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:
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:
Matthew 9:27-31 (NKJV) When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See that no one knows it." But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.
What truth is revealed? This story reveals a couple things about Jesus. Firstly, He has the power to heal. In this case it was two blind men. Secondly, we get to witness the true humility of Jesus. He just completes a significant miracle and He tells those that are on the receiving end of the miracle “not to share.”
What can we learn from this story? Most people, if they were involved in a verifiable miracle, would advertise the fact; maybe start a tent revival and make their name known. As demonstrated in this story, if you do mighty things in the name and in the power of God, the news will spread; but remaining humble is of key importance. The more “we” accomplish in the work of the Kingdom, the greater is the temptation to pride; and pride—well, since God stands in opposition to the proud it’s not a good thing!
How can I apply this story to my life? I have three quick takeaways: 1) Minister to people in need. 2) Pray and believe in God’s power to heal and save. 3) Guard my heart and remain humble; and if anything comes of my efforts, recognize God’s power and give Him the glory.
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 9:18-26 (NKJV) While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." So, Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.
What truth is revealed? Jesus was a miracle waiting to happen. In this story, Jesus heals a woman, who had a physical issue for 12 years; and a girl who everyone, other than Jesus, thought was dead. In both cases Jesus reveals Himself as the Great Physician, with the power to heal.
What can we learn from this story? Healing has always been a tricky subject to tackle, because not everyone that we pray for is healed. This is true even when we anoint them with oil, call for the Elders, lay hands on them, and pray prayers of faith. What’s wrong? Surely, we are missing something? Let me make something clear: I do not have the power to heal people, period. The power to heal and the prerogative to do so is vested in God. God heals according to His sovereign will and His eternal purposes. I am sure of this: God is compassionate, and when He chooses not to heal, He does so, because, He has a better plan.
How can I apply this story to my life? Here is the question, do I have faith that God can heal? “Yes!” Do I still put me faith in God when there is no healing? “Yes!” My hope is not based on being healed in this life; my hope is in based on the work of salvation that has saved my soul. So, why pray for the sick? I pray for the sick:
Questions to Consider:
*Special Note from Author: This lesson is not meant to be a definitive teaching concerning healing.
Matthew 9:14-15 (NKJV) Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
What truth is revealed? Solomon said it this way: “There is a time and a season for every purpose on earth.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Without that understanding the religious person is in danger of becoming overbearing and sanctimonious; which describes the general attitude of the Pharisees. Jesus put the Pharisees on notice that their criticism concerning the lack of fasting was misguided. Jesus was with His disciples; it was the proper season to rejoice. The time would come soon enough, when Jesus would be gone, and His disciples would be fasting.
What can we learn from this story? Live in the moment. Make sure that you are walking in the purposes of God, making the most of each opportunity. There is a proper time for the prayer closet and there is a proper time to sing and dance. Make sure that the actions of your life are appropriate for the occasion. That is one of the differences in being a follower of Christ and being a religious person.
How can I apply this story to my life? It is easy for me, as a pastor to “fall” into a religious role, where I do the religious “stuff” religiously. This can lead to a serious disconnect from real life and real people. I need to be more like Jesus, who knew when it was time to weep; when it was time to pray; when it was time to fast; and when it was time to celebrate.
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 9:9-13 (NKJV) As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So, he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
What truth is revealed? Jesus angered the Pharisees by socializing with sinners. He defended His actions by telling His critics that the people who are sick are the people in need of a physician. In other words, Jesus was specifically reaching out to the people who needed salvation; therefore, Jesus was sitting at a table surrounded by tax collectors and sinners.
What can we learn from this story? The Church is also called to reach “sinners.” We (obviously) cannot reach people that we have no contact with, so we must build relational bridges to people that are without Christ. The Apostle Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33) So, how do we make this work? Ask yourself the following questions: When it comes to reaching sinners…
Questions to Consider:
Matthew 9:1-8 (NKJV) So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"--then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
What truth is revealed? Early in His public ministry, Jesus proved that He had the power to heal and to save. Jesus shocked the Jewish Scribes when He uttered the words, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
What can we learn from this story? We know that Jesus completed the requirements to atone for all of our sins on the cross. The prophet Isaiah detailed the atoning work of the Messiah that would “save” us in Isaiah 53. This story points to Jesus’ divine authority as God to “save” a person from their sins before the work of the cross. This is another example of a sovereign God doing a sovereign act according to His own sovereign will. It offended the Scribes which indicated that they did not recognize who Jesus was.
How can I apply this story to my life? Firstly, I do not want to be numbered with the Scribes in questioning God’s prerogative or power to act in all situations. Secondly, I am incredibly thankful that with God “All things are possible.” He can heal, and more importantly, He can save!
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.