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“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:24-28
Faith without free will is no faith at all. Love without free will is no love at all. And God desires both from the joyful submission of our free will to Him.
Here after Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed with fellow believers. And they acknowledged that, from the beginning, God knew exactly at which point in human chronology He would send Jesus. God sent His Son when the Roman-centric world would swallow up His chosen people, Israel, and both cultures would converge to crucify Him.
Because it was all a part of His plan to redeem His Creation.
Though–being all-knowing–He knew who would carry this out, God didn’t choose to villainize or destine people or force anyone to do the job. Everyone who denied, denounced and destroyed Jesus’ physical body did so of their own free will. Just as everyone who comes to Christ also does so of their own free will.
Faith is absolute certainty in what we hope for but cannot see. But it must stem from the free will of our intellect, for without faith it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. So if God chooses who will have this faith and who will not, then it is no longer faith. It is coercion.
Love, by necessity, is a choice. No one can force someone else to truly love them. But each person comes to love another purely as an expression of their own free will. We each choose whom we desire and how to demonstrate that affection. So if God chooses who will love Him and who will not, then it is no longer love. It is coercion.
But God is self-sufficient–He needs no one. God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. He sent His to die on the cross for whosoever would believe in Him [John 3:16] and He doesn’t want anyone to choose to perish in the lake of fire [2 Peter 3:9].
And even knowing what we will choose, He still acts mercifully with all of us. Indiscriminate of our ultimate decision to accept or deny Him. He still loves each and every one of us. He still lets us choose for ourselves whom we will serve [Joshua 24:15].
Whom have you chosen?
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I heard first speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” Revelation 4:1-3
The entire book of Revelation predicates the understanding of the triune Godhead. All three persons in one accord are present throughout the letter. Right from the first line and chapter defining this piece of scripture as–1) the revelation of Jesus Christ; 2) given by God the Father; and 3) received in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when Jesus spoke to John [Revelation 1:1 & 10-18].
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the promised gift of God the Father to comfort and empower believers in Jesus’ physical absence from the earth [John 14:16 & 26, & 16:7; Acts 1:4-5 & 8]. This is important to us, because during the time of the Law of Moses in the Old Testament the Israelites couldn’t bring their sacrifices directly to God, they couldn’t stand in His presence because of the sin in their lives. Only the High Priest one day a year could come before God in the Holy of Holies to make the atonement sacrifice for the sins of the people [Hebrews 9:7].
When Jesus came to the earth as a physical human being, people could approach Him without fear of their sins. He mediated between God and man, freely forgiving all who asked and healing and providing and performing many other miracles as well. At His death, the Temple veil miraculously tore in two pieces, showing that Jesus had once again opened the way to God the Father for all mankind. But when He ascended into heaven, God the Spirit was sent in His stead. Through Him we continually have access to and communion with God the Father and God the Son.
All scripture is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16], and the book of Revelation was a timely message as well. Jesus had left the earth. The promised Spirit was at work–but not physically visible. The apostles were writing letters to the many New Testament churches, letters which were inspired of God and were canonized as God’s Word. But in Revelation Jesus spoke directly through the Spirit of God to the churches–His Word was final.
After John records the specific messages to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor, Jesus speaks to him and the Spirit descends on him again, together they usher John into the throne room of heaven and the presence of God the Father.
Without question, the Trinity of God is a very real, very divine phenomena. All three persons in perfect accord with each other, and all three persons eternal, having existed before the Creation and continuing forever after the first Creation comes to an end.
Do you commune with God the Father and Son through the Spirit in prayer, praise, Bible study and the like?
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.'” Luke 3:21-22
Baptism began during John the Baptist’s ministry–hence his title. Like his cousin, Jesus, John’s birth was announced by an angel [Luke 1:11-17]. Although John was not conceived by the Spirit of God, so John was fully human, he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born [Luke 1:15]. Filled with the Spirit, John was sent by God to proclaim the light of Jesus to the world and to prepare people’s hearts for His coming [Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:6-8].
All three persons of the Trinity are once again present at Jesus’ baptism. As always, they are in one accord.
As much as John was doing the work of God, baptism with repentance was a new idea to Jew and Gentile alike. By preaching repentance and introducing baptism, John prepares the way for Jesus, and, by being baptized, Jesus demonstrates that baptism is of God.
After John brings Him up out of the water, Jesus–God the Son–prays, and heaven, ourano, opens. The same ourano meaning air and sky. The sky opened, though just a peek–like the door to heaven standing open before the apostle John [Revelation 4:1], but not fully rolled back like it will be when Jesus comes again [Isaiah 34:4 & 51:6; Revelation 6:14]. With the door to heaven ajar over the scene of Jesus’ baptism, God the Spirit assumes a bodily form–though by nature He is Spirit, not physical body–and descends as a dove; while God the Father speaks from on high.
How many witnessed the heavens opening that day? How many saw God the Spirit descend and heard God the Father proclaim that Jesus was His Son? We don’t read about these witnesses testifying to what they saw and heard. But surely the news about this moment spread. Surely these witnesses left the river bank proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God on whom the favor of God the Father rested.
Though for how long? As humans, the further we get from a moment of truth, the softer the memory becomes in our mind. Did I really see and hear? Did it actually happen the way I think I remember it? The same questions that Satan used to undo Eve’s faith in the garden of Eden he uses in each of our lives to this very day, Did God really say? [Genesis 3:1].
That is precisely why God gives us His Holy Spirit, to remind us of the truth that we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears. So that we might understand the eternity within our own hearts and so that our hearts might not be hardened by the distance of time from a moment of truth [Psalm 95:8; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Hebrews 3:8 & 15].
Has God revealed Himself to you? Do not doubt what you have seen and heard in His Word. Pray for the Holy Spirit to remind you of that moment of truth. Seek God while He may be found, so that you may come to the next moment of truth–over and over again.
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
At the Creation, God made man in His image [Genesis 1:27 & 5:2]. About 4,000 years later God sends His Son, fully God and fully man–Creator in the form of the created.
Countless mythologies abounded around the days of Jesus’ life–Norse, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Germanic, and many more. In each of these, Satan had contorted the hope of the God-man Savior that God intended [Genesis 3:15].
Each mythological pantheon consisted of dozens and sometimes hundreds of so-called deities who behaved worse than sinful man. They caroused with human women for their own good pleasure, then discarded them like broken toys. Their demigod children were only partially gods and partially humans–misfits whom their deity dads generally abhorred. And all of them were fictitious.
These stories couldn’t have been further from the truth of God.
God did not have physical relations with Mary [Luke 1:35]–Jesus’ mother. Nor did He Father multiple children, Jesus is the only begotten Son of God [John 3:16]. He is both fully God and fully man, loved by God [Matthew 3:17 & 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22] though rejected by the world [Mark 9:12].
If we are to understand God rightly, we must allow Him to purify and elevate our thoughts about all three of His persons who are in one accord–Father, Son and Spirit. So important is this triune truth that all three persons of the Godhead were present at the conception of Christ–Jesus alone taking on physical form–just as they were at the Creation.
Does the concept of the Trinity confuse you? Do you allow that uncertainty to compromise your faith? Pray to God the Father to send His Spirit into your mind–in the name of Jesus–to alleviate all doubts.
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17
God’s Holy Spirit desires Christ’s return and the advent of the New Heaven and the New Earth. The bride of Christ–His church preparing herself for the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2]–longs for that day. If God’s Spirit indwells us [Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:16-25], if we have truly accepted Christ as our bridegroom [Isaiah 61:10 & 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2; Matthew 25:1-10; Revelation 21:9], then our spirit cries out, Come, Lord Jesus, come!
So great should our joyful anticipation be for the return of Christ and our heavenly home, that those around us hear about it. The Good News should overflow our lips like a spring fed cup–because our lives are so finite like the cup and God’s love so infinite like a constant spring. Our joy should be a very good kind of contagious, so that those around us will not only hear but desire to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior–that all the world will call out to Jesus to, Come!
Come into our hearts. Come into our lives. Come into every ounce of our being. Everything we say and do surrendered to Christ alone. Come. Return to take your people home. Return with your glorious light and free us from the darkness of sin , sorrow, suffering and death. Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Blessed–extremely and eternally joyful–is everyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness [Matthew 5:6]. For Jesus is our righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30], and He freely fills us with that which we could never attain for ourselves [Isaiah 64:6].
The translation of, wishes…free gift, here comes from the Greek, dorean–freely. A better translation of this idea would be, Let the one who is thirsting come, let him who desires take the water of life freely.
Freely. No one makes Jesus do what He does for us. No one made Him die on the cross. No one makes Him forgive us for our sins. No one makes Him stand before the Father in our stead, covering our sins with His own righteousness, holding the door open to eternal life. He wants to do it. Freely.
And we are free to choose to accept or reject this gift, freely given to us. Generously lavished without interference, limit or restriction on those who accepting find. We are not forced to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf or the eternal life it brings. Neither are we limited in the abundance of life we receive, nor are there restrictions on who may receive this gift.
Except that it is received freely, just as it is given freely. No coercion. Just the purely loving response by grace through faith of accepting God’s gift of our own free will [Ephesians 2:8].
Have you freely accepted God’s grace? Does your soul cry out, Come? Does your joy overflow into the world around you so that they desire to know Him too?
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star.'” Revelation 22:16
The scriptures mention the angel of the Lord about seventy times [Genesis 16:7-11, 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2; Numbers 22:22-35; et al]. It is often said that this idea is difficult to translate accurately. Sometimes it seems like an angel, while other times it seems like a Christophany–Jesus Himself, in a pre-incarnate [before He was born in the flesh] appearance.
However, both Revelation 1:1 and 22:16 tell us that Jesus sent His angel to reveal these writings to John. Could it be that the angel of the Lord, then, is a title for a specific angel who is Jesus’ personal messenger to humankind?
Regardless of whether or not this is the case, the purpose of this message bearer to John is to testify to the churches. In John’s day, they were seven specific churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor [Revelation 1:4 & 1:20], but the letters were not to be dismantled because the truth therein was to be for all the church for all remaining earthly time [Revelation 22:9-10].
And in fact, the book of Revelation is extremely important for the authority of Scriptures. Yes, all of it is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16], that is not in question. But imagine a Bible without the book of Revelation. Imagine after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, if those same heavens fell quiet, the apostles carried on their earthly ministry and the New Testament ended with the letters of early church history.
But just as the God’s spoken Word began the Biblia or the sacred books, so the spoken Word of Christ brings them to the end. Christians living in the Roman Empire, and every believer after, needed to hear from their risen Savior about what they would experience and why–what was coming that transcended all of this earthly trouble. When and how we would one day be united with Him for eternity.
He is the beginning of our understanding and the end as well [Revelation 1:8, 22:13]. He did not come to bring us the light of truth, just to leave us in darkness about where everything leads [John 1:5]. Countless heresies had arisen in the first few decades after Jesus’ ascension–when He wasn’t physically present to set them to right, but He refused to leave the lies unaddressed, to allow us to fall back into the waywardness of our sinful predisposition.
As the long prophesied Root of Jesse and Offspring of David to the house of Israel [Isaiah 9:7, 11:1 & 10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5], and as the true bright and morning star to the Gentile nations [Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28 & 22:16], He spoke into the confusion of sin that sought to overshadow His ascension. He remembered us–kept us in mind as worthy of consideration–loving us all the way to eternity and back just as He always has.
And He spoke. Light into the darkness. Life into the death consuming our heart and mind. Revelation into the confusion.
Satan again would leverage confusion about the understanding of scriptures and end times events to bar the faith-gates of our hearts. But what if God’s people returned to His Word for understanding? What if we received the Revelation that was so freely given to us? What if we let it penetrate everything that we are and we lived it to the fullest?
“Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12
From the Messianic prophecies, the Jews expected a conquering king to right their political wrongs. Someone to overthrow their Roman oppressors so that they could continue to live comfortably in their earthly home and traditions.
But God’s plan was so much bigger.
A tiny baby.
You see, He didn’t force Adam and Eve to obey Him. He gave them a choice and the understanding to make that choice [Genesis 2:9 & 16-17]. He wanted His Creation to love Him as He loved them–by their own free will.
When He saw it was time to send His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world as the Savior, God again wanted His Creation to choose to love Him. Israel wanted a conqueror, but God didn’t want to hold them at sword point and demand their belief. He didn’t want to coerce by fear, but to receive love in return for the love that He so freely gives.
So He sent a baby. The very image of irresistible love. He wanted us to see Him the same way that He sees each of us, and to desire to hold and cherish Him as He does us–by our own free will.
He could have sent that conqueror that we thought we needed and wanted. Though God would never break His promises, he could have just wiped out the whole world in another flood, showing mercy in His wrath by saving only the righteous.
But instead, He showed mercy mild–mercy in His love and grace to save the whole world through His son, the Christ child.
Today, as we remember the birth of Christ, will you receive His mercy mild?