Month: April 2019

The empty tomb brings security

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Easter is an extraordinary celebration of Jesus’ empty tomb. While the world scoffs at the idea of believing in a Jesus that died and rose from the dead; for those who do believe, the blessings are innumerable.

The empty tomb brings securitySeven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied; Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Jesus); he (God) has put him (Jesus) to grief; when his (Jesus) soul makes an offering for (Our) guilt” (Isaiah 53:10).

Just as Jesus crucifixion was real, so the sin that He answered for was real also – but it was our sin, our guilt.

Likewise, Jesus wounds, both the physical wounds from the Roman soldiers, and the spiritual chastisement and separation from God were equally real. The wrath He took in our place was not pretend, it was not imagined – it was real, because our sin is real, and God’s judgement is real.

Personal recognition that it was your sin in Jesus on that cross is what makes Jesus death your death to sin. Therefore, Jesus death turns your guilt into peace with God. It changes separation from God to adoption into His family. It replaces fear of the unknown to assurance of what God says is certain.

The Christian faith is founded upon belief and confession “that Jesus is Lord and (you) believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…” (Romans 10:9). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, He’s not God. If He’s dead in the ground still, we are still dead in our sin awaiting judgement.

For believers, we surrender our lives to the Lord who is master over all of life and death. For Christians, the grave is NOT a dead end. It‘s for us to realise that should your body die,  you have NOT fulfilled your part of God’s eternal plan for your eternal life until you are resurrected and given new bodies in preparation for spending eternity with Him. For God, it’s just as important to raise the saints from the grave as it was to raise His Son Jesus from the grave.

Paul explains the resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” You will NOT be a clone or robot. You will still carry your unique bodily features and possess your unique personalities, but without sin. All forms of mortal imperfection and incompleteness shall be gone.

You shall be the same yet very different. Christ’s perfection; His holiness and His completeness shall be yours. Christ’s inability to sin will be your inability to sin. No more conflicts of interest or second guessing your decisions. Christ’s ability to glorify the Father shall be your ability to glorify the Father.

If you lack a sense of security when looking at the world, turn your eyes upon Jesus. If you want a hope that will lift your faith above the mockery of the unbelieving world, a hope that can overpower anxiety, a hope that will fill your entire being with expectation; then believe the promise of the returning resurrected Lord Jesus Christ!

I encourage you to embrace Jesus Christ who gives hope and certainty that lives past the grave.

 

Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit

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Often relationships with fellow believers lack evidence of being empowered by God’s Spirit. This is a strange phenomenon because every regenerated child of God has been equally “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). We should be in awe of what the Lord achieves in each other through spiritual rebirth at salvation. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy SpiritWhen the apostle prayed for the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14), he asked for the very best of God for the Corinthians. Here is a good thermometer of spiritual health. Is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actively expressing themselves through your relationships? If not, you would do well to reconsider the reality of Jesus Christ as Lord in your life.

Now, Scripture gives clear principles for how to enrich fellowship with others through the example of the first generation believers. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The richest of fellowship occurs when God’s children have genuinely soft-hearted attitudes towards each other flowing out of authentic faith in Christ. Central to this is the mutual desire of all believers to spend time submissively sitting under the teaching of God’s Word together.

Worship and prayer are also the outcome of fellowship under God’s Word. There’s no self-seen here. Here we observe faithfulness and loyalty to both God and His people centred in Christ. The “breaking of bread” together has greater importance for believers when fellowship with Christ is experienced through the fellowship of the saints.

This means, following sound instruction in Scripture, you will not criticise, demean, judge or belittle your fellow believer. You see, if you “walk in the light, as he [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). When you are cleansed from sin, there will be no place for sin to worm its way into your relationships with your brother or sister in the Lord. Instead, you will rejoice in the intimacy of Christ centred oneness. Self should fade into insignificance as Christ is increasingly dominant. This is the foundation of unity in the Church.

When the Holy Spirit distributed gifts amongst believers, Paul observed that all were equally “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Every Christian is equally blessed with personalised spiritual abilities exactly as the Holy Spirit determined. No-one misses out, no-one is shown favouritism, and no-ones giftedness is more significant that anyone else’s.

However, so often God’s children get caught up with comparing one with another. Selfishness then damages the potential for sweet fellowship. Recognition of the spectacular working of God’s Spirit in His design and functionality of Christ’s body should secure every relationship. So what can overcome natural sinful compulsions which damage instead of enriching? The answer is humility!

You see, self detracts from Christ, and it estranges you from intimacy with others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul summed up Christ centred fellowship this way; “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

I encourage you to pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

Embrace the blessing of fellowship

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Fellowship is a treasure which often gets taken for granted in the Christian life. It’s spoken of in the New Testament as the quality of spiritual partnership which participates with the other members. Benevolence is at its core; that is, intentional actions expressing kindness and good will to each other. The Greek language of the original New Testament speaks of fellowship (koinōnia) which participates in intimacy of a spiritually united relationship. Now that’s rather special in this dark world of selfish and temporary friendships.

Embrace the blessing of fellowshipThis unnatural relationship begins with God who “is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Notice that we didn’t initiate this relationship, but God graciously calls rebellious people to it based on His mercy. So, a believing sinner is called into the highest relationship imaginable through the Son of God. Establishing a surrendered faith dependent upon Jesus Christ as your Lord   is the starting point of God’s benevolence in your experience.

Fellowship and salvation

While salvation is the beginning of your new spiritual life; for God, your salvation was the culmination of His loving plans which He initiated before He made the world (Eph 1:4-5). The Lord pre-planned your adoption which is the fulfillment of His specific will for your life. You see, having an association with you, or even a friendship with you, was not good enough. No, God desired the very best of all relationships, and fellowship as a Father intimately engaged with His child was His goal for you.

This unimaginable spiritual connection God has made possible through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Always remember that “you have been saved through faith. And this [faith] is not your own doing; it [faith] is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). From beginning to end, as a believer in Christ, you are never alone and you are never left to your own devices. God knows we lack the resources needed for this fellowship relationship, so He supplies them, and you experience them through faith in action (Jas 2:14-17).

Intentional fellowship

The beauty of fellowship is further seen through the intention of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for His children. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). No believer is excluded from God’s loving desire for intimacy with them. However, there is responsibility for God’s children to respond appropriately to His grace. Regardless of life’s circumstances; nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). His inseparable love means security, comfort, and peace for believers.

First generation Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). In this single verse lays the essence of a healthy Christian life. Self is excluded. Dedication to actually attending the apostles’ teaching of God’s Word was primary to being able to experience the next blessing, fellowship. Intimacy of relationships in Church life grows out of members mutually sitting under the teaching of God’s Word with humble attitudes. This is foundational to authentic fellowship in the body of Christ.

I encourage you to embrace the blessing of fellowship. Draw from the Lord’s strength and determination in making whatever changes are needed to your daily and weekly routines which will grow genuine fellowship.

Embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces Christ

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Humans are remarkably creative at self-reliance and often in the name of religion. We have this uncanny ability to place ourselves at the centre of everything. This is certainly true regarding our relationship with God, because something inside strives to make self the centre of God’s attention. In so doing we become idolaters, justifying why self is entitled to be and have what self wants at God’s expense.

Embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces ChristPhrases like self-love, self-forgiveness, self-defence, self-harm, self-esteem, self-righteous, and self-reliance are some of the more common terms used. Consequently, mankind does a thorough job of promoting self in that we sacrifice everything godly in our self-pursuit of God. This is often the reason new believers struggle, because they continue to place self at the centre of their new relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Self or Christ

The apostle Paul understood that coming to Jesus means you put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:22-24). Belief in Jesus Christ is not some morbid self-harming religious ritual, but an honest appraisal of your incurable desire for self to be elevated above God. Therefore, faith in Jesus begins with a healthy spiritual denial of self as centre of your life.

Paul continues; “…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). Here is the bullseye of faith in Jesus; accepting that God’s righteousness must be allowed to change the way you think and behave. This is how you become an expression of His righteousness and not your own. Jesus Christ does a total make-over, a full regeneration, creating a new you which increasingly displays God’s holiness (2Co 3:18).

Your old self-motivated ways of thinking are reborn to become Christ-motivated thinking. Paul explains further; our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6). In order for your enslavement to self and sin to be ended, a death had to occur. And since you and I wouldn’t and couldn’t die to sin, Christ died our death on the cross of Calvary in our place, as our substitute.

Jesus cross deals with self

Jesus took God’s wrath for your sin, and God was satisfied with Jesus self-sacrifice on your behalf. Your faith; your dependant belief in Jesus death is what God responds to by granting you forgiveness and a new self. Your old self was idolatrous, your new self is Christ exalting. Your old self defaulted to sinful thoughts and behaviour, your new self defaults to loving obedience through surrender.

Your old self wants to be its own saviour and would prefer to suffer eternal consequences rather than humble itself before the Almighty. Such is the extremity of self-righteousness which is proud toward God. Self-reliance fails terribly to make peace with God, but Jesus Christ has already made peace with God on your behalf – believe it and live in the blessing of it. This is why Paul says he himself (Jesus) is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Once you have wholeheartedly embraced the peace offered by God through faith in His Son, there will be little room for the spiritual anxieties this world forces upon you. Once you receive your Heavenly Father’s forgiveness, you will be equipped to forgive others as you have been forgiven (Col 3:13).

I encourage you to embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces Christ. He really is the most wonderful Lord and Saviour.

  • Sundays @ 309 Welcome Bay Rd, Tauranga (Welcome Bay School Hall)