We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is love.
When we say, “We believe”, we are emphasizing that we believe, together with others in the fellowship of faith.
This fellowship of faith includes the whole people of God in every time and every place. It is the people of God, down through the ages as well as the people of God in all the places.
* We are thinking here in terms of the great fellowship of faith which has rejoiced in the goodness and mercy of God down through the centuries of the Church’s history: “Thy hand, O God, has guided Thy flock from age to age.”
* We are also thinking in terms of the whole Church throughout the world. Whatever divisions, conflicts and tensions there are in today’s world, it is still gloriously true that “in Christ, there is no East or West, in Him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”
“We believe” – Here, we are thinking of the whole people of God, a great fellowship of faith down the ages and across the world.
“We believe” – Here, we are reminded that we must learn to look beyond the limitations of our congregation and our own nation. we must learn to look beyond the limitations of the Church in our own time. We must allow our thoughts to grow in size as we think of all that God has done down through the centuries. We must allow the Spirit of God to increase our faith as we consider all that the Lord is doing in different parts of the world today.
* Believing together means exploring our Christian Faith together. It means seeking to understand more fully the foundations of the Christian Faith.
* Believing together means looking more closely – together – at the faith first proclaimed by the apostles, the Gospel which we find in the Scriptures, which speaks to us of Jesus Christ.
* Believing together, we commit ourselves to discovering more of the richness of “our common salvation” (Jude 3), the salvation which God has given to each of us through faith in Jesus Christ.
As we turn to the Word of God, seeking to understand all that is meant by salvation in Jesus Christ, we will discover that this is not merely a matter of ‘your faith’ or my faith.’
Neither you nor I have a part in deciding what is meant by “Christian faith.”
We can only come to the Word of God to be taught. We do not bring any ideas of our own. We come to the Scriptures to learn what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.
We do not come with our minds cluttered up with thoughts of our own. We come ready to hear and receive what the Lord is saying to us. We come to receive instruction in “the faith which was once for all delivered to the people of God” (Jude 3). We come to receive teaching from the Scriptures, to be taught the faith which is “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The ‘faith’ which we will discover in the Bible is a faith which is centred on Jesus Christ, a faith which focuses its chief attention on His death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
This faith is the faith of the Gospel, the unchanging Gospel, the Gospel which is as relevant today as it was in the days of the apostles.
This Gospel is so profound that even the most mature minds find that they are out of their depth.
It is also so simple that even a child can grasp its basic message: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
As we seek to understand the Christian Faith, we must allow the love of Jesus Christ to touch our hearts.
Real knowledge of God is not merely an increase in head-knowledge. It is a growing love for the Saviour.
At both the outset and every stage of our study of the Christian Faith, we must learn to say to the Lord, “The greatest thing in all the world is knowing You, loving You, serving You. We want to know You more, to love you more, to serve You more.”
This is the attitude for which we must pray, as we seek to learn from God’s Word that we might live for God’s glory.
When God sees, in us, this heartfelt desire to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him, He will surely use us mightily in His service.
We believe in one God (Romans 5:1-11; Romans 10:9-13; Romans 15:7-13).
The Statement is made up of five sections:
(i) We believe in one God;
(ii) We praise God the Father;
(iii) We proclaim (or confess) Jesus Christ, God the Son;
(iv) We trust God the Holy Spirit;
(v) We rejoice in the gift of eternal life.
Our concern here is not so much with the ‘what’ of belief. We are thinking more about the ‘how’ of believing – faith as belief, praise, confession, trust and rejoicing.
The Statement emphasizes the importance of a living faith, a life-changing relationship with God.
As we discover what it means to have faith, we will discover that faith is a many-sided thing.
(i) Faith as belief
Faith means believing the truth of the Gospel. It means believing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins. It means believing that our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Christian faith is not merely an optimistic feeling about life.
It is faith in Jesus Christ. It means believing what God has said in His Word concerning Jesus Christ.
If we claim to be Christians, we cannot believe whatever we like. we must believe what the Bible tells us about Jesus.
The direct connection between believing the Bible and believing in Jesus Christ is stressed in the hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
How do we know that Jesus loves us? – It’s because “the Bible tells us so.”Without the Bible, we would not know of Jesus.
This is the first thing which must be said about Christian faith. It means believing the Bible’s teaching concerning Jesus Christ.
We are not at liberty to disregard the Bible and still claim to be Christians.
When we come to the Bible, we must come with the humble attitude which says, “I believe Your Word. I gladly receive the truth which it teaches concerning Your Son, my Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
(ii) Faith as praise
Here, we might stress the importance of the shared life of God’s people. as we worship together, we hear and receive the message of the Gospel.
Within the context of worship, we receive teaching from God’s Word.Gathered together to offer praise to God, we learn what it means to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will worship Him, together His people. Where there is faith in Jesus Christ, there will also be a commitment to worshipping Him.
The importance of gathering together for worship may be seen when we ask two questions:
(a) How do we come to faith? (b) How do we grow in faith?
(a) How do we come to faith?
In one sense, God brings us to faith in many different ways.
Some have found Christ during their childhood. Some have come to Christ in later life.
Some have been broth in Christ. Some have come to faith only after a long struggle.
In another sense, it should be emphasized that God has one way of bringing us to faith: Jesus Christ – He is the Way. He is the true and living Way.
For all Christians, Jesus Christ is the focus of our faith.
Think back over your own life. How have you come to faith?
I’m sure that, for most of us, worship in the Lord’s House has played an important part in our finding Jesus Christ. The Lord works in our lives as we gather together to worship Him.
(b) How do we grow in faith?
Here, the emphasis on faith as praise becomes even stronger. We grow in faith as we learn to praise the Lord. Sunday-by-Sunday, we gather for worship. we hear the Word of the Lord together. we are strengthened in faith through our fellowship with God’s people.
(iii) Faith as trust
Faith means trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. It means putting our trust in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
We no longer trust in our own good works – our morality and our religion – to save us. We trust in Jesus to save us.
Looking to Jesus – the Saviour who died for us – we find that He is absolutely trustworthy, completely reliable and thoroughly dependable.
Trust in the Lord is something which grows stronger and stronger as we learn more of the Lord’s faithful love for us.
We sometimes say, “I trusted the Lord on such-and-such a date so many years ago.” Now, that may have been the beginning of the life of faith, but it is not the end of trusting the lord.
trusting Christ is a life-long experience. we come to trust Him more fully as we discover more of the sheer wonder of His great love for us.
(iv) Faith as confession
Faith as trust and faith as confession are vitally related to each other.
Confessing that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is one way of saying that Jesus is absolutely trustworthy. It is one way of saying that we can confidently put our trust in Jesus for salvation.
Confessing our faith is an essential part of having faith. Faith is not a purely private thing. If you have a real faith in Jesus Christ, you will want to share it with other people. You will want to let them know what the Lord has done for you.
Faith is not merely something which you believe with your mind. Real faith makes a difference. It will change your life. It will make you a different person.
Are you learning to confess Christ before men? Are you learning to say, with boldness, “I am not ashamed of he Gospel of Christ”?
This is a most important aspect of having faith in Jesus Christ. The faith which we have is a faith to be shared.
(v) Faith as rejoicing
Faith in Jesus Christ is not a kill-joy affair. Jesus made it clear that the people who are truly happy are the people who follow Him.
Following Jesus is the secret of happiness.
Faith does not only affect the mind. It involves a moving of the heart.
John Wesley described his conversion in this way: My heart was “strangely warmed.”
John Calvin made the same point: “The Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain without taking root in the depth of the heart.”
The faith which rejoices in the Lord is not a superficial thing, which makes no difference to the way in which we face life’s difficulties.
True faith brings lasting joy. True faith enables us to face life’s problems – with joy.
When we feel like giving up, the joy of the Lord will be our strength. When everything seems to be getting on top of us, we must – by looking in faith to Jesus our Lord – rise above our circumstances and say, “I will rejoice, for Christ has made me glad.”
May God grant that each of us will have that real faith, that living faith, which makes all the difference in our lives.
With such a faith, we will truly glorify the Lord.
In the Old Testament, there is a continuing conflict between the one true God and the false gods. It is the contrast between the living God and the dead gods, worshipped by idolaters.
* We see this situation of conflict in the days of Moses.
Pharaoh and the people of Egypt worshipped false gods. Moses came in the Name of the one true God, the living God, who, in love, was about to deliver His people, Israel, from their oppression and affliction in Egypt.
When Moses, God’s special messenger, spoke to Pharaoh, there was a a great conflict between the true and living God and man-made idols. The victory was won by the Lord.
All of this happened a long time ago. We must not, however, write it off as a “Once upon a time … ” story which has no relevance for our life today.
Is not our life today very similar to life in Egypt under Pharaoh?
Have we not become so comfortable with the man-made idols of this world? Have we not become so attuned to the world’s way of thinking that we worship the things of this world rather than the Creator of the world?
There is still a conflict today. It is the conflict between the way of the Lord and the way of the world.
If we say, “We believe in one God”, we must go the way of the Lord and not the way of the world.
* Later on in the Old Testament, we find a similar conflict in the days of Elijah.
It is the conflict between God and Baal.
Again, the victory was won by the Lord.
It is better to be one man with the Lord on your side than to be four hundred and fifty prophets whose ‘god’ is nothing at all.
In our society, many people pursue worldly ambition with no thought for God and no desire to do His will.
Those who earnestly seek to do the Lord’s will may be few in number, but they have the wonderful assurance that “God is still on the throne.”
* To be on the Lord’s side is to be on the victory side. This is the message of the story of David and Goliath.
Goliath seemed to have all the advantages. David seemed to have all the disadvantages.
This, however, was to overlook one thing or one Person – God. The God of Israel, the true and living God, was greater than the false gods of the Philistines. The victory of David over Goliath simply underlined this point. The victory is the Lord’s.
In our day, there is no wisdom in going the world’s way. It is the way of emptiness. It is the way that will lead further and further away from the Lord.
The story of a life lived without God is not the story of success. It is the story of failure – a life which has failed to achieve its true purpose.
What is the purpose of your life? Are you living for yourself? Is ‘self’ your god? Or, are you living for the Lord, seeking to honour Him and glorify Him? These are the questions we must ask ourselves.
When we say, “We believe in one God”, we must face the challenge of commitment: Do I serve the Lord and Him only? Or, am I more concerned with serving my own interests?
* In the New Testament, we read of Paul going to Athens, a “city … full of idols” (Acts 17:16).
The situation in Athens has been described thus: “Athenians … must have needed something equivalent to the Yellow Pages just to keep tabs on the many deities already represented in their city” (Don Richardson, Eternity in their Hearts, p. 23).
Imagine their astonishment when Paul came along with yet another ‘god’! They must have been amazed that another ‘god’ had been brought into Athens, the god capital of the world. It must have seemed preposterous that Paul should bring yet another ‘god’ into this city which had so many ‘gods’ already.
That’s the way it may have seemed to the Athenians. The truth of the matter was that Paul did not bring along another ‘god’ – just like all the others.
He spoke not of just another ‘god, who was good for nothing. he proclaimed the true God, the living God, the God of love, God the Creator, the God who, in love, never ceases to care for His creation.
The Athenians had never known a God like that!
The God of the Bible, the God who redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt, the God who enabled His prophets and apostles to speak with mighty power, is still our God today.
“Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing that He cannot do for me, for you. That’s true!”
“God can do anything, anything, anything. God can do anything but fail.”
Whenever we feel that everything is getting on top of us, we must think of what it means to say, “We believe in one God.”
We must remember that He is the loving God. He is the God who brings us to life, when we are spiritually dead.
We must remember that He is the God of love.
* The Lord loves us with a powerful love.
His love is able to lift us out of despondency and give us a real sense of His victory. Through this powerful love of the Lord, we are able to say, “Love lifted me.”
When nothing else was working for us, the powerful love of the Lord gave us the strength to triumph over our difficult circumstances.
* The Lord loves us with a purposeful love.
Whatever is going on in your life right now, never doubt that God has a purpose for you. Never doubt that His purpose is a purpose of love.
God is not taking you round in circles. He is leading you on to eternal glory.
You may not understand what’s going on, but never forget this: God knows what he’s doing with you!
* The Lord loves us with a faithful love.
Are you ashamed of the number of times you have let the Lord down? That seems to be the story of your life and my life. We let Him down over and over again. This seems to be the never-ending story of our lives.
There is, however, another never-ending story. This time, it really is a never-ending story! It’s the story of God’s faithfulness. He will never let us down. No matter how often we let Him down, He will never let us down.
Isn’t that amazing?
We expect God to treat us the way we treat Him, but He doesn’t! He blesses us far beyond our deserving. What a great God He is!
“How good is the God we adore! – Our faithful, unchangeable Friend. His love is as great as His power and knows neither measure nor end.”
Whenever we say, “We believe in one God”, let it not be an empty statement, which leaves us thinking of God as “the unknown God.”
Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are able to say, with real conviction, “We believe in the living God, the God of love. We rejoice in His love – powerful, purposeful and faithful love.”
He is not the unknown God. He is the God who has made Himself known. He has not kept His distance from us. He has come near to us in Jesus Christ. He has not kept His silence. He has spoken to His Word of love – Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
“We believe in one God.” How wonderful this is! What a joy there is in saying, “This is my God, the living God, the God of love.”
Here, we consider the teaching of the Scriptures concerning God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As we consider this deep message, we must allow God Himself to draw near, in love, and lead us to offer praise to Him: praising “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”
We are not required to understand fully what it means to confess our faith in God as “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”
We are called to enter into the blessedness which reaches out to us from the heart of the God of love, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are not required to understand all that it means to say, “We believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is love.”
We are called to receive and enjoy the love of God – the love of the Father who so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us, the love of the Son who loved us and gave Himself for us, the love of the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God’s love.
As we explore what the Word of God says to us about God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, our concern is not with increasing our head-knowledge.
Rather, we seek to grow in our heartfelt appreciation of the love of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Our desire must always be for a deeper experience of the love of God.
We must be constantly seeking to say, more and more truly, from our hearts: “Father (Jesus, Spirit), we adore You, Lay our live before You, How we love You!”
As we think of the Bible’s teaching regarding God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our thoughts may well turn to two well-known Bible passages – the first, the words of the risen Christ; and the second, the words of the Apostle Paul.
After His resurrection and immediately before His ascension to the Father’s right hand, Jesus sent His disciples out into the world to make disciples. He gave them authority to preach, teach and baptize. This ministry was to be carried out “in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:1.
This ministry was to be a ministry of blessing. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the apostles were to bring blessing to all nations. This blessing, the blessing of the gospel, may be summed up well in the words of the Apostle Paul: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). This blessing may be summed up in one word: love.
Whether we look at God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit, the message remains the same: love. From the heart of God, we hear this message: “I love you.”
* The Father says to us, “I love you. I gave My Son for You.”
* The Son says to us, “I love you. I died on the Cross for you.”
* The Spirit says to us, “I love you and I fill your heart with love, superabundant love, overflowing love, divine love, the love of God.
– As we contemplate the love of God, what will our response be? How can you and I even think about saying “No” to the love of the Father? Can we even begin to imagine a love more total, more generous, more passionate, more committed than the love of the Father? Do you not find that your heart is deeply moved as you think about such love, wonderful love, the amazing love that God the Father has for us?
– Think, too, of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ – “There is no love like the love of Jesus”, “No one ever cared for me like Jesus.”
When the love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, really touches our hearts, we will truly say from the heart: “Yes, Jesus loves me”, “I am so glad that Jesus loves me.”
If we catch even the slightest glimpse of the love of Jesus Christ for us, the love which took Him to the Cross for us, the love which kept Him on the Cross for us, we will say, with real depth of love for Him, “Jesus’ love is very wonderful. It’s so high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t under it, so wide you can’t get round it, O wonderful love!”
– Think, also, of the love of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter, the One who speaks to our hearts of the love of Jesus.
How do we find our way to the Cross? – We are led to the Cross by the Spirit of love.
How do we find our way to the Saviour? – We are led to Him by the Spirit of love.
The Spirit of love leads us to the loving Saviour, and, once we have come to the loving Saviour, our hearts are filled with praise to the Father of love.
* This is the Good News: God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is mightily at work within us, leading us to enjoy a richer, deeper and fuller experience of the love, the only love which can make our lives complete – “the great love of God, revealed in the Son” (Church Hymnary, 415), the love which comes to us with a declaration of love – “I love you” – and a call to love – “Do you love Me?”
May our response be “Yes Lord, You know that we love You.”
We praise God the Father; who created the universe and keeps it in being. He has made us his sons and daughters to share his joy, living together in justice and peace, caring for the world and for each other.
When we think of God the Father, we think, first of all, of His love – His Fatherly love for us.
We read about this in the Scriptures: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).
Jesus speaks to us of the Father’s love. With His attention firmly fixed on His Father’s House, in which there are many heavenly mansions, Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).
Jesus speaks to us of His loving, heavenly Father, so that we might have peace – “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
His peace is not an uneasy peace like the pact of peace which exists between nations who are ready for war – a negotiated agreement not to use weapons of mass destruction.
The peace which Jesus gives is divine peace, the peace of God.
Concerning this peace, Jesus says, “not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27).
It is only Jesus who can truly say to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27),
No world leader can truly speak these words to our hearts.
When politicians speak of peace, we know very well that the history of our world continues to be a history of nations rising up against nations.
When Jesus speaks of peace, we know that He gives to us a heavenly peace, a peace which does not belong to this passing world, a peace which endures.
Jesus can truly give to us the peace of which he speaks since He alone is the One who fully reveals to us the Father’s heart of love.
When Jesus speaks of the Father, He does not speak only of the love of God. He speaks also of the holiness of God.
In His great prayer in John 17, Jesus addresses the Father in this way: “Holy Father” (v. 11).
In the prayer which He taught His disciples, Jesus placed His first emphasis on the holiness of God the Father: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name”.
When we say, “God is love”, we must recognize that He is a special kind of love.
* God is holy love.
When we say that God is holy love, we are saying that His love is characterized by holiness.
– There is no human love which can compare with His love: “Love divine, all loves excelling.”
– His love is greater than anything we could ever imagine: “O perfect love, all human thought transcending.”
* God is wholly love.
When we say that God is wholly love, we are saying that He is fully love.
There is, in God, a wholeness of love, a fullness of love.
If we want to find out what love is, the best place to look for an example of love is God.
How do we look at God?
Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
If we want to see what God the Father is like, we must look at Jesus.
As we look at Jesus’ life and death, we discover that God the Father is a God whose heart is filled with both holiness and love.
We see this beautiful combination of holiness and love in Jesus’ dealings with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11),
We know how the scribes and Pharisees reacted to the woman caught in adultery.
Their hearts and minds were filled with one thing only: condemnation.
Jesus, on the other hand, responded to the woman with compassion: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).
This compassion was not mere sentimentalism.
This was compassion without compromise – “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11).
– We see, in Jesus’ action, the Father’s heart of holy love.
– We hear, in Jesus’ words, the Father’s voice of holy love.
At the cross, we also see thtis wonderful blending together of the holiness of God and the love of God,
we see Jesus bearing the world’s sin. He takes our sin. he receives our penalty. for sins which He had not committed, Jesus took the punishment.
When Jesus cried out to the Father, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”, He was acknowledging the holiness of God.
If sin was to be forgiven, sin had to be punished. If sinners were to rejoice in the forgiving love of God, the Saviour had to bear the pain of being forsaken by His Father, as the divine judgment was pronounced on the sin of the world.
The Cross was, for Jesus, a bitter cup, a deeply painful experience. the pain was not, however, merely physical pain. it was the pain felt by love. Jesus experienced an indescribable depth of pain, precisely because He loved us. He looked at the nails which held Him to the Cross, and He knew that these nails had been put there by the hands of man, the hands of those whom He loved.
Despite His pain, Jesus did not stop loving us. Revealing the Father’s own heart of love towards us, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As Jesus suffered pain on the Cross. it was not the nails which held Him there. It was love – love for you, love for me, love for every one of us.
Let us never forget Jesus who suffered and died for us. In Jesus, we see God the Father, who is, at one and the same time, the holy Father and the loving Father. As we rejoice in divine love, let us never forget that God is perfectly holy.
It is precisely this holiness which brings home to our hearts two things we must never forget – the seriousness of our sin and the wonder of God’s love, grace and mercy.
At the Cross, we learn of God’s love and so we are bold to approach the holy God with confidence and with a real sense of privilege that God should love us, the sinners who sent His Son to the Cross.
We praise God the Father (John 1:1-13).
We focus our attention on verses 11-13, where we learn how to become a child of God and what it means to be a child of God.
It’s often pointed out that our world is very different from the world into which Jesus was born. We must, however, ask the question, “Is it really that different?” We can point to many differences. We must also recognize that there is a sense in which the world hasn’t really changed all that much since Jesus’ time.
We’re told, in verse 11, that Jesus didn’t get a very warm reception when He came to this world. He didn’t receive a hero’s welcome. He didn’t get the red carpet put out for Him. He wasn’t honoured as a VIP – a Very Important Person.
“He came to His own people, and His own people received Him not.”
His reception was no civic reception, no big occasion for invited guests only. It was a non-reception. They did not receive Him.
Jesus was born into the nation of Israel. He came as the Saviour of Israel. The nation of Israel did not welcome Him. They had no time for Him.
Is this not very similar to the situation in today’s world?
Jesus, the Saviour of the world, calls people to come to Him. They do not come. He pleads with them. They refuse to come to Him.
Down through the centuries of time, in many different lands, the story repeats itself; “He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (v. 11).
This is not, however, the whole story. In Israel, Jesus called people to follow Him. Down through the centuries, in many different lands, Jesus has continued to draw men and women to Himself.
The people of God may not be great in number, compared with the vast numbers who turn their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We do not, however, lose heart. We rejoice in God the Father, who, in love, has brought us into His family as His sons and daughters.
As we consider two things – how to become a child of God and what it means to be a child of God, we may find it helpful to draw a comparison with the commitment of marriage and the relationship of marriage.
For some of us, marriage has not been a joyful commitment. It has not been a happy relationship.
It must be stressed that our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ is the source of true joy and happiness.
There is a basic difference between a relationship between two sinners, especially where one partner persistently refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and the greatest relationship of all – knowing God as our Father and rejoicing in the privilege of being His children.
Looking at the ideal underlying marriage may help us to appreciate more fully how we become God’s children and what it means to be God’s children.
Prior to marriage, the man is a bachelor and the woman is a spinster. After marriage, the man is a husband and the woman is a wife. Marriage is a life-changing experience. You will never be the same again.
Even whwn a marriage fails, the man cannot simply return to being a bachelor and the woman cannot simply return to being a spinster. Through marriage, you become a different person. The bachelor becomes the husband. the spinster becomes the wife.
How does this help us to understand the Christian experience of becoming a child of God?
Before coming in faith to Jesus Christ, God is our Creator and we are His creatures. Once we have come in faith to the Saviour, everything changes. God is now our Father and we are His children.
The moment of coming in faith to the Saviour is a life-changing moment.. It is the moment when the creature of God becomes the child of God. It is the moment in which we come to know God, not only as our Creator but also as our Father.
He is no longer the faraway God. He is no longer the remote, detached and distant God. He is no longer the unknown God.
Now, we know Him. He is our Father. He loves us and He has come near to us in Jesus Christ.
Life can never be the same again, once we have come to know the father, through His Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The new life which we have begun is eternal life, a life which has no end, a life of praising our Father in time and for eternity.
A marriage begins with a question and an answer: Do you take this woman to be your wife? – I do. Do you take this man to be your husband? – I do.
The Christian life, life as a child of God, begins with a question and an answer: Do you take Jesus Christ as your Saviour? – I do.
Taking Jesus Christ as your Saviouir is a decisive step, a life-changing act.
It is an act, which involves your total personality. It is an act which involves the mind, the will and the emotions.
* With your mind, you believe what the Bible tells you concerning Jesus Christ.
* With you will, you commit yourself to living in the will of God, living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
* With your emotions, you experience the joy of knowing that God is your Father and that you are His child.
The most appropriate way of describing the experience of receiving Christ and becoming a child of God is this; it is a new birth, a heavenly birth. You are born again, born from above, born of God.
The questions which the Word of God sets before us are these:
* “Do you know God as your loving, heavenly Father?” or “Is there no more than a vague awareness of Him as your Creator?”
* “Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Are you a child of God, rejoicing in the love of God the Father, the grace and mercy of the Saviour and the power of the Holy Spirit?
* If there is any doubt, will you answer with faith now?
There is a profound depth and startling simplicity about the opening chapter of the Bible.
The great philosophers have found that they are out of their depth in Genesis 1.
Nevertheless, a little child can sing in simple faith: “God who made the earth, the air, the sky, the sea, who gave the light its birth, careth for me.”
Simple, childlike faith is of vital importance if we are to appreciate what the Lord is saying to us through the Bible’s first chapter.
Many, who regard themselves as great scholars, miss the whole point of the Bible, because they come to God’s Word with a critical spirit, arrogantly dismissing those parts of Scripture which are not to their liking.
The way of childlike faith is scorned by those who portray themselves as the great intellectuals. They do not hesitate to disregard the teaching of the Scriptures and turn away from the God whom the Scriptures proclaim.
If we are to be truly wise, we must pay careful attention to the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God”
This is the starting-point for understanding the Bible.
It is also the starting-point for understanding the meaning and purpose of our life on this earth.
It is no accident that God is the subject of the first sentence of the Bible.
The word, “God“, dominates the whole of this first chapter of the Bible.
The word, “God” catches our eye at every point as we glance over the Bible’s first pages.
First and foremost, Genesis 1 is about God. Essentially, the Bible is a Book about God.
If you read the Bible for any other reason than this: to learn about God, you are missing the point of the Scriptures.
We do not have the right to treat the Bible with contempt, as though it was a thing of little value.
As those who have been created by God, we must bow before His Word and receive its teaching.
When we read the Bible, we must open our minds to receive the instruction of God’s Word.
We must give our wills to the doing of God’s will.
We must allow our emotions to be grasped by the God of power and love, the god who created us in His own image that we might learn to know Him, love Him and serve Him.
As we allow the Word of God to instruct our minds, control our wills and fire our emotions, we will learn to see our whole life in relation to God.
When we ask the question, “Why am I here on this earth?”, we must go back to the prior question, “Who put me on this earth?”
Here, the first four words of the Bible must dominate our thinking: “In the beginning, God”.
Reading on from that first verse, we will discover that the God of the Bible is the God of power and the God of love.
From the Scriptures, we learn that God’s power is a loving power and His love is a powerful love.
The power of God and the love of God belong together.
It is in the light of God’s loving power and powerful love that we discover the meaning and purpose of our life.
God, in His power and love, has created us that we might to learn to live as His people, seeking to serve as His purpose of love.
God’s purpose of love is truly amazing.
When you consider the sinfulness of your own heart and the sinfulness of our world, it would be easy to imagine that God would give up on us as a lost cause. God has not given up on us. The Cross of Jesus Christ makes it perfectly clear that God loves us with a truly wonderful love.
If we ever doubt the reality of God’s love for us, the Word of God brings us back to the Cross of Christ.
When we think of God the Creator, we must allow our thoughts to turn also to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Here are some thought-provoking words from Helen Steiner Rice: “How wonderful to contemplate and to know that it is true that He who planned the universe gave us our Saviour too.”
We began by stressing that the words, “In the beginning, God” provide us with a starting-point for understanding the meaning and purpose of our life on this earth.
It must now be emphasized that the beginning of Genesis is only the beginning of the Bible’s answer to the question of life’s meaning and purpose.
From the Creation, we must move on to the Cross. From the Garden of Eden, we must move on to the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the Garden of Eden, we learn of our creation in God’s image. We also learn of our fall from God, because of sin. It is only as we move on to the Garden of Gethsemane that we really come to see the full extent of God’s love for us.
The Garden of Eden leaves us with a sense of our sin. The Garden of Gethsemane brings us to an awareness of our Saviour.
It is great to know of God’s activity in creating, sustaining and directing the universe. It is an even greater blessing to know that you are a new creation in Christ and that you are being kept for and directed towards a heavenly destiny which is far greater than anything you will ever know in this earthly life.
How wonderful it is to know that the “God who made the earth” is also the “God who sent His Son to die on Calvary.”
May God grant that each of us may know Him as our Saviour as well as our Creator. Knowing Him as both your Creator and our Saviour, you will know the true meaning and purpose of your life.
We praise God the Father: who created the universe and keeps it in being (John 1:1-13).
The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning, God”. The Gospel of John begins with the words, “In the beginning was the Word.”
At the very beginning, there is Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3). He was there at the very beginning. He did not suddenly appear at the beginning of the New Testament.
It should not surprise us that we find Jesus in the pages of the Old Testament. From the very beginning, He is there.
“In the beginning was the Word.” Before Isaiah and Jeremiah, before David and moses, before Abraham and Noah, before Adam and Eve, there is Jesus Christ.
It’s no wonder we find glimpses of the Lord Jesus throughout the Old Testament. Jesus was there before the Scriptures even began to be written (John 1:1-3).
What has the Lord Jesus been doing since the very beginning? – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Jesus has been constantly at work in the hearts of men and women, calling them out of their spiritualdarkness and into His marvellous light, out of spiritual death and into eternal life.
How has Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, been speaking to men and women from the very beginning? He has been speaking to us through the created world (Psalm 19:1-4).
Those who get a taste of the Lord soon find that they get hungry for more of Him.
Once, we start to become aware of God the Creator, we long to know Him more fully, not only as Creator but also as Saviour.
To know His saving power in our lives, we must turn not only to the world created by God but also to the Word inspired by Him (Psalm 19:7-10).
How does the Lord speak to us through His Word? – “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through Him” (John 1:6-7). There is great benefit in reading the Scriptures day-by-day in our own homes. There is, however, also a special ministry of preaching and teaching which the Lord has appointed and anointed so that men and women hear the Gospel, be led in the light of God’s Word and be strengthened in faith. We should seek always to take advantage of every opportunity of hearing God’s Word preached.
The purpose of the preacher is not to exalt himself. It is to preach Christ – “He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light” (John 1:8). Jesus Christ is described as “the true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9). From the very beginning, He has been calling men and women to come to the light. This ministry of bringing men and women to the light has become much more clearly defined with the coming of Jesus into the world as a Man.
He now stands before men and women, presenting them with a choice: Will you choose light or do you prefer to remain in the darkness?
If you have come to Christ and are seeking to be an effective witness for Him, ask Him to lead you to those who have become aware of God the Creator and are now ready to be brought to Christ the Saviour.
Pray that God will give you the opportunity to bring others to hear the Gospel that they might find the Saviour.
Joy and peace are elusive qualities. We seek for them, but we don’t find them. Why do we find it so difficult to discover joy and peace? Is it not because we see them as human qualities rather than God’s gifts?
Within ourselves, we look for joy and peace, but they are not there.
What we must learn is this: If we are to discover joy and peace, we must look away from ourselves to the Lord jesus Christ.
When we find Christ, we also find joy and peace.
“O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, and found in Thee alone, the peace, the joy I sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Now none but Christ can satisfy, none other name for me. There’s love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
This is what must be emphasized. Joy and peace are gifts of God, received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus Christ, God has given us the privilege of being His sons and daughters. We do not take it upon ourselves to call ourselves God’s children. God, in love, calls us His children: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children” (1 John 3:1).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become God’s children: “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 John 5:1).
What is the joy and peace which we receive through faith in the Lord Jesus?
– It is joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:4).
– It is the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).
When the Apostle Paul calls us to rejoice. he does not say, “Pull yourself together.” He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.”
The Lord is the Source of true joy. Joy is the Lord’s gift to those who put their trust in Him.
It has been pointed out that there is an important difference between joy and happiness. Happiness depends on what happens. Joy depends on the Lord.
Happiness comes and goes, as our circumstances change. Our feelings go up and down, as we go from happy times to sad times.
What about true joy, the joy of the Lord?
It does not depend on changing circumstances. It depends only on the Lord whose love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
To know that we are loved with a love which will not let us go – this is the source of true joy.
To know that we are loved with an everlasting love – this is our basis for rejoicing in the Lord.
Whatever may happen to us, we can say, with gladness of heart, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
Such joy is so different from the fleeting pleasures of this world:
“Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.”
The contrast between life without Christ and life with Christ is well expressed in the words of the hymn: “All my life long I had panted for a draught from some cool spring, that I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within. Hallelujah! I have found Him, whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings. Through His blood I now am saved.”
In the testimony of the believer, there is a striking contrast between the emptiness of life without the Lord Jesus and the joy of knowing Him as Saviour.
“Feeding on the husks around me , till my strength was almost gone, longed my soul for something better, only still to hunger on. Poor I was, and sought for riches, something that would satisfy, but the dust I gathered round me only mocked my soul’s sad cry.”
This is an apt description of life without Christ. It is a life of emptiness, a life which does not satisfy.
Those who have found the Saviour rejoice in a better life, a fuller life, a life of joy and peace.
“Well of water, ever springing, Bread of life so rich and free, untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me. Hallelujah! I have found Him, whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings. Through His blood I now am saved.”
From the beginning of the life of faith, we are to go on, trusting the Lord and enjoying His joy and peace. Jesus says to us, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
He speaks these words to us at the beginning of our new life in Him. He continues to offer us His peace, as we walk with Him day-by-day.
Paul says to us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for all His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace” (Philippians 4:6-7).
If we are to grow in our experience of Christ’s joy and peace, we must practise the words of the children’s chorus: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”
However much we may grow in our experience of Christ’s joy and peace, we must never lose sight of our heavenly hope.
We look forward to enjoying the joy and peace of the Lord in a richer, deeper and greater fuullness than we can ever know here on earth: “we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be … when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
We are not there yet, but we are on the way. With our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, we will be led in the way of joy and peace.
In Jesus Christ, we rejoice. In Jesus Christ, we have peace.
Let us rejoice in Him. Let us rest in His peace.
Rejoicing in Him and resting in His peace, we will be changed by Him. We will learn more of what it means to live together in justice and peace, caring for His world and for each other.
He has made us His sons and daughters to share His joy, living together in justice and peace, caring for the world and for each other (John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 15-18; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
Through receiving Jesus Christ in faith, we become God’s children. we are no longer merely God’s creatures. We have entered into a new relationship with God. He is our Father. We are His children. Through becoming God’s children, we come to enjoy His joy and peace. If our experience of this joy and peace is to be an ever-deepening experience, we must turn our attention, again and again, to Jesus Christ.
As we look to Christ, we ask three questions.
* Who is Jesus Christ?
* What does He give to us?
* How do we receive His blessings?
1) Who is Jesus Christ?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus Christ is described as “the Word.”
What do we use words for? We use words to communicate with one another. We use words to speak to one another.
What does it mean to say, “Jesus Christ is the Word”? It means this – God is speaking to us.
God is communicating Himself to us. He is not a God who keeps His silence. In Jesus Christ, God speaks to us. He introduces Himself to us as the God who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
If we are to get to know God, we must come to Him by way of Jesus Christ (John 1:18).
Jesus is the Way to God the Father. He is the true and living Way. Through Christ, we are brought to a true knowledge of God and a living experience of God.
(2) What does He give to us?
“And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
“Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
In grace, God pours blessings into our lives. They are blessings which we don’t deserve.
How does He do this? He brings Gospel truth to our attention. He speaks to us the Gospel promises, inviting us to come and receive the Saviour and the blessings which come with Him.
The Lord’s blessings are very precious.
Think of the joy which He gives to us. Think of the peace which He brings into our lives.
We rejoice in God’s gifts. More than that, however, we rejoice in the Giver.
“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.”
There is no true joy apart from the Lord Jesus. He is our joy. He is our peace. We do not rest in our feelings. We trust in the Lord. He is the real reason for our rejoicing. Without Him, we have nothing. Without him, we live defeated lives. The joy is not there. The peace is not there.
Why? – Because Jesus is not there.
When Jesus is in our lives, everything has changed. Our circumstances may remain the same. Scripture speaks about the “various trials” we must face (1 Peter 1:6). Through Christ, we are able to face these trials with joy – a joy that is not superficial, a joy which is deeply and securely grounded in the peace which comes from knowing that the Lord Himself is there with us, no matter how difficult life may be.
The joy which the Lord gives is described as “unutterable and exalted joy” or “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
The joy and the peace of the Lord becomes ours when the glory of the Lord breaks through into our lives.
“Heaven came down and glory filled my soul when, at the Cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
(3) How do we receive His blessings?
We receive His blessings by receiving Him.
The Lord Himself is among us. He is speaking to us through His Word. His Spirit is bringing Christ to us. The Lord is giving us a glimpse of His glory. Jesus stands among us as the risen Lord. He invites us to begin a new life with Him.
Jesus comes to us with the Gospel. He comes to us with Good News. That’s what the word, “Gospel”, means – Good News!
A little girl was asked if she had ever received Good News. She said that she received Good News when she received the “Yes” replies to the birthday party invitations she had sent to her friends.
This little girl’s answer tells us something very precious about the Lord’s love for us.
We receive joy when we come to Jesus: !”If I come to Jesus, He will make me glad.” There is, however, another joy. It is the joy which we bring to the Lord when we come to Jesus: “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We come to Jesus and we receive the joy of the Lord. We come to Jesus, and we bring joy to the heart of the Lord.
Christ asks us, “Do you want to receive joy?” He also asks us, “Do you want to bring joy to the heart of God?”
We may answer the first question selfishly, concerned only with what we can get out of Christ. The second question challenges us to seek God’s glory rather that simply seeking our own pleasure.
“What is the chief end of man?” – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. ” Notice the order – first, God’s glory and, then, our joy.
The hymn, “Amazing grace”, contains a fine combination of receiving from the Lord and giving glory to Him – “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see … singing God’s praise.” These words provide us an echo of the words of Luke 18:43, where we read of a blind man receiving his sight, following Jesus and praising God.
Have you received God’s salvation? Have you begun to glorify God?
Having received God’s salvation, having begun to glorify God, let us go on to follow Jesus, “living together in justice and peace, caring for the world and for each other.
We proclaim Jesus Christ, God the Son: born of Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He became one of us, sharing our life and our death. He made known God’s compassion and mercy, giving hope and declaring forgiveness of sin, offering healing and wholeness to all.
There was a time when you stood before this congregation to make confession of your faith in Jesus Christ.
I wonder what the story of your life has been since that time. Has it been a story of confessing Christ with ever-increasing boldness, or has it been a story of denying Christ, as you have drifted away from Him?
Whatever the past may have been, the future can be a new future, a future renewed by Christ, a future of confessing Christ as your Saviour and Lord.
Some of you made confession of your faith when you brought your children for baptism. At that time, you confessed your faith in God as your Heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier.
You promised, in dependence on divine grace, to teach your children the truths and duties of the Christian Faith. You promised that, by prayer, precept and example, you would bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and in the ways of the Church of God.
Do you now renew the faith you confessed and the promises you made at the time of your children’s baptism?
May the Lord bless you and your children and give you grace to be faithful in your fulfilment of these promises.
Some of you made confession of your faith when you were baptized as an adult. At that time, you confessed your faith in God as your Heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and your Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier. You repented of your sins with a humble and contrite heart. You put your trust in the mercy of God, which is in Jesus Christ. You promised to make diligent use of the means of grace – worshipping regularly, reading God’s Word faithfully, praying faithfully. You promised to be a faithful member of the Church of God, giving a fitting proportion of your time, talents and money for the Church’s work in the world. You promised, depending on the grace of God, to confess Christ before men, to serve Him in your daily wotk, and to walk in His ways all the days of your life.
Do you now renew renew the faith which you confessed and the promises you made at the time of your baptism?
May the Lord bless you and keep you in the faith of Christ crucified. May you be Christ’s faithful soldier and servant until your life’s end.
Some of you made a public confession of faith in Christ when you were admitted to full Church membership. At that time, you confessed your faith in God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You avcknowledged Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. You promised, in dependence on divine grace, to serve the Lord and to walk in His ways all the days of your life. You promised to make diligent use of the means of grace – speaking to God in prayer and allowing Him to speak to you through His Word. You promised to share dutifully in the worship and service of the Church. You promised to give of your substance, as the lord prospered you, for the advancement of His Kingdom throughout the world.
Do you now renew the faith which you confessed and the promises which you made when you were admitted to full Church membership?
May the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory, confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless at the day of our Lord.
As we, the congregation, have heard your confession, we are saying to you: This is not only your faith. It is also our faith. It is the faith.
The confession of our faith is one element of what happens when we gather together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper: “For as often as you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
In the Lord’s Supper, we confess our faith in Christ by recalling that He is the foundation of our faith.
The faith, which we confess, involves two things:
First, there is believing the truths of the Christian Faith, as they are taught in God’s Word.
Second, there is practising the duties of the Christian Faith.
Together, we confess our faith and renew our vows.
First, we will confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. After this, we will, together, renew our vows to the Lord.
(1) The Apostles’ Creed
- I believe in God the Father Almighty,
- Maker of heaven and earth:
- And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
- Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
- Born of the Virgin Mary:
- Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- Was crucified, dead, and buried:
- He descended into hell;
- The third day he rose again from the dead:
- He ascended into heaven,
- And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
- From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Ghost:
- The holy Catholic (universal) Church;
- The Communion of Saints:
- The Forgiveness of sins:
- The Resurrection of the body,
- And the Life everlasting.
(2) Let us offer ourselves anew to Almighty God. let us recall and renew the vows and promises we have each made as members of Christ’s Church.
We believe in one God / Father, Son and Holy Spirit /
We confess Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord /
We promise to worship regularly / with our fellow Christians / on the Lord’s Day/
We promise to be faithful / in reading the Bible and in prayer /
We promise to give a fitting proportion / of our time / talents / and money / for the Church’s work in the world /
We promise / depending on the grace of God / to confess Christ before men / to serve Him in our daily work / and to walk in His ways all the days of our life.
These things we have each vowed and promised. Let us acknowledge before God our failure asstewards of his grace, asking that He will forgive what we have been, change what we are, and direct what we shall be.
Let us all pray:
Lord, we believe in You / Increase our faith / Renew our hope / Help us to live in lilove / through Jesus Christ our Lord / Amen.
Having confessed our faith in Christ and renewed our commitment to Christ, let us now come, in faith and obedience, to Him, as we come to His Table.
We proclaim Jesus Christ, God the Son (John 1:19-51).
The story of Jesus Christ begins with the words, “In the beginning” (John 1:1).
The Old Testament prophets paved the way for Jesus Christ. They spoke of His coming.
According to John 1:45, Jesus Christ is “Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.”
When we come into the New Testament, we find that the first preacher is not Jesus the Saviour. It is John the Baptist.
John was the forerunner of Christ. he was the last in a long list of men sent from God to prepare the way of the Lord. John was not the Son of God. He was the Lord’s messenger, pointing his hearers to the Son of God. John was not the Lamb of God. He was the preacher who directed attention to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
In the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, we read much about John the Baptist, but our main focus of attention is to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became the Lamb of God.
In this chapter, Jesus is described as both “the Son of God” and “the Lamb of God” (vs. 34, 49 / vs. 29, 36).
This is the story of Jesus Christ. The Son of God became the Lamb of God.
The story of Jesus Christ takes us from Bethlehem to Calvary. It tells us the story of how the Son of God became the Lamb of God.
Coming in faith to Jesus Christ, we acknowledge Him to be both the Son of God and the Lamb of God.
As we come to Christ, confessing Him as God’s Son and trusting Him as our Saviour, we receive the gift of the holy Spirit (v.33).
Christ gives the Holy Spirit to all who trust Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to confess Christ before men and to live as His witnesses.
We can learn a great deal about what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives, as we look at four of the first followers of Jesus,
(1) John the Baptist (v. 36)
(2) Andrew (v. 41)
(3) Peter (v. 42)
(4) Nathaniel (v. 51).
First, in our witnessing for Christ, we are to point people to the Saviour of sinners.
Second, we are to give our personal testimony – “We have found the Messiah.” He has fulfilled the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Third, we are to give the testimony of transformed lives, lives which are founded on Christ, the Rock of our salvation.
Fourth, we are to live and speak as a people of hope, looking to Christ who is our Hope of glory.
As we approach the Lord’s Table, let us ponder all that Christ is – the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Coming King. Let us ponder the cradle, the cross and the crown, and let our hearts go out to Him in praise and worship.
Born of Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He became one of us, sharing our life and our death (Isaiah 9:6-7; 61:1-3; 52:13-53:12).
If we are to come to a true understanding of the story of Jesus Christ, we must not begin by opening our Bibles at the beginning of the New Testament – Matthew 1:1.
We must go back into the Old Testament. We must seek to understand what the prophets said, as they looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
We must also point out that a true understanding of the story of Jesus Christ will not leave us in the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We need to move beyond the story of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, led on to a deeper understanding of all that Jesus came to do for us.
From Bethlehem, then, we look back to learn from the prophets and we look forward to learn from the rest of the New Testament story.
With great prophetic insight, Isaiah spoke of the coming Christ. He speaks of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. From Isaiah, we learn of who Jesus was, what He did and what was done to Him.
When we come to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the birth of Christ (9:6-7), we may well come with the question, “Who was Jesus?”
When we come to study the life of a historical character, we ask our questions in the past tense: Who was Julius Caesar? Who was William Shakespeare? Who was Robert Burns?
When, however, we learn more about Jesus, we discover that He is more than a figure from the past. He is the risen Christ. He is the living Lord.
As we learn of Jesus’ mighty resurrection from the dead, we come to think of Him in a different way
We no longer ask the question, “Who was Jesus?” We ask, “Who is Jesus?
In Isaiah 9:6, we have a tremendous description of Jesus Christ – “His Name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
If, after reading this amazing description of Jesus Christ, we are still tempted to think of Him as no more than a figure from the past, we must go on to read the first few words of verse 7 – “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.”
Jesus Christ is alive today. he is with us now. He wants to draw out, from our hearts, the confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” He wants to give us the peace which comes from knowing that our sins have been forgiven. He wants to give us the hope which comes from receiving the gift of eternal life. He wants to be our Friend, leading us ever more deeply into a closer friendship with Him.
What will be your response to Jesus Christ? He stands among us, calling for the response of faith?
As we look to the words of Isaiah 61:1-3, words which Jesus Himself used to describe His ministry, we discover that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, began His ministry with a profound awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit in His life: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me” (v. 1).
When we ask the question, “What did Jesus do while He was on earth?”, we find a helpful summary in these verses. Without looking at each phrase in detail, we might draw special attention to these phrases: Jesus came “to bring good tidings”, “to give … the oil of gladness” and “the mantle of praise” (vs. 1, 3).
This is the message which was brought by the angels to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10-11).
This is the message which Jesus brought to men and women during His earthly ministry. This is the message which He brings to us today.
Have you received the Good News of Christ? Have you learned to rejoice in the Lord? Are you learning to praise the Lord?
Let the Good News of Christ lead you to praise Him with joy, giving thanks to God for Jesus, your Saviour and Lord.
There’s a Christmas song which contains the words. “Man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”
If, however, we are to have a true understanding of the way to eternal life, we must move beyond Christmas Day to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and we must move on from there to the day concerning which the hymnwriter speaks, ” O happy day! that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God! O happy day! O happy day! when Jesus washed my sins away.”
The Gospel speaks not only of the Babe of Bethlehem. It speaks also of the Christ of Calvary and the risen Lord.
When the Gospel speaks of Christ’s death and resurrection, it does not suggest that these events carry with them an automatic guarantee of eternal life.
The Gospel draws our attention to the Christ who was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men”, after which He was raised from the dead by God (Acts 2:23-24). The Gospel does not, however, tell us only about what was done to Jesus – He was crucified by men and raised by God.
It also sets before us the question: What will you do to Jesus? Will you receive Him? Or will you reject Him?
“Joy to the world; the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.”
“O come to my heart, Lord Jesus! There is room in my heart for Thee.”
Is there room in you heart for Jesus?
Born of Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He became one of us, sharing our life and our death (John 3:16; Luke 2:10-11; Galatians 2:20; Luke 1:30-35; Luke 1:37-38; Luke 1:35; Luke 1:46-50; Luke 2:13-14, 20; 2 Corinthians 9:15).
The Gospel is for the whole world. The story of the shepherds tells us that the Gospel is for the Jews. The story of the wise men tells us that the Gospel is for the Gentiles.
The story of the shepherds tells us that the Gospel is for the poor. The story of the wise men tells us that the Gospel is for the rich.
To every one, God says, “I bring you Good News of a great joy … “ (Luke 2:10-11).
Jesus Christ is both God’s Son and our Saviour. If we are to have a true understanding of both who Christ is and what He has done for us, we must never forget these are the great features: He is God’s Son and He is our Saviour.
The Apostle Paul sums this up very well – “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
When worldly, unbelieving people read the words of the angel in Luke 1:35, they become uncomfortable. They are not too keen on all this talk about the Holy Spirit.
We are to respond in faith to the Word of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives the miracle of the new birth.
As we remember Christ’s miraculous and holy birth, we are saying to God, “For with God nothing is impossible.”
As we consider what God wants to do in our lives, here and now, we are saying to God, “Let it be to me according to Your Word.”
When we consider the miracle of Christ’s holy birth, our hearts are to be filled with praise to God, sharing in Mary’s song of joy: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
We are to praise God, echoing the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
We are to join with the shepherds in “glorifying and praising God for all that we have heard” concerning our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
From our hearts, we can truly say with the Apostle Paul: “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
He made known God’s compassion and mercy, giving hope and declaring forgiveness of sin, offering healing and wholeness to all.
To understand the Christian message, we must do more than simply tell the story of Jesus.
We must ask the question, “What does this mean for us today?”
To answer this question, we need to read our Bibles, listening for the voice of God Himself.
As we read God’s Word, allowing His Good News to reach our hearts, we will discover that Jesus Christ brings peace and hope.
Jesus brings us peace.
* First, there is the peace which comes from knowing that our sins have been forgiven.
* Second, there is the peace which comes from knowing that Jesus Christ, “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), has come to live in our hearts.
We have peace because of who Jesus is.
* Jesus is our Saviour (Matthew 1:21). Since He is our Saviour, He is able to forgive our sins.
* Jesus is “Emmanuel” (”God with us”) (Matthew 1:23). Since He is Emmanuel (God with us), He is able to live in our hearts.
Jesus gives us hope.
* First, there is the hope which comes from the assurance that we’re on our way to heaven.
* Second, there is the hope which comes from the assurance that Jesus is with us every step of the way.
We have hope because of who Jesus is.
He is the King – the King of glory and the King of love.
*We know that Jesus is able to bring us safely to heaven because He Himself came from heaven.”
“He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all.”
“Who came down from heaven to earth? Jesus Christ our Saviour!”
“Who is He in yonder stall, at whose feet the shepherds fall?
‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story! ‘Tis the Lord, the King of Glory!”
* We know that Jesus will be with us every step of the way because we know that He Himself has travelled the way of the Cross. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, we have the assurance that He is the King of love.
Whatever our circumstances, we rejoice that the Lord is there beside us and His Cross is there to guide us.
This is the Source of our hope – Jesus Christ, the King of glory and the King of love.
To know Jesus as the Saviour, Emmanuel (God with us), the King of glory and the King of love is to enjoy the blessings of His peace and hope.
May these blessings be ours today and every day.
He made known God’s compassion and mercy, giving hope and declaring forgiveness of sin, offering healing and wholeness to all (John 2:1-12).
The miracle of turning water into wine is described in John 2:11 as “the first of His signs.”
The word, “sign”, is the word which is normally used in the Gospel of John to describe the miracles of Jesus. It is a word which stresses the spiritual significance of Christ’s miracles.
As we read the miracle-stories, we must learn to look for what they teach us concerning salvation in Jesus Christ.
John describes Jesus’ signs with a view to leading us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (John 20:31).
When we read the story of the turning of water into wine, we must seek to learn what God is teaching us concerning the new wine of the Spirit.
The contrast between water and wine speaks to us of the contrast between what we were before Christ came into our lives and what we have become through the love and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think of what you were before coming to Christ. Think of what Christ has done for you and give all the glory to Him.
Before coming to the Saviour, we were lost. In Him, we have been found. Before trusting the Lord Jesus, we were guilty. In Him, we are forgiven. Before coming to the Lord, we were in bondage to sin. In Him, we are free.
This is the new wine of the Spirit – found, forgiven and free.
In Christ, we are found.
Sometimes, we hear people saying, “I’ve really found myself.” This is not, however, the testimony of the Christian. The believer does not say, “I’ve found myself.” Our testimony is this: “I’ve found the Lord.”
There is a sense in which we’ve found ourselves. We’ve found the meaning and purpose of our lives. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the meaning and purpose of our life is found in Christ.
When we think more deeply about our experience of finding the Lord, it is not so much that we have found Him. He has found us.
The water did not turn itself into wine. Jesus turned the water into wine.
This is how it is with salvation. This is how it is with the new wine of the Spirit. We do not turn ourselves into Christians. It is the Lord who performs a miracle in our hearts – the miracle of the new birth.
Until Jesus performed this miracle, the water remained water. It would never be anything other than water. When Jesus performed this miracle, the water became wine.
This is how it is with the new birth, the new wine of the Spirit.
By ourselves, we are guilty sinners, suffering from a sickness which is, humanly speaking, incurable. This sickness, the Bible calls sin. It is a terminal illness. there is no way of recovering from it, unless the Lord performs a miracle of His grace. We cannot cure ourselves. We can only be cured by the love and power of the Lord.
Without Christ, we have no hope.. The truth concerning our life without Christ is this: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Once the Lord has found us, a new story of our life has been written: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
When the Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, He said to them, “I tell you I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that Day when I drink it with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
The new wine of the Spirit is not merely something which belongs to this earthly world. It is the beginning of a heavenly life, which we will share with the Lord forever in His eternal Kingdom.
Those who have been found by the Lord Jesus Christ shall never again be lost. Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
Found by the Lord, we are also forgiven by Him. You cannot forgive yourself. You have to be forgiven by someone else.
When you sin against someone else – a husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, neighbour – you cannot simply say, “I forgive myself.” You need to be forgiven by the person you’ve sinned against. You cannot givr forgiveness to yourself. You can only receive it as a gift.
It is the same with God’s forgiveness. We have sinned against God. We need to be forgiven by God.
Forgiveness is an essential part of what we may call the new wine of the Spirit.
When, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples wine to drink, He said to them, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
The water could only be turned to wine by Jesus. Our sins can only be forgiven by Jesus
Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus turns guilty sinners into forgiven sinners.
This is the new wine of the Spirit.
In Christ, we are found. In Christ, we are forgiven. In Christ, we are free.
The freedom which we have received in Christ is not a freedom to do as we please.
* We are set free for obedience, set free to obey the Lord in a way that we could never do before.
* We are set free for service, set free to serve the Lord in a way that we have never served him before.
Christian freedom is like the freedom of the prisoner of war. We are no longer defeated, captive and taken out of the battle. We are now free to fight for the Lord, to fight in His strength and win victories for Him.
In the story of the turning of water into wine, we read of water being turned into a strong drink.
When we receive the new wine of the Spirit, we receive strength, strength to live for Jesus. We are able to live for Him in a way that we could not do before we came to Christ.
The contrast between the old life and the new life is highlighted in Ephesians 5:18, where the Apostle Paul writes, “do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit.”
The world’s way is the way of getting drunk with wine. It is the way of “debauchery.”
The Lord’s way is the way of the new wine of the Spirit.
The contrast between being filled with the world’s wine and being filled with the new wine of the Spirit is both encouraging and challenging.
* We are encouraged. We have not received the spirit of ‘Johnnie Walker’ (or ‘Jack Daniels’). We have received the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
* We are challenged. We are not to be filled with the spirit of ‘Johnnie Walker’ (or ‘Jack Daniels’). We are to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Being filled with the new wine of the Spirit may not be the world’s idea of a ‘good time.’ It is the way to true happiness.
Found, forgiven and free – this is the Gospel’s description of a Christian.
Are you a Christian? – found by Christ, forgiven by Christ, free in Christ.
By His death on the cross and by His resurrection, He has triumphed over evil (John 2:13-25).
With a view to emphasizing what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, we begin with the conversation which took place after the cleansing of the temple (John 2:18-22).
By cleansing the temple, Jesus provoked an immediate reaction from His critics. They challenged Him, “What right have you to do this?” They said to Him, “If you have this authority from God, show us a miracle to prove it” (John 2:18).
Jesus answered them with a curious statement. They completely misunderstood Him.
He said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
The Jews were quick to let Jesus know what they thought of this statement – “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20).
What they didn’t realize was this – Jesus was speaking about “the temple of His body” (John 2:21). He wasn’t threatening to tear down the Temple of Jerusalem. His words were prophetic. He was speaking of His death and resurrection.
This is made clear in John 2:22 – “When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture and the Word which Jesus had spoken.”
When Jesus cleansed the temple, this was not merely an action of moral outrage. Jesus was preaching the Gospel. He was proclaiming the Good News that salvation would be freely offered to all people through His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead.
By cleansing the temple, Jesus was saying this: “the repeated, animal, sacrificial offerings of Judaism would would be replaced by the one and once-for-all offering of Himself by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in death and resurrection” (John Marsh, Saint John, p. 161).
When Jesus cleansed the temple, He was saying that the sacrifices of sheep and oxen would no longer be required since our salvation does not depend on such sacrifices. Rather, it depends on the atoning Sacrifice of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and was raised again so that we might have eternal life through faith in Him.
This is the true and deeper significance of the cleansing of the temple.
The Temple at Jerusalem was concerned with many sacrifices – the sacrifices of sheep and oxen. The Cross of Christ sets before us one Sacrifice – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29).
This is how we are to understand our worship. We do not worship God by bringing to Him sacrifices of animals. We worship God by accepting the great Sacrifice which Christ has made for us.
* We come humbly before the Cross, and we say, with the Apostle Paul, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
* We come humbly before the empty tomb, making Paul’s prayer our very own: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
By His death on the Cross and by His resurrection, He has triumphed over evil (John 3:1-21).
John 3:16 – It’s the heart of the Christian message. It’s a summary of the Gospel. It’s the Gospel in a nutshell.
The significance of His being “lifted up” is brought out well in the hymn, “Man of Sorrows”:
“Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished’ was His cry; Now, in heaven, exalted high; Alleluia! What a Saviour!”
Jesus was lifted up to die. He was nailed to the Cross. His death was for us. He went to the Cross for us. Through the death of Christ, we are saved from our sins.
There is, however, another “lifting up.” Jesus is now, in heaven, exalted high.
Christ’s story did not end with His death. It is the story of victory over death. The raising of Jesus from death is expressed powerfully in the words of the hymn:
“Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have the assurance of both the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.
This is expressed, beautifully and simply, in the words of the children’s hymn:
“Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.”
When we sing the chorus of this hymn, we are reminded that the love of Jesus is the Bible’s central theme:
“Yes! Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”
Love is at the heart of the Bible. Love is at the heart of the Gospel.
Nowhere is this more clearly expressed than in John 3:16.
The Amplified New Testament offers us this version of this verse:
“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even) gave up His only-begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish – come to destruction, be lost – but have eternal (everlasting) life.”
Make it personal! God loves you. God gave Jesus for you. Jesus came to earth for you. Jesus died on the Cross for you. Jesus was raised again for you. Jesus offers to you the gift of eternal life. Will you come to Him now, and be sure that God loves you, that God loves you, that God has forgiven your sins, and that God is waiting to welcome you into His heavenly and eternal glory.
If you have never made it personal, I invite you to do so now.
Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and you will be able to say from your heart:
“Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
“I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
(1) I – the son of Mary and the Son of God; I – the child born at Bethlehem, the child who is called the “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6), the Creator of heaven and earth.
(2) the world – The Bible teaches us that the world is both fallen from God and loved by God.
The Bible warns us:
“Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Nevertheless, the Bible also tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
Taking these two aspects of the Bible’s teaching together, we learn two lessons:
First, we are loved by God;
Second, we are to love God.
We must not take God’s love for granted. we must not live as the world lives, with little thought for God or His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s way of overcoming the world is a rather strange way. It is not the way of brute force. it is not the way of worldly power. It is not the way of the dictator. God’s way is the way of love. God’s way centres on a Babe born in a stable, because there was “no room at the inn.” It centres on a young Man, put to death on a Cross “outside a city wall.”
Christ’s victory is not a matter of uncertainty. He has won the victory. His victory is a fact which we must believe. It is a fact upon which we must build. In our own conflict with evil, we must take our stand on Christ’s victory.
When Christ, from the Cross, cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), this was not a cry of despair. It was a shout of victory. Jesus had triumphed over all the powers of evil. Jesus won the victory for us. Through Christ’s victory, we can now say, “In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.”
Jesus’ words, “I have overcome the world” come to us in the context of “tribulation.” Jesus does not only speak to us words of triumph and victory. He also speaks a word of realism: “In the world you have tribulation.”
We don’t like to hear about tribulation. Perhaps, we feel that it doesn’t fit in with the Christian message. we must not, however, live with our heads in the sand. we must not pretend that life is something different from what it really is.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is a painfully accurate description of our human experience in this world.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is not all that Jesus says to us. He also says, “I have overcome the world.”
“In the world you have tribulation” – these are the words which we must face honestly if we are to really appreciate the greatness of Christ’s triumph over all the powers of evil.
“In the world you have tribulation” – this is the dark backcloth against which the Christian message is set.
“In this world you have tribulation.”The years of our life, in this world, are passing. We are moving ever closer to the end of our life on this earth. This is something which makes us anxious.
There is the anxiety which comes upon us as we think of wasted opportunities to trust Christ, to confess Christ, to serve Christ.
There is the anxiety which comes upon us as we think of the future. The question of the future, the ultimate future, is always before us: are you ready to meet the Lord, your Maker?
When we consider the things which make us anxious, we may wonder, “How can I be of good cheer”? We began by hearing and believing Christ’s words, “I have overcome the world.” We take His words and we stand upon them and, through faith in Christ, the triumphant Victor over evil, we say, “I have overcome the world.”
Whatever is happening in the world around us – in our own personal world, in the world of our own local Church and community, in the world of our nation and the Church in our land, in the world of the nations and the Church’s worldwide mission, we take our stand upon Christ’s words, “I have overcome the world.”
Whatever is happening in our world, we can still be of good cheer because we know that God is still the God of our salvation. We can face the future with the joy of the Lord because we know that Jesus is with us still. We don’t know what may yet lie ahead of us – “In the world you have tribulation”, but we do know this: the risen, living Lord, Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) still says to us, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We may have to face difficult times. We will not have to face them alone. We will face them with Jesus. Whatever difficulties may come our way, let us draw strength from the words of Christ, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
He has triumphed over evil. Jesus is Lord of life and of all creation (John 3:22-36).
We begin with a great description of the Lord Jesus Christ – “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
Compare Jesus with the great characters of the Old Testament – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah – and the New Testament – Peter, Paul, John, James. You will come to this conclusion: Jesus is above all.
The others speak of the Lord, our God and Saviour. Jesus is our Saviour, our Lord and our God. Jesus is above all. Concerning Jesus alone does the Scripture say: “at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
When the Bible speaks of Jesus’ absolute superiority over all, it emphasizes His triumph over all the powers of evil. When we truly believe that Jesus has won the victory over all that stands between ourselves and God, we are truly able to say: “On the victory side, on the victory side, no foe can daunt me, no fear can haunt me, on the victory side. On the victory side, on the victory side, with Christ within, the fight we’ll win, on the victory side.” Through Christ, the victory is ours.
As we think of these words of John the Baptist: “He who comes from above all is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31), we should also recall his words from John 1:29 – “Behold (look)! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” If the victory of the Lord is to be ours in an ever-deepening experience, this is what we must do – look away from ourselves and our defeat to Jesus Christ our Saviour and His victory. Jesus won the victory for us when He died upon the Cross for us. If, however, we are to enjoy His victory as an ongoing experience, we must seek to cultivate a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is to be a relationship of faith, prayer and love. In this relationship, we learn, more and more, to say of Jesus: “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
(a) A relationship of faith
“It is not by measure that He gives the Spirit” (John 3:34).
The Holy Spirit is given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through faith, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus shares His risen life with us. The Word of God describes the believer in this way: “The Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9).
Jesus is the Lord who came from above, from heaven. The Holy Spirit brings Jesus into our hearts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know the presence of the Lord Jesus with us here and now. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we have the assurance that we dwell with the Lord Jesus forevermore.
The Christian life begins with faith – believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we receive Christ into our hearts and lives. The Christian life must also continue in faith. We have received Christ in faith. Now, we are to walk with Him in faith (Colossians 2:6). We began with faith. We are to continue with faith (Galatians 3:2-3).
(b) A relationship of prayer
“He whom God has sent utters the words of God” (John 3:34).
Jesus Himself is “the Word of God” (John 1:1; John 1:14). To get to know Jesus ourselves, we must give careful attention to the words which He has spoken. A relationship of prayer is not only a matter of our speaking to God. Before we speak to God, we must learn to listen to Him. God speaks to us through His Word. we reply to Him when we speak to Him in prayer. We come to faith in Christ when we hear and believe t he Gospel (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25). we grow in faith, as we build our lives on Christ, as we learn of Him from God’s Word. Growing in faith, we learn to listen to God and we learn to speak to God.
(c) A relationship of love
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
We began with a description of the Lord Jesus Christ: “He who comes from above is above all … He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). we moved on to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – a relationship of faith, prayer and love. It is a relationship of faith in the Lord Jesus. It is a relationship of listening to the Lord Jesus and speaking to Him. It is a relationship of love for Jesus. Surely, as we look at these three things together – faith, prayer and love, we must say, with Paul, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Out of love for Jesus grows the deep-seated desire to become like Him, giving all the glory to Him, acknowledging Him to be “above all.” Jesus increasing, ourselves decreasing – this is the Christlike pattern which God wishes to reproduce in our lives. God is at work within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. God speaks to us through His written Word – the Bible – so that we may become more like His living Word – the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His Word and His Spirit, God is at work in us so that Jesus may be “above all” in our lives.
“I must decrease, but Christ in me must increase.” Make this your spiritual “ambition”. Let the self-centredness of the past be replaced by a new Christ-centredness in the future.
We trust God the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
The supreme goal of the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. The Holy Spirit directs our attention to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus. He says to us, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”
The Apostle Paul stresses the vital connection between the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God, ever says, ‘Jesus be cursed’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Every one who has truly come to faith in Jesus Christ is able to say, with conviction, “This is the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Read the Acts of the Apostles. Many people come to faith in Jesus Christ. What is the explanation? – The Holy Spirit.
In Acts 2:41, we read of three thousand souls being added to the Church on one day. What is the explanation? Go back to Acts 2:4 – “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Read Acts 2:16-18 – “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel … I will pour out My Spirit … I will pour out My Spirit.”
In Acts 4:33, we see the apostles, “with great power, giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” What is the explanation? Acts 4:31 gives us the answer – “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.”
Look at the men of God in the Acts of the Apostles. They are men filled with the Holy Spirit.
First, there is Stephen. Immediately before he was stoned, Stephen preached the Gospel of Christ. After he had finished speaking, we see Stephen – about to be stoned – facing death as a man full of the Holy Spirit, a man looking to Jesus Christ – “Now when they heard these things they were enraged and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:54-55).
In Acts 8, we see Philip, a man in step with the Spirit. The Ethiopian eunuch is reading the Old Testament Scriptures, but he does not understand what they mean. The Spirit of God is at work – “And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot” (Acts 8:29). Philip led the Ethiopian eunuch to faith in Christ. Philip, then, continued in the way of the Spirit – “the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip” (Acts 8:39). The Spirit continued to use Philip in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ – “he preached the Gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:40).
In Acts 10, we read of Peter, bringing the Good News of Christ to Cornelius, the centurion. Peter preached the message of forgiveness – “every one who believes in Him (Jesus Christ) receives forgiveness of sins through His Name” (Acts 10:43). As Peter spoke, something wonderful happened – “While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the Word” (Acts 10:44).
Later, in Acts, we read of the ministry of Paul. In his message to the elders at Ephesus, Paul describes his ministry in this way – “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21).
As he speaks of this Christ-centred ministry, Paul makes it clear that he does not carry out this ministry in his own strength. He speaks of the next step in his missionary journey – “now … I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit” (Acts 20:22).
In this brief survey of Acts, we have drawn attention to four men, filled with the Holy Spirit – Stephen, Philip, Peter and Paul. These men were not only filled with the Holy Spirit. Their lives were centred on Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit. Centred on Jesus Christ. The two belong together. You can’t have one without the other.
What can we learn from these four men? Here are four lessons we can learn from them.
(a) From Stephen, we learn this. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking to Christ, we catch a glimpse of the glory of God. Our lives are filled with the glory of the Lord.
(b) From Philip, we learn this – the importance of going where the Spirit leads us. If we are to lead others, we must follow the leading of the Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip had been transformed/In John 6, where Jesus fed the 5,000, Philip knew nothing of the power of God to do mighty things. At that time, Philip said, ‘It can’t be done. We cannot feed this great multitude.’ In Acts 8, we see a very different Philip, a new Philip. No longer does he say, ‘It can’t be done.’ Now, he says, ‘It shall be done.’ When Philip saw what Christ could do for the hungry multitude, he caught a glimpse of what Christ could do in his own life. Now, Philip – a man led by the Spirit of God – was leading others to Jesus, the Son of God. The Spirit leads us to Christ that we, in turn, might lead others to Christ. This, we can only do through the power of the Holy Spirit. With His power, we dare not say, ‘It can’t be done.’ With His power, we dare to say, ‘It shall be done.’
(c) What do we learn from Peter? we learn of the way in which the Holy Spirit can take control of our words and use them yo bring blessing to others. The Peter of the Gospels was a bit of a loudmouth. He was always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The lowest point in Peter’s life came when he denied his Lord three times. Peter denied Jesus Christ, when he should have been confessing Him as Lord. In Acts, we see a new Peter. No longer do we see the Peter to whom the Lord had to say, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Now, we see Peter speaking the right words at the right time. Peter is now speaking words which the Holy Spirit carries home powerfully to the hearts of his hearers. When the Holy Spirit takes control of our lives, He will also take control of our words, that they may truly become “wonderful words of life”, words which bring life to people who need Jesus.
(d) We learn from Paul that the Holy Spirit is leading us on to greater things – in the service of Christ. Paul was not content with what he had achieved in the service of Christ. led by the Holy Spirit, Paul was moving on to greater things. This is the way the Holy Spirit is leading us today. We must not rest content. We must go on.
From these four men of God, we learn that the Holy Spirit does not only lead us to the beginning of faith in Christ. He leads us into a whole new life, a life with Christ at its centre, a life spent in the service of Christ, speaking His Word, doing His will and living His way.
At the heart of our Bible reading from John’s Gospel, we have two healings – the healing of a boy suffering from a fever (John 4:46-54) and the healing of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years (John 5:1-16). In our reading from the Psalms, we have a man crying out to God for spiritual healing – the healing of a life, hardened by sin and guilt.
When we come to Jesus’ miracles of physical healing, we must learn to look beyond the physical healing. We must seek to learn what God is teaching us concerning the healing of our whole life. What is God saying to us about our salvation in Jesus Christ? – This is the key question we must ask when we read the Bible. Scripture leaves us in no doubt about its central theme – “the Holy Scriptures are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
In the two healings, – the boy with the fever and the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, we learn lessons concerning salvation. The key moment in the healing of the boy is found in John 4:50 – “Jesus said to the boy’s father, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word which Jesus spoke to him and went his way.”
When we hear Jesus saying, “your son will live”, do we think only of physical life? Do we not also get a hint of the eternal life which Jesus gives to all who trust Him? When we read the words, “your son will live”, we should recall John’s purpose in writing this Gospel: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name” (John 20:31).
When we read the words – “The man believed the words that Jesus spoke to him”, do we not, again, get the hint of a deeper dimension? Believing the word also involves trusting the Person who speaks the word. we hear the Word of God and we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of bringing us to Himself, God’s way of bringing us into a real experience of His salvation.
When, in John 4:53, we read, “The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live’; and he himself believed, and all his household”, surely we are reading more than the story of a physical healing. This is the story of salvation. I’m sure that this man would look back on this hour in the same way that John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace“, looked back to his conversion: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”
Again, in the story of the healing of the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, there are lessons concerning salvation. When, in John 5:6, Jesus asks the question, “Do you want to be healed?. we must hear, in His question, another question – “Do you want to be saved?”
When Jesus brings healing, He brings a wholeness of life, which the Bible calls “salvation.” Jesus was not only concerned about the man’s physical health. He was also concerned about his spiritual welfare. In John 5:14, Jesus said to the healed man, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” You may enjoy good health, but are you saved? – This is the question which the Gospel keeps on pressing home to our hearts. People often say, “The most important thing is your health.” The Gospel says, “The most important thing is your salvation.” Are you saved? Do you want to be saved? These are the questions God is asking. He waits for your answer.
The prayer of the Psalmist, in Psalm 51, may help you to come to know the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, we see the Psalmist, confessing his sin to the Lord: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight” (Psalm 51:3-4). We hear the Psalmist, crying to God for salvation: “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not They Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:9-12). We also learn of the Psalmist’s prayer that he might be a witness for the Lord: “Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will return to Thee … my tongue will sing aloud of Thy deliverance. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise” (Psalm 51:13-15).
As we consider prayerfully the Psalmist’s words, we must look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is that “all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). To those who imagine that they can worship God without coming, in faith, to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus issues this warning: “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).
To each of us, Jesus speaks this word of Gospel promise: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
Has this great ‘miracle’ happened in your life? Have you passed from the death of unbelief into the eternal life, which is received by faith?
We trust God the Holy Spirit who … gives life to the Church ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-13).
What is the Church? Is it merely a building? Is it simply a human organization? This may be the way in which many people think of the Church. It is not, however, the way in which the New Testament speaks about the Church. It speaks about people – people who belong to Jesus Christ.
The way in which the New Testament speaks of the Church in connection with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is highlighted in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. In these verses, we learn that the Church is the body of Christ. We also learn that we have become the Church. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we have become the body of Christ.
How does the Holy Spirit bring us into the Church, into the body of Christ?
When we consider the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, there are two things we must bear in mind. First, we will never fully understand the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Second, we can be fully assured that the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives, bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ, bringing us into the body of Christ.
These two important elements of true faith belong together. Along with the humble recognition that we do not fully understand all that God has done in our lives, there is the full assurance of faith, which trusts in the Lord and finds Him to be absolutely trustworthy.
These key elements of true faith – humility and confidence – are brought together well in the hymn, “I know not why God’s wondrous grace.” In the first three verses, this hymn speaks about the work of God in our lives. It speaks with the humility which recognizes that God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me has been made known; nor why – unworthy as I am – He claimed me for His own. I know not why this saving faith to me He did impart; or how believing in His Word wrought peace within my heart. I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him.”
Following each of these verses, there is the triumphant chorus: “But I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day” (Mission Praise, 89).
With this combination of humility and confidence, we turn our attention to the question: How does the Holy Spirit bring us into the Church, into the body of Christ?
The Holy Spirit brings us into the Church by bringing us to faith in Christ. He does this through the Gospel. Through the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to confess Christ as both God’s Son and our Saviour. The Holy Spirit leads us to confess Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The Holy Spirit leads us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Saviour who died for us and was raised again for us. Whenever the Gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit is present, calling men and women to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy spirit points us to Jesus Christ. He says to us, “This is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Trust Him as your Saviour.” When we respond, in faith, to this working of the Holy Spirit within us, we become members of the body of Christ, the true Church, which is made up of all who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
All who have truly come, in faith, to Jesus Christ now belong to the body of Christ. we dare not think of ourselves in isolation from the fellowship of God’s people. we are not to be ‘Lone Ranger’ Christians. When I began studying sociology (the study of man in society), the first essay I was asked to write was this: “Discuss the statement, “No man is an island.”
“No man is an island.” This is true of all of us. We are not isolated individuals. We are part of a wider society. This is also true within the fellowship of Christ’s Church. we are not isolated Christians. We belong together in the fellowship of the Church. The importance of working together as a team may be illustrated with reference to the importance of playing football as a team game. If a boy says, “I want to be a footballer”, we do not say to him, “Go and kick a ball against a wall.” we tell him to join a football team. If someone says, “I want to be a Christian”, w e do not say to him, “Go away and be a Christian all on your own.” We say to him, “Welcome to our Church. Come along to the services. Worship with us. Come along to the Bible studies. Learn from God’s Word with us. Come along to the prayer meetings. Pray with us.”
We began with the question, “What is the Church?” It has become clear that Scripture lays great emphasis on the close connection between the work of the Spirit and the Church, the body of Christ. Whenever we think of the Church, we must think also of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not merely a building. The Church is not simply a human organization. The Church is the body of people who have responded to the call of the Holy Spirit, the call to faith in Christ. Whenever we think of the Holy Spirit, we must also think of the Church of Christ. The Holy Spirit is not content with producing ‘free lance’ Christians, one here and one there, each having nothing to do with the other. The Holy Spirit brings us into fellowship with one another. through the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are brought into the fellowship of God’s people. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to play our active part in the life of Christ’s Church.
The connection between the Spirit and the Church – this is very challenging. We cannot proudly say, “We are the Church”, if we are not walking in the way of the Spirit. We cannot claim to be walking in the way of the Spirit, if we are not actively involving ourselves in the life of the Church.
If we are tempted to say, “We are the Church” without really walking in the Spirit, God says to us, “Walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16); “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
If, on the other hand, we imagine ourselves to be ‘spiritual’ while showing little active interest in the life of Christ’s Church, God says to us, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17); “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
The Spirit is calling us to be the Church, not in our own weakness but in the mighty power which the Spirit gives to all who walk in His way. What will your response be to the call of the Spirit?
We trust God the Holy Spirit who … gives life to the Church (John 4:1-42).
Notice how the situation develops. Jesus does not set out with the specific goal of speaking about the deep things of the faith to the first person he meets. The story begins with a weary Man – Jesus, sitting down beside the well (John 4:6). There was, however, a deeper dimension. Jesus is walking in the Spirit. He is in the centre of the Father’s will. He is ready to speak the Word of the Lord whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The story continues with a very natural conversation-opener. Jesus says to the woman, “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7). It soon becomes clear that the deeper dimension – Jesus is walking in the Spirit – is about to influence the direction of the conversation. When we are walking in the Spirit, we must be ready for conversations to move in the direction of the things of God. The Spirit will give us opportunities to share the Good News of Christ with others.
Jesus speaks of “living water” (John 4:10). When we have the life of Christ within us, the life of the Spirit in our hearts, we will be given opportunities to share that life with others. We share this life as we speak for Jesus. This sharing will, however, be more than a matter of words. it will be a matter of life – sharing the life which God has put into our hearts, sharing the life of Jesus.
With His whole life centred on doing the Father’s will – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work ” (John 4:34), Jesus is ready for this opportunity to give to the woman the “living water” which He alone can give. As we go around, here and there, with this intention – to do the Lord’s will, we can expect God to use us to bring blessing to others.
In this story, how does God use Jesus to fulfil His purpose? This is not only the story of one woman. It is the story of “many Samaritans” and “many more” (John 4:39; John 4:41). When we are faithful in sharing Jesus with one person, who knows what may result from this?
Many more believe. This is not because of the woman’s testimony. It is because of the Lord’s own Word. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We give our testimony. Through our weak words, the Holy Spirit gives His testimony. The Holy Spirit uses our inadequate words to point men and women to the Lord Jesus.
As the Holy Spirit works, the Church is created. When Jesus leaves Samaria, He does not leave behind only one believer. Through His Word, there are many believers. He leaves behind many believers. What strength and encouragement these believers received from each other as, together, they rejoiced in their new-found faith – Jesus Christ is “indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). This is our faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must encourage one another to go on in this faith.
We trust God the Holy Spirit who … gives life to the Church (John 6:60-7:53).
Here, I will lay special emphasis on John 6:60-71 and John 7:37-52.
The Gospel sets before each of us a choice. It is a choice between futility and fullness. Life without Christ is a life of futility. Life in Christ is fullness of life. The situation facing us today is strikingly similar to the situation the first disciples. we are told in John 6:66 that “many of the disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.” The same thing is happening today. Many people are turning back from following Christ.
What are the consequences of their choice?
What is the alternative to their choice?
Peter answers these questions for us in John 6:68. Jesus has asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6:67). Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
To turn away from the Lord Jesus is to head off into a spiritual “no man’s land.” There is nowhere else to go. To turn back from following Jesus is to drift into a life of futility. there is, however, an alternative to the life of futility. It is Jesus Christ, in whom alone there is fullness of life.
The contrast between futility and fullness may be highlighted by stressing the difference between the words of Ecclesiastes 1:2 and the words of our Saviour in John 10:10. Ecclesiastes 1:2 describes very aptly the mood of our time: “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
Into this situation of futility comes the Lord Jesus, bringing, with Him, fullness of life: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
If we are to enjoy fullness of life in Christ, we must go forward in faith, refusing to turn back from following Christ. as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus, we will soon discover that there are many obstacles along the way. Jesus makes this very clear. When He speaks of fullness of life, He also warns us that there is a “thief (who) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). There are “thieves” who would steal us away from following Jesus. these “thieves” seek to kill the life of Christ within us. They seek to destroy our fellowship with the Lord, leading us away from a life of fullness to a life of futility. In this spiritual conflict, we are called to be faithful. Faithfulness to Christ is not something that we can take for granted. There is always the life of futility, threatening to pull us away from the fullness of life, which is in Christ.
We must always remember the real contrast between life without Christ and life with Christ.
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we see the difference between futility and fullness. Away from the Father’s house, the prodigal son lived a life of futility. Once he had returned to the Father’s house, he was no longer the prodigal son. He had become the restored son. he had been restored to a fullness of life, which he could never have known while he was away from the Father’s house. No matter how long we may have been in the Father’s house (or in the Father’s love), we must never forget what life is like away from the Father’s house.
As we look at the two ways of life – the way of futility and the way of fullness – , we must not look back with a yearning to return to the old life. rather, we must look back and say, “That life is over, finished.” We must look back and say, “That way – the way of futility – is a dead-end street, a road that leads me nowhere. I have no wish to return to that life.” As we look back, we must learn to say, with thanksgiving to God, “I was lost but now I am found” (Luke 15:32).
What is the life of fullness into which the Lord Jesus brings us?
Peter, in John 6:68, describes it as eternal life – “You have the words of eternal life.”
Jesus, in John 7:37-39, stresses that this life is not to be written off as ‘pie in the sky when you die’, life in a far-away and distant heaven, life which has no relevance for our life here-and-now. It begins with the new life of the Spirit.
Once, I was speaking at a meeting which had two sessions. During the first session, I stressed that eternal life is not merely ‘pie in the sky when you die.’ During the interval, someone said to me that it’s also ‘steak on the plate while you wait.’ Jesus does not only give us a place in heaven. he also gives us fullness of life here-and-now,
This fullness of life, this new life in the Spirit, is described by Jesus in John 7:38 – “He who believes in Me … Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can look at the many temptations to return to the life of futility and we can say, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). With the Spirit of the living God in our hearts, we can “see the sights that dazzle”, and we can turn from them to the solid joys which only Christ can give. we have the new life of the Spirit, the fullness of life in Christ. We can say, “Fading is the worldling’s pleasure”, for we know that the world can offer us nothing which even begins to compare with Jesus Christ. No longer is there “a God-shaped blank” in our lives. Jesus has filled our lives with His fullness – the fullness of a love which will never let us go, the fullness of a love which will never let us down, the fullness of a love which leads us onward to victory and upward to heavenly glory.
We trust God the Holy Spirit who … brings us to repentance and assures us of forgiveness (John 8:1-30).
Our theme is the forgiveness of sins. Our main focus of attention will be on John 8:1-11 and John 8:21-24. The message of forgiveness comes through very strongly in the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).. In this story, we have not only Jesus and the woman. We also have “the scribes and the Pharisees” (John 8:2). This is a story about (a) Jesus – the One who gives forgiveness; (b) the woman – the one who received forgiveness; (c) the scribes and the Pharisees – the people who refused forgiveness.
Whenever we consider the Bible’s teaching concerning the forgiveness of sins, there are three things which must be emphasized – (i) We are all sinners; (ii) To all, the offer of forgiveness is extended; (iii) To all, the call for faith is issued.
When I lived in Glasgow, there was a lady in our Church prayer meeting who prayed regularly that people would be convicted and converted. This expression, “convicted and converted”, helps us to see the way in which the Lord leads us into a real experience of the forgiveness of sins.
First of all, we need to be convicted – convicted of our sins;
Secondly, we need to be converted – converted to faith in Jesus Christ.
This expression, “convicted and converted” helps us to understand the difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and the Pharisees.”
The scribes and the Pharisees were convicted but they were not converted. they were conscious of their sin but they did not come to the Saviour. It is possible to be convicted without being converted. there is no joy in being aware of your sin if you do not come to the Lord Jesus and receive the forgiveness of your sins.
The woman caught in adultery was not only convicted. she was also converted. She came to Jesus with a burden of guilt. She went away with the joy of knowing that her sins had been forgiven. For the rest of her life, she could look back on that day, and say: “My sins are gone, gone, gone, far away, Happy day, Happy day.” Forgiveness makes a world of difference to our lives. Once we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven, our lives can never be the same again. The woman caught in adultery would never be the same again, after this day when she met Jesus. She would never forget the words which Jesus spoke to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11). In these words, Jesus speaks of the grace which forgives the sins of the past, the grace which lays claim to our lives in the future. Jesus stresses that those who have been forgiven by Him are to go on and live for Him.
How did the woman caught in adultery live, after she had been forgiven by Jesus? Did she live like the scribes and Pharisees? There is no way that someone who has really tasted the joy of forgiveness can ever be satisfied with living like the scribes and Pharisees. Their religion was a religion of legalism. They knew plenty about rules and regulations, but they knew nothing of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. they tried very hard to keep their rules and regulations – especially when other people were watching them. They did all this in their own strength. They knew nothing of the power of the Spirit of God. This was not the way for one who had really experienced the Lord’s forgiveness. The woman caught in adultery had been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. She went on to live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a world of difference between the woman caught in adultery and “the scribes and Pharisees.” She was convicted and converted. They were convicted without being converted. She would look back on this day with happy memories – memories of the day she met Jesus, the day she was forgiven by Jesus. They would remember this day as a day they would rather forget. The memory of this day would be, for them, a very uncomfortable memory. from that day, the woman lived by grace. Her accusers lived without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not, however, the end of the difference between the woman and her accusers. There was not only a world of difference. There was an eternity of difference – different in this world, different in the world to come.
To the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not say, “Neither do I condemn you.” This is what He did say, “You will … die in your sins” (John 8:21). Why did Jesus use such strong language when He spoke to these men? Jesus was urging them to respond to Him, to have faith in Him. Even when Jesus said to them, “You will … die in your sins” He was calling them to faith – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He” (John 8:24). Even to those who had shown no inclination towards faith, Jesus is still holding out the opportunity of the Gospel, the opportunity to believe, the opportunity to be saved.
The Gospel opportunity is here for each and every one of us. It is an opportunity which can be lost. It is an opportunity which may never return. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is the time for faith . Today, we have heard the promise of the Gospel – “Neither do I condemn you.” Today, we have heard the warning of the Gospel – “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He.” Trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the assurance of forgiveness – “There is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Christian can look back to the past and say, “The old life has ended.” Through Christ, the believer can now say, “The new life has begun.” Do you have this testimony? – The old life has ended. The new life has begun.
No matter how far down the old life may have dragged us, the Lord Jesus Christ reaches us and lifts us up to a new life. “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin … Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea. Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me. Broader than the scope of my transgression, greater far than all my sin and shame; Oh, magnify the precious Name of Jesus, praise His Name!” However far we may have fallen, the Word of God says, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). we rejoice in the great words of the Psalmist: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
If the new life is to be different from the old life – really different, spiritually different, we must begin with Jesus, with the Good News concerning the forgiveness of our sins. To begin the new life with the assurance that your sins have been forgiven is to set the direction for the new life. To know that your guilt has been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ is to be set free to live with a new strength, to face the future without fear: “March on, my soul, with strength, March forward, void of fear.” Those who know that the Lord Jesus has given them a new life do not yearn to go back to the old life: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
This is the Biblical picture of the Christian. the old life is left in the past. We press on, living the new life. This is the Gospel‘s description of the Christian: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away … the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Begin the new life. Come to Christ and receive from Him a life which is eternal, life with a glorious, heavenly destination.
The Spirit guides us in our understanding of the Bible (John 5:25-47).
We are brought to Jesus Christ – the Son of God – through the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We look now at the part which is played by the Scriptures and the Spirit in bringing us to faith in Christ.
There’s a Rabbinical saying which tells us that “he who has acquired the words of the law has acquired eternal life.” Jesus takes issue with this statement from the Jewish rabbis. He tells us that having the Scriptures does not mean that we have eternal life. We must go where the Scriptures leads us. We must go to Jesus.
You can have the Scriptures and never read them. You can read the Scriptures and grow in head-knowledge. You can be acquainted with the teaching of the Scriptures. You can be fully aware of the Bible’s teaching concerning the way of salvation. Nevertheless, there is still a decision of faith in Christ, a decision which must be taken on the basis of what the Scriptures teach.
John 5:37 speaks of the divine witness, the witness of the Father to Jesus Christ. Scripture also speaks of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. The Spirit takes the Word of God and uses it to speak to us of Jesus Christ, our need of Him and His power to meet that need. An important passage which speaks of this work of the Spirit is John 16:8-15. John 16:13 – He is the Spirit of truth who guides us into all truth. John 16:14 – He glorifies Jesus, taking the Gospel of Christ and declaring it to us.
In this work, He convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11).
* He shows us our sin, highlighting the sin of unbelief (John 16:9).
* He emphasizes to us that, without Christ as our righteousness, we remain in our sins and we remain under the judgment of God (John 16:11).
It is possible to be in the powerful presence of the Spirit and yet turn away without coming to Christ – “you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40).Coming to ChristThis is what happens when we receive the testimony of the Scriptures and respond to the witness of the Spirit. Coming to Christ is believing in Christ (Acts 16:31). It is not ‘mere’ belief (James 2:19). It is trusting Christ. It is obeying the Word of the Gospel. It is possible to miss out because we hear without believing, we hear without obeying – “good news came … to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers … those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of obedience … Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:3, 6-7).
The Spirit guides us in our understanding of the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:1-25).
When I was a student at Glasgow University, we were asked to study a book with the interesting title, “The Strange Silence of the Bible in the Church.” What does this mean? – the strange silence of the Bible in the Church. This title highlights for us a very real danger – the danger of paying lip-service to the Bible without really taking its message very seriously.
I heard the story of a woman who was most adamant in her belief, “The Bible is the Word of God.” She said, “Yes. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word.” This is what she said. She spoke these words with such emotion. It would have been difficult to question the sincerity of her belief. There was, however, one very serious question mark over her belief. there was one disturbing fact which raised the question, “How much difference does this strongly held belief really make to her life?” What was this strange contradiction at the heart of the woman’s life? On the one hand, she insisted, “I believe the Bible is God’s Word.” On the other hand, there was the strange fact that she did not even own a Bible. you could have searched her house from top to bottom. You would have found many things. Even after searching high and low, you would not have found a Bible. For all her professed belief, she had never even taken the trouble to purchase a Bible for herself. she said that she believed the Bible, yet she never read the Bible. It does not make sense to sat, “The Bible is God’s Word”, and then neglect to allow God to speak to you through His Word.
When I was a boy, in my first year at Secondary School, I was presented with a Gideon’s New Testament. at the presentation, the Headmaster said to us, “Don’t put this New Testament in a drawer and leave it there. Read it. It’s for reading.” Unfortunately, I did exactly what he told us not to do. I laid it to one side. I forgot about it.
The Bible is like a record. The message is on the record, but you will only hear it if you play the record. God’s message is in the Bible, but you will only hear it if you read your Bible. How do we hear the message on the record? We bring the needle and the record into contact with each other. How do we really hear God speaking to us? We bring the reader and the Author into contact with each other.
Two years after I received my Gideon’s New Testament, I came to faith in Jesus Christ. When I found Christ, my living Saviour, I also discovered the Bible as a new and living Book. Let’s return to the record and the needle. What makes the difference when the needle touches the record? It’s the electrical power. What makes the difference when the reader and the Author are brought into contact with each other? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened. We read the Bible with new eyes. We do not only see the many pages and the many words. We also see Jesus, the Saviour, the living Word of God. Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible seems to us to be so many hundreds of pages and so many difficult words. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we learn to read the Bible as the true and living Word of God.
There are different ways in which we can approach the Bible.
First, there is “the quiet time.” We spend time each day, reading the Word of God. I encourage you to read the Word of God each day, Find some time, each day for a “quiet time” with the Lord.
Second, we can study the Bible in groups. Those who are involved in group Bible studies will testify to the value of gathering together with others to study God’s Word. I encourage you to become part of a group which meets regularly to study the Lord’s Word.
Third, we can hear God’s Word preached when we come to Church. Before I begin to speak about the preaching of God’s Word, I encourage you to pray for those who are called to preach the Word of the Lord. We do not preach God’s Word perfectly. You can always look around and find other preachers who will be “better” than your own preacher. When you start thinking like this, remind yourself, “The preacher we have is the one whom God has called to be our spiritual leader.” Pray for your preacher. Pray that the preaching will be filled with the power of God. Pray that it will be helpful to those who listen to the preaching.
In 1 Corinthians 14, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of clear teaching from God’s Word.1 Corinthians 14:3 – The Word of God is to be spoken so that people will be built up in the faith, encouraged to go on with the Lord, and comforted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 14:4, 6 – The Church is to be edified. we are to be taught God’s Word so that our minds are raised above earthly things, raised to a deeper love for the Saviour and a closer walk with Him.1 Corinthians 14:8 – If the Church is to rise to the challenge of living for Christ, there must be clear teaching from God’s Word: “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?”1 Corinthians 14:12, 19 – Building the Church up in the faith, giving instruction from the Word of God – these are to be the priorities in the Church’s life. Alongside this commitment to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, there is to be a commitment to prayer – “We will give ourselves continually to prayer , and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).1 Corinthians 14:20 – We are called to be mature in our thinking. We grow towards Christian maturity as we fill our minds with the Word of God.
This teaching from God’s Word takes place within the context of worship. we do not gather to hear a lecture. We do not look around for the best theological lecturer we can find. We gather together to worship the Lord. the preaching of His Word is set within the context of praise and prayer. The spirit of praise grows in us as the Word of the Lord is brought to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we come to hear God’s Word, we are to come prayerfully. Like the Psalmist, we must pray, “Give me understanding that I may keep Thy law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34). This is the prayer God wants to hear. This is the prayer God wants to answer. Let it be your prayer and God will give His answer – a life controlled by His Word, a life filled with His Spirit.
The Spirit renews us in the sacraments (John 6:1-59).
We begin with John 6:35 – “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
A great deal is said, in John 6, about bread – the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14), the reminder of this miracle – “boats from Tiberias came near to the place where they ate the bread after Jesus gave thanks” (John 6:23), Jesus’ message on the Bread of Life (John 6:26-40), the continuation of this theme (John 6:48-51, 58).
A lot is said about bread, yet the important thing is not bread itself. bread is simply a symbol, pointing beyond itself to Jesus. When we think of bread, we think also of the Lord’s Supper. When we think of the Lord’s Supper, we think not only of the bread and the wine. Our thoughts turn to the Saviour, of whom the bread and the wine speak.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus stands before us as the One who calls for our decision. There is no automatic guarantee that all who hear the preaching of God’s Word do, in fact, receive the blessing of which God’s Word speaks. There is no automatic guarantee that all who receive the blessing to which these symbols point. Jesus stands before us, saying to us, “What is your response to Me?” Some hear God’s Word with courtesy, but they do not come to Christ. Some partake of the sacrament with dignity, but they do not come to Christ. Jesus says, “Let’s get beyond outward appearances. How is your heart towards Me?”
Following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, we see an interesting response to Jesus (John 6:14-15). The people make what appears to be a positive response to Jesus (John 6:14). It is, nevertheless, based on a misunderstanding of who Jesus really is and what Jesus has come to do (John 6:15).
There are many people who respond to Jesus in precisely this way. they feel good about Jesus. They come along to Church. They sit under the ministry of God’s Word. They come to the Lord’s Table. They eat the bread. They drink the wine. Somehow, they miss the point of it all. They never really get beyond the symbols. They come to the Lord’s House. They hear the Lord’s Word. They receive the Lord’s Supper. The symbols have become more important than the Saviour. When we come to the Lord’s House, hearing His Word and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, let us make sure that we come to the Saviour – receiving Him as well as the symbols which point to Him.
Later on, after Jesus’ message on the Bread of Life, we see another reaction to Jesus (John 6:41-42). Here, we have the Jews murmuring at Jesus, saying that He is a mere man, who has no right to say, “I have come down from heaven.” we cannot assume that all who hear the Good News of Christ will come, in faith, to Him. There will always be those who, like the Jews, refuse to come to Christ and receive eternal life. When we read of this reaction among the religious people of Jesus’ day, we cannot expect that things will be any different in our day. There was religious unbelief in Jesus’ time, There is religious unbelief in our time. We must not hide behind our religion. We must be honest before God; “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
We dare not remain content with the outward ceremonies of the Church. We must look beyond the ritual. We must look on to the Reality – our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In His message on the Bread of Life, Jesus says, “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).
What is “the food which endures to eternal life”? Jesus makes it perfectly clear that He is speaking about Himself: “For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Following this statement, there comes a request: “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). Jesus’ reply is emphatic: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).
If, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are content with the outward observance without coming in faith to the Saviour, we receive nothing other than the food which perishes. If, on the other hand, we come, in faith, to Christ, we enjoy the promised blessing: “”he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we remember, with thanksgiving, the dying love of our Saviour. through faith, we look beyond the symbols of bread and wine. we draw near to the Saviour whom they signify. we hear Jesus saying, “the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51). We say to Jesus, “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying on the Cross for my sins.” We hear Jesus saying, “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in Him” (John 6:55-56). We know, in our hearts, that this is much more than the outward ceremony. This is the inward reality of Christ, living in our hearts. We look to Him in faith. He comes to live in our hearts.
As we approach the Lord’s Supper, we may find that the story of the feeding of the five thousand has some important lessons for us. In John 6:12, Jesus tells His disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” There are two lessons here.
* First, Jesus was concerned that nothing should be lost. In John 6:39, we read, “and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given Me, but raise it up at the last day.” Those who have come, in faith, to Jesus will never be lost (John 6:37). It is only those who have refused to come to Christ who will be lost. They will be lost because they have refused to be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For those who have come to the Lord Jesus, there is here a precious and treasured lesson concerning the assurance of salvation.
* Second, we notice that the fragments were to be gathered up. This gathering up of the fragments points us forward to our heavenly and glorious, eternal destiny as the redeemed people of God. John 11:52 tells us that Jesus died not for the Jewish nation only. He died “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
As we consider our sure and certain hope of eternal life, received through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we might well end with a verse we could so easily overlook. It is John 6:23: “boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.” Notice how the place is described – “the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.” The Lord gave thanks for the bread. We also must give thanks – not only for bread but for Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Thanksgiving – this must be the keynote of our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Thanksgiving – this must be the keynote of our whole life: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18); “always and for everything giving thanks in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20); “And whatever you do, in word or dead, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper – What place do they have within the total context of the Christian life? What part do they play within the total purpose of God for our lives?
The sacraments are signposts. They point us to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour. When you see a signpost marked, “Edinburgh”, you are pointed in the direction of Edinburgh. The sign says, “This is the way to Edinburgh.” When you see a sign that says, “Come alive with Pepsi”, your attention is directed to Pepsi-Cola. The sacraments point us to Jesus. The sacraments direct our attention to Jesus. The signpost says, “This is the way to Edinburgh.” The sacraments point to Jesus. They say, “He is the Way to heaven.” The Pepsi-Cola advert says, “Come alive with Pepsi.” The sacraments invite us to “Come alive with Jesus.”
When you see the sign for Edinburgh, you are not already in Edinburgh. It is possible to see the sign and yet never arrive at the place. Similarly, it is possible to receive the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper with really coming, in faith, to Christ and receiving the gift of eternal life. When you hear the words, “Come alive with Pepsi”, you are not, in fact, drinking a glass of Pepsi-Cola. You can see the advert without ever tasting Pepsi-Cola. Similarly, you can partake of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper without receiving the new life which the Holy Spirit gives to all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.
The really important thing is not the outward sign. The most important thing is the inner reality. We come, in faith, to Jesus Christ. He comes to live in our hearts. It is so easy to miss the point of the sacraments. Instead of allowing them to point us to Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us, we get bogged down with self-centred thoughts: “I have been baptized”, “I never miss a Communion.” Whenever our thoughts focus on ourselves rather than Christ – “I have done this”, “I have done that”, we need to hear the warning of God’s Word: “Let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
In a challenging passage at the start of 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul speaks in this way of the Old Testament people of Israel: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:2-4).
When we read these words about being “baptized into Moses” and eating the supernatural food and the supernatural drink, our minds move quite naturally to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. If we are tempted to congratulate ourselves, we should look on to the next verse – “Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:3).
We live in a spiritual wilderness, a moral wilderness. if we are looking for salvation from the things that we have done – “I have been baptized”, “I never miss a Communion”, we will be disappointed. We will be overthrown in the wilderness, swallowed up in the moral and spiritual wilderness which surrounds us. If we are to know the saving power of God in our lives, we must learn to look beyond the sacraments to the Saviour.
“It is only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to God.” This is how we must learn to think about the sacraments. The focus is not so much upon ourselves – “I have been baptized”, “I never miss a Communion.” The focus is upon Christ. Through Him, we draw near to God. This is how we must think of the whole Christian life. Christ is the centre.
In a life centred upon Christ, where do the sacraments fit in?
Baptism is a once-for-all event. The Lord’s Supper is a repeated occurrence. More frequent than the Lord’s Supper is our weekly public worship. Sunday by Sunday, we gather together to worship the Lord. Week by week, there are opportunities for praying together and studying God’s Word together. Day by day, we can speak to the Lord and we can read His Word. In all of this, Christ is to be the centre. We do all these things, not to prove how religious we really are but to let Christ have His way in our lives. In all that we do, we confess our own unworthiness. Without Christ, we are nothing. We do not attempt to make ourselves worthy in God’s sight. It cannot be done. Aware of our own unworthiness and our need of the Saviour, we come to Christ from whom we receive the forgiveness of all our sins, the new life of the Spirit and the gift of eternal life.
If, in your thinking about the sacraments, self has intruded where Christ should be, I appeal to you, on the basis of God’s Word: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Do not boast about the sacraments as things which you have done. Let the Holy Spirit lead you beyond the sacraments to the Saviour. Do not take it for granted that you belong to Christ because you have received the outward signs.
Remember God’s Word – “The Lord knows those who are His” and “Let every one who names the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity (or wrongdoing)” (2 Timothy 2:19).
When Jesus began His teaching ministry, He quoted from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has sent Me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed … ” (Luke 4:18). The Gospel, which Jesus proclaimed, is a Gospel which brings freedom. The Gospel brings freedom when it comes to its hearers in the power of the Spirit of the Lord.
What is freedom? What is this freedom which the Gospel brings? To understand what it means to be set free by the power of God’s Spirit, set free by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must first understand what freedom in Christ is not.
Sometimes, people think of freedom in terms of being as free as a bird – free to do as we like, free to do whatever we please, whenever we please. This idea of freedom – freedom without responsibility – is far removed from the true meaning of freedom in Christ. We have not been set free to do whatever we like. We have been set free for God, to do God’s will. Christ has set us free so that we might live for Him and not for ourselves. we have been set free so that we might live as disciples, men and women who are living in the power of the Spirit of the Lord. Sometimes, people think of freedom like this – we are free to choose good and we are free to choose evil. This is not the way in which the Scriptures speak of our true freedom in Christ. Jesus tells us that choosing evil is not an act of freedom. It is an act of bondage. Whenever we choose the wrong way rather than the right way, we do not act in freedom. we are not free. We are in bondage. We need to be set free. We need Christ, the only One who can set us free to be what God wants us to be.
Freedom has nothing at all to do with choosing to live in ways which are not pleasing to the Lord. True freedom in Christ has everything to do with being filled with the Spirit of the Lord. The way of freedom is the way of the Spirit. The nearest the New Testament comes to defining freedom is in 2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom has nothing at all to do with being free to do as we please. Freedom has everything to do with living for the Lord.
It may be helpful to compare our true freedom in Christ to the freedom gained by a prisoner of war who escapes from his captors. While he is in the concentration camp, the prisoner of war cannot fight for his country. He cannot fight for the cause. When he gains his freedom, he is not free to do whatever he pleases. He is free to take part in the war. he is free to fight for the cause. Christian freedom is a bit like that. Before we come, in faith, to Jesus Christ, we are held captive by the enemy. We are unable to fight against the enemy. He has us in His evil control. When Christ sets us free, He empowers us to wage war against the enemy, to stand up for Jesus, to fight for Christ as soldiers of the Cross. We are set free so that we might live as true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 8, there are three very important verses, which teach us a great deal about the life of discipleship. These verses are John 8:36 – “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed”; John 8:32 – “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”; John 8:31 – “If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” There are three lessons here – (i) The life of discipleship is a life of freedom; (ii) The life of discipleship begins when you are set free by the Lord Jesus Christ; (iii) We grow in the life of discipleship as we learn to live in the light of God’s Word.
(i) What does it mean to say, “The life of discipleship is a life of freedom”? The hymnwriter. George Matheson, shows a deep understanding of true freedom in Christ, when he writes, “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” He describes true freedom in terms of being the Lord’s captive. In Christ, we are no longer “slaves of sin”: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). George Matheson’s hymn contains these fine words: “Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.” We do not find true strength by asserting our own will over against God’s will. we are truly strong when we are committed to the Lord, obedient to His will. By ourselves, we are weak. In Christ, we are strong.
(ii) We can only live as disciples when we when the Lord Himself is our strength. Without His power, we are nothing. We cannot even begin to live as His disciples. George Matheson expresses this so well: “My heart is weak and poor until it master find. My power is faint and low till I have learned to serve; My will is not my own till Thou hast made it Thine.” We draw our strength from Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
(iii) We grow as disciples as we build our lives on the truth of God. Jesus emphasizes this point very strongly in John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” If we are to grow in prayer, we must build our faith and our lives upon God’s Word – “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
If we are to grow in love, we must build a living faith on the teaching of God’s Word -”These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). If we are to grow in joy, we muse feed upon the Word of the Lord, letting His teaching form the rock-solid foundation for our lives.
When we build on the truth of God, going on with the Lord day-by-day, we will be true disciples. In the presence of the Lord, each of us must answer honestly the searching question: What kind of disciple am I? – A disciple in name only? Or a real disciple, a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, living in the power of the Spirit of the Lord? God waits for your answer.
Paul was no silent disciple, no half-hearted follower of Jesus. He was not ashamed of his Lord. He was glad to say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Romans 1:16).
Why was Paul bold to say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14)? Why was Paul so emphatic in saying, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2)?
The answer is very simple and straightforward. He was a man who had been grasped by the power of the Gospel. Through the power of Christ, Paul was no longer his own. He belonged to Christ. This was why he was able to write to the Corinthian Christians, “You are not your own; you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This was why he was able to challenge the Corinthian Christians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? … So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man grasped by the power of the Gospel, a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. What kind of men and women are we? This is the challenge of Paul’s life for us.
Paul’s life was not easy. His life story was not always a glowing success story. He suffered persecution because of his faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel. He spent time in prison because he refused to compromise his commitment to Christ. How was he able to remain faithful to Christ in such difficult circumstances? The answer is quite simple: the Holy Spirit. How did the Holy Spirit work in Paul’s life? How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to be a disciple of Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be followers of the Lord.
The word, “disciple”, is very similar to the word, “discipline.” This is no accident. The life of discipleship is a life of discipline. This is the point which Jesus made, when He said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
This is the lesson which Paul had learned when he said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The discipline of discipleship – this is the challenge which Paul’s life sets before us. Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?
When Paul said, “Necessity is laid upon me”, he was not speaking of a shallow or superficial emotion. The Holy Spirit works within us so that we might learn the discipline of discipleship.
When your pathway is covered with snow, what do you do? Do you clear the path because you feel like doing this? Do you clear away the snow because it has to be done? Discipline – this is what we need if the pathway is to be kept clear.
When your living room is in a mess, do you take out the vacuum cleaner because you feel like doing this? The discipline of the ‘housewife’ has much to teach us if we are to learn the discipline of discipleship, which is called for by Paul’s words: “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The discipline of discipleship highlights for us the “I have to do this” dimension of the Christian life. Let me tell you a story about a woman in her sixties, a slim woman about five feet tall. One evening, she sat in her living room, waiting for her husband to return from his work in the fields. Suddenly, she noticed, at the window, the face of a burly stranger. She controlled herself, laid aside her needlework, crossed the room and pushed the piano against the door. When her husband returned, he called in a neighbour and, together, they pushed the piano back into its place. To this day, every once in a while, the man will look up from his newspaper and ask, “Who helped you move that piano?” The point is that she had to move the piano. He didn’t have to move it back.
When Paul spoke of the discipline of discipleship, he compared it to the discipline of the athlete: “Do you not know that, in a race, all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
For the athlete and the disciple, the prize is different. Both require the same commitment – “self-control in all things.” Paul committed himself to the discipline of discipleship – ” I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified (laid aside as of no further use)” (1 Corinthians 9:27). How much do you and I know about the discipline of discipleship?
If we are to be true disciples of Christ, it will only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit: “God did not give us the spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). When we are controlled by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be both blessed by God and used by God.
The Spirit … calls us to serve God in the world (John 9:1-41).
At the heart of the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a testimony. It is a very short testimony. It is contained in a single verse – John 9:25. “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” This is an extremely powerful testimony. These few words strike a chord in the heart of the believer. “I once was blind, but now I see.” This is the testimony of all those whose lives have been touched by the love of Christ. When our lives are touched by the loving hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts rise to Him in worship: “When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord.” When the “amazing grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ takes hold of our lives, we begin a new life that is filled with love for Jesus.
When the man spoke these words – “I once was blind, but now I see”, this was not the end of the story for him. This was the beginning of his new life. The new life would grow and develop. When we give our testimony, it is not simply a description of the way in which we began the Christian life. It is a testimony concerning all that the Lord has done for us since that day when we trusted Christ as our Saviour. We have been saved by the grace of God. We are being kept by the power of God. When we give our testimony, we praise God for bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ, and we praise Him for keeping us in the faith of Jesus Christ.
What is the new life that the Lord Jesus Christ has given to us? – (i) It is a life of love; (ii) It is a life centred on Jesus: (iii) It is a life of wholeness; (iv) It is a life of mission.
(i) A life of love
There’s a Gospel song , which contains these fine words: “Love lifted me. When no-one but Christ could help, love lifted me.” This is the believer’s testimony – “Love lifted me.” What no-one else could do, Christ has done for us. He alone is able to lift us out of our sin, because He alone is our Saviour. Only Christ can give us new life, since He alone is the risen and living Lord.
Later on, in this Gospel song, we find the words: “Jesus completely saves. He will lift you by His love.” This is the believer’s message. When we have been lifted by the love of Christ, we have more than a personal testimony. We have a message to share with others. We give our testimony, “Love lifted me”, and we say to others, “He will lift you by His love.”
This is precisely what the healed man did . In John 9:25, he gave his personal testimony. In John 9:27, he invited his critics to follow Jesus – “Do you too want to become His disciples?” Here is a model for us to follow. We have become disciples. We must now seek to make disciples. In love, Christ has drawn us to Himself. In love, He uses us to reach out to others.
(ii) A life centred on Jesus
When the blind man was asked, “How were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10), he began his answer with the words, “The Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). Jesus was at the centre of the man’s life. The Christian life is a life of looking to Jesus, a life of seeing Jesus. When we say, “I once was blind, but now I see”, what we are really saying is this: “Now, I’m looking to Jesus. Now, my eyes are fixed on Him.” Once our eyes have been opened to see Jesus, we must keep on praying, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.”
The more we see Jesus, the more He will rise in our estimation, the more He will be exalted in our eyes. We see this in the case of the healed man. In John 9:11, he speaks of “the Man called Jesus.” In John 9:17, he says, “He is a prophet.” In John 9:35-38, he confesses his faith in Jesus Christ as “the Son of God” (Authorized Version) or “the Son of man” (Revised Standard Version). The expression, “the Son of man”, should not be seen as a weakening of our faith in Christ as the Son of God. Notice what Jesus says, in other places, about “the Son of man”- “The Son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15); “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days, He will rise” (Mark 9:31); “They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Is Jesus becoming more and more precious to you? Is He coming to mean more and more to you? True Christian growth is marked by a growing love for Jesus.
(iii) A Life of Wholeness
When the blind man received his sight, he received wholeness. Until that day, his life was incomplete. He could not see. When Jesus touches our lives, He makes us whole. Closely connected with the word, “wholeness”, is the word, “holiness.” There is no wholeness without holiness. Our lives are incomplete if we are not walking in the way of holiness. There’s a children’s chorus which says, “I’m walking on the King’s Highway.” What does this mean? – The King’s Highway is the Highway of holiness. In Isaiah 35:8, we read about the Highway of Holiness: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way (Revised Standard Version) or the way of holiness (Authorized Version).” We are walking on the King’s Highway when we are walking on the Highway of Holiness.
Whenever we think of the love of Jesus, we must also think of His holiness. Jesus, our loving Saviour, is also Jesus, the holy Son of God. Jesus’ love is a holy love. It is not a gushy, sentimentalized thing. His love is holy. It is filled with moral strength, strength of character. If we are to show the love of Christ to the world, we must also show His holiness. living as men and women who are different, men and women who have been changed by the holy love of Christ.
(iv) A Life of Mission
You’ve heard the phrase, “on fire for the Lord.” There was a real difference between the healed man and his critics. He had just received his sight, and, with it, he received a mission. straightaway, he was seeking to win his critics for Christ: “Do you too want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27). the healed man was on fire for the Lord. His critics were also on fire, but they burned with a very different fire. They were burning with the desire to have Jesus killed. They did not know who Jesus was (John 9:29), because they did not want to know Him. they refused to recognize what the Lord had done for the blind man. In the face of such unbelief, we, who must continue to give our testimony: “He opened my eyes” (John 9:30). We must pray for our critics – “Open their eyes, Lord, and let them see Jesus.”
The Spirit calls us to serve God in the world (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13).
In 1979, I visited a church in the USA, where the members of the congregation greeted each other with these words: “God loves you, and I love you.” A year later, after my return to Scotland, I heard a song with the words: “God loves you, and I love you, and that’s the way it should be.” The love of God is not merely words which we speak. The love of God is to be seen in the lives which we lead.
“God loves you, and I love you.” “God loves you, and I love you, and that’s the way it should be.” these words have stuck with me over the course of the years. When I conduct a wedding, I read the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. I give the couple a motto to carry with them into their married life: “God loves you, and I love you.” I emphasize that human love is founded on divine love. Our love for each other is based on God’s love for each of us. I stress to them that there are times, in every marriage, when you become painfully of your partner’s weaknesses, times when you are very disappointed in your partner. At such times, it is difficult to share your love with your partner. These are the times when we must remember the love of God. When you find it difficult to love your partner, remember God’s love for you. God sees your weaknesses as well as your strengths. He sees your bad points as well as your good points. He knows all about your faults and failings, yet He continues to love you. When you think of such love, you will find it so much easier to share your love with your partner. The words, “I love you”, will come to mean so much more when both husband and wife are seeking to build upon the love of God. This is the advice that I give to newly married couples; Build your human love on divine love. Build your love for each other on the love of God for both of you.
Our theme is not marriage. It is discipleship. In the Church, we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the world, we are to live as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we consider the life of discipleship, we must learn to think of it as a life of love. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Sharing our love within the context of marriage is, for some of us, a part of life. Sharing our love as disciples of Jesus – this is something we are all called to do. Living as disciples of Jesus means more than just saying the right words. It means living the right way. It means letting the love of Christ fill our lives. His love is to shape our attitudes. His love is to inspire our actions.
The importance of having love in all that we do is emphasized in a modern song, entitled, “Witness”: “I witnessed to a man today. I witnessed to his wife. I told them ’bout the way and I told them ’bout the life. I told them that they needed to surrender to the Lord. I told them ’bout the power of His double-edged sword. I witnessed to a drunkard outside a tenement. I told him he was shameful and he needed to repent. I witnessed to a blind men beggin’ money on the street. I put a tract into his cup and did not miss a beat. I passed out all the tracts with all the Scripture underlined. I handed one to each and every one that I could find. I’d shove one in their hands and I’d walk on to the next. I must have reached a hundred souls with my salvation text. I gave out little Bibles, with the Gospel of St. John, into a hundred hands before my Bibles were all gone. I told each one I met the words of John 3 verse 16, and sandwiched in a little bit of Matthew in between. I finished out the day and yet I was not satisfied. And, on my way back home, it hit me, and I almost cried. I’d given them the message and I’d given them a little shove, but I’d missed the most important thing. I had not given love.” (from Chuck Girard’s album, “The Stand).
All that we do may sound very impressive, but, without love, it is nothing – nothing at all. Living as a disciple of Jesus does not mean being a “Bible thumper.” It means loving Jesus and loving other with the love of Jesus. We are not called to hit people with a book. We are to love them with the love of Jesus. We are not to bombard them with words. We are to show them the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Words have their place, but we must practise what we preach. In our everyday life, we must live out the love of Christ. Love – this is what really makes the difference. Love – this is what really draws men and women to Jesus Christ.
A well-known atheist, Nietzsche, once said, “His disciples will have to look more saved if I am to believe in their Saviour.” This is very challenging. The only “Bible” many people ever read is the “Bible” of our lives. They never read the Bible we carry with us to Church, but they watch how we live our lives. They watch like a hawk, and they make up their minds about Christianity on the basis of what they see in Christians. A Marxist writer, Machovec, has pointed out that “critics practically never reproach Christians for being followers of Christ, but … for not being such” (A Marxist Looks At Jesus, cited in H. Kung, On Being a Christian, p. 558).
1 Corinthians 13 is the most well-known Bible passage on the theme of Christian love. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, it is most important that we understand that true Christian love is not something which comes naturally to us. True Christian love is nothing less than the love of God: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). True Christian love is not something which arises from deep within our own hearts. It is the love of God which has been poured into our hearts by God Himself. True Christian love grows in us as we allow our lives to be brought under the control of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, the Apostle Paul wrote, “The love of Christ controls us. The love of Christ constrains us.”
The life, filled with Christian love, is the life which is controlled by the love of Jesus Christ. The life which is controlled by the love of Christ will be a life of service, a life constrained by the love of Christ – constrained to reach out to others with His love.
When our lives are controlled by the love of Christ, there will be both love for God and love for our neighbour – not one without the other, but both together. We will offer praise and worship to God. We will give ourselves in the service of needy mean and women. Through our words and actions, we are to show the love of Christ. We cannot be content with words only, for words without actions are dead.
Let us live for Christ. Let us speak for Christ. Let us pray that the love of Christ will shine brightly in our lives, as a light which draws men and women to the Saviour.
We rejoice in the gift of eternal life (John 10:1-42).
What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, “Is there life after death?” rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, “Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now?
The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes”. Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now.
The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized.
There is life before death. Jesus calls this: “abundant life” (John 10:10).
There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of “everlasting life” (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different.
This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!” Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: “I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!”
These are the two dimensions of eternal life. It is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration.
When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me.”
When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, “Amazing grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life”, our hearts are filled with joy – the joy of the Lord.
When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: “they shall never perish.” These are great words!
The truth of Jesus’ promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.”
When we read the words, “they shall never perish”, we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord’s presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord’s hands.
What does Jesus say to us about Satan? – “No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand.”
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: “Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they’ve found to be so real? They’ve found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today.”
Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!”
Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretatse of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: “Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul.” It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, “Journey into Life.” This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. This journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life.
Have you begun the journey into life?
If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.
We rejoice in the gift of eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
1 Corinthians 15, the great “resurrection” chapter, challenges us to think big thoughts – big thoughts about God, big thoughts about Jesus Christ, big thoughts about ourselves. The word, “resurrection”, is not a word which figures much in the thoughts of many people in our day. There are many people who profess to have faith in God, but their “God” is not the living God. Their “God” is not the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Their “God” is not the God who is able to transform human life by His mighty power. There are plenty of people who feel an attraction for Jesus Christ – the good man, Jesus Christ – the moral teacher, Jesus Christ – the great example, but they know nothing of Christ’s saving power. What are we to say to those for whom Jesus is no more than a figure from ancient history? If we take seriously the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have a glorious message to proclaim, a message of hope, a joyful message, Good News.
* God is not a “God” who keeps His distance. God is the God who comes near to us in Jesus Christ.
* God is not a “God” who keeps His silence. God is the God who speaks to us through Jesus Christ.
Once we have looked in faith to Jesus Christ, we can no longer see God simply as the “God” who is “away up there” in heaven. He is the living God, our God, the God of our salvation. Once we have really looked at Jesus Christ, we can no longer think of Him as merely a dim and dusty figure from the far distant past. Jesus, the risen Lord, is standing among us now. He is working within us. He is changing the way we see ourselves, the way we look at our lives – “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Without faith in Jesus Christ, the things of this world loom very large on our horizon. Without Jesus Christ, we have nothing to look forward to: no heavenly glory – only the things which pass away. Such a life is life without hope, and life without hope is misery: “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). A “Christ”, who does not give us hope for the world to come, is a “Christ” who makes us miserable. We look for more than such a “Christ” is able to give to us. This, however, is not the Christ of the New Testament. He is the risen Christ, the living Saviour, who gives eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. What is this “eternal life”, Christ’s gift to the believer?
* First, it is a life which is based on Christ’s resurrection.
* Second, it is a life which results in our glorious resurrection.
When the worldly man thinks of Christ’s resurrection, he says, “Impossible! Dead men don’t come back again!”
When the New Testament speaks of Christ’s resurrection, the word, “impossible”, is heard again. This time, however, it is a very different “impossibility.” No longer are we speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. here, we are speaking of the impossibility of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remaining dead. This is the impossibility of which the New Testament speaks. It was impossible that Jesus Christ, our Saviour, could have remained in the tomb/ When men of unbelief hold their hands up in horror and say, “Impossible!”, we must remember who Jesus Christ is – the Son of God, our Saviour, and we must rejoice in the fact of His resurrection: “God raised Him up … because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for our hope of eternal life. Without Christ’s return to life, there is no eternal life for us. With Christ’s resurrection, there is hope – the joyful hope of eternal glory.
The glory which Christ brings into our lives is a glory which transforms our lives here and now, a glory which grows in us as we go on with the Lord, and a glory which will be seen in all its fullness at our glorious resurrection.
When the New Testament speaks of heavenly glory, it does not mean to play down the glorious privilege of living for Christ here and now. the Apostle Paul puts it this way: “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
To die is gain – that will be heavenly glory.
To live is Christ – this is our glorious privilege.
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!”
This glory grows as we go on with the Lord. Here is a great description of growing in Christ: “we all … beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Our ever-deepening experience of the glory of the Lord will reach its fullness in the world to come. We rejoice that Christ lives in us now. Our joy will be deeper and fuller when we are with Him in heavenly glory (Colossians 1:27): “we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
This hope will become a glorious reality. Then, we will have fullness of joy.
We have sure and certain hope of resurrection through Christ ((1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ).
There is hope. This is a message which is very relevant in today’s world. We hear of death and destruction. We ask the question, “Is there hope?” This question impresses itself upon us as we take seriously the events of our day. “Is there hope?” As we consider this question, we may find that we have more questions than answers. It is so important that we ask our questions in the right way. Many people ask questions, but they never expect an answer. We must ask the right Person, the Person who has the Answer. We must bring our questions to God.
Many people do not bring their questions to God, because they do not believe that there is a God. They think that it is clever to disregard God. God’s Word tells us that it is foolish to say that there is no God: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1). Many people believe that there is no hope, because they believe that there is no God. There are others who claim to believe in God, but it is perfectly clear that their “belief” in God doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the way they live their lives.
What are we to make of all this? What are we to do with the questions which arise in our hearts and minds? Are we to follow the way of those who have made up their minds already, those who say that there is no answer, because they say, “There is no God”? Are we to join the ranks of those who pay lip-service to God, yet persist in pushing Him out to the edge of their lives where He becomes completely irrelevant? Should we not, rather, look to the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus has given a great promise to all who are asking questions: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). In fact, we may go further than this. Jesus does not only give the answer. Jesus is the Answer. Christ is the Answer for the world today.
Critics of the Christian Faith will immediately say, “How can Christ be the answer for the world today? He lived such a long time ago. He must be out of date now.” This kind of talk may sound impressive, but it leaves out one thing: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is a God, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is hope, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People speak about the great events of world history, but there is no greater event than this – the mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why do we say, “There is hope”? – We say that there is hope because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Death could not hold our Saviour. He broke the power of death. This is the great declaration of the Christian Gospel. Is there hope? Yes. Jesus Christ is our Hope.
Have you ever picked up a book and looked at the last page to see how the story ends? I’m sure most of us have done this at some time. Curiosity gets the better of us. When we read the story told by the Gospels, seeing Jesus being persecuted by His enemies, isn’t it great that we’re able to look ahead to the end of the Story and see Jesus Christ, risen from the dead?
When we hear of wars and rumours of wars, when we hear of nations rising up against nations, isn’t it great to be able to have this assurance that Jesus is Lord, the assurance that there will come a Day when every knee will bow before Jesus Christ and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that the victory belongs to Christ. The resurrection assures us that all who belong to Christ, will, through faith in Him, share in His victory.
With such a resurrection faith, we can truly say, “There is hope.” This hope is not just a matter of being naturally optimistic – the eternal optimist. Real hope is hope in Christ, the risen Lord, the living Saviour, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Christian hope is not a matter of saying, “I hope so, but I don’t really think so.” Through Christ, we have a Hope , which is firm and secure, because it is based, not on our constantly changing emotions, but on Christ, whose love never changes.
There is hope, because there is a Saviour – Jesus Christ, our risen and living Lord. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have a resurrection faith, a faith which enables us to look at life with new eyes – the eyes of hope. We look back to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and what do we see? – Hope. We look forward to the coming resurrection, and we are able to sing, with great joy, “When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other side, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share, when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”
Here and now, we live in the power of His resurrection, not defeated by circumstances but victorious through Christ. With a Saviour such as Jesus Christ, surely we can say nothing other than this, “There is hope.”
We have sure and certain hope of resurrection through Christ (John 11:1-57 ).
The story of the raising of Lazarus has a great deal to teach us. A good starting-point might be the name, “Lazarus.” It means “God is my help” or “God helps.” Isn’t that a great starting-point? It reminds us that God is our Help. It reminds us that God helps us. He helps us to believe in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He helps us to believe that Jesus Christ is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).
Fairly early in the story of Lazarus, we hear Jesus saying, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). The raising of Lazarus was a great miracle. Why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Why did Jesus perform this great miracle? He raised Lazarus so that the disciples might believe. Jesus was not only concerned for Lazarus’ welfare. He was also seeking to increase the faith of His disciples. We may take this a step further. Jesus did not raise Lazarus from the dead only for the benefit of those who were with Him on that day. He is here with us and, through the story of the raising of Lazarus, He aims to strengthen our faith.
How does Jesus strengthen our faith? He directs our attention to Himself. He is not only the One who raised Lazarus all these years ago. He is also the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. Jesus directs our attention to Himself, in John 11:25, when He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though He die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
Let’s look at the story of the raising of Lazarus and see what it teaches us concerning believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s see what it teaches us concerning the resurrection life which He gives to all who trust Him.
Here’s the first lesson. By ourselves, we cannot believe. It is only through the mighty power of the Lord that we are brought to faith in Christ. This point may be illustrated from the story of Lazarus. Before Jesus came along, the situation could be summed up in three chilling words: “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). It was only when Jesus spoke the life-giving Word that Lazarus was raised from the dead: “Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43-44). This miracle of the raising of Lazarus is an excellent illustration of the way in which we are brought to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Through Christ’s Word of resurrection power, we are “raised” to “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This miracle of being raised to newness of life has been described very well by Charles Wesley: “He speaks, and listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.”
Here’s a second lesson. Faith, if it is to make a a real difference in our lives, must be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Jesus came, “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother” (John 11:19). There are many today who will be quick to tell us what they think. They will rush with their offer of help. When we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), our need will not be met by any and every well-wisher who comes along with a word of advice. Our need will only be met by the One who is able to meet our need – Jesus Christ, “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Jesus Christ is able to raise us to newness of life because He Himself is the risen Lord. He is able to give us life because He is the living Saviour. If we are to have a sure hope for time and eternity, our faith must be firmly based on the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25).
A third lesson concerns serving God in the power of the risen Christ. We are not called to faith in Christ for our own benefit only. We are to serve the Lord. If we are to serve Christ in the power of His resurrection, we must do so on the basis of our new relationship with the Father. In John 11:27, we learn that Jesus is “Christ, the Son of God.” Through faith in Christ, we become sons and daughters of the living God. He is our Father, and we are His children. As children of the living God, we dare not imagine that we can serve the Lord in our own strength. Jesus did not do God’s work in mere human strength. Before doing this mighty miracle, Jesus spoke to His Father – “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father … ” (John 11:41), If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must follow Him in prayer. We cannot truly serve the Lord if we do not seek His blessing in prayer. It has been said that “Prayer is evangelism with all its carnal trappings shorn off.” If our so-called ‘Christian service’ is not grounded in prayer, it is not really Christian service at all. The Lord’s work is to be done in the Lord’s power. If it is not done in the Lord’s power, it will be done without the Lord’s blessing. When we look at Jesus’ prayer, we see that He begins with thanksgiving. Jesus remembered the feeding of the five thousand. On that occasion, Jesus had prayed, and the Father had answered prayer (John 6:11). Now, Jesus was saying to the Father: “I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me” (John 11:41). Now, in this situation, Jesus re-affirms His faith in the Father, the God who hears and answers prayer – “Thou hearest Me always” (John 11:42). The miracle of the raising of Lazarus was an answer to prayer. The blessings for which we long – men and women coming to faith in Christ – will also come to us as answers to prayer. Jesus prayed that “they may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 11:42). Jesus prayed for men and women to come to faith in Him. The Father answered His prayer. Can we doubt that God will also answer our prayers? Jesus has said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me … shall … live” (John 11:25). Let us pray, in faith, that men and women will come to believe in Jesus and find life in Him.
A final lesson concerns the fulfilment of our faith. The faith into which we come when we are raised to newness of life is a faith, filled with hope, the hope of heavenly and eternal glory, the hope of “rising again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). This hope is not something which remains distant and remote from our everyday life. It is the “resurrection at the last day” which inspires us to serve the Lord here on earth. We pray and work to the end that many more people will come to have this testimony: “Now, I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
This is the testimony of all who have come to know Jesus Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life.” It is the testimony of all who have received His resurrection life.
What about you? Do you have this testimony?
We look for His coming again to judge the world. Then all things will be made new; and creation will rejoice in worshipping the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit, One God, blessed for ever. Amen.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, shortly before His crucifixion, He was greeted by “a great crowd” (John 12:12). He was greeted with praise: Hosanna! – “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). The people viewed Jesus as the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming King. This is made even clearer in John 12:15, where the words of Zechariah 9:9 are quoted: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt.”
“Your King is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt” – This is a description of Christ’s first coming. When, however, we turn to His second coming, we have a very different description: “they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).
If we are to avoid being bogged down in this earthly world, which is passing away, we must never lose sight of this glorious fact – Jesus is coming again.
Soon after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, some Greeks came to Philip with this request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:22).
This is a prayer which we also can pray: “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.” Seeing Jesus involves both a backward look and a forward look. We look back to His first coming. we look forward to His second coming. If we are to see Jesus as he really is, we must not only look back to His first coming. We must also look ahead to His second coming in power and glory. Jesus is not simply a figure from ancient history. He is the King of glory, the King who is coming in all the glory of His heavenly and eternal Kingdom.
Why do we want to see Jesus? What do we see when we look at Jesus? – These are two very important questions. They are questions we must ask whenever we pray, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.”
Why do we want to see Jesus?
Is it just a matter of historical curiosity – we want to learn more about an important figure from the past? Surely, there is more to it than that. Do we, on the other hand, want to learn about His second coming, and lose ourselves in daydreaming about heaven? Jesus does not want to draw us away from the present, away from the challenge of living for him right now.
Why do we want to see Jesus? Here, we must strongly emphasize the call to live as disciples of Christ. Jesus does not take us back to the past to leave us there. there is no point in learning all about Jesus then, if it does not inspire us to live for Him now. Jesus does not take us on into the future to leave us there. He teaches us about His second coming, so that we might come back into the present with a renewed commitment to living for Him now.
Why do we want to see Jesus? As we think about the meaning of the prayer, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus”, we may find it helpful to think, for a moment, about another prayer: “Day by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray, to see Thee more clearly, to love Thee more dearly, to follow Thee more nearly, day by day.”
Why do we want to see Jesus more clearly? – It’s because we want to love Him more dearly.
Why do we want to see Jesus more clearly? – It’s because we want to follow Him more nearly.
When we pray, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus”, we are really saying, “Help me to love Jesus. Help me to follow Jesus.”
What do we see when we look at Jesus?
Let’s take a look at Jesus. Let’s take a look at three great statements He made. each of these statements invite us to look back at Jesus’ first coming and to look on to His second coming.John 12:23 – “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.”John 12:32 – “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”John 12:31 – “Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out.”
What did Jesus mean when He called Himself “the Son of man”? What did Jesus mean when He said that the hour had come for Him to be glorified?
To understand the meaning of the title, “the Son of man”, we must go back to Daniel 7:13-14 – “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
When Jesus said that the hour had come for Him to be glorified, he was thinking of the Cross. The Apostle Paul spoke of the glory of the Cross: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). When, however, we hear Jesus speaking of the glory of the Son of man, we must not think only of Jesus’ death for us on the Cross. We must also think of the glory of the Lord’s Return. Jesus is coming again in power and glory: “they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
What did Jesus mean when He said that He would be “lifted up”?
Jesus is speaking about the Cross – “He said this to show by what death He was to die” (John 12:33). We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross. As we dwell on this thought of Jesus being “lifted up”, our thoughts move on to Jesus, “lifted up” in heaven. The twofold meaning of Jesus’ being “lifted up” is brought out well in the fine hymn, “Man of sorrows”: “Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished” was His cry. Now, in heaven, exalted high: Alleluia! What a Saviour!”
In the light of both Christ’s victorious death and His triumphant return in power and glory, we are to affirm the casting out of Satan, “the ruler of this world.” When Christ returns in power and glory, His triumph over Satan will be complete. On that Day, when the Lord returns, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). With such a glorious hope, we need not fear the future. We can move into the future with confidence, the confidence which comes from knowing that Christ is Lord of all. we do not know what may be waiting for us in the future, but we do know this – Jesus is waiting there, and He is Lord, the Lord who loves us and is leading us on to His eternal glory. What a marvellous future is ours, as we look away from ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We look for His coming again (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
At Christmas time, we sing the well known and well loved Christmas carol, “Once in royal David’s city.” It speaks of Christ’s first coming. It also speaks of His second coming. There is a great contrast between Christ’s first coming and His second coming. At the heart of Christ’s first coming, there is “a lowly cattle shed … a stable and … a stall.” In His first coming, Christ lived among “the poor and mean and lowly.” Christ’s second coming is quite different. The hymn writer describes it this way: “And our eyes at last shall see Him … not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by, we shall see Him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high.”
When Jesus Christ comes again, He will come in power and glory. Christ’s second coming will be a Day of total victory for Christ, a Day of full salvation for those who belong to Him. When Christ comes again, the conflict will be over. Christ will be proclaimed as we sing of the Christ who reigns. We sing, “Majesty, worship His majesty; unto Jesus be glory, honour and praise.
Majesty, Kingdom authority, flows from His throne unto His own, His anthem raise. So exalt, lift up on high the Name of Jesus, magnify, come glorify, Christ Jesus the King. Majesty, worship His Majesty, Jesus who died, now glorified, King of all kings.” Now, we have the promise of Christ’s victorious reign. When Christ comes again, we will have the fulfilment. At His Return, Christ will reign over “every rule.” When Christ returns, He will be Lord over “every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). To “those who belong to Christ”, the Lord’s Return will bring full salvation, complete deliverance fro, the power of Satan, the enemy of our souls. No longer will we have to contend with Satan. His rule, his authority and his power will be brought to a complete and final end. When we think of Christ’s Return, we must emphasize that it is a total victory over Satan.
In our day, Satan is busy. He tells people that it doesn’t really matter whether or not they trust Jesus Christ as their Saviour. He tells people that God is dead. Satan is doing all that he can to lead men and women away from God. He is desperately seeking to undermine our faith in Jesus Christ. Why is Satan so busy? The Bible is very clear about the answer to this question: “He knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
There are many people who have doubts about Christ’s first coming. They hear the words of the hymn: “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all”, and they say, “I can’t believe that!” Such people also have doubts about Christ’s second coming. They hear Christ’s words, “they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30), and they say, “I can’t believe that!” Satan has no such doubts about either Christ’s first coming or His second coming. He knows only too well why Christ came to earth: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He knows only too well what will happen when Christ returns. Satan faces absolute and certain defeat. This is how the Word of God describes Satan’s downfall: “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down … the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down” (Revelation 12:9-10).
This is the fearful prospect of judgment which faces Satan, the enemy of our souls. Satan’s defeat will be completed on the Day when Christ comes again in power and glory, the Day when it shall be declared, “Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10).
The great Day of Christ’s Return will be a Day of power and glory. Christ’s power will be absolutely superior to Satan’s power. On that Day, Christ will shine with a heavenly glory with which the glory of Satan (or Lucifer, the shining one) will not even begin to compare.
What relevance does all this have to our live here and now? The message of Christ’s Return in power and glory is a message of tremendous relevance.
It is a message of hope. It gives us confidence to face the future with the assurance of final victory.
It is a message which gives us strength to face our present conflict, armed with the victorious power of our Lord Jesus Christ. When the Word of God speaks of Christ’s victory over Satan, it speaks also of our victory over Satan – “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).
How are we to live, if we are really looking for Christ’s coming again in power and glory?
– We must confront Satan on the basis of Christ’s death for us: “Satan, I don’t belong to you. I belong to Christ.”
– We must stand up for Jesus, standing in His strength alone. We must stand up for Jesus, knowing that “the strife will not be long”; “This day, the noise of battle; the next, the victors’ song.”
– We must look beyond our present conflict to our final victory: “To Him that overcometh, a crown of life shall be. He, with the King of glory, shall reign eternally.”
We look for His coming again to judge the world. Then all things will be made new ( 1 Corinthians 15:30-49 )
Jesus Christ is not merely a figure from the past. He is “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, the living Lord, stands at the centre of our future. He does not only speak to us from the past. He also speaks to us from the future. What is He saying to us? How will He affect our present way of living?
Jesus speaks to us from the future. He calls us on to heaven, but He does not turn us into dreamers who are so “heavenly-minded” that we’re not learning to serve the Lord right now. We sing of our heavenly hope: “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share; when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”
What is to be our present response to this glorious hope? – “Let us labour for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”
We do not lose ourselves in beautiful thoughts about the future. When we think of the future, we are reminded that there is work to be done here on earth. The Bible does not encourage us to get all starry-eyed about the future. The Bible speaks about the future in terms of both salvation and judgment.
Here, in 1 Corinthians 15, the emphasis is on salvation. Nevertheless, there is also the warning against turning from Christ and bringing ourselves under judgment.
Paul opens this great resurrection chapter by describing the Gospel in this way – it is “the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). This is a marvellous description of how the Gospel changes our lives, but notice the next few words – “if you hold it fast – unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2). We must hold fast to the Gospel. We must remain faithful to Christ. If we turn back from following Him, the Bible speaks to us of the future – not in terms of the great salvation which we await, but rather in terms of the great judgment from which we must flee. To those who have become careless, the Word of God says, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
When we think of the future, we must think of both the Gospel promise concerning salvation and the Gospel warning concerning judgment. This Gospel, which speaks of both salvation and judgment, is not merely a message concerning the future. It is a present challenge. The future is to affect our present way of living.
The glorious Return of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a purely futuristic event which has absolutely no bearing on our life here and now. Jesus’ Return is full of relevance for our life today.
When the Bible speaks about the Lord’s Return, it does two things. First, it announces the Lord’s Return. It tells us that the Lord will return. Second, it calls for our response. It calls us to live in the light of the Lord’s Return.
There is one wrong attitude we must take care to avoid. We must not sit back and say, “Let’s just wait and see what happens.” We dare not think like this. We dare not live like this. We must get ready for the Lord’s Return.
At the heart of 1 Corinthians 15, there is a very challenging verse – “Come to your right mind, and sin no more” (1 Corinthians 15:34). Whenever our thoughts turn to the Lord’s Return, we must hear the challenge of the future. God says to us, “Jesus is coming again. Come to your senses. Don’t keep on going your own way, the way of sin. Go Jesus’ way, the way of faith, the way of obedience.” If we are to know the blessing of God in our lives, there must be a willingness to go the Lord’s way.
This is emphasized in the words of the benediction chorus: “May God’s blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way.” We enjoy the blessing of the Lord as we trust Him and walk in His way. “May His presence within, guard and keep you from sin. Go in peace. Go in joy. Go in love.” The way of peace, joy and love is the way of being guarded and kept from sin. Let us never imagine that we will ever discover peace, joy and love whenever we are intent on going our own way, the way of sin, rather than the Lord’s way, the way of discipleship.
In our thinking about the Lord’s Return, it is very important that we do not forget that the decision between salvation and judgment is one which must be made here and now. The Bible speaks of the Day of the Lord’s Return as a Day of salvation for the Lord’s believing people. The Lord’s Return will also bring a Day of judgment for all who turn their backs on the Saviour. The Bible also speaks of another day of salvation, another day of judgment. That day is today. This is precisely what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 – “Now is the day of salvation.” Now is the time for making your decision for Christ. Now is the time for faith in the Saviour. Jesus underlines the importance of our present response to Him. He does this, in John 3:18, when He speaks of those who are already under judgment because of their unbelief: “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.”
The Lord awaits for our response now. May God help us to put our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. May God help us to await Christ’s Return with joyful expectation.
We look for His coming again to judge the world. Then all things will be made new (John 12:36b-50).
The Day of the Lord’s Return is often presented as such a faraway and distant Day that it makes no real difference to the way we live our lives here and now. This is not the way in which the Bible speaks of Christ’s Return. The Bible speaks of that Day as a Day of salvation for those who receive Christ as Saviour and a Day of judgment for those who refuse Christ as Saviour. According to Jesus, salvation and judgment are not to be placed in a remote future which is so faraway that it creates neither joy in the believer nor fear and trembling in the unbeliever. Jesus says that salvation and judgment, while they have a future fulfilment in the Day of His Coming, are, in the first instance, events which are going on in our lives right now.
Jesus came to save. He makes this clear in John 12:47 – “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Nevertheless, there is judgment because many refuse to accept His offer of salvation, many refuse to trust Him as Saviour. Jesus speaks of this judgment in John 12:37-40. The words of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus here, are very relevant to our world today. Isaiah lived in day when there was judgment. there was much unbelief. There was much spiritual blindness. There was much hardness of heart. There were few people turning to the Lord. There were few people rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation. This is very like our own day.
These are difficult times. It is not easy to stand up for Jesus Christ. It was just the same in Jesus’ time. Following these sad words concerning God’s judgment on man’s unbelief, we read some words of encouragement in John 12:42a – “Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in Him.” Sadly, however, this is followed by some discouraging words – “but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men rather than the praise of God” (John 12:42b-43). What are we to make of such people? – They “believed in Him, but … did not confess it.” The Word of God speaks of those who “will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). When the Lord Himself returns, it will become clear who belongs to Christ and who does not. On that Day, it will be seen clearly that, while some have walked closely with the Lord as faithful disciples, keeping the Lord at a distance.
What are we to make of those who try to get the best of both worlds? They “believe” in the Lord, yet they refuse to come out into the open and confess Christ clearly as their Saviour and Lord. We must not be quick to pass judgment on them. Jesus warned us: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). On the other hand, we must be quite clear about this – secret discipleship is an impossible policy, a contradiction in terms. Either the secrecy will kill the discipleship, or the discipleship will kill the secrecy. Each of us is pulled in two different directions. there is the pull of the world, pulling us downward, pulling us away from the Lord and back to the world. On the other hand, there is also the call of the Lord, calling us onward, upward and Godward. We must pray for ourselves and for others that the call of God will have the victory in our lives.
What are we to say about those who “believe in Him”, but will “not confess it”? We must remember that it is not our responsibility to say who will be saved and who will not be saved. When Jesus was asked the question – “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23), it appear, at first, that He did not really answer the question. How did our Lord reply to this question? This is what He said: “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Think about this reply for a moment. Is not this, in fact, the best answer to the question? When we start thinking, “How many of these people are really saved?”, Jesus says to us, “Make sure you’re saved.”
When Jesus spoke about salvation, He also spoke about judgment. There is a narrow gate which leads to life, and there is a wide gate which leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). To each of us, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13). Once we have entered by the narrow gate, we dare not live as secret disciples. If we ourselves have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to share the Good News of Christ with others. If we take seriously what Jesus Himself said about judgment – “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48), we must be faithful witnesses and not secret disciples, faithful witnesses who are earnestly seeking to win others for the Saviour.
If we are committed to being faithful witnesses for Christ, we have no better pattern to follow than the pattern of Jesus’ own life and ministry: “For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me commandment what to say and what to speak … What I say, therefore, I say as the father has bidden Me” (John 12:49-50).
We, who believe in the Lord, are to speak for Him. Being a faithful witness, rather than a secret disciple, is not an incidental aspect of being a believer. It is not an optional extra. After all, Jesus Himself said, “I know that His commandment is eternal life.” Let us pray that the reality of our faith will be seen in the obedience of our lives.
Creation will rejoice in worshipping the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit, One God, blessed for ever (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have hope. we rejoice in the hope of the Gospel, the hope of eternal life. This is the great theme which comes through, again and again, in the great “resurrection” chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. Here, in the final verses of this wonderful chapter, we have an even more compellingly powerful declaration of hope.
Here, the Apostle Paul describes the Christian Hope in particularly striking language – “the dead will be raised imperishable … this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality … Death is swallowed up in victory … Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54; 1 Corinthians 15:57).
In our day, there are many who would dismiss the Christian Hope. Such people have no place in their outlook for the living God, the God who raised His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead. For all their unbelief, they cannot change the fact of Christ’s resurrection. The angelic message still rings down through the centuries of time: “He has risen” (Matthew 28:6). The unbeliever comes looking for a dead Christ. The Gospel answer is still the same: “you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen” (Matthew 28:5-6). To those whose hearts are filled with unbelief, the Gospel still says, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
Whatever evil men may say and do, the victory belongs to the Lord. The world tells us that death is the end. The Word of God says, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). For the unbeliever, death is the last word. the believer, on the other hand, can say, with confidence, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
The victory of Christ brings to us great joy. Jesus does not keep this victory to Himself. He gives His victory to us: “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). How does this victory become real in our lives? We receive the victory “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” How does this victory become our ongoing experience? We live in victory as we learn to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we rejoice in the victory of Christ, let us respond to His victory by letting His victory become a living reality in our lives: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Living in the victory of Christ is the way of bringing glory to God. We look back to Christ’s resurrection, and we say: “To God be the glory! Great things He has done!”
We look forward to the Day when we will be able to look back and give glory for all the great things He has done. The Word of God tells us that, on that Day, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). On that wonderful Day, there will be no more crying and no more dying, no more suffering and no more mourning (Revelation 21:4).
The Day of Christ’s Return in power and glory will be a great Day, a Day of rejoicing for all who are trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all their sins. For those who have refused Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation, there will be judgment. In the Bible’s final chapter, we read of the blessedness of those whose sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 22:14). we also read of those who do not enter the Heavenly City, those who, because of their continuing in sin, are excluded from the glories of Heaven (Revelation 22:15). We “rejoice in glorious hope”, but we must never forget that, for some, Jesus will come as “the Judge.” The Gospel comes to all men and women as a message of love, a gracious invitation. All are invited to come to the Saviour, and receive full salvation through faith in Him. we dare not, however, forget that the Gospel also contains a warning to those who persist in their sin, those who say “No” to the offer of God’s salvation.
We rejoice in Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the dead. We give thanks to God for His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the fact that “His blood can make the foulest clean.” This is the marvellous fact of the Gospel: “He died that we might be forgiven … that we might go, at last, to heaven, saved by His precious blood.”
If the ancient story of Christ’s death for sinners is to become your personal story, you must come to the Lord Jesus. Trusting Him as your Saviour, you will be able to say, with real conviction, “His blood availed for me.”
Here, we look at two men. In some respects, they are similar. In other ways, they are very different. Both belonged to the special group of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Both failed their Lord. One returned to the Lord. The other did not. One became a witness to Christ’s resurrection. The other did not. One became a faithful servant of the Lord. the other did not. The two men are Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot.
It would be very easy for us to concentrate exclusively on the story of Peter. It is a very encouraging story. It is the story of a failure whose life was turned around by the power of Christ. It is the story of what Christ can do in the lives of even those who have failed Him terribly. It is the story of a man who became a fearless witness for Christ, a fearless preacher of the Gospel. It is the story of a man whose letters (1 and 2 Peter) have been a source of spiritual strength to God’s people down through the centuries. It would be very convenient to remember Peter and forget about Judas.
The Word of God does not permit us to forget about Judas. When we read the story of Judas, we must read it as a word of warning. Judas highlights for us the very real possibility of turning our backs on Jesus Christ and staggering on blindly into a lost eternity without Christ. Judas is a warning to all of us. Judas is a truly tragic figure. He ended up taking his own life. The tragedy of Judas is not so much the fact that he, literally, committed suicide. The real tragedy lies in the spiritual “suicide” he had been committing for some considerable time. Judas Iscariot’s sin against the lord was deliberate, calculated and premeditated. Long before his tragic death, Judas had chosen to go the way of the betrayer rather than the way of the disciple. He had sided with Satan rather than taking his place on the Lord’s side. As we hear of Peter – a triumph of grace, a man marvellously restored to the Lord and mightily used by the Lord, let us never forget the warning that comes to us from this tragic character – Judas Iscariot.
As we consider this “tale of two men” – Peter and Judas, let us see here also a “tale of two cities.” There is the heavenly city towards which peter points us in his letters. There is the city of destruction, the destiny to which all those who turn their backs on Christ are headed, When we hear of Peter and Judas, we are faced with areal challenge. The hymn writer puts this challenge in the form of a series of questions: “Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? Who will be helpers other lives to bring? Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe? Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?” Will you, like Peter, respond with a prayer such as this? – “By Thy call of mercy, By Thy grace divine, we are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine.” Or, will you, on the other hand, be like Judas and ignore the warning spoken so powerfully by Jesus Himself? – “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36).
Judas missed out on all the blessings which came to Peter, once he was restored to the Lord. Peter became a witness to Christ’s resurrection, a man mightily used by the Lord during the time of the Acts of the Apostles. God doesn’t want any of us to miss out on the blessings of His salvation. He wants us to come to the Saviour and enjoy the wonderful blessings of His saving power and love. If you have not yet come to the Saviour, the story of the rest of Peter’s life is the story of what you’re missing. It is also the story of what your life can be if you will come to Christ and begin a new life with Him.
The blessings enjoyed by Peter were restoration, usefulness and heaven.
(1) Restoration – In a time of weakness, Peter, in the face of enormous stress, had failed his Lord. The risen Christ returned to peter. For each denial, Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Him. Peter said, three times over, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You” (John 21:15-17). Peter was restored to the Lord. restoration – that’s the first blessing you miss out on if, like Judas, you go your own way rather than the lord’s way. Restoration – that’s the first blessing you enjoy when, like Peter, you say, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
(2) Usefulness – A second contrast between Peter and Judas lies here. the life of Judas Iscariot was a wasted life. By the time, Jesus rose from the dead, Judas Iscariot had taken his own life. Peter, on the other hand, became a witness of Christ’s resurrection. By the time the Day of Pentecost had come, the place of Judas Iscariot, among the twelve disciples, had been taken by another – Matthias (Acts 1:15-26). Peter, on the other hand, was preaching the Gospel with such power that three thousand souls were brought to faith in Christ (Acts 2:37-42). The Lord calls us not only to be restored but also to be useful. Here is a prayer you can pray, “O use m, Lord, use even me,just as Thou wilt, and when and where.”
(3) Heaven – The contrast between Peter and Judas is not complete when we say, “Peter was restored and Judas was not. Peter became useful and Judas did not.” There is a further contrast. It is the contrast between heaven and hell.
In his first letter, Peter speaks, in glowing terms, of the future hope of the Christian: “Blessed be the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
In his second letter, Peter urges us to make sure that we really do belong to Christ: “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).
God does not “wish that any should perish.” He desires that “all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Nevertheless, “the Day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10), and we must live holy and godly lives, as we await the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise – “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11, 13).