How can we honor only Jesus? Part 4

7 But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’ ” John 12:7-8

At a special dinner for Jesus among His close friends, we are learning how to honor only Him (John 12:1-8). So far we have learned the following ways to honor only Jesus:

– Serve Christ out of thanksgiving for what He has done (John 12:1-2a).

Spend time with Christ out of joy for His gift of salvation (John 12:2b).

– Sacrifice for Christ out of love for Him (John 12:3).

The final way to honor only Jesus in this passage is to SHOW SENSITIVITY TO WHAT BLESSES JESUS ALONE (John 12:4-8). In contrast to Mary, John characterizes Judas in three ways. “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said…” (John 12:4). First, his surname “Iscariot.” The name “Iscariot” is taken to refer to his origin, “from Kerioth.” 1 This could mean his father, “Simon” Iscariot (6:71; 12:4), is either from Judah (Joshua 15:25) or Moab (Jeremiah 48:24). Judas then, would be the only one of the twelve disciples who was not from Galilee.

Second, Judas was “one of His disciples.” He belonged to Jesus’ inner circle of companions for the last three years. Many unbelieving disciples had already withdrawn from following Jesus (John 6:66), but Judas, an unbelieving disciple (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12), chose to stay with Christ. Why did He remain with the Lord Jesus?

This leads to the third characteristic of Judas. He remained with Christ so he could “betray” the Lord. He stuck around so he could deliver Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Mary was devoted to Jesus, but Judas despised Him. Mary loved Jesus, but Judas seems to loathe Him.

“Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Judas thought this anointing was a terrible waste of money – a year’s wages for a working man. Judas may have sounded compassionate toward the poor, but he was not. His criticism of Mary infected some of the other disciples according to Matthew and Mark’s account. Matthew’s writes, “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’ ”(Matthew 26:8)? Those who seek to bless Jesus alone are often “misunderstood and criticized; but that is what usually happens when somebody gives his or her best to the Lord.” 2

If you give your best to Jesus, you will be criticized and many times the loudest criticism will come from other believers who think they are only using common sense in how the Lord’s resources are spent. When the Lord called our family to serve Him in the Philippines, we had some believers and unbelieving family members question our sanity. Some said our time and talents could be used better by the Lord in the USA. In their minds, we “wasted” our lives for Jesus in the Philippines!

At this point Judas does not sound like a bad guy, does he? “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12:6). John informs us that Judas was not being honest. He did not really care about the poor. He only cared for himself. He had been appointed treasurer of the disciples which may mean he had some accounting ability. But he was pilfering what was put in the money box and carrying it away for himself. He was a thief motivated by greed. He wanted to make money from his association with Jesus. He desired the perfume to make money for himself. When he could not get the perfume, he soon went to the chief priests and offered to betray Christ if they paid him thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

Some people pretend to be Christians or even disciples of Jesus to obtain money or power for themselves. But they only have their own benefit in mind. They are not sensitive to what would bless Jesus or others around Him.

But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.’ ” (John 12:7). Jesus defended Mary’s act of love and devotion, “Let her alone!” He would have nothing to do with criticism brought against Mary. Anointing was usually for some festivity or celebration. But Jesus says she kept it for His burial which was just a few days away. Mary had entered into the mind of Christ more fully than the others. She knew His death was coming since He had already taught them about His suffering and eventual death many times before. Rather than wait until after He dies, she uses the perfume now when He can still enjoy it! This was a time for Jesus to relax before His sufferings and death. Mary understood this and she wanted to refresh her weary Lord and Savior.

Mary’s actions remind us that it is better to show our appreciation for someone before he or she dies rather than afterward. “Flowers at a funeral are nice, but flowers before the funeral are even better.” 3 Is there someone in your life that the Lord may be impressing you to contact before his or her life is over? What would you regret more? Expressing your love for him or her before or after they die?

For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12:8). Jesus is saying, “You will always have opportunity to minister to the poor, but your opportunity to minister to Me here on earth is limited. I’m going to die soon.” The word “Me” is emphatic. The sentence literally reads, “Me, however, you do not always have”(Ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε).   Unless Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself, Who was due the same honor as God His Father (John 5:23), this statement would be an expression of extreme arrogance. But these are not the words of a mere man or prophet, these in essence, are the words of God!

Christ’s comment about always having the poor was not an endorsement of poverty or an encouragement to do nothing about poverty. He is simply saying that there will “always” be opportunities to serve the poor, but their opportunity to serve Him here on earth was rapidly fading. Now was the opportunity for special service to the Lord Jesus. Now was the time to do something that would benefit Him and Him alone. Christ welcomed Mary’s gracious display of love and devotion.

In Matthew and Mark Jesus even said her gracious act would become a perpetual memorial of honor whenever the gospel is preached. What a contrast between Mary and Judas. Mary offered her best to Jesus in sacrificial love; Judas was interested in Jesus only as a ladder for his selfish ambitions.

Mary saw her time with the Lord prior to His death as an opportunity for special service to Him. She was sensitive to what He needed, to what would bless Him. When she anointed the Lord, it did not benefit the others or herself, it benefited Jesus and Him alone.

What made Mary so sensitive to the Lord? We are told back in Luke 10:39, “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” If we would learn to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word, we would probably become more sensitive to what would bless our Lord Jesus and Him alone. Perhaps we would also give more to our Lord as Mary did.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee, observed in this passage that Lazarus, Mary, and Martha represent three essentials in the church today, respectively: “new life in Christ, worship and adoration, and service.” 4 If churches would focus on these three areas, think of how much the fragrance of Christ would fill our lives and communities!?!

How can we serve Jesus now in a way that serves Him alone? Spend time alone with the Lord Jesus and serve Him alone. Just you and the Lord alone. No one else there to benefit from what you give Him at that time. As You meet with Jesus, give Him…

Your complete honesty. When you really love somebody you don’t just want to spend time with them. You want to talk with them. If you want a deeper relationship with someone, you need to be completely honest with them about your faults and your feelings. Christ is not looking for perfection, but He does insist on complete honesty. What do you talk to God about if you want to draw close to Him? Anything that you would talk to your best friend about. Your hopes… fears… dreams… anxieties… things you are embarrassed about… things you are proud of… things you are ashamed of… your goals… your ambitions… your hurts… your cares… every part of your life – you come to God and you talk to God about it. The Bible says in Psalm 116:1-2:  “I love the Lord because He hears me and answers my prayer, because He bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I have breath.” If you don’t feel close to God and some of you don’t… some of you have been believers for quite a long time and you honestly have lost your spark. Your Christian life has become routine, dull, and lifeless. There is no real joy and spark any more. There is a simple remedy for that. Start talking to God again. Choose to be completely honest with Him.

– Your listening ear as you read the Bible. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone. We all want to be understood. We all want to be listened to. When you listen to someone, you are saying, “You matter to me.” When I listen to my wife or my children, I am saying, “I value what you have to say. You are important to me.” When I don’t listen to somebody I’m basically saying, “You are not important to me.” One of the ways you express love to someone and draw close to them is by listening to them.  The same is true with Jesus. Every time you listen to Christ you are saying, “Jesus, You matter to me. You are important to me.” If you want to learn to pray effectively, you must learn to listen to God through His Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). The more time you spend in Christ’s word, the more your thoughts become His thoughts. God made you with two ears and one mouth for a reason: so you will do twice as much listening as talking. So as God speaks to you through His written Word you will have more confidence when you pray because you know what you are praying is according to God’s will. Your heart will be filled with joy as He answers your prayers which are in line with His will.

– Your submission. The Bible says, 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a). Many years ago when my children were very small, I would come home from work and they would run to the door with their hands lifted high saying, “Daddy… Daddy!” By lifting their hands, what were they saying to me? “Take me, Daddy. I’m yours. I trust You.” By lifting their hands they were surrendering themselves to me and my control. They were not trying to manipulate me or control me. They were letting go and letting me take them into my hands. Your heavenly Father wants to do the same with you. He is waiting to draw near to you and hold you in His everlasting arms of love, but you must take that first step and surrender to Him. Give up your agenda and yield to His. When we worship God, lifting our hands to Him is an expression of surrender. We are saying, “I am Yours, Father God. Take my life and use it as You please.” It is time to surrender to the God of all grace. You cannot draw near to Christ without surrendering to Him.

– Your adoration and praise. Reach out to the Lord in prayer and praise Him and thank Him. Tell Him how much you love Him. Bow your heart before Him and worship Him. Surrender to Jesus all that You have. Mary gave sacrificially to the Lord because He raised her brother from the dead. But Jesus has raised us from spiritual death and given us eternal life (John 11:25-26; Ephesians 2:4-9)! Praise Him for that! Let Him know how grateful you are! Give Him what is most precious to you. He will never forget it.

You are as close to Jesus as you choose to be. Do you really want it more than anything else? Is it worth giving up other things and developing the habits and skills required? Start asking God to give you a passion for Him. Jeremiah 29:13 (MSG) says, “When you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”   

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me a beautiful picture of what true worship looks like through Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Her love and devotion for You were displayed when she gave to You what was most precious to her. Unlike Judas, who loathed You and thought only of himself, Mary loved You and was sensitive to what would bless You as the time of Your crucifixion rapidly approached. Like Mary, I want to be still and sit at Your feet to hear Your voice of truth so I can become more sensitive to what would bless You and You alone. For me to hear You more clearly, I must lay aside anything that would keep me from hearing Your voice, including my own selfishness, deceit, envy, hypocrisy, evil speaking, and malice (I Peter 2:1). What would You say to me at this time, Lord Jesus? I am listening. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979),pp. 380-381.

2. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), 1:339.

3. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition,pg. 232.

4. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:444.

How can we honor only Jesus? Part 3

“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3

So far in our study of John 12:1-8, we have learned to honor only Jesus by serving Christ out of thanksgiving for what he has done (John 12:1-2a) and by spending time with christ out of joy for his gift of salvation (John 12:2b).

The third way to honor only Jesus is to SACRIFICE FOR CHRIST OUT OF LOVE FOR HIM (John 12:3). What happens next is an amazing expression of love toward Jesus. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:3). I can picture Mary quietly arising from her couch to walk around the other couches with people reclining on them and reaching down to pour “this pound of very costly oil of spikenard” on Jesus’ feet which were propped up on the couch. The value of this ointment was equivalent to a year’s wages (12:5).

This perfume was very expensive for several reasons. First, because of the large quantity that Mary used. A “pound” was the equivalent of a Roman pound or approximately twelve ounces. Mary had enough anointment to not only anoint His feet, but His entire body. In fact, Matthew and Mark indicate that she also anoints Jesus’ head perhaps to focus on honoring Him (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3). John may have reported Mary anointing Jesus’ feet to draw attention to her humility and devotion in contrast to the pride of the Sanhedrin and disciples (cf. John 11:47-53, 57; 13:1-17). 1 It is likely then that Mary anointed both Jesus’ head and feet.

Secondly, this was costly ointment because of its quality. John reports that it is “pure spikenard” in contrast to ointment which had been diluted. 2 A third reason why this perfume was costly is because it was made from the nard plant in East India and imported from there. 3 It is normally shipped in a sealed alabaster jar and would only be broke open for very special occasions. Because this ointment was so expensive, only the wealthy could afford to buy it. It was usually reserved to be given to kings. Mary wanted to give Jesus the best ointment because of her love for Him. Nothing was too good for her Lord.

Do you treasure the Lord Jesus more than your possessions or money? Does your spending of money reflect that Jesus is first in your life? If others looked at how you spend money, would they conclude that you love Jesus more than anyone or anything else?

Mary “anointed the feet of Jesus” with this costly perfume. Normally a Rabbi’s head would be anointed with such perfume. To tend to Jesus’ feet was the task of a lowly house slave or servant. But Mary chooses to anoint His feet as an expression of her humility and devotion to Christ. To use “her hair” to wipe off the excess oil from Jesus’ feet is also significant. “Normally Jewish women never unbound their hair in public, since loose hair was a sign of loose morals.” But Mary did not seem to care what others thought at this moment. Her heart went out to her Lord and she expressed her feelings of gratitude for Him raising Lazarus from the dead.

Do you love Jesus more than your pride? Or are you more concerned about what others think of you than what Jesus thinks of you? People may think you are a religious fanatic, but what matters is what Jesus thinks about your sacrificial love for Him.

John then informs us that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”  Mary’s expression of love and gratitude for the Lord filled the entire house with a fragrant aroma. I’m reminded of a Rabbinic saying: “The scent of good oil is diffused from the bed-chamber to the dining-hall while a good name is diffused from one end of the world to the other.” 5 This may be John’s way of saying that Mary’s action would be spoken of throughout the world (cf. Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9). Her devotion and sacrifice for Christ would become a perpetual memorial of world-wide honor.

John leaves out an important detail that Mark’s account includes. Before Mary could anoint Jesus with the pure spikenard, she had to break “the flask” containing it (Mark 14:3). Christian author Watchman Nee equates the flask to our “outer man” or soul which must be broken to release “the inward man” or spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16). 6 Our outer man must be broken to allow the inward man containing the fragrance of Christ to be released.

Nee states, “God purposely used this term ‘pure’ in His Word to show that it is truly spiritual. But if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure spikenard will not flow forth. Strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes the problem in the Church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important; another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself to be more advanced than other people. Others highly regard themselves, because they feel they are better than others, their eloquence surpasses that of others, or their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior, and so forth.

“However, we are not antique collectors; we are not ‘vase’ admirers; we should be those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment. Without the breaking of the outward, the inward fragrance will not come forth. Hence, not only do we individually have no flowing out, but also the church has no living way. Why then should we hold our inner man to be so precious, especially if the outward only contains the fragrance, instead of releasing the fragrance?

“The Holy Spirit has not ceased working. He makes sure one event after another and one difficulty after another come to us. These disciplinary workings of the Holy Spirit have but one purpose – to break our outward man so that our inward man may come through. Yet here is our difficulty – we fret over trifles, we murmur at small losses, and we complain about insignificant things. The Lord is ever finding and preparing a way in order to use us. Yet when His hand slightly touches us, we begin to feel unhappy – even to the extent of quarreling with God and having a negative attitude. Since the time when we were saved, we have been touched by the Lord many times in various ways – all with the purpose of breaking our outward man. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the aim of the Lord is to break this stubborn vessel called our outward man.

“Nevertheless, the Treasure is in the earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). But if the earthen vessel cannot be broken, who can see the Treasure within? Have we seen what is the final objective of the Lord’s working in our lives? It is to break open this earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7), to burst open our alabaster box (Mark 14:3), to crack open our shell (John 12:24). The Lord longs to find a way to bless the world through those who belong to Him. Brokenness is the way of blessing, the way of fragrance, the way of fruitfulness. But, it is also a path sprinkled with ‘blood from our wounds.’  Yes, there is blood from the many wounds we suffer. When we offer ourselves to the Lord for His service, we cannot afford to be lenient and spare ourselves. We must allow the Lord to crack open our outward man utterly so that He may find a way for His working through us.” 7

Does our devotion and sacrifice for Christ fill the place we occupy with a fragrant aroma? Does our praise please the Lord? Does our lifestyle honor the Lord (Hebrews 13:15-16) and emit the beautiful fragrance of Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)? What kind of odor does our devotion to Christ emit? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Unbearable or refreshing?

We all have reason to live for the Lord. Mary was thankful that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead physically. But Jesus has done even more for us! He has raised each of us who believe in Him from the dead spiritually. He has given us never-ending life and guarantees to resurrect us from the dead in the future (John 11:25-26)! Only Jesus could motivate a person to do what Mary did. What a wonderful Savior we have!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for drawing my attention to what honors You! Mary gave to You what was most precious to her as a way of thanking Your for raising her brother from the dead. But it also seems that she wanted to bless You before Your upcoming crucifixion. She seems to understand, at least in part, what you were about to face at the cross, and she wanted to minister to You while You were still with her. Lord, I must admit that my love for You is so pale compared to Your love for me. Nevertheless, I want to express my love to You by giving You what is most precious to me – my family, my dreams, and my time. You are worthy of my very best. As I look back on my life, I can see You at work breaking my outer man to release my inner man containing Your fragrance. I am beginning to understand how much You want to bless this world through my own brokenness. Help me not to resist this process, but to surrender to You so more people can enjoy Your fragrance and be drawn to You. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Donald A. Carson, “Current Source Criticism of the Fourth Gospel: Some Methodological Questions.” Journal of Biblical Literature 97 (1978):411-29.

2. While the New King James English translation omits the word “pure,” John does include it (pistikēs) in his Greek text.

3. W.E. Shewell-Cooper, “Spikenard,” in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Marrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 5:502.

4. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition,pg. 213.

5. William B. Silverman, The Sages Speak: Rabbinic Wisdom and Jewish Values (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc., 1995), pg. 72.

6. Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit, (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 2000) pp. 12-17.

7. Ibid., pp. 14-16.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 5

“Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” John 9:38

Unable to overcome the former blind man’s logic and the evidence of a miracle, the Pharisees answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.” (John 9:34). They were saying that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. He could not teach them because he was a sinner and they were righteous. This is the fifth symptom of spiritual blindness – DISTORT THE TRUTH ABOUT THEMSELVES (John 9:34) – they perceived themselves to be superior to this former blind man and to Jesus for that matter. These educated religious leaders were unwilling to learn from a beggar. They continued in their stubborn rejection of Christ despite the overwhelming reasons to believe in Him.

“They cast him out” of the synagogue to silence him and limit his influence of others. This also served as a warning to others who are tempted to confess that Jesus is from God. This is probably the best thing that could have happened to the former blind man because now he would not have to listen to the works-salvation message of the Pharisees. He was now more prepared for his next encounter with Jesus. God can use the rejection of others to make non-Christians more open to hearing the gospel.

Perhaps you have experienced rejection from your spiritual leaders or religious community because of your interest in Jesus Christ. You have interacted with Christians and they have shown you love instead of hatred. In fact, they have shown you more love than the people of your own religion. And this increases your interest in Jesus.

The Bible then tells us that “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him…” (John 9:35a). Hearing of his excommunication, Jesus sought the former blind man out. Jesus did the seeking since the man had not yet seen Jesus.

Whatever opposition you have experienced for confessing Christ publicly, please know that this is not the last word. Jesus was aware of the former blind’s man’s excommunication, and He sought Him out. Jesus is also aware of your situation, and He seeks you out to reveal more of Himself to you. Your religious community or family may reject you for speaking the truth about Jesus, but Jesus will never reject you when you diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6b).

Now, for the first time, the former blind man could look at the One who restored his sight. Jesus is very direct with the man. “He said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ ” (John 9:35b). This is the purpose for John’s gospel. John recorded these miracles of Jesus so you “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). This personal response is necessary for receiving the gift of eternal life.

Many people today believe that Jesus exists and died for them on the Cross and even rose from the dead, but they are not trusting in Him alone for this free gift. They are still depending on their own religious efforts to get them to heaven.

The former blind man “answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ ” (John 9:36). The beggar is willing and ready to believe, but he is ignorant. He wants the Son of God to be identified so he may believe in Him. Jesus identifies Himself as the Messiah-God when He says, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” (John 9:37). The words “seen Him” must have meant a lot to the man who up until that day, had never seen anything.

As soon as the man knew the identity of the Son of God he immediately responds in faith. “Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” (John 9:38). Jesus used the physical healing of this blind man to prepare him for his spiritual healing. Jesus had once again mixed His own divine DNA (His Word) with humanity (the former blind man) so that an even greater healing could take place. Out of gratitude for his physical healing, the man believed in Christ as the Messiah-God, which meant he now had eternal life (John 20:31)! This is the climax for the man in a process that has been taking place throughout the whole chapter. His insight into the Person of Jesus has been growing:

“The man who is called Jesus” (John 9:11).

“I do not know” (John 9:12).

“He is a prophet” (John 9:17).

“Whether He is a sinner, I do not know” (John 9:25).

The Man who has “disciples” (John 9:27).

“He has opened my eyes” (John 9:30).

“If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:33).

“Lord, I believe” (John 9:38a).

“He worshiped Him” (John 9:38b).

The man has been moving from darkness to the Light. After believing in Jesus, “he worshiped Him.” The word translated “worshiped” (proskunéō) is a compound Greek word meaning “towards (pros) to kiss (kunéō),” which refers “to kissing the ground as you prostrate yourself before a superior, to fall down on your knees to adore someone of superior rank.” The former blind man was honoring Jesus as God by worshiping Him (cf. John 5:23).

There is only one Person in the universe who is worthy of worship (Exodus 20:3-5), and Jesus did not stop this man from worshiping Him. If Jesus is not God, why would He permit the man to worship Him? God told Moses on Mount Sinai, “You shall have no other gods before Me… You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:3, 5). The healed man was bowing down before Jesus to worship Him. When Jesus accepted the man’s worship, He was making a statement that He was God! This confirms what the apostle John said in John 1:1, “And the Word was God.” If Jesus was not God, then He was endorsing idolatry.

The former blind man could no longer worship God in the synagogue, but now he could worship  God to His face. And Jesus will never “cast out” of His family those who come to Him in faith (John 6:37). This is the fourth way to overcome spiritual blindness. DEPEND ON CHRIST ALONE FOR ETERNAL LIFE (John 9:35-38). Only Jesus can meet our deepest spiritual needs.

When we believe in Him, He gives us everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and places us in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37)! We now have brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the world! And we can begin to see Jesus in a more intimate way as we worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Christ is our only source of life and acceptance. Let’s enjoy Him!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, I praise You for seeking me out when I experienced exclusion from my former religious community. Thank You for revealing my own sinfulness to me at that time so I could see my need for You and Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for accepting me into Your family the moment I believed in You for eternal life. Thank You for the new brothers and sisters I gained from all around the world at that moment of faith. What a privilege I now have to approach You in worship! The more I focus on You, the more the cares and concerns of this world fade away. Your light dispels the darkness in my own heart and gives me a hope that never ends. With You at the center of my life, I have joy beyond my own understanding! You are more than enough for me!!! Please use me to share Your light with those who are in darkness so they, too, may obtain everlasting hope and life in You. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

Why is singing a new song to the Lord important?

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 96:1

The Psalmist instructs all the earth to “sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1a) because the Lord has revealed new blessings which are “the good news of His salvation from day to day” (96:2). “All peoples” need to hear this good news about God’s “glory” and “wonders” in creation which show that He is greater than all the lifeless “idols” that people tend to worship (96:3-5). All peoples of the earth are to “give to the Lord the glory due His name” because “He is coming to judge the earth… with righteousness” which will provide “salvation” (96:2) or deliverance from His enemies (96:7-13). The Lord Jesus Christ will fulfill these verses when He returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation period to reign over all the earth during His Millennial Kingdom (cf. Revelation 19:7-20:6). 

I was captivated this morning by the command to sing “a new song” to the Lord. Several times God commands us to “sing a new song” to Him (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10). As God reveals new blessings to His people, they are to respond by singing a new song which praises God for those blessings. Failure to sing a new song when God is doing something new in our lives is disobedience and can lead to a loss of joy and admiration for the Lord in our worship.

But when God’s people obey the Lord and write and/or sing new songs to the Lord which reflect the new manifestations of His grace toward us, He will reveal more of Himself to us (cf. John 14:21). Also, there will be an increase in our praise to Him and “many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord” (cf. Psalm 40:3). Being sensitive to the new manifestations of God’s grace to us in our songs to Him will increase our “fear” or admiration of Him and lead us to “trust” in Him more in our daily lives, and it can also lead the unsaved to “trust in the Lord” Jesus as their Savior. Hopefully, no Christian wants to hinder unsaved people from coming to faith in Christ because of a music style preference.

Contrary to what many Christians think, music style is not sacred to the Lord, but the words (lyrics) are sacred to Him. God enjoys all music styles (old, new, fast, slow, loud, soft, etc.) because He created them and He loves diversity (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)! Just because we do not like all music styles does not mean God does not like them all. What matters most to God is not the music style, but that the songs we sing are offered up to Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). 

All of us have our music preferences, but as we look back at history in the Old and New Testaments (cf. Exodus 15:1-17; Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; 14:3) and in the Church Age, songs changed as the Lord revealed Himself and His workings in new and different ways. Singing a new song to the Lord enables us to experience and express the new manifestations of His grace in our lives in more meaningful ways. 

As I look back at my Christian life the last forty years, some of the most intimate times of worship with the Lord were when I learned a new song which expressed the new things He was doing in my life. I especially enjoyed it when the worship leader in our local church would write and/or lead us in a new song that reflected the new manifestations of God’s grace in and through our local church. Praise Jesus for those who capture the new things He is doing in the songs they write and/or sing! 

When is the last time you sang a new song to the Lord? Take time today to draw near to Him by singing a new song to Him that expresses something new that He is doing in your life. To find a new song, you can use google and search for “New Christian Songs.” Since God continues to create new and refreshing songs for His Church, you should have no trouble finding one to enhance your worship of Him. One of my favorites right now is “Raise a Hallelujah.”