JOHN SHIRK – In Micah 5:2, we read about the birthplace of God’s anointed leader:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The name “Bethlehem” is significant because it means “House of Bread.” Jesus identified Himself as the bread of life. So, entering the world stage as a baby in the manger, Jesus came to the House of Bread, as the Bread of Life.
His birth in Bethlehem was planned long before it really happened. The location of Christ’s birthplace is sending the signal to the world that just as bread satisfies physical hunger, so Jesus is our vital source for satisfaction for spiritual hunger.
And just as Jesus came to Bethlehem, which was considered small and insignificant, so He approaches people who are humble, and raises them up for extraordinary purposes.
The promise that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Today, WJTL remembers the identity of Jesus as the light of the world.
In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
With our focus of faith on Jesus, we have moral clarity with a better understanding of how God wants us to live.
With our focus of faith on Jesus, we have Kingdom clarity with a better understanding of what God wants us to treasure.
And with our focus of faith on Jesus, we have directional clarity with a better understanding of where God wants us to go.
Jesus invites us to follow Him and to see the world in the light of His grace and truth. He offers abundant and eternal life to those who say “Yes” to His invitation.
The identity of Jesus as the light of the world is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – In Christ, we see a perfect record of obedience to the Father’s will. He said in John 14:31, “I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” He became the unblemished sacrifice for our sins. Even though He never sinned, He paid the penalty of our sins at the cross. Speaking of Jesus, Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
How does that happen? How can we be made righteous in the eyes of God when our track record shows a history of moral failures? The Bible says that ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ When we trust in the name of Jesus for salvation, God no longer holds our sin against us. We are forgiven and set free from the death sentence that our sins deserve. The sinless life of Christ made Him a worthy sacrifice for our sins. His death and resurrection has made Him the worthy Savior to be praised.
Jesus is in a separate category from every human being who walked on the face of the earth. Because of His sinless record and obedience to death on a cross, God has exalted him to the highest place and has given Him the name that is above every name.
The sinless life of Christ is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Philippians 2:6 tells us that “being in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”
Jesus deserved the crown of glory. Instead, He wore the crown of thorns.
Jesus was worthy of being lifted up to a throne of honor. Instead, He suffered the cross of shame.
Jesus was worthy of being served as a distinguished leader. Instead, He came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.
There is an important reason to examine the attitude of Christ. Philippians 2:5 says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
The attitude of Jesus is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – In First Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul talked about our situation if Christ did not rise from the dead. He said in verse 14, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
He said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men.”
Paul was living with an eternal perspective. He assures us that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and because of His resurrection, those who are in Christ will be made alive.
Jesus told His followers, “Because I live, you also will live.” Because Jesus lives, our failures are not fatal, our faith is not futile, and death is not final. Our labor has purpose, our soul is secure, and our future is forever in the grace of God. This is our hope when our faith is in Christ to save us from our sins.
The hope of the resurrection is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – First Timothy 6:18 talks about Jesus making the good confession before Pontius Pilate.
In accusing Jesus of blasphemy, the religious leaders handed Him over to Pontius Pilate. That is when Pilate questioned Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
This was Jesus’ testimony before Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Pilate said, “You are a king then!”
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?” And then he walked away from Jesus. The good confession of Jesus reveals Himself as a king who is not of this world and the source of truth to set the captives free from the lies of this world. In a world of many voices offering freedom, the most important voice to heed is Jesus Christ.
Christ’s good confession before Pilate is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – On the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, He spent some time in Jerusalem. He entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
The temple was designed to be a place of worship, but by the time Jesus stepped onto the scene, it became a place where some people took advantage of others financially. Jesus took action to cleanse the temple to rid the temple area of this practice. Jesus had zeal for God’s house to be a place of pure devotion and worship.
This scene becomes more personal when we realize what the Bible says about the body of the believer. First Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Where there is corruption within, Jesus will take action to cleanse the temple, so that our bodies will be houses of worship, purely devoted to Christ.
The cleansing of the temple is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – As Jesus entered the holy city on a donkey, a very large crowd was there to spread cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds were shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna is a word that means “save.” This word was a cry of the Old Testament. Psalm 118:25 says, “O LORD, save us.” In Jesus, the prayer for salvation becomes a declaration of praise. “Salvation belongs to our God.” Jesus rode into Jerusalem with shouts of joy from a welcoming crowd.
In a matter of days, the cry on the streets would not be for Jesus to save them, but for Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. What Jesus’ opponents did not know was that by going to the cross, Jesus was fulfilling God’s purpose of saving His people from their sins. Our plea for salvation becomes an answer to prayer through Jesus Christ.
The shout of Hosanna is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Adam and Eve were free to eat the fruit of any tree except from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.
But Satan tried to portray God as a naysayer when he approached Eve. He said, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’
Eve corrected him, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”
Satan’s next tactic was to portray God as a rival. He said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” With these words, he persuaded Eve to disobey God and take a bite.
Sin is the great tragedy of humanity. Paradise was lost through sin. The good news is that paradise is restored through Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation through Jesus Christ overcomes the tragedy of sin and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – From Luke 9:20.
Jesus was having a conversation with His disciples. He asked them what other people were saying about His identity. Different names were brought up in response to His question. Some were saying that Jesus is John the Baptist. Others were saying Elijah. And still others were saying that Jesus was one of the prophets of long ago come back to life.
Then Jesus asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
Peter was acknowledging Jesus as being sent by God to be the Savior of the world. What we believe about Jesus will affect the vital areas of our lives, including our eternal salvation, our influence in the world, and our sense of purpose for living life. What we believe about Jesus will affect how we treat other people. We will heed carefully the “one another” commands of the Bible. Love one another. Encourage one another. Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Peter was blessed for recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. So will we. First John 4:15 says “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”
Acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – From John 8:24-
Jesus had some tough words for the Pharisees. He said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
Jesus is giving both a warning to the Pharisees and an opportunity to change their mind about Him. In John 5:18, we learn that in calling God His own Father, He was making Himself equal with God. Denying the claims of Jesus as the Son of God to the very end leads us to a bitter end. But it does not have to end that way. The coming of Jesus to the world means that through faith in His name, we don’t have to die in our sins, but rather in His grace.
There is a Savior. His name is Jesus. And His death on the cross means forgiveness to all who call on Him to save us from our sins.
His resurrection means victory and eternal life. Our hope remains firm because Jesus is alive and well.
Faith in the name of Jesus is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.