Worship

The soil of Your Heart – Worship

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Worship, praise

It is vitally important for ever Christian to grow spiritually. We ought to seek growth in our relationship with God. We do this by preparing the soil of our hearts. That is the theme of this post – prepare the soil of your heart. Today, we look at Worship and how worship helps prepare the soil of your heart.

Scripture: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness”. Psalm 29:2

Worship

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One of the most powerful ways to prepare the soil of your heart is through worship. Authentic worship is a powerful exchange of God pouring his love out on us and us giving him our hearts in return. In worshiping through music, our hearts naturally become soft and receptive to God’s love as we encounter his goodness and engage in adoration of the only One worthy of our affections.

God created music with an innate ability to affect us at our core. Music has the power to fill us with peace, joy, and anger; it can cause tears to well up in our eyes and even make the most mundane events beautiful. Martin Luther said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” By consistently engaging in worship through beautiful music, we provide a framework for the Holy Spirit both to prepare the soil of our hearts and to fill us with the seeds of God’s presence and perfect character. 

What the Bible says about worship

The Bible is brimming with admonishment to worship through song. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Scripture is so clear about the importance of worship because God longs for us to be a people marked by consistent reminders of his unconditional love. He longs for us to live in response to his presence and plans rather than struggling through life by placing our trust in the world over him. 

God’s heart

God longs to reveal his heart to you in worship. He longs to show up and meet you in your room, car, workplace, and house of worship. You were created to encounter God and engage in the cyclical act of giving and receiving love throughout your day. When you worship here on earth, you posture your heart towards eternity. Making the willful choice to give your affections to the One you will spend eternity with, you also discover your purpose for which you were made: to live in unhindered communion with your heavenly Father.

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If you feel like the soil of your heart is hard, your life isn’t marked by the fruit of the Spirit or you can’t escape from a temptation—simply take some time and encounter God in worship. God’s presence is wholly available to you today. His love and grace are steadfast towards you. May your time in guided prayer be marked by the nearness and power of the Holy Spirit as you encounter the unconditional love of God. 

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1. Reflect on the faithful and loving character of your heavenly Father. 

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” Isaiah 40:28

“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5

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2. Now respond to God’s character with thankfulness. 

Take Scripture and thank God for who He is. Look at your life and thank God for any good gifts he’s given you. Allow his goodness to stir up thankfulness within you. 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1

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3. What changed in your heart as you engaged in thanksgiving? 

If you journal – write about the power of thankfulness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how God is at work in your life today and offer thanksgiving in response. 

If you start to feel your heart begin to harden because of something that happens today, simply reflect on the goodness of God and give thanks. Negativity and sin have an incredibly harmful effect on our hearts. Decide to put away any form of sloth, slander, impurity and anything negative at all, and instead focus on the goodness of what God is doing. Choose to love today and align your thoughts and emotions with faith and trust in who God is. To walk in relationship with God is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit at all times. If you get off track for a bit, simply ask the Spirit to lead you back to the perspective and posture of heart He desires for you! God’s grace is abounding and powerful. He longs to walk in relationship with you all day today.

May your day be filled with peace, joy and a passionate pursuit of bringing his kingdom to earth all around you.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in Devotional, 0 comments

The Gospel of John – The Father and The Son

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Our journey through the Gospel of John continues a few months later where Jesus is cornered at The Feast of Dedication (Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah), in an noticeable threat, by the same religious leaders He has been castigating for years. In this passage of scripture, Christ lays claim to “The Father and the Son” are one. He echoes the metaphors of sheep and shepherd He employed after giving sight to a blind man. Jesus points out that His teachings and miracles are all consistent with predictions of the Messiah, but these men refuse to accept Him. This culminates in another attempt on Jesus’ life, which He avoids. This is the last time Jesus will publicly teach prior to His crucifixion.

Follow the series on John here

I and the Father Are One – John 10:22-42

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

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Conflict with Religious Leaders

The general theme of this passage is very much the same as what Jesus discussed earlier in chapter 10. The conversation here is directly inspired by the conflict Jesus created by healing a man born blind (John 9). The hostility of Jesus’ religious critics is becoming more overt and more aggressive. In the verses that follow, they will corner Jesus in a blatantly threatening way, once again attempting to stone Him. This naked violence is one reason Jesus, prior to His arrest, ceased His public preaching and began to focus on preparing the Twelve for what was to come. This encounter marks the last time Jesus will debate these religious leaders prior to His crucifixion.

The colonnade of Solomon is a portico: a roofed outdoor hallway lined with columns. This is on the east side of the temple. The walkway itself was elevated from the surrounding land, and partly walled in. That arrangement is important to the story, given the way Jesus is approached by His critics. Because of the layout, a person walking along this portico had the temple on one side, and either a solid wall or a sheer drop on the other.

According to verse 24, Jesus is “surrounded” by religious leaders. The Greek term used is ekyklōsan, literally translates “to surround, encircle, or encompass.” It’s a term often used to describe the act of siege. In other words, hostile religious leaders are about to “corner” Jesus as He walks in the temple.

This is the ancient equivalent of a crowd of schoolyard bullies surrounding a victim, pushing them against the wall in a hallway.

This time though, the Religious Leaders came prepared – these men brought rocks, in advance, and with murderous intent. In this incident, Jesus is not simply being challenged. He’s being threatened.

The challenge laid out to Jesus here, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” must be read in the context that these leaders had already made up their minds – they wanted to Jesus. It is almost a dare for Jesus to repeat His prior claims. So Jesus obliges.

In my Father’s name

A recurring theme in Jesus’ conversations with His critics is that they are being unyielding. Jesus’ life and teachings align perfectly with the Scriptures these men know all too well—but they refuse to accept Him. An intent to disbelieve, not a lack of knowledge, is their problem. Others have seen Jesus’ miracles, and have properly interpreted them as signs that He is divinely empowered. The men who threaten Him now, however, have proven they’re opposed to God by crediting Jesus’ miracles to Satan (Mark 3:22).

Jesus will continue to answer in verse 26 by reiterating the first of His three shepherding-related analogies from this chapter. This puts His answer in plain terms: I already told you who I was, but you’re not going to listen.

Jesus reiterates a point he made for these men a few months prior: they don’t hear His voice because they are not His “sheep” (John 10:1–6). Like sheep, which only recognise the voice of their particular master, these men are practically deaf to the voice of God.

Jesus’ voice is God’s voice (John 10:30); if you don’t hear the voice of God, it means you’re not part of His “flock.”

Jesus makes this statement under dire circumstances. His critics have trapped Him in a corner of the temple and in typical fashion, Jesus not only responds with brave truth, He continues, as shown in the following verses 28-29, culminating in a statement that seems almost deliberately intended to enrage His critics.

All the evidence and reason in the world won’t make the slightest difference to someone committed to disbelief.

The Good Shepherd

Jesus expands on the metaphors He used earlier in this chapter. Jesus explained that those who are His are like sheep—they only respond to the voice of their own shepherd. How a person reacts to Jesus proves whether they are, or are not, part of His flock. Jesus also claims to be like the single opening in a sheep pen: “the door” which was the only means of finding rescue from danger – Salvation. He also proclaimed Himself the “Good Shepherd,” contrasts with selfish leaders like those He speaks with, and spoke of His willingness to die for the sake of those who are His (John 10:10–14). Rather than simply repeat His claims, Jesus is expounding on them.

This statement is a crucial part of our understanding of the Gospel. Jesus has already made it clear that there are only two categories of people, spiritually speaking: those who are “in,” and those who are “out.” These two groups are separated by Jesus Christ, who is “the door.” Those who belong to Christ are safe from being taken away, as a wolf might grab a sheep in the wild.

Those who are part of Jesus’ flock cannot be taken away.

I and the Father are One

Here, faced with a hostile crowd, in tight quarters, with men armed for violence, Jesus connects those dots without the slightest hint of subtlety: “I and the Father are one.” Part of the meaning of this statement is lost in translation from Greek to English. Jesus uses the neutered form of the Greek word for “one” here, implying that they are “unity.” Rather than saying that Jesus and God are the same person, Jesus is claiming that He and God are unified as one, a partial explanation of the Trinity.

Unsurprisingly, this tips the mob’s anger over the top, and they start another attempt to assassinate Jesus.

Prepared for stoning

The next verse says they “picked up stones,” the implication is not that they reached down, at that precise moment, to find rocks. This encounter is well inside the temple grounds, and nowhere near easy access to the surrounding terrain. Stones suitable for an attack like this were not simply laying around the temple within reach. In other words, these men brought the rocks with them when they first surrounded Jesus. The Greek grammar involved here is not specific about “when” the act happened, only that it happened. In short, John is saying these men “had picked up” stones, anticipating violence. Jesus has given them all they need to justify following through on their threats.

As has happened in the past, however, Jesus will put His attackers in an awkward spot by forcing them to justify their actions. Then, without much explanation at all, He will manage to escape this seemingly impossible situation.

I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?

Jesus question here is meant for effect: Jesus has already pointed out that His miracles should convince onlookers that He has divine approval (John 5:36; 10:25). Despite this, these men still object, since the signs didn’t agree with their preferred theology (John 10:33).

“Preferred theology” is largely responsible for how distorted the true Gospel message become

Though the men claim Jesus is blaspheming, and is a liar, Jesus challenges them to explain the miracles that He’s done. The mob ignores the real point of the question and simply state the obvious: a charge of blasphemy. Jesus’ response is to challenge whether they ought to be interpreting His words as blasphemy in the first place. What comes next is Jesus using ancient debate techniques—turning the tables on these masters of Old Testament law.

Lovers of Old Testament Law

The real point of Jesus’ question is that He has performed miracles—why, then, do these men insist that He’s wicked? Or blaspheming? Shouldn’t they be recognising His authority, instead? The mob responds by ignoring—or missing—the point Jesus makes. Instead, they give the shallowest view of what Jesus said: that He’s a human being insulting God by claiming to be His equal. Jesus responda with a brilliant use of their own tactics. Religious leaders of that day would often debate Scripture in much the same way as modern politicians: with an emphasis on technicalities, obscure details, and other confusing points. Jesus turns that upside down, using it as a way to further condemn their rejection of His gospel.

Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods”?”. Jesus engages in an abbreviated form of debate used by the Religious leaders to prove that, even by their own standards, they’re being hypocrites. Jesus cites Psalm 82:6. A reference to the Old Testament grounds His claim in something these men claim to take seriously: the Word of God. Jesus will compare the words of the Old Testament to the claim these men now claim is blasphemous. It’s important to note that Jesus isn’t making a blanket defense of all claims related to God. Rather, He’ll once again point to all of the ways in which He fulfills the role of Messiah.

Jesus’ point is not that humans are divine, but that those who are divinely enabled to perform the will of God are, in a poetic form, referred to as “gods” in Scripture. As this retort continues, Jesus will point out that He has been proven by powerful evidence. His claim to truth is much stronger than that of anyone else. His works—His miracles—should be absolute proof that He is sent by God. As such, charges of blasphemy against Jesus in this case fall short.

Jesus also makes a point of rejecting the suggestion that the Word of God can be “broken.” By this, Jesus means that the verses He quoted could not be dismissed as an error. They could not be written off as a mistake—this is the doctrine of inerrancy, which says that Scripture is perfectly accurate in everything it intends to say. Jesus, in this moment, not only implies inerrancy, He grounds His argument in it.

Jesus adds more fuel to the fire by making a statement His critics are sure to despise: claiming co-unity with God the Father.

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The Gospel of John – Spiritual Blindness

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Jesus meets with the man He has healed again, who was blind since birth. His healing and conversation with the Pharisees, has resulted in the man being excommunicated from his synagogue. Jesus finally reveals His identity to the man, and explains how this miracle story summarised His earthly ministry. The Pharisees, once again, prove their spiritual stubbornness, their spiritual blindness, giving Jesus an opportunity to connect greater knowledge with greater responsibility.

Spiritual Blindness – John 9:35–41

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

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Follow the series on John here

Sent by God

The man Jesus healed of lifelong blindness has been excommunicated by the Pharisees (John 9:22, 34). Beyond his support for Jesus (John 9:25), this man also embarrassed local religious leaders by exposing their hypocrisy. He knew very little about Jesus, the man who healed him but as a beggar, he knew more than enough to recognise a messenger of God (John 9:30–31). His challenge to the religious leaders earned him their insults, and their hatred (John 9:28).

Before this, the man has not actually “seen” Jesus. His blindness was healed when he obeyed Jesus’ command to wash off his eyes (John 9:6–7), so Jesus was not there when the beggar gained his eyesight. Now, Jesus finds the man after his run-in with the Pharisees.

Jesus, as He commonly does, challenges the man by asking him to explain his own beliefs. This question is important for several reasons. The term “Son of Man” is one that Jewish people associated closely with the Messiah. To this point, the once-blind man has not said he thinks Jesus is the Messiah—only that he believes Jesus has been sent by God (John 9:11).

More than enough belief

The healed man wants to follow the truth, but simply does not know how. This is a strong contrast to the hard-headed scribes and Pharisees (John 5:39–40), who know more than enough about the Scriptures, but refuse to follow them by accepting Christ.

As promised (Matthew 7:7), Jesus will respond to sincere seeking, and give this man the wisdom he desires

The formerly-blind man does not know who the Messiah actually is, so, Jesus tells him. It’s Jesus Himself, the one standing right there speaking with the now-seeing man. Once again, the man’s response differs drastically from that of Jesus’ religious critics. Following his own advice, the man immediately confesses his faith in the Promised One.

An important moment

This moment is important when discussing Jesus’ claims to be God. In other portions of Scripture, worship of any being other than God is forbidden. When someone mistakenly worships other beings, such as angels, those beings respond by refusing that worship.. As with Thomas, Jesus accepts the worship of this newly-seeing man. By implication, Jesus is agreeing that He can be worshipped, which from a Jewish perspective means He is claiming to be identical to God.

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Jesus’ Judgement

In this passage, Jesus states that He came for judgment. The reason for Jesus’ earthly ministry was to secure our salvation; this required judgment on and against sin. The result of this ministry, however, is the—eventual—condemnation of those who reject Him.

The reference to those who see versus those who are blind is meant to explain this entire incident with the blind beggar and the religious critics.

Those who admit their need, and trust in God, are those who will be granted sight—just as the blind man was given both sight and knowledge by Jesus in response to his sincere faith.

Those who are arrogant and presume they already know, will be hardened by the presence of Jesus, instead. Despite their knowledge, they’ll allow their own prejudice to blind them, making them incapable of understanding what they don’t want to understand.

Conclusion

Too often, the Pharisees started from the assumption that they knew best, and Jesus could not be true, simply because He didn’t agree with them. As Jesus pointed out, that wasn’t because God had failed to provide evidence. It was because these men refused to accept the truth (John 5:39–40).

As part of their debate against Jesus, the Pharisees ask a pointed question. This is meant to be rhetorical—they ask with the assumption that the answer is an obvious “no.” By their own standards, the Pharisees were the most moral, well-educated, and spiritually capable of men. One can imagine a modern Pharisee asking, sarcastically, “you’re not saying I don’t understand spirituality!” and laughing.

Jesus’ response, in the last verse of this passage, shows that this is exactly the case. Worse, for the Pharisees, is their arrogance and presumption. Those who recognize their weakness and need for truth find forgiveness and grace (John 9:35–38; Mark 9:24).

John 9:41: “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Jesus’ statement here underscores an important principle, which is that God holds people accountable only for what they know, but holds them absolutely accountable for it. Those who come to God in humility, admitting weakness and seeking truth, are met with grace and forgiveness. Those who think they are wise, who claim to have spiritual sight, will be judged accordingly. This is especially true of those who, like the Pharisees, have knowledge and deliberately choose to ignore it.

Only Jesus can heal Spiritual Blindness

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 0 comments