Friday, August 30, 2019

The Names of God - Author and Finisher of Our Faith

Author and Finisher of Our Faith (Jesus)

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When you describe someone as an author you imply they are a creative person. They take a blank piece of paper and turn it into something beautiful by simply adding words. A true author creates things that have never existed before outside of his or her mind. Imagination is the only restraint.

The writer of Hebrews chose this word, author, to describe the role Jesus plays in the life of the Believer. The Greek word is archegos, and means, “author, captain, prince.” Other translations of scripture use words like “source and founder” because the root meaning of this word is “chief leader.” Regardless of which word you prefer it means the same: it all begins with Jesus.

The second word in this name given to Jesus is the Greek word teleiotes, which means, “a completer (i.e. consummater), finisher.”

Paul said the same thing in Philippians.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

I love the picture used in Hebrews of the author, because I can very easily imagine the Father writing the story of my life. He is the ultimate creative. When He sent Jesus into our world it was for the purpose of showing us the love the Father has for His creation. Jesus did everything the Father wanted Him to do. He started things in motion that will not cease until we are reunited with Him at the end of the age. He provided the title page for our life-book and then began writing. The Holy Spirit has continued that work, and through that same Spirit, Jesus will write the epilogue when our time here is completed.

The real question in all of this is the part in between the title and epilogue. One writer refers to this as your “dash,” as in the dates on your tombstone. The beginning and ending are etched in the stone, but all that describes what took place is a simple dash. But, that is the most important part! How you live your life matters and that is why Jesus remains a part of your life. He wants to help with each chapter, each sentence, even the very letters that make up the words.

The psalmist described this activity as, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet.”[i] Another place it says, “Order my steps in thy word.”[ii] John declares that Jesus is The Word. I believe that’s why the King James interpreters used “Author” to refer to Jesus. He is the very Word of God. He was in the beginning before creation. He is now at the Father’s side in Heaven. We will join Him there when our time is up.

Which words will you allow Jesus to right into your story? Any plot with Jesus in it is a good one. All of His stories are best sellers! Even if your story has a rough beginning, the Author can take even the most twisted plots and make them end well. That’s the rest of the story! He is also the Completer, Finisher, and the One who writes the final chapter.

Regardless of how you see your “dash” up to this point, Jesus makes it an amazing life. Decide now to hand the keyboard to The Author and Finisher of Our Faith so He can write the words into our life that will turn our hearts back to the Father, and make our lives become a sweet-smelling sacrifice of praise unto Him.

[i] Psalm 119:105
[ii] Psalm 119:133

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Names of God - The Branch – Jesus

The Branch – Jesus

Zechariah 3:8 (ESV)
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

When thinking from a New Testament perspective, the word “branch” normally brings to mind the teachings of Christ where He described Himself as The Vine and The Church as a branch. However, before Bethlehem and the virgin birth there were those waiting for THE Branch, the Messiah. This is to whom Zechariah made reference.

The prophetic words being spoken in Zechariah 3 were addressed to the priesthood. God, through His prophet, referred to them as “a sign.” God then made reference, again, to the coming of One called The Branch.

The Hebrew word used here, semaḥ, which means, “a sprout, literal or figurative; branch, bud, that which (where) grew (upon), spring (-ing),” is interesting. If you recall, when God first gave the Law to Moses, He also chose one of twelve tribes to be His own. The means by which the choice was made was to bring all the staffs of the leaders of the tribes together. You can read the account in Numbers 17.

Moses was instructed to place the twelve staves before the “testimony”, or the Ark of the Covenant, and leave them until morning. Here is what happened.

Numbers 17:8 (ESV)
On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

A dry, dead piece of wood budded, and even produced fruit – ripe fruit – in one night! Through Zechariah, God spoke to very ones whom He chose by a sign of a “sprout” and told them a “sprout”, or Branch, is coming. Jesus Christ became the fulfillment of the original priesthood, whose sole purpose was to bridge the gap between God and man. Jesus would, once for all, offer the sacrifice of His own blood to redeem mankind back into right relationship with the Father.

This puts a whole new perspective on what Jesus then said about the Church. As He was preparing to give His life as the supreme sacrifice on the cross, Jesus His disciples some very encouraging words, though they did not fully understand them at the time.

John 15:5 (ESV)
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as Jesus had become the fulfillment of the “sign” of Aaron’s rod that budded, now we, the Church, have become The Branch from THE Vine! Now, we are to bear much fruit as we remain connected to Him. This is why THE Branch came: to graft us into God. It was the plan all along since the Garden.

The Church is the representation of Christ on the earth. Christians are the ambassadors that bring the message of Heaven to the people of this world. We are to show others the Kingdom of Heaven so they, too, can be grafted into Christ through the new birth.

Through this picture given to us by Zechariah we see that God always works by a process. He started redemption in the Garden after the fall, which separated man from fellowship with the Creator, so that we could once again “walk with Him.” Because of sin, we are all dry, dead wood like those staves of Israel. But if we will place ourselves before the Mercy Seat (which was atop the Ark of the Covenant) we can bud with new life, and bear fruit.

Another Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, gives another perspective on this Branch.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’…”

Jesus, from the lineage of King David, would rule and reign as a Righteous Branch. Jeremiah then gives one of the Seven Hebrew Names of God: Jehovah-Tsidkenu. It means, “The Lord Our Righteousness.” (I dealt with this name in the first book of The Names of God.)

Through the process of redemption, completed by the Holy Spirit, we are then grafted into eternal life in Christ. We are also made the Righteousness of God. We no longer have a sin nature, but now we live with the mind of Christ as He is formed in us.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Names of God - Blessed and Only Potentate

Blessed and Only Potentate

1 Timothy 6:13-16 (ESV)
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign (KJV – Potentate), the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Here is a word you probably do not hear every day. Potentate, in essence, means, “powerful ruler.” It’s easy to see how this name would be ascribed to Christ. It comes from the Greek word dynastēs, which means, “a ruler or officer; of great authority, mighty, potentate.” Our word today is sovereign. When we use this word in reference to a nation it means they are self-ruled. No one else has authority over them.

This is certainly true about our Lord. Paul described it this way:

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV)
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

This is commonly sung in church gatherings as The Doxology. My friend, Joey Holder, penned these words in his song, “Unto the King.”

Unto the King eternal
Unto the King immortal
Unto the King invisible
The only wise God
The only wise God

Unto the King be glory and honor
Unto the King forever
Unto the King be glory and honor
Forever and forever, A-men

“Unto the King” words and music by Joey Holder
©1980 Far Lane Music.

Regardless of how you express it we should give praise and glory to the Blessed and Only Potentate, our Savior, our Sovereign, our Soon Coming King, Jesus Christ, the Lord. He is the only “man” worthy of praise as a sovereign, because every other man that has ever lived, or will ever live, will bow to The Sovereign (Potentate), Jesus. As believers we do this on a regular basis. Our very lives are to be lived as a praise offering unto The King. (Ephesians 1:12)

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrates when a man decides to exalt himself above God. Nebuchadnezzar decided he was a potentate. Everyone treated him as a god, such that when the call to worship was given, everyone bowed to his image. However, these three Hebrew boys knew there was One higher, even though they had yet to meet Him. When the call to worship sounded they remained standing and would not bow. Even when threatened with death they refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar.

For the Christian, there is nothing and no one that deserves our praise other than Jesus Christ, our Sovereign. Never compromise your life by paying homage to anyone other than Jesus.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Names of God - The Beginning of the Creation of God

The Beginning of the Creation of God

Revelation 3:14 (ESV)
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation…’”

With each letter to the churches in the book of the Bible titled, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” the Holy Spirit instructed John to include names that describe Jesus. In the letter to Laodicea John called Jesus “The Beginning of the Creation of God.” (KJV)

This is not when Jesus was “created,” because He was not created. He has always been, because He is eternal as part of the Godhead – three in one. But, just as both Genesis and John declare, “in the beginning … God said …” (Genesis) and “in the beginning was the Word …” (John) Both of these are references to Christ, the Word of God, who later was born as a man called Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, all of God’s creation began with Jesus.

I know it is difficult for our human mind to fully comprehend this, but we see the triune nature of creation all around. Matter exists in three states: solid, liquid, and gas. Music has a triune nature: three notes form a chord, there are three aspects to music – melody, harmony, and rhythm. Man is a three-part being: body, soul, and spirit. In all of these cited you cannot have one part of it without the rest. The same is true of God: The Father, The Word, and The Spirit.

When you also consider the other names used in this particular letter from The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, The Amen and The Faithful and True Witness, you can see that Jesus is not “beginning” in this process. He stands by to give the “amen,” which means, “so be it.” He is also referred to as “The Faithful and True Witness.” He was with God in Creation, actively participating as The Word (the voice of God), by speaking into existence the things created. The Spirit was also actively responding to The Word and forming the very creation on the words being spoken.

As a matter of fact, the worlds we see only exist because of the words that were uttered by The Word during creation.

Hebrews 11:3 (ESV)
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Imagine that! The things we cannot see are more real than the things we can see. This is the essence of faith. We believe in something we cannot see, but know that it is more real than our very existence. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, Messiah, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Savior was present at creation and now is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for you and me. I’m so glad to know that the One that formed the worlds is interested in my world to the point that He would pray to the Father regarding my concerns. That is some kind of Lord!