August 6, 2017
Pastor Ivan Blake
Our church family is studying the Gospel of John individually, in groups and during the Sabbath Sermon in 2017.
As I read, pray and meditate on the passage assigned for each week, I make notes. These notes appear here as a blog for you to consider and also respond to. If you have a thought to share with me, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOVE TO THE END
John 13:1 NLT
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples (His own, His dear companions) during his ministry on earth (He loved His own who were in the world), and now he loved them to the very end. [Or, he showed them the full extent of his love.]
What is the “end” here? IS IT, “End of His time on earth?” Or, is it, “To the full extent of His love?”
Jesus cared about His leaving for heaven and not being with His friends physically. He’ll miss being with them. His love for them was consistent, enduring, unreserved. He loved them this way right to the very end of His stay on earth. And He loved them to the full extent of His love all the time, especially now as His time on earth was coming to an end.
Perhaps the disciples followed Jesus because of this love they sensed coming from Jesus. After all, He gave them enough reason to leave Him, like many superficial followers did when His claims were offensive and He refused their attempts to coronate Him. The disciples very well may have left Him too if there wasn’t this extraordinary bond of love and affection they sensed Jesus had for them. Also, the disciples gave Jesus much reason to keep them at arm’s length and treat them as unworthy of His love, by their bickering, position-seeking pride and never getting it about His Kingdom teaching.
To say Jesus loved His disciples to the end implies it was an endurance, perseverance, even a struggle, to love such unlovable fellows. Did He feel like giving up on them at times?
Love motivated Jesus in all He did, no matter who He met, no matter how undeserving they were.
I REJOICE GREATLY that Jesus loves me while I’m in this world, while I am so like this world I am in. And He’ll love me to the end of the world. He’ll love me to the end of my life. He’ll love me even when I make it difficult for Him to love me. He loves me because of who He is, not because of what I do or don’t do. His love for me is enduring, unconditional, and infinite. He misses having me with Him. To think that Jesus misses being with me physically makes me want to be with Him physically. I respond to such boundless love, such principled love, such selfless love, by dwelling on it, absorbing it, embracing it. I pray that Jesus’ love for me will transform me into one who loves like He does.
August 7, 2017
Pastor Ivan Blake
THE DEVIL’S GRIP
John 13:2 It was time for supper (the Feast of the Passover), and the devil had already prompted Judas, [Or, the devil had already intended for Judas] (ESV - The devil has already put it in the heart of Judas) (Message - The devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.) son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
How did the devil get access to Judas’ heart? How did this influence begin? What tiny temptation did the devil approach Judas with? Was it soon after Judas met Jesus for the first time? Was it a gradual progressive capturing of Judas’ mind over a period of 3.5 years?
Lucifer, before becoming the devil, according to the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, had very close access to the throne of God in heaven. We don’t know what started his thoughts of doubt, dissension and disloyalty — his hunger for more power. We don’t know how long this process took in Lucifer’s mind until God confronted and ultimately moved him out of heaven to this planet where we live. We don’t know much detail. But it is likely that Lucifer applied his own experience, what he learned from his own MO, to Judas.
Long before Judas allowed the devil to take over his thinking, his dissenting thoughts most likely did not seem devil-induced to him. He probably cultivated his elevated opinion of his excellence at insight and forethought and strategy development. “How can I help Jesus propel His power all the way to the Sanhedrin and Rome.” Ambition. Expertise. Talent. Confidence. There was a long road from, “I can help propel Jesus to become King!” to, “I better partner with Jesus’ enemies and force Him to His senses, because He’s not taking the initiative to overthrow Rome.”
Maybe Judas never consciously yielded his mind and heart to the devil, but by letting his self-driven ambition and his superior concept of his own abilities dominate his thinking was tantamount to yielding to the devil.
The devil can put (suggest) his subtle, disguised and corrupting idea (temptation) in my mind, but for the devil to put it (plant it) in my heart requires my consent. I then consciously allow what I know is wrong and dangerous.
What is happening in my mind, my heart, right now that is gradually giving the devil a firmer grip on me? Am I nurturing doubts about God? Am I cultivating insights about what I believe is best for me? Do I have expectations of what God should be doing in my life? Am I harboring disappointments? How far along am I on this path? I am sure I am not at the “betrayal stage,” but, am I on the way there?
Prayer: “Lord God, I am willing for You to reveal to me right now how the devil is subtly leading me astray. I put myself in Judas’ position and ask myself, ‘What thoughts do I dwell on that partners me with the devil?’ Search me, O God, and show me my wrong thoughts. Help to acknowledge my wrong. Help me to turn from this wrong. I surrender to Your power over me alone. Amen.”
The good news is that while Judas allowed the devil into his heart, Jesus was about to once again come knocking.
August 8, 2017
Pastor Ivan Blake
John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.
This statement is made in direct response to the reality of the devil’s attack on Jesus through His disciple, Judas, stated in the previous verse.
In spite of the devil making progress in taking over Judas’ mind, and in spite of the pain that He would be betrayed by a friend, Jesus is fortified by the fact (not feeling) that His Father is in control and that Jesus has been given authority over this threat. His mission — where He came from and where He was going — was kept central in His mind as a bulwark (defense) against the forces that could have been very discouraging and overpowering.
WHAT DO I have as a bulwark against the devil’s attacks on me? These attacks are way beyond my ability to handle. That is why I sometimes feel overwhelmed, defeated, discouraged and disabled. “You will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed (fixed) of You, because I trust in You,” (Isaiah 26).
As a child of God, what authority am I given by my Heavenly Father?
Being born again, I am from my Heavenly Father and I am going to ‘return’ to Him. All that is given to Jesus is given to His believing followers — children of God.
Ephesians 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
What authority has been given to Jesus?
John 17:2 Since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him…
Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father…
What foe, what trouble, what struggle can match the authority of Jesus? I consciously and deliberately place my mind and heart under the authority of Jesus. He is my bulwark, my victor, my glory (importance and beauty). Every challenge to my peace, I will continually place under the powerful authority of Jesus.