Resurrection Sunday

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Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:5-6)

Praise God! Jesus is risen!

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

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Good Friday

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One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’  Luke 23:39-43

This small section of the crucifixion narrative is only found in Luke. In the other gospels, the two criminals crucified with Jesus are mentioned, but only Luke includes this brief exchange between Jesus and one of the criminals. This is a moment of unexpected hope and beauty in the midst of the horror of that day.

Even in his state of utter humiliation and suffering on the cross, there was still something about Jesus that made an impact on the wretched man hanging next to him. We don’t know anything about this man – who he was, or what he had done to deserve execution. We don’t know whether he’d ever encoutered Jesus before that day. But somehow, during the agony of those hours on the cross, he becomes convinced that Jesus really is the King of the Jews, the King of Heaven, the King of the world.

In his dying moments, this man makes a statement of confession and a request for forgiveness to Jesus. The words that Jesus utters to him are filled with comfort, hope and certainty –

‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

What started out as the worst possible day in this man’s life, and in fact, the last day of his earthly life, is transformed in an instant into the first day of his eternal life. Jesus is giving his life for him. The Saviour dies next to the sinner he saves.

The two criminals are powerful pictures of the two responses to Jesus. One rejects him, the other accepts him. One is lost, the other is saved. Nothing more is needed than to recognise the need for salvation and to ask Jesus for it.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Charlotte Elliott (1835)

 

Nothing Except Jesus Christ

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This week on SheReadsTruth, the passage we’ve been set for the SheSharesTruth Challenge is 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The writer of these words, Paul, was a highly educated, eloquent man. He could hold his own amongst the most intellectual Greek thinkers of his day (such as in Acts 17:22-34). His CV was quite impressive.

But when he comes to the church in Corinth, he comes in fear, trembling and weakness. So what is going on?

The Greek citizens of Corinth valued wisdom and education highly. Corinth was a very prosperous, thriving city with two trading harbours. It had a plethora of temples for worship of Greek gods. It was very civilised on the surface. But it was also a place of such depravity that the term, ‘to Corinthianize’ became shorthand for practicing sexual immorality.

The church in Corinth had a few, um, issues. They were divided, they were spiritually immature and sexually immoral like the culture around them. And it is into this context that Paul writes.

He could have blown them away with his human intelligence or intimidated them with clever reasoning. But Paul knew that the only thing that had the power to transform this church was the unadulterated, unadorned, unabridged, glorious truth of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Paul had previously laid this message out for them in humility and simplicity, not relying on his own intellect or wisdom, but trusting the Holy Spirit to work through his weakness. His goal was to point away from himself and towards Jesus.

The most powerful intellectual arguments for Christianity are not capable of saving a single person. And, for sure, there are powerful intellectual and historical arguments! But no, a person has to come face-to-face with the reality of Jesus Christ – living and dying, crucified and resurrected. And that is all-sufficient. We need add no more.

Paul only wants to point to that man on the cross. Bleeding and dying there for our sins.

In the words of John the Baptist, another great example of a life lived in humility:

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

The whole of the Bible is about Jesus. It’s all part of his glorious story. And when we teach, or preach, or tell others about what we believe, he must always be the focus, the crux, of the message. We can be weak, fearful and trembling – in fact, that’s exactly when we’re most useful to God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Cor 12:9

 

Healing the broken cisterns

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This week’s passage for the SheReadsTruth Lent challenge is Joshua 1:8-9:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

At the start of the book of Joshua, God commissions Joshua to take over the leadership of the Israelites after the death of Moses. Of primary importance for Joshua is the need to know and keep God’s law. He is going to need to lead by example.
God had provided the law, via Moses, for the benefit of the people. It was intended to set them apart, to protect them and to provide a way for them to make atonement for their sins and maintain their relationship with God.
God had set before them blessings (for keeping the law) and curses (for breaking the law) and given them the free will to make the choice.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules,then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  Deut 30:15-20

God knew that the hearts of the Israelites, even the most devout ones, would not incline naturally towards his law. Hence the need to meditate on it continually!

Human hearts so quickly forget the truth.

How quickly Adam and Eve forgot what God had said to them…

How quickly the people grumbled in the desert and doubted God after he delivered them out of Egypt…

How quickly the people turned to idolatry when Moses went up the mountain to meet with God…

If those people who witnessed God’s mighty hand at work in such a dramatic fashion could forget God’s promises and his law so quickly, where does that leave us?

Without Jesus, we would be bound by the requirements of the law – we would have to keep all the commandments perfectly to stand any chance of being right with God. Nobody is capable of doing that.

Jesus came to fulfill the law (not to abolish it). He fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish civil law by living perfectly in accordance with the commandments of it; he fulfilled the moral law in the same way; and he fulfilled the sacrificial law by becoming the one, all-sufficient sacrifice himself.

Jesus still calls us to the higher standard of moral law that he outlined in his sermon on the mount. He commands us to

“Be perfect, therefore, as my heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt 5:48

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This week as I’ve looked at this text, and other passages, I’ve been impacted by the way that God repeatedly sets before us the thing that we need most deeply. He stands and holds out the words of life. He doesn’t force us to do anything, but like a loving father, he implores us to accept the amazing thing he offers us. God’s heart breaks for the times we reject his offer or look for satisfaction, meaning and value in other things.

But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:11-13

How easily we settle for our own useless, dry, broken cisterns!

Look at Jesus. He is the Word of God. He is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true (Psalm 19:7-9).

Why would we go anywhere else to seek truth and value and meaning?

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  John 6:68

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Partakers Series – Minor Prophets

Here’s my debut podcast on the Partakers Christian podcast site!

I’ll be going through the 12 books of the minor prophets over the next 12 weeks. This podcast is an introduction and a chance for me to share my testimony. This feels a bit scary but also exciting! I’m really thankful for Dave Roberts and all he does through this great site. The visitor count has recently tipped over 1 million! Wow!