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Seeking Maturity (ii)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

 

              In Luke chapter 8, Jesus tells one of his most famous stories, the parable of the sower, or, as some suggest, the parable of the soils.  The actual parable is told in verses 5-8, and then Jesus’ comments upon the parable are made in verses 9-15. 

               Recall that as the sower sowed his seed in broadcast fashion as he went along the way (vs. 5), some of it fell amongst thorns (vs. 7).  The thorns of course grew up and choked out the good seed.  Now when Jesus comments upon this in verse 14, he says “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

               There is our word – maturity.  In versions other than the ESV, it is rendered typically with something like “perfection.”  The word behind the word here in Greek is TELESPHOREO, which is a botanical term of sorts meaning “to produce mature fruit” or “to bring fruit to maturity.”  It is a different word from the other 7 we will look at in this series, although it does share a common prefix – TELE.

               But more important is what Jesus says about maturity through the illustration of this parable.  Some hear the good news of Jesus and His kingdom, and even take some initial steps of faith, but never come to maturity because of “the cares and riches and pleasures of life.”  Their faith journey is choked out by these thorns.  As a result, the fruit which has begun in them never comes to maturity.  Their potential in Christ is never realized. 

               Maturity, we learn from Jesus, is a spiritual process that takes time and leads to the bearing of spiritual fruit.  If such fruit is never born, maturity is not achieved.  So, a primary question for a disciple of the Lord is “Am I bearing spiritual fruit?”

Seeking Maturity (i)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

 

               I would like to write for a while on maturity.  I want to be more mature spiritually, don’t you?  I think the church needs mature believers.  There are enough immature.  Now, it would be great to have a lot of immature believers if the reason for their immaturity was that they were brand-new Christians!  New believers in Jesus are expected to be infants in Christ.  But that is not the immaturity I speak of here.  Indeed, if more of the church was truly mature, there would be many more immature (new) Christians around.

               I thought I would begin with a study over several articles of the word “mature” in the New Testament.  In the ESV translation, I find the word “mature” in eight different passages, as well as the word “maturity” once.  We will look at these texts, consider the context, the Greek word/words behind the English, and begin to develop sort of a New Testament theology of maturity, if you will.

               Let me offer you one tantalizing hint of the “word behind the word.”  From the cross, just before he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, Jesus said “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  What an incredible moment and what a sublime statement!  Embedded in that saying is the very word for maturity.  Ponder that, and we will begin to explore it in future articles.

Signs Done Well - VIII

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

            We have come to the seventh sign of Jesus in the gospel of John.  I hesitate to call it “the last sign,” because certainly there are others that could be included, most importantly the cross of Christ and the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  Traditionally, though, the seventh sign in John has been considered the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in John chapter 11.

            So much has been proclaimed and written about this chapter over the centuries, and for good reason!  To bring back a man from the tomb – and having been dead 4 days! – is an unrivaled work of power by the Lord of Life.  But the incredible power on display in this chapter is rivaled by the unmatched mercy shown by the man from Nazareth.  Jesus wept!  Jesus was deeply moved in his spirit!  Jesus cared for these people.

            Consider all that Jesus absorbed in this chapter:  misinformed questions, accusations, warnings of dangers, good people whom he had taught who just do not understand, weeping and wailing of professional mourners as well as genuine loved ones, being accused of playing favorites, the stark fact of death and decay lasting 4 days, and on and on.

            Jesus, our Champion, rises above all this, and raises the dead.  He will not be distracted, dissuaded, nor discouraged in His purpose.  And at the very moment His power is about to be unleashed, he pauses to pray and to give glory to the Father.  Who else would, or could, have the presence of mind and Spirit to be so perfect in his actions?  Only Jesus.  Only the Messiah.

            And then those incredible words of power:  “LAZARUS, COME OUT!!”  And then the immediate obedience of the resurrected one.

            But, “Do not marvel at this for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

            What a sign!  What a Savior!

           

Signs Done Well - VII

Friday, February 19, 2016

            I love the story in John chapter 9, the sixth sign of Jesus, but it also makes me very sad.  It is a wonderful sign because it points to Jesus and his incredible power for good, and it yields an inexpressible blessing to a man who had never seen.

            The sad part of it though is what it reveals about the way people at the time thought, even the disciples of Jesus.

            “Who sinned, Rabbi, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  The old idea – at least as old as Job and his friends, that if bad things happen to you, it must certainly be your fault.  The just-as-bad corollary to that point is, if you are always good, only good things will happen to you.

            We all know from practical experience those ideas are wrong.  And to raise them in the context of a suffering person may be one of the cruelest things we can do to a fellow human being.  It truly would make us “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2).

            Jesus immediately sets the record straight in this case, however.  In response to the ignorant question of the disciples, the Lord emphatically answers “NEITHER!”  Neither!  Sin did not cause this blindness – neither the man’s nor that parents’.  Jesus in fact doesn’t reveal the cause of the blindness, which was doubtless rooted in some medical condition.

            But the Lord does say that God is going to do something in this man that will show people who He is.  In other words, this healing will be a sign that will point people to God, and especially to God’s Son.

            I encourage you to read all of John 9, and see how this all plays out.  It is quite amazing, and you will finish the chapter either seeing or blind – your choice. 

Signs Done Well - VI

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

            Before the day was over on which Jesus had fed the masses, he performed another amazing sign.  His disciples began their trip back across Lake Galilee to their home base at Capernaum, but the Lord was not with them.  They had traveled between three and four miles in the boat when suddenly Jesus caught up to them, not in another boat, but walking upon the water.

            This defies all we know about science and physics and natural laws – thus the miraculous sign.  It was such a violation of these things that when the men who loved Him most saw him approach, they were very frightened.  Jesus assures them it is him, and that they need not fear (John 6:16-21).

            When Jesus says “It is I” in verse 20, he kicks off a series of these “I Am” statements in the rest of the chapter (e.g. verse 35).  This is a statement, a claim, of divinity.  Only God says “I Am” in this way in the Bible.  Jesus is, subtly in one sense, not so subtly in another, claiming to be God.  This makes sense.  Only God could do what Jesus did in this sign.

            Another important link that would have been apparent to the disciples and especially to John as author later on is how this sign hearkens back to the words of Psalm 107.  That psalm begins “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.”  The psalmist then goes on and recalls various types of desperate situations the people of God have gotten into, and how God delivered them.  One of them was danger at sea – a deep-seated fear for all the ancients.  In verses 23-31 of Psalm 107, listen to the parallels with John chapter 6:

 

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters;

they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.

For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;

they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!

 

     Wondrous indeed are His mighty works!  His signs show us the way.

 

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