Aug 292014
 

SaviourThe concept that Jesus is a saviour is one of the most fundamental ideas in the whole of the bible. Becoming a Christian means you have acknowledged your need of a saviour in the first place and recognised that Jesus is the only one who can save you.

I would imagine that most people who read this blog are already Christians, but if you are not and are interested in discovering more, then this blog should explain some of the basics of the Christian faith. If you are a Christian, then it’s never a bad idea to go back to the reasons why you followed Jesus in the first place.

A saviour is somebody who rescues a person who is in big trouble and is unable to save themselves.

Every one of us needs a saviour because we are all in big trouble. We have placed ourselves in the wrath of God because of our sin, which means we basically go our own way with no regard to God. We haven’t just ignored God; we have been wilfully disobedient. The bible says that because of this sin each one of us deserves death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is the payment for our disobedience. Earlier on in Romans it also makes clear that we are all in the same boat: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no exceptions, we are sinners in our very nature, our whole bias is towards disobedience and the choices we make on a daily basis prove that bias within us.

We would never be able to save ourselves even if we wanted to. We would need to lead a perfect life from the start to stand any chance of achieving our salvation. As the old saying goes ‘nobody is perfect’- and here lies the problem. And here is precisely where Jesus comes in. Jesus is God and is therefore perfect. As God, He stepped into history and became a man. God put flesh on. In the most supreme sacrificial and loving act of kindness in the whole of history, God ‘picked up the tab’ for our sin. He went all the way and died a brutal death on a cross for us. He was dead and buried until the third day when He rose again, proving His victory over death and sealing our salvation.

However, this salvation only becomes a reality when we believe what God has done for us and repent of our sins. This great news is called the ‘gospel’ and in Romans 1:16 it says that this gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This great news is something far too great to keep to ourselves and so our saviour commanded us in Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

There are 3 main points I want to make about Jesus as our saviour:

· For everyone – His offer of salvation is for everyone: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoeverbelieves in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

· Only through Jesus – There is no-one else who can save us: “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)

· Safe and secure – He is not going to let you go: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

If you have read through this and wondered whether to accept Jesus as your saviour I urge you to follow Him now:

For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you have made a commitment through this blog, I would love to hear from you and help you follow Jesus more closely, so please contact me.

This seems to be a really good place to finish on this ‘names of Jesus’ series. We have been looking at this topic for about 9 months now and there are still many more aspects of His character to discover, but I hope, like me, you have learned a whole lot more and have come to appreciate this wonderful Jesus, the God/man, in a whole new light.

 August 29, 2014  Posted by at 12:21 pm Names of Jesus, Salvation No Responses »
Aug 222014
 

Lamb of God John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. He appears in the New Testament but he was the last great prophet of the Old Testament, in the mould of Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah. The first we see of him is in John’s gospel, where he makes an amazing statement which later on it appears he has not fully understood himself. But in a moment of divine inspiration he calls out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He uses this same statement again the next day in John 1:36. These are the only two times in the whole bible where Jesus is addressed directly as ‘The lamb of God’ but that being so doesn’t take away from the fact that this title, in relation to Jesus, is absolutely packed with meaning and significance.

The system of sacrificing animals is a constant theme throughout the bible. The concept of an animal being killed instead of a human stretches right back to ‘the fall’ where Adam and Eve first sin and then are thrown out of the garden. If you remember, to cover their nakedness, God makes garments of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). These were probably the first animals killed in sacrifice and many many more were to follow. It’s horrible to think of all these animals being killed, but it is a violent image that serves to show graphically how seriously God views sin and how tragic the consequences are.

There were all sorts of sacrifices in the Old Testament; burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings and guilt offerings. But they were all necessary to make atonement for (pay for) people’s sins.

These sacrifices all pointed ultimately to Jesus, who would be the sacrifice to end them all. In a poignant picture of that final sacrifice, Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his own son on mount Moriah. Speaking prophetically about Jesus, Abraham declares, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8). Isaac is spared as God provides a ram stuck in a thicket to be used as a sacrifice instead, but the one to end all sacrifices was still to be provided.

Another event in the Old Testament which pointed towards Jesus in a significant way was the first Passover in Exodus 12. A lamb was to be taken for each family and killed. The blood was to be spread on the doorposts and above the door and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten. The angel of death would then “pass over” each house “covered” by the lamb’s blood. This event and the ritual that surrounded it was packed full of meaning as a picture of Christ ‘the lamb of God’ and also as a picture of the event that superseded it in the New Testament, ‘the last supper’.

The picture of the coming ultimate sacrificial lamb continues in the Old Testament in the prophetic writings, particularly in Isaiah and Jeremiah:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).

“But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” (Jeremiah 11:19).

Finally, at the end of the bible in the book of Revelation, Jesus is revealed as a slain lamb:

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. (Revelation 5:6).

This image is there because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Every single lamb that was killed before that event was killed in anticipation of that final momentous occasion. Jesus’ death was enough to pay for the sins of every person who has ever lived because He is God. He is the only one worthy to pay the price. He is the greatest, the ultimate, the one crowned with all glory and honour. This is why the whole of creation bows down to Him:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

He is the lamb that we now gladly worship for all that He’s done.

There are lots of great songs about Jesus being the lamb of God, but here is one I am particularly enjoying at the moment

 August 22, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Aug 152014
 

BridegroomIt’s a real honour to receive a wedding invitation. It means that the bride or groom (or both) want you to share in their special day; to enjoy the food and wine, participate in all the activities and be a part of that memorable day.

Many of the titles of Jesus we have examined in this series have been those given to Him by others. ‘Bridegroom’, however, is one of the names He uses about Himself. The disciples of John the Baptist had come to Jesus asking why He and His disciples were not fasting. Jesus’ answer was that the wedding guests could not fast as long as the bridegroom was with them. However, He then went on to say that the days would come when the bridegroom would be taken away, and then they would fast (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). It is quite clear from the context that Jesus was talking about Himself.

There are quite a few references to weddings in the parables of Jesus. In Matthew 25:1-13 we have the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The insinuation here is that Jesus is the bridegroom they are waiting for. Along with numerous other references in the New Testament to Jesus being a bridegroom, the disciple John writes about the wedding supper of the Lamb (who is Jesus) in Revelation:

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7)

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9)

It’s in the book of Revelation where it is made clear that the bride is in fact the church. The apostle Paul speaks of his purpose for the church at Corinth and continues this theme by saying, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband….” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Behind these pictures of Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as the Bride, is the rich tradition of the Jewish marriage customs. These help us to understand more fully what the bible is saying because being engaged in that culture was a lot different to how it is now.

Alfred Edersheim, a famous Jewish historian who converted to Christianity, wrote: “In Judea there were at every marriage two groomsmen or friends of the bridegroom, one for the bridegroom and the other for the bride. Before marriage, they acted as a kind of intermediaries between the couple; at the wedding they offered gifts, waited upon the bride and bridegroom, and attended them to the bridal chamber, being also, as it were, guarantors of the bride’s virgin chastity.”

The apostle Paul thought of himself in this same manner, as a sort of intermediary for the marriage between the church at Corinth and Christ. He knew that his task was to present that church in virgin purity and fidelity to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom. In Ephesians 5:22-23, Paul compares the marriage relationship between man and woman to the relationship which must exist between Christ and the Church.

However, there is another important aspect to the relationship between the bridegroom and the bride. It was customary for Jewish weddings to be preceded by a rather lengthy period of what we would call an engagement. During this time the man and woman were not married, but were betrothed, or engaged to each other. But a betrothal in Jewish culture was completely different from the period of engagement in our culture. Our society views the engagement as simply a mere promise to marry, but in Jewish society the betrothal was such a solemn commitment that it took a writing of divorce, based on the unfaithfulness of one party or the other, to dissolve. During the betrothal, it was not uncommon for the two parties to be called husband and wife (Matthew 1:18-25), and certainly to be called the bridegroom and the bride. After the period of betrothal was over the marriage ceremony would take place, and the couple would then be bound together in marriage by the laws of God.

Even in the Old Testament we see references to God’s people being the Bride of God. Hosea hears God say to Israel: “I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in steadfast love, (Hosea 2:19-20). Isaiah says: Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of host is his name, (Isaiah 54:5). As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.(Isaiah 62:5).

When we see how God’s people constantly followed after other gods and abandoned the one true God we can begin to realise what an act of betrayal that was and how God the father would be so angry that His son’s bride was acting like a prostitute! It also makes it easier to see what the bible means when we read that God is a ‘Jealous’ God: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exodus 20:5. See also Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 5:9; 6:15).

True love is always exclusive; no one can be totally in love with two people at the same time – no lover can bear to share his loved one with someone else. To say that God is a jealous God is to say that He loves the souls of men to the extent that He cannot tolerate even the thought of sharing that love with another.

To think of Jesus as the Bridegroom and God as the lover of the souls of mankind, sheds a flood of light on the entire relationship between God and man. Our relationship is not like being subjects to the king, or servants to the master, but like a betrothed wife to her future bridegroom. This type of relationship contains certain essential elements:

Faithfulness. God will never be unfaithful to us, and we must never be unfaithful to Him. We need to realise that in this context our sins are not just a breach of the law but a crime against love. The sinner does not break God’s law so much as he breaks God’s heart.

Intimacy.As in all strong relationships, there is closeness and oneness. This is no different to our relationship with Jesus. The more time we spend with Him the more intimately we will know Him.

Trust. We must trust the love of God as much as we would trust the love of someone nearest and dearest to us. And God expects that same kind of trust from us. Disloyalty to God and to Jesus Christ is something that should never cross our minds.

Unbreakable.The marriage relationship is intended to last a lifetime. Our relationship with Jesus should never be thought of as something that can be broken if for some reason it does not work out. It is to be considered a bond that will last throughout all eternity.

Therefore, when we see Jesus pictured as the Bridegroom and we are pictured as the Bride, we have before us one of the most loving and intensely beautiful portraits of all.

 August 15, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Aug 082014
 

Sun of righteousness “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
(Malachi 4:1-2)

As I write this blog it is a very hot summers day. The skies are blue and the sun is scorching. We have to be very careful with the sun; over exposure can be excruciatingly painful and may result in various skin infections, even causing cancer. What is often true in the natural order of things can also be true in the supernatural. The sun can be a haven of warmth and brightness, accentuating the beauty of plants and water and whatever reflects its light. Or it can be an arid landscape, a furnace of heat causing pain and misery.

This contrast can also be true of Jesus. We can sometimes have a very ‘safe’ viewpoint of Jesus. We can think of Him as gentle Jesus, meek and mild, wearing hippy sandals, smelling flowers by the roadside, not capable of hurting a fly. We must be very careful of this over familiarity because the bible shows a much wider viewpoint than this narrow one. The apostle John was one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers when He walked the earth, even reclining with Him at the last supper (John 13:23). This same Jesus who John was so familiar with appeared to him a few years later on the Island of Patmos. It says in Revelation 1:17 that this appearing was so scary that John fell at His feet as though dead.

The image of Jesus as the ‘sun of righteousness’ is much more in keeping with the vision John had than the sanitised version we sometimes imagine. The Lord is called “the LORD your righteousness” in Jeremiah 33:16. And the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a sunrise in several passages:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

“...He dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” (2 Samuel 23:4)

“His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.” (Habakkuk 3:4);

In our passage today, the day that is coming is that great and glorious day, the day when Jesus will judge the living and the dead. It will be an ‘awesome’ day in the truest sense of the word. Jesus has always divided opinion; how much more so on that final day. It says the arrogant and evildoers will be stubble (meaning they will be burned up); they will have nothing left, root and branch gone. It will be a terrible day for them. But look at the contrast for those who fear the name of Jesus. The image is of Jesus rising like the sun. He will rise and like heliotrope flowers which lift their petals towards the sun, those who love Jesus will lift their gaze to look on His glorious face. Like the sun’s rays, His arms will be outstretched like wings, bringing healing. And not just for sickness and disease but also healing from the effects of sin. His righteousness will wipe out the effects of sin for all eternity.

“Sun of righteousness” can also be translated “son of vindication.” The Day of the Lord will be a time when God vindicates His people and judges sin. This vindication will be clear to all, like the bright light of the sunrise.

The question to ask is this: do we leap excitedly like calves from a stall, anticipating the warm embrace of our saviour and our final vindication? Or do we cower in fear in expectation of His judgement?

 August 8, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 1 Response »
Aug 012014
 

RedeemerThe concept of redemption occurs all throughout the bible. It is in fact one of the key themes of the whole book, but what does it actually mean?

I looked up the word “redeemer” in the secular dictionary (Merriam-Webster) and it struck me how each of its different meanings can be applied to what Jesus has done for us and why He should indeed be called our redeemer. Let me show you:

(1) To make (something that is bad, unpleasant etc) better or more acceptable.

Jesus has excelled at this, going ‘above and beyond’ this definition. We were not just bad and a little unpleasant; our sin had moved us as far as could be from having a relationship with our Holy and perfect God. Jesus did not make us better or more acceptable; He transformed us. We are now fully accepted because of His redemption. We are now counted as righteous, our sins blotted from God’s sight.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”. (Ephesians 1:7)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)

(2) To exchange (something such as a coupon or lottery ticket) for money, an award etc.

Jesus exchanged our sin for His perfect life. This is known as ‘the great exchange’; He exchanged our filthy rags for His perfectly spotless righteous robes. That is better than any lottery ticket!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”.” (Galatians 3:13)

(3) To buy back (something such as a stock or bond).

Through our sin, we had sold ourselves into slavery and none of us had the resources to buy back our freedom. In Jesus’ eyes we are such a precious commodity that He chose to give up His life as a ransom for us.

“….for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

“…..knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

(4) To free from what distresses or harms:

(i) To free from captivity by payment of ransom.

Sin held us captive, chained us up with no chance of escape, but Jesus has freed us from those chains.

(ii) To release from blame or debt.

The debt has been paid; we now come right into God’s presence freely, blameless in His sight.

“….even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”. (Ephesians 1:4)

(5) To atone for (expiate).

Expiate means ‘to make amends for’ which is exactly what Jesus has done for us.

This is why He is our great redeemer!

I’ve found another great song on YouTube about this very subject I hope you enjoy it!

 August 1, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus 4 Responses »