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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 6)

Now the inquisitions will begin with this man born blind who has been healed by Jesus! His sense of sight has been given by the grace of God, but his sense of hearing and his ability to speak will be greatly tested by those who don’t care for Jesus.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

The Pharisees Who Don’t . . . See! The man is brought to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel. Motive? If we give them the benefit of the doubt, these neighbors and those who knew the man born blind may well have brought him to the Pharisees for their approval, their blessing. But one crucial fact is now brought out: “Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.” (v. 14) The Pharisees saw themselves as the protectors of the Sabbath and viewed Jesus as one who disregarded their leadership.

The First Inquisition: A second inquiry into how the man was healed takes place (note the word “also” in v. 15). Why did they want to know about the process? Probably to conclude that work was done . . . on the Sabbath!

Short and Sweet! The man’s answer is reduced to three steps: “(1) He put mud on my eyes: (2) and I washed; and (3) now I see.” He kept his answers brief. The last thing this man wanted was to be grilled by these self-righteous hypocrites who had it in for Jesus.

Today’s Challenge: How do you and I deal with really religious people who want nothing to do with Jesus? I think we should tell our story of salvation with simple words, and without fear.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 5)

This man who has been miraculously healed by Jesus does not hesitate to self-identify as the blind beggar everyone knew. But now he could see!

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

In our discussion of this most extensive description of a miracle in all of the Bible, we have seen the disciples’ asking about the cause of the blind man’s disability. We noticed that Jesus didn’t mind their multiple choice question. He just objected to there being only two possible answers in the minds of the disciples. Jesus declares that neither the man born blind nor his parents were to blame for his “handicap,” but this happened “so that the works of God would be displayed in his life.”

Details! Details! Well, one work has already been displayed! The man obeys Jesus, goes and washes off the mud in the pool of Siloam, and comes home SEEING! The neighbors and those who knew him from his daily begging want the facts about how he got healed. When I was a kid, TV was in its infancy — and one of my favorite shows was Dragnet! Sergeant Friday’s classic challenge to a witness of a crime was, “The facts, Ma’am. Just the facts!”

The Bare Facts: That’s what these people wanted from the man born blind — the facts. And that’s what he gives them. I’ll bet he ticked off the six points of his healing, holding up his fingers as he went over the steps:

Geographical Ignorance: They then ask him where this Jesus is and he says he doesn’t know. It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t tell the man to go wash and come back. The man could have easily not come back to where Jesus was (although the story sounds like it took place close to where he lived, or at least begged). I suspect he wanted to thank Jesus for the miracle of sight.

Today’s Challenge: This man knew virtually nothing about Jesus. “The man they call Jesus,” he said. And the man is not yet saved. But Jesus had compassion on him and healed him. How has Jesus healed you? Thank God today for the simple steps He took to bring you into His family!

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 4)

Although this man remains anonymous throughout the story, he was well-known in the community. When he comes home from obeying Jesus’ call to wash off the mud on his eyes, a fascinating debate takes place!

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

Returning Home: In today’s verses we see what happens when the man born blind returns home. Two groups meet him — his neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging. This man was a known quantity to them. Some lived close to him and his parents. Others knew him publicly as the born-blind-beggar they might have walked around or, perhaps, even dropped a few small coins into his begging basket.

An Identity Crisis: Rather than rejoicing in his healing, a dispute erupted over whether this was the same man who had been living his life begging. Some said it was the same man. Others said, “Nah. But it could be his twin!” (or words to that effect).

Sometimes those who aren’t sightless treat those who are as if they are also deaf! But this man-born-blind heard their argument and jumped in! He declared, “I am the man!”

A Personal Story: When I began my teaching career, the Bible college where I taught was going under financially. So I had a friend take a picture of me in my best teaching pose (I couldn’t find the original, but that young man looked a bit like me). I sent that picture to several seminaries to apply for a position. Notice that I had a Greek sentence on the board to impress any future employers. And the translation — “I AM THE MAN!” — wasn’t on the original picture. This is a direct quote from our text here in John 9. I don’t think the seminary that hired me noticed the not-so-subtle reference to the blind man’s statement!

A Courageous Choice: You know, the man born blind had an option. He could have denied being the beggar they all thought they knew. He could have said, “Beg?! I’ve never begged in my life!” But he didn’t. He declared who he was and his declaration would lead to some serious consequences.

Today’s Challenge: May I ask you — do you correctly identify yourself as one who has been touched and healed by the Lord Jesus? Such a confession involves admitting your need and giving God credit for what He’s done in your life. And spiritually sighted people do just that!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 3)

As we continue to work our way through this most extensively described miracle in all of Scripture — the story of the man born blind — we have seen several important truths. This man’s lack of vision, as we will find out, will be healed by Jesus.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

In our study of John 9 we’ve seen that the Lord Jesus had to correct the multiple choice question the disciples asked, for they thought that either the man born blind or his parents were the cause of his blindness. Instead Jesus declares that this happened “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). The works of God will focus on this man’s receiving his physical vision for the first time in his life.

A Strange Action: We do not know if the man born blind heard what Jesus said to His disciples. If he did he must have been overjoyed that neither he nor his parents were somehow under the judgment of God! What we do know is what Jesus did next. He spat on the ground, made a mud mixture, and put it on the man’s eyes. (v. 6). There was nothing magical about the mud. Perhaps He did what He did so that when the man received his sight, people would remember the physical connection between Jesus and the man born blind.

A Clear Command: Jesus’ words to the man weren’t “I’m really sorry you’ve having to go through this” or “It must have been hard facing people who thought you were under God’s judgment!” No. Jesus issued a seven word command: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”

A Simple Obedience: And the man born blind does exactly what Jesus told him to do. The Bible is beautiful in its simplicity. “He went therefore and washed, and he came seeing.” [I’ve written up this story of the man born blind’s healing in a kind of fictional narrative which I will share with you after our study is done. But the process of the man’s washing the mud out of his eyes and seeing for the first time . . . priceless!]

Today’s Challenge: As we will see this story has many spiritual implications. The clear one today is to immediately do what Jesus asks us to do. What has He asked you to do? Then, by God’s grace, do it!

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 2)

We are taking a number of our posts to work our way through this most extensively described miracle in all of Scripture — the story of the man born blind. His lack of vision, as we will find out, will be healed by Jesus. And there are a number of spiritual lessons for us as we look at his life.

In this series of blog posts on FOCUS I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

In our study of John 9 we’ve seen that the Lord Jesus knew that this man was blind from birth (perhaps from hearing his unique begging call). The disciples asked Jesus a profound question of causality — “Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus then corrects the disciples’ poor multiple choice question, for it provided only two possible responses, both of which would have been wrong.

Instead Jesus declares that this man’s birth defect was not the result of God’s judgment on him or his parents. And Jesus dogmatically proclaims why this happened to this man: “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). The works of God will focus on this man’s receiving his physical vision for the first time in his life.

Our passage further reads: As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Day or Night?: After answering the disciples’ question, Jesus makes an enigmatic statement about day and night. He says that “we must do the works of him who sent me” as long as it is day. We will discover later that the miracle Jesus will do for this man will be done on the Sabbath!

I worked for seven long years for UPS from about 11 at night until 4 in the morning while going to graduate school. Modern electricity turns night into day — and people work all hours of the night. In Jesus’ day when the sun went down the work stopped. Night prohibited most labor.

The Light of the World: This reference to day and night might symbolically be speaking of the presence of the Lord Jesus in the world. “Night” (His death, burial, and resurrection) will come and He will return to the Father. But at this moment He is in the world, doing the Father’s will, embodying light itself. It is fascinating that the Lord Jesus says of His followers in Matthew 5:14 something quite remarkable: “You are the light of the world. A town build on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Today’s Challenge: Would you say you are doing the works of the One who sent the Savior into the world? Are you taking advantage of the “day”? How do you and I practically flesh out being “the light of the world”?

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Blind Man in John 9 – Part 1)

It is very hard to focus when one has no sight. In our passage for the next several posts, we get to examine the most extensive miracle story in all the Bible. This story of the man born blind proclaims with utmost clarity some of the most critical truths upon which we are to FOCUS.

In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

I wonder how Jesus knew this man was “blind from birth” (v. 1)? As God the Son He knew all things, of course. However, one explanation that I find possible is that this man had a particular begging call. Perhaps his begging call was, “Blind from birth! Please help me! I’m blind from birth!” The text doesn’t tell us, but what we know is that this man had never seen anything in his life. He did not lose his sight from an accident or injury. He was born that way. Sightless.

An Amazing Question:  What is immediately fascinating is the question Jesus’ disciples ask Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2). Their question was an honest one — and they actually believed that Jesus could authoritatively answer it. But they were not prepared for the answer they were going to get.

I’ve taught undergrad and seminary students for over 20 years. The real bonus of being a faculty member is that I no longer have to take tests! I give them! And one kind of test is a multiple-choice test. Is it “A” or “B” or “Sometimes ‘C’” or “None of the Above.” The disciples’ question was a multiple choice question: “Rabbi, is it “A” or “B”? “Was it this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind?”

A Flawed Multiple Choice Question: One of the worst things a teacher can do on a multiple-choice exam is . . . not have the right answer among the choices! And Jesus’ disciples limited Jesus’ possible answer to two options, unaware that there was a third which they hadn’t thought of!

The common Jewish theology was that if you were suffering greatly, there was a strong possibility that you were under the judgment of God. The Old Testament book of Job shows that both Job’s friends as well as Job himself held this view. But sometimes things just “happen.” The causal factor is not man, but God!

A Denial: Jesus challenges the disciples’ either/or question by stating, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Only GOD would know that, right? Jesus could categorically pronounce both this man and his parents innocent of any transgression that led to God’s punishment of blindness at birth.

A Declaration: And notice the answer Jesus gives. “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (v. 3) Wow! Jesus knew why this man was born blind. And it was not for no reason. There was purpose in his pain — and that purpose could not have been a greater one! Somehow, someway “the works of God” would be displayed in his life. The immediate work of God, as we will see later, will be Jesus’ giving sight to this man.

Today’s Challenge:  Today’s Challenge: Would you say that the works of God are being “displayed” in your life? Have your eyes been opened by the saving work of Christ? What do you see?

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (The Need for Focus)

Why do we need FOCUS? There are many reasons, of course, but our text here in 2 Peter 1 makes it quite clear that FOCUS in the Christian life is critical! If I am not focused on adding to my faith certain virtues, there are specific conclusions that can be drawn.

In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

In our passage this morning, the Apostle Peter does not mince his words when he talks about spiritual growth in the believer’s life. Peter lists seven virtues which we may choose to add or not add to our faith. The Christian life is the furthest thing from merely coasting down the highway. It is a struggle against on-coming traffic, with enticing exits everywhere, requiring us to peddle with all of our might so that we move on in our faith. The believer is to “make every effort” (v. 1) to add these seven virtues — goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love — to his foundational faith in Christ.

And these seven virtues are not added in one fell swoop. They are to be possessed “in increasing measure.” No one will ever be told by the Lord in this life, “Hey, stop working on that self-control thing. You’re good!” No one will ever hear a voice from heaven saying, “Child! Slow down! You’ve got enough godliness!” These virtues are to grow in us. If they don’t, there are certain dire, inevitable consequences.

But let’s use the positive tone which Peter uses. Possessing these qualities will keep us “from being ineffective and unproductive” in knowing the Lord Jesus. However, we must not miss the catastrophic conclusions for the one who doesn’t “make every effort” to add these virtues. And the two conclusions have to do with FOCUS and FORGETTING.

The first conclusion has to do with eyesight. The one who does not have these virtues “is nearsighted and blind.” Which is it? Is he nearsighted or blind? Can he be both? Perhaps the idea is that he only sees what’s right in front of him. And he is blind to everything else! This Christian’s FOCUS is ruined. He is unable to see the future person he should be. He only sees what’s nearby. And his vision is gone. He is “blind.” Perhaps the meaning is he is blind to what Jesus wants to do in his life. He just can’t see it.

The second conclusion has to do with memory. This one who does not have these virtues — and is not working on them — has forgotten that they have been forgiven! The saving work of Jesus Christ is no longer a memory or a reality for which they praise God. It’s as if the hard drive of their brain has been wiped clean.

Today’s Challenge: Are your spiritual eyes open to these seven virtues and the absolute necessity of your working on them? Don’t be nearsighted or blind. Roll up your sleeves, open your eyes, and remember what Christ has done for you.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2021 in focus

 

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Focus! Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted, Distracted World! (Introduction)

Introduction:  In high school, for some inexplicable reason, I memorized the lines on the eye chart! I don’t know why. And I passed each year’s eye exam with flying colors. I actually sabotaged my own eyesight.

How’s your vision? Would you say that your eyes are focused on the Lord Jesus and all that He has planned for you? Or, like me, would you admit you get distracted and turn your gaze away from Him? Would you say that the things of this world are pretty and shiny and tend to draw away your attention like small metal beads to a powerful magnet?

In this series of blog posts I want to examine my own vision and ask if my spiritual eyesight is getting dim, distracted, or damaged by choices I make. We will be looking at a number of key biblical passages which emphasize this sense of sight. I am particularly looking forward to pondering the healing miracles which turned blind people into sighted people.

For this morning let’s think about our primary text for a few moments: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). The author is quite candid about his need to have his eyes “fixed.” The term “fixing” here is ἀφορῶντες from the verb ἀφοράω (aphoraō). It means “to view with undivided attention, by looking away from every other object; to regard fixedly and earnestly.”

It is used only twice in the New Testament, here in Hebrews 12:2 and also in Philippians 2:23 where Paul is talking about sending Timothy to help those believers. (“Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me”). The verb is composed of a prepostion (apó) which means “away from” and a regular verb meaning to see (horáō). The implication is properly, “looking away from all else, to fix one’s gaze upon” (Abbott-Smith).

Today’s Challenge:  Someone has said that the devil’s primary tools are destruction and distraction. What seems to distract you from focusing upon the Lord Jesus and all He has done — and plans to do — in your life? Some repair work is needed, don’t you think? Today ask the Lord to “fix” your attention on His Son — and fix your distractedness.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2021 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 9)

In our last post we described the eye injections that I am receiving to curtail the effects of macular degeneration. Some temporary suffering is necessary to prevent long-term consequences.

We are thinking about the challenge to FOCUS our eyes on Jesus. And there are distractions that keep us from doing so. Distractions from the world, ourselves, and our archenemy, the devil.

Let’s continue thinking this morning about a major source which can blind us in our keeping our eyes on Jesus — suffering. We’ve thought some about self-inflicted suffering and how we ourselves are often our own worst enemies.

But what about others-inflicted suffering? The very world we live in is broken, dangerous, and opposes us with its Fall-induced thorns and thistles (Gen. 3- Adam and Eve’s fall away from God). We should not be surprised that we will suffer in this world, for the Lord Jesus promised such. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Our fallen world inflicts us with diseases, “natural disasters,” “acts of God,” birth defects, wild animals, and wayward politicians. Human beings do unspeakable things to other human beings. Although suffering in this world is inevitable, we are not to pursue pain or persecution.

What are some guidelines that will help us endure others-inflicted suffering so we can FOCUS on the Lord Jesus?

1. We must realize as believers that sometimes suffering is a gift! Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . .” Granted?! Yes. Belief in Christ + suffering for Him = a life of obedience and faithfulness. We “participate” in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, as we read in I Peter 4- 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

2.We should also affirm the truth that sometimes suffering is a tool in the Master’s hand to shape us! James 1 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

3. In our weaknesses, we learn of His strength and His grace. We read in 2 Corinthians 12 of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and how he prayed three times for God to take it away from him. Paul writes, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It sounds pathological to “delight” in one’s weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. But the key expression for Paul — and for us — is “for Christ’s sake.” (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2020 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 4)

I just can’t do it! It’s impossible for me. I just cave in — and break out laughing.

I’m talking about having a staring contest with my eight-year-old grandson Isaac. He is a child of great humor, contagious laughter, and — that’s the problem. I never win in a staring contest with him. Within a few seconds of gazing into his blue eyes, seeing his determined-not-to-laugh expression on his face, I collapse in laughter. And he is, once again, victorious.

Staring — sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s creepy. But it’s a use of our eyes that can show us that our FOCUS is very important.

What are you staring at? If we “fix” our eyes on Jesus, we discover that He too was a man of laughter. But He was — and is — so much more . . .

Let us think one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We have learned from this passage that we are in a race. A race which has been “marked out for us.” And we are to run that race, stripped down from everything that hinders us and turning down every sin that so easily entangles us. We are to run with perseverance, for we are running towards our Savior who is also the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

How did He run His race? We read that “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2). JOY?! Yes, this One “born to die” did so willingly, with joy. The cross was not His joy. He “endured” the cross. He “scorned its shame.” His dying for sinners was not His joy. Although the text does not specifically say so, I would argue that the joy that was “set before Him” was His pleasing His Father by providing a righteous forgiveness for all who would put their faith in Him.

Then the writer to the Hebrews challenges us to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinners . . .” This One who “endured the cross” also “endured” human opposition in His mission to save sinners.

If you and I “consider” Him as we should, what ought to be the result? The result will be that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3). Weariness and discouragement wait to invade the life and heart of the Jesus-follower who gets his or her eyes off Jesus. And that’s why we need FOCUS. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 3, 2020 in focus

 

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