google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html 2017 April

Archive for April 2017

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Exploring The Bible

13. New Testament

1 Timothy--A.D. 62-64

 

G'day and welcome to our series, "Exploring the Bible" This is also the title of our latest book available on Amazon by clicking here or visiting PulpTheology.com

Key Verses:

  • 1 Timothy 3:16
  • 1 Timothy 6:11-12

 

This and the following three letters are all addressed to one person rather than a church. Paul delegates authority to Timothy, his personal representative in Ephesus, effectively the minister or pastor of the church there. He instructs Timothy about life and ministry and about the organization, function, and edification of the church.

Timothy is encouraged to counter with sound doctrine any false teaching particularly in regards to the Mosaic Law, to develop Church leaders and encourage godly Christian living.

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 95 - John 21:21
Challenges


“What about him?” asked Peter, referring to his close friend ‘the disciple that Jesus loved’, probably John, the writer of this gospel. His question will have been of but small interest when Peter asked it but had become of much greater significance over fifty years later when John had died or it became clear he could not live much longer. (That there was this interest behind the reported question suggests someone else was working with John on this chapter.) Several things Jesus had said had seemed to suggest that he would return before all the disciples had died. One of them is quoted here, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Earlier he had said in Mark 9: 1 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” They had failed to realise that the Kingdom had come quietly when the King, Jesus, came and more openly at his death and resurrection. Unfortunately the idea is still around that we can work out when the kingdom will come in its full splendour even although Jesus warned that “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Don’t be one of those misled by folk with more concern for their own apparent cleverness in working out the details of his return than their ability to hear what he actually said.


There is another important point to be learned from this passage. Jesus had just told Peter in verses 18, 19 “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” That is a strong hint that Peter would die by crucifixion as Jesus had done, and as he in fact did about 30 years later. Peter wanted to know whether John would suffer the same fate. Whether that was from concern for his much younger friend or from a sense of wanting to protect him or from a hope that he would not share such a singular privilege (as Peter saw it) is not clear.

This is significant for us, as is the reply of Jesus. In all probability some few of those who read or hear this will live in a country where you are in danger of martyrdom because you hold to a faith that the majority do not agree with. Most of you will not be in such a dangerous situation but can expect to die a natural death when your days are done. For us of the second sort the interesting question is: will we be in some sense second class citizens of the kingdom to come behind those who have been martyred? The clear implication of the reply of Jesus in verse 23 “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you,” is ‘no’ I simply have something different for you to do.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable singing hymns like the one that says ‘All to Jesus I surrender … ‘ when I know perfectly well that I am surrounded by folk who have no real intention of surrendering anything if they can possibly help it, and I am not at all sure about myself either! It seems to me that the really important thing is when I receive a direct challenge from the Lord to do something - how do I respond? I do not have to concentrate on the big things in life that may never come my way, but how do I respond to the small things: what will I not do; what work promotion will I not seek; where will I actually go in the here and now; rather than some grand gesture.

What about you? Do you agree with that attitude? Or how else will you confront the challenges of life for the sake of your Lord and Master?

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

28th April 2017

 

We pray together and when Christians pray together, including across the internet and from different times, different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity!

 

O eternal Father of lights
from whom all good and perfect gifts come,
you who from whom we receive
the spiritual light and all good and perfect gifts,
and for the sake of Jesus Christ,
your beloved child,
master of heaven and earth,
who glorifies your will
and before whom all of us will one day appear to be judged,
and in whose name we must be saved,
for there is only one grace,
that of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and none other.
May the name of Christ be praised, now and forever.
Amen.

(A prayer of Mennon Simons)

 

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POD - Psalm 99

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Psalm 99

As read by Sarah

 

1 The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble;

he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.

2 Great is the LORD in Zion;

he is exalted over all the nations.

3 Let them praise your great and awesome name- he is holy.

4 The King is mighty, he loves justice- you have established equity;

in Jacob you have done what is just and right.

5 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel was among those who called on his name;

they called on the LORD and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;

they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel  

a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.

9 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain,

for the LORD our God is holy.

 

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Think Spot 24 April 2017

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Think Spot - 23rd April 2017


As I reflect upon the life of Jesus as given to us through the Gospels, I see that in his interaction with people he exhibits his loveliness. An example of this is found in Matthew 20:29-34


As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.”
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.”
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

See how Jesus exhibited his loveliness to those two men, through an act of compassion and mercy. Jesus gave those two men great joy in receiving their sight and enabled them to overcome the rejection by the crowd. Those two men could testify that Jesus is altogether lovely and lovely altogether. Jesus is beyond compare for the things He has done and the things He will do.

Jesus Christ is altogether lovely in regard to his divinity, humanity, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, exultation, glorification, grace, protection, tenderness, power, wisdom, vengeance, judgment, majesty, redemption and pardon. Jesus’ loveliness means I can have His incomparable inner joy when I feel defeated, dejected and discouraged. Jesus oozes loveliness.

As you go into this week, remember that when you are feeling defeated, dejected or discouraged, that Jesus joy is inside you. Joy is not necessarily loud and obtrusive but also quiet and peaceful. Allow that joy of Jesus to carry you through. Let His loveliness embrace you and allow Him control over your circumstances.


A prayer to help you into this new week:

Father, we thank you for sending Jesus. We thank you Jesus that you are altogether lovely and lovely altogether. We thank you that you are with us when everybody else rejects, despises, defeats or discourages us.
Amen.

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Exploring The Bible

12. New Testament

2 Timothy--A.D. 66-67

 

G'day and welcome to our series, "Exploring the Bible" This is also the title of our latest book available on Amazon by clicking here or visiting PulpTheology.com

Key Verses:

  • 2 Timothy 2:3' 2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Timothy is struggling with his ministry in the face of bitter opposition, suffering and troubles. Paul writes this, his last letter, to encourage, and strengthen Timothy. He wants him to remind others that they are all to be diligent workers for the Lord.

Paul exhorts Timothy regarding the sure foundation of the Word of God, which serves as a means to gain wisdom and equipment for service. Paul also uses this letter to express his confidence at the end of his life of how glorious his future with the Lord will be.

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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 94 - John 21:17b
Discipling


The second point worth a study in this verse is: what is the special work that the importance of love is for? Jesus spoke of taking care of, and feeding lambs and sheep. The shepherd’s work of looking after sheep has two main components: making sure they have enough to eat by taking them to fresh pasture when the present one is cropped too short for them to get much nourishment from it, and making sure they are not attacked by either things too small to see, or by lions or by any of all the other things in between that can harm an animal. You will have noticed that I didn’t use any of John’s words in the title of this study but the word ‘discipling’.

 
That is, of course, the one that Matthew used in his great Commission statement. Discipling is basically teaching, but a bit more than just teaching in a classroom. A disciple is taught both by classroom type instruction and by close observation of the behaviour and manner of the discipler. The process will continue even when the discipler is not physically present – from the Word of God. Even the straightforward teaching bit is not easy - as I know too well having spent nearly all my work life as a teacher of one sort or another. It always seems to me that in church we make it more difficult that it naturally is by our habit of putting everyone in rows to listen and then elevating someone to a higher position to do all the talking. That is lecturing, not teaching, and most professional teachers only do it that way at university where you can be sure that all your hearers are of above average intelligence. In the average congregation half the hearers are of above average intelligence and half are below - that is what average means! Good discipling involves much fewer people at a time, indeed probably just one at a time. And that is a far more difficult thing to set up and do, hence our love of preaching.

Why is that? I think the reason is buried deep in the culture of the Western world to which I, and probably many of you, belong. And even if you don’t the influence of our culture is now so worldwide that it may still be having an effect. Our culture says that we are all individuals and interprets that in a very isolationist way. We are not to tell anybody what they are to think or do. If we do we are trying to control them, manipulate them, and those are very naughty things to do. So we are even told that parents should not tell their children how to think and behave. That, apparently, is something they should be allowed to work out for themselves.

So although almost nobody will be aware of this and the reasons behind it many folk in our culture will be reluctant to open themselves to be discipled or to disciple.

“Feed my sheep” said Jesus to Peter and to all of us. We have to obey him and not the dictates of our local, temporary culture. We have to do all we can to increase the number of deep, properly discipled believers.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

21st April 2017

 

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

A prayer of Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.
Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

 

(Aquinas 1225 – 1274)

 

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POD - Psalm 106

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Psalm 106

 

 

1 Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?
3 Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.
4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them,
5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
7 When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name's sake, to make his mighty power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.
16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan; it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers; a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them- had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD.
26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands.
28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.
32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD, and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses' lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.
38 They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.
44 But he took note of their distress when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused them to be pitied by all who held them captive.
47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
48 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, "Amen!" Praise the LORD.

 

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Monday – Jesus' Last Command

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. 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 9:6) and he imparted authority to his disciples for a short time when they went on a mission in Matthew 10.

In some of Jesus’ final words before ascending back to the right-hand side of God the Father, Jesus gave specific instructions to his followers. His disciples.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped 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, baptising 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.’ (Matthew 28:16-20)

Jesus has authority (Matthew 28:18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings including 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 whatever 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. People often confuse authority with authoritarian. Authoritarian means severe, rigidity and a dictator.

None of these applies to Jesus. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, His followers today in the 21st century, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey Him in every facet of our life and live a life worthy of Him. That is part of how we take up our own cross and follow Him – as Jesus commanded. As the Christian depends on Jesus’ authority, the Christian Disciple gains wisdom, guidance, and power.

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 in the Bible. Christianity is a faith whereby all Christian Disciples – all followers of Jesus - are to 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 the 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 5:12) and nor is it simply a message of join the church as a symbol of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). If people know you are a Christian, they will be watching how you behave, conduct yourself in your life and your words. You are a witness for God – whether you want to be or not. Let’s be good witnesses. Sow seeds, somebody else may come along and water those seeds and yet another be God’s assistant in reaping those seeds so that the person you sowed seeds of the Gospel into, becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.

Why evangelize?

The prime motivation for evangelism is out of gratitude for what God has done, in that we love because he loved us first.

“For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” As the servants and followers of Jesus, we are to tell and live out God’s reconciling message – the message of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14)

We are all to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5) even though not everybody has the specific gift of being an evangelist. But we are not just to evangelise but also we are to disciple. We are to intentionally make disciples of Jesus Christ. If there are 2 words which scare a lot of the modern Church, they are evangelism and discipleship. Yet, if we are to be obedient to Jesus, there is no other way. 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 Christian disciples. So we are to evangelize and disciple.

The Holy Spirit is coming

How is this achieved? How can the Christian Disciple exhibit Jesus’ authority and power in evangelism? Who gives the impetus for Christian Disciples? That is part of the role of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would come once he had ascended back to the right hand of God the Father. The coming of the Holy Spirit was predicted in the writings of what we call the Old Testament. For example:

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”, (Ezekiel 36:27).

This prediction from centuries before, ascertained that Almighty and All-powerful God will indwell those who follow Him. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had talked about how after he was to depart, and that the Holy Spirit would come (John 15:26). We know from the other writings in the New Testament who the Holy Spirit is and what his ministry is. Further details can be found on this website.

Jesus still meets people today

But, 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. But Jesus still meets with people at the present time. How does He do this?

Jesus walks with us, where ever 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 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32). 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 24:27). 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.

But that is not the end, because Jesus has promised that He is coming again. Not as a baby next time, but as an all-conquering Son of God in judgment to gather those who follow Him. Are you ready?

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Sunday – Risen and Firstborn from the Dead!

1 Corinthians 15:1-8: 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 Jesus having been raised from the dead – physically! All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark Luke and John, tell us that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in a tomb. What do these four Gospels say about the 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.

1. The tomb is empty

  • Two Marys watch the burial: (Matthew27:61, Mark 15:47, Luke23:54-55)
  • Roman soldiers guard the tomb and place an official Roman seal upon it: (Matthew 27:62-66)
  • Women prepare burial spices then rest: (Luke 23:56)
  • An angel rolls the stone away: (Matthew 28:2-4)
  • Women arrive at dawn with spices: (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-4, Luke 24:1-3, John 20:1)
  • Angels appear to women: (Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-8)
  • Women dart back to tell disciples: (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:8, Luke 24:9-11, John 20:2)
  • Peter and John investigate the empty tomb: (Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9)
  • Peter and John go home: (Luke 24:12, John 20:10)
  • Mary Magdalene weeps by the tomb: (John 20:11)
  • Mary sees two angels: (John 20:12-13)

2. Jesus’ appearances

  • Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: (Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17)
  • Jesus appears to the other women: (Matthew 28:9-10)
  • Women report to the disciples: (Mark 16:10-11, John 20:18)
  • Guards testify to the priests: (Matthew 28:11-15)
  • Jesus meets two people on the Emmaus Road: (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32)
  • Jesus appears to Simon Peter: (1 Corinthians 15:5, Luke 24:34)
  • 2 report to disciples in Jerusalem: (Luke 24:33-35)
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples less Thomas: (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24)
  • Disciples report to Thomas: (John 20:25)
  • Jesus appears to the Disciples and Thomas: (Mark 16:14, John 20:26-29)
  • Jesus appears to seven people: (John 21:1-14)
  • Jesus questions Peter 3 times: (John 21:15-23)
  • Jesus appears to 500 people: (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  • Jesus appears to James: (1 Corinthians 15:7)

3. 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!

4. 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 28:11-15 “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.

Significance of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ provided the central theme for the sermons and teaching in the early church (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33, Acts 17:18) and certainly within Paul-ine theology. But what significance is there in Jesus’ resurrection?

The resurrection proved and vindicated all Jesus’ teaching and claims as the suffering Servant and attested to His being fully God and the last Judge of all mankind (Isaiah 53:10-12; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 1:4). 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 2:32, Romans 4:24-25).

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 15:12-58, Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Peter 1:3 & 21). As the resurrected King, Jesus now intercedes for us and has perfected the redemption of all those who choose to follow Him (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; 1 Peter 1:21).

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.

 

 “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.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

 

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.

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Saturday – Choices to be Made

Choice 1. The decision to accept Jesus' Cross for you, is yours alone to make

 

Jesus is dead. His disciples have dispersed, probably in hiding, thinking they are next. Jesus’ body has been placed in a new tomb and the women are waiting to ceremonially deal with His body. As we have seen, the death of Jesus Christ on 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.

Choice 1. Take up your own cross

In Luke 9:23-26 Jesus says,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Carry a cross? Is that what Jesus said? That must have been just about the most degrading thing you could possibly ask anyone to do in those days. And not only degrading, also incredibly painful as it would have followed a terrible scourging and been followed by the most terrible death. Did he really mean what he said? It seams so because the record suggests that Peter died just that way. The apostle James had it easy – he was just beheaded! (Acts 12:2)

What is our response to that to be? It must be just about the hardest, toughest, most difficult thing Jesus ever said to his followers. We are being commanded to count the cost of following Him. That is how we carry our own cross for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be number one in the life of all those who choose to follow him. Jesus wants supremacy over everything in our lives, including family, friends, and possessions. Alas, that’s a cost too high for some.

What have you given up as a result of your decision to follow Jesus? Making sacrifices to follow Jesus is all part of the WOW factor of Jesus. Jesus demands that He be number one and supreme over everything else in your life - yourself, family, others and material goods including money and possessions.

How is this to be done? By constantly ensuring that your works and words match your lifestyle and that no hypocrisy can be found, or will be found in your life. It means standing up for God in the face of adversity. It means loving others even though they hate you.

Just a couple of examples: In the UK, we aren’t systematically persecuted; we are marginalized, ridiculed and ignored. In some other parts of the world members of our Christian family daily face death simply because they chose to follow Jesus. They are carrying their cross for Jesus.

What about us in the UK? For example, if we as Christians were known by our self-sacrificial love of all others, then Jesus whom we claim to love, follow, worship, and adore would be seen. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote "When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. ... Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ." (The Cost of Discipleship). Bonhoeffer knew that as a Christian, a person has to take up their own cross in following Jesus and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Dietrich was to die as a martyr for Christ at the hands of the Nazis.

Finally, let’s look at 1 John 3:16

“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 and sisters.”

Jesus told us to take up our own cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple. How is that possible? If we try to do that in our own strength and wisdom, we will fail. If we do it using the power and strength of the Holy Spirit within us, then we will succeed at following Jesus’ command. Are you as a Disciple of Jesus Christ, if you are one, willing to take up your cross and follow him? What a difference that would make to the community where you live.

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