Apr 7, 2010

Empowered

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Christian Disciples are Empowered!

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G'day and welcome to Partake and to our series "Easter Weekend 2010"!  This is the seventh podcast of this series.  Last time we looked at what is a Christian Disciple and what should be the goal of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  Today we look at being empowered to be a committed disciple of Jesus Christ. The catalyst of this empowerment is the arrival of the Holy Spirit into the life of the new believer.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had talked about how after he departed, that the Holy Spirit would come (John 15v26). Jesus, Himself, said it would be better for him to go away and send the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 16v7). We know from the other writings in the New Testament who the Holy Spirit is and what his ministry is.  The Holy Spirit's prime role is that he will glorify Jesus Christ the Son of God, who is to be praised and glorified (John 16v13-14). He will testify (John 15v26) and be a witness for , Jesus Christ (Acts 1v8). Another part of His role is to be the paraclete or comforter.  He is one called to stand alongside those who are followers of Jesus Christ (John 14v16).

Holy Spirit empowerment!

The Holy Spirit ministers to the Christian Disciple, in the same Jesus would if he were here in person.  The Holy Spirit interprets and illuminates God's Word to people (John 16v12-15; 1 Corinthians 2v10-16)! Moreover, He was sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16v8). The Holy Spirit lives inside all those who call themselves a follow of Jesus Christ (Romans 8v9; Gal 2v20; Colossians 1v25-27) and He is their seal of assurance that they are now God's possession (2 Corinthians 1v22; Ephesians 1v3). He enters the moment the person has been born again or become a follower/disciple of Jesus Christ.

All Christian Disciples are commanded to be filled with the Spirit and to keep on being filled with the Spirit!  Being filled with the Spirit, in the biblical sense, means allowing the Holy Spirit's to have control or domination of our lives. The imperative here is that we are to be filled (Ephesians 5v18), and go on being filled. He gives power to enable Christian Disciples to evangelise (Acts 1v8; 4v8, 31).  It is he who is transforming the Christian Disciple into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 7-18), as the Christian Disciples walks in, lives in, and are being led by the Spirit (Galatians. 5v16; Romans 8v13). It is he who equips us for service. God is working in you to will and to act accordingly to his purpose (Philippians 2v13) and to be His witnesses (Acts 1v8). It is He who equips Christian Disciples for service through the giving of spiritual gifts.  Where people's lives become more holy and more like Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12v3; 2 Corinthians 13v7), which is the greatest evidence of the Spirit's work.

The greatest evidence for the power of the Holy Spirit is not by way of signs and wonders and tongues, healings or other miracles.  The greatest evidence that you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, controlling you and of you being submitted to Him is by being continually transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ.  Transformed by allowing yourself to be so intimate with Jesus Christ, that people will notice you have changed and will ask you why!  Being filled with the Spirit is allowing yourself to be continually controlled by Him and exercising His will, power and authority.  That is one of the reasons the early church grew phenomenally and why the church is still here 2000 years later.  The Pharisees and Sadducees are long gone.  The Roman Empire collapsed. But... But... But... Jesus' church still stands, is still growing, and will one day be joined with Jesus in eternity, to the praise, honour and glory of Him who will return!

How are Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit?

Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 12v1, 4-7 "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. ... There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

When Jesus said to His apostles "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14v12), it was through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14v17), and impartation of Spiritual Gifts, that His words were fulfilled.

Part of the empowerment in the life of a Christian is to enable them to serve - serve God and serve others.  In order to be enabled to serve, the Holy Spirit gives to all Christian disciples "spiritual gifts." The term "Spiritual Gift" derives from the Greek word ‘Charismata'. They are also called grace gifts, which may refer to any gift God gives out of the abundance of His grace and are given to all Christians as God sees fit (1 Corinthians 12v11).  There are four main passages in the New Testament regarding Spiritual Gifts.  These are Romans 12v3-8; 1 Corinthians 12v1-10, 28-31; Ephesians 4v11-12 and 1 Peter 4v10-11. The lists of gifts, given in the New Testament are representative of spiritual gifts and are not to be taken as a conclusive listing.  The gifts quoted in various passages of the New Testament are: "administration, apostle, discernment, evangelism, exhortation giving, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, leadership, mercy, miracles, pastor, prophecy, service, teaching, tongues, tongues interpretation, wisdom." As Christian Disciples however, Paul commands that we "try to excel in gifts that build up the church." (1 Corinthians 14v12).  When the church is built up, unity will inevitably prevail.  The diversity of Spiritual gifts within each local church helps build unity.

All Christian Disciples have Spiritual Gifts, for "in his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." (Romans 12v6)  God the Holy Spirit, through His infinite wisdom, mercy and grace bestows these gifts that belong to Him, upon His servants, Christian Disciples, and these gifts are to be used primarily to bring glory to Jesus Christ! (1 Peter 4v11).  They are opportunities for Christian Disciples to serve other people.  Some gifts like teaching, helping or leadership quite possibly are enhancements of natural abilities whilst others like faith, healing and miracles are from the Spirit's empowerment alone.

The reason that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to Christian Disciples is so that the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4v12), for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12v7, 14v12) and "so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4v12).  These three reasons signify that God wants Christian Disciples to be active in service and not still like stagnant water.  That is why we have been given gifts.  If these gifts are not used for God's purposes, then they are meaningless.  So, what is an appropriate response by Christian Disciples in relation to these gifts?

As the Bible is primary to spiritual growth and understanding, the Christian Disciple needs to study God's word diligently, enhancing the relationship and building bonds.  Then the Christian Disciple needs to pray and ask in deep prayer and cogitation.  Thirdly by asking the advice and wisdom of the leaders in the church we attend or from friends who know you well.  Lastly, it is also through asking questions of your self.  What do I enjoy? What am I good at? If God blesses what you are doing and it is fruitful, you may have discovered an area where your gifting lies!

As Christian Disciples, we are dependent upon each other, just as one part of the human body has dependence on another part.  That is why we serve each other and use the gifts generously given by God.  As all Christian Disciples have gifts, we have a responsibility to discover and develop them (1 Timothy 4v14)!  God has called Christian Disciples and equipped them with spiritual gifts, and they are not to be neglected!  We are to discover, discern, develop and put into effect our spiritual gifts, so that God can be glorified and His church built up!

As we are not to neglect our gifts, or let other Christian Disciples neglect their gifts, we are to fan the gift into flame (2 Timothy1v6).  Much like blowing on embers and stirring them up will restart the flames of a fire!  To do this Christian Disciples are to employ the gift faithfully and by asking God to continue their development, strengthening and opportunities to use them! Seek gifts that build up others, commands Paul (1 Corinthians 14v1-12). Ask God faithfully for gifts that give opportunity for service to God and others!

A Warning!

The Holy Spirit can also be grieved or quenched! Mainly this is when the Holy Spirit is not allowed to do the work He wants to do within the life of a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ.  But I am also persuaded, that it occurs a lot in churches today, where churches in a town seem to be almost in competition with each other.  One church will say we do this and that's the Holy Spirit way, and your church can't possibly be a true church because you aren't doing things the same way as us.  As we have seen, all Christians have spiritual gifts, or charismata, so therefore all Christians and churches are charismatic.  That makes a mockery of the labels we place on churches: for example "we are a Charismatic Church" Oh how the Holy Spirit is limited in our generation and put into boxes and labelled, by those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit works in quiet ways as well as spectacular ways.  We only have to look at the variety of churches in the New Testament letters. The Holy Spirit is working in every church in some capacity, because the Holy Spirit lives within each individual Christian! So to say a particular church is a Holy Spirit church and that others aren't, is surely grieving the Spirit and limiting His work. The Holy Spirit works in different people and different churches as the requirements change. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in different ways, and the way He is working in you, may just be completely different to the way He is working in somebody else.  The way the Holy Spirit is working in your church, may well not be the way He is working in another church.  Each person and each church has differing needs, outlooks, personality, temperament and desires - the Holy Spirit knows best how to operate within each one. , So let us let Him get on with the job, and we get on with job of showing we can work together as a united body of believers to world that needs the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Be empowered. Be going for Jesus. Be telling others and showing others of the incredible love Jesus Christ has for all people. Remember, Jesus already has all the supremacy and authority - so let us, as His followers and disciples, avail ourselves of Him! Be empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives inside you, changing your heart from a house to a home fit for a king.  . Thank you.

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Apr 6, 2010

Easter 2010 - Hallmarked

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Hallmarks of Following Jesus

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G'day and welcome to Partake and to our series "Easter Weekend 2010"!  This is the sixth podcast of this series.  Last time we looked at Jesus ascending into the clouds, proclaiming He has authority over all things and commanding His disciples to go all over the earth, tell everybody the good news, baptize them and disciple them! Today we are going to look briefly at what a Christian Disciple is and then look briefly at what the goal of being a Christian Disciple should be!

1. What is a Disciple?

Before He ascended, Jesus commanded "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18-20).

In these verses Jesus commanded his Disciples to go and make other disciples.  In order to fulfil this command, He assigned the three tasks of going, baptizing and teaching as obligatory activities of daily life.  Baptism was symbolic of coming under the Lordship of the Trinitarian Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Baptism leads to teaching, which is a core part of disciple making.  Teaching was not just to be an oral activity, but an activity of helping everyone, particularly the weakest.  These instructions to Jesus' Disciples are just as applicatory to us today.  Some people today think that going to church makes them a Christian Disciple! But going to church doesn't make you a Christian Disciple, than going to Kentucky Fried Chicken once a week makes you a Christian Disciple!

The word ‘Christian' means ‘a little Christ'.  As Christians we are to be ‘little Jesus', as it were.  Key to our being as Jesus, is to be actively engaged in discipleship. Discipleship of Jesus means that Christians are to train, be trained, instruct and be instructed in the way of life Jesus showed.  To listen to some Churches today, it is all about just believing and nothing to do with training, instruction and following Jesus' way in life. Even though scripturally, sex is only to be within the confines of a committed heterosexual marriage, a lot of people who would call themselves evangelical Christians believe that it is fine to have sex before marriage.  They have fallen into the belief, that belief is enough.  They are being taught that church is all about having a high entertainment value.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is not just somebody who believes in Him. Rather it is following Him and letting Him permeate every aspect of life. Church is not about entertainment as its primary goal, but rather it is about worshipping God with awe and majesty and learning how to follow Jesus more closely.  That is why Jesus commands us to take up our cross daily.

The word Disciple derives from the Latin word discipulus, which itself is formed from the Greek word for pupil or learner, mathētēs.  The New Testament uses this word not only of Jesus' followers but also of those who followed Moses (John 9v28); the Pharisees (Mark 2v18); John the Baptist (Mark 11v2) and of Paul (Acts 9v25).  Therefore a Christian Disciple in its base form is a follower of Jesus, or a learner of Jesus. A learner is a person who is undergoing constant life change and being transformed increasingly like Christ.  A Disciple is somebody learning to be like Jesus in every facet of life, practising His presence with him or her and so engaging their life with Him so that He truly lives through them.

What is the primary mark of being a Disciple of Jesus Christ? It is that the Christian Disciple loving God totally and is loving people openly (Matthew 22v37-40).  As Christian Disciples, we are called to remain in this world, and to be growing and maturing.  Being a Disciple is not about how much you have of God, but rather how much of you, God has.  That is a another mark of being a Christian Disciple - handing control of all aspects of life to Jesus, because in all things He has the supremacy and the authority!  This is partly why the New Testament churches were seen as radical communities.  They were places filled with people dedicated in every aspect of life to Jesus Christ and His total supremacy, authority and will.  That is to be exhibited in the goal of all those who claim to be a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2.  The Goal!

I wonder what you think the goal of being a Disciple of Jesus Christ is?  Praying a lot? Perhaps it is reading and memorizing the whole Bible?  Doing lots of evangelism or doing lots of work for the church?  As admirable as those things are, they are not the goal for a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:3-6 "We know that we have come to know Jesus if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

The ultimate goal for any Christian Disciple is to be as John wrote in the passage I read earlier: to walk and live as Jesus did.  That doesn't mean walking around in sandals, wearing white clothes and traversing the terrain where Jesus Himself walked.  The Apostle John means for us to be radical and holy, living lives worthy of that of Jesus, and in complete obedience to Him.

How can we be radical, obedient and holy? Jean Calvin said that denying oneself and relying on God for all things is the goal of the Christian life.  This can only be attained by total submission to the Holy Spirit and living a life of constantly "dealing with God" in all matters and letting Jesus permeate every thought, attitude and action.  Jesus already has all the authority and supremacy over every conceivable situation the Christian Disciple finds them selves in! So as a Christian Disciple, you may as well allow Jesus to take control of the situation instead of worrying and trying to do it in your own strength!  That is how Christian Disciples are to be radical and holy.  That is how a Christian Disciple endeavours to reach the goal of being Jesus to others!  This is done by a constant renewing of the mind (Ephesians 4v23), with a heart willing to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.  It is by loving others in such a way, that the end of a Disciple's generosity is only when the resources have expired.  A Disciple must live and walk as Jesus did (1 John 2v6).  There is no better way for a Disciple of Jesus Christ to fulfil this goal, than by imitating Jesus and obeying his command to "...take up your cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9v23).  This is seen as a higher challenge for the mind!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer extrapolates this further when he comments on Discipleship as a leading to death for all who follow Christ; either as a physical death or in being ostracized from the wider community.

For the first century Christians, just as in some parts of today's world, systematic persecution and martyrdom was a reality, as evident in the story of Stephen (Acts 7v59).  Yet it also means enduring suffering, for this is how a Christian Disciple maintains a "communion with Christ".  For it is through suffering, that we share with the crucified Jesus.  The bitterness of our cross is made sweeter, the more we dwell on the sufferings of Jesus and our enabled fellowship with Him.

As Christian individuals, we are linked together in a Christian community through rebirth, and our relationship exists only through our relationship with Christ.  There is no such thing as an individual member of the radical Christian community.  Members are interdependent upon one another, bound by a corporate and inclusive personality.  The church community is to be dynamic by nature, and individualism is oxymoronic and not coherent with New Testament teaching.

As we saw in our first study, serving others, as Jesus did throughout his ministry, is to be part of the life of anybody who would call himself or herself a follower of Jesus Christ. It is one of the hallmarks of being a Christian. Another hallmark is that of allowing others to serve us, just as Peter had to allow Jesus to wash his feet. By both serving and being served, we reflect the life of Jesus Christ. When serving and being served are out of balance, then usually it is our own innate pride that is at fault.

But how were the early church and the first Christian Disciples so dynamic and effective? The answer in our final Podcast released tomorrow. Thank you!

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Apr 5, 2010

Easter 2010 - Jesus Authority & Command

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Jesus’ Authority & Command

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The Story continues

G'day and welcome to Partake and to our series "Easter Weekend 2010"! Last time we looked at the resurrection and how Jesus Christ was raised to life by God Father in the power of God the Holy Spirit! Before that, Jesus was forsaken on the cross as he bore the sins of the world - the sins of all history - past, present and future. God had to turn his back, and forsake His son, because God is holy and the Father couldn't bear to look upon sin. So He had to forsake Him, abandon Jesus if you like. But it was never going to be a permanent forsaking or abandonment! Only a temporary abandonment and this was shown in the resurrection when Jesus came to life again! Think of when you were taken to your first day of school, and your parents left you behind. You were forsaken and abandoned by your parents then. But that was always also going to be a temporary abandonment as they came to collect you later on in that day.

So, as we have seen, the good news is that Jesus is still living. The rest of the four Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts tell us a little more of what Jesus did before He ascended into the heavens.

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Luke 24v45-53

Jesus' resurrection is the catalyst for the mission of the church, beginning with the disciples and throughout history. Jesus' mission to earth is coming to an end and shortly He will be returning to the right hand of the Father. Before He does so though, He has some more words to say to His disciples.

Jesus' Authority

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' authority is a major theme. Let me read from Matthew 28v16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Where Matthew records Jesus doing miracles, this is to highlight Jesus authority in action and not just merely in words. Matthew records Jesus' authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9v6) and he imparted authority to his disciples for a short time when they went on a mission in Matthew 10. Jesus has authority (Matthew 28v18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings. Jesus has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. This means regardless of what ever the Christian Disciple faces, Jesus is in control. Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We can obey him regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a great comfort to know, that he is in control of everything!! Through his death on the cross and his rising from the dead, Jesus has conquered all enemies.

Now people sometimes confuse authority with authoritarian. Authoritarian means severe, rigidity and a dictator. None of these things apply to Jesus. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey him and live a life worthy of him. As the Christian depends on Jesus' authority, the Christian Disciple gains wisdom, guidance, and power.

But the story does not stop there! Jesus walks with us, wherever we go and in particular in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who proclaim to follow Him (Mark 16v12-13, Luke 24v13-32). Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24v27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord's Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.

One of those people is Elizabeth. Here is her story of how Jesus meets with her!

Easter is a time of reflection and promise for me. It is a time to be one with Christ. I have gone through many trials and tribulations in my life. It is because of the Promise that Christ gave us when, He died and then resurrected that I know I am able to overcome any obstacle placed before me. I can rise above in faith knowing that I have been given divine inheritance to move forward as a soldier marching to war for God and reaching towards victory in his name.

Jesus is my light, my love, my essence in life. I live to be close to him and to serve him well with all my heart and soul. I Celebrate the Christ that lives in me through the Holy Spirit and that empowers me to keep going on even in the midst of chaos or turmoil. He leads me to greener pastures, He restores my soul, He shows me unconditional love, He leads me to his heart forevermore. I am filled with the Christ like spirit and I receive God's joy, love, hope, and wisdom to know what is right in my life.

You Go

If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then the Disciples would not have had a story to tell. But Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and the early church exploded numerically as the twelve Disciples exercised Jesus' authority and His power. We read about the growth of the early church in the Book of Acts and we read about the early church in the letters of the New Testament.

In these verses from Matthew 28, which I read earlier, Jesus commanded his Disciples to go make other disciples. In order to fulfil this command, He assigned the three tasks of going, baptizing and teaching as obligatory activities of daily life. Baptism was symbolic of coming under the Lordship of the Trinitarian Godhead. Baptism leads to teaching, which is a core part of disciple making. Teaching was not just to be an oral activity, but an active of helping everyone, including the weakest. These instructions to Jesus' Apostles are just as applicatory to us today. If we are following Jesus Christ, we are the product of the original disciples and early church following Jesus' words abundantly.

Christianity is a faith whereby all Christian Disciples are to show and tell others of the goodness of God. Indeed God Himself is a missionary God. Ever since Genesis 3 and the fall of man, God has been on a mission to bring and call people back to himself. That was the purpose of the nation of Israel, to be a light to all nations of the goodness and glory of God! That was purpose when God, who is outside of time and space, entered human history taking on human flesh and restricted himself in a human body as the man we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus' whole mission was one of calling people back to life in God. As followers of Jesus Christ, all Christian Disciples are to evangelize. Evangelism is showing and telling others of God's message of reconciliation to all people of all time. It is not forcing people to adopt Church standards (1 Corinthians 5v12) and nor is it simply a message of join the church as a symbol of good works (Ephesians 2vv8-10).

Tell Others!

Telling others about Jesus is evangelism. Talking about Him, letting him permeate conversations. Revealing how He has changed your life! Showing the Gospel by living a constantly transformed life, reveals that Jesus Christ still lives today. The prime motivation for evangelism is out of gratitude for what God has done, in that we love because he loved us first. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5v14, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died." As his servants we are to tell and live out God's reconciling message

We are all to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4v5), telling and showing people the love of God. In the last words of Matthew's Gospel, all Christian Disciples are to make disciples throughout the whole earth! Making disciples is not just evangelism but ensuring that guidance and care is given to new believers. How is this achieved? How can the Christian Disciple exhibit Jesus' authority and power in evangelism? Who gives the impetus for Christian Disciples once Jesus had ascended back to the right hand of God the Father?

Its not easy! Nobody said that it would be! The messages Christians tell others is called the Gospel. It is anathema and unpopular with people. The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel. There is a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim. There is a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure-all being the central claim. There is a false Gospel, which says Jesus when laden with the sins of the world, was not forsaken by God the Holy Father, who cannot stand to look at sin. For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, the true and legitimate Gospel is "Jesus and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2v2).

Finally, part of Evangelism is verbally identifying with Jesus Christ. Never apologize for what you know and believe to be a superior way of life. However, that does not mean to be smug and arrogant about it because we are commanded to walk humbly and meekly. It means to just be natural about it. As a college principle told me a long time ago and I still remember the words "Let your spiritual life be natural and your natural life be spiritual." One way to do this is to project the idea that you are not your own boss - Jesus is your Lord and allow him to take both the strain of life issues and also the glory and majesty. Remember that those who reject you also reject Jesus.

In the next of our series, the final one, we will look at what a Christian is, what the goal of those calling themselves Christian is to be and the role of the Holy Spirit in their life.

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Apr 4, 2010

Easter 2010 - Sunday

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Sunday - Risen!

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G'day and welcome to Partake and to our series "Easter Weekend 2010"!  Last time we looked again at the cross and ask some fundamental questions about it: what is the cross about, why is the cross important and also an imperative of historical and biblical Christianity.  Today we look at the resurrection and its significance not only for Christianity but for the whole world.

We start not in the Gospels, but from the writings of the Apostle Paul who gives a summary of the Gospel resurrection record in 1 Corinthians 15v1-8.

Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers at once, most of whom remain until now, but some have also fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as to the child born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.

That was the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church about the crucified Jesus having been raised from the dead - physically! All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell us that Jesus was crucified, had died and was buried in an empty tomb. What do these four Gospels say about Jesus' resurrection or rising from the dead?

Let us first look at the sequence of events over the period of time after Jesus death till He ascended. Now remember, the Gospels are documents which have recorded historical events.

The tomb is empty

  • Two Marys watch the burial: (Matthew27v61, Mark 15v47, Luke23v54-55)
  • Roman soldiers guard the tomb and place an official Roman seal upon it: (Matthew 27v62-66)
  • Women prepare burial spices then rest: (Luke 23v56)
  • An angel rolls the stone away: (Matthew 28v2-4)
  • Women arrive at dawn with spices: (Matthew 28v1, Mark 16v1-4, Luke 24v1-3, John 20v1)
  • Angels appear to women: (Matthew 28v5-7, Mark 16v5-7, Luke 24v4-8)
  • Women dart back to tell disciples: (Matthew 28v8, Mark 16v8, Luke 24v9-11, John 20v2)
  • Peter and John investigate the empty tomb: (Luke 24v12, John 20v3-9)
  • Peter and John go home: (Luke 24v12, John 20v10)
  • Mary Magdalene weeps by the tomb: (John 20v11)
  • Mary sees two angels: (John 20v12-13)

Jesus' post-resurrection appearances

  • Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: (Mark 16v9, John 20v14-17)
  • Jesus appears to the other women: (Matthew 28v9-10)
  • Women report to the disciples: (Mark 16v10-11, John 20v18)
  • Guards testify to the priests: (Matthew 28v11-15)
  • Jesus meets two people on the Emmaus Road: (Mark 16v12-13, Luke 24v13-32)
  • Jesus appears to Simon Peter: (1 Corinthians 15v5, Luke 24v34)
  • 2 report to disciples in Jerusalem: (Luke 24v33-35)
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples less Thomas: (Luke 24v36-43, John 20v19-24)
  • Disciples report to Thomas: (John 20v25)
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples and Thomas: (Mark 16v14, John 20v26-29)
  • Jesus appears to seven people: (John 21v1-14)
  • Jesus questions Peter 3 times: (John 21v15-23)
  • Jesus appears to 500 people: (1 Corinthians 15v6)
  • Jesus appears to James: (1 Corinthians 15v7)

Evidences for the resurrection

These facts remain for the resurrection. Look at them and study them. Notice the changed attitude of the disciples after seeing the risen Jesus. They changed from defeated, cowardly people to victorious, brave people. Nobody who could have produced the dead body of Jesus did so. Their silence is as significant as the preaching of the Apostles. Or take the multiple appearances of Jesus to various numbers of individuals and groups of people at, various times of the day and in differing circumstances. This shows that Jesus' resurrection was physical in nature! Some people say Jesus' resurrection was spiritual in nature but not physical. But the amount of people that saw Him physically afterwards dispels that particular myth. What about the current tangible evidence - the survival and inordinate growth and impact of the early church and that the church is still growing 2000 years later. If there was no bodily resurrection of Jesus, would people really have risked persecution and death for knowing a lie? One or two people maybe, but not hundreds and thousands! The very existence of the church today, 2000 years after the event, is perhaps the greatest tangible proof of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  He did not merely faint - He died on the cross.  If he weren't dead on that cross, they would have broken his legs to ensure that He had died. No! Jesus was dead.

Dealing with Doubters

Yet people still doubt. Let us say Jesus didn't rise from the dead. Surely the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, would have produced his dead body in order to quench this new movement! But they didn't, and the reason they didn't is because there was no body to produce! Would the disciples have really risked death for telling and maintaining a lie about the risen Jesus? They were beaten, confused, defeated and dispersed men until they saw Jesus truly did rise from the dead. After seeing Him, they were transformed and victorious people.

I have had people say to me that somebody (even the disciples) stole the body. Hardly likely, and if that had occurred, for what reason? How would they have got past the Roman Guard and moved the stone a great distance from the tomb? This very reason is what the Jewish authorities tried to perpetuate by way of a bribe, in Matthew 28v11-15 "Now while the disciples of Jesus were going, behold, some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave a large amount of silver to the soldiers, saying, "Say that his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. If this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and make you free of worry." So they took the money and did as they were told. This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continues until this day."

Then we have the swoon theory. Jesus didn't die but merely fainted and recovered consciousness in the tomb. Even the sceptics disagree with this theory, one of whom said "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life".

Or perhaps, they all went to the wrong tomb. That's it - they went to the wrong tomb. Whilst one person may have gone to a wrong tomb, not everyone would have done. Besides, the gospel accounts tell us that people were waiting outside the tomb where Jesus was buried! Surely Joseph would know which tomb Jesus was buried in, seeing as Joseph owned it!

Lastly, Jesus didn't die on the cross but somebody was substituted for him. This is certainly untenable, given the rigidity and strict record keeping of Roman rule and with the eyes of the Jewish hierarchy watching. This conjecture is a lie of satan, because he knows the significance of Jesus having risen physically from the dead. Satan knows that at the cross when Jesus died, that he lost, lost heavily and is destruction imminent.

Significance of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1v22; Acts 4v33, Acts 17v18) and certainly within Paul-ine theology. But what significance is there in Jesus' resurrection?

The resurrection proved and vindicated all of Jesus' teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to His being fully God, fully human and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53v10-12; Acts 2v36; Acts 3v13-15; Romans 1v4). The resurrection, declared God's approval of Jesus' obedient service and the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises, resulting in forgiveness of sins and salvation being only found in and through Jesus Christ, which was the prime motive for evangelism in the early church (Acts 2v32, Romans 4v24-25). Jesus' resurrection is a sign of the bodily resurrection for all believers in Him, giving a new attitude to death and transforming hopes (1 Corinthians 15v12-58, Romans 8v10, 2 Corinthians 4v14; 1 Peter 1v3 & 21). As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow Him (Romans 5v10; Hebrews 6v20, 1 Peter 1v21).

Finally the resurrection of Jesus' physical body is a sure victory over satan, sin and death. All three are conquered and squashed. Satan is a defeated creature and will do anything to drag people into defeat with him. The power of sin is conquered, and sin's grip is overcome if you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Finally, as I said earlier, death has been beaten, because those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will live forever with him - death is not the end but a beginning. If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead then as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15v12-19 "Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn't raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren't raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all people most pitiable." Or let me put it in my own words - if Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, we as Christians are the product of the greatest delusional lie and are the most foolish of all people.  Because of Jesus' resurrection, we also will be raised from dead spiritually... Amazing love...

Our final study in this series will be about where Jesus is now, what he is doing and what he plans on doing.

Thank you.

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Apr 3, 2010

Easter 2010 - Saturday

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Saturday - What the Cross is about?

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G'day and welcome to Partake and to our series "Easter Weekend 2010"!  On Thursday we looked at Jesus' last night and reflected briefly upon two things which we called the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Service.  Then on Friday we looked at how Jesus was condemned, crucified, died and was buried.  Today we look again at the cross and ask some fundamental questions about it: what is the cross about, why is the cross important and also an imperative of historical and biblical Christianity.

But lets begin with reading from the Bible, and today I will be reading 1 Corinthians 1v18-31 from The Message version.

18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written,

I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head,

I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb-preaching, of all things!-to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

22-25While Jews clamour for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle-and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself-both Jews and Greeks-Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness."

26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have-right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start-comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

1. The problem!

The problem is sin or disobedience (active or passive) of and towards God. Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 3v23, Romans 6v23, Isaiah 59v2). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17v11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9v22). A blood sacrifice is God's way of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:

  • They provided a covering for sin.
  • They showed the great cost of sin.
  • They were an exchange or substitution.
  • They were only always going to be a temporary measure as they pointed forward to Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross.

2.. The Solution!

The ultimate solution to sin lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because as Hebrews 10v4 reminds us the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! But they also pointed toward a time when animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary! That is the cross of Jesus Christ! It is only through the death of Jesus Christ on that cross, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9:v11-15, 26-28), because Jesus is the permanent and ultimate sacrificial substitute!

2a. Substitution

Jesus was our substitute. Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3v18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners. That is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! When Jesus died on the cross, in our place, he bore the consequences of all sin, of all the earth over all periods of time - past, present and future. He therefore became sin for humanity (2 Corinthians 5v21) and it was His precious blood as a lamb without spot or blemish (1Peter 1:18-19) that finally fulfils God's righteous requirements permanently as the substitute.

2b. Propitiation

And more than that, we know that towards sin and sinful behaviour, God has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21v5). Yet as Micah 7v18 "He is slow to anger and quick to forgive". Propitiation basically means the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).  If Jesus' death on the cross was not an atoning sacrifice, then the Old Testament Law would not be fulfilled, animal sacrifices still necessary to cover sins and God would be made out to be a liar.

1 John 2v2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4v10: This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

Jesus, through His atoning sacrificial death on the cross, is our peace offering to God. Amazing.

2c. Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Even further! Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave's freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully - He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3v16 states: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9v23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

There is a price to pay for those seeking to be followers of Jesus Christ

They must surrender completely to Him, be prepared to identify with Him in suffering and death and be willing to follow Him obediently, wherever He leads.

2d. Victory over Satan, death and sin.

And yet again, the cross is even more! As we look back through the Gospel accounts, we see Jesus being tempted and taunted by satan. We see the temptations in the wilderness, satan using the Apostle Peter to try and deflect Jesus away from the cross and satan using Judas to betray him. If Jesus had ever succumbed to temptation, and sinned in thought, word, action or inaction, then He Himself would have needed a Saviour. That is why Jesus is the perfect sacrifice - because he never sinned and always did what He saw God the Father wanting Him to do. Jesus' death on the cross is the centrepiece of all human history and the focal point of eternity.  On the cross and through the cross alone, satan, death and sin have all lost their sting. WOW!

3. The Cross is a choice

As we have seen, the cross is God's solution to the suffering and sin of the world. Only by Jesus Christ going to cross have sin, suffering and satan been dealt mortal blows.  The cross provides the solution as it provides a substitution, propitiation, redemption and a victory. The cross is not a symbol to be merely placed around the neck on a chain, to be worn as a lapel pin, or as a item statement of fashion. The cross is not meant to portray Jesus as some form of sadomasochistic ‘tragi-hero' as some people try to make it out to be. The cross is God's solution to the problem of sin, suffering and pain, as much as the wise of this world would love to think that it is not.

The cross is a choice. You can choose to deny the cross and say it doesn't matter. You can say that it is an irrelevance and that is your right. God will not force you to accept the cross and love him. If He did, He would have created Adam so that Adam would automatically love him and not given him free will to rebel. That way the cross would not have been needed. But such is the enormity of the love of God, that each person, including you and I, have a choice to make - follow Jesus and take up your own cross and be an overcomer for Him.  God will not force you to accept it, but he will keep on calling you back to the cross. Calling sometimes in quiet ways and at other times, much more loudly.  You can deny the cross and its meaning and when Jesus Christ comes again in judgment, you will find that He denies you entrance into His glorious kingdom.  When Jesus comes again, everyone will know who He is and bow down to Him.  But only those whom He knows, will be granted access into everlasting life.

How you think of the cross, ultimately has relevance to you and affects your reality. You can accept the cross as your personal substitution, personal propitiation and personal redemption. That way you have peace with God. The cross of Jesus Christ thoroughly epitomises God's glory, and if there were any other way that God the Father could restore people into relationship with Himself, then surely He would have done it that way. But there was no other way - Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who was simultaneously fully God and fully human, died on a Roman cross. He took on the sins of the world, paying the greatest price, so that you can be restored into a peaceful relationship with God the Father. That is for all people, of all nations, ages, generations, statuses and gender.  The cross is amazing love in action and is ignored at great peril.  Let us go forward in hope and faith, choosing deliberately not to boast in anything else, save only of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The wisdom of God as exhibited on and in the Cross of Jesus Christ, is foolishness but only to those who don't accept it.  Thank you.

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Apr 2, 2010

Easter 2010 - Friday

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Easter 2010 Easter Weekend Series

Friday - Jesus' Last Moments

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G'day and welcome to Partake! In the previous study of this Easter 2010 weekend series, we looked together at two events of Jesus' last night: the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Service.  Tonight we are going to look together briefly at John 19, and talk a little bit about what happened to Jesus Christ - condemned, crucified, dead and buried.

1. . Jesus was Condemned

So firstly lets look at Jesus' condemnation.  Reading from John 19v1 to 16.

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

4Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." 5When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"

6As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!"

But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."

7The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God."

8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."

13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.

"Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.

15But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"

"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.

"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.

16Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea.  As we have read, it was he that made the decision and gave the order for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate gave in and permitted the flogging and mockery in the hope of shaming Jesus' accusers (John 19vs. 1-3). Pilate affirmed Jesus' innocence after the scourging (John 19v4). Jesus' refusal to answer stung Pilate into reminding Jesus of his Roman authority (John 19v10). Jesus, however, corrected Pilate's idea of authority and told him that although Pilate may have power on earth, his power did not reach beyond earth (John 19v11). Jesus knew that his work of bring people back to God in a loving relationship did not rest on the actions of a mere Roman governor. Pilate was more concerned with his own position than he was for justice. In all this, we see Jesus as the true Passover lamb.

2. Jesus was Crucified

So Jesus was condemned to die.  Now lets look at John 19v17-27 and Jesus' crucifixion.

17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18Here they crucified him, and with him two others-one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|sc JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews."

22Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

23When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24"Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it."

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,

"They divided my garments among them

and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Jesus bearing his own cross was killed as a common criminal (John 19v17). We read, that Pilate was responsible for fixing the sign "The King of the Jews" (John 19v21-22). The clothes of condemned prisoners were given to soldiers on duty (John 19v23). Even when he himself was in agony, Jesus showed concern for his mother, committing her to the Apostle John (John 19vs.26-27).

The crucifixion site "was purposely chosen to be outside the city walls because the Law forbade such within the city walls... for sanitary reasons... the crucified body was sometimes left to rot on the cross and serve as a disgrace, a convincing warning and deterrent to passers-by." Sometimes, the subject was eaten while alive and still on the cross by wild beasts. Jesus face was beaten beyond recognition and the scourging reduced his flesh to something like raw hamburger mince. The whips used has pieces of glass and rocks stuck to the cord so as to inflict as much damage as possible. He had a crown of thorns pushed into his scalp.

3. Jesus died

Having been condemned and crucified, Jesus finally dies. Lets look together at John 19v28-37.

28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

In Jesus' final moments he uttered "I am thirsty." (John 19v28) and "It is finished." (John 19v30). The desire of the Jews (John 19v32) to fulfil their rituals was important because the Sabbath fell within the Passover festival. The breaking of legs (John 19vs.32-33) sped up the process of death. The piercing of Jesus' side, and the flow of blood and water proved Jesus was really dead (John 19v34). So Jesus was condemned, crucified and died.  So what? What does that mean for us and for humanity?

All human beings, in their natural state, are born sinners and have rebelled against God (Romans 3v23). However, because of Jesus' death on the cross God offers forgiveness (Ephesians 1v7), Peace (Romans 5v1) and reconciliation with God, so that we are no longer His enemies (2 Corinthians 5v19). Through the cross, and only through the cross, we are made just before God (Romans 3v24-26), it cleanses us from sin (1 John 1v7) and makes us right before Almighty God (2 Corinthians 5v21). Because of the Cross, we have direct access to God (Ephesians 2v18) and Jesus Christ intercedes for us (Hebrews 2v17-18). Because of Jesus Christ's death on a Roman cross, all those who follow Him have freedom from the power of slavery to sin (Galatians 5v1) and freedom from the power of the devil (Hebrews 2v14). None of the above things are true if we do not follow Jesus.

At the cross, Jesus' mission is accomplished. At the cross, this God-man, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin of all time, so that people can have the opportunity to be restored into relationship with God.

Some people say that Jesus didn't die on the cross, but rather somebody was made to be His substitute. But this is a lie of the devil. Nobody could have been a substitute or the Jewish leaders would have said so when the rumours of Jesus' resurrection began to circulate. The Romans kept strict discipline and regimen and nobody would have been able to get in amongst the Roman soldiers and somehow substitute themselves for Jesus. Yes, somebody else carried the cross for Him, but nobody but Jesus was nailed to that cross. Jesus died on that cross and not some substitute.

4. Jesus was Buried

38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus buried Jesus. The significance of "in which no-one had ever been laid" (John 19v41) is to demonstrate that the body of Jesus at no point came into contact with the decay of a dead body. But his burial is not the end of the story.

In the next of our series, Easter Saturday, we will look together at just why Jesus had to die - and the underlying problem. Then we will look at how his death is the solution. We will also look briefly at the themes of substitution, propitiation, redemption and how his death is the complete victory over sin, death and the devil.  Then on Sunday, we will look at the Resurrection!

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Apr 1, 2010

Easter 2010 - Thursday

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Easter Weekend 2010

Thursday - Jesus' Last Night

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G'day and welcome to Partake! Tonight we start our Easter 2010 series, looking at particular highlights of the Easter story. In this particular podcast we will look briefly at two events from the Jesus' last night - the Lord's Supper and the Lord Serves.

Throughout the 3 years of ministry, Jesus has preached the good news of God's salvation to reconcile people back into relationship with Almighty God. Through the cross & resurrection, His mission will be fulfilled. We look into his last night before his death on the cross, which as Christians we believe is both the pivotal and climatic event of all human history

1. Lord's Supper

Let us read together Luke 22v14-20

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Depending on your church, this event can be called amongst other things, the Eucharist, Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper. Christian Disciples are commanded to participate, as Jesus said: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22v19). Some churches do it every service and others do it monthly. Whenever we participate in it, we do it regularly as a remembrance of Jesus until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11v26). The bread symbolizes His body broken on the cross and the wine symbolizes His blood which was shed on the cross. Therefore before we partake of the bread and wine, we are to examine ourselves and confess any unforgiven sin (1 Corinthians 11v28-29). This is done because it would be hypocritical to eat it while harbouring known sin in our hearts and having fellowship with Jesus and others in the church!

This Last Supper, the Holy Communion - what is its significance for us?

  • It symbolizes fellowship with other believers in the universal church (1 Corinthians 10v17)
  • We receive the benefits of His once and for all sacrifice (1 Corinthians 10v16)
  • We spiritually feed upon Christ (1 Corinthians 11v24)
  • It symbolizes the death of Christ for our sin (Luke 22v19)
  • It symbolizes our acceptance of Christ's death for us.
  • It symbolizes our dependence on Christ for spiritual life.
  • Finally when a person remembers, that makes it their own personal story. If something is only recalled as an historical event, then that is somebody else's story being recalled. That is why Holy Communion is personal - it's our story! Is it yours also?

All these symbolize the New Covenant made between God and Jesus' Disciples - a Covenant guaranteeing salvation! The new covenant is a new meal, in order to remind his followers in every age about the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The new covenant (Luke 22v20), Jesus claims that His death, was spoken about by the prophets Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31v33-34) and Ezekiel. It was a new covenant in which God's people will be able to know Him intimately for their sins will be forgiven. Whenever a covenant was made between God and humanity in the Old Testament, blood was always shed. Jesus' blood shed on the cross is the seal on this New Covenant, which is why we remember it.

We think and believe that the bread and wine are only symbolic of Jesus' blood and body, because any other view would indicate that Jesus Christ is being re-sacrificed. Hebrews 7 refutes these views, in particular Hebrews 7v27, which talks about Jesus' death on the cross "For he did this once for all, when he offered up himself." The bread we eat and wine we drink at Holy Communion are only symbolic of his sacrifice and can never be a re-enactment of Jesus sacrificial death of atonement on the cross.

2. Lord's Service

Let us read together John 13v1-17

1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10 Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

As part of the custom of the day, a servant or slave usually undertook foot washing of guests. Since none of the disciples had done this, Jesus Himself undertakes the task (John 13v4-5). Peter is recalcitrant and resistant as always, objects (John 13v6&8 ). Peter learns that only those cleansed by Jesus and trusting in Him fully, can be a part of the kingdom (John 13v7, 9). As we look back at this episode, knowing what we do now of the Cross, we learn how this simple act of washing feet is symbolic of Jesus' sacrificial death on the Cross.

But is also more than that. Serving others, as Jesus did throughout his ministry, is to be part of the life of anybody who would call himself or herself a follower of Jesus Christ. It is one of the hallmarks of being a Christian. Another hallmark is that of allowing others to serve us, just as Peter had to allow Jesus to wash his feet. By both serving and being served, we reflect the life of Jesus Christ. When serving and being served are out of balance, then usually it is our own innate pride that is at fault.

The Cross and washing feet are both displays of great love and service. Just as Peter opposed Jesus going to the cross (Matthew 16v21-23), so he objected to having his feet washed here. Jesus' getting up to serve symbolizes His coming to serve. As he took off his cloak, this symbolizes the taking off of His glory when He became man. Girding Himself with a towel, symbolizes his taking on human flesh in the incarnation at his birth. As the water cleansed the feet, so Jesus death and blood cleanse from sin. As He returned to where he was sitting and sat down after finishing this act of service, Jesus returned to the right hand of God after his work on the Cross.

When people become Christian, their sins are forgiven through Jesus' death on the Cross. That is when they had our "bath" as it were. That is the very point when we, if we are Christians, were justified before God and we are declared His child. Having been justified already, we don't need a bath anymore! But we do need the equivalent of a feet washing daily and or every time we take Holy Communion and a cleansing of our sin when we confess it before our God and repent.

How are you doing? How is your Christian life of service and allowing others to serve you? Are you somehow like Peter and not wanting to be served? Are you the other extreme and not wanting to serve others? Then please do pray for opportunities whereby you can both serve and be served. When you participate in the Lord's Supper this Easter, think back on the greatest Servant of all, and how your sins are forgiven because of His service to you!

Thank you.

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