Tag Archives: alive

THR GOSPEL OF LUKE – WE HAD OUR HOPES UP

WE HAD OUR HOPES UP

“He said, ‘What has happened?’

“They said, ‘The things that happened to Jesus, the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed Him, got Him sentenced to death and crucified Him. And we had our hopes up that He was the Christ. And now this is the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find His body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Jesus,'” Luke 24:19-24 (The Message).

What sad words, ‘We had our hopes up…

What a story! No wonder these poor disciples were confused! So many things had happened in such a short time that they could not make head or tail of them. If they had only taken note of Jesus’ repeated warning, they would have saved themselves from all this confusion.

How many times had Jesus told them that these things would happen? He had explained to them in detail that He would be arrested, tried and crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day. Had they listened, it would have been a time of celebration and expectation instead of confusion and grief.

Jesus continued to play His little game of “hide-and-seek” with them. He listened to their story, perhaps with a touch of amusement because He was about to give them the biggest surprise of their lives, but also with some frustration because of their unbelief.

The disciples had walked with Jesus long enough to know that He was always in charge of every situation and that He always had a solution. Had they watched and listened, they would have realised that He was not a victim of an assassination plot but a willing participant in something much bigger, orchestrated to fulfill a greater purpose.

Time and again He had made it clear that He was nobody’s pawn. He had often walked through a murderous mob unscathed. He had often declared, ‘It’s not yet my time.’ The tale of woe of these two that morning made it obvious to Jesus that nothing He had said made sense to them and they didn’t believe any of it. What a slap in the face for Him!

How like them we are! We have a whole Bible full of promises and reassurances but, when things don’t go our way, we fall apart like the disciples did, and spend our time and emotional energy recounting the problems instead of trusting the promises. Has God ever failed? If He fails you, it will be the first time in history, His first lie and the first crack in His flawless character!

On one occasion, Jesus and His disciples met a man born blind. The disciples’ reaction was, ‘Whose fault was it that he was born blind.’ Jesus’ response was typically ‘Jesus’. “‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause and effect here. Look instead for what God can do.'” John 9:3.MSG

That’s it! It does not matter what crisis we are in. Three facts are non-negotiable: God is there; God is good; God is in charge. No one can ‘do’ anything ‘to’ anyone without God’s knowledge and purpose. How much better to wait and trust rather than expend useless emotional pain in fear and unbelief.

A simple, ‘Let’s see what God can do,’ will wipe out doubt and replace it with anticipation of something bigger than we can imagine. After all, isn’t God about putting His glory on display through us? He used the most impossible circumstances to do it through Jesus, and He will do it through us if we believe.

The Cross Our Refuge

THE CROSS OUR REFUGE

When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh. God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross  (Col. 2: 13-15).

These are three of the most powerful and the most liberating verses in the whole Bible. Let me tell you why.

There are two things which believers struggle with – the penalty of sin and the power of sin. Satan has a weapon which he uses against us constantly – lies. His lies translate to uncertainties in our minds. Am I really forgiven? Why do I still have troubles and problems? Is God punishing me for things I have done wrong? Is the devil attacking me?

Satan would love us to believe that he still has the power over us, but he is a liar, and his lies have been exposed. It was at the cross that his lies were brought to light and his weapons taken from him. The only power he still wields over us is his deception. He can manipulate us when we believe his lies.

Let’s handle our misgivings one at a time.

First the issue of forgiveness. Does God still punish us when we sin? The answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all those whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (Rev. 13: 8).

Since God is eternal, not subject to time, He planned that the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, although it happened at a point in history, would be sufficient to provide forgiveness for all people, for all sin, and for all time. Why then the sacrifices of the Old Covenant? The sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant was intended to be a visual aid for the people. Their faith was in the promise of God’s forgiveness through His Lamb, not in the animal blood that was shed.

The Jewish leaders were outraged when Jesus forgave people without offering a sacrifice. They did not understand that He could forgive sin on the basis of His sacrifice which was effective from the beginning of creation.

This means that our sin was forgiven before we were even born. Can God, then, still punish us for the sins we commit now? Again a resounding ‘NO!’ Why not? Because He would be acting illegally and against His own nature. In any justice system, it is illegal to punish a person twice for the same crime. How much more, then, according to God’s justice, would it be wrong for Him to punish sinners for sin for which His Son has been punished.

Why, then, do God’s children still suffer? Why do things go wrong in our lives? Why do bad things happen to good people? The answer to this question deals with our second misgiving? Is the devil attacking me? Once again the answer is ‘No!’ This demands the question, ‘Who is in charge?’ Jesus’s message to His people when He came was, ‘Change your mind. God is in charge.’ When Jesus died and rose again, His clear message was, ‘The devil is a liar. God the Father is in charge,’ and He proved is by raising His son from the dead.

Your troubles and mine are not punishment but discipline. There is a great deal of difference between punishment and discipline. We cannot escape the hardships in this life because they are part of the consequences of Adam’s sin. However, God directs them and works in them for our good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8: 28).

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what children are not disciplined by their father? . . . They disciplined us for a while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12: 7, 10).

Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, we have the assurance that God has forever dealt with our sin and with the devil. We can now have complete confidence that we are His children and that He is training us now for our life with Him forever.

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

 

Love Fulfills The Law

LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW

“Do you not know, brothers and sisters – I am speaking to those who know the law – that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.” Romans 7:1-3.

Paul was being as thorough as he could in explaining both the theory and practical application of Jesus’ death in the lives of his readers so that they would enter as fully as they could into their new life in Christ Jesus. Those who worshipped Idols would have no interest in being set free from sin. In fact their very adherence to idol worship gave them licence to indulge every fleshly appetite as an excuse for worshipping their god!

It is only in the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that we find both the reason and the power to break free from self-indulgence and the consequent destruction of everything good in us, to return to the way of life God created us to live. Sin brings alienation from God, cuts us off from the source of life and takes us in the end to where everything belongs that is disconnected from God – the rubbish heap – to be destroyed in the fire.

Because it is the law that defines what sin is, we have to be severed from the law which condemns us, and we must be reconnected to God without the barrier of sin and the penalty of the broken law. The only way out of the clutches of the law would be for someone who had never disobeyed the law to take the rap for disobedience by dying. In that way, that person would be severed from the law, just as a husband and wife are severed by death.

Death breaks the legal bond between husband and wife and allows the living spouse to marry someone else without violating her covenant with her former husband. That covenant was cancelled by his death and she is no longer held to it.

Could Paul make any clearer the situation between the law and a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Legally, the bond between us and the law has been severed because someone has paid the penalty for breaking that covenant. Since He did not pay the penalty for His own sin, what He did affects the whole human race. We are now dead to the law; the bond has been severed and we are free to marry another.

By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been espoused to Him as our bridegroom. We await His return to take us to the Father’s house for the wedding and our eternal union with Him, as He promised.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” John 14:1-4.

Wedding talk! We are no longer married to the law. Jesus killed it by His death on the cross. We have a new fiancé and are already legally bound to Him by our faith in Him and what He did to break the law’s hold on us. It no longer has authority over us. We are no longer under condemnation because the debt has been paid.

When the law comes knocking and demanding obedience to it, we are free to ignore its demands because we are dead to it and alive to our new master. “But,” you ask, “doesn’t that mean that we can live as we like?” No, it doesn’t because we are not free from all authority. We have changed allegiance and are now under a new master – espoused to a new husband. He also has a law we must obey – but His law is not to make us acceptable but we obey Him because we love Him and are already acceptable to Him.

His law is simple. It is the law of love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34.

“And so,” Paul concluded, “It is love that fulfils the law.” Look at that! By loving one another the law is satisfied, after all!

Acknowledgement

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

 

From Grief To Joy

FROM GRIEF TO JOY

“Not long after that Jesus went to the village Nain, His disciples were with Him along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession — a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, His heart broke. He said to her, ‘Don’t cry,’ Then He went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, ‘Young man, I tell you: Get up.’ The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.” Luke 7:11-15 (The Message).

Now that really takes the cake!

It was amazing enough that Jesus healed sick people, opened deaf ears and blind eyes, and got rid of demons, but talking to a dead man and expecting him to hear and respond! That was outside the realm of these people’s experience. Just imagine how the tongues wagged after the crowd had seen that! His popularity must have soared a thousand present.

Anyone reading this story for the first time might be struck by the matter-of-fact-ness of what happened. It was told with such simplicity that Jesus might have been walking through an orchard picking apples. There is nothing mystical or magical about what He did. He stopped the funeral procession, spoke to the dead body and the young man heard and responded. Just like that!

What prompted Jesus to do something like that? Was He showing off His power to convince people who He was? There is nothing in the record to suggest that. Luke tells us clearly why He did it — His compassion for the grieving mother moved Him to action.

She was a widow and, with her son gone, she had become destitute. What would become of her without a breadwinner? Unlike modern times, she could not get a job to support herself. She was dependent on the goodwill of the people around her and it was a precarious living, to say the least. She was not supposed to outlive her son.

Jesus responded, not only to her grief but also to her plight. He understood her predicament and stepped in to undo the tragedy that had robbed her of her livelihood. Imagine how He felt when He walked away from that scene with the memory of a mother’s joy at being reunited with her son!

“They all realised they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful — and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, ‘God is back, looking to the needs of His people!’ The news of Jesus spread all through the country.” Luke 7:16, 17 (The Message).

At least these people didn’t call Jesus a devil and attribute His work to Beelzebub! The crowd was stunned into silence and then stirred into praise. ‘God is here,’ they marvelled, recognising that only God could do what Jesus was doing. Where were the Pharisees? Apparently dumbstruck or absent. No-one raised an objection; no-one accused Him of anything. They accepted what their eyes had just seen as the work of God.

Wherever He went, Jesus was putting His Father’s glory on display and showing His people what His kingdom was like so that He could invite them to share in a life that was infinitely attractive and compelling. This is how God wanted it to be, and this is how it would be when the enemies of His kingdom were finally overthrown and everything restored to His original design.

As children of God and citizens of God’s kingdom, it is our task to contribute to the restoration of His rule on earth. It is not enough to pray, ‘Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Jesus has entrusted to us the role of continuing what He began, bringing heaven to earth by restoring what is broken wherever and whenever we can.

Are you doing that?

 

 

A Walking Miracle

A WALKING MIRACLE!

“They went on ahead and waited for us in Troas. Meanwhile we stayed in Philippi for Passover Week and then set sail. Within five days we were again in Troas and stayed a week.

“We met on Sunday to worship and celebrate the Master’s Supper. Paul addressed the congregation. Our plan was to leave first thing in the morning, but Paul talked on, way past midnight. We were meeting in a well-lighted upper room. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in an open window. As Paul went on and on, Eutychus fell sound asleep and toppled out the third story window. When they picked him up, he was dead.” Acts 20:5-9 (The Message).

This is such a human story! A long-winded preacher and someone falls asleep! Fortunately, not everyone who sleeps in church ends up dead!

Did Paul have a premonition that he was meeting with the church at Troas for the last time? He had so much to share with them that he forgot the time, although the plan was to leave early in the morning. Instead of having an early night, he met with the believers in an upper room, shared the Lord’s Supper with them and poured out the passion of his heart hour after hour.

While most of the congregation stayed awake, there was one who just could not keep his eyes open. Sitting on an upstairs windowsill was a precarious enough perch, but sleeping there was Eutychus’ undoing. One moment he was there and the next he was gone, lying dead on the ground below. Imagine the panic when the crowd tumbled downstairs and someone picked up his lifeless body. What a terrible end to a wonderful day!

“Paul went down, stretched himself on him, and hugged him hard ‘No more crying,’ he said. ‘There’s life in him yet.’ Then Paul got up, and served the Master’s Supper. And went on telling stories of the faith until dawn! On that note, they left — Paul went one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.” Acts 20:10-12 (The Message).

Did Paul remember the story of Elisha and a widow’s dead son? What he did next was so matter-of-fact that it seems as though, for Paul, it was all in a day’s (or night’s) work. Eutychus dead? No problem. Just lie on him for a few moments and he’ll live, and that’s exactly what happened. Not even an unexpected death in the congregation made him miss a beat.

How is that for a steadfast purpose! Nothing deviated Paul from his intention to make and build disciples at every opportunity he had, and he would not allow even a tragic accident to distract him from his mission. It almost seems as though he treated the event as an interruption which he had no problem dealing with so that he could get on with his task.

What did it mean to the small group believers at Troas? What would they remember of Paul’s last visit with them? The hours of preaching and teaching that night? Not likely. The miracle of a dead boy raised to life? O yes! What Paul was sharing with them was a vital part of their understanding of the life they had committed themselves to living with the Lord, but the walking miracle among them was a constant reminder that Jesus was alive, real and powerful for them and in them.

Was the devil in this? Most definitely, because he holds the power of death, but he never has the last word. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life and through His victory over death, Eutychus woke up to live out his allotted time. His tragic death turned out to be a visual aid of God’s power among them which they would not easily forget. .