Saturday, May 25, 2013

130526 Peter, the First Disciple

Luke 5:1-11, On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him (Jesus) to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, (that's Peter) he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Jesus had met, and called, these fishermen before this event. In fact, just a few verses before this we were told that Jesus went into the house of Simon and healed his mother-in-law of a fever. John tells us that he and Andrew were followers of John the Baptist and they were the first to follow Jesus. Then they brought their brothers, James and Simon, to meet Jesus. Jesus had become well known throughout the countryside even before he had disciples. In those early days Jesus seemed to have the freedom to preach in the synagogues throughout the region. Now it was time for him to put together his band of disciples.
Jesus did everything with a purpose in mind. We need to remember that Jesus himself is God. Always has been, always will be! When he walked on earth among men he looked at their hearts not at their heads. Jesus knew what a person would be long before they found out. He knew that Simon, whom he called Peter, was a blustering, bumbling man who was committed thoroughly to following God according to the law. Jesus knew he would have to take this man through many tests and trials before he would be ready to take the place our Father God had assigned to him in the kingdom. Peter would return to fishing more than once and always come back to Jesus. Peter had a very obstinate spirit but underneath he was teachable. And Jesus certainly knew how to teach him.
That day, when Jesus chose Simon Peter's boat to speak from, Peter learned what was perhaps his first lesson in discipleship. Before anything else could be done Peter needed to see himself clearly. And he did!
Peter saw himself clearly. What most people don't realize is that we are born in spiritual darkness and more than anything else we need spiritual light. Looking back over their years together John could see that Jesus was…
The light that shines in the darkness. Listen while I read, John 1:4-5, Speaking of Jesus, John said, In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The life of Jesus is light for mankind. At times Jesus described himself as the light of the world. Philip P. Bliss wrote a beautiful hymn nearly 150 years ago and the first verse goes like this: The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin; the Light of the world is Jesus! Like sunshine at noon-day, his glory shown in, the Light of the world is Jesus! Come to the Light, 'tis shining for thee; sweetly the Light has dawned upon me; once I was blind, but now I can see; the Light of the world is Jesus.
Light serves a very important purpose. Without it we would all be blind. With it we can see. We know that is true of physical light and its certainly true of spiritual light as well. We are born in spiritual darkness and we cannot see spiritually what we are until the Light of the World comes into our life as he did for Peter…
Revealing the hidden person. When the light shined in Peter's life it revealed the hidden person that Peter needed to see in order to be saved. Isaiah had had a similar experience. Listen while I read, Isaiah 6:1-5, In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
At first glance, Isaiah's experience seems to be more dramatic, and more spiritual, than Peter's. But the two experiences spoke to the hearts of the two men perfectly. Isaiah was a priest and the context of his spiritual life was the temple. He needed to be shown the Lord of hosts in his Temple. When he saw the angels surrounding and worshiping the glory of God he was immediately convicted of his lost condition. Looking on the glory of God caused him to realize that he was a man of unclean lips and he lived among a people of unclean lips. He knew he deserved to be cut off from God forever because he was a sinner.
On the other hand, Peter's experience was by the seashore because he was a fisherman. God spoke to him through a net full of fish rather than a temple filled with glory. Peter's fishing boat was the place where he met God. In fact, he realized that he was standing in the presence of the Son of God when that net was filled with fish. Looking at that net caused him to realize that he was a sinful man. Somehow, when God moves in a person's life the first thing they know is their utter failure. And…
Then, confession is called for. Both Isaiah and Peter knew immediately they had to confess their condition before God. I'm so grateful that God's Word tells us in 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There was nothing Isaiah could do about his condition. He could not cleanse his unclean lips. Oh, by force of willpower he could stop saying and possibly even stop thinking unclean words. But he could never erase the uncleanness that had gone on before. Only God could do that! The symbol of his cleansing was a coal from the fire on the altar that was before God.
In the same way, Peter could do nothing about his condition. Instinctively, he knelt at the feet of the only one who could help him — the Lord Jesus! There was no burning coal to touch his lips. There was only the words of Jesus. "Don't be afraid. From now on you will fish for men." Jesus knew who his men were before they knew they were his. In fact, their names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world along with all the names of all of those who will follow Christ. Peter's sinful condition would be taken care of on the cross! In the meanwhile…
Peter watched Jesus' ministry. Jesus' method of discipleship was mostly show and tell! For Peter, it was a matter of following Jesus because…
He was one of 3 or 4 men closest to Jesus. There are several incidences that show how closely Jesus kept Peter, James and John. One of them is recorded in Mark 5:37-42, Jesus had been summoned by Jairus, one of the Jewish leaders, whose daughter was dying. As Jesus went with him he was interrupted by a woman who needed healing because she had been sick for a long, long time. While the interruption was going on someone came to tell the man that his daughter had died. It must've been frustrating for him. Jesus assured him that he should not be afraid, only believe. Then he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
Repeatedly Jesus took Peter, James and John with him when he had a special ministry to preform. He was showing them things that they would have never understood if he simply told them. Peter was closest to Jesus and when the time came…
He saw Jesus in his glory. Jesus took them aside to the top of a mountain and as he prayed he was transfigured before them. Peter tells us about it, 2 Peter 1:16-18, For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
What a magnificent event! They had seen so much already! The dead were raised, the blind made to see, the lame walk and lepers were cleansed. The hungry, by the thousands, were fed with a handful of bread and fish. Each of these events happened more than once to drive home the truth about Jesus. They had seen the storm calmed and Peter had even walked on the water. And then, having seen all that, they now saw Jesus glowing in the presence of Moses and Elijah! Peter saw Jesus in his glory and…
He saw Jesus in his agony. Three times Jesus told them that he would be taken, beaten, crucified and raised again. But before those events he went into the garden. Matthew tells us about it in Matthew 26:36-40, Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?
During that prayer time in the garden Jesus was in such agony that he sweat great drops of blood. He was not afraid of the physical pain he was going to endure. He was going to experience something beyond the wildest imaginations of the angels. He was going to become sin for us so we might become the righteousness of God in him. He was not going to sin! But, instead he "became" sin for us. Peter would say later, "He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
Peter was closest to Jesus. In each of the lists of the disciples, or apostles, Peter is always mentioned first. Every time Jesus took aside some disciples for private teaching Peter was with them. He was closest to Jesus and he saw Jesus in his glory as well as in his agony.
For better or worse, Peter was a talker. He quickly became the spokesman for the group boldly announcing opinions and asking questions. He was one of the few who spoke openly with Jesus. When he did not understand...
He asked for explanation. Clearly, the disciples did not understand Jesus' teaching. Even when he spoke very plainly they had a hard time grasping the true meaning of what he said. So Peter spoke up! At one point Jesus said it wasn't what goes in the mouth that makes you unclean but what comes out of the mouth makes you unclean. Listen while I read, Matthew 15:15-20, But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
While the others stood around shaking their heads Peter boldly said, "Explain". He really wanted to know and was not afraid to ask. I think sometimes we're afraid to ask for explanations from God. I'm sure that God wants us to understand. So, when you're faced with a spiritual concept that you cannot grasp follow Peter's example and ask God for an explanation. James also said that we don't have because we don't ask. And even when we ask we ask self centeredly.
He asked for clarification. Jesus had told the disciples how to deal with conflict in the body of believers. He told them what to do when someone sins against one of them. The goal was to stop the broken relationship that was about to happen and regain a brother. Apparently Peter had heard that one should forgive seven times so he asked for clarification. Matthew 18:21-22, Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
I suppose Peter might have thought he was being generous in offering forgiveness seven times. He must've been startled when Jesus said, "seventy times seven." By the way, I don't believe Jesus meant that we were to keep a tab and forgive 490 times but not 491. I believe he meant that we were to forgive, and forgive, and forgive so long as we have opportunity. After all, he has forgiven us many times more than 490 times. Yes, Peter asked for explanation, he asked for clarification and…
He promised to be faithful. Jesus and his disciples were walking from the upper room to the garden of Gethsemane. Listen while I read, Matthew 26:30-35, And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Peter was very bold! He would not deny Jesus! He would never fall away! I'm sure he was positive that what he said was true. However, he had never been put in a situation like he would be in a few hours. He would be confronted by a servant girl who accused him of being with Jesus. He denied it! Then he was confronted again. Again he denied it! What an opportunity! He was asked twice to tell them about Jesus and he denied that he knew him. The next time he was confronted he proved that he was not a follower of Jesus by cursing and swearing! Then he heard the rooster crow, as Jesus had prophesied, and he went outside and wept bitterly.
Have you ever been accused of being a follower of Jesus? That's a good thing! If you were put on trial for your faith is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? I hope so.
Peter was a common fisherman who became an ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter learned who Jesus was early in their relationship. Have you learned who Jesus is? Have you committed your life to him? If not, today is the day of salvation. You have no promise of tomorrow.
All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Privilege of Giving 130519

2 Corinthians 8:1-9, We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
The apostle wanted the church in Corinth to know about the special attitude the churches of Macedonia had towards giving. Corinth was a wealthy cosmopolitan city while Macedonia was an impoverished rural area. In fact, the contrast exists even today. Poverty was a problem to the people of Macedonia. I suspect that Paul, as he traveled through Macedonia, mentioned the offering he was taking for the saints in Jerusalem without much expectation from the Macedonians. They became an example of generosity to Corinth. They knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage of Scripture has been very special to me since the early days of our ministry in this area. By God's grace we had been given a church building in the town of Maryland, in Otsego County, and soon after we were given the grace to buy the farm that became the pastor's home for the Maryland Baptist Church and the church camp. In order to make the church building useful a tremendous amount of renovation had to be done. We were dependent on God for our living and extra expenses.
One day I went to the mailbox and found a package that I immediately recognized as being the size of, and having the feel of, a Good News for Modern Man New Testament. Immediately I looked to see where it had come from. The handwritten return address was: Macedonia Principal, 2 Corinthians 8:9. The 4th class stamp on it was canceled in Babylon, Long Island. It was wrapped in brown paper. I was intrigued by this item so I went inside the house, got a knife and slit the wrapping so I could see the edge of the book. On the edge of the pages was written "GIVE" in big bold letters. I am fairly cynical so I assumed that someone had found the book with our address inside it and wanted me to give them something.
I carefully opened the cover to expose the flyleaf and found written there, "Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands - all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you." Luke 6:38 GNT. This reinforced my belief that someone wanted me to give them something. I ran my thumb along the edge of the book and fanned the pages. In doing that I discovered 10 bookmarks each one marking a verse, or passage, about giving. Each bookmark was a brand-new $100 bill!
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift. At the same time my joy was mixed with shame that I had expected so little from God. I went to the bank and deposited the money and immediately went to the lumber yard for building supplies. God is so good and he has met our needs so many times! I give glory to his name!
We need to remember that God does not need our gifts. The Bible tells us exactly that! God says in his word that every beast of the forest is his and that the cattle on a thousand hills are his. We need to remember that before he came to the earth…
Our Lord was rich. When Jesus came to the earth he was already the Creator God and was recognized as the firstborn of all creation. As such, he was the heir of all things! Let's look at what the Scripture says about Jesus…
As Creator. Listen to Paul's letter to the Colossians. Colossians 1:15-20, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
By him all things were created. That's an amazing statement and speaks clearly about his ownership. The laws of the United States are based on Judeo-Christian principles. Two collections of laws are of interest as we look at this passage of Scripture. The copyright laws and the patent laws. In these laws we find that the originators, or creators, have the right to protect their creations.
Not only were all things created by him they were also created for him. The God we serve, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, created the universe and owns it outright! Jesus was rich beyond our wildest imagination as the creator of the universe. His rights are more completely established…
As God. There are many passages of Scripture that show that Jesus is God. For our purposes we will use John 1:14-18, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
The only Son from the Father” might not establish the truth about Jesus being God but verse 18 is very clear: "No one is ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." In fact, John began his gospel with, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." That last phrase is very interesting. "The Word was God." If it were translated word for word from the Greek it would say, "God was the Word". I'm not scholarly enough to know why all English translations seem to avoid that construction. There might be a reason but I don't know what it is. If I were to say, "Aree is my son." Or, "My son is Aree." In both cases the meaning would be the same. It's very clear that John, in writing his gospel, wanted to affirm the truth that Jesus is the Creator God of the universe. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Jesus has always existed…
As the heir of all things. Look at what the writer of Hebrews had to say to us! Hebrews 1:1-4, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
When Jesus told the story that we call "The Parable of the Tenants" he told of a landowner who created a vineyard and rented it out to tenants. Then he moved far away. When he sent his servants to collect the rent the tenants refused to pay. They not only rejected the rent collectors they also beat some of them and killed some of them! The landowner, last of all, sent his son saying, "Surely they will respect my Son." The tenants, recognizing that the son was the heir, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Clearly, Jesus is the Son in the story.
Jesus was, and is, rich. He is the creator. He is God. And he is the heir of all things. But, for our sakes…
He became poor. It's hard to imagine the contrast between the glory of heaven and the gloom of the earth. Jesus, the creator God, the older brother who has the right of primogeniture, chose poverty for our sakes. He was poor…
In his birth. In order to be born in Bethlehem, as the prophecy said he would, he had to be moved, before his birth, from Nazareth. In order to achieve that God had the Roman Empire issue a decree. Let's read about it. Luke 2:1-7, In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
For the wealthy there was plenty of room. I am sure the Inn in Bethlehem had rooms for the wealthy. But for a common carpenter and his pregnant wife there was no room. I can imagine the innkeeper explaining that there was no place for anyone because of the order of the Romans. Those who were well-off had arrived early and secured the available space. Then, I imagine, he told them that they could use part of the stable. At least there would be hay there for them to make a simple bed. And the creator of the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a stable not in a palace!
He was born in poverty and he was poor…
In his early life. Listen to Luke's account. Luke 2:22-24, And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Proof of the poverty of the carpenter's family is seen in the sacrifice offered when they presented him to the Lord. The Law of the Lord is more specific than Luke's quote. What Leviticus says is, “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”
A lamb a year old and a pigeon, or a turtledove, were to be the sacrifices. But if she cannot afford a lamb then two turtledoves or two pigeons would be offered. The Royal Family were uprooted from their home and made to travel some 80 miles. Joseph on foot and Mary on a donkey would have covered 10 or 15 miles a day. The wealthy would have had horses or camels to ride on and cut the time in half. Not only was Jesus born in poverty but he was poor…
During his ministry. So far as we know, except for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus walked everywhere he went. Luke tells us about one instance in, Luke 9:57-58, As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Many times people say to Jesus, in the words of Mary Brown, "It may not be on the mountain's height or over the stormy sea; it may not be at the battle's front my Lord will have need of me. But if by a still small voice he calls to paths that I do not know, I'll answer dear Lord with my hand in Thine, "I'll go where you want me to go." I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, over a mountain or plain or sea. I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord. I'll be what you want me to be. And they mean well as did the man who confronted Jesus along the road. I am sure he was ready to join Jesus' band without question. But the implication is he had not counted the cost. If he went with Jesus he would find himself sleeping on the ground beside the road that night. The implication is he turned away and did not follow when he understood the poverty of Jesus. Let's look again at 2 Corinthians 8:9, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Wow, Jesus became poor so…
That believers might become rich!
I remember a pastor in Louisiana telling me about a man whose wife attended his church. The man came to church with his wife one Sunday determined to accept Christ as his Savior. Looking over the order of service he saw a word he didn't know and asked her, "What is 'tithe'?” She answered that it was 10% of income. He asked, "Net or gross?" She said, "Gross." He took out his pay stub and moved the decimal point and counted out his first tithe and put it in the offering plate. At the end of the service he came forward to accept Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. The Scriptures teach that…
God blesses givers. Listen to the prophet Malachi. Malachi 3:8-12, Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
Do you hear the promise? Many years ago I worked with my dad in the construction business. One day a sudden shower caused us to go inside the office. There were four or five men in the group. One of them spoke to my dad and said, "Mr. Bray, why is it that everything you do turns to gold?” Before my dad to answer, an elderly black preacher asked, "Can I tell him?" My dad, not sure what he would say, said, "Go ahead." The old preacher said, "That man is sitting under the window. The Bible says, 'Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.' He's just sitting under the window.”
You might say, "That's Old Testament law and we live under grace."
We need to remember…
Jesus continued the promise. Listen to what Jesus said, Luke 6:38, give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
The first word in that quote is "give" followed by the promise "it will be given to you". Not just what you gave, but good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.
Once Jesus rebuked the teachers of the law for tithing the herbs in their garden while leaving out more important things, justice, and the love of God. But he wasn't saying, "Don't tithe." Because he added, "These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." Not only did Jesus continue the promise…
Paul supported it. Let's go back to 2nd Corinthians chapter 9.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15, The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Two things need to be pointed out in this lengthy passage. First, stingy givers get stingy results and generous givers get generous results. Second, God enriches a person for a reason. And that reason is never so they can live like royalty on earth. We are enriched in every way so that we can be generous in every way. Such generosity causes many thanksgivings to God. God is glorified when people are generous givers. And the result is the gospel is respected by those who receive. God's purpose is very clear. Look back in verse 8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." Our sufficiency is not for our blessing but in order for us to abound in every good work. "The tithe is the Lord's" the Bible says and when we give it to him we are simply returning that which already belongs to him.
The Macedonian Christians understood that earthly wealth is a transient treasure. They knew that it was only money and, given time, it would be replaced. The needs of the Judean Christians was so great that the Macedonians needed to give what they could, and even more, to meet those needs. We need to remember that the first thing they did was give themselves to the Lord. Then they could comfortably give of their resources for the offering. Because they knew the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. They understood that when you give to the poor you lend to the Lord and he always repays! Have you given yourself to the Lord? He gave his life to set you free only a fool would refuse that gift!

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Taken up in Glory 130512

1 Timothy 3:14-16, I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
In the book of Acts, Luke tells us that Jesus appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days after his resurrection. The Scripture for the day probably is an early affirmation of faith for the first century church. Paul says we confess that the mystery of godliness is great. Christ appeared on earth to men and angels and was proclaimed to the nations and was believed on in the world. I want us to think about his ascension and glory.
Most Christians do not seem to grasp the concept of union with Christ. Everything about our life as believers is touched by the fact that we are in Christ, that he is in us, that we are like Christ and we are with Christ. In all aspects we are united with Him. He wasn't just taken up in glory he was glorified by the Father with the glory he had with the Father before the creation of the universe. Since we're united with Him…
His glory foreshadows our future glory. What we see in Christ now we will see in ourselves in the future. As the apostle John tells us, "When he appears we shall be like him." When he returns…
We may ascend to be with him. Look at what Paul told the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
If we should die before he returns he will bring us with him. Paul certainly expected to be alive when Christ returned. He said, "we who are alive" not, “those who are alive”! The Thessalonian letters are probably the first that Paul wrote and reflect his early understanding of the end times. Later, he would write to the Philippians, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Clearly, by that time he had come to believe that he would depart his earth body rather than see Christ return while still in it. Nonetheless, we may ascend with him if he returns during our lifetime.
We are encouraged to be faithful. The writer of Hebrews wants us to remember that we are following Jesus' footsteps. Listen while I read, Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
That great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews eleven encourage us to lay aside everything that hinders our growth in grace. They are the cheering section for our race! Every runner must have a goal — a finish line. Our goal is Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Knowing that he has run before us allows us to run with courage and expectation in the race that God has given us. Remember…
We have a promise to hold on to. And it was given to us by Jesus himself John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also..."
Because of the joy set before Jesus he endured the cross and despised the shame of it. He could see that the time was rapidly approaching when he would be betrayed, beaten and killed. But he was not discouraged! Instead, he knew that part of his departure would include the promise of his return. Not just a promise to return to the earth but a promise to return for his church. A promise to take his people to himself so that we could be with him. He went away to prepare a place for us. Several years ago a dear friend of mine, who was a faithful servant of the Lord, came to the end of his life. For several weeks he grew weaker and weaker. One day when I was visiting with him he said, "What are they building?" I replied that I didn't know of anything being built. He said, "Well I hear the noise of saws and hammers." Now, of course, this could be attributed to the drugs he was on. But that's not what I said to him. I asked him if he remembered that Jesus said he would go to prepare a place for us? He said, "Yes, Of Course!". I know that preparing a place for us in heaven is not likely being done with saws and hammers. But that would be a sound understood by a man who had built many things. Perhaps, he was just being given a reminder that in the Father's house are many rooms and that one awaited him in a few short days.
That man called in each of his grandchildren and presented them with the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave each of them a New Testament or Bible before he died. Yes, heaven is a real place and…
His ascension assures us that there is a place for us after death. We need to know that…
Jesus ascended to a real place. The eyewitness accounts show us that Jesus was not a spirit after his resurrection. Instead, he had a body of flesh and bones. He did not just disappear when it was time to leave the Earth. Luke gathered some of those eyewitness accounts and here are two of them. Luke 24:50-51, Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And, Acts 1:9, And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
When Jesus was taken up in glory he was in a real physical body. It was a resurrection body and therefore much better than the ones we walk around in. His resurrection body is in the improved version of the one he was born with. He was fully recognizable when He stood before his disciples and blessed them. He was surrounded by a cloud and lifted into the air as he was blessing them.
Where did he go? That surely was the topic of discussion among the disciples. I don't see how they could have avoided it! I do know the answer. He entered into paradise where he took his seat at the right hand of God the Father.
Where is paradise, or heaven? Now you have me, I don't know. But every reference to it speaks of "up" from Earth. Since Earth is a ball I am not sure what "up" means. Perhaps it simply means "higher than" or "greater than". Nonetheless, heaven is a real place. But that's another sermon. Actually I am grateful that it's another sermon because I'm not prepared to speak with authority on the subject right now. And, in fact, I may not be able to speak with authority on the subject this side of being there myself. Suffice it to say, heaven is real place…
Where God sees us as seated with Christ. Obviously, we are not now physically seated in heaven. Remember, God sees us that way according to Scripture. Let's read, Ephesians 2:4-7, 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.
Heaven is a real place and in some sense, not easy for us to understand, those who have come to Christ by grace through faith are already seated there. We have been saved, or born again. We, who were dead in our trespasses, have been made alive together with Christ. Not only were we made alive, but we were raised up with him and seated with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Not some spooky spirit world but a real material world that has a river of life with trees of life growing along its banks. A real material world that has a heavenly city, the New Jerusalem in it. Most of the images of heaven that men have produced miss the point altogether. For one thing, we will not be angels playing harps. Second, we will not be floating around on clouds. When the rich man looked into heaven, or paradise, he saw Lazarus, who had begged at his gate, and Abraham, in a real world. He himself, in hell, was in a real world. A world of hurt, and pain, and suffering, and memories of what had been. I assume he also had thoughts of what might have been adding to his torment. Most of us experience some of those memories and thoughts while we live. I certainly do! Yet, we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Jesus promised the thief on the cross a real place called paradise. And he promised that man that he would be there that day.
Heaven is a real place where God sees us seated,…
In the city of the living God. The writer of Hebrews gives us a glimpse in Hebrews 12:22-24, But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
I may not know where heaven is physically but I know that it's where Jesus is. There's an old saying, "Home is where the heart is!" And that's certainly true of the believer and our real home. The Bible tells us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. The reality is that we act much more like citizens of earth than citizens of heaven. There is an old song, I believe it was written by Jim Reeves, and it goes like this: This world is not my home I'm just a passing through, My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door, And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Oh Lord you know, I have no friend like you. If heaven's not my home then Lord what will I do? The angels beckon me from heaven's open door, And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
His glory foreshadows our future glory. His ascension in glory assures us that there is a place — a real place of substance — awaiting us and…
His ascension assures us of a share of his authority.
We will share responsibility for the creation. Look at what we find in Hebrews! Hebrews 2:5-9, Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
We are joint heirs with Jesus and as such share the responsibility and privilege of being caretakers of a future universe. If we are seated with him in heaven now how much more complete will our relationship be when history ends. There will be a renewed heaven and a renewed earth. If you read further down in Hebrews you will see that he is not ashamed to call us brothers. As part of the family we share the future with him. We share in a heavenly calling that includes a relationship and a government as God intended in Eden. If you study carefully you will see that everything taken away by sin in Genesis is restored by grace in Revelation. When all of history is wrapped up we will return to the garden. We will enjoy what Adam lost. Perhaps he'll enjoy all of that with us. We will be responsible, under Christ, for the management of heaven and…
We will judge the angels. This could be a shocking idea to many people who don't know the Bible very well. Let's read what Paul said, 1 Corinthians 6:3, Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
Paul is speaking here to the church advising them to stay away from civil courts when they have disputes among themselves. After all, if our destiny is to rule the angels we certainly should be able to rule in common civil matters among ourselves. Remember, we don't become angels, we will rule over the angels. When Jesus was taken up in glory and seated at the right hand of the Father he began to rule over the universe in a different way. He had won the battle over sin and death and set free from bondage those who would come to his grace through faith. Salvation makes as part of a new order while still being subject to earthly governments. At the same time, we have a responsibility to exercise care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Part of that care might include helping those who have a dispute with one another to settle out of court. After all, we are being prepared to join the resurrected Christ in ruling the universe.
Perhaps, the fact that we will ultimately judge the angels might influence their concern for us. After all, if you have the opportunity to train someone who will be in charge of you you will want them trained well!
The Bible tells us…
We will have future power. Look at what the risen Lord Jesus promised in his letters to the churches in Revelation 2:26-27, The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And; 3:21, The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
I am certainly not sure how this will work. But it is definitely a different understanding than most people have of heaven. It should be encouraging to know that heaven is not just a place where we lie around playing harps. Yes, we will praise God in heaven but the images offered to us in Scripture should help us understand that we continue to learn and grow and have responsibility.
I remember well how, as a child, I read about our being pillars in the Temple of our God. Now, I am a rather literal minded individual with an excellent imagination. The image that came to my mind was one of me standing nice and straight with the roof of the Temple sitting on my head forever! After all, that's what a pillar does! Of course that's not what Jesus meant! Much of what John saw in Revelation was very hard for him to put into words after all it was beyond anything he had ever experienced. So the Holy Spirit guided him to use words we could understand rather than present ideas we could not understand.
Jesus began his intercessory prayer for us in John chapter 14 by asking the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son may glorify the Father. Jesus goes on in that prayer to pray for us and all who would believe in Him. Then he says that he has given us the glory that the Father has given to him! The death of Christ is essential to our salvation because he took our sins into his own body when it was nailed to the cross. His resurrection is essential evidence that he has power over death. And his ascension is assurance that he continues to exist in a real place where we will join him at our death, or when he returns, whichever comes first. Are you ready? If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior you need to focus on growth in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. We have a future shared with other believers under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and glory.

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Resurrection Body 130505

Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is what Easter is all about. Earlier in this chapter the Apostle tells us, "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you're still in your sins." Then he notes that someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" Paul calls that person "foolish". Then Paul uses the same metaphor as Jesus. Jesus' words were, "...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Jesus, of course, was talking about his own death. Paul expands on the idea showing that the seed is much different from the plant that grows from it. And then he moves on with the comparison in verses 42-49.
1 Corinthians 15:42-49, So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
As the metaphore unfolds Paul shows us that he is talking about the resurrection body as being different from the earthly body. He does so by comparing Adam to the resurrected Jesus.
Let me hasten to say that the term "spiritual" does not mean immaterial. Jesus was not a spirit in his resurrection body but he was flesh and bones raised to perfection. Now, let's see how this comparison plays out and what it has to do with us today.
The first man — Adam. Was, at the time of his creation,…
In the image of God. We sometimes forget what Adam was like before he sinned. Listen while I read from the creation account. Genesis 1:26-27, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (And verse 31a) And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Adam, the federal head of the human race, was created in the image of God. He was given dominion over all creation. Male and female were both resident in the original Adam. In order for there to be a female person something had to be taken from the side of the man, Adam. At the end of each day's creation God said that it was good. At the end of the day when man was created God said that it was very good! Sinless and perfect in every way, Adam and Eve lived in the world as rulers over all creation.
When sin came into the world mankind, who was above all the creation, was…
Fallen. Listen while I read from, Genesis 3:17-24, And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
It's hard to imagine the emotions brought on by the fall of man. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and broke the one rule they were given and immediately they suffered the consequences. They awoke one morning the Lords of creation. Established by God over everything else that was created. At some point during the day they listened to Satan speaking. They doubted God! They believed that God would withhold a good thing from them! They believed a lie spoken by the master liar — Satan himself! And when they did they were immediately experiencing emotions they had never felt before. Suddenly they were ashamed of their bodies! When they heard the voice of the Lord God of the afternoon of that day they do not rush to meet him, instead, they tried to hide themselves from the creator of the universe! They covered their body with leaves and cowered in the shrubbery. They now found themselves to be…
Inherently sinful. Paul describes the immediate consequence of their sin in Romans 5:12-14, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Notice that Paul does not say that sin came into the world through one woman! Yet it was Eve who was deceived and drawn into temptation. It was Eve that discovered that the fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes and desirable because it would make one wise. It was Eve who ate the fruit and gave it to her husband. Eve was deceived! Adam volunteered! It was Adam who had been given instructions by God concerning the tree and its fruit. Therefore, it was Adam who sinned. When he took the fruit and ate sin came into the world and death through sin. Inherited guilt came to the human race! And when that happened death came to all who descended from Adam and Eve. Man, created in the image of God, was now fallen from the loftiest heights imaginable to the depth of degradation and sin and inherently sinful. In an instant the grace of God was removed from mankind and immediately the innocent creation began to suffer. In order to cover man's guilt and shame innocent animals died to give their skin as clothing for the guilty pair.
Just as we inherit body shape, hair color, skin color and so many other things we also inherit Sin! A debt we could not pay was now imposed on the entire human race. We needed a Redeemer! The first man, Adam, brought sin and death into the world and we needed…
The second man — Jesus. The Offspring of the woman was…
Promised. Listen while I read Genesis 3:15, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
From the beginning of creation God had a plan to meet the needs of sinful man. That plan included hostility between Satan and the woman, Eve. And here, at the beginning, God promised an offspring from the woman who would bruise the head of Satan. What the human race needed was a new family, a new federal head — Jesus Christ the son of God.
That promise was fulfilled. One of the best descriptions of the coming of the son of God is found in Galatians 4:4-6, But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
God sent forth his son. Not as a conqueror on a white horse leading an army of angels to destroy his enemies. He sent a baby, born in a stable, born of a woman, born under the law in order to provide redemption. Sent forth his son! The concept is hard to imagine! The creator of the universe entered into a Virgin's womb, was born in a stable, raised in the house of a carpenter in a minor village of an obscure Roman province. He remained in obscurity except for a brief incident at the age of twelve. He worked with his hands as a carpenter until he was 30 years old. And all things he was…
Pleasing to the Father. Let's read the words of Scripture found in Matthew 3:13-17, Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The apostle John adds an interesting note to this event. When John the Baptizer saw Jesus coming toward him he immediately knew, perhaps for the first time, who Jesus really was. And he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." He saw that Jesus, his cousin, was not just a boy he grew up with. This Jesus was the sacrifice required for Adam's sin inherited by all of us and for the sins we all commit and cannot pay for ourselves. John saw that Jesus was the answer to the question of sin's guilt.
Getting back to Matthew, we see that John hesitated because he knew that he needed Jesus' baptism. John baptized with the baptism of repentance but only Jesus could cover man's sin. Jesus ordered him to go ahead, not because Jesus needed to repent, but in order to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, to do what was right in the plan of God.
And when they did this heaven opened, the Spirit of God descended onto the scene, and a voice — the voice of God — said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased"! What was it God said after the creation of Adam? He saw everything that he had created, completed by the creation of man, and he said that it was very good.
Now, the Lamb of God is introduced to the world to walk the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea, oh yes, and Samaria as well. He lived among them a perfect life with no sin of his own. He taught them what only God could teach. He confirmed his teaching with multiple miracles. And finally, he came back to Jerusalem to be taken into custody, to be beaten and crucified. Then on the third day he rose from the dead proving that he had power over sin and death. He received his resurrection body in a tomb just outside Jerusalem on the first Easter morning. Now, God could provide…
Redemption in Christ.
Transferred citizenship. We were born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such received our inheritance from them. We were born dead in trespasses and sins. But when Jesus came… Listen to what Paul wrote to the Colossians. Colossians 1:13-14, He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
You see we were born in the kingdom of darkness. Now, because of the work of Christ on the cross in the grave and through the power of the resurrection we can be delivered from the domain of darkness. God transfers those of us who come to him through faith into the kingdom of his beloved Son!
Now we have a new family. I remember how clearly Miss Bertha Smith illustrated the concept. She put up a flannel board. Oh, I know, the younger ones can't even imagine what that means. Just imagine that she put up a large touchscreen tablet and this will all make sense to you.
On the flannel board she put many cutouts of the Chinese character for "man". They were all black because they were born dead in trespasses and sins. Then, she placed a cross up on the board along with an image of a tomb and she explained that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man. Then she said that when a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ they are taken to the cross and placed there with Jesus. From there the little image of the man was taken to the tomb and then brought out covered in white. In so doing she demonstrated the…
Transformed image. Listen while I read 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Do you ever wonder why all these things happen to you? I used to have a large button with the letters PBPWMGIFWMY on it. Occasionally someone would ask, "What on earth does that mean?" And I would tell them that those letters mean Please Be Patient With Me God Isn't Finished With Me Yet. Thank God he has better plans for us than we currently are enjoying. In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 we are told to look on the glorified Jesus because we are being transformed into the same image. Amazing! We are being transformed into the image of Jesus! That being true God certainly isn't finished with me yet! Yes, God himself is transforming us from one degree of glory to another. One day we will be glorified with him and…
Transported with him. What will my resurrection body be like? How did Paul describe it to the Philippians? Listen while I read Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Remember last week's sermon? We are already, in God's eyes, raised up with Jesus and seated with him in heavenly places. We have been naturalized as citizens of heaven. The power of God raised Jesus from the dead with a new body, a resurrected body, a glorious body and that same power will transform our lowly body to be like his.
John said the same thing, perhaps a little simpler,
1 John 3:2, Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Now we are God's children and when he appears we shall be like him. What happens in the meantime? Do we wait for the resurrection? I certainly don't have all the answers but I do know something of what the Scriptures teach by illustration. When Saul asked the witch of Endor to call up the spirit of Samuel and it really happened, much to her amazement. Saul recognized Samuel when he appeared. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mount of Transfiguration they recognized Moses and Elijah.
When Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man, in hell, looked into paradise (how horrible that must be! To be in hell and see paradise) he recognized Lazarus, the beggar that had lain at his gate, along with Abraham. In every case these people looked as they had before they died.
I do not believe we turn into ghosts, or spirits, at death. And we certainly do not become angels! The Scriptures teach that to be away from the body is to be present with the Lord. There is no sleeping in the grave nor is there a spirit world we will live in. Jesus turned to the believing thief on the cross and told him, "…today you will be with me in paradise." In Revelation we are told that paradise is a physical place where we will be able to eat fruit from the tree of life. But that's another sermon.
John tells us, "what we will be has not yet appeared." However, we have a lot of evidence that Jesus had a physical body with "flesh and bones", and he could eat and drink, break bread, prepare breakfast, and be touched. Jesus rose from the tomb in the same physical body that had died. He repeatedly appeared to his disciples over a period of 40 days in that same physical body. He ascended into heaven in that same physical body and promises to return again in the same manner. Jesus clearly shows us that his resurrection body was a physical body. Remember, at salvation, we are raised up with him and seated with him in heavenly places. Paul told the Philippians that he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. I don't know about you but I daily grow more eager to be transformed. Put your faith in him who died for you that you might have life eternally.

All scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.