Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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The Bread of Life

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

BIBLE READING: John 6

“I am the bread of life” (John 6.48)

Figuratively, Jesus was teaching his ability to sustain and satisfy. He uses the manna God sent to Israel as a parallel to his life and ministry (see Exodus 16). But then the metaphor got complicated. Jesus doesn’t just claim to have this food but to be the food (John 6.27, 35, 51). “Huh?” seems to be the collective response (John 6.52). But Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53).

The imagery is disturbing even outside of a Jewish context where the Law condemns ingesting blood (Leviticus 17.10-12). The meaning of his comment is hard to understand, even offensive to his listeners, and many leave (John 6.60-61, 66). What is he talking about?

First, we must understand this is not about physical eating (John 6.49-50, 58). We learn this contrast from other verses: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4, cf. Deuteronomy 8.3). We don’t literally eat these words but can consume God’s word for our benefit. The crowds sought him out for another meal but Jesus makes it clear he wants them to learn a spiritual reality (John 6.63)

Second, Jesus is emphasizing the totality with which he must be accepted. In saying “my flesh” and “my blood” he is using a Hebrew idiom meaning “the whole person” (see Matthew 16.17; 1 Corinthians 15.50; Ephesians 6.12; Hebrews 2.14). His disciples were good with benevolent Jesus who kept them fed, but would they follow where the signs were pointing (John 6.26)?

Third, this section is about how to believe in Jesus, and is best clarified by these parallel statements:

  • “everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6.40)
  • “whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6.54)

Eating = believing. Just like Israel had to gather the manna, so also belief is not a passive acceptance, but an active working to consume what God has given (John 6.29). The metaphor teaches us the element of participation as we accept, ingest, and are changed by what God has given us.

Ultimately, Jesus’ dramatic metaphor is about becoming like him. As they say, “You are what you eat.” When we put our faith in Jesus, we not only accept him as the Son of God, but also follow and obey (or “eat”) him who is the Bread of Life. This involves believing his words by loving him and keeping his commandments (John 14.15).

No doubt this teaching is hard to understand, but it forces us to accept or reject Jesus. The scriptures encourage us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34.8), and to delight in the Word who became flesh (John 1.14). Let’s not settle for temporary satisfaction when we can eat and be satisfied with the words of Jesus that produce life.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6.68-69)

The Stakes Are Higher

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

BIBLE READING: Joel 2

Joel opens with a once in a lifetime natural disaster (Joel 1.2-4). Ferocious swarms of locusts have destroyed the land leaving devastation in their wake (1.7, 10, 12, 17-20). But this was not a random act of nature. God sent them as a foreshadowing of a more terrible judgment coming (2.25). God would bring a foreign army to invade with terror and ferocity, and none could withstand (2.11).

But as with every act of God’s judgment, it had restorative purposes (2.12-13). These events were intended to prompt the faithful among God’s people to assemble and seek his favor (1.14; 2.15-17). Through their acts of humility, repentance and submission, God promises to reverse the effects of judgment. He will again give them abundance (2.19), drive away the invading enemy (2.20), and restore vitality to the world around them (2.22-25). They will know “I am in the midst of Israel” and “my people will never again be put to shame” (2.27).

This promised restoration looks forward to Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1.23, cf. Isaiah 7.14). Jesus gave in abundance, even to the point of satisfaction (compare Matthew 14.20 and Joel 2.26). He drove away and dealt with the devastating effects of the true enemy (Matthew 4.23-24; Mark 1.34). He restored vitality to the world and lives of those in it (Matthew 4.23; 9.35; John 10.10; 14.6).

This ultimate fulfilment would not be experienced by these readers, but reconciliation was still a present opportunity. Joel’s jarring depiction of judgment emphasized the need for a to return to the LORD. It would start with the leadership (1.9, 13; 2.17), be demonstrated in repentance, and consummated in trust as they waited for God’s faithful goodness (2.14, 17).

All judgment language drives towards this goal: a radical return to covenant faithfulness with God. He not only wants that but has made it possible through fulfilled promises. Looking ahead, Joel 2 is famously quoted by Peter as he calls another people to repentance (Acts 2.14-38). This emphasizes 2 critical points in scripture: Jesus Christ is the focal point of God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1.20). But the call of God remains the same: repent and trust him (Acts 17.30; 2 Peter 3.9).

On this side of the cross, God’s people are those who respond to this call. Most of us have made that choice at some point in our lives. But just like the people of old, we sometimes become lulled by life and need stirring (Hebrews 10.26-31). As we read Joel, we must consider how God used events and circumstances to get their attention. Perhaps the events of 2020 were intended to bring us back to him. Has it worked? Are we more dedicated to him?

The difference now is the stakes are higher. God is not sending another prophet. We have everything we need to know, through Jesus (Hebrews 1.1-4; 2 Peter 1.3). Those who are faithful will be found seeking the Lord together and encouraging others to do the same.

“…we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1.11-12)

My Grace is Sufficient

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

BIBLE READING: 2 Corinthians 12

God’s actions of grace are diverse and sometimes puzzling. For as often as we see positive actions – parting the Red Sea and crushing Israel’s enemy (Exodus 14), empowering David against Goliath (1 Samuel 17), ultimately sending Jesus to earth to bring salvation (Titus 2.11)—we also see negative ones. God led Israel out of Egyptian slavery directly into the wilderness to humble them (Deuteronomy 8.2-3). He brought judgment on his people so he could heal and restore them (Hosea 6.1). God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Corinthians 12.7).

We know God’s grace trains us how to live (Titus 2.11-12) but we mustn’t be surprised when the way it works appears contrary to our well-being. Paul was given this thorn to address his pride. It was a very present burden that caused him to be weak (2 Corinthians 12.9-10). But worse, Paul saw that Satan was using this thorn against (2 Corinthians 12.7). Talk about getting it from both sides! He hated it and desperately wanted it taken away (2 Corinthians 12.8).

But what does God tell him? “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 12.9). God could take it away, but he would not. Why? God’s grace was not for his happiness but his holiness. God allowed this thorn to persist in order to teach Paul not to rely on himself (see 2 Corinthians 1.9-10). This infirmity would not allow Paul to live as he wanted, and that’s precisely where God wanted him. Paul had been redeemed from that way of life but apparently the draw to proudly trust himself or flout his experiences was a constant battle.

Paul’s struggle with pride is common to everyone. We may not display it with overt arrogance, but any time we trust ourselves more than God, we are expressing pride. Our digressions into doubts and fears are Satan’s work to focus on what we can or cannot do. In these moments we need to remind ourselves that God’s power is greater, his promises are sure, and his grace is sufficient in my weakness.

We all have thorns to live with. Sometimes it is a physical infirmity. Other times it is a psychological struggle. We encounter difficult people in difficult situations that we don’t want to deal with. Thorns provide moments of clarity and decision. Satan wants us to see nothing more than our discomfort— it’s certainly present at times. BUT if we believe all things work together for good (Romans 8.28), then we begin to understand these things position us to trust God. As Joseph would say to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50.20). Whatever circumstance we find ourselves, let us not only recognize God’s grace, but take comfort that God’s power is being perfected in our weakness.

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12.9-10)

We Do Not Lose Heart

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

BIBLE READING: 2 Corinthians 4-5

“So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4.16)

As we age, our bodies don’t work or look like they used to. Wrinkles, disease, along with general aches and pains make us keenly aware these bodies won’t last. These limitations make it easy to get discouraged and become negative about life.

As strong as Paul may appear at times, he was no stranger to these infirmities. Paul had moments of weakness, where he despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians 1.8-9). He describes our bodies as “jars of clay” that are “afflicted… perplexed… persecuted… and struck down” (2 Corinthians 4.7-9). This is not a uniquely Christian struggle. Everyone exists in a form that is temporary and passing away. But instead of complaining about the human condition, Paul embraces the weakness of his body as a reminder of God’s power over our true need: to be unburdened and at rest (2 Corinthians 5.2-5)

God promises this to believers who are in Christ (2 Corinthians 4.14; 1 Corinthians 15.12-20; 1 Thessalonians 4.14). Every human being has moments of insufficiency and even despair. What sets believers apart is our hope in the resurrection and the conviction of action it produces. We believe God raised Jesus and will raise us up with him to life immortal and incorruptible (1 Peter 1.3-9). 

We must not focus our attention on the struggle of our present form. Instead, we must daily renew our spirit with joy and hope as we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7; Romans 12.1-2). It is true that some people are more naturally disposed to optimism. And for some, the circumstances of life are more difficult. But the good news about Jesus teaches us that regardless of what life presents, we can (and should) live with hope, purpose and vitality.

And so, we must not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4.1, 16). The gospel is good news for us as we groan and long for something better. We know this life will end as it does for everyone. But by faith we believe God will give us a better form (2 Corinthians 4.13-14, 17-18).

Let us always be of good courage as we live for Him (2 Corinthians 5.9). Let us be controlled by his love for us as we serve others, for his glory (2 Corinthians 5.11-15). Let us not set our minds on things of this life but invest ourselves in the development of our spirit, as God’s word changes us from one form of glory to the next.

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7.1)

I Would Remind You of The Gospel

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 15

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15.1-2)

Our world is full of bad news. A shooter in Minnesota murdered innocent people last week. This world is broken. Sometimes people do selfish, hurtful things. Bad news sometimes exists even among God’s people. Personalities clash and people disagree. Harmony is damaged and destroyed over differences of opinion. There are plenty of things within and without to divide us. Satan wants us to fixate on the bad news and deepen those divides. He wants us to see our problems as “Us vs. Them” and to believe our challenges simply cannot be resolved. He wants us to believe that we are doomed to live with the effects of bad news.

But, as believers, we're not doomed, and sometimes we need to be reminded of the good news. To a Corinthian church facing significant challenges Paul shared the good news about Jesus as of first importance (1 Corinthians 1.4-9; 15.3a). In addressing each issue, he brought their attention to God’s reconciliation efforts through Jesus so they could live at peace with God and one another.

That Jesus died, was buried and raised is GOOD news. It proves God’s faithfulness and power. It offers a way for even enemies of God to find peace with him without retribution (Romans 5). He planned and purposed these things for our good. But it also teaches us how to live in harmony with others as we model the love shown to us (Titus 2.11-14; 1 John 4.19). 

We all feel the effects of our broken world and sometimes it is heavy. We can allow that to kill our joy and sour our attitudes. As the people of God, we need to be reminded of the good news. We are saved by grace through faith to lives of hope and reconciliation (Ephesians 2). This doesn’t mean we are now immune to the challenges of this world, but rather that we are not hopeless to their debilitating effects. Especially in the church, our submission to Jesus will create peace and harmony where it otherwise should not exist.

The gospel is greater than all your failures and mine. God saved us when we didn’t deserve it. May that motivate your thankfulness and your attitude in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3.8-11)

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