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People meeting Jesus

The testimony of John from Hampshire, UK...

We continue apace into the twentieth century and hear the story of a friend of mine. His name is John and he is from Hampshire in the UK! Come on in, and listen to his story about his own Christian journey and the relevancy of Jesus Christ to his life.

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Dave's Story

"Why am I a Christian?"

 The Apostle John, writing in 1 John 5:9-12 - "We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Why Is It So?

Why I am a Christian?

Now I could say that at the age of 12, we moved to a town on the coast of Australia, and was invited along to a local youth group and several weeks later, gave my life to Christ and became a Christian. Of course that is partly true. I can't even claim to be a Christian because I was raised in a Christian country. Australia was and is probably the second most secular country on this planet. Sure Australia has its moral base grounded in historic Christianity, but for the latter part of its history, Australia has been thoroughly secular and non-religious. Even if I had been raised in a country such as England, with Christian parents, that would also, only be partly true and I could have rejected Christianity as many people do. The reason that I am a Christian is not because I chased God, but rather He chased me. Unknown to me at the time, God was chasing me and following my every path with the urgency of a lover after the beloved, just as described in the Song of Songs 2:2-14.

This piece of poetic Scripture speaks about the love that God has for his people, and the energy He puts in to calling his people to Himself. He is always reaching out, for all to return to His arms. As for me, it wasn't until I was a 12 year old that I heard that I needed to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Before that I didn't know I had to do anything with this Jesus. Jesus was only a curse word for me at the time. That or was just someone or something that the RE teachers bored me with at school. We are primarily Christians, not because we come to church services or just happened to have been born in a supposedly Christian country. We are primarily Christians, because God first chased and harried us into His arms. We are Christians, if you are one, because God first loved you. And as a tremendous lover, He beckons and calls people all the time to respond to His call, and back to Him.

How does He chase us with His love? He chases each person differently, just as each Christian testimony is different. Take for instance the Apostle Paul in Acts 8 & 9. God chased him through Paul's mind and his religious upbringing and education. Paul had known about God from his childhood. Paul was a righteous Pharisee who saw persecuting these ‘Christians' as his religious duty, so that he may somehow find favour with God. As Paul was gloating over the death of the martyr Stephen, God was pursuing Him, probably raising doubts in Paul's mind as to why Stephen would say at the point of death "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and forgive them for what they do" (Acts 7:54-60). Surely doubts must have been raised in Paul's mind as he approved of this death (Acts 8:1). Paul was also wrestling with his conscience. Externally he was a righteous man, a Pharisee of Pharisees.

Yet when he internally examined himself and his heart, he found himself failing regarding covetousness, which is the last of the Ten Commandments. Then finally, Jesus himself makes a sudden and dramatic appearance before Paul and confronts him directly, "Why are you kicking against me? Why are you rejecting my advances?" (Acts 9) Paul's conversion to Christianity is often described as being sudden. But the only thing sudden about his conversion was this climatic appearance of Jesus.

Just as that was true of Paul, it is true of me, just as it is true of all those who profess to call themselves a Christian Disciple. I am a Christian Disciple not because of anything I have done, but rather because He first chased me, and because He first loved me. Jesus himself said "I came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. What were the events leading up to my choosing to be a Christian disciple which symbolize God running after me?
Q2. How am I, as a Christian Disciple, continuing to listen to God's voice?
Q3. Will I be ready to give my testimony the next time somebody asks me as to why I am a Christian?

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Testimony - Sharon

The story of Sharon, from China, who converted to Christianity from Daoism/Buddhism. Please do listen to the mp3 online or takeway as a download... If you find this story encouraging, please do leave a comment... Thank you...

 

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My encounter with Jesus

Almost everybody has an opinion of the man Jesus Christ! Countless millions worship him today and down through history! People sometimes ask me "Who is my Jesus?"

"Who is my Jesus?"

My Jesus Christ, is the man who splits history BC & AD! The man who we claim is the messiah and saviour as spoken about by the prophets of old and written about by those who met Him... My Jesus Christ, the man who healed the sick, fought for justice, did many great deeds, filled with compassion, driven on by joy and in constant conversation with God the Father.

My Jesus Christ, is the man who claimed to be God and was God! Jesus who emptied Himself, made Himself nothing, so as to take on human form. Jesus Christ, fully human and yet fully God. My Jesus Christ, is the most amazing man who ever lived, born of a woman, in a humble stable. Jesus Christ, the man born to die that he may come back alive and give all people a chance to live forever.

My Jesus Christ, is the man who died on a grubby Roman cross, pierced, battered, bruised and scarred. Jesus Christ, the God-man who died physically. Jesus Christ, buried within and sealed into a cold empty tomb. My Jesus Christ, is the man who conquered death, came back alive as witnessed by uncountable others. Jesus Christ who defeated the sting of sin, so that humanity may choose to live forever!

My Jesus Christ, whose very death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter, who ascended to the right hand of God the Father. This Jesus Christ, who with the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to transform into His own image, all who choose to follow Him. My Jesus Christ, who covers His followers in His own robe of righteousness so that they would be acceptable to God the Father. Jesus Christ, coming again soon in glory to judge humanity and claim those who follow Him. Jesus Christ who calls to you and I "Come and follow!" That is my Jesus Christ! But, you may be asking yourself, why are you a Christian and identify yourself as such?

Why am I a Christian?

"We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:9-12 - 

I am a Christian not because of anything I have done! No, nothing I could do or have done would have made me a Christian. Rather, it is because He first chased me, and because He first loved me. Jesus himself said "I came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19v10). God was chasing me and following my every path. Why am I a Christian? It is because of the events at Christmas and Easter that I am a Christian!

The dual events, in harmony, when God entered this world as a human baby and took all the necessary steps so that all people could have the choice to be His people or not. In my more smug moments I used to congratulate myself for being a Christian. How proud I was that I, Dave, was a Christian and that God was a jolly lucky God that I had decided to follow Him.

It was during one of my less self-deluded moments, that I examined myself and I found God pricking my conscience and correcting me, and I read the New Testament "For the Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark10v45).

Jesus calls you!

If you would not call yourself a Christian today, and this Jesus appeals to you, this Jesus who speaks with authority, and you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow. Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus.  Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.  

Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, "to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). Christian discipleship is a lifetime commitment!  Welcome to the family of God. It isnt just becoming a convert but rather a life long follower wanting to be more like Jesus Christ in what we call being a disciple. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and has put His mark within you through His Spirit (Ephesians 1:1-13). Finally, I ask again, who do you say this Jesus is? But further, what are you going to do with this Jesus and let Him do to you? Thank you.

Again, I ask, who do you say Jesus is? But further, what are you going to do with this Jesus and let Him do to you?

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Messiah's Proclamations

61:1 The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is on me; because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to those who are bound; 61:2 to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 61:3 to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. 61:4 They shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. 61:5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. 61:6 But you shall be named the priests of Yahweh; men will call you the ministers of our God: you will eat the wealth of the nations, and you will boast in their glory. 61:7 Instead of your shame you shall have double; and instead of dishonour they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be to them. 61:8 "For I, Yahweh, love justice, I hate robbery with iniquity; and I will give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 61:9 Their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which Yahweh has blessed." 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord Yahweh will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

63:1 Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this who is glorious in his clothing, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." 63:2 Why are you red in your clothing, and your garments like him who treads in the wine vat? 63:3 "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yes, I trod them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on my garments, and I have stained all my clothing. 63:4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed has come. 63:5 I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore my own arm brought salvation to me; and my wrath, it upheld me. 63:6 I trod down the peoples in my anger, and made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth." (Isaiah 61:1–11; 63:1-6)

 

In this passage from Isaiah 61 through to Isaiah 63, we have two contrasting certainties.  They can be found in Isaiah 61:2.  The two certainties are "the year of Yahweh's favour, and the day of vengeance of our God".   There will be the year of favour and the day of vengeance.  The year of honour, as we shall see has already started.  We don't know when it will end, but we know that it will. The day of vengeance will be in the future sometime. Again we don't know when that will be either.  But we know it will all happen quickly, suddenly and without warning (Isaiah 60:22).  Therefore people need to be ready and alert!  The time of when it will occur is not known, but it is known who will end it - Almighty God.

Messiah's Good News

The Servant Messiah speaks without being introduced this time, and is the preacher in the year of the Lord's favour.  This preaching is probably a referral to the rams horn that ushers in the Year of Jubilee as established in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 25:8-55).  The Servant Messiah's preaching will usher in a time of grace, justice and freedom - just as the ram's horn introduced the Year of Jubilee.  The phrase to "proclaim liberty" is used in both the year of Jubilee and in this the year of the Lord's favour.  This proclaimed year of the Lord's favour starts when the Messiah comes the first time and will cease when He returns again.  The word year, is not a fixed period of time as we know it, but is rather symbolic of an extended period of time.  This Servant Messiah is anointed with the Holy Spirit of God.  This Good News was to be preached to the humble, the poor and poor in spirit - the Good News is news of freedom, liberty, grace and justice!  The comfort they will receive should the offer be taken up, is one of being released from condemnation for sin through the Messiah's offer of forgiveness - that is grace! Because of this grace, three things will be occur for these people who have accept the offer, here referred to in Isaiah 61:3 as "trees of righteousness" : they will display or reflect the Lord God's glory and splendour; they will be priests of the Lord God service; and will inherit all things!

Messiah's Grace & Justice

What is the outcome and result of grace? We see it in Isaiah 61:7-9.  Almighty God's grace, available only through the Messiah, will bring bountiful blessing, ecstatic joy and a rich inheritance instead of shame, dishonour and exile.  Grace may well be free but it is not cheap. What was the price? The relationship bridge to God that is the Messiah, is only through the Messiah's suffering atonement as described in Isaiah 53.  Isaiah moves to justice quite naturally therefore, for grace and justice are like twins - they go together naturally.  Justice is grace in action just as much as it is the judging of those in sin (Isaiah 61:8). Liberating people from sin freely (grace) is as much a part of justice as punishing those who reject the gracious offer of pardon and continue to live sinful lives.  Grace and justice are also available, because God is always full of grace and justice and this is seen in the new covenant He makes with those who have heard this Good News proclaimed by the Messiah and responded by taking up His free offer. This Good News of the twins Grace and Justice brings an offering of thanksgiving and praise (Isaiah 61:10-11)! Clothed with salvation from and through God's Messiah, robed with the righteousness of God's Messiah! And because God has done it for this one man, He will ensure that all those who respond from all nations will also be like that in a responsive praise and Godly righteousness.

Messiah's Vengeance

We have been warned in Isaiah 61:2 that not only will the Messiah usher in the year of the Lord's favour, but He will also bring vengeance with him.  People today don't like the word vengeance because it conjures up images of maliciousness and vindictiveness.   This vengeance is wrought by Almighty God as punishment for people's personal sin against Him.  His anger is a righteous anger and a wrath borne of holiness.  His judgment will be final and also universal - every people of every nation of all time.  In particular, however, those who would persecute, mock, abhor and reject those who have taken up God's free offer of grace through the coming Messiah.

How is Jesus this Messiah?

In Luke 4:16-20 at the beginning of His public ministry at a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quotes this passage from Isaiah 61.  This tells us that the year of the Lord's favour has commenced.  But note from the passage in Luke, that he doesn't quote the full scripture.  He stops in the middle of reading a sentence, just as soon as He says "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour", rolls the scroll back up. 

Why does he do that?  It can only be because while now until He returns, is the year of the Lord's favour, the day of judgement and vengeance will wait until that day in the future - when those who are His followers will enter the City of God and those who rejected Him will have vengeance wrought against them.

Jesus went around, as we know, proclaiming the same Good News Isaiah writes about (Matthew 9:35, Luke 8:1).   Jesus proclaimed in his words and his life about God's love, grace and justice.  When he healed the sick, forgave sins, gave compassion on the poor, spoke and ate with the outcasts, Jesus Christ embodied this message of grace, justice and freedom.  When, as we saw on a previous day, death on the cross was the act of atonement required by God in order to punish the sins of the world, Jesus Christ did not shirk back from doing that.

As for the day of vengeance, nobody talked about hell and God's judgement more than Jesus.  But God is always reaching out, coaxing people to accept His free offer of grace, if people will only humble themselves and ask for it.  God's offer of freedom is still available in this the year of the Lord's favour.  But one day, the day of judgement will come and then it will be too late.  That is why Jesus commanded with some urgency that His followers would tell all nations of this Good News, Isaiah wrote about.  A Good News of salvation, grace, justice and freedom.

Jesus, reinforcing what Isaiah has said, tells us that the day of vengeance is for those who reject the Good News he preaches and lives (Matthew 10v14-15). God's Day of Judgment is coming said Jesus (Matthew 12:36).  What's more, Jesus said in John 5:22-23 "For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who doesn't honour the Son doesn't honour the Father who sent him." Jesus claims here to openly be the Messiah, the long awaited for chosen One!

An even more overt statement by Jesus on judgment can be found in  John 9:39, "I came into this world for judgment, that those who don't see may see; and that those who see may become blind." Jesus tells us that the punishment will be both physical (Matthew 5v29-30), and in the soul (Matthew 10v28).  This vengeance will consist of everlasting fire and punishment (Matthew 25v41-46) and will be Constant and outer darkness (Matthew 8v12). In other words, those rejecting the Messiah Jesus Christ, will face a lonely, impersonal God-less void.  All this will happen when Jesus comes again, not as a baby like last time, but in glorious splendour. But for all those who accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and have grasped hold of the Good News message of grace, justice and liberty, there will be another place. 

According to Jesus, this heavenly city of God is only for those who are righteous (Matthew 5v20). In doing so, he concurs with Isaiah.  This righteousness is not their own, but the robe righteousness declared upon them through the Messiah. This heavenly city of God, Jesus proclaims to us is a place of ecstatic Joy (Luke 15v7-10), total peace (Luke 16v19-25) and a reward (Matthew 5v11-12) - all themes we have heard in these books of Isaiah and Zechariah.

 

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