The first century AD seems about as foreign to us as a man on Mars, but most often, we find that spanning the centuries, people are just people. Judas was a popular name given to most little boys coming from the Hebrew word “Judah,” meaning praise. And as the Jewish boys ran in the streets, having foot races and throwing rocks, Roman soldiers marched through the village, imposing their Roman ways. The people of Israel wrestled with their Jewish identity in a Roman world. They desperately hoped that their Messiah would come quickly to restore a government no longer under Roman control. Suddenly, a man appeared on the scene claiming to be the fulfillment of all for which the Jews were praying, and while young Judas didn’t know exactly what was going on, He looked at this man, Jesus, and dropped everything to follow him.
When Jesus began His ministry, He chose twelve young men to follow Him as He taught the people and performed miracles. While the Bible isn’t clear on “why” Jesus chose each disciple, it is possible that He looked for men that had the potential to one day further the Kingdom of God. Peter would one day preach a sermon on the day of Pentecost bringing thousands to Christ. Thomas would carry the Gospel to India one day, while Thaddeus and Bartholomew would evangelize Armenia. But what would Judas do? His possibilities were endless, and Jesus allowed him to stay close and watch over the finances because Jesus saw Judas’ potential. But as the old saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” After a woman poured oil on Jesus’ feet, which Judas felt should have been sold for a profit and donated to the poor, the initial enthusiasm of a young Jewish boy who left it all to follow the up-and-comer had now faded to frustration and disdain. Unfortunately, we know the outcome of the story. Judas betrayed Jesus for some money, the source of his initial offense, and eventually took his own life.
This story of human frailty is relatable to many of us who may have known Jesus as a youth. Maybe it was one night at a youth camp that Jesus became real to you, and through tears, you surrendered your life to Him. Perhaps you had a private encounter where Jesus spoke to your heart so plainly, and His power and love radically changed you. But as the years have passed, through disappointing circumstances, church hurt, and the busyness of life, you find that the initial passion and zeal with which you first found Jesus has diminished into indifference and casualness. While waxing and waning cycles are natural to life, they can be treacherous territory for our walk with Jesus. In Revelation 2, Jesus says to the church at Ephesus, “I know your works, your labor, your patience…but you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first work.”
Oh, friend, I hear a clarion call from Heaven today urging us to look again within our hearts. Have we left our first love? Have we allowed our love for the Lord to grow cold and our devotion for Him to fade into the background of our life? Remember that His arms are always open wide, and He is “slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6). If we confess our wrongdoing, He is faithful to forgive us and wash us clean again (1 John 1:9). Let us not go another day, another moment without making sure that we are in right standing with Jesus. As the lyrics of an old hymn remind us, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.”
Join us Sundays at 3 pm online or in person at Regeneration Nashville as we worship the Lord together in spirit and in truth. Until then, may God bless you, keep you, and make His face shine upon you. Be Regenerated!
Your friend in Christ,
The word “holy” is one of those churchy words we hear from time to time. We might use the term to refer to the sacraments like “Holy Communion” or even to talk about the “Holy Bible.” But what does it mean exactly to be holy? How does holiness translate into everyday living when God says, “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45, 1 Peter 1:16)?
It doesn’t take long to stumble upon the word holy when reading the scriptures. In Genesis 2:3, God calls the seventh day of creation “holy” and differentiates it by resting instead of creating as He did on the other six days. Later in Exodus 3:5, we read the famous story of Moses standing at the burning bush and hearing God say, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” God told Moses that where He dwells becomes a holy place, different from other ordinary and mundane places. Holiness means to be separate, pure, and other-than. We see that it isn’t necessarily a time (Sabbath) or a space (particular ground) that makes God holy, but God, Himself, is holy, making the time and space in which He dwells holy.
In Leviticus, we read quite a bit about being “clean” or “pure.” Because God is pure and separate from sin and death, those who come into His presence must also be pure and separate from sin and death. But God also knows that humans make mistakes, so He gave the Israelites 603 laws, including animal sacrifices. Humans could then become clean and “holy” after failing and again enter into His presence. But we know that those ways of becoming holy could never last, so God sent His Son, Jesus, as the ultimate sacrifice to take away our sins and make us a holy people. This process is referred to as another long, churchy word called “sanctification” or “the action of making or declaring something holy.”
So, is that it? Once we are saved, are we permanently holy? Remember that once we are saved, we become God’s people, and we are set free from our sins and the shame and guilt that sin brings, but we must also continue to try and live a life as Jesus lived. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” It’s vitally important that we never think this scripture says God will love us if we keep His commandments. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But to show our love for God, we keep His commandments to be holy and set apart from the rest of the world as God’s children. Some of the ways we do this are by staying morally pure (1 Corinthians 6:9-19), not using inappropriate language (1 Peter 3:10), attending church (Hebrews 10:25), and loving one another (John 13:34).
Keeping God’s commandments seems similar to the impossible task of the Israelites trying to keep the 603 laws. But don’t let your heart faint, friend! God sent us the Holy Spirit as our Helper and Counselor who will teach us what we should do and remind us of what God has said (John 14:26). Being led by the Holy Spirit is our key to holiness, and all it takes is to trust Him and yield to Him as He prompts us to make adjustments. Remember that God loves you, is for you, and has a beautiful plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Join us Sundays at 3 pm online or in person at Regeneration Nashville as we worship God together and see Him move by the power of the Holy Spirit! Until then, may God bless you, keep you, and make His face shine upon you. Be Regenerated!
Your friend in Christ,
Have you ever struggled to keep the faith? Have you ever felt the tug of war between the natural circumstances you see with your eyes and the faith you feel inside your heart? Have you ever wanted to cry out the words of Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” All too often, it seems that unbelief tries to cast a gloomy shadow over the miraculous things that God wants to do in us and through us. But take heart, friend, because God has given us all the measure of faith (Romans 12:3, KJV), and we can believe!
In Luke 5, the disciples came to Jesus and asked that He increase their faith. Jesus responded that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move a mountain. In essence, Jesus didn’t need to increase their faith, but they needed to exercise the faith that they already had inside of them. But how do we tap into the faith we already have? Faith is dependent mainly on who’s voice to which we are listening. Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” When we listen to what God is saying, our faith is stirred up to believe and allow God to do all that He has purposed.
Unbelief is the opposite of faith and is defined as “faithless, unbeliever, and weakness of faith.” So, if faith comes by hearing, then unbelief also comes by hearing. Unbelief will always challenge the Word of God and creeps into our hearts when we listen to other voices other than the Holy Spirit. This is why we must “crucify our flesh” daily, or in other words, deny the passions and desires we felt before we were saved. When we allow our senses to become our voice of reason instead of the Holy Spirit, we will continuously operate in unbelief and never fully grasp all God has for us. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts and we act in faith, the possibilities are endless!
Acting in faith requires risk. In Matthew 14, we find the famous story of Peter walking on water. He believed that it was the Lord calling to Him from the sea, and he took a risk, climbed over the side of the boat, and walked on the water. Mark 5 reminds us of the story of the woman with the issue of blood that touched Jesus’ robe. Although the doctors could not help her and she had spent all she had, she believed Jesus could heal her and pressed through the crowd. She risked being trampled and humiliated but acted in faith and received her healing.
In John 14:12, we read the familiar words of Jesus when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father.” Jesus tells us that if we believe in Him, we will do the same miraculous works He did and even more, but remember, we must believe! Although at times, we may waver because we are humans, all we must do is cry out like the man in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and God promises to be an ever-present help (Psalm 46:1).
Join us Sundays at 3 pm online or in person at Regeneration Nashville as we unite in faith together and see God do the miraculous! Until then, may God bless you, keep you, and make His face shine upon you. Be Regenerated!
Your friend in Christ,