Archives for category: Exhortation

The Church was born about 50 days after Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead. Witness the times in which the new Church came to be: The ruling empire was an Imperial Roman one. Gross idolatry was rampant in regions like Corinth, and Jerusalem had rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Read the Gospels and it’s clear what kind of opposition the first followers of Jesus had to face.

Fast forward to the present time. The world hasn’t changed much. Israel continues to reject Jesus, and our western culture lives in a pluralistic, secular, post-Christian paganism. We are in the “perilous times” of which the Apostle Paul warned.

Nevertheless, Jesus gave clear instructions to the disciples before his ascension:

 and (He)said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  (Luke 24:46-47 ESV)

Now this wasn’t some scheme that just got dreamed up. This wasn’t a movement that some guru started in his basement. Jesus stated that these things about Him were written before in the Scriptures.  After showing his physical body and reassuring the sceptical disciples that it was not a ghost they were seeing in front of them, he ‘opened their minds'( Luke 24:45) to understand the Scriptures.

With open minds, they had ability to understand and put together what Jesus had been saying while he was with them, and the mandate of the Gospel could be given. They were witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The message of these things could now be credibly proclaimed among the nations.

They were told to proclaim “repentance and faith” in Jesus because He died and was risen again for sinners. That was the core and foundational truth of the Gospel. Here’s how many years later, the Apostle Paul would prove in his writing that this message had not changed one iota:

 “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…”  (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ESV)

Has the modern Church forgotten the mandate? Has the Church lost it’s clear direction in over 2000 years? Many churches in the evangelical movement have lost sight of it. How?

Many “gospels” have become commonplace. There are social gospels and works gospels, prosperity gospels, political gospels, and myriad false teachings about Jesus and his work. These says Paul are not really “good news” at all. That Christ has come and died for sinners, rising from death to give eternal life is the Good News. That’s the message we are to herald.

Now what do we do when we’ve lost our moorings in this essential matter?

Back to the Gospel! Repentance and faith must begin with us. We need to remember not only that Jesus’ resurrection was not only a mere fact of history, but a real death and real supernatural conquering of death. Jesus actually walked in the dirt in Jerusalem, and bled on the wooden cross. His body was prepared for a burial, and his body came out of the tomb. Why? Because God’s Word was fulfilled!

Next, when we have repented of our sins and trusted in this living Christ, we need to find ourselves among other saints. There is no Lone Ranger Christianity. The Church is a BODY, with MANY members and Christ as the HEAD. If we are to proclaim our head, we must be in the body.

I suggest that unless we are first proclaiming our Lord in the remembrance of his body and blood in the church gathering, we should not even be speaking of Him. Once again, Paul prefaces his corrections in his letter to Corinth by stating “when you come together” 1 Cor. 11:20.

What are we doing in this togetherness? Among other things, we are “proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes” when we eat the bread and drink of the Cup of the Lord in communion.

There are the same elements again. There is a proclamation and it concerns the death of Jesus.

Unlike the first Christians, we do not have to wait for power from above. We already have it in our possession. Or better yet: The power of the Spirit has US!

So with that in mind, let us turn from frivolous issues and fixate our eyes of faith on Jesus, and PROCLAIM HIM.

Now I realize that this is probably not the kind of post that we here in North America can relate to with a lot of familiarity. Persecution, let’s face it, does not affect most of us. At least not to the point where our lives are in danger, or where our social status is threatened by gross opposition to the Gospel. However for the Apostle Peter’s readers it was a different situation. They were “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6) and sometimes outsiders would “speak against you as evildoers” (1Peter 2:12).

Obviously such opposition could discourage believers. Strong threats against the faithful could be grievous resulting in loss of property, status, even life. Peter encourages the faithful this way :

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. ‘Have no fear of them, nor be troubled‘, 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Peter quotes Isaiah 8:12 which exhorted the prophet and his followers not to fear what the surrounding pagans feared, namely surrounding enemies. Peter’s quote changes uses the plural sense of “autou” in Greek from the LXX and refers to “THEIR” fear, meaning do not be afraid of the persecutors THEMSELVES. Drawing further on Isaiah, Peter takes from LXX Isa. 8:13Consecrate the Lord Himself and He will be your fear”. For Peter, it is just as equally acceptable to apply the holy fear of YHWH God to Christ as Lord; to have the SAME fear in our hearts.

When Peter’s brethren do this, honour or revere Christ as LORD, they are literally putting the fear of GOD HIMSELF in their own hearts. That is a greater dread, a holy, righteous, acceptable fear, that also is the beginning of wisdom, than the temporal, man-ish, mortal fear that is so hollow.

This is the fear that can give the persecuted the spiritual rectitude to face their enemies, and yet give an answer, with gentleness and respect, because we know the LORD Jesus Christ, and his supremacy in our lives trumps anything that tries to draw our hearts away.

 

The Rapture is not an escapist scheme-it is a REDEMPTIVE EVENT. Whereas the Lord’s people are regenerated spiritually in the new birth by the Holy Spirit through the Word, at the Rapture we will be BODILY redeemed from weakness, sin, & death. Our physical bodies will be transformed immediately, and be clothed in immortality. It’s one of the benefits of our identity and union with Christ in His death, burial, & resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Now the Scripture also says this:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
(2 Thessalonians 4:14-17). 

This is Paul’s most detailed treatment of the event. What is often missed is how this rapture scheme is surrounded by instruction on how to live in light of Jesus’ calling up of his saints. We are expected to be holy, self-controlled and leading quiet lives. 

We’re not to be working out end-time expectations. We know that the Day of the Lord is going to begin suddenly on an unprepared world. They will perish in their sins. Our duty is to live holy lives, preparing for our new body. This Gospel we believe prepares us. We live in the knowledge that our judgment is rendered at the Cross. We now live in expectation. 

We are not told to withdraw from life because of the Rapture. Go into the world, into all the places where sinners are. Talk about this Life to people. Be about the Father’s business. Jesus is going to build his Church, and it’s built on real people out there.

I have heard some of the most exquisite theories about what humanity’s problem is, and what the hope for that problem involves. The world is looking for a solution because it’s undeniable that we all live in a state of chaos and trouble. Solutions abound from the divinization of the soul through evolutionary spirituality to the nihilistic termination of the soul, which says “from dust we came, and dust we will always remain”. The latter seems hesitantly committed to the void of transcendent meaning of life. I say hesitantly because it seems against nature to live meaningfully here and now, while pressing on to a state of cold existence, with nothing beyond. In this, it’s clear that people are blind to their own essential problem and the essential answer to that problem. The Word of God pierces the darkness of our mortal ignorance. We are sinners. It is that simple, definite, proposition that is the beginning of the solution to our spiritual death. It’s the only right judgement of our nature, and rightly understood it should bring us to our knees in utter helplessness to change by our own ingenuity. The Gospel is the power of God to save those who believe. 

In the Gospel, we have the forgiveness of sins, the power of new life, and a reconciliation to God, where once there was only enmity and condemnation with God. Christ is our resurrection. Because he overcame the power of death, we can live forever in immortal bodies, that will never get sick or decay. Christ’s victory is the assurance now that the graves and tombs of the earth will eventually be emptied, and never used again. Because Jesus bore our sins, there is a cleansing, a purifying of the conscience of culpable souls, who live with condemnation. Not only is there a taking away of sins from our account against us before the Lord our Judge, but also a gift, an amazing grace of an “alien righteousness”, a perfect righteousness that is given freely to us who believe. We also die to sin. Our relationship to our old nature and old identity is changed in Christ.

 Who can accomplish these things? None of us. We have , as it were, tried by every means in our own power to re-enter the original Paradise to “know good and evil” and to be like God. We have tried to achieve this supremacy in our lives, by trying to connect with secrets of the universe through mysticism, or determine our own lives as if we are gods. And these efforts are a total failure. In fact, the very best of human endeavour and the very highest of human morality, the most sophisticated of human culture, the wisest of man’s learning, and the hight of human power in this world is absolute foolishness and abomination in the sight of God. What displays the glory and wisdom of God is the accomplishment of redemption from sin and death at the Cross of Jesus. A Messiah whose body was bloody and beaten and nailed to a Roman cross, who became a curse for us is essential, not just optional, if we would find salvation from our sin, and the regeneration of all things in the kingdom to come.

“…because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Friends, the Gospel is not optional if you would be saved from the fire of God’s holy wrath…it is essential.

 

Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness. Satan also tests those who follow Jesus. The Bible likens the Evil One to a roaring lion who roams the earth looking for prey. And here are some opportunities to definitely avoid so as not to give the devil opportunity to work. Satan’s opportune moments come:

1. when you are not in the right place where you should be.
   2 Samuel 11:1-2; Proverbs 1:8-19

2. when you’re anger is unresolved.
    Epesians 4:26-27

3. when you are physically weary.
     Matthew 26:41

4. when you are locked in some secret sin.
     John 13:27

5. when you’re pride is ripe.
     Proverbs 16:18

6. when you are fliritng with temptation.
     Matthew 6:13

There are many other opportunities to be sure. Let’s watch and pray until the devil is put under our feet.