Given

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son.

Read: John 6

And this is the will of him who sent me: that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39-40)

“You do not want to leave to, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

Reflect:

These verses explain several fundamental Christian doctrines in Jesus’ own words, using the standard Jewish poetical form of parallelism*. The will of God is mentioned twice in the beginning of each of the parallel statements.

What is the will of God?

According to the first statement, that Jesus shall have, keep and never lose all of those whom God the Father has given to him. All of these people are given to Jesus and will never be lost by Jesus. This is the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and perseverance of the saints.

According to the second statement and taking into account the parallelism of the statements, all those who are given to Jesus shall look to Jesus and believe in him, and thereby have eternal life. This is the Reformation doctrine of Salvation by Faith Alone.

According to both statements, that Jesus will “raise up” all these people at the last day. This is the second century doctrine expressed in the Apostle’s Creed as “the resurrection of the body”.

Crux:

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son. Verily, this truth strikes me with awe.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Whom have I in heaven besides you? You are Unity and Trinity, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, just and merciful, compassionate and holy. I bow in awe of your majestic magnificence and in gratitude for your gracious and precious will for me.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to Jesus, your Son, so that I would believe in him whom you sent, so that I would have eternal life.

You have the words of eternal life, the ways by which all your will for me has been and shall be accomplished. Jesus is the Holy One, Christ, Messiah, King, Lord, Saviour, Sacrifice.

Thank you for giving me to Jesus so that I, like Simon Peter, may believe and know all this.

Please help me to tell others the truth about Jesus, today and as part of my everyday ordinary life that I live for your everlasting glory.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

Parallelism is a rhetorical scheme of balance, a poetical figure of equality. (See what I did there?) It’s a bit like a written echo.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, parallelism is “the use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose which correspond in grammatical structure, sound, metre, meaning etc.” The base word parallel comes from Greek words meaning “alongside one another”.

So in parallelism, two (or more) successive words or phrases or sentences follow the same pattern, either in their form or in their meaning.

Both these forms of parallelism may be seen in the first sentence of this rhetorical ramble, highlighted by the repetition of the words a and of. The word rhetorical matches poeticalscheme has the same meaning as figure and balance corresponds to equality. That last sentence provides another example of parallelism, in this case with three parallel sections of text, rather than the more common two.

Parallelism was common in Hebrew and Jewish writing. A plethora of examples can be found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, such as these from Proverbs 1:8-9:

A: Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
A’: and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
B: They are a garland to grace your head
B’: and a chain to adorn your neck.

Whenever we observe parallelism of sentence structure in the Bible, we should ask ourselves whether there is also an implied equality of meaning.

But be warned! Be wise! The Bible’s authors also used antithesis, where the parallel structure is used to juxtapose contrasting ideas rather than matching ones (Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Corbett & Connors). Proverbs 10:1 includes an example:

The proverbs of Solomon:
A: A wise son brings joy to his father,
A’: but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

Workers

God is always at his work and it is good for me to be working also.

Read: John 5

In his defence Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:17-18)

“I have testimony weightier than the of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing – testify that the Father has sent me.” (John 5:36)

Reflect:

According to this passage, God is a worker. He didn’t stop work entirely on the seventh day of Creation, when he rested from his work of creating new things. Rather, God is living and active, at work accomplishing his purposes and achieving his goals, fulfilling his will and finishing his works.

The Father works. Jesus his Son works. The Spirit also works, giving new birth (John 3:6) and making true worshipers (John 4:23). God is good at his work! So it is entirely appropriate that I, who love God and seek to follow Jesus, living like him, should also work. And I should work hard and well until the work God gives me is finished.

What a brilliant encouragement from God to me as I head off to my first day back for another year of paid employment.

Crux:

God is always at his work and it is good for me to be actively working as well.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your renewed words of encouragement to me this morning as I headed out to my job for the beginning of another year.

I am reassured to know that you are always at your work: you are not lazy, not a slacker, not asleep in charge of the universe. No! You are diligent, disciplined, powerful, strong, active, committed to your work. I honour you as the perfect worker.

Thank you for your work accomplishing my salvation, work which Jesus completed, which you, Father, sent him to do.

I ask your favour in my work for the coming term and year, for my students in their studies and for me as their teacher, tutor and trainer. May I be a hard-worker, showing them your love by my service to them. May I open their eyes to read words so they may read your Word. May I be successful in my work of teaching, and may they be blessed in their work of learning.

Amen.

True Worship

If I met Jesus face-to-face, would I be willing to ask for his advice?

Read: John 4

“The fact is, you have had five husbands…” (John 4:18)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:19-20)

Reflect:

This woman may have had a backstory littered with widowhood and broken marriages, and a reputation that left her an outcast drawing well-water in the hottest part of the day, but she blows me away with her spiritual perspicacity.

She meets a bloke at a well and he starts a conversation about being thirsty and drinking water… so far, so ordinary.

But then he tells her one thing about herself that he had no human way of knowing and BAM! she knows straight away he’s a prophet. And she’s got a religious question right on the tip of her tongue, on a topic of deep spiritual significance, and she just goes ahead and blurts it out.

Maybe all that social exclusion gave this woman time to think some deep religious thoughts, but it’s certain that her outcast status didn’t keep her from wanting to get right with God.

She knows she’s found a prophet and she knows what she doesn’t know. She’s determined to know the truth so she may live in obedience to that truth. Wow! That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

Crux:

If I met Jesus fact-to-face, would I be willing to ask for his advice on worshiping God rightly – and then act on his advice?

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I delight in the irony of you sovereignly ordaining that I should meditate upon this story on a Sunday, the day on which I have gathered with other Christians to publicly worship you.

Even more, you foreknew that today would be a day when our church’s order of service was changed out of the ordinary routine, to help the little ones sit with the whole congregation through the whole service, including the sermon. And next Sunday we’ll be worshiping in a different place, as part of our Church Family Camp weekend.

How appropriate that I should read this today, and be shown that the necessary thing about my worship is not location nor order of service, but that I worship you in Spirit and Truth. And another delicious connection: this morning our Sunday School and sermon were on the Spirit of Truth who testifies about Jesus, as Jesus spoke of him in John 15:26-16:33.

O LORD, I love your ways!

Amen.

Light

Jesus is the Light of the world, come into the world.

Read: John 3

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world (John 3:19)

Reflect:

There’s a pretty clear chiasmus* in John’s writing here in John 3. It probably extends at least from John 3:2, where Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, to John 4:6-7, where the Samaritan woman meets Jesus at noon. The centre of this chiasmus is this statement: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world” (John 3:19a).

How has light come into the world?

Light has come with the coming of Jesus, who said of himself, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). As John the Evangelist wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). When Jesus came into the world, God incarnate as a man, Immanuel, he brought light into the world.

In what way did Jesus bring light into the world?

Light brings enlightenment. Jesus spoke to people and explained to them who God is; how God works and what God’s will for them is. Jesus said God had come from heaven – the “Son of Man”, Jesus himself. Jesus told people that God works to effect his plan of salvation rather than condemnation. He told them it is God’s free will and sovereign choice to give (certain) people new birth by his Spirit into a new life that is eternal.

Crux:

Jesus is the Light of the world, come into the world.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Jesus is the Light of the world. He enlightens me with he truth of your glory. He illuminates my life with your glory shining truly within me. Jesus’ light reveals the darkness of my hear and shows my bright hope of salvation instead of condemnation.

Jesus, you are the Light of my world. Please continue to shine into those dark and evil places in my heart so I may repent, confessing my sins to you and renouncing my past evil ways.

Please help me to see clearly the truth that Jesus’ light reveals about you: that you are the God who loves the world, including me. You are the God who sent Jesus to be Light to me.  You are the God who saves those who believe in you and does not condemn any who so believe. You are the God of new birth, fresh starts, eternal life, joy.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

A chiasmus is my favourite literary structure. It is a rhetorical scheme “in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.” It has its origin in the meaning “crosswise arrangement” from the Greek name of the letter chi, which looks a bit like the English letter X. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

John 1:1-2 is a short and sweet chiasmus :

A: In the beginning was the Word,
B: and the Word was with God
X: and the Word was God.
B’: He was with God
A’: in the beginning.

The centre of the chiasmus is the centre and most important point of the author’s argument. Hence, in John 1:1-2 above, John is using claims of Jesus’ eternal existence and presence with God to prove Jesus’ identity as God.

In the same way that a chiasmus is a crosswise arrangement of words or ideas used to highlight the central idea, this blog is about the crux: “the decisive or most important point at issue… the ‘cross’.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

The crux of life at crux.live is Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the truths that I need Jesus, so I seek to know Jesus, so I may love Jesus and live in Jesus and live like Jesus.

Know to Grow

The more I know about Jesus, the more my faith can grow.

Read: John 2

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:22)

Reflect:

Jesus’ disciples believed in him from his first miraculous sign. Then, after the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophetic words regarding his death, they believed the scripture (that had foretold of Jesus) and Jesus’ own words. This poses a conundrum. How could the discipled believe, and then believe again later? It seems as if belief is not solely a one-time event, but more of an ongoing series of events. The more Jesus revealed his glory, the more his disciples could believe in him.

Or perhaps another way of putting it is: the more the disciples saw of Jesus and got to know him, the more their belief was based in truth. So the disciples’ belief in Jesus became fuller, richer and deeper as they witnessed Jesus’ glory revealed in his life and ministry.

Belief expands with knowledge of the truth.

Crux:

The more I know about Jesus, the more my belief in him can grow.

Christology is necessary for Christianity.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

In his miraculous actions at the Cana wedding, I see Jesus having compassion for an awkward social situation and smoothing the way with the best wine possible. Please help me to believe in Jesus’ glory when I need him to cover my inadequacies, mistakes and insufficiencies (which, as you know, is all the time). It is great to know that Jesus cared enough to intervene at Cana and to know my life is in your loving hands.

I see Jesus’ righteous wrath and zealous passion for your holiness and glory in his abrupt, curt response to the challenge of the Jews at the Temple. Please keep me trembling in fear before your holiness. Please help me to believe in Jesus’ death for my sins and also in your gracious forgiveness. Please help me also to be deliberate in taking your glory seriously, so I do not dishonour you or your name, especially in those situations where I do the ‘right’ things in a completely wrong way, like shouting at the kids to get ready for church(!).

Please magnify your glory in me and through me in my everyday ordinary life.

Amen.

“Follow Me”

Jesus wants me to follow him so that I may know God.

Read: John 1

No-one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)

Reflect:

Without knowing Jesus, a person can’t know God. We can’t see God, except in Jesus, the Light of the World. We can’t hear God, except in Jesus, the Word of God. We can’t face God, except through the forgiveness won by Jesus, the Lamb of God. We can’t relate to God, except in his one and only Son Jesus, who is himself God.

So it was an immense, even immeasurable, honour for Jesus to tell Philip of Bethsaida to “Follow me”. Jesus was leaving the place where John the Baptist had pointed him out as the Lamb of God to his disciples (and presumably to the Jewish leaders as well). Jesus was heading back to his home ground of Galilee, and if he hadn’t invited Philip to follow him, Philip might never have seen him again… and Philip would have missed out on not just knowing Jesus, but also missed out on truly knowing God.  But Jesus did ask Philip to follow him, and Philip did follow. What a privilege.

Jesus has extended this call to follow him to me as well, by giving me the opportunity to read and meditate upon John’s record of Jesus for myself. John’s gospel testimony allows Jesus to make God known to me, today, just by opening the Bible and reading John’s words. What a privilege!

Crux:

Jesus wants me to follow him so that I may know God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Father of one and only Son, Jesus; Adoptive Father to many heirs including me; you have known me since the beginning of time, before my life began. You know me inside and out: my motivations, my thoughts, my personality, my quirks… yet you have chosen to reveal yourself and make yourself known to me through Jesus, your Son, your Word, your Light, the Teacher you sent so Philip and I both may learn to know you and love you  and obey you.

Please continue to help me follow Jesus. May he be my Rabbi, and I his disciple, all the days of my life and into eternity, so i may always be knowing more of you.

Thank you for Jesus and for your prophets and disciples who testified aloud and in writing that Jesus is himself God, so that I can know and believe, and by believing have life in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Christology

Why study Jesus Christ?

Acts 11:26 tells us, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” What led to the people of this city taking a new name, a new identity?

A story to share with children:

After Jesus was crucified, rose to life again and ascended to heaven, his disciples* were persecuted. One man, Stephen, was even killed with stones. Many of Jesus’ disciples fled from Jerusalem. But everywhere they went, they told people the good news about the Lord Jesus.

In Antioch, lots of people, including non-Jews, believed what they were told about Jesus. The book of Acts says they turned to the Lord. God changed their hearts through his grace. The people of Antioch gave up their old religious practices and turned away from their previous religious beliefs. Instead, they believed the truth that had first been declared at Pentecost (Acts 2:3): “God has made this Jesus, whom [the Jews] crucified, both Lord and Christ.” They became new disciples of Jesus.

The apostles in Jerusalem heard about these new disciples in Antioch, and sent Barnabas the Encourager to the city. Barnabas was glad to go, and even more glad to meet these new disciples. He was very excited to see that God’s grace was helping the people of Antioch to believe in Jesus Christ.

Barnabas stayed in Antioch for a while to encourage the new believers to stick with their new faith. They had lots to learn. Who was Jesus? Why was he called “the Christ”? What had Jesus taught to his disciples while he was on earth? What should they do to obey Jesus? How could they follow Jesus, now that he had gone up to heaven to be with God the Father?

acts-11v19-26-chrissie-d
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching children about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

The Holy Spirit was in Barnabas’s heart. He was full of faith in Jesus Christ. So Barnabas had answers for all their questions. The believers at Antioch learnt about Jesus. With Barnabas’s help and encouragement, even more people in Antioch believed in Jesus. Together they became a church, a new gathering of God’s people. Barnabas taught them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

After a while, it seemed as if there were too many believers in Antioch for one man to teach them all. So Barnabas went to find Saul, to bring him to help. Barnabas found Saul in his hometown, Tarsus, and brought him to Antioch.

For a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught big crowds of people. The disciples of Jesus at Antioch spent twelve months studying all about Jesus Christ, with Saul and Barnabas as their enthusiastic teachers. As the new disciples learned about Jesus Christ, they came to love Christ, to obey Christ and eventually, to be a bit like Christ.

Barnabas and Saul taught the people in Antioch that Jesus had commanded his disciples to love one another, in the same way Jesus had loved them (John 11:34). The new disciples obeyed Jesus’ command. They loved one another very well. They showed compassion and were kind, humble, gentle and patient with each other.

In time, other people noticed how well these Antioch disciples loved each other. They commented, “They are loving other people just like Jesus Christ did.”

Some said, “They must belong to Christ.”

Other people said, “They are just like little Christs!”

So they gave the Antioch disciples a nickname, calling them Christians, which means little Christs. Ever since, the disciples of Jesus have been known as Christians. This was just what Jesus had said would happen (John 11:35).

crux: Like the believers at Antioch, I am a Christian. I am a disciple – a student – of Christ. So I study Christ. I seek to know Christ so I may love Christ, obey Christ and be like Christ.

I hope you will enjoy studying Christ with me at crux.live.

* Disciples are students or followers. Jesus’ disciples were the people who followed him to learn from him all the wonderful things he had to teach them about knowing, loving and obeying God.

[This text is based upon Acts 11:19-26. The Holy Bible, New International Version 2011.]