Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Designed By God
In the early days of the automobile a man’s Model-T Ford stalled in the middle of the road. He couldn’t get it started no matter how hard he cranked nor how much he tried to advance the spark or adjust things under the hood. Just then a chauffeured limousine pulled up behind him, and a wiry, energetic man stepped out from the back seat and offered his assistance. After tinkering for a few moments the stranger said, “Now try it.” Immediately the engine leaped to life. The well-dressed individual then identified himself as Henry Ford. “I designed and built these cars,” he said, “so I know what to do when something goes wrong.” God, as our Creator knows how to “fix” us when our lives are broken by sin. (Author unknown)
The Bible is the mind of God revealed to man to guide him, instruct him and the manual that describes what makes man special and unique. Unlike the animals of the world, man is an eternal creature that will never cease to exist. Made in the image of God, man is in the character of the divine that when life begins it will never cease. The mortal body is merely a frame that houses the life of the individual through a period of time but will eventually die. What remains is what man has always been and that is eternal. As Creator of heaven and earth and the designer of man, God has the right to tell man how to live. The Lord alone is the maker of man with the authority of creation to tell man where to find happiness, joy, fulfillment and lasting peace. From the beginning of time the struggle of man has been to believe he is his own god pursuing his own will apart from God. The results are always tragic because man refuses to pattern his life after the design given to him by his Creator. All men are made in the image of God. If there are problems in a man’s life the only place he will find the answer is in the knowledge of the One who created him. All the tinkering of man to fix himself will come to naught.
Happiness for man comes only from his willingness to listen to the word of God, his Creator. All of the questions that man has can be answered from the word of God. The challenges of life that press hard upon the spirit of man can be relieved through the knowledge of the will of the Lord. Marriages are made whole through the teachings of Jesus Christ. Families are united as one through the practice of the principles of godliness, holiness and purity found in the mind of God. Troubles in the work place are solved through the relationship of living a Christian life. Hope for tomorrow and understanding the frailty of life with the reality of death are solved in the word of God. Man has longed believed he is the sole center of his universe and this is where the tragedy of man has come full circle. When man replaces his Creator with his own selfish desires as the center of his life he worships a god of clay and straw. Life can be complete only when God is the meaning of life, the purpose of living and the hope of what lies ahead. The Lord God made us – He knows how to fix us.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (2 John 6)
What Is Love?
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association publishes a study guide called the “Matthew Manual” that is used to help people find ways to contact their neighbors and share with them what they must do to be saved. On page 20 of the booklet a discussion is given about “Legalism or Love.” The article states, “Legalism, or living by the letter of the law, is the cause of much division and contention in the church and in families. Our selfish attitudes can drive people away from us and the Lord. Only a gracious, loving attitude can bring unity, healing and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is the source of God’s love, and He dwells in each believer. ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ 2 Corinthians 3:6.” One of the sources of contention with the majority of the Protestant churches that embrace one form or another of Calvinism is the idea that salvation comes only by grace or through faith. Most Christian denominations believe a man is justified by faith only and that by wording what is commonly called “The Sinners Prayer” that God will grant forgiveness. Law keeping is condemned as salvation by works. Trying to save oneself through works is viewed as a failed attempt to gain merited favor from God. Nothing is further from the truth of God’s word.
John is known as the apostle of love. His gospel and three epistles preserved by the Holy Spirit are clear declarations of the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Some of the more familiar passages that people know from the Bible come from John’s writings. When John writes about love in his first epistle he shows that love comes from being a commandment keeper. Obeying the law of God is how love is expressed in the life of the child of God. From the beginning of time the Lord has expected man to love Him and keep His commandments: each one is dependent upon the other. In the Old Testament the people were told to follow the precepts, laws, commands, teachings, instructions and testimonies. Did this leave out love? No – because God wanted His people to love Him with all their hearts, soul and minds. It is not possible to love God with keeping the words of His commandments. It seems those who emphasize love without legalism suggests as long as one loves the Lord Jesus then they do not have to follow His will. This would be like trying to explain to the law enforcement officer that following the laws of the road is not necessary as long as the person has love in their hearts. Obedience to the law is required as much as love for truth. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life not because He wanted men to love Him as the way, truth and life. His will is the only way man can walk; His truth is the only body of truth; and the only way eternal life can be granted is by those who love Him and keep His commandments.
What is love? John says that love is walking according to the commandments of God. He further emphasizes this has always been the will of the Lord from the beginning of time. Walking in the will of God is keeping His commandments. Faith comes by hearing the word of God and love is seen when a person obeys the commandments of the Lord. Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him they would keep His commandments. Is it possible to be saved without living by the letter of the law? History points out that when men decide to live according to their interpretation of the grace of God without keeping the commandments there is a tragic result. What is missed by those who oppose keeping the letter of the law is that works alone cannot and never have saved man. Martin Luther resisted the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church when the only emphasis was salvation by works alone. Man cannot be saved by his own merits. What Luther did was go to the other extreme of believing salvation comes by faith only. John says that love is necessary and keeping the commandments of God are necessary. If a man loves Jesus alone and does not obey His word he will not be saved. When a man believes he can keep the commands of God without a heart of love he will also be found lacking. Love is walking according to the commandments of God.
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
I Am The Bread Of Life
One of the basic needs of man is bread. The Lord told Adam before casting him out of the garden that by the sweat of his brow would he eat bread indicating that food necessary for life would only come through toil. Bread is not confined to the product of wheat or barley but a common word including the basic needs of man for food. The body is created in such a manner that without sustenance death will occur. Life is in the food that is ingested to give the body strength, energy and sustain good health. The wrong kinds of food will do harm. Proper nutrition is vital to a longer life and energy to allow the body to function as God created. From the beginning of time man has known the necessity of food and its function in the cycle of life. What man has failed to appreciate is while the physical food is necessary to sustain life in the body God has always offered man the spiritual manna to sustain his eternal life. This comes from a failure to acknowledge the true nature of man as a spiritual creature inhabiting a fleshly tabernacle. All of the attention is given to the physical side of man. Eating properly, exercising and taking supplements are part of the health crazed world that spends billions of dollars each year to maintain a level of youth no matter the age. The sad reality is that when all said and done man dies. There will never be a secret pill to take life longer than the habitation established by God in the mortal body. Man is born and then he will die. Everyone celebrates a day of birth and everyone will lay the body down in death – everyone.
Jesus came to offer man a greater blessing than the physical manna of life. His purpose was not to feed all humanity on the crumbs of bread He could recreate by His power. He fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish. But they were hungry again the next day and became frustrated Jesus had left and could not be found. When they discovered Him on the other side of sea at Capernaum they wanted to know when He had come and why did He leave. His answer is one of the great treatises of scripture that His Father has been telling men since the beginning of time. Life is not about the bread that perishes. Eating a full meal today will be enjoyable and filling but as the body is designed to process the food and then eliminate it hunger will return. What Jesus offered was something that would never diminish or go away. He told the crowd that He was the bread which came down from heaven like the manna of old when God fed the rebellious nation of Israel. The manna was a gift from God that no man could take credit for. Found within the white coriander seed that tasted like wafers made with honey was everything man needed to live along with the water provided by God. Life was in the manna. Jesus tells the multitude that He is the bread of life and the flowing fountain of water where man will never hunger or thirst. The woman at the Samarian well of Jacob learned Jesus was the everlasting fountain of life. Jesus is the bread of life where man will never hunger. He is the water of life as a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. As the bread of life there is nothing man needs but Jesus Christ.
God provided all men the bread of life but few men will come dine at His table. It is tragic to see a sumptuous feast prepared for all those who would come and yet few are willing. There is a cost to come to the table but by the grace of God all things are provided that man needs. Jesus Christ is the bread of life because He is all man needs. Like the physical food, the word of Christ must be ingested to have benefit. The bread of life requires consuming and meditating upon. Bread wrapped up in a package sitting on a shelf will have no benefit. A Bible sitting on a table unopened and seldom gleaned will have no lasting impact on the life of the holder. Jesus as the bread of life requires the consumption of His nature, His glory and His teaching to be infused in every part of life. Weak spirits and disinterested hearts come from not abiding in the word of Christ and letting the bread of life fill the capillaries of the soul will grow the spirit to fill with the Spirit of the Father. Many are sick and weak in the church because they have not feasted on the bread of life. Jesus came to give Himself as the manna from heaven. Let His word dwell in your mouth, your heart and your mind to grow thereby through the knowledge of His love. The more you feast on the bread of life the less hungry for the appetites of sin you will desire. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
When Men Try To Justify Their Actions
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the more familiar stories from the Bible but little attention is given to the cause of the parable. Jesus uses ever opportunity to teach the multitudes such as the sermon on the mountain or individually when Nicodemus came to the Lord at night to ask some questions. There were many reasons people asked Jesus questions but the parable of the Samaritan came from the dishonest inquiry of a lawyer who was trying to trap the Lord with His teaching so as to bring a charge against Him. A certain lawyer stood up and testing Jesus asked what he must do to be saved. Jesus was a masterful teacher as He simply asked the man what the law said he must do. Appealing to scripture to answer the lawyer, the Lord established the need for authority. The lawyer quoted from Deuteronomy and Leviticus as a principle answer and Jesus commended him for his knowledge. It was not the intent of the lawyer to ask a question about eternal life for his personal benefit but to lay a trap for Jesus to define the clearer meaning of a certain word or idea about ones neighbor. When Jesus commended the lawyer the man sought to justify himself and asked the probing question of how to define who a neighbor was. The Lord would give the lawyer a lesson he would never forget and prayerfully change his life as the story of a Samaritan unfolded. There would be no arguments after the story. The only conclusion the lawyer could leave with was that everyone was in need of the mercy of God and this was especially true of his Samaritan brethren.
Justifying oneself is an art crafted by the wiles of the devil to allow men to live like they desire in their own hearts. Before the lawyer was told the story of the Samaritan who helped the victim of a savage beating, he had made up in his mind a distinction existed between himself and other men. He knew the law taught to care for his neighbor but this could only be (in his mind) to care for a man who was his fellow Israelite. Anything beyond the bounds of mercy to a Samaritan (which was a half-breed of Jewish and Assyrian blood) or a Gentile (like a Roman) was not required. They did not deserve any love or attention because they were not the people of God. The blood of prejudice flowed in the veins of the lawyer who lived his life justifying his hatred of Samaritans and all others with scriptural vengeance. What he gained from Jesus Christ was the true meaning of God’s word that never taught for one race to hate or despise another race. Until the time after the flood all men were of one nation speaking one tongue. It was the division of the earth at the tower of Babel that created a world filled with different cultures, languages, races and nations. When Jesus came into the world as a Jew His nation hated the Romans who enslaved them and despised the Samaritans as a reminder of the wicked past in their own history. What is remarkable about the Samaritan people is they came from the nation of Israel following idolatry and God’s wrath upon them by bringing the Assyrian nation to punish His own people. As a result of the invasion by the Assyrians the people of Israel intermarried with the Gentile nation of Assyria thus forming the alliance of Jew and Gentile. A Samaritan was the vivid history of a rebellious nation of Israel. Regardless they were still God’s creation and made in the image of the Creator. The lawyer trying to justify himself would not change that.
Men try to justify themselves today with defining who a Christian is. Most consider a saved man anyone who walks under a sign that says Jesus Christ. Morality is judged by hearts that rationalize themselves into believing that God has made them to be what they are and that He would approve of their lifestyle. Churches with every brand name known to man are nothing more than man’s attempt to justify his desire to worship God in his own way. Within the body of Christ marriage, divorce and remarriage has been redefined to fit the mold of carnal justification to accept what the Lord clearly condemns. One of the greatest ploys of the wicked one is to convince people that if they justify themselves long enough God will change His mind and allow them to live as they desire. Sadly this idea will only last until the day of judging with the Lord God will thunder from His throne that His word is settled in Heaven and no justification by man has ever changed that. The lawyer tried to justify himself before Jesus to redefine who his neighbor was and the Lord brought the lawyer back to the only way, the only truth and the only life. There is only one way of knowledge and that is the law of God. It is a fatal flaw in man to justify himself because the ground he stands on is sinking sand. There is one truth, one church, one Savior and one God.
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)
Mixing The Word With Faith
This nation of Israel has been given to the world as a divine example of the struggle between God and man. They were chosen as the apple of God’s eye but they always were challenged to be the faithful people the Lord desired. Their story is not unlike the way all men learn to come to God and serve Him in faithfulness. As the Hebrew writer exhorts the early Jewish Christians to remain in the body of Christ he reflects upon the history of Israel and their failures to remain faithful to the will of God. One of the key factors in their struggle was not that they did not have the words of salvation preached to them but they failed to take that message and apply it to their own life. Faith is necessary to please God. Salvation can only from the knowledge of the word of God. Faith and the word are not separate but two parts that are necessary for the completeness of man to find his worth before God. The Lord has always given man His word through commandments, testimonies, precepts, judgments and law. Whether orally transmitted or placed upon parchments of paper, the word of God has always been given to man to follow. The giving of His word is how the Lord shows His grace to man. What the Jews failed to do with the word was to mix or add faith and follow the commands of the Lord trusting in His promises that had been given to them.
Through the power and might of God Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage. The Lord showed His majesty in His deliverance of the people and continued to manifest His glory through the miracles and providence given to them in their journeys. When the nation came to the land of promise twelve men were sent to spy the land and bring back a report. The report ten men gave showed their lack of faith in the promises of God. Joshua and Caleb believed the power of God could overwhelm the land and urged the people not to rebel. What happened that caused the people to fear the giants of the land? All of the previous months of God’s word showing them His power, affirming His promises and letting them know there was nothing to fear is not mixed with a faith to trust God to conquer the land. They knew the word of the Lord and what He had promised them but because they did not have faith in God they were doomed to wander four decades in the wilderness. The word of God will have little effect if faith is not added.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for two thousand years. Many have embraced its teachings and obeyed the commands to be part of the body of Christ. Yet for many their lives are empty, meaningless and without purpose. They have the word of God, they hear it Sunday after Sunday, own numerous Bibles and their lives are with little joy in Christ. The problem lies in the fact that if the word is not mixed with faith all the preaching in the world will profit them little. Sermons that are preached on Sunday that do not move hearts on Monday will be useless. Reading the Bible through each year without applying the message of the word to daily life is without purpose. The word of God will lose its power if the heart of faith does not do something with what the Lord has spoken in the ear. Falling short of the promises of God will bring us to the same place the nation of Israel found itself as it came to the promised land the first time. Faith must be mixed with the word and the word must be mixed with faith in order for the challenges of life to be conquered. Students of scripture must make the word come alive in their life to receive the blessing of the power of the word. Application is the key to growth. Believe the power of God and His promises but make it real in life.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
God Hears Us
Prayer is the greatest gift of man to stand in the presence of the Almighty Creator and make his heart known to the Father. Pleading the promises of an eternal God shows the mercy of the Lord to allow man the stand before Him and plead his case. Prayer is not a case for demanding but asking for what God has already granted by His grace. Many do not have a strong prayer life because they think praying to the Lord is a vending machine that after depositing the money of our words we will get whatever we desire. Instead of asking the favor of God we demand He give us what we believe to be rightfully our own. John the apostle defines the nature of prayer based upon the will of the Father not the whim of the one praying. There is a confidence in prayer promised by the Father. It requires preparation beforehand because in order to receive the blessings of the petitions sought the will of God must be known. Knowledge and prayer go hand-in-hand dependent upon one another. If prayer is pleading the promises of God the promises of God must be known first to issue the entreaties of prayer. Asking according to the will of the Father will better suit the answer of the prayer than demanding what God has never promised. The unique nature of prayer is that asking something from the Lord is a promise awaiting release by the word of the petitioner. Like a huge storage place the answers to prayer await the calling of the child to plead for its release. The story is told of the man given a tour of heaven and he came upon a large building with many shelves containing millions of boxes. When asked what this building was the answer was given the shelves contain all the unanswered prayers of the saints of God. How sad we do not take more advantage of the privilege to seek the blessings of the Lord in prayer.
Seeking the will of the Lord is having the confidence that anything we ask in His name He will hear us. That is a remarkable blessing to consider God will take the time and energy to hear my prayer. Of the six billion souls on the face of the earth the Father has all the time in the world to hear every word of my prayers and listen as long as I need to tell the Lord my desires. Knowing His will fuels my prayers to have the fervent desire of letting His grace live in my life to grow in the knowledge of His Son. He grants us His favor and answers our prayers. The Father knows everything we need before we ask but He wants us to seek Him and talk with Him about our lives. Prayer is a conduit of faith that measures itself by the amount of time we desire to speak with Him. We know He hears us and we know He will guide our lives. Talking to God is as natural as breathing. There is so much to tell Him. This comes from the knowledge of His word as we ponder the depths of the Bible. Prayers fail when the word fails. The greater the knowledge of God the greater our prayers. Spiritual growth is manifested in the manner of our praying through the continual knowledge of His word.
Knowing the will of God is not to have a body of information to send the Lord bullets of requests in some formal or rote manner. Spending time in Bible study shows the pattern of how God answers prayer, why He does not always answer prayer the way we think He should and what to expect in prayer. The people of God have been praying to Him since the beginning of time. Every story in the Bible is based upon the relationship of men to God. Often men tried to fool God in asking His favor when they refused to obey His will. The results ended in failure because asking anything from God must come from His word. Many stories fill the pages of God’s word of those who trusted in the word of God and saw their prayers granted. The Lord has not changed in the millennia of generations as He has dealt with men. When a man is in covenant with God and abides by His will, he may have the confidence that anything sought through prayer has already been provided. God will hear the heart of the child who knows and follows His will. Pray earnestly but study hard. Through knowledge of God’s will men learn to pray.
Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11)
The Conceit Of Man
It was a remarkable scene played out on the stage of human history that would never be repeated again. A weak despot ruling in the back-waters of the Roman Empire demanding answers from a common citizen born to poverty and demanding the itinerant preacher answer his questions or face the penalty of death. Regaled in his royal splendor as procurator of Judea, Pilate drilled Jesus with questions and was surprised at the manner Jesus dismissed his questions. There was no basis for the charges brought by the rabble crowd of Jews who demanded Pilate crucify Jesus. He would seek to have him released but the pressure of the crowd and threats of reports being sent to Rome brought great fear to the cowardly ruler. Pilate pressed Jesus to tell him where He was from and Jesus refused to answer. This confused Pilate as he reminded the man from Nazareth that as procurator of Judea the power to crucify and the power to pardon was in his hand. He had no doubt sent many men to their deaths. Pronouncing judgment on Jesus would be of little concern to Pilate. The irony of the answer of Pilate is eternal: he told Jesus the power to crucify Him and the power to release Him was in his hands. Imagine the surprise when Jesus looked Pilate in the eyes and answered that he had no power but the power given to him from above. What an incredible answer and what a powerful statement by Jesus. The Lord was facing a certain death that He knew was the will of His Father. He could have called twelve legions of angels to rescue Him in the blink of an eye but He left that power in the hands of His Father. What Pilate did not realize and what makes the scene of Jesus standing before him paradoxical to its core was a man saying to the Son of God that he had power to do with Jesus whatever he wished. How far removed from truth was this statement. Jesus did not answer in a haughty or prideful manner. It was the simple truth the only reason the Son of God stood before this Roman officer and allowed him to treat Him in the manner that had been done and what would be done was because the Creator, Lord, Master and God of all creation allowed it to happen.
Pilate, like so many people, live in the belief they have the power to do whatever they wish in any manner they may choose. The world is filled with men and women who go through life with no regard to others accepting a false notion of self-worth, pride and arrogance. Little do they know they sit in the same place as Pilate shouting to the world they have the power to give life and take life and the words of Jesus echo through the centuries reminding them of the One who is really in charge. How sad and tragic that man still shakes a fist in the face of God as if he is a god exercising power over life. The irony of the scene is likened to an ant shaking his fist (if he has one) in the face of a man. How ridiculous if one can imagine. Daniel reminded Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans that God held his breath in His hand as He holds the breath of all men in the palm of His hand (with room to spare). God is so great and man is so small and yet man believes he has the power to give life and take life. Pilate did release Jesus to be crucified and while he may have retired to his quarters satisfied he exercised his power over Jesus it would have become abundantly clear years later when Pilate died that he learned the meaning of the Galilean who stood before him that fateful day. The power of God is greater than the power of man – even a Roman ruler.
God has made every provision necessary for the happiness of man. The world is teeming with the physical blessings of a loving Creator that will care for the wants of man. Through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, the Father has given man the answers to his eternal needs and the promise of greater happiness beyond life. Man did not create the world and he does not sustain the world. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and by His word the world is held together reserved for fire until the day of judgment. The habitation of man is limited to space, time and the world defined by God and nothing man can do will change that. Man cannot create life and he cannot stop death. Everything cries out to the immortal words of Jesus that all power comes from above. Kicking against the goad will only bring harm to the one kicking. Pilate thought he had power but he did not. One of life’s greatest challenges is to believe the mistaken idea that we can do anything we want with our lives and it will not matter. That belief will last only until we die and then it will be too late to realize who has the greater power. Live your life to the fullest degree doing whatever you want to do however you want to do it and try to convince yourself nothing matters but what you demand out of life. Your life will be a miserable failure and your eternity an endless sadness. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life and only through Him can you find happiness. Accept His power and authority and let His word guide your life. You will find joy in this life and when death comes (and it will) you can face your end as a new beginning. God has all the power. Submit to that power.