Friday, July 11, 2014

"O Jesus! You ARE MY King!"

Day #196:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 12th

Scripture Reading:  Luke 19 - 20 …

As I listened to a popular preacher describe Revelation 3:20, I didn't know whether to be sad or angry.  In case you don't know what it says, here are Jesus' words to the church in Laodicea:  "Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  This preacher pictured Jesus on the other side of the door begging (the voice he used was almost a "whine") for the person on the other side of the door to open it.  He pictured the door as having a handle only on the opposite side of the door from where Jesus was standing, knocking, and he went on to explain that God will never "force Himself" on anyone against their will.

So what's wrong with this popular understanding of what is illustrated in this verse?  What's wrong is that it doesn't fit the immediate context or the teaching of the rest of Scripture!  In the immediate context Jesus is rebuking the church in Laodicea because they were "lukewarm" (3:16), and He says He is about to vomit them out of His mouth.  Jesus goes on to say in verse 19:  "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent!"  Then come the words of verse 20:  "Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and each with him, and he with me."  So why bring this up here and what does it have to do with our reading for today?

In our reading today from Luke's Gospel, Jesus speaks very clearly about the purpose of His coming:  "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (19:10).  When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree and told him to come down because He was coming to his house, Zacchaeus was convicted by the Holy Spirit that he was a sinner who needed what Jesus had to offer.  Zacchaeus was on the other side of the door and Jesus was knocking, but it was NOT the old Zacchaeus who opened the door!  The old Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who had gotten wealthy cheating people.  He was simply curious to get a look at this man named, Jesus, whom he had apparently heard about … nothing more.

But when he met Jesus the Spirit changed his heart immediately and he became a new creation.  He said, "Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (19:8).  Zacchaeus didn't have the power or desire to "open the door of his heart."  Suddenly, his life was changed, because HE was changed.  Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:3 and 5:  "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. … No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."  Jesus Himself is the "Living Water," and it is Jesus, by His Word and Spirit, who knocks AND opens the door.  That's why God calls it "GRACE!"  It is totally and completely unearned and undeserved.

While this tax collector acknowledged Jesus as King, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders of the Jews refused to do likewise.  Jesus told the parable of the talents again and explained that those who acknowledge Him as Master will serve Him … because they confess Him as Lord and WANT to serve Him, to please Him.  All who reject Him as King are His enemies and Jesus says, "Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be King over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me" (19:27).  Is this JESUS speaking?  Some in the church, perhaps many, would rebuke Him for such strong words today.  Didn't Jesus know that "God loves everybody"???

So many still refuse to believe that God will judge all who do not acknowledge Jesus as King, as Lord, as Master.  They want a softer, kinder, gentler Jesus … so they make one up.  But you see, it's not an "either/or" situation.  Jesus is both just and forgiving.  He will come as Judge AND as Savior.  Whether you experience His love as the merciful and compassionate Savior that He is depends on whether you acknowledge that He is Lord and that you deserve His judgment.  To "repent" means that you stop trusting in your own goodness and turn your heart away from loving sin to loving Jesus!  And you will do that only if Jesus Himself changes your heart by His Spirit.  Repentance itself is the gift of God.  That's why true believers love God, rejoice in Jesus' work on the cross and give thanks for the work of His Spirit in our hearts and minds, making us new creations.  Left to ourselves we ARE lost and will remain lost.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem the people praised God "for all the miracles they had seen" (19:37).  But most didn't really want THIS King … as they would show a few days later.  As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, Jesus wept (19:41).  Judgment was going to come because they "did not recognize the time of God's coming" (19:44).  They didn't know who Jesus was.  They were steeped in religion, but it meant nothing to most of them.  Still, "the people hung on His words" (19:48), while the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders tried to figure out how to kill Him.  God was at work opening the doors of hearts made hard by sin and even though the crowd would soon cry, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" … some of these same people, perhaps, would be among the 3,000 several weeks later who would believe in the resurrected Jesus who had ascended into heaven as Peter preached on Pentecost (Acts 2).

The leaders continued to press Jesus and He revealed their lack of understanding over and over again.  Jesus was constantly teaching, knowing that later these words would speak even to you and me, opening OUR hearts and moving US to acknowledge Him as King.  Do you realize what an amazing thing it is for sinful people like you and me, people who were conceived and born in sin, who were spiritually DEAD by our very nature … what an amazing thing it is that we who believe have been moved by God's Spirit to respond to His Word and to believe who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and what is yet to be done?  We are now called to use what God has given to bring others to Him.  Only His Spirit can change minds and hearts, but God uses US to bring His Word, the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

When the religious leaders rejected Him as King, Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written:  'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.' ?"  They knew he had spoken this parable against them and they wanted desperately to arrest Him and kill Him.  Blind fools …  They were the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they were the vineyard God had planted, but they rejected His Son as their King, as so many do today.  It is a foolish decision, yet the only one the dead heart can make.

O how blessed Zacchaeus was because the Spirit convicted him of His sin and opened the door of His heart to acknowledge Jesus as his King, as his Savior, as his Lord.  Have you done the same?  Jesus is not begging, but He IS calling and knocking.  Those who read these words or who are led to read the Bible are being given an opportunity to come to Christ.  To some the words come as judgment, as they did to the Pharisees and chief priests and elders.  They heard the same message as Zacchaeus and others who believed, but they did not respond in faith because their hearts were hard.

I pray for you as you read this, and encourage you to share it with others who may not yet know Jesus as THEIR King!  Pray for those who are lost and for those who are playing religion.  Those who fall on this "stone" will be crushed (20:18).  "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13).  May you, today, rejoice in God's grace as you cry from your heart:  "O Jesus!  You ARE MY King!"

"Thank You, Father, for Your amazing grace in giving me the gift of Your Spirit, for speaking Your Word to my heart, for opening my mind and giving me LIFE in Jesus!  I gladly rejoice that Jesus is MY King and that one day soon He will return and reign over all the nations.  With my whole heart I cry out, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' … NOW and FOREVER!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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