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22 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE NEW COVENANT- PART ONE

22 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE NEW COVENANT- PART ONE

In this study, I make a distinction between the Old and New Covenants and the Old and New Testaments. “Covenants” refer to the legally binding agreements God made with His people. Although “covenant” and “testament” mean essentially the same thing, “testament” usually refers to either the first or second part of the story of the Bible.

Many of God’s children have not yet understood the significance of the New Covenant. They hark back to the Old Covenant in many of their beliefs and practices and try to blend the two in their Christian walk in the world.

For example, there are prayer practices which are based on Old Testament incidents and others which have no reference to anything in Scripture, yet they form the basis of modern prayer movements.

“Prayer walking” is one such practice, probably based on Israel’s conquest of Jericho, which has no counterpart in the New Testament. Identifying strongholds and altars and “pulling them down” is another such practice which is not found anywhere in the Book of Acts.

Some believers even go as far as connecting “leylines” to unmask the enemy, and carry out rituals to overcome the power of the principalities and powers over cities, towns and “high places”. This is, firstly, a waste of time and energy and, secondly, an insult to the work of Jesus on the cross. His final declaration before He died, says it all. “IT IS FINISHED!”

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians 1:19-23 NLT

Some practices blatantly contradict what Jesus has accomplished through His death and resurrection. So called “spiritual warfare” is one such activity that ignores His conquest of Satan, misrepresents the clear message of Scripture and takes the focus of our attention from the transformation of our inner lives to our circumstances with their problems and inconveniences.

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” Colossians 2:13-15 NLT

“… But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8 NLT

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6 NLT

Other sections of the church insist that certain parts of the law are still binding on believers. One such group makes observance of the seventh day obligatory and even teaches that the mark of the beast is worship on a Sunday.

Still others enthusiastically observe Jewish feasts and even travel to Israel to celebrate there. They do this, apparently, to identify with the Jewish people in the hopes, perhaps of breaking down hostility between Jew and Gentile.

All of these practices contradict the letter and spirit of the New Covenant.

THE OLD COVENANT

So, what was the meaning and purpose of the Old Covenant?

  1. The Abrahamic Covenant expressed, in embryo, God’s purpose to bless all the nations of the world through the Jewish nation to be born from Abraham and Sarah.

“…. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 NLT

God fulfilled His promise to Abraham by growing the nation of Israel through Isaac, the promised son, the nation through which He sent His Messiah to die for the sin of the world.

  1. The Mosaic Covenant was a covenant between God and His people, Israel. It was essentially a “ketubah”, a prenuptial marriage covenant detailing God’s requirements for an intimate relationship with Him.

The Mosaic Covenant was an interim covenant. In other words, it was not the covenant to bless all the nations on earth that God planned from the beginning through Abraham. It was a “training” covenant, or a betrothal covenant to prepare the bride for her marriage to her groom.

The terms of this covenant had a specific purpose in the lives of God’s people, to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s eternal covenant with Jews and Gentiles.

The Mosaic Covenant was designed to teach God’s people…

  1. That God is holy and separated from His people. They could only approach Him through an elaborate system of sacrifices and rituals.
  1. That sin is infectious and pollutes not only the individual but the whole nation. Sin required blood to atone for its offense to God, to cleanse from its pollution and quarantine to protect from its contagion.

The law, according to Paul, awakened sin and provoked the sinner to rebel.

“When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.” Romans 7:5 NLT

  1. That God required perfect obedience to all the details of His law. Any transgression cut His people off from Him. Hence, the Old Covenant was a covenant of death because no one was able to keep it perfectly.

“But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NLT

  1. Essentially, the Old Covenant showed the people how impossible it was to please God through trying to obey the law.

“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” Romans 3:20 NLT

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New, reached the same conclusion…

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own….”Isaiah 53:6 NLT

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9 NLT

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 NLT

Israel’s history proved that the Old Covenant, with its emphasis on “do this and you will live” could never restore His people to fellowship with Him. It only revealed how sinful they were and brought judgment and punishment on the whole nation until they eventually became slaves to Rome.

What, then, is the value of the Old Testament and the Covenant it describes, for us?

  1. Without it, the person and life of Jesus would make no sense. Who was He? What was His origin and ancestry? How do we know He was authentic and what He said was true?

Prophecy, through the history of the Jews, supplies all the anwers. “The New is in the Old concealed. The Old is in the New revealed.” The Old Testament is the first half of the whole. The story of the Bible is incomplete without it.

  1. Paul gives us another purpose for the story of the people of God written in the Old Testament. Their failure to obey God’s laws is a warning to us.

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.”  And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 NLT

  1. The law (both the law of conscience for the Gentiles and the Law of Moses for the Jews) was our guardian until Christ came and set us free from slavery to sin.

“Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” Galatians 4:1-5 NLT

THE NEW COVENANT

Entwined in the history of Israel with its rebellion, sin, failure, and judgment, is the golden thread of a new covenant that would have the power to deal with sin and the sin nature. It promised forgiveness of sin and a new heart, the restoration of the Holy Spirit within, which mankind lost through Adam’s sin, and the power to overcome sin’s hold and live in fellowship with God.

This new covenant was to be brought about through God’s Messiah. He was to be given as a covenant to the people.

“I, the Lord , have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,  to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” Isaiah 42:6-7 NIV

“He (God) says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6 NLT

“This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again. I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’ They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare.” Isaiah 49:8-9 NLT

God’s promise of a Messiah and a New Covenant was not an afterthought. It was the bright light of hope that shone through the darkness of Israel’s dismal history. Its first glimmer began in the Garden of Eden when God promised to Satan, the perpetrator of the deception, that…

“And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 NLT

Woven into the story of Israel’s failure is the hope that God would make a New Covenant that would no longer depend on fallible man’s imperfect obedience but on the perdect obedience of one who would stand in man’s place and take the rap for man’s sin.

Isaiah, of all the prophets who had visions of the  Messiah in the Old Testament, paints the clearest picture of what He would do.

‘My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:2-6 NLT

“But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:10-11 NLT

The entire New Covenant is contained in this one person who was able to do what the entire nation of Israel could never do.

“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.”

But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” Isaiah 53:7-10, 12 NLT

Where Isaiah paints the picture of the one who IS the New Covenant, Jesemiah and Ezekiel describe what the New Covenant would accomplish.

“The day is coming,” says the Lord , “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord . “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord .’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord . “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 NLT

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT

When did this New Covenant come into effect?

“For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.”  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NLT

Jesus announced, on the night before His crucifixion, that the New Covenant would come into effect and be ratifief by the shedding of His own blood.

What happened to the Old Covenant? Does it still apply? Do we still have to obey the laws of the Old Covenant, and especially the Ten Commandments which are the core of the Old Covenant?

Let’s look at what the Bible says.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OLD AND NEW COVENANTS

  1. The Mosaic or Old Covenant was between God and Israel, not the Gentiles, therefore it doesn’t apply to us. Does that mean that we don’t have to keep it? No, it does not because God’s moral law (contained in the Ten Commandments) is written into our conscience. Everyone is born with a conscience.

“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” Romans 2:14-15 NLT

Therefore, the law of conscience is universal and everyone is under obligation to obey it.

  1. The Mosaic Law, written into the Old Covenant, demands obedience for its promises to be effective. The New Covenant is fulfilled, not through obedience but through faith. The Old Covenant said,” Do this, and you will live… ”  The New Covenant says, “Believe, and you will live…”

“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” John 20:30-31NLT

 

It is, therefore, impossible to live according to both the Old and the New Covenants because the one cancels the other out.

Paul had an altercation with Peter because Peter, intimidated by Jewish believers, who insisted on obedience to the Law, was drawing back from fellowshipping with Gentiles.

“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Galatians 2:15-16 NLT

What happens when believers try to keep the law?

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” Galatians 5:2-4 NLT

Paul struggled with legalists who tried to force Gentile believers to become Jews by being circumcised. We can substitute any of the Mosaic laws for circumcision and the result is the same.

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.”

This includes copying any rituals or practices in the Old Testament to get God to act that are not authorised in the New Covenant.

The operative words in the Old Covenant are  “obey” and  “do”.

The operative words in the New Covenant are  “believe” and “done”.

Our manual for understanding the New Covenant is found in the New Testament. We need to use both the Old and the New Testaments for the purpose for which they were written.

What happened to the Old Covenant, then?

“If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it…. But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the Lord , when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah…. When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:7-8, 13 NLT

According to Hebrews, it will “soon” disappear. Why has it not disappeared already? The Old Covenant still has a purpose….

“Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” Galatians 3:23-25 NLT

So, the law (of conscience or the Mosaic law) was necessary in our lives. It revealed the nature of sin in us and our need for a Saviour. However, when we believed in Jesus, we were set free from the necessity to obey the law.

Why? In the, New Covenant, we have the Holy Spirit and God’s word written on our hearts.

To go back to the law in any form is to take on the burden of perfect obedience again, and to cut ourselves off from the power of God’s grace.

In the next study, we will examine the New Covenant more closely because the New Covenant gives us all the tools for overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

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

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – FROM GRIEF TO JOY

FROM GRIEF TO JOY

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:35-43

After an agonising interruption for the grief-stricken father, Jesus and His disciples moved towards Jairus’ house, surrounded by the ever-present throng. A delegation from Jairus’ house met them with a message that Jairus was dreading to hear, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?” Their words seemed like the cut-off point. Alive – Jesus could still step in and heal her. Dead – she was beyond His reach, so Jairus thought.

I can imagine the strangled cry of grief that escaped from his throat. But this was no time for turning from Jesus, and Jesus was quick to reassure him. I love His words, “Don’t listen to them. Just trust me.” How many times do I need to hear Him say that? It’s always about the choice of, “Whom do I trust?” As this story proceeds, it becomes quite clear who knew what He was talking about and who was proved wrong. Jesus said she was sleeping; they ridiculed Him. They said she was dead.

How did the child’s parents feel at this point? I cannot imagine. They had no experience of ever seeing a dead person live. It all seemed so final and yet; they were about to witness something in their own home that fully satisfied their prophetic expectation – Malachi 4:2 – coming alive before their very eyes. Jesus stepped forward, spread His talith over the child and said, “The Messiah is here. Little girl, get up.” And she did.

What was the significance of Jesus’ cautioning words, “Don’t tell anyone what happened here”? This seems crazy when everyone outside would know that the dead child had come back to life in that room. That was not the issue. The issue was that Jesus’ action was the fulfillment of Old Testament and especially Malachi’s prophecy and they had witnessed it. At that point, He did not want them to broadcast what had happened. People needed to come to faith by being fully convinced themselves that He was Messiah, not because of other people’s faith.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – EVERYTHING IN THE SCRIPTURES

EVERYTHING IN THE SCRIPTURES

“Then He said to them, ‘So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into His glory?’ Then He started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to Him.” Luke 24:25-27 (The Message).

What a Bible study! No one ever has, and no one ever will explain the Scriptures as Jesus did to those two that day! All the learned Jewish rabbis from ancient times could not have understood the Word of God as He did because He was both author and subject of the book.

Perhaps the message of these verses is the same for us today as it was for them then – we are thick-headed and slow-hearted because of our ignorance of the Scriptures. God has not only given us His Word but He has given us His Spirit to explain and interpret His Word. And yet we have so many teachings and practices that have “evolved” from the Bible that are not true to the Bible because, unlike the noble Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11b NIV, we have not gone back to the Bible to verify the things we believe and practise.

Everything about Himself was there for them to discover if they had only taken the trouble to search. In fact, had they listened to Him with faith, they would have understood because He was the living Word right there with them for three years. John testified that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have enough room for all the books that would be written.” John 21:25 (NIV). That is quite a statement!

Firstly, Jesus gave one simple instruction to His disciples out of which flows everything else He taught and demonstrated. He said to them, and to us, “Remain in me” And yet, if one considers the variety of superstructures that have been built on Him, the picture of true discipleship has been horribly distorted. All the rituals and paraphernalia that have been piled on Him have buried Him and replaced Him with nothing but another man-made religion.

Where do robes, incense, chanting, processions, hierarchy, priesthood and laity, rituals and every other belief and practice added to the simplicity of His call, fit into His purpose for coming? Do these things help us to live in harmony together as brothers and sisters in the family of God so that we can be witnesses to Him in the world?

Jesus calls us into close fellowship with Him with no trappings and requirements other than to believe, love and obey Him. Out of that flows our fellowship with each other. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 (NIV). Where does all this other stuff fit into that?

Secondly, we have built a world-wide prayer movement called “spiritual warfare” that in fact functions as though the death of Jesus were inadequate to deal with the devil. We are taught to “pull down”, “take authority over”, “break through”, “cast out”, “identify principalities”, “bind and loose” and even do “prayer walks” with no regard to the truth that Jesus accomplished the total defeat of Satan at the cross.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations which were against us and that stood opposed to us; He took 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.” Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV).

If we have doubts about the efficacy of Jesus’ death, then we must add all these other things to try to subdue the devil. There is no evidence in the book of Acts that the Early Church was taught to do any of these things. By sharing their lives and their resources with one another and preaching Jesus as Lord, they turned the world upside down and brought down powerful religions like Diana-worship and eventually even the worship of Caesar.

The Bible sounds a serious warning to those who add anything to the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Galatians 1:8 (NIV).

How important it was for those disciples then, and for us today, to know that Jesus had to suffer, to die and to be raised from the dead so that we can be living witnesses of who He is. Our transformed lives show the world that Jesus, and not the devil, is Lord, and expose his deception.

Jesus – The Son Of God

JESUS – THE SON OF GOD

The Apostle John recorded Jesus’ miracles from a different perspective from the other three gospel writers. He presented Jesus to his readers as the Son of God.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing, you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31).

John recorded only seven miracles in his gospel which he referred to as signs. Each miracle focused on a specific aspect of the nature of Jesus. Each of the seven miracles resulted in either an individual or a group putting their faith in Jesus or, at least, responding positively to Him.

  1. Water to wine (John 2: 11)

The disciples put their faith in Him.

  1. Healing the official’s son (John 4: 53)

The official and his household believed in Him.

  1. The paralysed man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5: 15)

The paralysed man who was healed broadcast everywhere what Jesus had done for him.

  1. The feeding of the five thousand (John 6: 68-69)

Peter confirmed the disciples’ faith in Him.

  1. Jesus walk on the water (John 6: 19-21)

No record of anyone coming to faith.

  1. The man born blind (John 9: 38)

The blind man who was healed believed in Jesus.

  1. Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11: 45)

Martha, Mary and many of the Jews believed in Him.

John’s declared purpose for relating only these seven miracles out of a choice of many others was to bring His readers to faith in Jesus so that they would have eternal life.

John’s choice of signs focuses on one thing – that Jesus’s disciples would see the glory of God in Him and that they would believe.

Not only did He work miracles to relieve people’s suffering and even to call them back from premature death, Jesus also showed His power over the natural world. He calmed a violent storm on the lake, walked on water and multiplied bread and fish to feed a hungry multitude. Was He merely showing off or doing magic, or was He revealing His control over the natural world? Why would He do that?

His disciples were stunned at His power over a stormy lake. He simply spoke and the wind and waves obeyed Him – from violent wind and turbulent water to instant calm. They were awestruck and afraid.

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him?’ (Mark 4: 41)

After He had fed five thousand people with only five small barley loaves and two fish, He sent His disciples back across the lake while He went into the hills to pray. A storm came up on the lake during the night while the disciples were on their way home. Jesus set off after them, walking on the water. When they saw Him, they were terrified, thinking He was a ghost.

Jesus called out to identify Himself and the ever-impetuous Peter, wanting to do what his rabbi did, asked permission to walk on the water as well. To his great surprise, he managed to take a few steps before fear got the better of him. Jesus grabbed him and they both made it to the boat in safety. The minute they climbed into the boat the wind ceased and the lake calmed down. How did the disciples react?

Then those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (Matt. 14: 33)

After giving His disciples opportunity to gather evidence, He would ask them, on another occasion, the most important question they would ever have to answer. In a most unlikely environment, Caesarea Philippi, where idols were publicly worshipped by sexual orgies with goats He asked them,

‘But what about you? . .  Who do you say that I am?’ (Matt. 16: 15)

Without hesitation Peter, as the spokesman for the group declared:

‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Matt. 16: 16)

How did Peter reach this conclusion? Evidence! The accumulative evidence of all that Jesus had said and done led to only one conclusion – Jesus was no ordinary man. He was a man and much more – He was the Son of the living God.

Every rabbi with authority selected disciples in whom he had confidence that they would do what he did and even more.  Jesus expressed His confidence in the men He had chosen:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. (John 14: 12)

Unlike all other rabbis who trusted their disciples but had no guarantee that they would fulfil their expectation, Jesus could say with confidence that His disciples would do even greater things than He did because He was returning to the Father and would send the Holy Spirit to be in them forever. The same Spirit who empowered Him would do His works through them if they believed.

The apostle Paul declared that we are God’s masterpieces, created in Christ to do the good works He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2: 10). What are these good works which God has prepared for us to do? According to Jesus, the same works He did, showing mercy to all people!

His commission to His disciples before He left them was to go and make disciples of all nations. He conferred on them the authority He had received from the Father to do the same things He did. This means that the works we do will confirm the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God, with the right and power to forgive sin, testify to the nature of God and His kingdom and proclaim that the kingdom of God is here, just as His works did.

In response to His commission, Jesus’s disciples went everywhere preaching His word as He had commanded them to do.

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16: 19-20)

He did not send them out to hold healing and miracle campaigns. The emphasis was not on miracles; it was on the kingdom of God of which Jesus is king. As He was proclaimed, so He confirmed His Word with signs.

This was the testimony of Paul as well.

The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance. (2 Cor. 12: 12)

Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Rom. 15: 18-19)

Did you get the order? First the proclamation of the gospel of Christ – then the signs and wonders which confirmed the Word of God.

Is it not possible that there is far too much focus today on the signs and wonders which people are seeking instead of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God and His kingdom, towards which the miracles point? Miracles have become an end in themselves instead of a confirmation that the kingdom of God is here. Those who claim to live in the kingdom are to walk in the ways of the Lord. It is His role to work with us and to confirm His Word with signs.

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

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com

Watch this space!

My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available

 

Talk About Power!

TALK ABOUT POWER!

I pray also that the eyes if your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph. 1: 18-19).

Once again we must remember the background of these Ephesian believers. Many of them had come out of witchcraft. After their conversion, they had made a huge bonfire of their witchcraft paraphernalia in the city. Their lives had been invaded by the power of God, the God of pure love. From then on, they could no longer have a part of anything that misused other people.

Why do people dabble in witchcraft? Why do some even sell their souls to the devil? He promises them power! But the only power the devil can give is power to control and power to destroy. It is evil power because it affects the lives of other for the worse. The next problem with demonic power is that it diminishes the person who uses it. Every time one person brings harm to another, he is diminished and dehumanised.

These ex-witches and wizards burned their past when they burned the tools of their sorcery, to tell the world and the devil that they had finished with that life. They were now under a new Master, one who also had power, a different kind of power of which they had never dreamed. Perhaps at that point of their new-found faith, they did not know the magnitude of the power that resided in them.

What did they need? Enlightenment. Understanding. Knowledge. Up this point in their lives, they had been fed and had believed lies. Since the early history of man, a false religion had grown up around Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah, and his evil wife Semiramis and her illegitimate son, Tammuz. Through a series of fabricated stories that Semiramis spawned, she had deified Nimrod as the sun-god, Baal, and she became the moon-goddess, known as Ashtaroth, or Astarte (Diana), or by other names in many parts of the ancient world.

Behind these false stories, the father of lies was garnering worship for himself under a variety a nom de plumes, which was exactly what he craved, even if he had to do it by deceit. Paul came to Ephesus with a blistering message of the truth. Satan, alias Caesar, alias Baal or any other name behind which he hid, was not Lord. Jesus was Lord and He proved it by His resurrection. Satan, through the evil religious leaders in Israel, tried to destroy Him but, instead, his plan backfired and Jesus destroyed him.

Those who were held captive to the devil and were enslaved to live in wickedness were now free to escape the devil’s clutches. Jesus had rescued them from their hell, forgiven their sin, power-washed them clean by His blood and relocated them to the kingdom of God where they had always belonged. Satan was the squatter, the hijacker and the felon who had usurped God’s position on His earth. Paul said, “If you want to know real power, that’s power.”

Many of us have seen effects of the raw power of nature. Fire, wind, water, earthquakes, rip through a region and leave utter devastation in their wake. But have you even noticed the power of a seed. I have seen buildings split open by the force of a growing seed. That’s power! Power does not only destroy. God’s power is able to restore, renew and recreate. He can heal broken hearts, broken people, and broken relationships. He can give people whom the devil has destroyed, a fresh start. Jesus said that it’s like being “born again”.

Paul wanted these people, who had only known destruction in their lives, to experience that kind of power. He prayed that they would have their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of what had happened to them. God had removed the cloud of doom that hung over them, and the deep-seated fear of death which was the legacy of those who gave allegiance to the devil. He had replaced it with hope, the unseen end product of what He had done for them through Jesus.

Their faith in Jesus had cancelled fear. They were safe in God’s kingdom – under His authority and protection from the one who had now become their arch-enemy. Jesus had bought them back from slavery. They were legitimately His. They now belonged to God, body, soul and spirit, and He had the power to keep them from wandering back into enemy territory as long as they kept their eyes on Him.

But the power of God didn’t end there. He had put a power source in them that had created the universe. Take that, devil! Satan is not a creator; he can only counterfeit what God has created. Even the people who worship him do not belong to him. He stole them and put his mark on them, the mark of rebellion in their hearts. God put His plan right back on track by rescuing the ones the devil had kidnapped, cleaned out all the evidence of his ownership and replaced them with His Spirit, His guarantee of ownership.

What power is there in the universe greater than the power of the Holy Spirit? His power is recreating, regenerating, restoring, and renewing power. “That’s the power of God I want you to know,” said Paul. God alone can give you understanding and experience of His power that is able to set aspects of your life right that went horribly wrong when Adam rebelled against God – your relationship with God, and your relationship with people. When these two areas of your life are back on track, everything in your life will come back into focus.

God’s power does something amazing inside of you. He enables you to take control of yourself. That’s it! When you have your own heart in check, through the power of the Holy Spirit in you, your world will turn right side up. It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit and it’s called, “self-control”!

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

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

For more details, check my website:

http://luellaannettecampbell.com/

Have you read my blogs on www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com ?