Monthly Archives: May 2014

Growing in Christ

Strange as it may be, we all happen to be people of habit, but never the less there seems to be a drive within us to improve our self-image in the way we look, the way we dress, the way we conduct our affairs, and most important the way we think. All this involves change within us from nap-pies to a sense of responsibility and ac-countability which presently is a very rare commodity in the society in which we live today. Bearing in mind that change is not always easy, because it involves a lot of heart searching as we come to grips how we can improve our lifestyle, to be a better person that re-flects the image of Christ within our lives.

When I was a child I experienced growing pains, as Christians, we also experience growing pains. As if I want to grow in Christ, how do I go about it? The answer is simple to understand when turning to the Word of God. Romans 12 : 2 “AND DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANS-FORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YOU MAY PROVE WHAT IS THAT GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT WILL OF GOD.” Meditating on the word of God brings transformation within our lives. Paul in writing to the church at Corinth had this to say in 1 Corinthians 13 : 11 “WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I SPOKE AS A CHILD, I UNDER-STOOD AS A CHILD, I THOUGHT AS A CHILD; BUT WHEN I BECAME A MAN I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS.” This dear child of God brings us to where we are able to “GROW IN CHRIST” 2ND Peter 1 : 3 &4 verse 3 “AS HIS DIVINE POWER HAS GIVEN TO US ALL THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO LIFE AND GODLINESS, THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM WHO CALLED US BY GLORY AND VIRTUE. Verse 4 BY WHICH HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO US EXCEED-INGLY GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES, THAT THROUGH THESE YOU MAY BE PARTAKERS OF THE DEVINE NATURE, HAVING ES-CAPED THE CORRUPTION THAT IS IN THE WORLD THROUGH LUST.” Furthermore this particular chapter con-tinues to reflect on Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Self-control, Perseverance, Godliness, Brotherly kindness, Love. When all these principles are active with-in our lives, then the Christ like nature of Jesus will be evident within us. “THEREFORE, BRETHEREN, BE EVEN MORE DILIGENT TO MAKE YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE, FOR IF YOU DO THESE THINGS YOU WILL NEVER STUM-BLE.” 2 Peter 1: 10

Shalom, Colin.

The Great Commission

Dear Family

The book of Matthews records the following words as being the last thing Jesus said before leaving:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Down through the ages this has come to be known as “The Great Commission”. And it most certainly appears to be! Consider for a moment: The Messiah breaks into human history to become one of us, fully God, fully human. After His supernatural conception and kitchen birth with the hoo haa of angels and the later visitation by some eastern mystics, He lives a relatively obscure life until he reappears at His baptism. He then goes on a flat out 3 odd years of ministry, gets falsely accused of crimes He did not commit, gets put to death, then rises again after 3 days. Around 40 days later He gives those gathered around Him this incredible, scary, seemingly impossible task – “go, make disciples, baptize them, teach them.” And then he floats into the air and gets hidden by a cloud. Poof! Gone!

Okay, so He did say He had “all authority” and that He would be with us “to the very end of the age” but all the other details are fairly sketchy to say the least. I mean “read between the lines” would be somewhat of an understatement indeed! The only good thing here is that He Himself did not name it “The Great Commission” so at least there’s some pressure off. Since he left the squeeze has been on to get to the “all nations” at any and all cost. Sweat! Sweat!

Except I do not believe the Saviour ever meant it to be a pressure thing. I think that’s our idea of what we have named “The Great Commission”. I think what He meant was that as we go about our lives, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are to re-present Him to those around us. He has authorized us to, and He wants us to. Because He is with us, we rest in Him as we teach, baptize and obey. This is not just for a few missionaries or pastors or warmongers, but for everyone who has chosen to follow in His footsteps. Making the world a better place for individuals by demonstrating Jesus one person at a time as we move along through life.

Pressure off! Love Him, live Him, lead others to Him. You too can be a part of the “Great Commission”.

Paul

Pilate’s Resolve

PILATE’S RESOLVE 

“Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified Him, and with Him two others — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.'” John 19:17-22 NIV.

One short, bald statement! That’s all John had to say about the crucifixion of his Lord. Perhaps as he reminisced about that day, now an old man with many years of suffering under his own belt, he still felt the pain of the memory of the awful sight of his beloved Master suspended between heaven and earth on a Roman torture stake.

The other gospel writers had told the story. It was enough that he record the fact in as few words as possible. He chose rather to write of the Master’s love which shone forth in those terrible hours of suffering.

John also gave us a glimpse of an incident that salvaged some of Pilate’s resolve at a time like this. Pilate had given in to the howling mob when he should have stood firm. He had condemned an innocent man to death, shrugging off his responsibility by allowing men full of prejudice and hatred to pass sentence because he didn’t have the courage to stand up against them.

Yet he was convinced that Jesus was who He claimed to be, King of the Jews. In some mysterious way, Jesus was a king, but He was no threat to Caesar. Pilate knew nothing about spiritual things, but he sensed that Jesus was from and represented another dimension he could not understand. He had tried to defend Him and insisted on His innocence but the religious boffins, who should have known better, had prevailed.

Pilate had one more opportunity to press home his conviction, by stating in writing for the whole world to read — in Aramaic, Latin and Greek — his belief in Jesus as the King of the Jews. What he understood by that we do not know. We could coldly and callously ask, “Did Pilate go to hell?” without considering the intention of his heart. We could condemn him for not being true to his conviction. But in this one thing he refused to be moved.

The Jewish leaders thought they had Pilate in the bag. They had won in the battle over Jesus’ conviction. Now they were incensed at Pilate’s final dig at them. Did he write the sign to get back at them; to show the utter ludicrousness of the charge against Jesus or to bear witness to his conviction that Jesus was indeed King of the Jews? We will never know but we can at least admire Pilate for his stand against them at this point.

Of course it was too late to save Jesus. The religious leaders had their way but it left a bad taste in their mouths to think that Pilate had got the better of them here and made a bold statement for the world to read that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Whatever it meant to those who read it as they passed by, it was for Pilate a statement of the truth and of his own conviction.

How did this brief encounter with Jesus affect Pilate in the years that followed? We do not know. Perhaps he often mused on those terrifying moments when he was forced to make a choice and he had chosen to crucify the king. No amount of excusing himself by putting the blame on the religious leaders would ease his conscience. He had passed sentence by default and he must carry the guilt of that decision to the grave and yet…

Peter’s words never rang in Pilate’s ears but God knew what He was doing. “This man was handed over to you (the Jews) by God’s set plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Acts 2:23-24 NIV.

What did Pilate think about that? Did he ever yearn for another encounter with Jesus just to put right what he had done? Only God knows!

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.”  

 

They Made Their Choice!

THEY MADE THEIR CHOICE!

“When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

“Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.” John 19:13-16 NIV.

Was Pilate playacting or was he stalling for time?

He knew he was beaten but he still acted as though he were in charge. Perhaps he made a show of taking the judge’s seat, ready to give them his verdict and pass sentence on the prisoner. Instead of announcing, ‘I find the accused, Jesus of Nazareth, guilty of treason. I sentence Him to death by crucifixion,’ …or…’I find the accused, Jesus of Nazareth, not guilty of the crime of treason against Caesar. The prisoner is free to leave,’ he made a statement, weak but intended to be dramatic! ‘Here is your king!’

What was that supposed to achieve? Did he really think that this militant mob would be moved with pity when they saw the swollen face and bloodied body of their enemy being paraded before them? It was the sight of Jesus, weak and stumbling, with flesh hanging in shreds from His mangled body, that spurred them on to begin to chant, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ rising to a deafening crescendo until Pilate silenced them with an upraised hand.

‘Do you really want me to crucify your king?’ he asked. So significant was this question that it could have come from the mouth of the Lord God Himself. Just as Pilate stood before the representatives of God’s people and gave them the choice; ‘Who do you want to rule over you; to set the standards by which you are governed; to decide what is right and wrong; to decide the course of your lives and your destiny as a nation; and to exercise justice over you,’ so God was asking them, ‘Who will be your chosen king, Caesar or God?’

They made their choice. In the heat and fury of their demented minds, the chief priests yelled, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ What a choice! This was their final decision against the God who had loved them, wooed them and stood by them through centuries of rebellion, spiritual adultery and unbridled wickedness. Again and again He had forgiven and restored them. His love would not let them go.

He sent His Messiah, He beloved and only-begotten Son to rescue them from the consequences of their terrible choices and now they had thrown Him away like filthy garbage and chosen Caesar as their king. Who was this Caesar they were so enamoured with?

“Tiberius Julius Caesar ruled from 14 AD to 37 AD. He was one of Rome’s greatest generals but he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive and sombre ruler.” (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/tiberius)

“It is not known whether Tiberius had heard of Jesus, or knew about the crucifixion of Jesus. Word about Jesus and his miracles spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire, even to the Imperial Palace o Palatine Hill but Tiberius had retired to his palace on the Island of Capri in 26 AD, while all sorts of corruption was happening in Rome…There were many rumours about Tiberius on Capri involving homosexuality, and sexual perversity with young boys, which included all sorts of inhumane cruelty.”

(www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/tiberius-caesar.html)

God took them at their word, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” and in AD 70 the Roman army under General Titus, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, slaughtered the people and Israel ceased to exist as a nation until 1948.

And God has not finished with the Jews yet!

Trapped!

TRAPPED!

“‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin.’

“From then on Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.'” John 19:10-12 NIV.

Three versions? Who was Pilate to believe?

He thought he knew who had the destiny of Jesus in his hands. After all, he was the Roman governor with delegated authority from the most powerful person in the world to decide whether Jesus lived or died. He was frustrated with Jesus because He was making no effort to defend Himself. In a few sentences He could easily have persuaded Pilate of His innocence, and Pilate would have had no option but to release Him for the sake of justice.

Here is a lesson for us. Every person must decide for himself. Jesus’ life and words present the evidence. It is not His role to persuade people to believe in Him but to let the facts speak for themselves and to give them the choice to receive or reject Him for who He is. Is He or is He not the Son of God? If He is, then we give Him total allegiance because we can do no other.

Jesus’ response must have shocked Pilate. It was not Pilate who had the authority to decide on His fate. His authority was only delegated, and not from Rome. There was a higher authority to which Rome was accountable and so was Pilate. God was in charge of the whole universe, and not even Caesar could rule without His permission.

That should change the way we view life when things seem to have gone horribly wrong. Do things just happen? Randomly? Coincidentally? Not from Jesus’ perspective! Here He was, standing before the Roman governor, on trial for His life on trumped up charges.  Where was God? Where was justice? From our point of view it looked like things had spun out of control. But…

Peter said, “‘This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him to a cross.'” Acts 2:23 NIV.

This was a deliberate plan of God and Jesus was in on the whole thing. He did not want to be released because He had a mission to fulfil and He was carrying it out in obedience to the Father. When they tried to arrest Him in the garden, they could not until He handed Himself over. Now He stood before Pilate and watched him wrestle with his conscience, knowing that fear would override justice because it had to be.

The religious leaders used their power to persuade Pilate – the power of intimidation. Although Jesus was no threat to Caesar, and Pilate knew it, the Jewish hierarchy taunted him with the accusation, “If you let Him go, Caesar won’t like you. Jesus is guilty of treason because He says He is a king. If you let Him go, you are in cahoots with Him and that means you are against Caesar!”

Pilate was trapped. Whichever way he decided, he was in trouble. To which authority should he bow; to Caesar; to God; or to the Jews? After the day of Pentecost, Peter knew the answer. When he and John stood before the Sanhedrin and were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, Peter courageously looked their accusers in the eye and replied:

“‘Which is right in God’s eyes; to listen to you or to Him? You be the judges!'” Acts 4:19 NIV.

Pilate made his choice and had to live with it for the rest of his life.