The Resurrection!

“I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever” ~Jesus

         Without doubt, the most important event on the calendar for followers of Christ, is what is known as Easter or Resurrection Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important moment in the history of the world. Three days prior to His resurrection, He had completed the most agonizing part of his triumphant purpose by willingly giving his life to pain and death, crumpled on Calvary’s cross. However, that was only the beginning, not the end.

         After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose, shed His death clothes and spent 40 days giving final instructions to His disciples. And because of that, we too have the promise of eternal life just as He gave to the thief on the cross beside him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

         The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of our hope as found in the following Scriptures:

         1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty—For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

         Acts 2:24, 32 “God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it—God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this.”

         Matthew 28:1-10 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee) went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

         “Then the angel spoke to the women, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

         Luke 24:46-48 He also said to them: “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

         1 Corinthians 15:1-8  “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

         Acts 4:33  “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—”

         Acts 26:22-23  “I teach nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said—that the Messiah would suffer and be the First to rise from the dead, to bring light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

         Romans 10:9-10  If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

         There are many scriptures which relate the risen Lord being seen as a living testimony of His resurrection. His absolute victory over death and its decay gives all the  believers in Jesus Christ an unwavering hope of everlasting life with Him. Although we shall die, unless Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and angelic shout first, we shall not perish but taste life that never ends, residing in the New Jerusalem with Almighty God and the resurrected Son.

Only Our Duty

“We’ve only done our duty” Luke 17:10

The weekly Bible study group was involved in an animated conversation about what God expects when we are seemingly taken advantage of or taken for granted. The conversation was going along the normal path of defending positions such as: 

“Well, God doesn’t expect us to be doormats, you know,” said Gloria.

“I’ll have to line up with Gloria on that one,” said Frank. “We are special to the Lord and He wants us to defend our faith at all costs.”

Most of the group chimed in at that point, defending the “we’re not doormats” position. Until Glenn, the class leader said, “Well, actually He does you know.”

The room got very quiet out of disbelief and embarrassment. 

“Do you remember the scene at the last supper when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet? That was a shock to them because it was a servant’s job, beneath them. But our Lord went from man to man, washing and drying everyone’s feet telling them, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” ~John 13:14-15

“In the Book of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a slave who after working all day in his master’s field comes in to make and serve the dinner for his master. Jesus then says, “Does he thank that slave because he did what was commanded? In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘ We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” ~Luke 17:9-10

No one spoke as they processed what was just read. Instantly everyone knew they were far from that attitude. Just the opposite, most resented the idea of being a good-for-nothing slave who has merely done their duty. Surely this was some colossal misunderstanding.

“Struggling with this one?” Glenn asked. “I think it’s time we faced this issue head on. What I just read is from our Bible. Our literal life-guide. Jesus became a slave as an example to us who follow to do likewise. Jesus doesn’t want us to be a doormat, we say. The truth is, He does. And then, after people wipe their feet on that mat, He says, “wash their feet, just as I have done for you!”

The Apostle Paul has something to say about this subject too: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.

“Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.

“Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ~Philippians 2:3-11

We spend our waking hours worrying about our positions in life, believing that we have “rights” as citizens; that we can have anything we want if we just believe and work really hard. It’s good Karma, what goes around comes around, and so on. Well, those ideas are ideas that come from the enemy of our soul who wants to kill, steal and destroy us. God’s version of life is the exact opposite. Here’s what Paul says: 

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, and become one with Him.” ~Philippians 3:8

Be like Christ? Be prepared to give it all up and learn to listen to the still, small voice in your heart.

Follow Me!

“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers had the best variety.. 

Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed…except for one man on this day.

Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember, with his disciples, God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.

 Jesus became incensed at what he saw; they were turning His Father’s house of worship into a house of commerce. This would not do. Grabbing common items readily available he fashioned a whip and returned to the temple/market renouncing their behavior, tossing tables over, scattering sellers and buyers alike, driving them and their animals from the temple!

Above the chaos, people heard his booming voice, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:16 CEB

After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” NLT They didn’t understand he was referring to his own resurrection.

Would it be different today? Would we behave differently toward such extreme behavior from a pastor? Using hindsight and the benefit of two thousand years, we casually read over this event, understanding that Jesus was confronting the malaise of the church as it blended with the world, as many of us have today.

Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged all current religious ideas of behavior and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the sea shore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.

Would we respond differently today? If this type of Jesus barged into our church-world how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We desire people who are easy to love.

Matt. 4:17  From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matt. 4:18-22  “As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee, their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart and stirred people to action. 

Matt. 7:24-27  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matt. 8:21-22  “Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Imagine our response to the Lord if He told us to walk away from the funeral proceedings we were responsible for, and follow Me!

Luke 9:23  “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

Most of us cling tightly to our lives, our plans, our responsibilities. A close friend’s mother passed away some time ago and he was overwhelmed with the details of her funeral and memorial service following. It was an emotional time for all of his family. Consider now, Jesus walking up to him, in the midst of planning, fixing his gaze upon him saying, “Walk away, leave all this and follow me. Let these others bury the dead.” That would be crazy, we would say. And yet that is exactly what Jesus did!”

His Blood

“The blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin” 1 John 1:7

I had been a Christian for a short time when Victor Ernest, the pastor of my church told me the following story.

“I grew up in a spiritualist family. We believed that God was working through us and did not know it was actually the devil. We held seances in our home. One member of the family was the Medium who gave themselves to the spiritual force at each meeting. The medium, who was my sister, would slump in her chair as the spirit would talk to the people at the table. We could ask questions and the voice would answer. I was chosen to be the next medium in our family.

“Something inside me (I now know it was the Holy Spirit of God) guided me to a department store one day to buy a Bible. This was totally foreign to me but the guidance was strong. I knew nothing about bibles except I had seen very large ones on people’s coffee tables. I only had enough money to buy a small one (I thought it was just part of the bible).

“Secretly I took it home and began to read. Of course I began at the beginning, trying to understand Genesis, Leviticus, etc. I hid my Bible after each reading. One night, as I opened the bible, I was guided to read in the Book of First John and read about trying or testing the spirits: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.” 1 John 4:1.

“Later I read about the blood of Jesus as follows: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God…For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jersus is the Son of God.

“And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water, and by shedding His blood on the cross— not by water only, but by water and blood.” 1 John 5:1, 4-6

“I wasn’t exactly sure what I had just read or how important a part it would play in my life until a few days later at our next seance.

“Strangely enough, this seance was a question and answer time. After my sister allowed the spirit to take over and she slumped in her chair, a small megaphone raised off the table and floated in the air. It stopped at each person and we were allowed to ask a question. On this night, the megaphone allowed us to ask three questions in total.

“My first question was, Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” I had no idea I would ask this question! I did not know that the Spirit of God was directing me. The megaphone answered, “Of course my son,” and passed on.

My second question was, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior?” The megaphone answered, “Of course my son, why do you doubt?” I was stunned and confused by this time.

My third question was, “Do you believe that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins?” The megaphone fell to the table and my sister was thrown backwards out of her chair. The seance was over and I knew my life would never be the same. Somehow I knew that my spiritual experiences to this point were not of God and I wanted to find out all about God. Shortly after that meeting, I packed my clothes and left home. I was 17. 

Ephesians 1:6-8, “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

God changed the life of Victor Ernest when He revealed Himself through the Bible and that dramatic question and answer time in his home. Victor learned about the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, which he freely shared for the remainder of his life. God brought me to hear Victor preach the truth of God’s Word. I gave my heart to Christ as a result of his preaching.