“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:14-16 ESV
We can only imagine how truly heartbroken Mary must have felt. Not only had she witnessed the brutal death of her Lord, but when she arrives at the tomb it appears that someone has stolen His body! Who would do such a thing? She was so grief stricken that even when Jesus is standing before her she doesn’t recognize Him. We don’t know if His appearance was different, but we do know He had nail prints in his hands and a gash mark in His side. It wasn’t until He spoke her name that she realized it was Jesus who stood before her.
Even though Jesus may not stand before me and say my name, I believe there are ways I can hear Him. In the verse for today, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and we, His followers, are the sheep. As we follow Him closely, as we learn what He teaches us in the Scriptures, and as we apply these truths to our lives, He does speak to us and heal our broken lives. We respond to the Shepherd’s voice. He fills our sorrow with lasting joy! Our spiritually blind eyes will be opened and we will know peace, love and purpose like never before.
Journal your answer to these questions:
- Am I learning and applying the truths from Scriptures, and following Him close enough that I can recognize His voice? How can I continue or even become a better listener?
- Do I feel the Lord calling my name—even faintly or at a distance?
Ask Him to make Himself known to you.
Protection from Perversion of Grace
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith…. For certain people have crept in unnoticed …who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago (Sunday, January 31) felt like Easter Sunday. We were preaching the resurrection from John 20 and everything from special music to the testimony video was Easter-esque.
My wife and I were talking about how we wish every Sunday could feel that way. This led us to the question, “Why doesn’t every Sunday feel like Easter?”
I love the way that Paul talks resurrection theology in 1 Corinthians 15. In that passage, he tells the Corinthian Church that the resurrection of Jesus is a matter of “first importance.” It is imperative that Christ-followers be fearlessly resurrection-centered.
But Paul says that it’s a matter a “first importance,” not that it’s the “only matter of importance.” As we preach beyond John 20 this year, the above passage from Jude reminds me of two important truths.
First, while it is the hope of every preacher and dangerous witness to proclaim common salvation all the time, there are necessary times where we need to contend for matters of the faith. Our eternal hope is constantly under assault from the world, the flesh, and the devil. We need instruction and guidance to stand up and to fight these enemies.
Second, all of us need people who “find it necessary” to speak into these challenges to our faith. I’m grateful for face-to-face interactions with people who do this type of work in my soul. Who is currently in your life that is offering protection from those who would “creep in” and “pervert grace?”
If your life is void of these types of relationships, consider joining a small group in the coming months. Balanced preaching and good relationships protect against the perversion of grace.
“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” Luke 24:13-16 (NIV)
As we reflect this week on the appearance of Jesus after his resurrection, we draw our attention to another appearance recorded in Luke. In this account, Jesus interjected himself into a discussion about his death, burial and news of the empty tomb without allowing his followers to know it is him they are talking to. The two followers were downcast as they talked and did not yet see or understand why Jesus had to die. It perplexed them. So Jesus walked along with them and “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (vs. 27)
This is so patient of Jesus. If it were me, I would want to yell out, “Ta-da!! It’s me! I’m back!” But Jesus wanted them to see the connection between the written Word and the living Word (Jesus) right in front of them. They had surely been familiar with the Scriptures, but had not yet connected what the prophets predicted to what had just happened. Jesus revealed himself to them through Scripture before he revealed himself to them through their eyesight.
And he still reveals himself through his Word today.
- What scripture verse or passage has been helpful for you in knowing Jesus better?
- What Scripture have you clung to throughout your life? Or since you have known Jesus?
- What has God been revealing to you through his Word lately?
John 20:11-29 - Jesus Appears
Last week the spring semester of Care Groups began. I’m always encouraged by those who decide to come. In the midst of difficult situations, people choose not to pretend things are ok and instead choose to come and seek support. We all find ourselves in times of uncertainty. In fact, I’m writing this devotional in the wake of a botched parenting moment. Regardless of the situation, focusing, or re-focusing on Jesus changes our perspective.
In John 20, the followers of Jesus were in a difficult situation, to say the least. Filled with a swirling storm of grief, fear, doubt, growing danger and uncertainty, they were left trying to figure out how to make sense of the death of Jesus. In the midst of this, reports of his resurrection and his appearances are pouring in like a river overflowing its banks. Curiosity and uncertainty are looming. Belief and unbelief are smashed together.
For sure it’s an uncertain time for the faithful followers; but when Jesus appears, their perspective changes. It’s a reminder for us:
In the midst of peril, Jesus calms the storm of our hearts
In the midst of grief, Jesus ushers in joy
In the midst of fear, Jesus offers peace
In the midst of unbelief, Jesus brings clarity
In the midst of whatever we have, Jesus refocuses us on the truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,”
As you reflect and journal today:
- Read John 20:11-29. Take note of what changes when Jesus appears.
- Spend a few minutes and write out the uncertainties you currently face.
- Write out what you know to be true about Jesus. Include any Scripture that comes to mind.
Not Good Enough
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” John 20:11-13, 16 NLT
It’s easy for me to come up with all kinds of reasons why I’m not good enough. I can easily get caught up in the spiral doubts of comparison. I don’t think I’m alone in negative self-talk. We recently asked our junior high small group to list all the reasons why they feel like they are not good enough. Following, they were challenged to find scripture that would combat the lies they believe.
The resurrection of Jesus was the greatest event in human history. Jesus chose to first appear to a woman and then commissioned her to share what she had witnessed! In the day of Christ, a woman would have been considered an outcast by the religious community. Women were considered unreliable witnesses and not allowed to testify in court. All throughout the life of Jesus, he stepped over cultural boundaries. Jesus chose those that were not considered good enough, smart enough, or reliable by worldly standards. Because of the resurrection, Jesus not only broke the curse of sin but redeemed those that society labeled unworthy.
Questions to ask as you journal today:
- What ways in your life do you feel not good enough or unworthy?
- What scripture can help you combat these lies with God’s truth?
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV
Paul spends a lot of time talking to the Corinthians about contentment. Contentment can be defined as being happy with what you have and not wanting what you don’t have. Paul talked about this topic so much because the Corinthians deeply struggled with this. Corinth was a growing and very affluent city much like many of the cities we live in. They were always trying and wanting to keep up with their neighbors.
This would really come to light as their following of Jesus became difficult. Many of the Corinthians would turn to false teaches of the gospel that would only teach health and wealth but not the suffering of the gospel.
In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul reminds the Corinthians that in our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities God makes us strong. In our weaknesses is where Christ is made the strongest through us.
This weekend as you journal make a list of your weaknesses, your hardships, the times others have insulted you because of the gospel. Pray over this list and ask God you make you strong in your weaknesses.
When we are going through the hard times of our lives God doesn’t what us to find someone that will tell us what we want to hear. God wants to use the hard times we experience to make us stronger for him.
Be content to allow God to use your weakness to bring glory to him.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20: 8-9 ESV
At the moment Peter and John looked in the tomb they knew something was different. Something about the way the grave clothes were still there wasn’t quite right. Why would robbers, or enemies, or even followers of Jesus remove the cloths? It didn’t make sense. All they knew was something very unusual had happened. Imagine their joy when they realized Jesus had risen from the dead!
Later they could look back and see how Jesus’ death was God’s plan all along to save His people and how God was in control the entire time. They knew they could put their own life in God’s hands and fully trust His plan.
The other night my family got into a discussion about the book of Revelation. It didn’t take long for my son to realize even though there are studies and theories on Revelation, not one of us knows exactly how the scriptures will play out. I could see the light bulb go off for my son, and maybe a little fear, when he realized just how much we believe by faith. It gave us a great opportunity to explain that even though we don’t understand right now, because the words in the Bible are proven to be true over and over again, we believe someday we will look back and see how everything fit together and happened exactly the way God explained in the scriptures.
What is easy for you to trust in God? Write it in your journal. In what area do you have a hard time trusting? Write it in your journal and ask God to help you trust through prayer and His Word.
God is much more awesome and powerful than we can wrap our minds around, and because of that, we can put our life in His hands and trust His plan. He is in control.