Friday, May 9, 2014

"So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught …"

Day #133:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - May 10th

Scripture Reading:  Luke 1 - 2 …

People believe a lot of things with far less evidence than we have concerning the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Yet, people are much more likely to question your belief in Jesus than in anything else you claim to believe.  Too many Christians find it difficult to defend what they believe, but we have eyewitness testimony!  Luke writes his gospel account after carefully investigating all of the testimony and writes to his friend, Theophilus, so that he would be certain of the things he had been taught and which he had apparently believed.

Luke's gospel therefore gives some information that is not in the other gospels, as well as much of the information that Matthew and Mark included in their accounts.  Undoubtedly, part of the reason for multiple accounts was that God says a matter should be settled on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Therefore, the gospels are not contradictory, but rather, complementary.  They fit together, giving us a fuller picture of Jesus' life and ministry.

Luke begins by recounting the birth of John the Baptist.  Like Matthew, Luke ties the events back to the Old Testament prophets and to the words of Malachi:  "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Malachi 4:5-6).  So the angel Gabriel says to Zechariah, "He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children …" (1:17).

In beginning with John the Baptist, Luke points out that the birth of Jesus was part of the unfolding of God's plan of salvation foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures.  As he turns his attention to the birth of Jesus, it is clear that he is continuing to make the connection between the birth of Jesus and the prophecies of the prophets concerning the coming Messiah (Anointed One, Christ).  Gabriel now comes to Mary and tells her that she will give birth to a son and "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end" (1:32-33).

It is obvious that for Luke, as for us, it was important to point out that Jesus was a descendant of David's line.  Why is that so important?  Because David was descended from the line of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.   God had predicted in Genesis 49:10 that the coming King would be a descendant of Judah and had told David that One from his line would be seated on the throne of God's kingdom forever.  These words, then, are more than just a description of Jesus' lineage, but of the validity of His claim to the throne!

It is surely hard to understand how people can read and study the Bible and MISS what Luke intends to do … to provide certainty to the things that the Bible teaches.  It would be hard to understand except we know that people without the Spirit of God are spiritually dead and thus blind to the truth that God reveals in His Word, even though it is confirmed through the testimony of MANY witnesses.  Both Mary and Zechariah point to the promise of God to bring salvation to His people.  They could not yet understand the whole scope of God's plan, but they understood that they were living in a time of fulfillment unlike any other up to that time.

Zechariah points to the fact that God "has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago)" (1:69-70).  "Fulfillment" is a word that only Christians can use correctly.  Few people grasp the reality that all these things were foretold and that the Bible is a book that told people what was going to happen, what God was going to do … and it happened, just as God said it would.  And then, the Bible tells us what IS going to happen … and it WILL happen, just as God says it will!!  These things have been written so that YOU and I will be certain of the things we have been taught - so long as they agree with the Bible.

As Luke records the highlights of Jesus' birth and early life in Chapter 2, God confirms through the testimony of His Spirit that this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby.  He is worthy to be worshiped and He is the answer to the prayers of those who had been waiting for the Christ to come.  God had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Christ, the Messiah, and having seen Jesus, he testified, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation" (2:29-30).  And in a reference to the prophecies of Isaiah, he calls Jesus "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

Anna's testimony is brief but no less important, as "she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38).  In these words we find the hope of the people of God through the ages:  the redemption of Jerusalem.  This city, unlike any other city on earth, was chosen by God to be THE place where Jesus will return and from where He will reign over the nations of the earth for 1,000 years.  This is the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants more than 4,000 years ago.

Satan has attempted to deceive, to distract, to disrupt and to disturb God's plan - even His plan to rebuild the physical temple prior to Jesus' return.  The Muslims built the Dome of the Rock on what is considered to be the Temple Mount.  But if that is, indeed, the case, God will take care of that, "for nothing is impossible with God" (1:37).  It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … the God of Judah, of David … the God who reveals Himself in His Word, the Bible, who will send Jesus once again into this world, not as a baby, not to suffer for the sins of His people, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

Are YOU among them?  Are you certain of what you have been taught?  I am grieved at how many who claim to be Christians are unsure of what they say they believe.  They are willing, even eager it seems, to entertain other ideas, other teachings, even other gospels that contradict what is revealed in God's Word, the Bible.  Deception abounds and Satan disguises himself as an "angel of light."  There will be an even greater apostasy than today shortly before Jesus returns.  Do not be deceived!  Only those who are not sure of their faith and who are not true believers can and will fall away.  "If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (I John 2:19).

The "us" is true believers, those who know what we believe and who trust only in the blood of Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.  His Spirit lives within us and we read and testify along with Luke and the other writers of Scripture that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!"  May our testimony be used of God to draw others to Him that they, too, may be certain of the things we, and hopefully they have been taught!

"Heavenly Father, You have revealed Yourself clearly in Your Word, and yet those who are without Your Spirit remain in the darkness of spiritual death.  Thank You for Your grace, for opening my heart and mind to receive Your Word as truth and for giving me a new heart and a new will, moving me to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior and my Lord.  Help me to live my life in certainty, trusting You to do all that You have said You will do in Your Word.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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