Jun 162017
 

Shadows of Jesus noahs arkThe Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:5,11-13)

God regretted that He had even made man (v6) and basically wanted to start again.

Noah was no better than anyone else but it says in verse 8 that He found favour in the eyes of the Lord. This means that God shared His unmerited grace and favour to Noah. It’s important we don’t see Noah as a righteous person in his own right or he would have deserved rescuing. This is important as we parallel what Jesus has done for us.

The building of the Ark is one of my favourite stories in the bible and it has a lot of meaning for what was to come.

It’s also important to note that the ark wasn’t Noah’s idea, but a specific salvation plan of God. He knew what it would later signify and its part of the beautiful salvation plan that God weaved into the whole of scripture.

We live in an evil day, just as bad as at the time of Noah but now God’s full salvation plan has been revealed. God has provided a far better ‘Ark’ than the original. His salvation plan is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The grace that he extended to just Noah and 7 others has now been extended and offered to all of us. There is room in God’s new ark for everyone.

Let’s look at a few similarities of how Noah’s ark shadowed Jesus.

1. The ark and Christ were both graciously provided by God for the salvation of sinners. As I said earlier there is no-one who is righteous, no-one who can stand before a holy God on their own merit. The ark and Christ were both God’s idea and part of His plan from the beginning. They are both as a result of His amazing grace and mercy.

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)

2. Even though it was God’s plan and His idea, to be saved we still have to enter by faith, Noah into the Ark, us into Christ.

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)

3. The ark and Christ are both places of safety. Noah was sheltered from the flood of God’s judgement. the ark itself was covered inside and outside with pitch (Genesis 6:14), therefore it would be thoroughly watertight, and as such, a perfect shelter. No matter how hard it rained or how much the world flooded, all inside the ark were secure. Jesus is the place of safety from the flood of God’s wrath. The bible describes it as being ‘in’ Christ and that is a very safe place to be.

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

4. Noah and His family had to enter the ark to experience salvation, so too we must enter into a relationship with Christ to experience His salvation. It would be very easy for people to sit outside the ark and believe that it was capable of saving people in the event of a flood, but unless they entered it they would still drown. Likewise, an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and salvation plan is not enough to save. We must put our faith in Him and enter into His salvation.

5. The offer to enter the ark to be saved was limited, so too is God’s call for salvation. Once the door to the ark had been shut there was no possibility that anyone could enter after that. Until you die the opportunity to receive Christ’s call to salvation is still possible, however to put off the decision to receive this salvation puts a person in great jeopardy.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6)

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

6. When the flood started it was unexpected, so too no-one knows when Jesus will come again to bring judgement upon the earth. The people in Noah’s day had fair warning, Noah preached to them for about 100 years while the ark was being built (see 2 Peter 2:5)

Jesus himself compares these two events in Matthew 24

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37-39)

7. There was only one door to the ark. Jesus is the only way to enter into His salvation.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I will finish this study with a point I found interesting when researching this subject.

In Genesis 6:14 the word ‘pitch’ is kâphar. Besides meaning to cover something with pitch, this word also means to “make an atonement.” In fact, this word is used for pitch only here, but it is used to mean atonement (and similar words such as: purge, reconciliation, reconcile, cleanse, forgive, pacify, pardon) about one hundred times in the Old Testament. So by covering the ark with pitch, Noah made it a vessel that typified the atonement of Jesus Christ.

 June 16, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Jun 092017
 

Shadows of Jesus the lambLast week we looked at what many believe to be the first sacrifice in the bible and I speculated that I wouldn’t be surprised that the animal sacrificed to provide a covering for Adam and Eve was a lamb.

A lamb is the animal most commonly associated with the sacrificial systems in the bible. Every time a lamb was sacrificed it was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make.

The first clear sacrifice in the bible is recorded in Genesis 4:3-7 where Abel presented a lamb before God as an offering. The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament mentions this offering and described it as acceptable (Hebrews 11:4) although this was more to do with the faith with which it was offered.

As we travel through the Old Testament we see constant references to a lamb being sacrificed and it being a shadow of greater things to come. I will only mention a couple of occasions briefly here, because I will go into greater detail in future blogs.

The story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 is significant. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Everything has been made ready, the wood, fire and knife are all present but Isaac asks his father “..where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (Genesis 22:7) In a moment pregnant with meaning, Abraham responds “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) A ram suddenly appears in a nearby thicket and the boy’s life is saved, but a deeply prophetic word has been spoken, the significance of which would transcend that particular situation.

Consider the story of the occasion of the first Passover in Exodus 12. A sacrificial lamb was central to this deliverance of Israel. The lamb had to be unblemished and its blood smeared on each house’s lintel and doorposts. The blood of the lamb protected each household from the destroyer.

As God presented the ordinances and laws to Moses, He laid out clear instructions on how sacrificial animals including lambs should be presented. They must be perfect and without blemish (Leviticus 22:21). Another shadow of the perfect sacrificial lamb to come!

In the book of Isaiah (chapters 52 and 53), it is revealed that the ultimate sacrificial lamb would be a man: like a lamb that is led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)

As we move into the New Testament it is revealed that the lamb would be Jesus. Notice how John the Baptist introduces him;

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

and then the next day to underline it:

and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples confirms this too;

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

Finally, the lamb is a central figure in the book of Revelation and a focus for the end times and the culmination of all things;

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, ….. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God (Revelation 5:6-9)

What a finale. We will join in this triumphal celebration as we celebrate the sacrifice Jesus the lamb made for us.

 June 9, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
Jun 022017
 

Shadows of Jesus the first sacrificeThe Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

The issue of clothing in the bible is hugely significant.

In Scripture, clothing can symbolise righteousness or unrighteousness.

The prophet Isaiah contrasted the two. He talks about God’s righteous robes in chapter 61 verse 10 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

Later on he talks about garments that are distinctly ‘unrighteous’

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6) In fact other versions describe them as ‘filthy rags’.

This theme crops up again and again in the bible. In the New Testament we encounter an interesting passage about a wedding feast. In Matthew 22:10 Jesus tells the parable of the marriage of the King’s son. The King sent his servants out to invite anyone they could find, the bad as well as the good, so that the wedding hall would be filled with guests. We then encounter a very interesting bit in the following 2 verses “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:11-12)

Doesn’t this all sound rather harsh? A man sent to hell for not wearing the right clothes?

And how is this relevant to our theme of Jesus in the Old Testament?

In verse 7 of Genesis 3 we read that following their rebellion against God, Adam and Eve realised that they were naked and so they attempted to sew fig leaves together and cover themselves. Have you ever seen a fig leaf? They would not be very comfortable to wear and difficult to sew. They symbolise mankind’s pathetic attempts to justify themselves. Our efforts at justifying ourselves are never good enough. We simply don’t realise the seriousness or consequences of our sin.

Our sin is so serious that the spilling of blood, a sacrifice is required. I wonder if God actually showed the killing of this innocent animal to provide the clothes He made. I am sure He wanted to show Adam and Eve the consequences of their actions. It is not mentioned in the bible, but I would not be surprised at all if the animal being sacrificed, to provide their fur, was a lamb.

This all points to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made. He was the innocent sacrifice made in order to cover our sin and make us acceptable to God. The garments we have now been given are pure white and spotless, because we have been made righteous. We see this again and again in the book of Revelation when describing the saints of God.

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:4-5)

The clothes you wear before God are crucial to your eternal standing. The equivalent to sewing fig leaves together is ‘filthy rags’ because they reveal our own pathetic efforts. If we trust in God and take on His clothing (trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus) our clothes are acceptable to God. I’ll leave you with some sobering verses later on in Revelation 3

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen. (Revelation 3:17–18)

 June 2, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
May 262017
 

Shadows of Jesus seed of the womanWe have been looking at Jesus and where His shadow is cast in the Old Testament or in other words where He is hinted at through a person, thing or event.

We have started in Genesis which seems a good place to begin and last week we looked at the many similarities between the first Adam and the second or last Adam, Jesus.

This week we look at an important verse which comes as part of the judgement God is making when Adam and Eve committed the first sins. As part of that curse, God speaks against the serpent who has led the two astray. This is almost certainly Satan in disguise. It is a really interesting judgement because it is also widely considered the very first proclamation of the gospel in the whole bible. It is called the protoevangelium and here is the verse:

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

Satan doesn’t like human beings. He wants to destroy us because we are made in God’s image and God loves us. He wants nothing more than to extinguish the objects of God’s affection.

Enmity means; opposition, hatred, antagonism and hostility. Satan does things to human beings that cause all those emotions in us. He’s clever enough though to blame his actions on other things and even God himself. Satan knew from this pronouncement that he would eventually be defeated by a human but he had no idea of: when, where or who.

He must have had an inkling that the child born in Bethlehem would be dangerous because he tried to destroy him through King Herods despotic attempt to kill all the male babies under the age of 2 (Matthew 2). But God was protecting this child as His plan will never be thwarted. The whole pursuit of this offspring by the serpent is described (albeit in apocryphal language) in Revelation chapter 12.

This judgement by God in Genesis 3:15 was played out at the cross. Jesus as the seed of the woman had His heel struck when His feet were nailed to the cross and was then crucified. The ultimate victory belonged to Jesus though because when He rose from death He delivered a fatal blow to Satan. No-one survives a crushed head!

He might still be around causing havoc, but his ultimate fate has now been sealed, hallelujah!

 May 26, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
May 192017
 

Shadows of Jesus AdamWe are currently going through the Old Testament, discovering how Jesus is foreshadowed in various ways. The bible itself tells us some of the ways that Jesus is foreshadowed and today’s subject is one of those, the first man, Adam.

This is specifically mentioned at least twice in the New Testament;

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:14)

The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:45-47)

A shadow does not necessarily have to have a lot of similarities; it can also be a shadow by highlighting contrasts. That is what we find with a comparison with Adam and Jesus. Adam was the first man and Jesus is described as the second or last Adam.

Before we look at the similarities and differences of the two, it is important to consider what the term ‘federal head’ means. Both Adam and Jesus are federal heads. This is where each represents those that come after them; they are the template of all that follow after them. So for example, everybody that is descended from Adam is inclined to sin, everyone that puts their trust in Jesus is inclined towards loving and following God. The bible describes this as being ‘in’ Adam or ‘in’ Christ. Let’s look at a couple of verses:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. (Romans 5:18)

So let’s look at how the first Adam was a shadow of the last Adam, Jesus;

  • They both had a miraculous beginning. Adam was made from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) whilst Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23)
  • The first Adam was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The second Adam is the image of the invisible God ( Colossians 1:15)
  • They are both rulers. Adam was given dominion over the created world

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

Adam’s rule was limited but Jesus rules over all

when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church (Ephesians 1:20-22)

  • They were both tempted by Satan (I’m assuming that ‘the serpent’ was Satan himself)
  • Adam rebelled and was disobedient (Genesis 3:8) and Jesus was submissive and obedient every step of the way (Philippians 2:8)
  • They both experienced separation from God (Genesis 3:23) (Mark 15:34)
  • The first Adam was naked and unashamed in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:25). The last Adam was naked on the cross and bore our shame (Hebrews 12:2)
  • The first Adam turned from God in the garden of Eden, the second Adam turned to God in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39)
  • As part of the curse of the first Adam’s sin, thorns were produced (Genesis 3:18). The second Adam wore a crown of thorns as He redeemed us from that curse (Matthew 27:29)
  • The first Adam’s side was opened to bring forth his bride (Genesis 2:21) The second Adam’s side was pierced so that He could redeem His bride (John 19:34)
  • The first Adam was the first husband, the second Adam will be the ultimate husband to His bride, the church.

These are the main ones I could think of, but there are many more (although some that people have suggested seem a bit forced).

Can you think of any more? If so why not share in the comments below.

 May 19, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus No Responses »
May 122017
 

Shadows of Jesus Genesis 1I have just started a new blog series on the subject of Jesus’ shadow being revealed throughout the whole of the Old Testament. He is not mentioned by name, but His shadow is everywhere. He is revealed through; people, places, events, prophecies and all manner of other ways that you could well miss if you are not really looking for Him. Ways that we will be investigating over the following weeks.

As in any good story, it is wise to start from the beginning, so today we will look at Genesis 1 and the creation story.

The bible starts with the line “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1).

As we look at the bible as a whole we realise that Jesus is in the very first verse, because other verses make it clear that Jesus was the one who created. There is an interesting parallel with Genesis 1 verse 1 with John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Colossians:

For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

Jesus is revealed as God in the very first verse of the bible. From the beginning it is shown that God is 3 yet one, all three distinct but still the same. It is very revealing that in verse 26 it says “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

Another interesting thing to notice in Genesis 1 is that God said “Let there be light” in verse 3 on the first day of creation and yet He didn’t create the sun until the fourth day.

What was providing the light until day 4? Many people have seen this as a major problem, but it is not at all.

Let’s look at the verses that follow John 1:1-3;

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus is the light and He was the light that was radiating before the sun was there. He said it in John 8

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus was the light before the sun and he will be shining long after the sun has gone. In fact in the future kingdom it says in Revelation;

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23)

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more light will shine into our darkness. We will be able to see clearly and have a greater revelation of Him. Brilliant!

There are quite a few other shadows of Jesus in Genesis and we will look at another one next week.

 May 12, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows of Jesus 2 Responses »
May 052017
 

TypologyThe whole bible reveals God’s plan throughout history. It starts with a basic plan such as the giving of the law and the necessity of animal sacrifices and continues to reveal more and more complexity of what God’s great plan of salvation is. This is called ‘progressive revelation.’ We now know what those animal sacrifices signified, but at the time they really didn’t have a clue!

Because God knows the end from the beginning, it is not surprising that He should give lots of clues of what He was up to.

for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)

If you can imagine Agatha Christie writing one of her ‘whodunit’ novels, she knows how it is all going to end and so she puts little clues in the story which all cleverly tie up at the end of the book. God was including clues throughout Old Testament history and finally revealed in the New Testament that it was Jesus ‘whodunit!’

The study of this progressive revelation from the Old Testament through to the New Testament is called ‘Typology’. Events in the Old Testament are called ‘types’ and the fulfilment of a type is called the ‘antitype’. Just one of many examples would be the prophet Jonah who was ‘buried’ for 3 days in the belly of a fish and was resurrected by being spat out onto a beach. Jesus is the antitype as He spent 3 days in the grave and rose again to bring salvation to a people who were against Him. Typology is not just people foreshadowing Christ but it could also include; places, things, events, ceremonies, offices or institutions. I will explain a lot more as I go along from week to week.

It is important to note that these shadows and types are not allegorical. There is a subtle difference. They are real people and events which point to an eventual fulfilment.

This subject can get quite complicated but I’m just going to give 3 basic kinds of Typology;

(1) Firstly, this is where the New Testament explicitly states that an Old Testament person or event refers to Christ;

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:14)

(2) Next, the New Testament declares various Old Testament passages to be fulfilled by Christ;

e.g Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21) which was the fulfilling of Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

(3) Thirdly, the unmistakable allusions in the Old Testament that are applied to Christ.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

John is referring to the story of the bronze snake in Numbers 21:4-9

Some people try to make every character and event into a type of Jesus, but I think that is pushing it a bit far.

Next week I will start looking at these ‘shadows’ of Jesus in the Old Testament. At the moment I have no idea where I am going to start but I know there are quite a few in Genesis so we could well start there.

 May 5, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows No Responses »
Apr 282017
 

Shadows of JesusI love listening to good preaching, when somebody expounds the scriptures and brings fresh insight and revelation.

I would have loved to hear Jesus preach. On more than one occasion it says in the bible that the people were amazed by His preaching and that He spoke with authority.

One occasion I would have loved to be present for was when Jesus was walking and talking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. He initially made out that He didn’t know what was going on but then this bit fascinates me:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

Oh I would have loved to have been there. It was hardly surprising that later on they recounted that ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road’ (Luke 24:32)

If you are new to Christianity or unfamiliar with the bible, you might well wonder why we bother to read the Old Testament. What real relevance does it have for our lives today? But when you think about it, Jesus and the early church only had the Old Testament to refer to and it had everything they needed to understand who God is and what He wants to do with our lives. Jesus knew what His purpose was by studying ‘the law and the prophets’ what we understand to be ‘The Old Testament.’ He would have had revelation after revelation about where He fitted in to the father’s plan. I wonder what was going through His mind for example when he read Isaiah 53 and some of the Psalms which spoke quite clearly about the anguish of His death.

In my opinion, one of the most challenging verses in the whole bible is;

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

All scripture? Really? If this is true, we need to keep digging to find out how profitable scripture is. There is so much more than just reading it on a ‘surface’ level

Jesus’ shadow is cast throughout the bible. Sometimes it would seem that He actually appeared physically in what is called a Theophany. But He can also be found in the ordinances of the tabernacle and the sacrifices, the events and characters of the Old Testament as well as through specific prophecies. We will look at as many ways that I can find.

I have no idea how long this series is going to take. Many have undertaken to write whole books on the subject. But I think it will be a worthwhile exercise to study this subject in greater depth. As we do, we will get a much greater understanding of God and His purposes and get a better awareness of His great plan of salvation and a fresh revelation of Jesus. A worthwhile exercise I hope you agree.

 April 28, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Shadows 2 Responses »
Apr 212017
 

Honouring God with your serviceJust recently we have been looking at different ways to honour God. We started by looking at how we can honour God at work, then we looked at the issue of money and then spent a couple of weeks looking at how we can honour Him with our bodies.

This week, I am going to look at how we can honour Him with our service to Him.

It’s important to note first of all that God doesn’t need our service. He is infinite, all powerful, all knowing. He lacks nothing, so there is nothing that we can give to Him that He needs.

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:25)

He is also all loving and part of that love is allowing us to be fulfilled by serving Him. That may sound a bit strange, but God made us, He knows us better than we know ourselves and so He knows what fulfills and completes us and ultimately satisfies us.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

He designed works and service so that we could feel worth and acceptance. You know how satisfied you feel when you complete something or do a good job.

God himself, in the form of Jesus, led the way in demonstrating what service and self-sacrifice was like;

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

We reflect God when we consider others and serve them. In fact when we are serving others the bible says that we are serving God anyway.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

I’m going to finish this blog with a few practicalities and thoughts about how we can honour God through our service:

  • Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to do and then expect Him to speak to you through; His word, other people, church leadership and any number of other ways.
  • Once you know what He wants you to do, make yourself available and free up time to do it.
  • Be aware of your natural abilities. God has given you natural gifts in order for you to serve Him through them. As the Ephesians 2 verse suggests, He has created us with specific gifts and talents we can use to serve Him. You are unique, only you can fulfill the role that God has given you to complete.
  • Encourage others in their gifts and help others to see that they are making a contribution. So many people feel what they are offering is insignificant. You can change their whole outlook with an encouraging word. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Be humble. It’s not all about you and your ministry. It’s all about God and His glory. Try to do as much as you can in secret!
  • Be faithful. It often starts with the small things, be consistent and persistent. Keep going even when nobody seems to notice (see previous point) One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)

None of your service will be wasted. It has eternal significance. Let me encourage you to keep going.

 April 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:00 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Apr 132017
 

7lastwordsAs you probably know, my blog goes out every Friday and as we are currently in Easter week, I thought I would send one on a ‘Good Friday’ theme.

Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. I know we can celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection any time of the year, but I find this season a particularly good time to reflect and appreciate all that Jesus did for us. I have sent this out slightly early so that you can set some time aside from your busy schedule and just dwell again on this amazing event and these 7 short but not insignificant sentences uttered by Jesus at the lowest and most difficult point of His life, as He hung on the cross.

1. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The whole point of the cross was forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus was making a way for us to be forgiven by the father. Killing animals was never the ultimate plan. These sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus was now making. We could never save ourselves so God had to step in.

It was quite clear that no-one present grasped the enormity of what was happening, except Jesus himself. Jesus had stated plainly what He was going to do, but God veiled people’s minds, so that they couldn’t understand the significance of what was happening. Not even the Devil knew what was going on or he would have done everything in his power to stop it (1 Corinthians 2:8). No, he thought he was winning.

Just as on the road to Emmaus when the disciples eyes were suddenly opened and their hearts warmed, it would only be later that the revelation would come that what appeared to be the greatest defeat would actually be the greatest victory.

What amazes me is that God still forgives us even when we do know what we are doing. His grace is that amazing.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

2. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the religious leaders, the soldiers and especially by the two criminals who were being crucified with him. One of the criminals came to his senses though and started to realise that there was something amazing about this man being crucified with them and that He had actually done nothing wrong. After rebuking the other criminal he turned to Jesus and said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus responded to this criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise, from the Greek word ‘paradeisos’, which means ‘garden’ was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. This was understood to be heaven when God would restore all things to how they were in the garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

When you think about it, this is an astounding statement from Jesus. This man doesn’t appear to have been a follower of Jesus, has not previously believed in Him, done no good works, hasn’t properly repented or been baptised. It is a troublesome verse for anyone trying to establish how people can be saved. Jesus, in his amazing grace and mercy, makes this man the first beneficiary of His impending sacrifice.

We need to leave the judgement of who gets saved, to God, we proclaim the good news, but it is only He who can see into people’s hearts and establish how genuine they are. I wonder how many surprises we will get in heaven when we see people who had shown no interest in God, reveal they had a ‘death bed experience’ or something similar.

3. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

As Jesus was dying, his mother and a few other women were the only ones brave enough to stick around while all but one of the disciples had fled. The solitary disciple is not named but it is believed to be John.

If you are a parent, can you imagine the horror of not just seeing your son die in front of you, but the manner in which He was dying? This man she had nursed and received amazing promises about was hanging in front of her; bruised, broken, torn to shreds and naked. What unspeakable horrors she was going through.

Even in this most agonising of moments, Jesus was making plans for the protection of His mother, He was doing His best to look after her. He was perfectly embodying the command in the law that said “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and this was just one of the many ways He did it. But He also, in this act, reveals further His humanity and compassion.

4. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Jesus knew His scriptures, He had been studying them since He was a boy. I’m sure He would have had the whole lot memorised. So it is no surprise that He should quote scripture, especially as it referred to all the events that were happening to Him. In this 4th sentence He quotes Psalm 22 as he references verses 1 & 2:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)

Think of it, Jesus had enjoyed perfect fellowship with the father for all eternity. We will never fully comprehend what Jesus was going through at this moment, but it must have been more painful than all the physical torture He had been going through combined. From intimate and loving community to utter abandonment. But not just that, He was taking on the horror and filth of every heinous sin that had ever or would ever be committed. This from the man who had led a perfect, sin-free life, suddenly exposed to the horrors of mankind’s depravity.

Hanging there, Jesus was more alone than anyone has ever been. The weight of the world was literally on His shoulders. All for you and me. What love, what sacrifice!

5. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

The reference to fulfilling the scripture is probably from Psalm 69 where it says “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21)

The process of crucifixion would have made Jesus extremely thirsty. He would have lost a lot of bodily fluid including; blood, sweat and tears. The soldiers did indeed give Jesus sour wine, a cheap beverage common among lower class people at that time.

It occurred to me that during Jesus’ ministry he has mentioned thirst twice and both in the context of coming to Him to quench that thirst. The first time was during his conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The second time is when Jesus stands up in the temple on the last day of the feast and proclaims;

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)

In effect, He became thirsty physically so that we would never need to be thirsty spiritually. His sacrifice has forever quenched our thirst!

6. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

It is finished is 3 words in English and just one in Greek and is hugely significant in meaning. Jesus used the Greek word ‘Tetelestai’ which means ‘paid in full’. When a merchant at the market or wherever had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write “Tetelestai” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was “paid in full” The transaction is completed. Jesus was saying that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He has now paid the debt for our sin and we can now approach God the father free from condemnation. It means we can’t add anything to our salvation and we have security for all eternity. This one word reverberates through history and is probably the most significant word that anybody has ever spoken.

7. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

This is now Jesus’ third quote from the Psalms, it comes from Psalm 31:5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

It shows Jesus’ complete trust in the father. He has just felt completely abandoned when He takes on the weight of mankind’s sin, but He knows that once that has been dealt with the father is going to lift Him up and seat Him in the place of all power and place all things under His feet. Because He has been completely obedient, Jesus is going to receive full vindication. His mission has been accomplished. What a saviour!

Enjoy the rest of Easter.

 April 13, 2017  Posted by at 8:00 pm Easter, Good Friday No Responses »