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UNITED WITH HIM

UNITED WITH HIM

“For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. For we know that, since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:5-11.

That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it!

As we were saying, Jesus’ death in our place has many more implications than the forgiveness of our sins. Our faith in Him has produced a spiritual union that affects everything about our lives. When we were baptised in water, we witnessed in a physical act our identity with both His death and His resurrection. Jesus’ death and our acceptance of His death for us by faith cancelled our debt of sin and broke sin’s hold over us. The Holy Spirit raised our dead spirits to life, reconnecting us to God, to His life and to His power which enables us not to sin.

In our old state, before we believed in Jesus, we had no power not to sin because the pull of our old nature was towards disobedience. But now, in Christ, sin’s hold over us had been broken. God has restored His own nature in us and the Holy Spirit is united with our spirits so that we are able to respond to His prompting towards trust and obedience.

Paul put it this way: just as we died with Jesus symbolically in our baptism, so we also died in Him in reality when He died on the cross. In the same way, just as we rose symbolically from our watery grave, so we also rose from the dead in Him. His resurrection guarantees our life because He can never die again. Death is the cut-off point of this life. What happens afterwards depends on what happens here and now.

This has all happened in the unseen realm, legally if you like. We have been legally declared “Not guilty,” and our debt has been cancelled. God has removed all the barriers between us and Him. We have access to Him without sacrifices or priests, through Jesus our High Priest and Mediator. Our status has been changed from “sinner” to “son”. We are in Christ and since He is alive, we are alive in Him.

But where do we go from here? From God’s perspective everything has been done. It’s not about “what we will be” but “what we are”. We have not only been forgiven, rescued and set free; we have also been made perfect in Christ. Our entire past has ceased to exist. We are free from its debt and its guilt and shame, to pursue who we now are.

So, Paul says, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Since this is all a fait accompli, act on it because, and as if it is true. “But,” you say, “that’s all very well, but I still cannot do the right thing on my own.” But that’s the point. You have been set free to choose to obey God rather than the dictates of your old selfish and rebellious nature. Once you have made your choice to obey God because you value Jesus more than yourself, the Holy Spirit supplies the strength to do it.

That’s what Paul means by “count”; reckon, accept that it is so and make your choice accordingly. The Holy Spirit is in you to enable you to carry through on your decision. Every time you deliberately choose to obey God, it becomes easier to do it the next time. In this way you will be strengthening the divine nature in you and putting to death the old nature which is already potentially dead in Christ.

God has equipped us with two sources of power – the Holy Spirit and His Word. Look at this Scripture:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that, through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort…” 2 Peter 1:3-5a.

It has happened! Now make it happen.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – EVEN THE PIGS PERISHED!

EVEN THE PIGS PERISHED!

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. Mark 5:11-17

It seems that the madman first spoke for the demons, and then they spoke for themselves. Their very plea not to be sent away is proof of Jesus’ absolute authority over them. It also shows how foolish they were. They requested to be relocated into the pigs, not realising that their presence would drive the pigs crazy just as they had driven the man crazy. According to Jesus, evil spirits roam around looking for a host body, in this case pigs but, once again, the demons were homeless because their new hosts were dead!

In the meantime, the delivered man became a momentary celebrity. The news of his deliverance spread around the region faster than a bush fire. Everyone wanted to see him and hear his story – over and over again. There he was, as sane as any of them, just as they had heard about him. And there was Jesus, the man responsible for this dramatic change! Did He say anything, preach, teach, or explain? Probably not! The man himself was enough of a witness without any explanations.

But there was something else as well. A herd of dead pigs floating in the lake awoke them to the economic disaster this man’s healing had caused. Their anger and panic over lost income overrode their awe at this amazing event. Instead of rejoicing with the man and his family over his restoration, they drove Jesus out of the region just in case He did any more damage to their already depleted resources.

I wonder what would have happened to their economy had they believed in Jesus and turned their lives over to Him. Since He promised never to diminish us (Psalm 23:1) losing their pigs would have ultimately been to their benefit.

But there was one hope left for this region – the newly-sane man. What impact would his freedom have on his people? How would his deliverance change a hostile mob?

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – PARTNERS IN CRIME

PARTNERS IN CRIME

“Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see Him; he’d heard so much about Him. He hoped to see Him do something spectacular. He peppered Him with questions. Jesus didn’t answer — not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

“Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent Him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.” Luke 23:8-12 (The Message).

Now it’s Herod’s turn — the other authority figure responsible for justice in the land. It took a run-in with the truth to show his true colours. He emerged as an even more unsavoury character than Pilate, who was at least honest enough to consider the accusations and acknowledge Jesus’ innocence.

To Herod, Jesus was nothing but an object of amusement and a plaything. When Jesus refused to dance to his tune, he tossed Him aside with contempt. It was not justice he was after but entertainment for his own pleasure. He led the way, giving the soldiers permission by his own attitude, to humiliate Jesus by their words and actions.

It was also the soldiers’ turn to confirm their guilt in this saga. By their behaviour, they condemned themselves to the same fate as all the others. They had no personal axe to grind with Jesus and yet they treated Him like an enemy, cornered prey that they could torment before killing because, for a short time, they had Him in their power, so they thought.

Always, in the background, the religious hierarchy pranced around like hyenas, there in force to ensure that the prey did not escape.

Each one in this unfolding drama reveals his true self and confirms his culpability before God. And so with us. The value of this record would be lost to us if we did not place ourselves somewhere in this story. We may not occupy a seat of justice or rulership but we have to face the same Jesus and make a decision regarding who He is.

Like the people directly responsible for His death, we have to come up with a verdict. Was He an imposter, guilty of blasphemy or treason, or was He the Son of God and King of kings? If we declare Him guilty as charged, we have not honestly evaluated the evidence. If we declare Him innocent, we stand guilty with those who condemned Him to death unjustly, because all humanity was represented in that act.

The sequel to this bizarre chain of events was the unlikely alliance that came about that day. In their unwillingness to fulfil their duty to serve justice on a condemned man, Pilate, the arrogant and ruthless representative of Roman government and Herod, the half-Jew playboy ruler of Galilee, joined hands in condemning Jesus to death and became partners in the worst crime ever committed by human beings. Pilate, by handing an innocent man over to the will of a religious mob and Herod, by his callous indifference, washed their hands of God then, but have to face Him again.

What about us? If we choose to wash our hands of Jesus now, as Pilate did then, we too will have to face Him again, and this time He will be in the seat of justice. His perfect justice will be to give us exactly what we want – nothing to do with Him.

Peter and his fellow disciples were equally guilty on that day. One denied and they all deserted Him, but they came back and Jesus forgave them on the same grounds that He always forgives, “They do not know what they are doing.” They had no idea of the implications of their behaviour. Neither did Pilate or Herod but they never returned to receive the same mercy and forgiveness extended to the disciples.

How much better to return now and acknowledge your part in Jesus’ death. He was the sacrificial lamb put to death for you, blood for blood, so that you may receive the gift of His life, and never have to face the judgment that would sever you from Him forever.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – LIES UNRAVELED

LIES UNRAVELED

“The governor motioned to Paul that it was now his turn. Paul said, ‘I count myself fortunate to be defending myself before you, Governor, knowing how fair-minded you’ve been in judging us all these years. I’ve been back in the country only twelve days — you can check out these dates easily enough. I came with the express purpose of worshipping in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and I’ve been minding my own business the whole time. Nobody can say they saw me arguing in the Temple or working up a crowd in the streets. Not one of their charges can be backed up with evidences or witnesses.'” Acts 24:10-13 (The Message).

Now, Paul, it’s your turn to pit your brilliant legal mind against Tertullius and his clients.

It was Paul’s turn to speak, to make his defense against the pathetic accusations brought by Tertullius on behalf of the Jews who were trying to use emotional hype to make their case stick. The problem was that, for Felix, it was a toss-up between administering justice for Paul or currying favour with the Jews. That depended on the governor’s character and integrity. Was this about justice or about winning a popularity contest with the influential and volatile Jewish leaders?

Paul appealed to the governor’s past performance of good governance, whether it was true or not, in the hopes that Felix would want to uphold his good name.  His defense was not based on emotion but on fact and truth.

Paul dismissed the charges of being a rabble-rouser with the contempt it deserved. He wasted no time in defending himself on that point, appealing to Felix to call the witnesses and check the evidence.

“‘But I do freely admit this: In regard to the Way which they malign as a dead-end street, I serve and worship the very same God served and worshipped by all our ancestors and embrace everything written in all our Scriptures. And I admit to living in hopeful anticipation that God will raise the dead, both the good and the bad. If that’s my crime, my accusers are just as guilty as I am.'” Acts 24:14-15 (The Message).

Paul knew what the real issue was, just as Jesus did decades before. It was about the Messiah the Jewish leaders had rejected. This was not about his criminal activity. This was about their position of power over the people, and the wealth they garnered from their offerings.  If Jesus was truly the Messiah, whom the people of the Way believed and followed, then the Jewish hierarchy would have to admit that they were wrong and that they had crucified their Messiah. They would have to eat humble pie, give up their position and follow Him.

Paul skillfully put them in a really bad light.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, theoretically, but they rejected the resurrection of Jesus. If they were to be true to what they believed, they would have to acknowledge that Jesus was their Messiah. Paul had them cornered because he placed himself squarely on their side. If he were guilty of believing in the resurrection, so were they. He had gone all the way and embraced the resurrection as fact and proof of Jesus’ Messiah ship. They had not.

Paul had dug in the knife. In the next few sentences he would slash open the hearts of these hypocrites and their slimy, useless lawyer who did no more than mouth the feeble accusations of his clients. This had nothing to do with Paul’s behaviour and everything to do with their unbelieving and greedy hearts.

This is a clear lesson for all who claim to be followers of the Messiah Jesus. There is no room in His body for people who follow Him for what they can get out of it for themselves. Jesus is about truth. He is Messiah and Lord, appointed by the Father to be the king over all things. Those who would follow Him may only do so if they abandon themselves to Him as Lord.

ONE THING!

We all have wishes and desires and wants and dreams, don’t we …and they cover a variety of aspirations, from money and wealth to health and happiness and everything in between? What would you ask for if God promised to give you anything you want? Would He give you what you desire or would He say, “No!” because it would not be good for you?

David also had a desire, so strong that he called it ONE THING. He didn’t only ask for it; he sought it with all his heart.

ONE THING I ask of the Lord., this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple (Psa. 27: 4).

What! Spend your whole life just thinking about God! What benefit is there in that when there’s so much going on around you?

David was the king of Israel but he was also a man after God’s own heart. God loved him dearly – in fact, his name means “beloved.” He had everything his heart could desire. He had wives and children, fame, success, wealth and power. Yet, of all the things he could have desired, he most wanted to be in God’s presence to gaze at Him!

“Well,” you might say, “if I had been David, I would have asked for…”, something tangible to make my life a little easier or more comfortable.

For David, one thing was more important to him than anything else – to be in the presence of the Lord.

Two other Bible characters had one thing on their minds. Mary, Martha’s sister, sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. When Martha complained that Mary wasn’t pulling her weight in the kitchen, Jesus gently reminded her that it was Mary’s choice to be with Him and no one could take that ONE THING from her (Luke 10:42).

The apostle Paul also had ONE THING on his mind.

But ONE THING I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13b-14).

The difference between these desires and ours is often the difference between what is eternal and what is transient. These three people set their hearts on the eternal. Another guy in Scripture chose his money over Jesus. He has kept all the commandments, yet he lacked ONE THING – fellowship with Jesus. That makes up for everything else. When you have Jesus, you have everything.