In Acts 2:42-47, the first church in Jerusalem is described as “devoted.” Dictionary.com defines the word devoted as, “to concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause.” Luke says that the early believers concentrated on the teaching of the apostles, that same teaching we have today in the pages of the Bible. They concentrated on fellowship or sharing life together as the family of God. They pursued worship and prayer. They devoted themselves to living the life of Jesus in a world that needs to see the Savior. Embedding the Bible is about devotion. It is about learning to concentrate on the things that are important to the heart of God. When we embed the Bible in our lives, we embrace the importance of sharing life, seeking God, serving others, and studying the Bible. We concentrate on aligning our hearts with His heart. This week as you embed the Bible in your heart, take a moment to check your alignment. What needs more devotion? What is shining in your life that invites those around you to walk closer to Jesus?
As the Gospel of John comes to a close, John says in chapter 21, verse 25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Where every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” We have spent the first five months of 2017 walking through the Gospels, the written accounts of the life of Jesus. And John closes by telling us there is too much to write. There are not enough books in the whole world that could contain the scope and events of the life of Jesus. We are reading to embed the Bible in our lives. The promise of Jesus is the promise to fill us with His presence and with His purpose. There is more than enough of Jesus to fill us to overflowing. We are books that carry the word of God written large on our days and in our moments. The world should be able to see the story of Jesus in the lives we lead.
If you have attended Spring Creek for a while, you have seen a baptism. It you have seen a baptism at Spring Creek, you have had a chance to stand in a Welcome Circle. The Welcome Circle is a time when we honor a family, group, or individual who has just been born again through the blood of Jesus in baptism. It is a time when we sing together, pray together, and make promises together. We promise to pray for, encourage, hold accountable, and love our new brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a time to affirm the family relationship we share with each other. It is a time to express the joy felt in heaven and all across the globe as someone surrenders their life to Christ. It is a time to say “I love you. Welcome to the family of God.” In John 13:35, Jesus says that the world knows we are His because of the love we share for each other. When we look like Jesus, the world knows our identity, our allegiances, and the love that is embedded in our hearts.
In John 12:20-26, there is an event that I love to revisit over and over again. It is the time of the Passover (John 12:1) and Jerusalem is filling up with visitors from all over the known world. Jews and Jewish proselytes (converts) from every part of the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor gather to celebrate the covenant between God and His people. Some Greeks who were there to celebrate come looking for Jesus. When they find Philip, a disciple of Jesus, they make a bold request. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” That is why we are reading together this year. That is why we are embedding the Bible on our hearts and in our lives. Because we wish to see Jesus. When the Greeks made the request, Jesus was waiting. Every time we open the pages of the Bible and enter the story of Jesus, He is waiting for us. Waiting to work within us to make us a reflection of His nature and character.
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
Freedom is a wonderful thing. We live in a country that values freedom. The freedom of religion is designed to allow Americans to worship without the fear of imprisonment or encroachment. Freedom of speech allows us to speak our beliefs and participate in the events of our country. And while it is great to live in a country that values freedom, we are more blessed to live in a relationship with a God who enables us to be free. Free from guilt and shame through the blood of Jesus. Free from death through the resurrection. Free from the slavery of desire that the world tells us rules our lives. Free to choose the right and deny the wrong. Freedom to love without limits, serve without shame, and walk without worry. Freedom is a wonderful thing. Freedom is found in Jesus.
Every time I read John 5, I can hear the Statler Brothers singing in the background. It’s an old song from an album simply titled, “New Testament.” The song is called, “There’s a Man in Here” and the chorus goes….”There’s a Man in here Who turns water to wine, and Who walks on the water, and Who gives sight to the blind. And He gives back life to the one’s that’s dead, and He fed four thousand with seven loaves of bread. There’s a Man in here Who makes demons flee, Who makes cripples walk, and He’s chosen even me! And He lives in my heart and I have no fear! I’m a better man ‘cause there’s a Man in here!” It is a picture of the Savior embedded in our hearts, transforming our lives. Making whole the things that are broken. Making right the wrongs we have committed. Making a home in my heart because that is where He wants to live.
The Word was God! John 1:1 makes a bold statement about Jesus. Jesus was not a man who walked the streets preaching and teaching and then became something special. Jesus is God come to dwell among His people. Jesus is the master of the universe who invites man into a relationship, freely offered, by God Himself. Jesus is deity in human flesh. Jesus is the authority for life and godliness. Jesus is God. John boldly proclaims it for all to hear. And he brings proof that this is true. We begin reading the Gospel of John this week. Watch as John parades a host of people through your days. Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the crowds who followed, the ones who were healed – all proclaim that Jesus is Messiah. That Jesus comes from God with a message and an invitation. That Jesus is God and He is here to invite you to walk with Him.
We stand again at the cross of Jesus. Our reading this year has brought us to this place for a third time. Savor this moment. Imprint this picture deeply in your minds because the cross is where we go every time we embed the Bible on our hearts. The cross continues to call us to sacrifice and surrender. The amazing thing about standing here again is the excitement of turning the page. Every time we witness His death on the cross, we can look forward to the resurrection. Every time Jesus goes to Golgotha, the tomb ends up empty. That is exactly the way it works in our lives. Every time we sacrifice ourselves to be like Jesus, we experience regeneration, renewed hope, and new life. Every time we kneel in surrender to the call of God, He changes us to be more like Jesus. We become more whole, more holy. We leave behind death to walk in life.
The scribes and the chief priest want to be rid of Jesus. They send spies to watch Him and ask Him questions to trap Him. In Luke 10:22, they pose a question about paying taxes. Is it lawful to give tribute to an enemy nation? Jesus simply holds up a coin. The image of Caesar’s head is imprinted on the coin, plain for everyone to see. Jesus says since it bears the image of Caesar, it belongs to Caesar. Jesus then calls them to give to God what is God’s. The meaning of His words is clear. When something belongs to God, it bears His image. The likeness of Jesus is embedded in the hearts, lives, actions, attitudes, feelings, and decisions of those who follow Him. Jesus called those around Him to check their image and commit themselves to the One whose likeness they bear. He calls us to examine what is embedded on our lives and do the same.
Luke 15 holds three of the best known parables of the Bible. A lost coin, a lost sheep, and a prodigal son illustrate the love of our Father for His people. They demonstrate the lengths to which God will go to in order to call us into a relationship with Him. A parable is a story that gives us an eternal truth wrapped in a very earthly picture. Jesus used them all the time to teach people about the kingdom of God. He drew pictures in their minds and on their hearts of yeast, mustard seeds, sheep, coins, and sons. These parables were
meant to pierce the hearts of the people who heard them. To stick in the mind and change the lives of those who would listen. These same stories are the stories that call us to Jesus today. They still embed themselves in our lives, inviting us to live in the kingdom of God. To walk in a relationship with Him.