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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Who Gets to Sit Beside Jesus?

In the New Testament, we read a mother’s story. Zebedee’s wife goes to Jesus with her sons, James and John, and asks Jesus for a favor. She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. Then, Jesus replied that they would surely suffer for Him, but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. The other disciples were angry with James and John about this, but Jesus turned the request into a teaching moment. Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Quotes are from Matthew 20:20-28.)

In the Gospel of Mark, we read more details about this same story. James and John’s mother wasn’t the only one who asked Jesus this favor. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying … Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory (Mark 10:35a, 37).

Before we rush to condemn “the sons of thunder” or their mother, let’s look at what they’re asking in their limited understanding. First, we see their faith. In thy kingdom, and in thy glory are not “if” statements. They know Jesus will set up His heavenly kingdom. There’s no doubt in their minds. These sons want to be as close to Him as possible when it happens. What mom wouldn’t wish the same?

Would you like to be encouraged today?

The right hand in Scripture is always a symbol of favor. For example, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He sat on the right hand of God (Matthew 16:19; Ephesians 1:20, 2:5; Colossians 3:1 and many more).

But, it’s not only Christ Who sits by God in heaven. In Christ, born again Christians sit there with Him—already! But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Yes, I’m physically sitting on the sofa in our living room. But spiritually, I’m already in Christ and seated at God’s right hand, His place of favor.

Why? Because I placed my faith in Jesus’ payment for my sins on the cross. I cried out to Him for mercy. It is all because of His love.
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
  • For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). 
  • Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5).

Are you like James and John? Do you desire to be close to the Lord in Glory?

Are you like their mother, who wanted the best for her sons?

Are you in Christ? Have you trusted Him for your soul’s salvation? Have you repented from your sins—accepting that Jesus was crucified to pay for them and rose again from the dead?

If so, you are already sitting with Christ in heavenly places. Your seat is reserved.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,
even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
 (Revelation 3:21)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Considering Ourselves Less

I’m afraid we have a lot of the Christian life backwards. We’re constantly told to take care of ourselves first, to make sure we plan some “me time.” The theme song on one Winter Olympics channel was “I want it all. I want it now.” Worship teams perform up on stage, and the lights are on them. Popular preachers employ public relations teams.

A friend shared this verse on social media: Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). Meditating on this verse inspired this Bible study. Who is it that said he was less than the least? The Apostle Paul. He meant it, and it’s part of the inspired Word of God.

I decided to look into some other familiar passages, and my study snowballed. This is what I found. I’ll share the verses in the order they appear in the Bible. I’m sure there are even more. (If you think of some of them, please share in the comments.)
  • Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off (Psalm 138:6).
  • But he giveth grace unto the lowly (Proverbs 3:34b).
  • When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).
  • Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:19).
  • This is a prophecy of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zechariah 9:9).
  • Jesus said, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:29).
  • Jesus taught: When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:8-11).
  • John the Baptist said of Jesus, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
  • Jesus said, I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me (John 5:30).
  • Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10).
  • As we look at biblical characteristics of true love, we read, Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own (1 Corinthians 13:4-5a).
  • Probably the greatest admonition of all is this one: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Philippians 2:3-9).

Do we really:
  • have a humble spirit?
  • live without selfish pride?
  • imitate Christ in His humility and meekness?
  • seek the lowest place, never tooting our own horn?
  • exalt Jesus instead of ourselves?
  • submit to God’s will, as Jesus did?
  • put other Christians before ourselves?
  • love purely, without trying to promote ourselves or being selfish?
  • esteem others better than ourselves?
  • care about others?
  • act like servants, willingly?
  • exhibit a Christ-like obedience to God’s will—even unto death?

I believe that some of our practices in Christianity might not measure up—or maybe we should say down—to the standard of the Bible. I know these passages convict me of my own shortcomings. What do we really seek? Do we want to be seen and heard? Do we want to be the center of attention? Are we disappointed when our efforts aren’t noticed or praised? Do we love seeing our name in lights?

God loves a humble spirit. He wants us to view others better than ourselves. He wants us to let others praise us, not seek the limelight. God wants us to be like Jesus.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,
and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wow! Just wow!