’m missing?”

“I understand the “just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).  But I’m not sure what faith really looks like.  And how can I have more faith? (Luke 17:5).  How can I be more like my Lord and trust in Him like He trusted in His Father?  Is there something I’m missing?”

“I acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Trinity.  I got that.  But Who is He and how does He live in my life?  How can I please Him and how can I keep from grieving Him? (Eph. 4:30).  How do I turn my life over to the Holy Spirit and how do I let Him live through me?  Is there something I’m missing?”

These are the “so what?” questions, the “how does that help me get through today?” questions, the never-ending “why?” questions.  They are the questions we all asked in Algebra class in High School but never got an answer.  “Uh, teacher.  Why do I have to study this stuff?  I’m never gonna have to use it.  Geez.  What’s the big deal?”

The Doctrine of the Trinity.  Important?  Yes.  But why?
The Doctrine of Man.  Important?  Very much so.  But why?
The Doctrine of the Atonement.  Important?  Absolutely.  But why?
The Doctrine of the Church.  Important.  You bet.  But why?

While I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the vital importance of understanding correct doctrine and theology (1 Tim. 4:16), I do want to point us to the opposite side of the continuum.  I want to focus on the devotional meaning of the passage.  I want for us to experience, deep down in the depth of our soul, where we live and breathe, what this says about our Lord and what that means for each of us on a day-to-day basis.


One and the Same

So, let’s put on our devotional hats and dig deep into Colossians.  And pray, before we even being, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into a fuller understanding of Christ and we will see Him, maybe for the first time, in living color and not just in black and white.

Colossians 1:15He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created from nothing).

Let that single verse sink in for a moment.  Then read it again.  Slowly.  Out loud.  Can you begin to feel what our Lord is saying about Himself?

Jesus said that He, Christ, the One who walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33), who broke bread with His disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:26), who held little children in His arms (Mark 10:16)— He, Jesus, is the exact representation, the perfect replica, He is the “image of the invisible God.”  He is the exact likeness of His Father, and our Father— God.  He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  How?  Because “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).  Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3).  In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.

But what does that mean for me today?  How does that fact help me love Him more?

Simply this, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus.  It was His choice, mind you, and not something we earned or deserved ourselves.  Remember, He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us at all.  It was a profound gift of grace that He wants to have anything to do with us since we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  So when you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9).  If you want to know what the Father is like, look to Jesus.  They’re one and the same.  “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).  So when you’re alone, discouraged, and faced with your dark night of the soul and wonder aloud, Is God loving?— ask yourself this, Is Jesus loving?  Yes.  Then so is God.  Or, will God forgive me for all I’ve done wrong?  Would Jesus?  Yes.  Then so would God.  Why?  Because they are one and the same.  When you see Jesus, you see the Father (John 14:9).  When Jesus forgives, the Father forgives.  When you pray to Jesus, you are, in effect, praying to the Father.  They’re exactly the same.  Jesus is the exact representation, the perfect replica, the express image, of the Father (Heb. 1:3).

So rejoice!  For as much as you love and know and understand Jesus, you also know and love and understand the Father, the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15) the Great, I Am” (Ex. 3:14).


The Firstborn

But the verse continues by saying that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation.”  What does that mean?  What does being the firstborn imply?

First, the word does not mean, in this context, being chronologically born first as we would understand it today.  It doesn’t mean Jesus was the first one born to a family of other brothers and sisters.  No, the word refers to position or rank.  It means preeminence.  It denotes an exalted position, one “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1).  It means a place of priority and sovereignty.  In other words, Jesus is the firstborn, the preeminent, the One having priority.  Jesus has the position and rank of sovereignty over all that was created or that ever will be created.  He’s Number One.  There’s no one greater than Jesus.  Ever.  Anywhere.  At any time.  There’s no one worthy of more honor, more glory, more praise, or more love.  And Jesus, the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)— that’s over the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the angelic realm, all life, you and me, everything!— this Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to fallen humanity, and to call us His friends (John 15:15).  That fact alone should take your breath away.  It does mine.

Why would Jesus, the exalted One, choose to stoop down and reveal Himself to something of so little worth and value as me?  Or you, for that matter?  Why would He do that?  What does He gain?  Where’s the payoff for Him?

And then He goes a step further and calls us His friends (John 15:15).  Really?  Jesus considers me His friend.  Why?  Being a friend of someone opens one up to the threat of betrayal and hurt and rejection.  We’ve all suffered that from our own friends, haven’t we?  So why would Jesus expose Himself to me, or you, like that?  He’s sovereign and knows all things.  Nothing gets past Him.  He knows what I am and what I’m capable of and what a terrible, fickle and unfaithful friend I could prove to be (John 2:25).  And He knows about you too.  What type of friend are you committed to be to Him?

Jesus, who is the exact image of God the Father, has chosen to become a man like me in order that I may become like Him. He put on flesh so I may someday put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). He took my nature and replaced it with His nature so I would become the “image of the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Just think, what Jesus was to the Father, the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), He wants to be with me and you (Rom. 8:29). He offers us sonship, to be joint heirs with Him as the firstborn, the One who inherits all from the Father (Rom. 8:16-17). And He did all this for us for no other reason than the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5,9). Or, to put it bluntly, because He wanted to.

But as overwhelming as all this may seem, there’s something even more amazing.


Christ Has Longings

Jesus, as God Himself, doesn’t have needs.  How could He?  For to have needs would imply that He is lacking something that must be supplied by someone else.  For Jesus to have needs or longings or desires means He was incapable of being all-powerful and all-sufficient.  Somehow, He comes up lacking.  And God cannot lack anything.

But Jesus does say in His Word that He has a desire.  And the object of that desire should again, take your breath away.  Why?  Because the object of Christ’s desires and longings is— you.  That’s right, Jesus longs for those He loves and those He redeemed.  Look at what Jesus said in His last prayer before the cross:

“Father, I desire (or, will, wish, purpose, seek, crave) that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, (why) that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Did you read His words?  Do you see what the longing, the desire, the craving of our Lord is?  It’s for you and me to be with Him in heaven, where He is.  And why would He want us with Him?  Jesus said, “that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24).  Jesus wants us, His friends, to come to His home that He is preparing for us (John 14:2) to behold His glory given Him by His Father.  That’s an honor reserved for only the closest of family.  And Jesus offers it to you and me.

Again, why?  Because He wanted to.  Because He felt like it.  Because it made Him happy.  Because He could.  Just think, we are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) for no other reason than Christ wanted us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).

That’s how much we are loved and chosen in Him.


What Do I Do Now?

So, tell me what problems you have that compare to this blessing?  Tell me what you lack in this life compared to what you already possess in Him?  You are the Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal God’s friend (John 15:15).  You are His chosen child (Rom. 8:16-17), His special possession (1 Cor. 16:19-20).  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Himself (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

That’s who you are.  And we have only looked at one verse, Colossians 1:15.  Take a look at what else is in store for us:

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) 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.

But we’ll look at these verses next time.

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Don’t Confuse Me With the Truth!

Don’t Confuse Me With the Truth!

Finally, it was done.  He’d come clean and they had him trapped in His own words.  The Pharisees accused Him of ducking the issue, of speaking in generalities, of not telling the whole truth.  They said, “How long do You keep us in doubt?  If You are the Christ, tell us plainly (or, clearly, publicly, openly)” (John 10:24).

“No more spin.  Tell us who You are.”

And He did.  He, clearly and for all to hear, said: “I and my Father are one.”  That’s “one” in the neuter and not in the masculine.  It speaks of one in substance, one in essence, one in character, and not just as one person.  Jesus, in the clearest way possible, was saying that He and the Father are of one essence, one substance, are equal, are one and the same.  In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.

But this really shouldn’t have surprised the Pharisees, nor anyone else for that matter.  After all, Jesus had been telling them this for quite some time.


Who Are You, Jesus?

For example, from John’s gospel:

John 5:17-18 – But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Looks like the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying.

John 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Note, the He in your Bible is italicized.  That means the He was added by our translators to make the Greek more understandable in the English.  No big deal, they do it all the time and they let us know when they do by italicizing the word or word phrases they added in the English.  But it actually reads, “if you do not believe that I am (the I AM of the Old Testament, the God of the burning bush), you will die in your sins.”  Jesus is clearly identifying Himself with the God of the Old Testament, the “I Am that I Am” (Ex. 3:14).

Confused?  Well, don’t be.  There’s much less ambiguity just a few verses later when Jesus basically says the same thing.  Only this time, the translators got it right.

John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

That’s pretty point blank and direct, isn’t it?  No confusion here.  Jesus clearly and publicly states that He and the God of the burning bush are one and the same.  He is, and always has been, God.  But there’s more.

John 14:6-7 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known (1097, to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship ) Me, you would have known (1097) My Father also; and from now on you know (1097) Him and have seen Him.”

Wait a minute.  I think I’ve got the know part down, but when have I ever seen the Father?  In fact, when has anyone ever seen the Father?  I thought that if we ever saw the Father we would die?  Isn’t that what God told Moses? (Ex. 33:20).

That was the exact question Philip had.  He said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).  In other words, Philip still has some issues with God and Jesus being one and the same.  I mean, God the Father is in “His heavens and He does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3) and Jesus was standing right in front of them, alive, in the flesh, in living color, and close enough to touch.  I can understand some of Philip’s frustration.  Can’t you?


Seen One, Seen All

When Jesus answered Philip you can almost feel the exasperation in His words.  It was like He was saying, “Really, Phillip?  Are you serious?  Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been telling you?”

John 14:9-11 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known (1097 – to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship) Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”

Jesus was affirming for Philip, and for you and me, that when we see Jesus we have seen the Father.  That’s right.  Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).  So what’s the Father like?  He’s like His Son.  And what’s Jesus like?  He’s just like His Father.  He’s the exact representation, the imprint, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  What Philip didn’t realize when He looked into eyes the of Jesus was that he was also beholding the Father, the infinite God, the Creator of the Universe, the Great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14).  The God who no one could see and live (Ex. 33:20) has made Himself known to us.  Why?  So we can behold His glory, the “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  I know it’s hard to understand, this idea of the Trinity, but it’s glorious to believe.  Why?  Because Jesus reveals to us, to fallen man, to you and me, who the Father is and what the Father’s like.  And the Father’s like His Son and His Son is like His Father.  If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Doesn’t that fill your heart with peace?

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).


Three True Statements

To understand, somewhat, this idea of the Trinity, we must recognize that the following three statements that summarize what the Scriptures teach about God are all true— even if they seem illogical or contradictory to us.  It’s a glorious mystery that we will never fully understand.  And that’s ok.  After all, God is God and we’re not.  And He says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).  In other words, it’s sheer foolishness for the creation, that which was created from nothing, you and me, to try to understand all there is about the Creator.  Why?  Because we can’t.  We don’t have the capacity to fully grasp God and everything about Him.  No created thing can ever know all there is to know about the Person who created them.  It’s impossible and ridiculous to even try.  Why?  Because the Creator creates something, by definition, less than Himself.  The One creating doesn’t duplicate Himself and create another Creator.  No, He simply creates something less than Himself— you and me and the universe we live in.  And we cannot fully grasp all there is to know about God the Creator because we are, by our very creation, less than God.  The best we can hope for, as creations, is for God, our Creator, to choose to reveal some of what He is like to us.  And He has.  And when we struggle to make sense of what He has revealed to us about Himself, we must simply believe what our great God and Creator reveals to us about Himself as truth.  We must accept what He says by faith.  I mean, to not believe what the Creator reveals about Himself is to think we know more about the Creator than the Creator knows about Himself.  And how stupid is that?

So here are the three seemingly contradictory, yet absolutely true, statements about God as revealed in the Scriptures.  Your task is to either believe them or not.  It’s your call, your choice.  Your future.

God is three persons.
Each person is fully God.
There is one God.

Now read that again slowly and let the magnitude of this Biblical teaching sink in.

God is revealed to us in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We’ve got that and we see it confirmed all through Scripture such as at the baptisms of Jesus when all Three Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity, made an appearance.

We also know the Bible teaches us there is only one God.  Just one.  Not many, not multiple, not a handful, not even three— just one.  After all, the most familiar passage of the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which states: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  Got it?  There is one God, and only one.

But some struggle with the second statement:  Each person is fully God, and I’m not sure why.  Over and over again the Bible confirms for us, by their attributes, characteristics and deeds, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are indeed God.  The attributes of God: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, infinitely wise, perfectly holy, infinitely loving, pure, etc. are all true of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.  After all, only God can do the things God can do.

Which brings us back to the last comment Jesus spoke to Philip.  Remember?  He said, if you can’t believe My words, then “believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11).  In effect, let My works point to Who I really am.  Let what I do speak louder than what I say.  If I do only what God can do then draw the logical conclusion about who I am and Who sent Me.  Think.  After all, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck… well, it’s no great leap of faith to believe it is a duck.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Of course.  But the Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t.  In fact, they rejected the proof He offered and condemned themselves by doing so— just like so many do today, both in and out of the church.  When Jesus boldly and confidently asserted that “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30)— well, the war started.  And it still rages today.


Some Homework

Let me give you some homework before we tackle the claim of Jesus to believe in His works.  It’s found in Colossians 1:15-17 and gives the clearest statement in all Scripture, at least for me, that Jesus is God.

He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created).  For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) 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.


Couple of Questions

What does it mean that Jesus is the image of the invisible God?
What does it mean to be firstborn?
Does this mean Jesus was the One who created all things in Genesis?
What are “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”?
What does it mean “all things were created for Him”?
What is this verse actually saying?

Chew on these for a couple of days and we’ll pick up here next time.

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