Jesus is The Lawgiver

There are many kinds of laws in our world. Wisely authored political laws bring order and civility by restraining the expression of criminal behavior. Scientific and mathematical laws enlighten us to a deeper understanding of the natural world and thus are invaluable tools for the betterment of humankind.

But there is another kind of law in our world, one that both undergirds and surpasses all others. It is the Law of God, and it is given by divine fiat to all under heaven. It both commands and instructs, exposing the evil in our hearts and teaching us about the nature of reality.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

God’s Law is superior to all others. When it was first given to the nation of Israel, it set them apart from their contemporaries:

And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

While the Jewish people were uniquely blessed to receive this Law in written form, its essence is written on the hearts of all people. And despite its many mysteries, its message is as clear as it is concise:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This Law is supremely good, and Jesus the Law-Giver should get all the praise for ordaining such glorious statutes. But because of sin, we love the darkness rather than the light. Rather than receive His righteous rules, we prefer to make our own statutes—every man doing what is right in his own eyes. This leads to disaster:

“‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

When we rail against the Law of God, we rebel against God himself.

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

But all such plotting is hopelessly vain. Those who resist God’s Law will one day face the wrath of Christ Himself:

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.

The only way to avoid such a terrible fate is to be faultlessly keep the Law. For the blameless, the Law provides salvation and unending blessing:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

But alas! No one on earth today can claim such a state. All of us are contaminated by the scourge of sin, and thus are unable to achieve perfect righteousness. Instead, by default we serve a different law:

With my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Christ the Law-giver, knowing that we serve the law of sin, could have come into this world to condemn it once and for all. Instead, He chose to save it by taking the full punishment due for the sins of his people. He not only suffered in Himself the very curses He authored in the Law, he became them:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

How is it that the One who authored every last curse in the Bible did so knowing full well that He would bear them all upon Himself? Why would He who knew no sin be judged and condemned by His own Law? Only He who was slain “from the foundation of the world” could fully understand how such a thing could be possible, but we know that He did it out of love:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!

Thank You, Jesus, for this incomparable and incomprehensible love. There is no Law more holy and perfect than Yours, and there is no love deeper or more self-sacrificial than Your own. You fulfilled the Law not for your own justification, but for ours, and you suffered the full penalty of its curses for our salvation. Jesus, thank you! Help us to love others as you have loved us, for truly those who have learned to love have fulfilled the law. As it is written,

Love is the fulfilling of the law.

Jesus Is Real Food

Food is a peculiar blessing. It is necessary to sustain life, but unlike other necessities (water, air, clothing), it is also a delight in and of itself. The layers of taste, smell, and texture are not just tangible, but by God’s own design are sensual and delightful.

But for all its benefits, food in and of itself is incapable of meeting our deepest needs. It has no spiritual power or efficacy:

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

And like all other earthly blessings, food can become a snare if over-indulged in. Just as when Belshazzar drank from the vessels of the LORD’s house or Herod (whose heart was merry in feasting) uttered a rash vow, it is easy for us to leave the path of wisdom when our god is our stomach. And when we do, there is no escaping the consequences:

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

But it is also possible to sin in the absence of food, especially when our divinely appointed provisions do not match our fickle appetites. As the Israelites learned in their wanderings, food that is delightful one day can be abhorrent the next. This is why God called His people to look for a deeper satisfaction in His own life-giving words:

Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

God wants us to look beyond our temporal cravings, which will never be fully satisfied, and to seek food that yields better pleasures:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Jesus Himself knew the secret of obtaining this heavenly banquet while still on earth. He who was able to miraculously feed the crowds also told His wondering disciples:

I have food to eat that you do not know about.

This food was to do the will of His father in heaven, and it kept Him spiritually filled even during his forty days of temptation and fasting. And just as He told the crowds who followed Him, He likewise calls us to labor for a new kind of food:

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.

What is this food? It is manna—the true manna that surpasses that which Moses gave. The people ate bread in Moses’ day and were sustained, but only for a time. All who ate of the first heavenly bread eventually died. But Jesus said:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

Unlike the first bread, which was free, this new bread from heaven came at a great cost—that of Jesus’ own life. Only after His crucifixion and resurrection did his disciples understand this hard saying:

The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

There is no better feast in heaven or on earth. When we remember the Lord’s sacrifice in communion, we feast on the living bread that vitalizes our souls in unseen and eternal ways. And we are to lead others to this feast:

He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

Lord, thank You for feeding us with Yourself. Just as You were placed in a manger upon your birth, so You continue to feed Your lambs with a never-ending supply of living bread. Help us to seek this better food always, and to lead others to You.

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Lord, You know all things; You know we love You!

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus is True Wine

Wine is a symbol of God’s blessing, a rich drink that represents the best of all that which earth has to offer. Well did Isaac bless his son with these words:

“May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.”

Wine was regularly presented to God in tithes and ritual offerings, and even the Lady Wisdom offers mixed wine back to her guests. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water (which sustains life) into wine which gladdened the heart.

But like everything in this fallen world, wine can be abused. Noah, Lot, and many other righteous men have been led as lambs to debauchery when wine overcame them. This is why Scripture is replete with warnings about the dangers of loving wine more than God:

“Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine!”

“He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”

For those who reject these common-sense warnings, earthly sorrow and suffering are the inevitable result:

“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.”

But this earthly affliction is nothing when compared to the eternal danger of the penalty of sin that weighs upon our souls. God’s wrath is described as a cup of bitter wine that must be drunk by all the wicked:

“For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”

Just as it is written of those who have the mark of the beast upon their foreheads, so will it be done to all whose sin remains uncovered:

“He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger.”

If it were not for Jesus, this would be the universal human fate. But when Jesus took our place on the cross, he was given bitter wine, mixed with gall. This wine represented the cup of God’s wrath, and even though he would have refused it, divine judgment filled him to the full and He met his end. As it is written:

“God will send His burning anger against him and rain it upon him into his belly.”

But because of the Christ’s self-sacrifice and resurrection, Christians need no longer fear the cup of God’s wrath. Indeed, for those who love God, there another cup that is reserved for us, one that Jesus first gave to His disciples and still offers us today:

“My blood is true drink.”

The cup of communion that we partake of is a special vintage reserved for us, and is far than even the wine of Cana. And it is offered free of charge to all who would accept Him as Lord:

“Come to me, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

Just as the hill of Cavalry flowed with his blood, so now the Scripture stands fulfilled as heaven rejoices in His presence:

“The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”

Lord, thank you for drinking the cup of wrath that was rightfully ours, and giving us the richest of all wines in its place! Thank you for your blood, which is the source of our greatest blessings and the proof of your boundless love for us. No earthly blessings can compare with the joy that You give. As it is written,

“Your love is better than wine.”

Jesus is Our Treasure

To those who know where to look, our world is full of rare and valuable things. There are treasures to be found, riches to uncover, and valuables to be acquired. Countless wars have been waged and kingdoms laid waste in the pursuit of worldly wealth:

They have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst.

But such efforts are pointless. The great King Solomon amassed gold and silver beyond count, “the treasure of kings and provinces.” Anything he desired was immediately given into his possession, and no man on earth could claim more riches than he. But in the end, his riches failed him by amounting to nothing:

And behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

And for those who do not know Christ, the situation is even worse. They who are rich in this world but not rich toward God have been assured of fierce, fiery judgement in the last days:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.

Even our most valuable worldly possessions will become a source of torment to us if we trust in them rather than in God:

Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.

With every passing day, all of us are amassing a kind of moral wealth within ourselves. We are either stockpiling deeds of love and mercy,  or else storing up wrath for ourselves on the day when God’s judgment will be revealed. Our hearts are a treasure trove that ultimately proves what kind of people we are:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

On that day, none of us will have anything material that we can claim as our own. No amount of money or goods will serve to divert the righteous judgement of Him who owns all things. There will be no barter to be had, and no bribe will stick to His almighty hands.

But those who are in Christ have laid hold of riches that are everlasting, unspoiled, and untouchable by the wrath of God:

The fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

These spiritual riches, though housed in unworthy “jars of clay” like us, are immutable because they are bestowed by God Himself. They are a gift of grace that cannot be returned once they are given:

Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you.

And we may lay hold of this treasure by simply reading and believing the Word of God. We are told to diligently “treasure up” its contents, and in doing so to become increasingly rich:

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

Those who are wise know that in this life, moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Everything we touch will one day melt away before our eyes. But that which we cannot touch is eternal, and worth more than all of our worldly goods put together:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

So if you are poor in the things of this world, do not desire to increase in your possessions, lest you fall into a snare or pierce yourself with many pangs. Rather, seek the things of God, and you will discover an even greater wealth than you thought possible.

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.

Seek the Kingdom and His righteousness, and even if worldly riches are not added to you in this life, you will have lasting treasure that will be yours throughout eternity.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus Satisfies Us

The human condition is one plagued by perpetual dissatisfaction. From the moment of our birth we cry out to be filled, and we never stop until the day we die. Well did Job say,

Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.

Even when our needs are fully provided for—food, clothing, shelter—we are not content. We quickly become dissatisfied with what we have and crave something different.

Now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Food is given to nourish our bodies, but it becomes a snare to our souls when we look for it to provide what it cannot:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.

Worldly wealth yields no lasting contentment—we perpetually desire to tear down our barns and build bigger ones. But Scripture warns us of the futility of such hope:

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Moth and rust destroy our treasures and thieves break in and steal, testifying that there is nothing on earth that fully satisfy the desires of the human soul. As it is said,

What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.

But thanks be to God, there is a heavenly provision that surpasses what earth can offer. Jesus is the living water that eternally defeats our thirst:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.

Jesus offers spiritual food without money and without price:

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

He serves a better wine than that of Cana, a heavenly draught that slakes our appetites, gladdens our souls, and gives us abundant life.

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

And when we die, those who have trusted in Him will hear the proclamation that all our needs have been abolished and everlasting satisfaction has been granted to us just as it has to Him:

Enter into the joy of your master.

Lord, thank you for reminding us that no earthly blessing can ever satisfy our hearts or fill our stomachs. You are the One who created our needs, and You are the One who fulfills them. Help us in our discontent to remember that our desires are fully and forever met in You and You alone!

Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Jesus Gives And Jesus Takes Away

On April 6th, 2015, a daughter was given to us. She was very sick and could not survive, and so on May 21st of that same year we entrusted her soul into the hands of the God who made her.

Her short life was a precious gift, one that radiated the grace of God into our hearts. Only God can give gifts of that magnitude, and it is our joy to receive them:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”

But because of our self-centered nature, we sometimes lose sight of His goodness and purpose in it all. It is easy to love God when His gifts abound:

“Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”

And when our blessings are taken away, we (human beings) instinctively curse God for our fiery trials:

“They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Naomi’s death was a plague of sorts, a calamity that God could have averted. But he chose not to. And it is for that exact reason that we must worship Him and give Him glory.

Even if we were to rage against God, all our efforts would come to nothing. No one can resist His will:

“Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

If that were the path we had chosen, we would indeed have no choice left but to “curse God and die.” But we have instead submitted our hearts and quieted our souls before Him. We say with Job:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

We also remember that the Lord Jesus surrendered everything—unlike Job, His life was taken from Him. Even at the point of death, Christ worshiped. And because of His sufferings, the blessings of heaven are ours by faith:

“Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

Lord, we worship You for what has been given, what has been withheld, and what has been taken away by Your almighty providence. You are good, and do good to Your people. May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Jesus Is Powerful

In His wisdom and mercy, God has apportioned to each of us a measure of strength; as many as our days, so shall our strength be. But what of Him who is everlasting, whose days know no end?

He is the only one whose power is without limit:

“In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”

He created and sustains all things by His almighty command:

“He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

And despite our vaulted notions to the contrary, no one can resist His power or His decrees:

“For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”

Even when nations conspire against Him, they can do nothing but invite their own destruction.

“Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong; like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters, he casts down to the earth with his hand.”

Like Job, we must despair of ever besting Him:

“If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty!”

And yet, Jesus’ greatest display of power was when He hung dying on the cross. In His weakness we see a greater power than any other:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The twelve legions of angels He could have summoned would have been feeble and useless; He who withered the fig tree and turned the Nile into blood could have instantly taken the life from those who desired His. But instead He forgave, and in that forgiveness is the saving power of God displayed:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And in that last day when Jesus destroys His enemies by the sword of His mouth, all His people will sing in eternal praise of His boundless love and power:

“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”

Thank you, Jesus for saving us by your mighty hand and redeeming us by the unstoppable force of Your word. Give us the power to resist sin more earnestly, to see You more clearly, and to love you more passionately, for all strength comes from You!

“He is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!”

Jesus Is The Door

All of us are on a journey. Just as time marches on, so we are always moving forward toward an ultimate destination.

But that destination can only be reached by means of a door. Jesus tells us that there are only two doors by which we may enter into eternity:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

How then can we find this narrow doorway? The answer lies not in religious practice or vain speculation, but in the person of Christ:

“I am the door of the sheep.”

Jesus is the gate to salvation, the portal to every good thing. Anyone who tries to enter the kingdom of God by any other means will be counted as a thief or robber. But those who submit themselves to His way will be granted full and free entry into paradise:

“If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Jesus is the pearl of great price that serves as the gateway to Heaven itself. That gate stands open to all, but is harder to pass through than the eye of a needle because only the meek and lowly will sell everything they have to obtain Him.

And despite all the opposition hell can muster, this door will remain open even until the last day:

“Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

Thank You, Lord, for providing us a gate through which we may be saved! Give us grace to respond in kind by opening the doors of our hearts to You:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus Helps Me To Deny Myself

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Perhaps there is nothing more Christ-like than self denial for the sake of others. Our Lord Himself left the comforts of heaven in order to be born into the most meager of accommodations, and throughout His life was often found in desolate places. He knew hunger and thirst full well; He also knew enough of exhaustion and pain to fall asleep in the midst of a storm. He knew loneliness and hardship and temptation and poverty more than any creature under heaven:

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

And all this for us! Christ gave up everything and denied His own wants, all for the sake of His people.

But when I examine my own heart, I find a different pattern at work. Instead of denying myself, I strive tirelessly to gratify myself. I selfishly seek out every pleasure; I scheme and manipulate to get my own way. And I shield my heart from every accusation with the standard of liberty and “moderation.” I thus become my own ruler, my self-supplier who does what is right in his own eyes. Of me is the saying true:

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

But Jesus who denied Himself is capable of changing me, not by His example but by his Spirit. The Spirit convicts me, humbles me, and softens my heart. He empowers me to deny my own wants for the good of others, to bless by giving up blessings. Only then can I truly follow Jesus, for:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Thank you Lord that you change hearts, even hearts as selfish and sinful as mine. Please help me to depend not on your example, but on your Holy Spirit for the power I need to sacrifice my own wants for the good of others. Just as you gave your life away, so let me give mine away, so that I may follow you and truly be your disciple. And may the praise and glory be Yours and Yours alone forever and ever! Amen.

Jesus is Beautiful

There is no one more beautiful in heaven or on earth than Jesus. He is the very radiance of the glory of God, the creator and originator of all light and glory. Things that are beautiful reflect His image in some way; everything that does not is either ugly or false.

And yet, contrary to all human expectation, Jesus’ outward appearance was not beautiful. When He was born there was no halo crowning His head, nor was He particularly handsome or attractive:

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

Idols are adorned with silver and gold so that they will move our hearts to worship. But Jesus had no such ornamentation. He was despised and rejected by almost all who knew Him in favor of those who appeared righteous. And we are no better. We too despise and reject the unadorned Jesus, casting Him aside in favor of more handsome and attractive saviors.

“As one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

We are so enamored by the superficial that we sentenced beauty to die on the cross. The most lovely, most glorious One was made incomprehensibly horrible and ugly. Our sin disfigured Him beyond recognition:

“His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”

But His is the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. His is the power of a life so indestructible that it transforms our deepest ugliness into scenes of heavenly glory. The marks of His passion display the glory of a love so deep that it bled and died for us. In the cross we now see compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and glimpses of a new creation that shines with unimaginable splendor.

Thank you, Lord, that You are beauty. Help me to see beyond how things appear, and to allow my heart to be captivated by You. Help me to see Your beauty in all that is good and pleasing, and to resist all that is outwardly pleasing but inwardly full of bones and filth. Give me a wise and discerning heart in all this things, for only You can show me what is truly beautiful!

“The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”