Monday, June 21, 2021

210620 Fathers Day

Let’s look at David’s words. David the sweet singer of Israel rejoiced in his God. The Psalms give us many examples of his view of God. God is seen as a just ruler who knows his people. He sits in heaven and laughs at his enemies. He calls us to be his children. David understood that God was his shield and the one who answered his cries. God holds godly people and hears them. God loves steadily and blesses the righteous – and that list is only partial for the first 5 Psalms! In Psalm 68 David extols the Lord as the father of the fatherless and protector of widows.

Psalm 68:4-6 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! 5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. 6 God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

David had seen God as a Father of the fatherless and protector of the widows. We are to sing praises to him. We are to praise him that he cares for those who have no fatherly example. We are to rejoice that he cares for the lonely. Most of all earthly fathers are to pattern their lives on him.

He was our “first” Father according to, Luke 3:38, In the genealogy of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel there is a physical connection to all people ever born. Physically God is the Father of everyone born of Adam. As we look at these accounts we can understand how some people would claim that God is the father. Let’s look at what we can learn.

Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy that begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus who was born the son of Mary. That would settle the issue of the fatherhood of God for the Jew’s.

Luke on the other hand begins his genealogy with Jesus about 30 years of age following a different path through Nathan, the son of David. From David, Luke takes us through Perez to Judah. Then he takes us through Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. That would seem to be enough. But Luke does not stop there. He links Abraham to the generations beyond Noah to Seth the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23-38). Luke’s account reaches beyond Abraham. He reaches to Adam settling the issue of

God as the Father to all who believe. Jesus was confronted by the Jews and with a few words he took away the value of their blood line. In John 8:54-56 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.

He is the model Father! His love is dependable.

Psalm 139, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever; 10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever; 11 and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; 12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever; 13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever; 14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever; 15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever; 16 to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever; 17 to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 18 and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; 19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever; 20 and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever; 21 and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever; 22 a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. 23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; 24 and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; 25 he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

His steadfast love will meet every need. We should praise him in every situation we find ourselves in. He is our wonderworking God. He has knowledge of all needs. He rules over everything we know. He took his people through Canaan to Egypt and 400 years later brought them out to end the rule of the ungodly. He gave them the cities and villages of those who refuse to recognize them. None of that we because of who they were. God blessed his people because of who he is. He is faithful always has been and always will be. Give thanks to God the father of all who will put their trust in Him. We depend on him His faithfulness does not depend on us (2 Timothy 2:11-13) The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

He cares and acts if we will Humble ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7). We can humble ourselves under God’s faithful hand because we can trust him completely. We know that his care for us is complete. When we are anxious we need to recall the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. (Matthew 6:25-34) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Anxiety is like acid consuming its container. There is no known benefit to being anxious

 

Earthly fathers are to be like him

Be a loving example Ephesians 5:25-3, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Be faithful to family and to God. In Ephesians 5:1-2 we find: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Take action to serve and protect (1 Peter 3:7) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

 

Father’s Day can be hard on those who have experienced an absent or abusive father. But, when we see that God is a perfect Father. Even though we have sinned he came to earth in Jesus to make those who receive and believe his children. As his children we have a perfect Father in heaven we can call on in our time of need. We can sing praises to his name. Rejoice in the Lord!

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

210613 Knowing God

 How important is it, within a reasonable doubt, to know God? The answer – very important! Christians are commanded to know what they believe and why they believe it. They are commanded to give answers to those who ask, 1 Peter 3:15, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

We are designed to live in such a way that we demolish arguments against the Christian faith. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.  Since God is reasonable, Isaiah 1:18, He wants us to use reason. Christians don’t get points for being stupid. In fact, using reason is part of the greatest commandment which, according to Jesus, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37.

Note that Jesus said “all your mind” not “all your emotions”. I am not opposed to emotions I often enjoy my feelings but most of the time I would rather put them aside. The older I get the more I experience intense emotions. I want you to imagine a train that hauls freight as well as people. Emotions should be the freight wagons and our mind must contain the faith, the power source.   Our entire being is designed to reflect God. We are not doing a good, effective job. There are many cracks in the path designed by the devil to cause us to stumble.

The Apostle Paul certainly believed that it was important to know that  truth really exists and must be acted on. Paul believed in gospel truth so much that he was willing to give up everything he had previously based his life on in order to know Jesus.

We find evidence of this driving force in, Philippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

When Saul/Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus the Holy Spirit began a process in him. A process of knowing Christ. This work in him was determined by God. The place and the purpose was foreknown by God. Paul saw himself as the “chief sinner” for the rest of his life because he had persecuted the church resulting in some being imprisoned and others were even put to death.

He had thought he knew God and God’s will. He believed he was carrying out God’s will God’s way. The men who were with him on the road that day heard the sound and saw the light. I have wondered if any of those men became believers. We know that Paul immediately began to preach Christ in Damascus but we have no record of his words or the results. We know there were some who listened to him. When the ruler of Damascus tried to arrest him his followers let him down the city wall in a basket and got him to Arabia. He didn’t stay away instead he returned to Damascus and ministered there for the larger part of 3 years. He must have learned how to be a stealth preacher.

Every person born into the human race has an inner sense of God. When Paul was on his own in Athens he spoke to the leading men and women of the day Luke recorded the event in, Acts 17:22-23, So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

There is in everyone a God-shaped blank that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to remember that we are witnesses to everyone who knows us or comes in contact with us. In 1994, Jackie DeShaonnon wrote, What the world needs now.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone.

Faced with the massive evidence surrounding the existence of God some choose to deny Him. Psalm 14:1-7,        says, The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. 2The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge. 7Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

This must be an important Psalm since it is repeated as Psalm 53.

I am not educated in Hebrew but a dear friend of mine once told me that this Psalm should begin “The fool says in his heart, No God for me”. That makes sense to me. Someone who rejects the massive amount of evidence is clearly rejecting the very existence of God.

Such a fool has God’s evidence rubbed in their face. Sinful people misinterpret God’s revelation of himself that is seen by all people.

David the king must have spent many nights under the stars, tending his sheep, as he recognized the strength of the natural evidence.

Psalm 19:1-3, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Paul began the letter to the Romans 1:18-20 pointing out the common guilt we all share. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The world we live in is filled with people who suppress the truth. Who reject the knowledge of God. And since the natural order is rejected by them the scriptures need to be made available in every possible manner.

Therefore, we need Scripture if we are to interpret natural revelation rightly. Hundreds of false religions in the world are evidence of the way sinful people, without guidance from Scripture, will always misunderstand and distort the revelation about God found in nature. But the Bible alone tells us how to understand the testimony about God from nature. Therefore we depend on God’s active communication to us in Scripture for our true knowledge of God. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Satan has deceived the unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Consequently, Romans 1: 24, 26, 28 tells us that the result of their choice to reject God is clear! Three times in those three verses the words ring out: “God gave them up!” Father God please do not give me up to what I would be without you.

None of us who are born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are free from guilt. All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)! All are condemned. God demonstrates His love in the fact that He gave his only Son to die in our place. (Romans 5:8). 

So that “if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

210606 We Suffer Wrh A Purpose

 We Suffer With a Purpose                                                             210606

Last week we looked at suffering as part of God’s call. We saw God’s promise to Paul that he would suffer and Paul passed that on to Timothy. Suffering does not happen to us because God is mean. Suffering was part of the plan from the very beginning. 

Issac Watts A Christian Pastor during the early years of the 1700’s wrote. A Hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross? In it he asks the question we all must answer: (#430)

Am I a soldier of the cross? /A follower of the Lamb?

And shall I fear to own His cause, /Or blush to speak His Name?

 

Must I be carried to the skies /On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize /And sailed through bloody seas?

 

Are there no foes for me to face? /Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace, /To help me on to God?

 

Sure, I must fight if I would reign; /Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, /Supported by Thy Word.

 

What is God’s plan for the believer’s suffering? Let’s look at the Word God gave to Paul

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

We can see that Paul praised the true God who revealed Himself in His Son. Who is of the same essence with the Father. He is the anointed one the Christ. He is the Ruler and Redeemer. Although the Son had this lofty position, He was willing to become a servant and submit Himself in taking on human flesh. This great benediction comprehends the entire gospel. God is the Father of mercies. Paul may have borrowed from Jewish liturgical language and a synagogue prayer that called for God to treat the sinful individual with kindness, love, and tenderness. David the king wrote in Psalm 103:13-14, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 

He is the God of all comfort. This is an Old Testament description of God who is the ultimate source of every true act of comfort. The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the familiar word paraclete, “one who comes alongside to help.” It is another name for the Holy Spirit. “Comfort” often connotes softness and ease, but that is not its meaning here. Paul was saying that God came to him in the midst of his sufferings and troubles to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness.

I don’t want us to forget Paul’s suffering. You can find Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. There he tells of being beaten many times He was stoned, left for dead, and recovered. His back must have been solid scar tissue.

Many Christians have suffered for the gospel’s sake. Before Adoniram Judson finished his education he committed his life to foreign missions. He fell in love with Ann Hasaltine and wrote her father to ask permission to marry her.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life …to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

A month later they set sail for India and Burma. On the long trip they studied the bible and came to the conclusion they had been wrong about baptism. They were baptized by William Carey when they arrived in India.

They had been sent out be the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions”. Since they were no longer Congregationalists they had to end their relationship with that mission board. Since there was not a Baptist Board of Foreign Missions a young man that had travelled with them, Luther Rice, returned to America to remedy that situation.

During the move from India to Burma their first child died. Ann suffered from one miscarriage and gave birth to two children later on. Unfortunately, both the children died while they were still babies. They suffered tremendously. Ann died of an illness in 1826.

In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman, widow of fellow missionary George Boardman. The couple went on to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood. Sarah died in 1845.

During the only trip Judson took to America. Much to everyone’s surprise, Emily Chubbuck became his third wife in 1846. She gave birth to two children, of whom one died shortly after birth.

In 1850, Adoniram Judson developed a serious lung infection and was advised by doctors to go on a sea voyage. He died onboard ship in the Bay of Bengal on April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea. At the time of his death, he had spent 37 years in missionary service in Burma.

Near the end he wrote a poem: “In spite of sorrow, loss, and pain, our course be onward still; we sow on Burma's barren plain, we reap on Zion's hill.” ~ Adoniram Judson.

There are now more than 2 million Baptists in Burma/Mayanmar. The result of suffering by many missionaries over the 200 years ministry.

Let’s get back to Paul’s letter to Corinth.

In spite of his suffering Paul pointed Timothy to God our Father. He based his life on our God is the Father of mercies.

God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Paul, and those with him, could encourage those who suffer because of his own experience. Recorded in chapter 7. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

Depression is a condition carried by all of us at one time or another. Paul had his share a therefore in need of comfort.

The God of all comfort does not point to “flowery beds of ease” instead, the word translated “comfort” comes from the same root as the word John  used to describe the Holy Spirit. One who walks along side of you when you are in need of an advocate, a helper or an intercessor.

The term “affliction” refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even take his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him.

In his first letter 10:12-13 he has written. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When he found himself struggling with depression and temptation he only had to remind himself of his own words of a couple years before.

Many times I have had people ask me, “Why does God allow this?” Usually I have to answer, “I don’t know. But I do know God is aware of your situation and has a perfect plan for it.” Sometimes I have an idea pointing to God’s plan but I could be wrong. Therefore it is better to encourage the sufferer to seek God’s face and accept whatever comes from his hand.

Paul assures the Corinthians God comforts us so that we can use the same comfort to encourage and strengthen another. I hope these words coming from me are able to help not hurt. Paul sees his suffering as personally beneficial, driving him to trust God alone, but also as directly benefiting those he ministered to: “God … comforts us … so that we can comfort.…” To experience God’s comfort in the midst of one’s affliction is to become indebted and equipped to communicate the divine comfort and sympathy to others who are in any kind of affliction or distress. God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (1:4-6)

This verse (5) supplies the reason suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy.

We need to see whatever we go through as having gone through the Holy Spirit’s filter. We may often be confused and even fearful but you can be sure that God is neither. God never sleeps and is never surprised by events in our lives.

Paul was referring to the body of Christ’s partnership of suffering, which mutually builds godly patience and endurance.  All believers need to realize this process, avoid any sense of self-pity when suffering for Him, and share in one anothers’ lives the encouragement of divine comfort they receive from their experiences the consolation that is needed. This refers to the Corinthians’ ongoing perseverance to final, completed salvation when they will be glorified. Paul’s willingness, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, to suffer and be comforted and then comfort and strengthen the Corinthians helped them to face their troubles head on.

Paul’s assurance to them can be claimed by us and carry us through whatever we face in life. Remember, our God knows the end from the beginning. He is never taken by surprise. When we rest in him we can know, for sure, that we suffer with a purpose.

I confess I have struggled with questions regarding the events we have gone through for the past few years. I willingly put those questions and concerns in the hands of our God and rest in the Holy Spirit’s comfort. Will you join me as we rest in him?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

We Suffer With a Purpose                                                             210606

Last week we looked at suffering as part of God’s call. We saw God’s promise to Paul that he would suffer and Paul passed that on to Timothy. Suffering does not happen to us because God is mean. Suffering was part of the plan from the very beginning. 

Issac Watts A Christian Pastor during the early years of the 1700’s wrote. A Hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross? In it he asks the question we all must answer: (#430)

Am I a soldier of the cross? /A follower of the Lamb?

And shall I fear to own His cause, /Or blush to speak His Name?

 

Must I be carried to the skies /On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize /And sailed through bloody seas?

 

Are there no foes for me to face? /Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace, /To help me on to God?

 

Sure, I must fight if I would reign; /Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, /Supported by Thy Word.

 

What is God’s plan for the believer’s suffering? Let’s look at the Word God gave to Paul

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

We can see that Paul praised the true God who revealed Himself in His Son. Who is of the same essence with the Father. He is the anointed one the Christ. He is the Ruler and Redeemer. Although the Son had this lofty position, He was willing to become a servant and submit Himself in taking on human flesh. This great benediction comprehends the entire gospel. God is the Father of mercies. Paul may have borrowed from Jewish liturgical language and a synagogue prayer that called for God to treat the sinful individual with kindness, love, and tenderness. David the king wrote in Psalm 103:13-14, As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 

He is the God of all comfort. This is an Old Testament description of God who is the ultimate source of every true act of comfort. The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the familiar word paraclete, “one who comes alongside to help.” It is another name for the Holy Spirit. “Comfort” often connotes softness and ease, but that is not its meaning here. Paul was saying that God came to him in the midst of his sufferings and troubles to strengthen him and give him courage and boldness.

I don’t want us to forget Paul’s suffering. You can find Paul’s account in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. There he tells of being beaten many times He was stoned, left for dead, and recovered. His back must have been solid scar tissue.

Many Christians have suffered for the gospel’s sake. Before Adoniram Judson finished his education he committed his life to foreign missions. He fell in love with Ann Hasaltine and wrote her father to ask permission to marry her.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life …to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

A month later they set sail for India and Burma. On the long trip they studied the bible and came to the conclusion they had been wrong about baptism. They were baptized by William Carey when they arrived in India.

They had been sent out be the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions”. Since they were no longer Congregationalists they had to end their relationship with that mission board. Since there was not a Baptist Board of Foreign Missions a young man that had travelled with them, Luther Rice, returned to America to remedy that situation.

During the move from India to Burma their first child died. Ann suffered from one miscarriage and gave birth to two children later on. Unfortunately, both the children died while they were still babies. They suffered tremendously. Ann died of an illness in 1826.

In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman, widow of fellow missionary George Boardman. The couple went on to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood. Sarah died in 1845.

During the only trip Judson took to America. Much to everyone’s surprise, Emily Chubbuck became his third wife in 1846. She gave birth to two children, of whom one died shortly after birth.

In 1850, Adoniram Judson developed a serious lung infection and was advised by doctors to go on a sea voyage. He died onboard ship in the Bay of Bengal on April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea. At the time of his death, he had spent 37 years in missionary service in Burma.

Near the end he wrote a poem: “In spite of sorrow, loss, and pain, our course be onward still; we sow on Burma's barren plain, we reap on Zion's hill.” ~ Adoniram Judson.

There are now more than 2 million Baptists in Burma/Mayanmar. The result of suffering by many missionaries over the 200 years ministry.

Let’s get back to Paul’s letter to Corinth.

In spite of his suffering Paul pointed Timothy to God our Father. He based his life on our God is the Father of mercies.

God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Paul, and those with him, could encourage those who suffer because of his own experience. Recorded in chapter 7. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

Depression is a condition carried by all of us at one time or another. Paul had his share a therefore in need of comfort.

The God of all comfort does not point to “flowery beds of ease” instead, the word translated “comfort” comes from the same root as the word John  used to describe the Holy Spirit. One who walks along side of you when you are in need of an advocate, a helper or an intercessor.

The term “affliction” refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even take his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him.

In his first letter 10:12-13 he has written. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When he found himself struggling with depression and temptation he only had to remind himself of his own words of a couple years before.

Many times I have had people ask me, “Why does God allow this?” Usually I have to answer, “I don’t know. But I do know God is aware of your situation and has a perfect plan for it.” Sometimes I have an idea pointing to God’s plan but I could be wrong. Therefore it is better to encourage the sufferer to seek God’s face and accept whatever comes from his hand.

Paul assures the Corinthians God comforts us so that we can use the same comfort to encourage and strengthen another. I hope these words coming from me are able to help not hurt. Paul sees his suffering as personally beneficial, driving him to trust God alone, but also as directly benefiting those he ministered to: “God … comforts us … so that we can comfort.…” To experience God’s comfort in the midst of one’s affliction is to become indebted and equipped to communicate the divine comfort and sympathy to others who are in any kind of affliction or distress. God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (1:4-6)

This verse (5) supplies the reason suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy.

We need to see whatever we go through as having gone through the Holy Spirit’s filter. We may often be confused and even fearful but you can be sure that God is neither. God never sleeps and is never surprised by events in our lives.

Paul was referring to the body of Christ’s partnership of suffering, which mutually builds godly patience and endurance.  All believers need to realize this process, avoid any sense of self-pity when suffering for Him, and share in one anothers’ lives the encouragement of divine comfort they receive from their experiences the consolation that is needed. This refers to the Corinthians’ ongoing perseverance to final, completed salvation when they will be glorified. Paul’s willingness, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, to suffer and be comforted and then comfort and strengthen the Corinthians helped them to face their troubles head on.

Paul’s assurance to them can be claimed by us and carry us through whatever we face in life. Remember, our God knows the end from the beginning. He is never taken by surprise. When we rest in him we can know, for sure, that we suffer with a purpose.

I confess I have struggled with questions regarding the events we have gone through for the past few years. I willingly put those questions and concerns in the hands of our God and rest in the Holy Spirit’s comfort. Will you join me as we rest in him?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

210530 Called to Suffer

Paul’s second letter to Timothy was, very likely, the last letter he would write before he was executed by the Romans. In 1st Timothy he wrote to Timothy as Pastor in order to strengthen the church. Now he writes to the man Timothy and to all those he ministered to. We can see the clear direction in, 2 Timothy 2:1-3 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Paul had met Timothy at Lystra during his 2nd missionary journey. Timothy was already a disciple who had been taught by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice.  Paul had only to enlist him in the cause. We can learn a great deal from the disciplining process Paul used. In their travels, the fellowship had worked their way back to Berea. There Paul left Silas and Timothy. The Christians at Berea were “more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Leaving Timothy with Silas was a sign of the confidence Paul already had. When word came that Paul needed them in Athens as soon as possible they responded immediately. To be needed by the Apostle Paul must have been a humbling honor.

With that background, let’s look at Paul’s instructions sent to Timothy from jail some 10 or 12 years later. Paul was amazingly disciplined when we consider what he faced —death, the end of his ministry, abandoned by most of his friends (As he tells us in 2 Timothy 4:9-13) Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. In spite of all this, Paul faithfully directed his spiritual son Timothy toward the hope that is in Christ. As he exhorted Timothy to boldness, endurance, and faithfulness in the face of false teaching, Paul showed his customary concern for sound doctrine.

By the way, these words to Timothy were not suggestions. None of the Apostle’s letters were anything less than authoritative. We can compare Paul’s instruction to other churches to aid our understanding of his instructions to his spiritual son.

Paul encourages Timothy to teach faithful men what he had heard.

Well, what had he heard? I will point you to the foundation of Paul’s instructions. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

What did Paul teach? Most importantly he taught that Christ died for our sins, He was buried and raised again on the third day. All backed up by the Scriptures! The Scriptures were the Old Testament beginning with the five books of Moses and continuing through the prophets. Exactly the same teaching Jesus gave to his two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Then Paul would have gone through a list of people who could testify to Jesus being alive. Peter, his disciples, there was a gathering of more than 500 people and He appeared to James (his step brother). All of these would be good eye-witnesses proving that Jesus had fulfilled the promises of the coming Messiah.

This summary of the gospel might well have been used in the churches as a worship song as well as instruction in spiritual growth and in the grace of God.

From 1 Corinthians 15:10, we can see that Paul depended on the grace of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

 “Grace” was a part of Paul’s greeting in many of his letters. I am sure “grace” was also a common spoken greeting. Paul had been a persecutor of the church and God’s grace had delivered him. We are able to serve Christ because of the gifts of grace that are given to us.

After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus Paul had come to see himself as the chief of sinners. God’s grace had delivered him from the condition of “Chief of Sinners” yet he still held the record.

For example go into any high school gym. On the wall will be banners proclaiming any records the team held. They may not have achieved that honor again. And no one else had broken the record. No matter how many years had passed they still held that record. For Paul, “Chief of Sinners” is proclaimed by him for all to see. No one had surpassed him.

This gospel had been developed by God’s Holy Spirit through the Apostle’s heart and from him to Timothy and then to many other men and women who continued to expand the gospel message and plant new churches by passing it on to generations of faithful women and men.

In his first letter Paul had laid out the groundwork for the expansion of the gospel. 1 Timothy 1:18-20, This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Paul refers back to a time when elders had laid hands on Timothy and he had received a spiritual gift. I believe that gift was the ability to teach and/or the ability to share the gospel in an effective way. Later in the 2nd letter he would touch on the subject again. 2 Timothy 4:5, As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Note how Paul brings up the subject of suffering to be shared –As a good soldier.

Paul had been on his way to Damascus with arrest warrants. Previously he had held the coats while his fellow Pharisees executed the first martyr, Stephen. On that journey he was blinded by the light that surrounds the risen Lord Jesus. The prophet Ezekiel had seen the glory of God that he called “brightness”. The Apostle John, when he received the Revelation, had seen the Lord Jesus and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:12-16) Remember, we are not supposed to look directly at the sun. Paul had faced the shining glory of God in the risen Lord Jesus and was immediately blinded by it. As a result he fasted and prayed for the next three days. God sent an answer to Saul, later called Paul.  Acts 9:10-16, Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

The theme of suffering pops up again, and again. Normally we think of drawing people to faith in Christ by showing them God’s kindness. In fact, Romans 2:4 affirms that truth. Many times it is necessary that sinners be put in a bind in order to get their attention. After salvation life does not necessarily get better. Paul was promised suffering. When we look at his record we can see that Paul was qualified to warn Timothy, and us, about suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

We can ask, “What suffering did Paul experience?” For one list we look at 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches”. 

The Old Testament Law prescribed 40 lashes as the maximum. So to cover themselves they stopped at 39. It would have been the Romans who beat him with rods. We have a report of his having been stoned. No, that does not refer to drugs instead that is the Jewish form of execution. Luke recorded the event in Acts 14:19. He said that his enemies caught up with him in a place called Lystra and they stoned him, assumed he was dead and threw him out of the city. Those people knew what death was! I believe the church gathered around him and prayed and God brought him back to life. All of this suffering qualified Paul to teach on the subject.

How did Paul respond to suffering? In his own words:  Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us..

Paul had learned to rejoice in suffering. He could do that because he knew, from experience, that suffering is effective in our lives. Suffering produces endurance – a steadfast patience. Having obtained endurance we will have a positive character that gives the glory to God.

Paul taught the value of suffering in Romans 8:18-19: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Suffering is a large part of the elements which stimulate growth in grace.  

Philippians 2:17-18 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Even death, for the faith of the faithful, was something Paul could rejoice in. Especially when such suffering and death produced powerful results. Remember, Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this final letter. Part of his confinement included being chained to one of Nero’s personal guards. He was a Roman citizen who had appealed to Caesar and, as such, he would be Caesar’s problem. The last words in the Philippian letter reveal the final results of his imprisonment.

Philippians 4:21-23, Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

You see it? They of Caesar’s household, His guards had become saints!

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

210404 He is not Here, He has Risen

Luke 24:1-7 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Seems strange that the women who had followed the Lord Jesus so long were “perplexed” at not finding the body in the tomb on that first Easter morning. At least three times Jesus had told his disciples that he would be taken and crucified and would rise on the third day. (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19) Each time he had positively said that he would rise on the third day. Did they not hear? Did they not understand? Or did they not believe.

Sometimes we hear words that are just too hard to take in. When Peter heard Jesus tell of his coming suffering Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him, saying “Far be it from you, Lord.” That caused Jesus to say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:22-23.

When we receive such a devastating message we might respond much as Peter did. Some variation on, “This can’t be happening.”

The angels had understood what was going to happen but I am not sure they understood the human response. They said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Later perhaps these same two angels stood beside the disciples and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). On the road to Emmaus Jesus had confronted two disciples and he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25, 26).

It was necessary on our behalf because Christ’s resurrection insures our regeneration. Many years later Peter would write, “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). He explicitly connects Jesus’ resurrection with our regeneration or new birth. When Jesus rose from the dead the result for him was a new quality of life. That was “resurrection life” in a human body and a human spirit that is perfectly suited for fellowship with and obedience to God forever.

In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his. We do not receive all of that new “resurrection life” when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death. But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power. It is through the power of his resurrection that Jesus Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.”

Remember, Jesus had told Nicodemus, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). It is not possible for us to deliver ourselves by our own strength. Sin drags us down. As Paul wrote the Corinthian church, The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56, 57). Let’s call again on Peter (who said), “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter2:24-25). The work of Jesus on the cross is effective for all who will come to him. He carried our sins to the cross. Paul wrote to the Colossians you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3).

Paul assures us that having died with him it is necessary that we also be raised with him. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:4-6). Note: Ephesians 4:6, God raised us up with him AND SEATED US WITH HIM IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST JESUS. In the mind of our eternal Father these actions or events occurred in the past. If we are saved, and only God knows we are seated with him NOW!

Since that is true the power of his death on the cross sets us free from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). It was through the power of his resurrection that Jesus Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.” This is why Paul can say that God “made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:5–6, see also, Colossian 3:1). When God raised Christ from the dead he thought of us as somehow being raised “with Christ” and therefore deserving of the merits of Christ’s resurrection. Paul’s goal in life was “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection …” (Philippians. 3:10). Paul knew that even in this life the resurrection of Christ gave new power for Christian ministry and obedience to God. We can see the power of the resurrection described as being at work in us in Romans chapter six. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6-11).

Paul clearly sees us as raised with Christ. This new resurrection power in us includes power to gain more and more victory over the remaining sin in our lives— Paul’s assurance was “sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14)—even though we will never be perfect in this life. This resurrection power also includes power for ministry in the work of the kingdom. It was after Jesus’ resurrection that he promised his disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This new, intensified power for proclaiming the gospel and working miracles and triumphing over the opposition of the enemy was given to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and was part of the new resurrection power that characterized their Christian lives.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11). He was obedient unto death for us. His death, burial and resurrection insures our justification.

Wait, what does that mean? We run into these words throughout the Bible without definition. Wayne Grudem gives us the following definition of justification: Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.” Systematic Theology, p. 723.

If God forgave us without declaring us to be righteous we would have been brought to the place Adam and Eve were before they sinned. We would still have been subject to the guilt of sin. Justification sets us free from the bondage of sin. The power of his resurrection not only covers our sin but also declares us “not guilty” in God’s eyes. We are no longer subject to condemnation. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Christ’s resurrection insures our perfect resurrection bodies. When we read the accounts following Jesus’ resurrection most of his close disciples did not recognize him. I believe that is because of the perfection of his resurrection body. Remember, most of the early encounters are with people who last saw him beaten, bloody and/or dead. These things are hard for any of us to grasp.  It may be that a person was raised in a family, or church that believes it is not possible to know for sure one is saved. Take John’s words to heart written near the end of his gospel, these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Don’t be deceived, be careful, salvation does not come because you read a few verses, often unconnected, and say a few words called “The Sinners Prayer”.  Anyone who comes to Jesus for salvation must understand the basics. All people have sinned and are separated from God from their birth. The cost of that truth is spiritual death. Jesus died to cover that penalty.

There must also be an invitation by the Holy Spirit for a personal response on the part of the individual who will repent of his or her sins and trust in Christ. He himself described the call in Matthew’s gospel, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

Come to Jesus! The promise is available for all who truly believe. Every person who has come to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will be saved by JESUS’ work on the cross. As a result we will be raised with the same power that raised Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:14) And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. The power of the Spirit has brought us into God’s presence (2 Corinthians 4:13-15) Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Paul assured them (and us) that God sees us as already in his presence, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Our resurrection body will be imperishable 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

 

 

The fact that our new bodies will be “imperishable” means that they will not wear out or grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease. They will be completely healthy and strong forever. Moreover, since the gradual process of aging is part of the process by which our bodies now are subject to “corruption,” it is appropriate to think that our resurrection bodies will have no sign of aging, but will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood forever.

When a person responds to the call of God and recognizes that all have sinned. Remembering that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ. That person will be able to confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead and be saved. That is what Easter is all about.

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

210321 The Road to the Cross

John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry. When he wrote his little letter that we call First John he described his relationship to Jesus as, being from the beginning that he had heard, and had many vivid memories. John the Baptist had a special place where he preached and baptized people on the east side of the Jordan River. Jesus called his first disciples at that place. It was called Bethany but it is not the same as the home of Lazarus and his sisters. John recalled the threats being made to Jesus that could cause him to step aside. Because it was not time for him to be crucified. Luke had recorded Jesus’ words at about the same time frame that John is talking about. Jesus said, it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. Luke 13:33.

The Pharisees and priests had been attempting to kill Jesus for most of his ministry. The truth is Jesus came into the world for the very purpose of being killed by the religious leaders of the day. Wherever he went people followed him. Many of them believed the words of John the Baptizer who had told the truth about Jesus. You don’t have to have much talent to tell the truth. That’s exactly what John did! He did no miracles he just told the people to repent and believe in Jesus who would come later. Now we come to the end of Jesus’ public ministry. But not to the end of John’s Gospel. We are actually very near the middle of the gospel.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

This place must’ve been important to Jesus because he himself was baptized there. It was there that men began to recognize who Jesus really was. Remember the words of John the Baptizer, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:28).

 

Now Jesus arrives at the place where he began his public ministry. While they are waiting out their time a messenger arrives from the village of Bethany that was near Jerusalem. The message was simple esus’ friend, Lazarus, was sick and near death. Jesus assured his friends, probably including the messenger, that this sickness was not going to end in death. Instead, it was going to glorify God. That which was about to happen would be the seventh “sign” in John’s gospel. The six previous “signs” included turning water into wine; healing a nobleman son; healing the invalid at Bethesda; multiplying loaves and fish; walking on the water; and, curing a man that was born blind. 

Upon receiving the message Jesus intentionally waited two more days. During that time frame Lazarus died. Before this event, Jesus had brought people back to life. The widow’s son at Nain and Jairus’ daughter. Both of these occurred immediately after death. What Jesus was about to do was much more dramatic. He was going to bring someone back to life after natural decomposition was well on its way.

Lazarus must’ve died immediately after the messenger was sent to Jesus. One day’s travel would have been involved both ways and two days Jesus waited made the process four days. This was pointed out by Martha when Jesus ordered the stone to be moved from the tomb. Even with the spices that had been wrapped around Lazarus’ body there would be a strong smell. We are not told how strong the smell that lingered was but I like to think the odor was pleasant. After all the creator of the universe, the one who had called everything into existence, spoke the powerful words, “Lazarus, come out!”

When the dead man did come out Jesus told the crowd around, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

In a metaphorical sense this pictures a lost person coming out of the tomb of sin into the light of salvation. When that happens those who already have seen the light, Christians, need the make a part of their ministry unbinding them from whatever holds them back.

How might that work out? People who come to faith in Christ have lots of spiritual and social baggage. The opinion of most people, especially the “good” people in the community, is that lives cannot be changed. Repentance should lead to redirection. When a person repents the church should provide support and deliverance. Undoubtedly there will be relapses. Addicts will be drawn back toward their addiction. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the problem of breaking addiction. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Corinthians 6:9-11). After pointing out a list of sinners that the church might not want to be identified with Paul blew me away with “and such were some of you.”

Praise God just because a person commits sin they do not need to stay in that dark world. These changed people are commended a few verses on with, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.” (1 Corinthians 6:19) The price that purchased these people who had all kinds of publically known sin in their lives was the blood of Jesus. We must remember that we are not our own. We belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The road to the cross that Jesus was walking would without a doubt lead to changed lives. We can help new believers by welcoming them into our lives. Of course, we must recognize the need to not be taken in by the world’s ways that remain in the lives that God is in the process of changing.

Jesus’ disciples understood the danger they had put themselves in. While still in Bethany beyond the Jordan Thomas, who was a twin had said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). Had the Pharisees had their way that is exactly what would’ve happened. When someone in the crowd reported Lazarus’ resurrection to the Pharisees they called a council to consider their problem. If they let Jesus go on the way he was there would be many thousands following him. If that happened the Romans would come and take away their limited freedoms. John’s comment on the problem was found in verse 54.

Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

The leaders of the opposition – priests and Pharisees – issued what amounted to an arrest warrant with the addition that anyone who knew where Jesus was must turn him in. Six days before the Passover he surfaced in Bethany at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. A dinner was prepared with a large turnout to see Lazarus as well as Jesus. Because of the presence of Lazarus many people repented and trusted in Jesus.

The next day Jesus found a young donkey and rode it into the city. The prophet, Zechariah, had written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”. (Zechariah 6:6). That was hardly what would have been expected by the people. The priests and teachers would have been aware of this promise.

His path into the city was through the Tyropoeon Valley. It was also known as The Valley of the Cheesemakers. If you have ever smelled Cheese being made you will understand that this is not the high rent district.

There is a model of the city of Jerusalem at about AD 45. I believe that  the Jews did not want to present the city as it was at the time of Jesus’ ministry and especially at the time of his death.

In 1985 Cherlyn and I were there. As our guide explained the layout of the city he came to the Tyropoeon valley he told us that this was the district where most of Jesus’ followers lived and worked. Jesus certainly lifted up the poor and needy.

 

Some of Jesus’ greatest teaching was done in the last 6 or 7 days of his life as the Messiah. In John 12:44-50 Jesus assured his disciples, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Jesus saw the end coming and he urged the disciples to unify after Judas left.

(John 13:31-35) “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus promised help to live the life. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:23-26)

He concluded those teachings with a prayer. (John 17:1-5) “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

He even prayed for us – all believers through the ages. (John:17:20-23)

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

It is amazing to me that while facing his trial and death Jesus took thought of the future believers. All of those who would recognize that all have sinned and need to repent. Because sin pays its wages – death. But God showed his love for those who will come to him by sending his son to take our sins on his body and nail those sins to the cross. So that those who confess Jesus as Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead can be saved.

 

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.