Lessons from Jesus the Disciple

Daily Devotion: Day 235
 

“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4, KJV).  

The above passage is a prophecy about Jesus, the Messiah. It shows us the image of Christ as a disciple or student. Imagine that: Jesus the student. When we think of Jesus, that’s not the image we often associate with Him. Yet the Bible says that He was a learned Man, well instructed. Who instructed Jesus? The Father did. We shall soon find out more about this. In the meantime, let’s look at the details in the passage.

In the prophecy, Jesus is speaking in the first person. He says that the Lord GOD has given Him the tongue of the learned, i.e. the tongue of a disciple. A disciple is one who understudies another and follows in the footsteps of that person. A major part of the Messiah’s job description was teaching. This, obviously, required speaking. Jesus trained under the Father so that He would, among other things, know how to speak the right word to sustain those who were exhausted in lifeJesus was a good Teacher because He was a good Disciple

Another interesting detail from today’s passage is that Jesus did not stop being a disciple. According to the passage, each morning the Father opened Jesus’ ears to give Him the instructions of that day. The mark of a good disciple is the ability to listen. That is what Jesus did. In Psalm 40:6, another Messianic prophecy, Jesus reiterates His listening ability as a disciple: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened” (NKJV). Jesus, as we can see, was not only the Son of God, but also was a Disciple of the Father.

Every day, the Father taught Him what to say and how to speak. These daily instructions sharpened His teaching ability and made every word from His mouth a seasoned word, capable of lifting up those who were burdened in life. In Jesus’ own words, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught MeI speak these things” (John 8:28, NKJV). Because Jesus listened and submitted to the daily instructions of the Father, He gained a skillful tongue – capable of delivering life-giving words.

A well-trained tongue is a fountain of refreshing words. The Book of Proverbs expresses it pithily, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of the sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (12:18, NKJV). Jesus was, and is, the Giver and Promoter of Life. He literally gave life to people by speaking the right words to them. “The words that I speak to you,” He declared,  are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63, NKJV). His secret? He listened to His Father. 

 As the Father taught Jesus, He has many things to teach us also. The secret to success in God’s Kingdom is daily obedience to the voice of God. Let’s learn from Jesus the Disciple

May the Lord let His face shine upon you and make all your paths prosperous, in Jesus Name. Amen.

For further studyPhilippians 2:5-24

Becoming Perfect through Obedience

DEVOTION: DAY 209

“Though he [Jesus] were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9, KJV).

As the eternal Son of God, Jesus didn’t need to ‘learn’ anything. But upon taking on flesh as a man, He had to learn many things – the most important of which was obedience. Jesus learned obedience, not for His own sake, but for our sake – to show us how to become blameless (perfect) in our walk with God. God has not changedwe have. From the beginning, God’s purpose has been for His children to be blameless in character. God, for example, said to Abram (later, Abraham): “I am the Almighty God; walk before meand be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). Jesus demonstrated to us the way of perfection. If we walk in His steps – through obedience – we shall be like Him.

Today’s Scripture passage says Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Jesus was not exempt from suffering. Neither are weObeying God is very rewarding, but it comes with a price. To obey God, you need to endure suffering and give up certain pleasures, habits, desires, attitudes, relationships, conversations, lifestyle, social settings, and even certain religious views and practices which are contrary to God’s Word.

Notice that Jesus learned obedience, not by the miracles he performed, but by the things He suffered. He learned obedience the hard way: the temptations He endured, the opposition to His message, the threats from people, the persecution and hate, the pain of seeing loved ones suffer, the limitations of the human condition, etc. On the Cross, Jesus reached the height of obedience and perfection when He made the ultimate sacrifice – to redeem us.

The Bible continues by stating that Jesus became the author (i.e. the source or the cause) of eternal salvation for those who obey Him. Notice that there is a specific group of people for whom Jesus becomes the author of salvation: those who obey Jesus. In the original New Testament Greek, the word “obey” in this passage is rendered in the present tense and in the active voice. The implication is, Jesus is the cause of eternal salvation for those who currently (actively) obey Him, not those who obeyed in the past but have since stopped obeying Jesus.

Ongoing obedience to Jesus ensures, therefore, that we are connected to the source of eternal salvation. It further ensures that we grow in perfection: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). If you obey Jesus, it means you are abiding in Him. And if you are abiding in Him, you will manifest the Jesus-life.

Without obedience, there is no perfection. And there is no obedience without some measure of suffering. In Christ, and by the power of His Holy Spirit in us, we can walk in obedience like Jesus and become God’s blameless children in this world (cf. Philippians 2:14-15).

May the Lord bless you and keep you from all danger today. Amen.

For further study: Philippians 2:5-16

Was Jesus a Friend of Sinners?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 204

“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34, KJV).

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? The answer is, “No.” We shall soon find out why. Let’s start by examining the context of today’s Bible passage. Here, Jesus is expressing His displeasure at the attitude of people toward Him. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. He led a relatively austere life, neither eating bread nor drinking wine (cf. Luke 1:13-15). His food was locusts and wild honey (cf. Matthew 3:4). Yet, people found fault with him and said he had a devil (cf. Luke 7:33). Jesus, by contrast, ate freely and did not abstain from wine. In general, He was less strict with Himself compared to John the Baptist. Surprisingly, people found fault with Jesus, too. They accused Him of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners. Here is where some people get confused and conclude – wrongly – that Jesus was a friend of sinners.

Let’s keep in mind that the tag, “friend of sinners,” was just an accusation. The question we must ask is, “Was the accusation true or was it false?” Was Jesus a “friend of sinners?” To answer this question, let’s look again at today’s opening Scripture. Jesus was accused of being three things: glutton (He overeats), drunkard (he drinks in excess), and a friend of sinners (He hangs out with sinful people).

Let’s start with the first accusation.

Was Jesus a glutton? No, He was not. Gluttony is over-indulging in food, which is a form of greed and lack of self-control. The Bible expressly says Jesus was without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus was a glutton, then He was a sinner; but the Word of God cannot lie. Second, was Jesus a drunkard? No, He was not – for the same reasons noted above regarding gluttony.

Now, to the third accusation:

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? Again, noHe was not. Here’s why. If you are a friend of sinners, it means you share (directly or indirectly) in their sinful life (which is what the accusation against Jesus implied). We are using the word “friend” in the strict sense (i.e. those you share your life with based on mutual love, respect and common interests), not in the loose sense where you might casually say to someone, “Hey, friend!” or “My friend!” (see, for example, Matthew 22:11-12).

The truth is, Jesus was no friend of sinners. He did, however, welcome all who wanted to hear Him: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, godly and ungodly, Jews and Gentiles. He went to their homes if He was invited; there, He often took the opportunity to proclaim the truth of salvation. Some sinners who listened to Jesus eventually received His message, repented and became His disciples. In short, Jesus was compassionate, loving and merciful toward all people, but He was not a friend of sinners.

The only group of people Jesus called His “friends” were His disciples (cf. John 15:15). In the previous verse (John 15:14), Jesus declared: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Notice the condition a person must fulfill to become Jesus’ friend: if you do whatsoever Jesus commands you. Do sinners do whatsoever Jesus commands them? No, they don’t. Conclusion: Sinners are not friends of Jesus; and Jesus is not their friend, either. 

Let us, therefore, present Jesus accurately to people, because friendship with Jesus (or lack thereof) is a matter of heaven or hell.

May the Lord bless you, give you understanding and enable you to walk with Him in holiness and righteousness. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 15:1-5

How to Live Long and Prosper

Daily Devotional: Day 163

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-2, NKJV).

Once a child, always a child. In other words, you’re always somebody’s child. No matter how old or independent you are, you always will be someone’s child. Similarly, once a parent, always a parent. Whether your children are around or not, your status as a parent remains a permanent fact of human history. The bond between parent and child is precious to God; for God Himself is a Parent and the Source of all life. God, therefore, pays special attention to the parent-child relationship. Today’s message will focus on what God wants children to do for their parents. As usual, look carefully at today’s opening Scripture; there’s a lot going on the passage.

Honoring your father and mother is so important to God that He included it in the Ten Commandments (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16). In the New Testament, Jesus reiterated it (cf. Mark 10:17-19); so did Paul – as you can see in today’s reading. Speaking to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The context suggests that he is addressing children who are still under the care of their parents. Notice that the command is for children to obey their parents in the Lord. It’s an important qualification, because when we become Christians, we’re supposed to do all things (good things, of course) in the Lord and for His sake. Love for Christ motivates us to do what pleases Him, including obeying our parents. Paul adds, “for this is right.” The life of a Christian is about doing what is right, i.e. practicing righteousness. Obeying our parents is the right thing to do, therefore, we do it. And, when we do what is right, we’re showing that we are righteous people (cf. 1 John 3:7).

“Honor your father and mother” means obey your parents, respect them and show them reverence. It means you serve them; you provide for their welfare; it also means you don’t quarrel or fight with them; you don’t talk back to them or talk down to them; you don’t raise your voice against them or give them attitude. God hates disrespectful attitude toward parents. How you treat your parents says a lot about the authenticity of your relationship with Jesus. If you love Jesus, you’ll do what He tells you. Regardless of how insufferable you think your parents are, God wants you to always uphold honor and respect. You may not like something about your parents, but they’re your parents; and, so long as they remain alive, Jesus wants you to honor them. If you have a problem with them, look for ways to handle it while maintaining a posture of respect and honor.

Furthermore, “Honor your father and mother,” is the first commandment with a promise attached to it. If you honor your parents, God promises that it will be well with you (meaning, you will prosper) and you will live long on the earth. See, God has given you the key to prosperity and long life. He is not asking you to go on a diet or go to the gym. All He is telling you to do is to honor your parents. Do you want it to be well with you? If yes, then honor your parents. Do you want to live long on earth? If yes, then honor your parents.

May the Lord let His face shine upon you and your family today! Amen.

For further study: Luke 2:41-52

When to Obey God, Instead of Man

Daily Devotional: Day 121

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives . . . “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:15-17, NKJV).

The Israelites lived peacefully with the Egyptians for about 400 years. But all of this changed when a certain Egyptian king ascended the throne, who felt threatened by the increasing number of the Israelites. He, therefore, adopted a policy of hostility and enslavement to subdue God’s people. This is the background for our Scripture reading today. The king of Egypt ordered the Hebrew (Israelite) midwives to kill all Hebrew sons whose birth they assisted. But the midwives disobeyed the king. As I often like to stress, pay attention to the detail. The midwives did not disobey just for the sake of disobeying.  They did not disobey because they were arrogant and rebellious. Notice this: The midwives disobeyed the king, because they feared God.

On several occasions the Bible admonishes us to honor and submit to civil/political authorities (cf. Mark 12:13-17Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17). When, however, you are ordered to commit evil, deny your God, or violate your Christian conscience, then you must object, and if necessary, disobey that human authority. In other words, whenever you are put in a situation where you must choose between obedience to God’s Word and obedience to men, God wants you to obey Him rather than man. God alone must be feared. I have said this in one of my Daily Devotionals, and I’d like to repeat: You cannot fear God and fear man at the same time. You must choose whom to fear.

God rewards those who fear Him and respect His commandments (See Exodus 1:20 for the blessings God bestowed on the midwives for their bold stance). When the Hebrew midwives disobeyed the king of Egypt, they were putting their profession and even their life on the line. But because they feared God, they did not fear what the king could do to them. They’d rather die than disobey God. This is the meaning of fearing GodBeing willing to rather die than sin against God. If you are a ‘people-pleaser,’ you can’t be a ‘God-pleaser,’ or vice-versa. Likewise, you cannot be a ‘God-fearer,’ if you are a ‘people-fearer.’

I’ll share a personal story with you. About 15 years ago, I was a senior at a seminary in Ghana where I was training to become a Catholic priest. As president of the student council, I had several responsibilities, and often I had to make important judgment calls. I’ll spare you the details, but one day there was a shortage of food at lunch time. Three professors (who were my superiors) ordered me to break into the food storage room to make food available to the students. But in good conscience, I disobeyed the order. I was fully aware that these professors were taking advantage of the temporary crisis to use me as their pawn to further their political agenda against the Rector of the seminary. I refused to play along. At the end of the day, God vindicated me. 

The point is this: You have a God-given right under the Bible to disobey a human law that commands you to violate the law of God or your Christian religious conscience. Whom or what you fear says a lot about you. Do not compromise your loyalty to God’s law because of your fear of human power. Your sole desire as a Christian is to do what pleases the Father, following your Bible-trained conscience, regardless of what people think about you or threaten to do to you.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study: Daniel 3:1-30