Own Worst Enemy

I somewhat recently went to the theater and enjoyed a new movie that didn’t include Jedi in the title (although that one was great too.) As I walked out of the movie theater two things happened. First, I picked a few rogue pieces of popcorn out of my jacket, and second, I began reflecting on what I had just watched. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was how conflict developed in the story. I walked out of the theater realizing that the story’s biggest antagonist was also the biggest protagonist. For those of us who have forgotten our 6th-grade literature class, this basically means that our hero’s biggest enemy was himself.

The concept of a man vs. self conflict is certainly not a new one, but it did get me thinking about my own Josh vs. Self-narrative. Here we are on the second day of a brand new year. Many of us have set goals for ourselves in the new year. A few years back my new year’s goal was to get six pack abs, I would have accomplished that goal easily if it weren’t for my love of donuts, but I digress.

Many of us have either resolved ourselves to do something more or resolved to do something less. These goals, or resolutions, are often good and very well-meaning, unfortunately, many people find themselves at the beginning of February frustrated and ready to give up. So how do we make sure that our goals for the new year don’t go unrealized? Well, I think we need to first understand that often times our own worst enemy is ourselves.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I know that the Bible depicts the Devil is the enemy of our souls. He is a liar who seeks to discourage, kill, accuse,  and make us as ineffective in this life as possible. However, I do think that sometimes we give him a bit too much credit. Saying, “I didn’t read my Bible today because the Devil stopped me,” is as silly of a statement as, “I didn’t go to the gym today because it was cold outside.” No, we choose not to go to the gym for the same reason we choose not to read our bibles, we are lazy and don’t feel like it.

Is the Devil happy that you didn’t read your bible? Sure, of course. But he cannot make you do anything that didn’t already chose to do.

We are our own worst enemy. But God is our biggest ally…and all He does is win.

Where does this come from? Why are we this way? And what can we do about it? Thankfully the Bible answers these questions.

Romans 5:12 says, “sin came into the world through one man, [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are sinners by nature and by choice and so, therefore, our default setting is to love the things that hurt us the most.

The letter of James tells us in chapter 1, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”  Did you catch that? The temptations we face are our own sinful desires luring and enticing us. Even Paul struggled with this in Romans 7 and we are just like him, we do what we should despise. We love what we ought to hate.

Thankfully, as always, there is hope. Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is my strength.” You may be your own worst enemy, but your biggest ally is far greater and far stronger.

And 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” If you are in Christ Jesus the old is gone and the new has come. Don’t listen to your own lies, God has made you new.

The start of a new year is a wonderful time to start fresh, be disciplined, and set a precedent for how we will live for the next 12 months. In order to do these things, we need to get out of our own way and allow God to transform us by His Holy Spirit.

Let’s allow God to work in us so that when we look in the mirror we don’t see our own worst enemy, but instead we see a person who is continually being transformed into the image of the Son. When people look at us, they should see a reflection of Jesus.

The goals that we set for the year will only be accomplished if we choose to rely on God rather than ourselves. A great place to start learning how to rely on God is by digging into the Bible. I would highly recommend finding a Bible reading plan for 2018! If you need help finding one or even just need a friendly reminder to stay on track I would love to help, just shoot me a message.

Happy New Year.

Celebrate Light

“It is fitting that the Light of the World celebrated the Festival of Lights.”

Not too long ago a student said to me, “yea, I know what Hanukkah is, it’s the Jewish replacement for Christmas.” Well, no it is not.

So what, is Hanukkah? Is it found in Leviticus or one of those other Old Testament books? Actually, no. Hanukkah first began in what we call the Inter-Testimonial Period, the “400 years of silence.” This is the time between when God last spoke through the Prophet Malachi and when Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel.

A lot happened in this period of 400 years between the Testaments. The Persian Empire, along with many other nations was conquered and replaced by the Greeks.

After Alexander the Great died, one of his successors, Antiochus IV, unleashed a terrible persecution of the Jewish people. Antiochus, “the Mad Man,” called the people to bow down and worship him. There were several groups, including the Maccabees a Levitical family, who rebelled against Antiochus because they refused to worship anyone or thing other than the one true God.

The rebellion was successful and eventually, the Jews were able to re-enter the Temple. Unfortunately, the Temple had been desecrated. A pig, an unclean animal, had been sacrificed on the altar. Additionally, the eternal flame, that was always to be lit, had been put out. The Temple needed to be rededicated and the flame relit.

Tradition tells a legend that the Jews had only enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day before more oil could be made. However, miraculously, the oil actually lasted a full 8 days so that the temple could be fully rededicated and oil restocked.

Hanukkah is an excellent time to reflect on how God has preserved the Jewish people throughout the ages. God cares for those that are His.

In the midst of a dark and terrible time, God provided hope and light for His people.

In the Gospel of John chapter 1 verse 5, we find these words, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Interestingly enough, those words were not talking about the Menorah, but instead, of Jesus Messiah.

Jesus, “the true light, which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” (vs. 9) Once again, God had provided help, hope, and light to His people in the midst of dark and terrible times.

Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication. In John 10:24 we read “At the time the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple…”

We 21st-century believers cannot forget that Jesus was entirely Jewish. He was actually, the most Jewish Jew ever! He kept the Law perfectly, something no one else was or will ever be able to do. He continually quoted the Torah (the Old Testament) and He celebrated Jewish festivals and feasts.

It is fitting that the Light of the World celebrated the Festival of Lights.

One of the most incredible lessons that we can take from Hanukkah is that God provided for His people when they needed it most. One of the most incredible things that we can learn from Jesus’ life is that God provided a Savior when His people, and the world, needed Him most.

Jesus is still that Savior, Jesus is still that Messiah.

Today at sundown marks the start of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jesus’ message is so appropriate for the occasion. He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

God provided light and life to all who believe. Follow the Light.

Shalom, Happy Hanukkah everyone.

Jesus in the Old Testament

“The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.”

Here we are in November and for about a month now my wife, Ashley, and I have been listening to Christmas music and watching cheesy Christmas movies. It has taken all my willpower not to put up Christmas decorations yet. And for the record; yes, I am allowed to sing about my savior’s birth all year round!

As I have been planning for the December sermon series I was reflecting on just how connected to the Old Testament Jesus was and is. We celebrate the Messiah’s birth once a year, but for an Old Testament believer, it was something they looked forward to daily!

The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.

The relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament is a bond that is unbreakable. The Old Testament speaks of Jesus, not only on occasion but in every book it points to the coming Messiah. Let’s take a quick look at a few times that the Old Testament points to Jesus.

First, a few rules to interpreting the Old Testament…It is important to view the text in light of its original contexts to its original audience. The Bible was written to real people in a real place at a specific time. It is also important for the reader to not perform eisegesis and impress onto the text a view that was not originally intended to be there. Only after good exegeses is done can proper interpretation and application take place.

With those qualifications in mind let’s move forward.

            -The first significant point to consider is how Jesus is the New Adam or Second Man. While this is New Testament language the concept finds itself in the very first book of the Pentateuch. In Genesis chapter 3, while God is in the middle of handing out punishments to man, woman and the serpent, he makes an extraordinary promise in verse 15. God promises that one day the woman’s seed (we know this to be Jesus born of the virgin) although his heel will be bruised ultimately He, will crush the head of the serpent, the enemy. We know this to be found in Jesus death, resurrection, and second coming!

            -The next point to explore is how Jesus fulfills God’s promise to Abraham. God promises to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 that He will use Abraham and his many descendants to ultimately bless the whole world. Again this is fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. His grace and mercy provided a blessing of eternal life for all who believe. While there are other specifics to the Mosaic Covenant this is clearly one that is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

            -Another key point in the OT that points, eludes to, and is fulfilled through Jesus, is God’s promise to David. The Davidic Covenant is set up because in 2 Samuel 7 David desires to build a house for God. Because of David’s heart attitude God promises to make his name great. Additionally, He promises that one of David’s offspring will be raised up and they will always be reigning on the throne. When we read Matthew chapter 1 we see that Jesus is clearly in the line of David who will set up His kingdom and thus reign forever. As well, Luke 1:33 states specifically that Jesus is the one who will reign over Jacob’s descendants (Israel) and that His reign will never end.  Praise God!

            -The last key that we will look at today is how Israel and the prophets continually look forward to the day that the Messiah will come. With our knowledge of the New Testament we can clearly see how Jesus fulfills each prophecy about the Messiah. He will be born of a virgin, He will be born in Bethlehem, He will enter into Jerusalem on a colt, He will be a prophet like Moses, He will be of the tribe of Judah, He will suffer, He will be betrayed, and the list goes on and on.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites right before, during, and after the exile we can see their desperate need for a physical savior. However, we can also see their desperate need for a spiritual savior as well since the exile was a result of their suffering spiritual state. The prophets understood this as they looked for the coming Messiah.

Closing Thoughts

It is important that we, 21st-century believers, understand that Jesus coming to earth was all part of God’s plan from the very beginning. That is why God the Son can be seen so brightly in the Old Testament. This is something that we must never forget because it emphasizes God’s sovereignty, mercy, and grace.

Joy to the world the Lord has come…just as God always planned.