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Archive for the 'Partakers' Category

Easter 2020 - Day 16

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

 

Day 16. Jesus’ Final Teaching Part 2

18 ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason.”
26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:18-27

Disciples will suffer for the kingdom

John 15:18: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

Having spoken of love and bearing fruit, Jesus now declares a warning and the context into which He is sending them. We learn from this passage that opposition to Jesus’ message is unavoidable.

The first opposition is that of the old nature attacking the new nature. Christian Disciples, Jesus said, were called out from the world (John 15:19). Christian Disciples upon conversion belong to a different place and are heading for a different place.
Secondly, opposition is to be expected simply because of who Jesus is (John 15:21). Christian Disciples share in the life of Jesus and the way the world treats Jesus is the way the world treats all His disciples (John 15:20-21).
Thirdly, opposition comes through revealing evil. Jesus, as the Light of the World, exposed evil and sin through His words (John 15:22) and works (John 15:24).

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus commanded all those who follow Him, to also be “lights of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). This is done by consistently ensuring that our works and words match our lifestyle and that no hypocrisy will be found. Opposition brings persecution, and regularly throughout history, Christian believers have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus. In our own time, perhaps the most persecuted century of all. Being a Christian is not an easy decision, but it is worth it.

It is also endurable because of three things: God still remains Lord God despite all; we share in Jesus’ own sufferings and therefore have fellowship with Him (Philippians 3:10) and by being persecuted, it shows we belong to Him (John 15:19).

The main reason all opposition can be endured is because the Christian Disciple is not alone. God the Holy Spirit witnesses with the Christian Disciple (John 15:26). Not as a supplementary person filling a perfunctory role, but rather as the pioneer going out to testify about Jesus ahead (John 15:26) of the Christian Disciple (John 15:27).

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Sermon - The Hour Is Near

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The Hour Is Near

Matthew 26:36-46

Opening Prayer

Father, as we come to your written word, keep our eyes and minds awake by your Spirit, so that we can engage with, and learn more, about your living Word, Jesus Christ, apply that learning to our lives so that you receive all glory and honour due your name. Amen.

 

Well, I don’t know how you are coping with this lockdown due to CoronaVirus, but not much has changed for myself, as I am used to working from home. I have been praying with people regularly online and have done interactive Church services every couple of days as people want. If you think that internet Church, isn't Church, well that is ok. You can think of it as simply an interactive time on the internet, between people in different physical locations, meeting at the same time, where God is worshipped, prayed to and studied in the Bible by each of them simultaneously. My biggest problem is forgetting to take breaks, unlike in normal practise, going off to the coffeeshop for a couple of hours with the newspaper. But I know that some folks aren’t coping with the lockdown and isolation, particularly the extroverts amongst us. What can we do about that? As ever, the Bible has something to say into that situation. So lets start with our passage in Matthew 26.

The public ministry of Jesus has been going for just about 3 years now. It started when he was baptized by John the Baptist, where the crowds heard these words from God the Father: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” And where God the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a dove.

Since that time, Jesus has gathered his disciples, such as Peter, James and John with the words: “Come and follow me!” During those three years, Jesus has traversed the countryside, announcing Good News, feeding the multitudes, healing the sick and raising the dead. Jesus, who was asleep in the back of a boat while his disciples were scared of the storm. Jesus, who awoke, told the storm to cease. And it ceased! Jesus who cared for the poor, the destitute, and the outcasts of society. Jesus who taught with such wisdom and authority, that people were amazed. Jesus who confidently walked upon water. Jesus who throughout his public ministry gave clues to the events which are now coming into eventuality.

Jesus who clearly proclaimed that he alone was the living bread; the light of the world; the good shepherd and the gate; the resurrection; the way, the truth, and the life; and finally declaring that He alone was the true vine! Whereas the nation of Israel was the symbol, Jesus was the reality, and it was He who was the long waited for Messiah or Saviour. Jesus, who not so long ago, entered Jerusalem in that amazing scene, to the shouts of the crowds: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ A very different scene than the one before us in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus also seems a different person as well.

 

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Easter 2020 - Day 15

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 15. Jesus’ Final Teaching (Part 1)

5 But now I am going back to the Father who sent me, and none of you asks me where I am going. 6 You are very sad from hearing all of this. 7 But I tell you that I am going to do what is best for you. That is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you. (John 16:5-7)

In these last few chapters of John, before He is crucified, Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples and giving them some final teaching before He departs. Several times the Gospel writer records that Jesus has told them He is going away (John 13:33; John 14:3-4, 19, 28). Let’s look together at what Jesus teaches his disciples!

Disciples must bear fruit for the kingdom! (John 15:1-16)

1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)

As usual Jesus uses Old Testament language, for in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is often seen as a vine (Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80). However as a vine, Israel had not produced fruit that God had expected as explained in

With Jesus describing Himself as the true Vine, the implication is clear that the nation of Israel was but an imperfect precursor to His perfect self. With Jesus as the vine, all believers are the branches, and all believers draw spiritual nourishment from Him. As part of this nourishment, sometimes pruning is required (John 15:2). Cleansing is also required in order that fruit be borne from the Christian Disciple. This cleansing is through regular confession of sin and partaking of Holy Communion as explained in the foot-washing scene of John 13. To prove to others they are His followers and His disciples, Jesus tells them they are to continue loving Him and also to sacrificially love others joyfully (John 15:12-14).

By doing these things, which is now their mission statement, they will bear much good fruit for God’s greater glory (John 15:8). The same is true of us today, if we are Christian Disciples.

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Easter 2020 - Day 14

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 14. Who is this Jesus?

What was the purpose of the Messiah? (Mark 10:45)

Jesus’ mission was to be the Servant of the Lord, and therefore, the saviour of the world as God’s Son (John 3v16). His purpose as the Messiah was neither that He be served nor that He will lead a political overthrow of the Roman government as some had hoped. Rather, His purpose as the Messiah was to be God’s servant and give a message of hope for the spiritually poor and spiritually oppressed people.

Follow who Jesus is

When Jesus rebuked Peter, he was also telling off the other disciples (Mark 8:33). They did not yet understand how suffering and glory were in relationship with each other. However by the time Peter had written 1 Peter, he had correlated the two as being in harmony with each other. (1 Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter 4:13-5:10). Some Jewish leaders taught of 2 Messiahs – one to suffer and one who would reign (1 Peter 1:10-12). There is a price to pay for true followers of Jesus Christ. We must surrender completely to him. We must identify with him in his suffering and death. We must follow him obediently, wherever he leads. What is the reward for the true disciple of Jesus? Satan promises glory now, but in the end suffering comes. God promises suffering now, but the suffering turns to glory.

We are to confess Him As Lord! Spiritually, at this time, the disciples were still blind to who Jesus was, just as the man who was physically blind. Our confession of Jesus is a matter of life and death (1 John 4:1-3). Confession of Jesus as Lord is necessary for salvation (1 Corinthians 12:1-3), when that confession is from the heart (Romans 10:9-10). Christians are called to follow Jesus, to take up their cross and this could mean nothing less than being ready to suffer and die for Jesus. If we are ashamed of him on earth, he will be ashamed of us when the end of the world has come. He will reward those deserving the reward, and deny those who deny him.

Who do you say this Jesus is? What have you done with this Jesus – accepted or rejected Him?

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Easter 2020 - Day 13

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 13. Jesus’ I AM – Altogether now

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

So there we have it – Jesus the I AM of history. We saw together how Jesus loudly proclaiming he was the living bread; the light of the world; the good shepherd and the gate; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, and the life; and finally declaring He and He alone was the true vine! Jesus as the long waited for Messiah or Saviour, was the reality , whereas Israel was the symbol. All the things the nation of Israel was to be but failed to do so, is embodied in Jesus Christ. All the I AM statements reflect this.

All through this, Jesus knew what his mission on earth was. He knew that the cross and his being raised from the dead was his ultimate mission to defeat sin and death. If it were to be any other way, do you not think God would have done it another way? The cross and the resurrection show that Jesus’ exclusive proclamations are true, because Jesus life and actions support Jesus’ claims. No other religion, apart from Christianity, offers a guarantee of salvation and everlasting life based on faith and grace alone. This is because the offer is all down to God’s salvation work on the cross and not due to the efforts of humans to appease a God or gods.

Jesus – the “I AM…” Jesus never said “I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life.” Nor did He say “I am a resurrection and a life.” Jesus never said “I am a door to life”, just as He did not say “I am a shepherd, a door, a light or a bread of life.” No! Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the one great shepherd and the only door to life. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only true bread of life.

Jesus the I AM of history. What are you going to do with this Jesus? What options are open to you?

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Easter 2020 - Day 12

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 12. Jesus’ I AM the True Vine

"I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." John 15:1

All the things the nation of Israel was to be but failed to do so, is embodied in Jesus Christ. All the I AM statements reflect this. Isaiah 5 starts out as a love song between God and His chosen people, Israel. Israel was to be a vineyard, and despite all the love God had given tending to her, Israel had only produced bitter and sour fruit. This bitterly sour fruit is described in Isaiah 5:8-25. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was to be a vine or vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7, Ezekiel 15:1-6). Therefore, God will abandon her.

So if this vineyard is abandoned, will God raise a new vineyard? Juxtaposed against Israel’s failure to be a vine, Jesus states that he is the true vine. Jesus was the reality, whereas Israel was the symbol. The fruit of Jesus Christ’ life was and is abundant, fresh and sweet to the taste! We as Christians some 2000 years later are the result of Jesus being the true vine!

As the purpose of a vine is to produce fruit, the focal point is on what it takes to produce fruit (John 15:2). As Christian Disciples, we are to bear fruit by remaining close to Jesus, as He is the vine and we are the branches. And why is the Christian Disciple to bear fruit? So that God the Father is glorified (John 15:8) by the Christian Disciple, and thereby proving their Discipleship. As part of the ultimate mission of Jesus to glorify God the Father (John 12:28, John 17:4), it is imperative that Jesus’ disciples be fruit-bearers. This means that all Christian Disciple are to be His witnesses and therefore a commitment to mission and evangelisation is necessary. That is why the Christian prays “your kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10)

Jesus, “I AM the true vine”

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Easter 2020 - Day 11

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 11. Jesus’ I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus said to him, "I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6).

When Jesus issued this statement, the stress of the sentence automatically falls on the words “the way”. This is because Jesus is answering a question posed by Thomas (John 14:5). Jesus Christ has exposed the barrier of sin and death, which prevents a person from entering God’s presence. He explodes this same barrier when a person entrusts in Him for their eternal salvation. He is as he claims in Matthew 7:14 “the road that leads to life”.

Not only is He the way, but He is also the truth and the life. All of God’s truth is embodied in Jesus Christ who as both fully God and fully human was also the ever-living God. Nobody can claim access to God the Father, except through Jesus Himself. Other religions and other so-called paths to God may contain some element of truth about God, but there is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ. He is the means of access to God for all people of all cultures and all backgrounds. Jesus welcomes all, so that in His singular exclusive claims is an inclusive embrace of all. As Jesus goes on to say in John 14:7, because we know Him we also know God the Father.

Jesus, “I AM the way, the truth and the life!”

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Easter 2020 - Day 10

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 10. Jesus’ I AM the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." (John 11:25)

This exclamation by Jesus is highlight of this passage of Scripture. Lazarus has died (John 11:15) and will be raised back to life again (John 11:43-44).

Why does Jesus say that He is the resurrection and the life?

Because He is the giver of life itself. He gives eternal life to all who will believe in him. Resurrection and life are inextricably tied together. Resurrection and life harmonize each other because resurrection precedes life and the new life of a Christian disciple is the result of resurrection. Remember Jesus mission was to go to his death on the cross and be resurrected three days later. Not a resurrection like that of Lazarus, who would later physically die again.

No, Jesus’ resurrection is one where death is ultimately conquered, and Jesus has a glorious new body. Those who choose to be Christian Disciples by faith in the risen Christ, only have new life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross. That is why Jesus can exclaim with authority “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11v25). Moreover, this resurrected life is not just for the future, but it is also for the present, and only through the risen Jesus Christ.

Jesus, “I AM the resurrection and the life!”

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Easter 2020 - Day 9

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 9. Jesus’ I AM the Good Shepherd

7 Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:7-15

Throughout the Old Testament, God is seen as a shepherd and His people are the sheep of is keeping. The sheep are always God’s even though He temporarily entrusted them to people such as Moses to care and tender them. Therefore Moses and others like him such as the true prophets, were forerunners to Jesus. Here Jesus proclaims that He is the door or gate to salvation! It is through Jesus that salvation is found and through Him alone as the door or gate, people are led safe and sound into spiritual freedom, spiritual light and spiritual sustenance. Unlike others who come only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus offers spiritual safety & nourishment. Jesus does not just offer a way out, but also a way in! The security offered by Jesus is because He is always in close proximity to those who follow Him. Jesus calls all those who follow Him by name (John 10:3) and they know each other.

Jesus is the great shepherd only through the sacrifice he must make for His sheep. Here Jesus is looking ahead to the sacrifice He makes on the Cross. His love for all of humanity compels Him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Just as all shepherds will endanger themselves for the safety of their sheep, so too will Jesus endure the pain and suffering of the Cross, so that people can be led into safety of God’s kingdom. It is in this role of shepherd, that Jesus exhibits true leadership, which is self-less and sacrificial. Ezekiel 34:11 tells of God searching out for his sheep among all nations, and this is fulfilled through Jesus. Through His perfect, obedient and voluntary sacrifice on the Cross, not only will salvation be available to the Jews but also to those of other nations (John 10:16).

Jesus, “I AM the good shepherd

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Easter 2020 - Day 8

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Easter 2020 - God is Love

Day 8. Jesus’ I AM the Light of the World

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12.

Jesus is at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles! One of the great symbols of that Feast was Light! At the end of the feast, when the lights are extinguished, Jesus said that he was the light of the world! Throughout the Old Testament, light is an important symbol. There is the pillar of fire and cloud leading the nation of Israel on their journey (Exodus 13).

In Psalm 27:1, the Psalmist describes God as “my light”. The nation of Israel was to be God’s light to all the world (Isaiah 49:6) so that God would be the world’s light (Isaiah 60:19-22). So by referring to Himself as the light of the world, Jesus is saying it is He who shines light into peoples spiritual eyes and gives them understanding which in turn leads to them seeing their need of God and His ability to satisfy their spiritual needs.

Jesus, “I AM the light of the world!”

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