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Archive for March, 2012

I have often envied Cleopas and his friend as they walked down the road to Emmaus. The stranger that joined them as they walked was none other than the resurrected Saviour Himself. During this eleven kilometre walk, these two devastated disciples received the most comprehensive and astounding Bible study that any human being could hope to hear. Jesus went through the whole of the Bible (what we now call the Old Testament) with them and pointed out how all of Scripture was in some way a reference to Himself.

The response of these two disciples, once they grasped what had just happened, was: “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”.Image

This account alone, gives us the most valuable key to understanding the Bible. It is true to say that the Bible covers hundreds of topics, all of which have their value, but these topics are all side issues. They are tributaries to the main stream of truth, which is Jesus Himself. What makes this so exciting and intriguing, is that the name of Jesus does not appear in the whole of the Old Testament, and yet, it all speaks of Him.

The glory and wonder of Jesus Christ is majestically woven into the very fabric of human history, as recorded in Scripture. We can make a detailed study of the Nation of Israel, which is the main topic throughout the OT and gain intimate knowledge of their feasts, laws and customs. However, unless we see the twelve Tribes of Israel coming out of Egypt, spending 40 years in the wilderness and then entering the Promised Land as a picture of Jesus, we have not walked down the Emmaus road with Him.

Jesus came out of Egypt (as a boy), spent 40 days in the wilderness, chose twelve disciples and entered the Promised Land of His Father’s Will for Him. Israel ate manna in the wilderness, Jesus, when tempted by the devil to produce bread from stones, refused because His manna was “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. (He was quoting from the OT). Israel tempted God (1 Cor. 10:9), Satan tried to get Jesus to do the same, but He refused saying, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” The final destruction of Israel in the wilderness was that they turned to a golden calf and worshipped it. Satan’s final temptation of Jesus was that He should bow down and worship the devil. Jesus’ reply was, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

These are just a few of the examples that can unlock the Old Testament to us and cause our hearts to burn within us, as our eyes are opened to the glory and majesty of the risen Christ.

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For many of us, justification is just a word that sounds important, but it is not often the spark that lights up our morning. To theologians, justification is a very involved debate. In Scripture justification is such a critically important issue, that it is worth the effort to explore its Biblical meaning to get a handle on its great value to us.

It is Human to Err and just as Human to Justify Ourselves

All of us at some time or other justify our actions, by blaming something or someone else, or offering explanations, or excuses as to why we did what we did. This is not a new practice as we well know. Adam’s first reaction after sinning in the garden was to blame his wife. Eve blamed the serpent and we continue this dodging tactic today. The devil, the influence of others, my circumstances and my human weaknesses are all cited as the cause of my transgressions. Justifying ourselves is the only human way of relieving the pain of a guilty conscience. When you think about it, we spend a lot of time justifying our actions to others and comforting ourselves with self-justification. This is the legacy passed down from Adam to the whole human race which has to live day and night with a guilty conscience.

God’s Generous Offer Image

We are told that we have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) , but what does this mean and how does it happen?

We may have been successful in justifying our actions to others and we may have made peace with ourselves, through self-justification, but when we are confronted by God’s Spirit, we are exposed and stand as naked as Adam and Eve before Him. All of our justifications melt away in the light of His righteousness.

The Gospel and Justification

Let’s briefly examine the Gospel in the light of justification. Jesus is the Gospel, He is the good news. This revelation is presented to me by the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel. I become inexplicably aware that Jesus is alive and true; what follows is a dismantling of my own justifications; I realise in light of the fact that Jesus exists and is the Son of God, that I am a sinner and am responsible for my sin. I then discover the wonderful forgiveness that was bought for me by the death of Jesus and I reach out in faith and embrace Him and the forgiveness that He offers.

And the Verdict is…

Then God, the Judge of the whole world, Creator of the universe, examines our heart and pronounces His judgement:  “You are justified! And this is offered freely to you by grace because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.”

The Importance of this …

How important is justification to us? When the Creator of the universe and the Judge of all the earth, pronounces you justified; it is the most important thing that can happen to you. The value of God’s justification cannot be estimated in human terms or in time, it is priceless and timeless! We have been set free from the need to justify ourselves before God. We are justified!

Our legal standing before God has been changed from “Condemned” to “Justified”. Our conscience is freed from the need to justify ourselves. It is hard to make this adjustment in our behaviour, but as this great truth dawns upon us, little by little we release the grip on all our well formulated justifications and we learn to rest in His wonderful forgiveness and begin to enjoy our new status as ‘The Justified”.

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A friend on Facebook introduced the subject of prayer, with some great insights and challenging thoughts. With this in mind I read John chapter 11 again and saw the genius of the inspiration John received, while recording the events in the life of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

To fully appreciate this we need to note that Jesus was not welcomed in many places; he never seemed to sleep over in Jerusalem, which is His rightful abode, as a descendent of David. He did find a very warm reception, however, in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. From a number of accounts in Scripture it is clear that He spent a lot of time there and often slept over in their home.

John skilfully shows us two sides of a dramatic and serious problem that occurred in their home, while Jesus and His disciples were on a mission. Lazarus had fallen sick with a life threatening disease. The sisters sent word to Jesus advising Him of their brother’s condition. This is the equivalent of us praying for healing of a family member, or presenting the Lord with our serious problem, whatever it might be.

John then gives us a unique ‘behind the scenes’ view of the Lord’s reaction to this prayer request. Jesus immediately correlates this request with God’s will saying, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it”. This fact was not conveyed to Mary, Martha or Lazarus. They continued to face their worsening situation, without any answer to their cry for help.

Let’s stop for a moment and look a little closer; Jesus was not being callous or uncaring, He in fact loved this family and they were particularly dear to Him. Mary was the woman who had anointed His feet with ointment and as we have mentioned, He often stayed in their house. We can take great comfort in the fact that Jesus was fully aware of every detail of their predicament, He understood how this fitted into the plan of God and had received the sisters’ request.

On the other side of the ‘prayer wall’ the sisters and Lazarus, believed that Jesus was Messiah, they also believed that He was their hope of resurrection, they knew of His miracles, they loved Him, they had willingly invited Him into their home and regarded Him as their friend. With great faith and confidence they had sent word (prayed) to Him, fully believing that He would immediately drop what He was doing, because of His love for Lazarus and come to Bethany and heal him. This in their minds was the obvious and caring thing to do. Back on God’s side of the prayer wall, when Jesus received the message that Lazarus was sick, He purposely continued an extra two days, without letting the family know that he was delaying His response.

Lazarus died, the sisters had to contend with this tragedy on their own, they had no idea why Jesus had allowed this to happen.

Jesus was well aware of all the developments back in Bethany because He told His disciples that Lazarus had died. He allowed the funeral to take place and only after four days of knowing about the death of Lazarus, did Jesus arrive on the scene. By this time the situation could not have been worse because Lazarus was not only dead, but his body had already begun to decay.

However, as we well know, one word from Jesus and Lazarus was miraculously raised from the dead and restored to good health!

Lessons that we can learn from this:

  • The Lord always hears our prayers.
  • He loves us and therefore His apparent lack of response is not an indication that He doesn’t care.
  • The delay in response, is not inefficiency on God’s part, but is purposely done, so that the Son may be glorified.
  • The lack of response is not because we are disqualified; His ear is inclined to our prayers.
  • God will only answer and respond to our prayers in accordance with His will.
  • We should not build false expectations in our own hearts, by prescribing to the Lord how we expect Him to act on our behalf.
  • Our faith should not be focussed on our expected outcome, but on the sovereignty and kindness of God.
  • No matter how bad the situation becomes, God has the matter in hand and has our best interest at heart.
  • Even if the situation is beyond any human help, God has a solution and it is always the best solution.
  • More of our prayer energy should be focussed on understanding the will of God and less on pleading for Him to accede to our requests.Image

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The insignificant Jesus

I was inspired yesterday while reading a Blog on A Vanishing God. The thoughts expressed in the Blog were so similar to my own meditations on the subject and out of it, this Blog was born.

Let me put your mind at rest from the outset, Jesus is the most significant person in the whole of Creation. That said, it is astounding to see his insignificant, understated, unassuming, modest entrance into the world. For four hundred years Heaven was silent, no prophet, no angel, and no word at all. Then without much warning, prophecies began to be silently fulfilled in a stable where the animals feed.

The ruling Empire of the day had no knowledge of this event, a few star-gazers in the East got wind that something  had happened and a few shepherds saw angels and heard the news. Other than that, there were no trumpets, no city criers and no news casts. The Saviour of the world had silently slipped into human History. “He had no particular form or good looks that we would desire him”, is the way Isaiah the Prophet put it.

The ministry of Jesus to the established Religious order was confrontational, offensive, he was regarded by them to be divisive to the point that they conspired to put him to death. The Roman Rulers regarded Him with curiosity and amusement, but saw Him as no threat.  The common people who believed in Him had such high hopes that He would overthrow the Romans, resurrect the supremacy of Israel and re-establish the Throne of David. They were devastated when they saw His torn and limp body hanging on the cross. His own disciples misunderstood him often and scattered when he was arrested.

Even after Jesus had conquered death, Hell, the grave and had paid the full redemptive price for our sin, having risen victoriously, Mary saw Him in the Garden and mistook Him for the gardener.

This same Jesus comes into our lives, silently slipping into our hearts by faith.  He confronts our religious beliefs, He challenges our expectations of Him and so often does the unexpected. We build expectations through our prayer requests and are sometimes devastated when He doesn’t respond as we had hoped, or prescribed.

Even in His resurrected glory and High Priestly ministry, we still see Him as the Gardener, whom we can order around.

When the enormity of this truth dawns upon us, and we really get to know the Resurrected Saviour, we will begin to grasp what Jesus at 12 years of age, meant when he said to His mother: “Why were you looking for me, did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  The Creator of the world has silently slipped into our hearts, in such insignificance, to be about His Father’s business in our lives and to bring us into the significance of God’s eternal purpose, which is to be in Jesus and like Jesus.

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