Belt of Truth
Knowing and Applying God's Truth to Real Life
John 3:1-8 (NKJV) There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
What truth is revealed? Have you ever tried to have a “spiritual” conversation with a non-spiritual person? (And how did that go?) When you try to communicate with a person, who is on a different spiritual wave-length, it’s like trying to carry on a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak the same language—only, in this case, the inability to connect may even be more difficult. Jesus explained it to Nicodemus this way: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
What can we learn from this exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus? Nicodemus had, no doubt, observed Jesus’ ministry and was curious. Jesus was a Rabbi that taught with authority and did miracles. Nicodemus wanted to know what made Jesus tick; Jesus wanted to talk of a spiritual truth that dealt with Nicodemus. Jesus challenged Nicodemus with this idea: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Notice that Jesus used the word, “see.” The original Greek means to “perceive” or to “know” the kingdom of God. Jesus was making the point that in order to understand and perceive the kingdom of God takes a work of God’s Spirit. Even the faith that causes us to believe in Jesus is born of God. This remains the spiritual hurdle that challenges those without Christ; they cannot “see,” “perceive,” or even “imagine” the kingdom of God unless the Spirit reveals it to them.
How can I apply this truth to my life? It is not my job to convince people of the spiritual reality that is God’s Kingdom. It is my job to proclaim the good news of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit reveal Himself. Jesus explains it this way: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44a) This is one of the compelling reasons for prayer. I pray that my friends, neighbors and family members that do not “perceive” the Kingdom of God would be drawn to Jesus through the work of His Spirit.
Questions to Consider:
John 2:13-17 (NKJV) Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."
What truth is revealed? Jesus was obviously angry at the actions of the moneychangers in the temple. It was the right kind of anger; a righteous anger. He observed the business practices of the moneychangers as they proceeded to cheat the well-intentioned pilgrims who were at the temple to offer their sacrifices. Jesus was overwhelmed with emotions as He was an eye witness to people being taken advantage of in the House of God!
What can we learn from this story? The cause of the Church is not social justice. We are called to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples; However, when we observe social injustice, we should “feel” a righteous anger that calls us to action. The Church should be a voice that challenges social injustice and calls the culture to repentance. Modern-day moneychangers exist to exploit people and the Church should call them out. Let me point out a historical fact: It was the Church, firstly in England and later in the United States that called for an end to slavery.
How can I apply this truth to my life? Jesus didn’t spend His entire ministry fighting for social justice. He had a more critical mission—the mission of bringing salvation; but, He was unafraid to speak out and take action when needed. As a minister I am committed to the primary calling of making disciples; but I also want to be a voice that speaks loudly and clearly against evil. I should feel a righteous anger with the slaughter of unborn children, the sex slave trade, the genocide of Christians and others in Syria, racism, bigotry, etc. The same love that compels me to preach the Good News is the same love that compels me to stand against social injustice.
Questions to Consider:
John 3:19-21 (NKJV) 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."
What truth is revealed? Much has changed in the United States in the last 50 years. We have gone from a country that tries to legislate morality to a country that is actively mandating new political correctness which often supports activity that is condemned by scripture. This is nothing more than loving darkness and defending that darkness against the light.
What can we learn from this teaching? It is the work of the Enemy to deceive people into believing a lie; furthermore, it is man’s inclination to believe the lie in order to embrace the darkness that they have come to covet. The proliferation of pornography is a good example. Even though the mass majority of people believe that it is destructive, exploitative, and undermining the moral fabric of our nation, we protect it under a “pagan” interpretation of the 1st Amendment. On the other hand, we have ripped prayer and the study of the Bible from our Public Schools under another strange manipulation of the 1st Amendment. Jesus was right, “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deed are evil.”
How can I apply this truth to my life? According to 1 John 1:7, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” The best way to expose darkness is to continue being the light of the world. Jesus has called His church to be the light of the world. How can I participate in being the light? Speak the truth in love. Be courageous and not bow a knee to that which is evil. Make sure that the actions of my life are verified by the way that I live.
Questions to Consider:
1 Corinthians 15:12-21 (NKJV) Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
What truth is revealed? We all know about the inevitability of death; we just don’t spend much time thinking about it…until it lands near our doorstep. This was one of those weeks. A relative of mine died. She was not that old. (Younger than myself) She probably should not have died. (Which is another story) But, she met the inevitability that we will all face sooner or later. There is no doubt that it is a time of mourning for us who knew her; but know this, we do not grieve as those that are without hope. What is our hope? That all of us who put our faith in Christ Jesus will live beyond death’s door.
What can we learn from this teaching? There were some knot-heads in the early church who were teaching against the idea of resurrection. The Apostle Paul put on his apologetic's hat and took them to task. The whole purpose of Christ’s mission to our planet was to save us from sin, and the consequences of that sin. The consequences of sin is death; and Jesus has conquered death. Jesus was raised from the dead and was the first of many that would follow His lead. Death came into the world through the sin of Adam. Life has come through the atoning work of Christ!
How can I apply this truth to my life? Every day that I live brings me one day closer to the inevitability of death. My time will indeed come and is coming. What shall I do? Fret and live in fear, dreading the day of my demise? How about this: Put my trust in the One who overcame death, hell and the grave! Have courage and make the most of each day that has been granted to me. Live with hope and without regrets; loving and being loved. It is a fact that Jesus lives; and so shall I, in this life and into the next...
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 12:9-13 (NKJV) Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.
What truth is revealed? I’ve heard people say that God is sovereign only to then define His sovereignty in such a way as to put God in a box. This is what the Pharisees had done with the Mosaic Law. They defined it beyond the original intent and made up their own rules. In this story Jesus reveals two things: 1) He sets His own rules according to His will. That is what a sovereign God does. 2) The spirit of the law trumps the letter of the law.
What can we learn from this story? Jesus made it clear; doing good on the Sabbath, in this case, was more important than “resting on the Sabbath” as had been defined by the Pharisees. It is the case of a greater spiritual law (loving your neighbor as yourself) trumping the spiritual law of keeping the Sabbath holy. Who better to bring this truth to light than Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath!
How can I apply this truth to my life? I need to make sure of two things: Firstly, I need to stop putting God in a box. He is sovereign, which means He can do anything that He wants to do. Secondly, I need to make sure that my religion doesn’t get in the way of doing the will of God. (Remember Peter’s vision of unclean animals that God declared to be clean? We need to make sure that the legalism of our religion doesn’t get in the way of walking in the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law)
Questions to Consider:
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
What truth is revealed? There are times when confession is essential to strengthen relationships and to give humility an opportunity to be expressed. James tells us that we are to confess our “trespasses.” A trespass is an unwanted or unwarranted incursion on another person’s emotional territory. (James is not talking about general sin, he is talking about a sin directly related to a personal offense with another person) So, when we are aware that we have caused emotional pain to another person through our actions we must: 1) Confess our trespass. Which means we take responsibility for our actions. 2) We ask for forgiveness with no excuses. 3) We pray for one another, because we need God to bring healing to our wounded emotions.
What can we learn from this teaching? We will step on other people’s emotional toes. Sometimes, because we are willfully trespassing; other-times, because we unwittingly step where we should not. The reality is this: We must take responsibility for our actions or words; and if we have caused emotional trauma, then we must seek reconciliation per James 5:16.
How can I apply this truth to my life? I personally have lots of opportunities to exercise James 5:16. As a pastor, I mix it up with people all the time; and often, I “trespass” into a place where I cause unneeded hurt. This is where Ephesian 4:15 comes in handy. Learning to “speak the truth in love.” If I can’t say something with true “agape” in my heart then it is better to bite my tongue. I also need to take the Lord’s Prayer seriously, “Father, forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me; and when I have caused unnecessary emotional pain in another person, help me to humble myself before them and make my confession.”
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
What truth is revealed? Are you a person who learns things the hard way? You know, the kind of person who ignores all the warning signs and does what they want to do despite the consequences. If that is you, then Jesus offers a better alternative. Take His yoke, pick up your cross and follow Him; live by His wisdom, and you will experience rest.
What can we learn from this teaching? Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, also knows the challenges of life, both the self-inflicted wounds and the undeserved setbacks; in light of those never-ending troubles He offers an exchange: Life for death; Courage for fear; Peace for worry; Light for darkness; Hope for depression; Joy for sorrow; Rest for chaos. His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.”
How can I apply this truth to my life? I have a choice to make every day: “Live God’s way or live “my” way. My way is like rolling the dice and hoping that my “luck” holds out. His way? Live with integrity, walk in His wisdom, follow His teaching, apply love in all my relationships, put my trust in God and in His goodness, rest in His security.
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 10:25b-28 (NKJV) If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore, do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known. "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
What truth is revealed? Ever since sin arrived in our world, there has been a spiritual tension between the powers of light and darkness. In Jesus’ time, God’s people (Israel) were under Roman occupation, and Greek culture was the prevailing influence of the time. Pagan worship and attitudes were chipping away at the spiritual heritage of the Jews; and the Jewish leaders were religious to a fault. Jesus was born into this time and place of darkness. When it came to the powers of Beelzebub, Jesus told His disciples, “Do not fear them.”
What can we learn from this story? The history of the world has continued since Jesus was here; but, the truth still remains for followers of Jesus: “We have nothing to fear from Beelzebub or his evil minions.” How can we fight the powers of darkness? We preach the truth. We shout it from the rooftops! We openly embrace and propagate the spiritual truths that Jesus revealed to us; and we never back down or compromise the truth.
How can I apply this story to my life? God has called me to walk with courage. According to Jesus, the only One in the universe that we should fear is God. He is the only One able to destroy both soul and body in hell, and yet, as beloved children of God we have not been appointed to wrath. The Apostle Paul said it this way: (Romans 8:31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 10:24-25 (NKJV) “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!”
What truth is revealed? Even two thousand years after His death, people recognize Jesus. “OK,” it is just someone’s idea of what Jesus looked like, but His facsimile remains the most recognizable portrait on our planet. More importantly, do people recognize Jesus in us? As followers of Jesus, (who happens to be the greatest teacher of all time) “we” are to be like our teacher. So, the question remains, “Do our lives mirror His life to the point that people can see Jesus in us?”
What can we learn from this teaching? Jesus made a point: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) This is really what it means to be a disciple of Christ. If He is our first love, then it will be a joy to obey His teaching, and the result will be disciples that reflect His character. As we submit ourselves to Jesus, He (through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit) imprints Himself on us.
How can I apply this story to my life? I consider myself a follower of Christ. He is my teacher; and the author and finisher of my faith. Jesus is absolutely faithful in shaping me through the work of the Holy Spirit. It really helps when I cooperate with the process. In order to “assist” the ongoing work of sanctification, I need to submit to Jesus, obey His teachings and crucify the flesh on a daily basis.
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 10:16-23 (NKJV) "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
What truth is revealed? Jesus never used the word “naiveté” when speaking to His disciples; but, He talked about the concept. Despite Christ’s warning concerning the nature of the world in which we live, many Christians are caught off guard when they are slammed by the evil that exists in our world. Jesus said that we are, “Sheep in the midst of wolves.” Welcome to the real world as defined by Jesus.
What can we learn from this teaching? We need to shake off all naiveté so that we are prepared and ready to respond to the challenges of life. Jesus has called us to, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” What does this mean? It means that we need to be fully cognizant of the dangers associated with living on planet earth. It also means that we do not contribute and participate in the evil. We are to be wise, and fulfill our calling to be salt and light.
How can I apply this teaching to my life? There is a real possibility that I will experience persecution in the near future. Many secularist have set their sights on marginalizing and destroying anyone and all who stand against their ideas. There is an effort in some political circles to pass legislation that will define portions of the Bible as “hate speech.” Imagine that; jailed for preaching the Gospel. It has happened before, and it will happen again.
Questions to Consider:
As revealed by God through the Life and Message of Christ; through the wisdom of Solomon; through the letters of the Apostles; through the inspiration of God.