Monday, April 21, 2014

THE BLESSED DESCRIBED



Psalm 89:15-16 describes the blessed. It says:

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.

Here are 4 things that describe those who know the Lord. First, they worship. The festal shout is given in worship. God called us to Christ because he sought worshippers. (John 4:23) Second, they walk with the Lord in constant fellowship. That is true of us especially as we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. (Romans 8) Third, they exult or rejoice in the fact that they know God (his name) all day, despite whatever trials may come. (Philippians 4:4) Fourth, their salvation comes not from their own works, but from Christ's righteousness. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Maybe you could get in a festal shout today.

BACK TO EZEKIEL NEXT SUNDAY


Next Sunday, I will resume the Ezekiel study with chapter 9.

PARABLE OF THE WICKED SERVANTS


Jesus told a parable about wicked servants. It is recorded in Luke 20:9-19. In the story, a man planted a vineyard and rented it to tenants. He sent servants to collect some of the fruit of the vine, to which he was entitled as owner. But the tenants beat the three servants that came. He then sent his son, who would inherit the vineyard someday, but they killed him so they would have the inheritance.

The owner of the vineyard is a symbol for God. The vineyard is God's kingdom. The put these tenants there to cultivate his kingdom and produce fruit for him. The tenants are a symbol of the Jews. They did not produce fruit for God. The ran the kingdom for their benefit and as they pleased. They rebelled against God repeatedly. Way back in the time of Isaiah, centuries before Jesus' ministry, God condemned the failure of his vineyard, Israel, to produce fruit and threatened to destroy it. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

God warned them repeatedly, as the parable shows. He sent three servants. The servants stand for the prophets. They were abused, ignored, ridiculed and killed. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus said "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and sones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wins and you would not!"

God said his response to the rebellion of he Jews would be to "come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others". (Luke 20:16) Jesus is telling them he will take the kingdom away from them and give it to the church.

The audience understood that Jesus was saying he would take away the kingdom from them. They responded "surely not!". (Luke 20:17) The scribes and chief priests perceived that Jesus spoke about them, so they sought to kill him. (Luke 20:19) Ironically, their response to the prophesy of Jesus was to fulfill it. They sought to kill the Son.

As Gentile Christians, we tend to read the gospel accounts only to understand salvation. But, there is a strong word of judgment on Israel throughout, with John the Baptist, then Jesus warning that their rejection of Christ will be the final rebellion which brings judgment down on their heads.

The last recorded words of the Old Testament are in Malachi. It is a book which states God's complaints about Israel violating the covenant yet again. He called on them to repent. Otherwise, he will take their kingdom away from them. Chapter 3 speaks of the Messiah coming to Israel in judgment (3:5). His last words, the last words of the Old Testament are "…lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction".

After that word, the Lord was silent for several centuries. Then, he sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the very Messiah who would bring judgment to Israel. He picked right up where Malachi left off. He preached "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". (Matthew 3:2) In other words, repent because the Messiah is coming to inaugurate his kingdom and you want to enter that kingdom, not suffer judgment for rebelling against God. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to see him, he said "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3:8) The fruit motif was a constant in reference to Israel, God's vineyard.

John knew those leaders would have the attitude Jesus addressed in his parable of the tenets. So, John continued to say:

"And do not presume to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father, for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 3:9-10) This is a clear word of judgment. He was saying, being an ethnic Jew, a descendant of Abraham, will not save you. You must obey God, producing fruit that shows you do so. Otherwise, "his winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire". (Matthew 3:12)

Those who repent would come into Christ's kingdom, baptized with the Holy Spirit. (11). Those who reject Christ are destroyed, both in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and in the final judgment. (12)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

RESURRECTION GLORY, RESURRECTION POWER



In Matthew 28, we see that only two women were brave enough to go to the tomb of Jesus to see if they could take care of his body. They did not know how they would get in or if the soldiers would hurt them or arrest them. They only knew the task needed to be done and they loved Jesus enough to do it at any cost. Their reward was great: they were the first to see the risen savior.

It is a good model of the Christian life. We often see a task that needs to be done. Too often we shrink back and hide from it as the disciples did. The task seems to big, we do not know how to handle it or we are afraid. And so we miss the blessing. We miss seeing God work in wonderful, unforeseen ways and in great power. We miss seeing people's lives changed.

It is also a great testimony to the character of women. So often, it is women who do the dirty work in church. They change diapers, they read to children, they prepare and serve food and clean up after, the visit the sick, they take food to the grieving. Sometimes they do not know how a task will get done, but they get together and get to work and trust the Lord to use their labors.

Don't shrink from service. Christ rose from the grave. If he can do that, he can do anything. And he wants to do it through you.

Celebrate the Risen One today. As part of the celebration, commit to follow him and allow him to use his mighty power through you to change the world for him and his glory.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem - Luke 19


In Luke 19:28-44, Jesus makes an open declaration that he is the Messiah. He referred to himself as Lord in verse 31. He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9. Matthew stated that clearly (21:2), but Luke, writing to a Gentile audience, did not see the need to do so. Jesus’ disciples paid homage to him by throwing their cloaks down on the rode and crying “blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”. Yet, he is the humble king on a donkey, not a chariot.
The Pharisees understood what was going on: They told Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Since they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, they believed it inappropriate to for him to allow his disciples to proclaim it. But the worship of Christ is ultimately unstoppable.
Tomorrow we will worship Christ as KIng, risen from death, glorified, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, reigning in heaven until all enemies are put under his feet. Many will ignore us and him, many will deride, and man will oppose. But the worship of Christ is ultimately unstoppable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conversion Causes Worship - Luke 17:11

Jesus encountered ten lepers, people with terrible skin diseases. They were required to keep a good distance away from other people. They were outcasts, they were poor and they were miserable. Jesus healed them all physically, but only one was healed spiritually. He returned, praising, thanking, worshipping. He fell at the feet of Jesus in humble thankfulness. Only he saw Jesus as the Son of God and believed in him.

We, too, are all very sick until Christ heals us. We have this sinful nature we inherited.(Romans 5:12) Our symptom is not leprosy, but the sins we commit. (Rom. 3:23) Jesus healed us when we believed. Isaiah used that metaphor, saying "with his stripes we are healed". (Is. 53:5)

So, how do we respond? Are we falling at the feet of Jesus in worship, praise and thankfulness? Or are we going through the motions?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SIX FACTS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION


This is not a complete list of every fact about the resurrection of Christ that is important, but it is a list of six important facts that we should know and upon which we should meditate.

First, the resurrection of Christ is an important part of the gospel. Paul wrote:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:1-9)

Paul said the resurrection was part of the gospel he preached and it was of first importance. It is not a secondary doctrine. It is primary and essential. It is, therefore, part of what we must believe to be saved. Some people today say you can be a Christian, you can be saved, and not believe in the the bodily resurrection of Christ. That is not what the Bible says. Paul wrote, in Romans 10:9-10, “...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart hat God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Second, the Bible presents the resurrection as fact, not myth or symbol. Since we believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God, we must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Matthew 28 records the two women named Mary seeing the empty tomb (6) and the risen savior (9). They worshiped him. The disciples saw him and worshipped him. (17) That group would include Matthew, who wrote the book.

Mark 16 also records the two women seeing the empty tomb. (Mark 16:1-8) Mark is commonly believed to record the story as told by Peter, who saw the risen Lord first hand and spoke to these very women when they related their story.

Luke diligently researched the matter and wrote in Luke 24 that the women found the tomb empty (1-7), that Peter saw the empty tomb and grave clothes (12) and that Jesus appeared to the disciples in bodily form (36-42).

John wrote that Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty (20:1), that Peter and John saw the empty tomb and the grave clothes (3-8). Mary also saw the risen Lord (14-17). John also recorded jesus‘ appearance to the disciples in the locked room. (19)

In Acts 1, Luke recorded the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. (3) Luke also recorded Peter’s first sermon, in which he declares Christ’s resurrection. (2:24, 32) Acts 7 records Stephen’s vision of the risen Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God while Stephen was toned to death. (7:55) In Acts 9, Luke recorded Paul’s confrontation with the risen Lord Jesus. Revelation presents Jesus as reigning in heaven.

Paul, in Romans 4:24-25 wrote “...It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

1 Corinthians 15 tells us Christ was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (3) and that he appeared to more than 500 people, most of whom were still living when Paul wrote the book. (6)

Colossians 2:12 refers to Christ as the one God the Father raised from the dead. This is not an exhaustive list, but a representative list that shows that the apostles and early believers all saw the resurrection as a historical fact witnessed by many who were alive and could be questioned. The New Testament never presents the resurrection as other than fact.

Third, the resurrection proves the deity of Christ. Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. In his sermon in Acts 2, Peter preached that it was not possible for death and the grave to hold the divine Son of God. (Acts 2:22-24)

Fourth, the resurrection of Jesus assures us of our justification. Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17). Romans 4:25 tells us Jesus was raised for our justification. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins and accomplished our justification. The resurrection shows that the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Therefore, we know that our sins were imputed to Christ, who paid for them, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. The resurrection did not accomplish our justification. It assures us of our justification. By resurrecting Jesus, God the father declared that he accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Fifth, the resurrection of Christ paves the way for our resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:17-22 says
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in our sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, b a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Sixth, the resurrection means we serve a Lord and Savior who is alive in heaven and interceding for us. Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. Romans 8:34 says Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us. Your Lord did not teach then die and leave nothing but a memory. Your Lord did not go away and leave you on your own. Your Lord rose from the grave, ascended to heaven, sat down and the right hand of the Father, and intercedes for you every day in every struggle you endure.

The resurrection is true, the resurrection is important, the resurrection is gospel, it is proof of the deity of Christ, the resurrection is assurance of justification, and the resurrection means Christ intercedes for us continuously.

The resurrection is cause for joy. Meditate on it this week and rejoice that you serve a living savior.  

He is risen!