No doubt you recall Jesus’ simple but profound statement during his prayer in John 17: “Your Word is truth.” The Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which means the revealed essence of something; the way it really is. Did you notice the word “real” in “really”? It’s also in the word “reality.” So “truth” can be defined as what is “real.” Jesus also said that he is “the truth.” He could say that because he perfectly lived the truth of God’s Word that he hid in his heart. No one ever had to tell him to “Get real.”
Each of us has our own perception of the way things in and around us are. What we want is for our perception to line up with God’s perception, which, of course, is set forth in His wonderful Word. My favorite Greek word is baklava, but there’s another good one that basically means “perception,” and it appears only three times in Scripture, so a word study doesn’t take long. The verb (translated “perceive”) is in Luke 9:45, regarding the disciples’ cluelessness about a statement Jesus made. Let’s look at the other two uses of the word aisthesis.
Philippians 1:9 and 10a
(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge [epignosis] and depth of insight [aisthesis],
(10) so that you may be able to discern what is best…
The word translated “knowledge” means “a thorough knowledge acquired by participation in.” Wow! That means that I must not only “know” the Word of God, but also live it out if I am to learn how to love abundantly and precisely and have a depth of insight that allows me to make a distinction between what is good and what is best. Please note that having an accurate knowledge of the written Word of God is fundamental to this whole process. And you and I can have fun only when we get da mental part straight!
The final use of aisthesis is fabulous, and confirms our need for “participating” in the Word of God, that is, acting out what we put into our minds. Watch this!
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have exercised [trained] themselves [aisthesis (KJV=”their senses,” which is a much better rendering)] to dis-tinguish good from evil.
Is that sweet, or what? One thing I see is that if I don’t distinguish good from evil (and good from best), I will get extinguished, at least in the quality of my life, which basically means my relationships. I want to distinguish good from evil. I want to discern what is best. I want my love, and my life, to “abound more and more in epignosis and aisthesis” and baklava.
Speaking of baklava, it’s the holiday season, and although we know that the baby Jesus was not surrounded by shivering shepherds and frozen sheep (that is, he was not born in December, but rather September, when the sheep would be in the fields to eat the harvest leftovers and fertilize the ground), we can nonetheless celebrate and rejoice in the marvelous truth that he was born, and refresh our minds as to the events around his birth.
Was that a one-sentence paragraph?
Regarding the birth of Jesus, the first thing that comes to my mind is promise. What is a “promise”? Webster will say something like: “A declaration, either written or verbal, that binds the promiser to the one promised and gives the latter the right to expect the carrying out or the abstaining from whatever was promised.” I assert that one way you know that someone truly loves you is by how he or she keeps promises to you. Our God is The God of promise. He has “put it in writing,” and He is a Father who keeps His Word to us.
2 Peter 1:3 and 4
(3) His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge [epignosis] of him who called us by [to] his own glory and goodness.
(4) Through these [this knowledge] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Jesus is the greatest of the “very great and precious promises.” He’s The Man who is The Plan because the First Man ran. Genesis 3:15 is where he prophetically came into the picture, and later, like you and me, he began his life as a baby. That’s what Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:35 say when properly translated (see our book, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith).
The same God who kept His promise to mankind and brought His Son into the world to save us also made a promise to Jesus—to raise him from the dead if he would lay down his life for the sake of redeeming God’s shattered dream of a family living forever in Paradise. Once again our God, our Father, was true to His Word. And shortly after that He kept another promise, that of “power from on high,” which came to pass on the Day of Pentecost, when His “purpose of the ages” began to inexorably unfold. You and I are each a vital part of that purpose, and this same God, whose fathomless wisdom and exquisite resourcefulness made possible the Pentecost of Acts 2 as well as the personal Pentecost of your and my new birth, will keep every one of His exceeding great and precious promises to us. Amen.
How has God been faithful to you? Think back through the seasons of your life and reflect upon when and how our Father has kept His promises to you. It’s also good to remember that the primary way in which speaking in tongues “edifies” us is by reminding us of God’s faithfulness to His Word. Let God’s faithfulness in the past amplify your faith in Him today, and let it anchor your hope in what He promises us for the future. He has given us His Word that we will meet the Lord Jesus in the air and receive “praise, honor, and glory” from him to the degree that our faith now proves to be genuine (1 Pet. 1:7).
The holiday season also marks the end of another calendar year, another year of life that is almost gone. So here we are, you and I, each taking up some space on the planet at a moment in time known as almost-2003. Both yesterday and tomorrow are very important, but, by definition, they are not as vital as today. No doubt you’ve heard the exhortation to “Live in the now.” Sounds good, how do I do it? I say the key is properly relating to both yesterday and tomorrow, that is, we must understand what it means to “live between the grave and the glory.” We must look back to the grave, the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and appropriate to ourselves today all that is wrapped up in that momentous event and its sequential partner, Pentecost, when we, the Church, became somebody. We must know who we are. And we must look forward to the glory of our Hope, the appearing of our Lord and his rewarding us for our labor of love on his behalf, so that we live today in that light, motivated to give our all for the one who did just that for us. We must know who we will become.
Perhaps, as you look back on 2002, you are pierced by the reality of certain tragedies, failures, sins committed against you, or unfulfilled dreams. We are fallen human beings living in a fallen world, so such disappointments are to be expected. The key is how we deal with them. May I suggest to you something I am trying to do, though not always successfully, and that is to let myself feel the pain of such things and enter into it. Scripture calls him “the man of sorrows,” and I think that is how Jesus lived.
Grieving is a godly and necessary process for emotional health. When things are going well, it is easy to feel good about God and ourselves, but it is when we are most weak, vulnerable, insecure, or hurt that we have golden opportunities to connect with Him, and ourselves, in a deeper way. During such trauma, our faith can grow if we take our brokenness to our Father and our Lord and let them weld our heart back together. God and Jesus can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and that is what they are all about.
Spiritual and emotional wholeness is contingent upon recognizing our powerlessness and God’s power. That is exactly what a young woman named Mary did once upon a time when an angel surprised her with some startling news: “Good morning. You’re the woman God has chosen to bear His Son.” Mary then asked a logical question and received a logical answer that concluded with the declaration: “Nothing is impossible with God.” The text is more accurately translated, “No word [rhema] of God is void of power.” She then replied: “Be it unto me according to your word.” Let us say the same thing in response to God’s promises, and see His power energize our powerlessness.
When the shepherds heard about the birth of Christ from the angels, they said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing [rhema] that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” After they had seen him, “they spread the word [rhema] concerning what they had been told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” Then they returned home, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.” And Mary? She “treasured up all these things [rhema] and pondered them in her heart.”
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us also celebrate his birth within us by living each day to the fullest with him. Let’s treasure up and ponder these truths in our hearts, let’s go, let’s spread the Word, and let’s glorify and praise God, knowing that His promises will be just as we have been told. Amen!
Let us be like Joshua and Caleb were when they returned from exploring the Promised Land. With the other ten spies (83%) inciting the people to terror about the giants in the land, Caleb stepped forward, on the edge, and said, “shut up! We should go and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30). In light of all that our God and our Lord have done for us, how they have so graciously and mercifully given us such awesome truth to share, and how they are so invested in this ministry of the Word, should that not be our attitude also? We should because we can! Let’s GO!
And what did God say about Caleb? “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land….” I want God to say that about me, and about you. As we stand on the edge, let’s put our whole heart into living each today for our Lord. Let’s make the godly choices that will enable God to do for each of us all that He and His Son want to do, both now and also in the life that is to come.