Luke 1:31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17–18
Why does Jesus say this? Why does he stress his willingness to die? Because if it weren’t true—if his death were forced on him, if it weren’t free, if his heart weren’t really in it—then a big question mark would be put over his love for us.
The depth of his love is in its freedom. If he didn’t die for us willingly—if he didn’t choose the suffering and embrace it—then how deep is his love, really? So he stresses it. He makes it explicit. It comes out of me, not out of circumstances, not out of pressure, but out of what I really long to do.
Jesus is stressing to us that his love for us is free. He seems to hear some enemy slander saying, “Jesus doesn’t really love you. He’s a mercenary. He’s in it for some other reason than love. He’s under some kind of constraint or external compulsion. He doesn’t really want to die for you. He’s just got himself somehow into this job and has to submit to the forces controlling him.” Jesus seems to hear something like that, or anticipate it. And he responds, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” So he is pressing this on us to see if we will believe his protest of love, or if we will believe the opposite—that his heart is really not in this.
Anybody who makes a statement like that is either mentally deranged, or lying, or God. I have authority from inside death, as a dead man, to take life back again, when I please. Now what’s the point here? Well, which is harder: to control when you die, or to give yourself life again once you are dead? Which is harder: to say, “I lay my life down on my own initiative”? Or to say, “I will take my life back again after I am dead”? The answer is obvious. And that’s the point. If Jesus could—and did—take his life back again from the dead, then he was free indeed. If he controlled when he came out of the grave, he certainly controlled when he went into the grave.
So here’s the point. The resurrection of Jesus is given to us as the confirmation or evidence that he was indeed free in laying down his life. And so the resurrection is Christ’s testimony to the freedom of his love.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.“ Hebrews 7:25
The great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God (Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6). Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant.
So the one command, the one exhortation, that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.
This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yardsoff.” John 21:4-8
It’s a new season! The New Year 2014 has arrived and 2013 is safely behind us now with it many happy memories, passive struggles, triumphs and defeats. Whatever the past year held for you today is a new day! That is why I love the first day of each year so much. However, many people become depressed with the passing of the holiday season assuming life will become mundane and normal all over again. What is your perspective this morning? Did your enthusiasm end when the ball dropped and the celebration ended with Auld Lang Syne? The disciples who followed Jesus had experienced the miraculous. His ministry blossomed into healing and deliverance right before their eyes. Jesus taught these men daily. He walked with them. He resided with him. These followers experienced an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ every day. Then the unthinkable happened to their Messiah, He died. How could this happen? Was it the death of their dream? It was the end of one season and the beginning of another. So these men went back to life as it was before Jesus said, “Follow me.” Peter and several other disciples went back to fishing. It was their livelihood before Jesus. It was their normal routine. When Jesus was gone, all Peter could think to do in his moment of sorrow was return to some normalcy of life and so he did. But his season as a fisher of fish had ended and as they floated in the boat they had not caught a thing. Jesus was watching from the shore. He called out to the men inquiring of their catch. When they confirmed that they had caught nothing, Jesus directed them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Their net could not hold the multitude of fish. Now in the natural what are the odds that when fishing in a small vessel that if there are no fish on one side of the boat that there will be abundance on the other side – unlikely at best. That is when the revelation hit one of the men and he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter did not wait to discuss the futility of his proclamation instead diving in the water to be with the Lord. He left behind the fish and went for the Prize – Jesus. Peter did not want to go back to his old life but wanted to be with Jesus where He was! Today is the beginning of a new season for you too. It is a time to make a choice whether or not 2014 will be the year that you reside in the dwelling place of God in the Presence of the Lord or if you will go back to mundane living struggling to survive. While the choice seems obvious, note that only one disciple was in a rush to be with Jesus leaving behind natural blessing to get to Him. The others hauled in the fish with them!
The Presence of Jesus Christ in your life will change the outcome each and every time without fail. There is not one thing that this earth has to offer that is better than the favor that is found in His Presence. You can spend thousands of dollars looking for a cure for a disease when in an instant God can heal your body for free. A man can spend his entire life securing fame and fortune and die with a bankrupt soul only to be tormented for Eternity. Matthew 8:36 – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Even the closest followers of Jesus Christ struggle with discerning physical wealth from spiritual inheritance. Will 2014 be the year that you decide to fully trust in Jesus Christ and make Him the Lord of your life? Salvation of your soul is secure in the knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. Righteousness comes from doing something with this great knowledge. Jesus becomes Lord of your life when you submit all that you are to Him. Peter knew that all He needed was in Jesus Christ. His life did not matter in comparison to the gift of knowing the Lord and being in His Presence. Maybe some would say that Peter was overzealous for God. The Lord obviously provided a blessing in the multitude of fish caught that day and he just left the gift behind. I say that Peter was the only man of faith on that boat! See Peter recognized the sign in the miracle. Jesus did not meet them on the beach that day to fill their stomachs but to feed their souls. Peter was starving for Jesus! It is such a hunger that drove Peter from the boat into the sea to meet the Lord leaving behind natural sustenance for Eternal substance.
Deuteronomy 11:13-15 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, hewill give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.”
Will 2014 be the year that you decide to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul? It seems like a simple question but the way that you respond will make the difference in prospering in 2014 or experiencing the same frustrating limitations of 2013. Peter had made some crucial errors in the days preceding his meeting with Jesus on the beach. He had denied the Lord in His Dying hour. He had hidden in fear for his life. It was not a defining time for this disciple. Many men would have been afraid to face the Risen Lord with such guilt and shame, however; Peter had to be where the Lord was in spite of himself. His Need for Jesus Christ would propel him into His Presence. Take time today to return to 2013 what belongs there. Guilt and shame are not welcome in this new season of your life. It was nailed to the same cross that Peter’s sins were attached to. Prosperity in the coming year is a matter of the heart and soul. What is your response? Will you jump into this new season as Peter did or will you just keep rowing the boat? The choice is yours. I encourage you to jump into 2014 and leave the past behind. There is nothing in 2013 that will outshine what the Lord longs to do in you for 2014! What are you waiting for? Jesus is waiting on you!
ship went down.”
What is the true spirit of Christmas? A young soldier once shared a very special gift with his fellow soldiers on Christmas Eve.
May I love You in all things and above all things.
May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in
Nothing is good that is against Your Will,
and all that is good comes from Your Hand.
Place in my heart a desire to please You
and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love,
so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.
Psalm 16:11“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Bless me with the healing and forgiving power of laughter.
Help me to delight in life’s wonderment and surprises.
Preserve me from sanctimonious solemnity and morose morality,
and deliver me from the vanity of regrets.
Remove from me the perverse tendency
to make mountains out of molehills of my life.
Help me to regard the duck’s waddle,
the monkey’s antics
and my own foibles with the same sense of
not for what I do but for what I am –
your child, created in your image.
Help me to realize
that it is your love that gives meaning to my existence,
are echoes to that tremendous love.
Let me not forget to be joyful!
Let me not be too hurried to be cheerful.
Let me not be too busy to smile.
I ask these things, my Lord and my God, so that
someday I may join with all the mirthful saints
and singing angels
in praising you eternally.
Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Slow us down, O Lord, this Advent,
So we may understand the darkness we are in,
The darkness of fear that comes with wanting more,
And the fear of having less.
Grant us the light of transformation,
As we wait for your true abundance
The love of the Incarnation,
A love that brings us true dignity and security,
A love that embraces all, that enriches all,
That calls us all to share justly and celebrate joyfully.