Saturday, September 3, 2022

Election

This topic seems to easily cause heated discussion, dividing opinion and rousing difficult thoughts and emotions, and unfortunately, sometimes these discussions can highlight ugly traits of our fallen natures, including pride, arrogance, and anger. We can invest too much in being “right” about our theology.

I did not envy a minister recently who spoke from Romans 9. ( He did it well)
I'm not sure we are meant to nut out and fully resolve the mystery of election and I believe we should be careful not to draw particular conclusions despite what appears to be clear logic.
God is above and beyond our reasoning abilities. He can bring the universe into existence simply by his powerful word.
He is able to do much more than we can ever ask for, or imagine, and his goodness is deep and wide.
So I am able to find joyful security and peace in being saved and forgiven by grace alone, implying that God chose to flood his saving goodness on me even before I had a chance to show how bad, or really bad, I would turn out, or made any "commitment".
Grace is that key word that separates Christianity from all other religions.
The word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us full of  grace and truth.
Jesus is Lord and we are saved by grace through his work on the cross.
So everyone who is saved, is saved by grace, and that grace is poured out on all whom God chooses. That is election. That is predestination. Sometimes the word “limited” is used in conjunction with the word election, but my understanding of God is that he is not limited by what we think he might be. For example, five loaves and two fishes should not feed a crowd of five thousand hungry men and their families leaving twelve basketfuls of left overs.
What is not stated anywhere in my reading of the scriptures is that people are therefore predestined to hell.
It seems a logical mathematical conclusion, but we are not able to, or have any authority to make these conclusions.
We trust God in all his decisions and unsearchable judgements.
I find it interesting that in the cases of Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Saul, Absolom, Saul of Tarsus, the thief on the cross, Simon the sorcerer, Pilate, Judas, and many others, that God’s dealing with these people is more merciful than expected.
We are to carefully consider the kindness and severity of God, but do we see his kindness even to those who are actively evil and relatively unrepentant?
I am not a universalist.
I do believe in the existence of hell, and Satan and demons and evil.
I also believe that there is only one way to heaven and that is through the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. Everyone who calls on his name will be saved.
I am also familiar with the verses that speak strongly of Gods love and patience for all the world and his desire that all men (humans) should be saved.
I am well aware of the hardening of Pharaohs heart and the example of the potter having the right to decide what part of a lump of clay will be used for common and which part for noble purposes.

But in all of this, I do not see the conclusion that we need not concern ourselves with the “lost” as they are predestined for hell, nor do I conclude that there is no need to present the good news of forgiveness to others because God has already predestined people to salvation.

If I take the example of Paul, he seems to have gone above and beyond, in his every effort to present the gospel to as many people as possible. He asks his fellow Christians to pray that he would do that every time he opens his mouth. He understood that what he had to share was vital for all who heard him. He did not expect Jesus to appear personally to each person, as he had to himself. He took his responsibility in sharing the wonderful truth of forgiveness in Jesus, very seriously.

Reading through the book of Joshua, we come to the story of Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Israelite spies. As a result, she and her family are spared (saved) from the destruction of Jericho.
Who’s actions saved Rahab’s?
Hers?, the spies? Joshua’s?
Yes could be said to all the above, because all made decisions. But in the first place it was God who informed Jericho of who the Israelites were and what they had done, and it was God who gave Rahab the faith to put her trust in these spies. And it was God who led the spies to Rahab’s house, and gave them safety there. Does that nullify the faith decisions made by Rahab, the spies, and Joshua? By no means, but it does put our cooperation with God’s will in better focus. God, it appears to me, is pleased with our positive cooperation with his perfect plan, but at the same time is not limited by it. Also, his perfect justice is never threatened or thwarted by our decisions or cooperation, or lack of.

And was Jericho’s destruction predestined? Or was it the result of God’s holy judgement coming upon a nation who had gone well beyond God’s tolerance of rebellion.

Faith and Grace work powerfully to save. But the cross of Christ is the work of salvation, it is the cross that demands our full attention by faith, and the resurrection is the explosion that releases the full force of God’s grace.
God’s plan of salvation is deeper than our wills. And all of our mind, soul, strength and heart is involved in its working out.

We trust God in his perfect plan, and we are energized by hope and love for those around us, with whom we love to share the joy and hope that is in our hearts.

When we share a meal, we do not simply give our guests packets of frozen food, uncooked out of our freezers. Leaving them to do the best they can.
We share food that we have lovingly laboured over, enjoying the process of preparation, and then enjoying in the shared eating of the meal. Giving thanks to God who provided everything.

But the meal is actually prepared by God himself, in the mystery of his invisible presence with and in us.
If it relied solely on my effort, even on my willingness, or my agreement, then I would lack peace and security at my possible failure or I would be filled with pride in my success. But if it is God’s gracious will at work, then I am secure, and humble.

I trust God’s sovereign choice. I am so glad it is his will that gets me over that threshold, through the sea of my rebellion, on the firm ground of his commitment to me. I do not trust my own ability to make a life long commitment and keep it to God’s standards. Jesus often highlights the strictness of those standards, implying, for example, that thoughts of adultery are equal to adultery, that anyone who looks back after putting their hands to the plow is unworthy, that no rich person could enter the kingdom of heaven. But he also makes it clear that what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, frees me to walk in the purposes he intends for my life, without the terrible guilt of failure dogging me at every turn. If God is for us who can be against us? These are powerful passages, giving us endurance and hope in times of trouble.

I believe in election, but I deliberately give no space in my mind or heart to consider or debate “predestination to hell”. I don’t see it as a topic of the scriptures, I feel no need to try and “resolve it” mathematically, or logically. I see no benefit in the pursuit of these unnecessary questions for anyone, and I know, by faith, that God’s goodness and mercy will never be brought into question. His grace is more than sufficient.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Grace vs Nice

Grace (God's grace) means that my sin is forgiven because Jesus paid the full price (with “interest”) for my debt. Debt doesn’t really cover the ugliness, selfishness, and deep rebellion of sin. If someone, in authority over me, (eg a teacher) asks me to do something (eg tuck my shirt in) and I do it simply to avoid any punishment, but as soon as the teacher is elsewhere, I pull out my shirt and use choice words to describe the teacher, then my rebellion is strong even if my sin is small.
Grace not only pays for my rebellion but changes my heart to love my teacher and want to obey my teacher. Grace causes repentance.
Grace must show me the horror of the cross (which pays for my rebellion) and the deep love of the lamb who willingly and lovingly accepted the weight of my sin. Grace highlights sin, and then utterly destroys it.

“Nice” feels sorry for my rebellion, “accepts” that I cannot change (?!), and does not ask me or expect me to tuck my shirt in. Nice believes that the love shown in overlooking my rebellion will lead to my repentance, and reform. Nice does not pay for rebellion, it sympathizes, and feels pride for tolerating and not judging. Nice thinks it effects good change, but it fails. Nice is interested in love but not grace. Repentance is unnecessary, sin is relatively benign, the cross is artistic, judgement, wrath and hell are periods of religious history long obsolete. Nice “interprets” the bible within current social and “scientific” understanding. Nice enforces no rule except the rule of tolerating and not judging human sinful nature. Nice accepts all religions except fundamentalism.

Nice is not grace, grace is not nice. Grace is amazing. Nice is deceptive. Nice is too proud for grace. Nice refuses grace.

Nice pleases men. Grace offends men. Grace saves men.

The prodigal son received grace.

Nice always looks nicer than grace.


Grace smells of blood and sweat.

Grace dies.

Grace defeats death.

 

The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.


 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Anti-footprints?

 I was thinking recently about life and suffering.

I thought about being on a difficult journey, possibly alone, in the wilderness, and how it would feel if you thought you were lost with no chance of recovery? And then you prayed for help from God.

What if you then found the strength and resolve to go on in that journey, and this, eventually led to you finding a road and then being found by a passer-by?

 

Does God answer our prayers that way sometimes?

By “that way”, I mean, instead of sending a helicopter to your exact location, he gives us the strength to continue, on our own legs and go the extra mile or hundred miles, despite everything being against us, and our mind, body and spirit beyond exhaustion?

 

And that made me think about the animals and machines we use for transport. How we prefer our own vehicles to reach the goal of our journey, even if the vehicle is old, slow, and inefficient. We actually enjoy the function of our vintage cars (especially if we have restored them) over our modern efficient ones.

And then I thought about my elderly patients (now not too much older than me) and how small steps of recovery are so celebrated, despite their measly appearance.

 

And it made me think that God also celebrates our function even if we are old and relatively worn out. Maybe we are his vintage cars?

 

And that made me think about footprints, and how we could re-imagine that conclusion to that beautiful poem, along the lines of;

 

At those times of only one set of footprints, I was in you, giving you the strength that comes only by faith.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Christian Burn out

Burn out is something that I believe I have experienced.

Maybe I have crossed to the other side of burn out, though often I wonder if I am still emerging in and out.

 

I have been a Christian for most of my life, and I am now close to 60.

 

Burn out is something that may happen despite faith, but because I am a Christian I want to put some thoughts down that may help someone else, then again, you may not agree with my thoughts, and that’s OK, I may be wrong.

 

I do think that burn out is something that happens after many years, and may have many contributors.

 

But before I suggest what contributes to it, I want to describe what I believe it feels like.

 

The following are some of the feelings I experienced.

 

Anger, my mood would often flare.

Frustration and impatience. I found I had much less tolerance of others not doing things a certain way, or taking too long to do something that I felt should be easy to complete.

I was judgemental of others, and impatient with what seemed to me as incompetence.

I was less considerate of how my words would affect others, and more self-righteous in how I performed given tasks.

 

I was more vocal in criticizing anything that I felt needed criticism, which included work environment, church environment, and any other situation I felt I had a right to criticize.

 

I certainly had a sense of abandonment by “the system”, “the government”, my peers, and even some members of my family.

 

I also carried a strong sense of failure, in my job, my family relationships, and my Christian walk.

 

I did not stop going to church, but I was more critical and less active.

 

I surprised myself more than once that I brought fellow workers to tears, when I simply felt I was stating true facts that explained why I had or hadn’t done something.

 

I also faced situations which I could not undo, such as failing to visit someone prior to their dying, that was hoping I would visit.

 

Getting back to anger, I know I was angry that God had not “done” certain things, that I thought he would have, and I felt I deserved.

 

There are probably other things I haven’t mentioned, but you get the picture, someone who professes to be a Christian, but the mirror that I glimpsed from time to time, only showed a hard, rude, angry sinner, the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.

 

May I also throw in at this point, that I think we generally paint a much rosier picture of ourselves than what the people around us see. Whether we are burnt out or not. And, if I am completely honest, I think we easily look down on others and consider ourselves, in general, “better than average”.

 

So now I am hinting at the things that I think can lead to burn out.

 

The biggest thing, I believe, is a wrong personal expectation of life, and of God.

 

We are motivated by many things, but if, for example, you work hard at your job, thinking that one day you will be the boss, and able to lead an easier life, yet a number of years down the track you realize, that nothing has changed and no-one is offering you a promotion, then this can change our motivation.

 

As a Christian, we may think that if we continue on in our church, serving, worshiping, leading, teaching, that the church will grow, and who knows, you might be the church that breaks out in revival, even though no-one else, “out there” expected it.

 

Maybe we will even rival some of the famous mega churches, after all, God can see the deep honesty of our faith at work.

 

But after many years of faithful service and attendance, you only see more and more empty pews, this can be disheartening, and suddenly we question our initial expectations and abilities.

 

So I am saying that we are more prone to burn out, if we have a high view of our abilities and high expectations, that are not from God.

 

This is a type of pride, and it isn’t actually from God.

 

If we go back to basics, the reason we are Christians, is because God has given us his son, Jesus, and by the cross, has taken away our sin and shame. Our forgiveness and adoption is God’s great gift to us, and everything we do comes out of that. If we spend our whole lives in thankfulness to God, joining other believers in fellowship in order to better give thanks, and we die without ever experiencing anything of our own making “going viral”, no richer, no more famous, no more considered by others, and not promoted to any position of leadership, then we are still incredibly blessed to have had all of our sins forgiven, and others to share that joy with.

 

Unfortunately, especially today, we have open access to media through internet, giving us too much fuel for envy of others, and ambition in ourselves.

 

We suddenly consider our current state as inadequate and seek to achieve something that we see as better than what we actually already have.

 

If we achieve these things, we become hungry for more, and if we don’t, at some point our motivation comes crashing down.

 

Either way, we can easily reach burn out.

 

The good news is that God’s love does not burn out, disappear, or disappoint us.

 

Our understanding of God’s love and will for our lives might need important editing, but the truth of who he is and what he has done for us because of his incomparably great love for us, does not change.

 

While we were still sinners, he sent his son to die for us, and as we continue on in our prideful religious sinning, he has still sent his son to die for us. We are not worse off, in fact we are better off.

 

To see what God has done for us more clearly, we sometimes need a good dose of humble pie, and, unfortunately, often the only way we will swallow humble pie, is when someone else has forced us into it. Thankfully, God is sovereign, and though the adversity might come through other people causing us what seems to be unfair suffering, God never allows us to fall beyond his love, and is still able to keep his promise of working everything for the good of those who love him. Unfortunately, or fortunately, what we see as good, and what God sees as good are often at odds. But what God sees as good is very good, and one day we will all agree.

 

I think as burnt out Christians, we are more ready to hear God speak to us, and also more ready to hear God not speak to us outside his perfect word in the scriptures.

 

I think “burnt out Christian” is the step before “mature Christian”.

 

And I think “mature Christian” is not much different to child like faith.

 

 

As in faith I grow older, my heart sometimes falters,
Remembering with sadness the things I’ve done wrong.

Though I may be a Christian with years of religion,

I still need His mercy and love.


More precious with time, more precious with time,

That's how God's sweet Gospel grows.
Just to know that he lives, just to know he forgives,
And that one day to Jesus I’ll go.



Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Trinity (very briefly)

To speak on the Christian understanding of the Trinitarian nature of God is not a small task.

Any attempt to summarise or “put it in a nutshell” will always be inadequate.

The fact that the word “Trinity” (a somewhat technical term, in my opinion) does not exist in the old or new testament adds to the difficulty of this subject, and alienates those who cannot go beyond that fact.

Combine this with the clear Jewish teaching from the Old testament, that there is only one God, and everything now seems weak and suspicious, even to some professing Christians.

 

But, to be truly Christian in faith, we must believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Christian God, whom we love, trust and obey, is one God, and He is Father, Son and Spirit.

 

The disciples (Peter, James, John etc.) in the gospels, had no problem believing Jesus was a man, a real man, and then in faith to believe he was God’s chosen, anointed one, the promised son of David, the true prophet like Moses, and the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, but to believe that Jesus is God’s son, and is God, is the step of faith that required eye witnesses of the resurrection, and direct teaching from eye witnesses.

 

Hence the importance of Thomas’s insistence on touching the wounds of the risen Jesus, and his proclamation “my Lord and my God”. As well, the start of John’s Gospel “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word WAS God. (The word became flesh and dwelt among us, therefore Jesus was the word and WAS God)

 

So now we have a Father and a Son. If the Son is God, and the Father is God, then we already have two persons and one God. But the New testament also goes on to declare the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit is God.

 

 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

 

 So, very briefly, I have shown a small number of verses that attribute deity to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There are many other verses.

 

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are referred to together in a number of verses, for example at the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commands his disciples to baptise us in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Because 'three persons yet one God' is such a confronting truth, the early church included that understanding in the earliest “creeds”. Creeds were not prayers, but rather should be considered statements of faith, even as bare minimum statements of faith, or as, “non-negotiables”. If you look at the apostle’s creed, for example, the Trinitarian understanding of God is there.

 

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

 

 

How we “mathematically” or “logically” explain or fail to explain this understanding does not make or break this truth.

 

Black holes and relativity existed well before we knew they existed, and certainly before we could ever explain them.

 

But suggesting that God is some sort of theoretical complex equation to be nutted out by gifted minds would reduce God to something less than He is.  He is certainly far beyond us, and any understanding we have is completely subject to his willingness to reveal himself to us.

 

His revelation is what determines our understating. In other words, believing in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God, is what we have been given by him, in his coming to us as Son, Jesus, who taught us about the Holy Father, and promised us his Holy Spirit.

 

We believe this because God has revealed himself this way.

 

The word “trinity” is simply a word we have given to summarise our Christian understanding of this revelation.

 

Some people find comfort in some easier explanations such as water being present as ice, steam and liquid, three states, one chemical. Some talk of each human being made up of body, mind and spirit, but I do not think this is at all a satisfactory understanding.

 

Personally, I find it easier to look at a husband and wife.

God uses marriage to make two separate people one body.

In the perfect marriage, the husband and wife are truly one in purpose and will.

To know the wife, is to also know the husband, so unified are they in this perfect marriage. Of course the only perfect marriage is Christ and the church, but here is another mysterious truth of Christianity which I will side step for now.

And if there is no actual comparison or model, in all creation, of "trinity" (which in reality there is not) that also does not disprove the truth of God being a Triune God. God, in actual fact, has nothing to be compared to, he is above and beyond his creation, all we have is what he reveals, and he has revealed himself as Father Son and Holy Spirit.

In my understanding of trinity, I certainly believe that the Father, Son and Spirit, are in perfect unity regarding all of the Father’s will, plan and purpose for all creation, for all eternity, and that, to me, redefines the understanding of one God. Notice I have put the Father as first in this order of three Person’s, one God.

Add to this a rich understanding of the loving perfect unity of Father, Son and Spirit: how the Father honour’s the Son, and the Son (Jesus) honours his Father, and how the Father and the Son honour the Holy Spirit, all serving one another and also serving and graciously  ruling over all creation, and over all history, being one in plan and purpose to bring creation to its ultimate goal (another topic). And we too are greatly blessed and encouraged in our lives as individuals, but also as members of families, and members of church families, and members of God’s family, and participants in God’s ultimate and perfect plan for all creation.

But whether or not I can understand the Trinitarian nature of God, or whether it “suits me” or not, I am still left with the eyewitness accounts of the gospels and the strong teachings of the new testament, as well as the consistent teaching of the early church fathers who put together the creeds.

 

So, I actively choose to align myself, as a Christian, to this teaching and understanding, and my spirit and my conscience are at peace. I encourage all who profess to love Jesus, to believe that God is one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter 2022

Today, but not just today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

 

That is what we as Christians believe, that a man was executed by crucifixion, and that on the third day after he died, he physically rose from the grave, alive again, in an incomparable, and to this day, unrepeated event with no scientific explanation.

 

The reason Christians meet on Sundays is because Jesus rose on a Sunday.

Sunday was the old Monday, and Saturday was, and still is the Jewish holy day, the day that commemorates Gods rest from his work of Creation. But for Christians, the importance of the resurrection turned Sunday into the day for worship.

 

So, every Sunday, is the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

 

Today, I want to speak on the importance and implications of the resurrection

 

If we read the gospels and the new testament, I find it interesting that the resurrection does not take up a lot of space. For example, in Luke, out of 24 chapters, there are 2 chapters that detail the betrayal arrest, trial and crucifixion, (the passion) but only one chapter on the resurrection. In Mark, there are 16 chapters, and almost 2 chapters on the passion, but only a short chapter on the resurrection. It is similar in the other gospels.

 

And besides this short treatment, what I also find interesting is that the details of how the resurrection is discovered and announced vary between the gospels. Was it a group of women or only Mary Magdalene? At what point did the angels appear, was there one or two angels? Only Matthew mentions the guards and the earthquake caused by an angel.

 But they all agree that women were the first to whom Jesus appeared, that he did appear later to the disciples and Peter, (Peter is singled out, I think particularly because of his betrayal) that he appeared to the 2 on the road to Emmaus, that he ate with the disciples, and that the disciples worshipped him.

 

I know that these discrepancies are not evidence to doubt the new testament. The gospels were written retrospectively after the event, and the many details were to some degree summarised in the excitement of the truth of the resurrection.

 

This morning we read John’s version. He gives the most detail about the actual events at the empty grave, and that is probably because he was one of the 2 who ran there himself, he even mentions that he outran Peter.

 

The next point I wish to make is that the resurrection was unexpected.

No one, not a single follower, expected to see Jesus again, alive and well. Even though Jesus had told the disciples, more than once, what was going to happen.

 

It’s hard for us to see this. We have had many years of Easter celebrations, we know the story well, the ending is no longer a surprise, and that is good. But it was not like that for the disciples, they did not go to bed at peace after the crucifixion, knowing that in a couple of days Jesus would be Ok.

 

The resurrection in some ways was disturbing, and confusing. It was unexpected. It had never happened before, nor has it since.

 

Our recent pandemic was unexpected and disturbing. Although, in our lifetimes we haven’t experienced it, but we still had history to tell us of other pandemics.

 

The resurrection only happened once.

 

And briefly, I think Peter would have found this quite a difficult time, having failed so epically, in his denial, and having bitterly regretted his words and actions, having a risen Jesus to face may have brought new questions and fears. How would a risen powerful Jesus deal with his failure?

 

But the resurrection, after the initial shock, was actually the most wonderful event in all history.

 

Once Mary Magdalene realised the gardener was actually Jesus, she wanted to touch him, probably to hold on to his feet, which is how Matthew describes the women meeting Jesus. But Jesus asks her not to, he has to return to the Father.

 

Why, was the resurrection such a wonderful event? I’ll get to that.

 

The next point I want to make is that the resurrection, from my reading of the gospels, was, in biblical terms, a relatively quiet event.

 

Despite its amazing power and significance. He appeared to only a few of his followers only a few times that are recorded. Paul tells us in 1Corinthians 15:5-6 that he appeared to about 500 others, and last of all to himself.

500 sounds big, but considering the much bigger crowds that he preached to eg the feeding of the 5000, even in Jesus terms, it was small. And Jesus certainly did not appear to anyone of political importance at the time, not to religious leaders, not to Herod, not to Pilate, or Caesar. He was not risen in order to overthrow the authorities that had crucified him, it seems that that was not even a consideration. So, if nothing else I would like to say that this implies that he rose particularly for his followers, for the ones he loved. And he did this relatively quietly, and relatively privately, unlike the crucifixion, and then Pentecost, and the preaching of Peter and Paul. But without the quiet resurrection, there would be no power for Pentecost, and for the church to explode into being. The quiet resurrection is still the power that propels the church, and us as Christians.

 

 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NIV) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

 

 

 

Let’s imagine for a moment, that Jesus had simply died.

 

If we look at the state of affairs after the crucifixion, we see that things would have most likely “petered out”, for want of a better word. Peter and the others actually went back to fishing. Everyone was in a state of grief or regret. No-one was expecting Jesus to rise. There were no wise men following a star, like there was at his birth. There as only grief, regret and despair, there may have also been relief for the Pharisees and religious leaders to be finally rid of Jesus.

 

I do not believe a new religion would have started, certainly not a world-wide one.

 For example, Jewish people (I learnt recently on YouTube listening to a Jewish guide in Jerusalem) are not actively seeking others to become Jews.

 

But Jesus did rise. And after the resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to go out into all the world, and make disciples of all people, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And this did happen.

 

And we know that Jesus actually rose, not because Christianity has spread across the globe and survived 2000 years, but because eye witnesses have recorded the events. The New Testament is a historical document. If you look at how documents are classified as historical, it includes things like, consistency and accuracy between copies and other contemporary texts, numbers of copies, earliest copies, and then style of writing etc. The new (and old) testament, when held up to strict criteria, actually fulfil those criteria in more ways than any other historical document.

 

So, what does it mean for us, that Jesus rose from the dead.

 

I am going to mention a few things that come to my mind.

 

Firstly, it means that Jesus is still alive today.

 

We often know exactly where the remains of our loved ones are. And some many famous historical people have their final resting place marked somewhere. I would love to visit the final resting places of Bach or Mozart. But for Jesus there is no final resting place. His body was not left behind, he rose physically.

 

 

When he rose, he broke the power of death over himself. Because he was fully a man, he died properly, but then came back to life in a way that has never happened before or since. He is now alive beyond death. If we think of death as a person, a powerful person, in an arm to arm battle with Jesus, death and Jesus wrestled one on one completely. It looked as though death had won, but then Jesus despite dying, knocked out death completely, and death will never be able to touch Jesus again. So that means that Jesus was alive, and still is alive today, physically, and his resurrected body can never die and will never die. So, we can say that there is a physical, living man in heaven, at God’s right hand, as seen by Stephen, the first martyr, before he died. That is truly wonderful.

 

 

 

We often think of our loved ones who have passed on, watching over us. Well the only human person I can guarantee is watching over us is Jesus our Lord, he is actually alive.

 

The resurrection means that Jesus is legitimate. What he said about himself and about God must be true. The resurrection proves his validity. All the details about what God expects of us, how we should love each other, forgive each other, trust, serve, give, pray, etc., is all valid and true and certainly deserves our attention. There is no other book we ought to read more often than the Bible.

I read many other things, but the one book I go back to over and over, is the Bible. And by the way, why do we believe the old testament? Because Jesus believed it. He rose from the dead, so what he believed and what he said must be true.

 

The resurrection also means that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said that about himself, I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me. The resurrection validates this.

 

Jesus did not rise so that every religion would be valid, his resurrection trumps all other faiths, including Jewish faith, I say this understanding it may seem disrespectful to other faiths. This is not my intention. But to ignore Jesus rising from death is to ignore the most amazing event in all history.

 

The resurrection also implies strongly that Jesus was morally pure.

 

The moral victory Jesus had over death was his moral perfection. Death (and separation from God) was in fact the most serious consequence of sin. If Adam had not sinned in the Garden of Eden, death would never have entered into the world. If Jesus had, himself sinned, in the slightest way, morally, he could not have defeated death. His death would have been deserved and therefore, he would not have risen triumphantly.

 

The resurrection also implies that the crucifixion was both necessary and had a purpose, and achieved its purpose.

 

I will repeat this very important point.

 

 

The resurrection also implies that the crucifixion, the cross of Christ, was both necessary and had a purpose, and achieved its purpose.

 

 

What was the purpose of the crucifixion?

 

It was for the sins of the world.

 

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. (1John 3:8)

 

Without the cross, there is no way to forgive any sins.

 

It’s as simple as that.

 

The cross is where all of our sins are atoned for, propitiated, judged, and destroyed.

 

But without the resurrection, we would not know this, there would have been a tragic death, but no confirmation of its effectiveness.  The resurrection proves the effectiveness of the cross in a powerful and irreversible way. A risen Jesus is the guarantee of his success.

But I want to take this a step further. The resurrection, proving how necessary and effective the cross was, also gives weight the seriousness of our sin before God. If our sin was not serious, God would not have sent his one and only beloved Son, to die for our sins and then rise.

 

So, without the resurrection there is no understanding that through the cross we have peace with God.

 

But because there was a resurrection, the cross was effective and we do have peace with God, and we now think differently about sin, we no longer want to sin. Notice that word “want”. It is important that we don’t want to sin. (and we no longer want to want to sin. I didn’t say we no longer sin!) And we personally consider/scrutinise the moral side of all our actions much more than we ever did before we had faith. All sin is rebellion against God, the cross destroyed our sin and rebellion, and as much as possible we want no more of it.

 

Finally, the resurrection proves not only that what Jesus said was true, but that Jesus is who he said he was. And that is, the Son of God, and more than this, God incarnate, a member of the Godhead.

 

When Thomas had finally been given the privilege of touching Jesus’ crucifixion wounds, he bowed and said “my Lord and My God”. Prior to the resurrection, the disciples did not think of Jesus as God, though Jesus implied it, for example when he told Philp, that to see Jesus is to see the Father.

 

Unfortunately, we worship many things. We are prone to this, including worshiping people, but humans should not be worshiped. Herod died a death of judgement from God when he accepted being worshiped as God, we read in Acts 12:23

 

Acts 12:23 (NIV) Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

 

But Jesus is the one man in all of history who does deserve our worship, and who we ought to worship.  Because he is the Son of God and, he is God. This is proven by his resurrection.

 

I am not going to discuss or try to explain this truth which we know as the Trinity, the triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. But it is because of Jesus’ resurrection, and the understanding of his supremacy as the Son of God, that we have this understanding. I will briefly quote the start of John’s gospel.

 

John 1:1-3 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

 

Jesus was a man, he is still a man, the resurrection proves he is also the son of God, and he was always God. He became man at one point in history, the incarnation, where Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, from then onwards he is always, and will always be, fully man and fully God.

 

So though, in my opinion, the resurrection was relatively quiet, it was powerful and unique, and proves beyond any other event, that Jesus is the Christ, and that he achieved all he set out to achieve, in particular, to save sinners like you and I.

 

To be a Christian means many things, but more than anything else, it means that we believe in a resurrected man who is also God, the Son of God, our precious saviour, Jesus.

 

He is King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords. And he is with us, and all people who gather together in his name. He actually leads our worship, and deserves our worship. He is with us by faith and in Spirit. Actually, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all indwelling us and we them!  

 

And our risen king Jesus will return physically and gloriously very soon, and this physical return will not be a private event. Every eye will see him, and every heart will know that Jesus Christ is truly Lord.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Celebrating Repentance

 

Luke chapter 15 mentions celebration a number of times. It seems that finding a lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son, and a lost sinner is cause for celebration both on earth and in heaven. 

But is repentance a gift or an action? 

Yes.

How does a lost coin find itself? Or a lost sheep find itself? Or a lost son? Or a sinner?

The son in the parable is described as “coming to his senses”. If we meditate on this, it implies that up until that point the son had been closed to the truth. There was a barrier. Was he blinded by his desire to spend up big? Had he imagined his wealth would never run out? Again, he was deluded, and unwise in his decision making up until that point. 

What seemed to take away the barrier, the blindness, the unwillingness to look at the reality of his situation was a severe famine, and the associated suffering, including what seemed to be a lack of anyone caring for him.

If we briefly go back to the widow with the lost coin, she lights a lamp and sweeps the whole house to find it. It seems she had decided that her best chance of finding the coin, was not a targeted approach. Her action was widespread/ universal. The whole house must be swept, the whole of the country comes under a famine.

 

The famine is an action of God, which somehow lights a lamp and allows the starving lonely son to see what he could not see before.

 

This is the gift of repentance.

 

It is possible the father knew about the famine in the far-off country and, being a person of faith, hoped that this suffering would indeed bring his son to his senses. And hence, in faith he watches for his son, and sees him from afar.

 

And then is overwhelmed with joy and must celebrate this repentance without considering the cost.

 

Every repentance costs the full suffering of our Lord on the cross.

 

Yet there is celebration before the angels.

 

Who is before the angels, celebrating?

 

Is it God the Father himself? 

 

Yes, a lamb is slaughtered for this celebration. But though once dead, this lamb is now alive, and is the author and perfector of our faith celebration.

 

There are not too many heavenly celebrations mentioned in the Bible. The angels celebrating at creation (Job 38:7), the wedding celebration (supper) of the lamb (Revelation 19) and the celebration of the repentance of sinners are the ones that come to mind. I am not trying to paint a sombre picture of heaven. It is a place of great joy, pure joy. But this joy is even greater when sinners like you and I repent.