Saturday, January 3, 2015

Notes from a Refreshing Bible Study at In Him Counseling Services

These are notes from our last study of 2014 on Wednesday morning, 12/31/2014. That morning's focus was on John 1:11-13...

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)

Why did His own not receive Him?

1. Familiar - isn't this the carpenter's son? How is He calling God His Father?

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58)

2. They wondered about the miracles, but flat out denied He was God.

I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." (John 10:30-33)

3. He didn't follow the traditions of men, which were taught as doctrines of God.

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! (Mark 7:5-9)

4. How does anyone receive Him? The Holy Spirit reveals it to them.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

They did not receive Him. Why not?
It's about humility, which they did not have, and arrogance, which they would not give up.

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you." Acts 7:51

...nor did the world know Him. Why not?
Because righteousness comes from God, not by anything man can do. Without the Spirit of God, man can do nothing.

as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

Contrast that with the believer...

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name... 
Who would receive Him, who would believe in His name?

1. Whoever...

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

2. Those who do not refuse to believe...

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

He gave the right to become children of God
Many say we are all children of God already. But that was not what God said. He clearly said the right to become children of God would be given to those who believe in the name of His Son.

It's beautiful! Why mess with that? Why resist the Holy Spirit? 
People who resist the Holy Spirit want something to boast about, whether it's keeping the law, being a good person (or at least trying), or latching onto a cause for the sake of humanity. The sin nature is dying to claim it's "good enough." Some claim we don't need any standard of righteousness at all, and put down the idea that there even is a God, or that He matters. After all, we've got serious problems in this world to solve, or chances for wealth and prosperity while we're here, right?

But Scripture also tells us clearly that a) our best works are like polluted rags to God, and that b) salvation is a gift of God so that no one can boast.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  (Isaiah 64:6a)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Lastly, we must be willing to let go of our thoughts and expectations because God has something much better for the believer now than we could ever ask or imagine, and that it was His plan all along, even before the foundation of the world. (For the mature, read 1 Cor 2:6-12.)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 

Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20)

...who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
This is where it all starts for us: being born of the Spirit. Yes, since we exist we were born of water, the flesh. But, unless we are born again, we merely remain flesh. But now, we must be born again.

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' (John 3:5-7)

At our Bible study, we looked into many verses of Scriptures and had lively discussions around these verses. The notes I wrote above, I hope, capture the essence of those discussions. There was more commentary, as well, and I do not recall it all now. It's a good thing that...

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Until next week, praise be to God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

In Him Counseling Services is a Christian Counseling center located in Raritan, NJ.

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