It’s All about Jesus is a one-year devotional that’s used as the book for Jesus’ $100,000,000 birthday gift. It’s based on Jesus’ statement that radically changed my life in 1995: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
During my teen years, I had an extreme legalistic mindset, to say the least. I thought I had to do my best in order to gain God’s acceptance and tried very hard to do so. When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to what Jesus stated, God’s light entered my dark mind and I discovered that the Bible is, first and foremost, about Him.
While many of my struggles didn’t automatically disappear, I had found an anchor in the person and work of God’s Son that kept me amidst all my struggles. The main question became: in what way does the Bible testify of Him?
Since Jesus stated that the Scriptures “bear witness about me,” shouldn’t we continually pursue that testimony? What can be a greater blessing, comfort, encouragement, and joy than to clearly see Him—for who He is and for what He has accomplished, obtained, and promised to do?
It’s All about Jesus does so in 366 short devotionals.
No doubt, you’ll be blessed and encouraged each day as you focus on Him! In order to give you a small taste, here are a few of them (book will be released a few days before Christmas Day, 2019):
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
When we understand the reason for our existence, things fall into place. God’s blueprint was clear: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). He created us to reflect Him—in who we are and what we do. We exist for Him!
Obviously, Adam and Eve’s fall into sin marred that design, to say the least. From moral innocence, we became inherently sinful. The word sin literally means “to miss the mark.” It refers to everything that undermines and distracts from the goal of our creation—to reveal our Creator.
It’s no surprise, then, that salvation is related to God’s original design: “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). It’s our makeover, so that we’ll fulfill the purpose of our existence.
In order to accomplish this, God sent His Son to be our vine. As believers, we’ve been engrafted in Him. He is our life. Everything good, righteous, and acceptable to the Father comes from Him. That’s why Jesus said: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
We exist to be branches in the Vine. All spiritual life, growth, and fruitfulness flow from Him. He’s the Source, Substance, and Sustainer. Paul summarized that as follows: “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). We can never be too Christ-centered!
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ . . .
The Greek word for endeavor can also be translated as: “To seek in order to find,” and, “to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after.” The fact that we’re “justified in Christ”—declared righteous for His sake—isn’t only a God-ordained reality; it’s also a striving to constantly live in that truth. There are a thousand thoughts and feelings that try to divert us from doing so. More than we are aware of.
Earlier Paul wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). The Galatian believers had shifted from solely relying on Jesus for their right standing before God to a works-oriented mindset. Since human nature is a mirror of our own heart, we must be on guard for such natural proneness.
As Christians, we need to constantly affirm the truth that Jesus is our righteousness, not only when it comes to our position before God, but also in relation to our practice toward Him. We must strive to daily live in that reality, which is the best ground that cultivates humility.
We see the same in Hebrews, addressing believers to strive to enter God’s rest: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest . . .” (Heb. 4:9-11).
Notice how the author included himself. As he indicated, it’s possible for believers to fall short of the spiritual rest that Jesus has obtained. Are you completely resting in His finished work? Are you daily endeavoring “to be justified in Christ”? He contains the fullness of our peace, joy, and hope.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Heaven’s gates are wide open. We should never limit the freeness of the gospel. Jesus invited everyone: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
At the end of the Bible, we have the same unconditional invitation: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17).
A few days ago, we saw how God commanded rebellious rulers to be wise. He warned them to stop their rebellion against Him (v. 10). No one is excluded from God’s call to repent and, as a result, experience eternal blessedness.
This psalm ends with the good news about God’s Son. When we embrace Him for who He is, we’re eternally safe from God’s just wrath against our inherent rebellion. Amazingly, Jesus endured that wrath on our behalf; He absolved every drop of it.
When we flee to Him for refuge—when we’re “in him”—we’re eternally blessed. That means we have the Father’s infinite favor, now and forevermore. Have you already fled to Jesus? If so, are you daily holding fast “to the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18)?
The Father’s Declaration
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
Today’s verse is quite a declaration. There’s no doubt that the sons of Korah wrote and sang this psalm. They are the authors. Yet, doesn’t it seem a little presumptuous for mere men to make such a statement?
In light of the divine inspiration of the Bible, and also since the author of Hebrews referred the sixth and seventh verse of this psalm to the Father (Heb. 1:8-9), we can understand that today’s declaration is more divine than human. Nevertheless, the sons of Korah were fully involved in writing and singing this psalm. They were, so to speak, “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9).
The following verse is helpful in grasping the dynamic between the human and divine interaction: “For he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:8).
Peter and Paul did much for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, behind the scenes, it was God who successfully worked through them. The same is true in this psalm. God should always be acknowledged, especially when it comes to the revelation of His Son.
When all is said and done, one name will be remembered and worshiped throughout eternal ages. It’s “the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). The Father will make sure of that. Even right now, any remembrance of Jesus is because of the Father’s passion for His Son.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
For many years, I read the Bible like the Pharisees. Jesus defined that as follows: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” (John 5:39). Paul echoed that statement when he wrote: “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them” (Rom. 10:5). Both statements emphasize a Bible reading that is primarily centered on man—what must I do to obtain from God.
Jesus and Paul also gave us the proper way to read God’s word. Jesus continued: “It is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness about me.” Paul contrasted doing the commandments with: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). The testimony of Jesus and our faith in Him are the proper way to read God’s word and receive from Him.
What has that to do with today’s verse? John the Baptist greatly rejoiced “at the bridegroom’s voice.” By hearing Jesus’ words, his joy was complete. Can we take that same reality and apply it to our Bible reading? Should our joy be based on what we’ve done or on who Jesus is?
While the concept of purposely finding Jesus in the Scriptures may be new to you, isn’t our joy fueled by seeing Him throughout its pages? Isn’t He our joy? Ironically, we think far too much of ourselves when we primarily relate the Scriptures to what we must do.
He will tread our iniquities underfoot.
Jesus has never suffered any defeat. That word isn’t even listed in His dictionary. He simply cannot relate to it. Defeat is as foreign to Him as sinning. They cannot co-exist.
Even when He suffered and died, it was an astounding victory: “By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:14-15). Today’s verse declares His triumph—the triumph of His grace.
Whenever we read the Bible, we must never limit its scope. “Our iniquities” mean “our iniquities.” No matter how many or how severe, that’s irrelevant. He will (has!) tread them all under His foot. Not one of them had the slightest ability to withstand Him. They were like ants in comparison.
Not only are our iniquities—not doing what is right—in relation to what we shouldn’t do, but also to what we should do. When I think of it that way, I see Jesus walking this earth as our last Adam, fulfilling all God’s righteous requirements on our behalf. With each step, He was treading our lack of doing what is right under His foot.
Even now, when your iniquities have overtaken you, there’s incredible hope because Jesus has already tread them underfoot. When we trust in Him, we’ll be the eternal participants in His triumph, even in our temporary defeat.
Then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness.
Yesterday, we saw that all answered prayer is for the sake of God’s Son. The Father’s acceptance of them is based on one reason: “I have found a ransom.” The reality of that truth is rather simple: apart from Christ we only deserves God’s just wrath, while “in Christ” we only receive His infinite favor. Everything revolves around His Son.
Today, we’ll unpack the second truth of this verse: “He sees his face with a shout of joy.” Keep in mind that this truth is also fully related to Jesus’ righteous life and sacrificial death—the price He paid for His people. There’s no uncertainty when it comes to the eternal security of God’s people. Even though we may at times wonder if we’re going to make it to glory, such doubts are completely foreign to God. With Him there are only shalls and wills.
Because the Father “found a ransom,” we will see His face with great joy. That is as certain as God is God. Such assurance can never be based on anything feeble and fickle that man has to offer or contribute. It’s solely based on “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
This reminds me of what Jude wrote: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Darkness and Trust
Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
To say that life has its many challenges is quite an understatement. This is even truer when we consider our brothers and sisters in third-world countries and those who face persecution. When we face the difficulties of life, we can easily experience a time of darkness, not knowing what to do.
Today’s verse addresses those who fear the Lord and walk in obedience. Such believers are also not exempt from times of spiritual darkness. Whatever the darkness, though, there’s hope. The sun may be hidden by the dark clouds of affliction, but still shines in its full splendor.
The prophet exhorts and encourages us to “trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” God is still God, whether on the mountain top of victory or in the valley of despair. In the Hebrew language, the word trust indicates to flee for refuge. Ultimately, anything that drives us to Jesus is a blessing in disguise. While we may not have any answers left to life’s afflictions, Jesus is always the answer.
Afflictions and darkness are meant to wean us off the frivolity of this world and make us rely on God: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9). Darkness makes way for the Son.
Everyone Who Thirsts
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
When Peter saw Jesus’ transfiguration, including Moses and Elijah, he said: “Lord, it is good that we are here” (Matt. 17:4). The same is true with the plain gospel verses throughout the Bible. We do well to drink deeply from them. They are milk and meat for our soul. We never move beyond the reality of the gospel; we only go deeper and deeper into the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The gospel call is for “everyone who thirsts.” It’s not about one’s ancestry, sex, cultural background, societal standing, etc. It’s about a basic human need—the thirst of our soul. Amazingly, these verses in Isaiah don’t even mention the word sin, although sin is certainly implied.
Basically, it takes a different angle as to what sin is—anything that doesn’t give true and eternal satisfaction. The word means “to miss the mark.” While this may seem like a trite statement, it makes an accurate point: God created us with a void that only He can fill.
Adam and Eve’s transgression is an excellent illustration of what sin is: a deception that states that there’s genuine satisfaction apart from God. Ever since, mankind has been on the quest to find such satisfaction apart from our Creator.
No matter who you are, you long to be satisfied. While there are thousands of fake substitutes, only Jesus can truly satisfy your soul. Heaven is nothing more and nothing less than your full satisfaction with Jesus.
Shadows vs. Substance
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in question of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
The author of Hebrews wrote: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Heb. 1:1). Paul wrote something similar: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Rom. 1:1-3).
Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke “in many ways.” His main theme was His promised gospel “concerning his Son.” While He primarily communicated through words, He also did so through “food and drink” and “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” Paul declared that they are shadows of Jesus Christ.
While I’m certainly not an expert on how these shadows proclaimed Christ—shadows are not always clear—we must take Paul’s statement to heart that they were meant as shadows, foreshadowing the reality of the person and work of Jesus Christ, announcing His coming.
That’s why he wrote that a believer should not let anyone “pass judgment on you” for keeping or not keeping these shadows because the actual Person has arrived. It’s not about the shadows but about Jesus. Thus, when we’re preoccupied with the shadows, it’s to the detriment of the One to whom all these shadows pointed.
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