Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection The Divine Plan


Revelation 1:18  I am He who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Welcome to our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can follow the account this morning from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 24, beginning in verse 1 and following. Luke 24:1ff – Let’s begin …

It was in this season of the year not quite 2000 years ago that Jesus of Nazareth was plotted against by the religious leaders of the day, was betrayed by a close friend, arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, wrongfully accused by false witnesses, sentenced to death by Pilate, then scourged and mocked before being crucified by the Roman soldiers who willfully carried out their orders.

The whole ordeal took only about 15 to 18 hours … just one moonlit night of judgment, the morning scourging and that afternoon the crucifixion. Just when everything seemed to be going so well: Jesus was at the height of His popularity; God’s hand was evidently upon Him; important leaders were beginning to believe He might be Messiah; His teachings had never been better or more easily understood … and then … all of the sudden … all seemed lost. It all happened so quickly.

It had been just a week since Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey to the cheers and appellation of the multitudes who waved branches and cried “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” What a difference 7 days can make.

A new day was about to dawn signaling another Sunday morning and the time for a new week to begin. The disciples of Jesus, minus Judas, were unable to pull themselves together. They had spent the last 3 days mourning and weeping without hope and afraid that they too were only one step away from arrest and execution. It was all so hard to grasps.

Two wealthy and politically connected lesser known friends of Jesus had begged Pilate for His dead body and had buried Jesus quickly, just before sundown on Friday evening. According to the Jewish culture, customs and calendar, today was the 3rd day since Jesus had been buried in that borrowed tomb adjacent Golgotha. There were some things which must be done today. The body would need more attention and care to properly anoint and prepare it for burial. Mary decided to rise early and gather a friend or two and go to the tomb that Sunday morning before sunrise.

Luke 24: 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.

When the ladies arrived at the Garden Tomb they found the stone had already been rolled away and so they went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. This perplexed them and they could not figure it out - suddenly two men stood by them in shinning garments.

This so frightened the ladies that they bowed their faces towards the ground and then the men spoke. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen just like He said …”

With this they remembered the words Jesus had earlier spoken to them. Immediately they ran to where the remaining eleven Disciples were staying with friends and the ladies told them everything.

Luke 24:11 Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

Howbeit, the Bible says, their words seemed like idle tales to the 11 Disciples and others who heard their testimony. The Disciples simply could not imagine Jesus was alive. Nonetheless Peter ran to the tomb, stooped down, looked in and saw the linen burial cloths lying by themselves but he still did not know what to make of it all.

Later that same day two of the Disciples were walking on the road leading to the village of Emmaus, about 7 miles outside of the City of Jerusalem. They talked and reasoned concerning what had happened the last few days. As they traveled Jesus joined them on the road but they did not know it was Him. Jesus questioned the two Disciples as to the meaning of the conversation and why they seemed so sad. 

The Disciples voiced amazement that this supposed stranger did not know the events surrounding the day and how Jesus of Nazareth had been delivered and condemned, crucified and buried only 3 days past. This Jesus was one in whom they had placed their hope that He would redeem Israel. The Disciples told Jesus about the testimony of Mary and Peter but they were still blind and confused and did not know what to believe.

Luke 24
25  Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26  "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"

Jesus interrupted them and reproved them for their hesitance to believe the scriptures concerning the suffering Messiah and His eternal kingdom.

When the two Disciples drew near to the village where they were going Jesus made as though He would continue on. However they constrained Him and begged that He would abide with them since it was already late afternoon. With this invitation, Jesus went in.

Luke 24
30  Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
31  Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

By the way … this all happened on that Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the grave. No wonder Sunday is often referred to as, “The Lord’s Day.”

Although it was towards the evening, these two men went out immediately and returned to Jerusalem to find the Disciples and others who had gathered with them. They exclaimed, “The Lord is risen indeed …”

Luke 24
35  And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
36  Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you."
37  But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38  And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?”

Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Sometimes people refuse to believe what they cannot see for themselves. Not a bad heart, but a bad habit. To top it off, that first Sunday one of the original 11 Disciples was missing from the group, it was Thomas. When Thomas returned Jesus was gone and they tried to tell him that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, was alive and was the promised Messiah sent by God to redeem Israel.

Thomas refused to believe, just as they had earlier been “slow of heart” to believe, as Jesus put it. It was one week later, on the next Sunday, while they were all gathered together and Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared again. This time Jesus spoke directly to Thomas and said: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas, moved by this face to face encounter and personal plea from Jesus, embraced Him as Lord and God.

John 20:29  Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

The Truth about the Resurrection:
·        God had a plan … a very strategic plan – A Divine Plan
·        Judas did not sell Jesus, Judas sold himself
·        Jesus was not killed by Jews or Romans or nails on a Cross – His life was not taken, it was freely given. (John 10:17&18)
·        Jesus strategically entered into death so that He might destroy him who had power over death, that is the devil. (Hebrews 2:14)
·        Jesus is alive!

You do not know someone until you meet them. Because you have not met someone does not mean they do not exist. Don’t be slow of heart to believe. Jesus is alive. Blessed are all those who have not seen, yet believe!

Revelation 1:18  I am He who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Have you met this wonderful risen Savior?

Do not be slow of heart to believe all that is written concerning Jesus.

Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.

Declare your trust in the truth today.

Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him as Lord and you shall be saved.

Happy Resurrection Day …

The Lord is risen indeed!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life Shape Prayer & Discipleship Module 2 – New Creation Realities Block 1 – In Christ


Our initial 12 lessons comprised the first of 4 Life Shape Prayer & Discipleship modules. That first module, entitled “Redemption,” was designed to bring a person to the recognition of Jehovah as the one and only omnipotent God and Creator of the universe. Those 12 blocks also challenged us to affirm our faith in the grace of God who loved so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, as payment for the sin which had separated us.

The Redemption Module concluded by teaching righteousness, identification by water baptism and the power available to every believer through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Seeing that we have covered these initial 12 lessons in as many weeks let us now go on to the next step and discover what we get when we get saved.

Module 2 is entitled, “New Creation Realities.” We will begin with our:

Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

One of the New Creation Realities is our subject for this life block lesson: that of being “In Christ.”

Being “In Christ” is a positional reality. From the moment a person is saved, God sees them forever “In Christ.” They become brand new creations; the past no longer controls the future and new realities are brought to birth in Christ.

Acts 17:28  For in Him we live and move and have our being …

77 times in the King James Version we find the scriptures make direct reference to being “In Christ.”

Our “New Creation” status and the position we occupy “In Christ” are both significant factors which afford us great advantage. It is from this position we take advantage of our relationship with God and begin to change things within us and change things around us.

One of the first things we need to change is how we see ourselves.

Ephesians 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

It is simple. When you could do nothing, Jesus did everything, and by your faith in Him, God made you a new creation in Christ. God sees you “In Christ” and so we also should see ourselves as He sees us.
·        We are not Sinners trying to do right … rather we are the Righteous resisting temptations to sin.
·         We are not the sick trying to get healed … we are the healed and whole denying sickness a right to occupy our body.
·        We are not those shouting louder, praying longer, or singing sweeter trying to get God to notice us – we are “In Christ” and God hears our every thought and knows our every need.
·        We don’t do good works hoping God will love us and let us into heaven … rather we do good works because He does love us and because He created us in Christ to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

2 Corinthians 5
17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
18  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
19  that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

To reconcile means to settle accounts; to balance the books; to make up the difference. Reconciliation is an exchange of coins whereby an adjustment is made to equal so that no variance exists.

God was “In Christ” making up the difference between God and man and has settled the accounts and balanced the books for all who are “In Christ.” Jesus is both the door and the store of grace.

For God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God “In Christ.”

Important Points
1.   To be “Born Again” is to become a “New Creation in Christ."
2.   God desires we live our life from the New Creation perspective with the New Creation advantage we have “In Christ."
3.   The Bible will teach us these New Creation Realities.

        Every person who believes and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior is born again and becomes a “New Creation in Christ.” This is a positional advantage.  Each Believer will face and should grow to embrace their new creation realities as well as their new creation responsibilities.
        God was “In Christ” reconciling man unto Himself, making up the difference and settling accounts. Once a person has entered the grace of salvation by faith in Jesus, old things pass away and all things become new. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are “In Christ” who live and move and have their being in Him. (Romans 8:1; Acts 17:28)
        If we belong to Christ we are Abraham’s seed and heirs of God according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28 & 29) The scriptures reveal our inheritance and teach us how to take advantage of the righteousness we have been made to be “In Christ.” The truth is simple: Jesus is both the door and the store and you have come through Christ into Christ to live in His grace. Let’s search the Word of God together and discover our “New Creation Realities.”

2 Corinthians 11:3  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Countdown to Resurrection


Today the western Christian world celebrates Palm Sunday. This marks the beginning of the most important week of the Christian faith. This is the week Jesus was crucified for the sins of all mankind.

A little more than 500 years before Christ gave His life on the Cross of Calvary, God raised up a prophet named Zechariah. Jews and Christians alike revere Zechariah as a true prophet of God who spoke concerning the coming of Messiah and the last days.

Often prophecies are given to point us in the right direction and to pre-validate milestones along the way so that we can better discern and confirm the times and seasons in which we live. One such prophecy found among the writings of Zechariah clearly points to Messiah.

Zechariah 9:9  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Why the religious leaders, the scholars, the well studied rabbis and/or the High Priest of Jesus’ day did not see this coming and embrace Jesus as Messiah is beyond my comprehension. Never had a more clear word been given and a more perfect fulfillment of that word been observed than this particular prophecy.

As I said, today the western Christian faith celebrates Palm Sunday. This is the Sunday which remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding that little donkey, just as had been prophesied more than 500 years earlier. The fulfillment account is well recorded in the Gospels.

The chief priests of that day and the religious leaders were men who had given themselves to the study of the Law and the Prophets. They, more than anyone else, should have recognized what was going on around them and the part they were playing in this unfolding plan of God. You see, the Prophet Zachariah did not only speak concerning this King on a donkey, which was odd enough in its fulfillment, but Zechariah also prophesied concerning other critical factors which correctly described what was going on right before their very eyes and confirmed Jesus as the Christ.

More about Zechariah’s prophecies in a moment but first allow me to catch us up on the Gospel accounts concerning the occurrences of this week in history.

Mark 11
7  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it.
8  And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9  Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna! ’Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’

As Jesus was nearing Jerusalem, a few days before Passover, He sent two of His disciples to loose and bring a young colt, the foal of a donkey, upon which He rode in a triumphant processional from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount. The multitude laid tree branches, often referred to as “palms” in the way and cried saying, “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.”

The religious leaders complained but felt there was nothing they could do in the face of those who were leading the cheers. The processional concluded at the Temple into which Jesus entered and overturned the tables of the money changers and those who had made the House of God a den of thieves.

Jesus spent the week days in Jerusalem teaching His followers about the Kingdom of God while the evenings were mostly spent in Bethany with friends.

Matthew 26
6 ¶  And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,
7  a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.

One such evening Jesus and His disciples were having dinner and a woman opened an alabaster box of costly fragrant oil and poured it on His head. She also anointed His feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the beautiful fragrance.

John 12
4  Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,
5  "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"
6  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

Judas Iscariot complained:”Why was this costly perfume wasted and not sold for the poor?” Not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief and wanted the money for himself. The oil was worth about $40 in that day’s money. Jesus rebuked Judas and let it be known that she had done a good thing and anointed His body against the day of His burial. Judas left the house upset about the loss of money he felt somehow entitled to and immediately sought how he could make up that money.

Matthew 26
14  Then Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests
15  and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.
16  So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Jesus.

Thirty pieces of silver ??? What an odd price … the price paid to absolve responsibility in the death of another man’s servant according to the Law recorded in Exodus 21:32.

This is where the chief priests should have awakened to the fact that they were players in an already settled prophecy concerning Messiah. This is the price specifically spoken of by the prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah 11
12  Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
13  And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"  — that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.

How blind can we get to the things around us … Things which God has already spoken to us about in His Word … Things written and studied for centuries … Just how blind can we be???

This 30 Shekels of silver was the equivalent of $15. I suppose since Judas could not get the $40 he felt entitled to from the oil Jesus wouldn’t let him have, he decided to get whatever he could from betraying Jesus to His enemies and selling Jesus out! $15 … that’s all it was … Judas betrayed Jesus for $15 and then he didn’t even get to keep it … I guess Judas should have been better studied in the Word, Will and Ways of God himself and he could have called that one beforehand. $15 …

You might say, “Pastor, are you telling me that Judas sold Jesus for $15?” No … No … No … not in any way did Judas sell Jesus for $15. You see, Jesus was not for sale that night in the Garden! Oh no!!!

Jesus was not selling … Jesus was buying!

Jesus, the Lamb of God, was not the one for sale, Judas sold himself, and for what? Thirty shekels of silver … only $15 – and even then he later casts that into the House of God which only goes to teach us that in the end:

We are worth nothing without Jesus – but – We are worth everything to Him

And, BTW … Jesus is not for sale today either … you are … and Jesus is buying.

Don’t sell yourself cheap …
·        Not for Gold, Glory, Power, or Position
·        And you should sell yourself to the highest bidder
·        Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords
·        He gave everything, even His own life for you!
·        Recognize the times in which we live and come to Christ!