Not an Easy Path (Part Two)


Acts 16:16-24

Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully (16:20-23 CSB).

True Christianity can expect evil people to oppose it (16:19-21). Often, the opponents, like the people in this account, are motivated by greed, which they think will provide them with happiness. They don’t like to hear about truly loving and caring for others, since they seek to get ahead of everyone else.

  • Apart from God’s common grace, the worldly-minded person runs by this formula: “cultural position or wealth equals power that yields happiness.” Many seem to succeed quite nicely by this formula, until you consider their eternal destiny (cf. Psalm 73:17).
  • Apart from God’s restraint, they will not hesitate to use their power to attack those who interfere with their desires.

Wicked people will use distortion and deceit to ruin their godly opponents (16:20-21). Error uses some truth to gain plausibility, but about the only truth they uttered was that Paul and Silas were Jews. Even that would have been used to arouse prejudice. Most public debate is carried out in this way. Name-calling to arouse fears and prejudice to incite hate are favorite tools. The rest of their charge was a lie. Without a belief in absolute truth, telling lies is a very easy activity. We must remember this as we face other religions, and especially people ruled in their thinking by Postmodernism, which denies the existence of truth and absolutes. In order to face strong opposition, we must pray for strength and our integrity.

True Christianity may lead to terrible suffering (16:22-24). This is impossible to accept, if you think that spiritual success is measured by personal ease and prosperity. Too often we see professing Christians mesmerized by worldly success: “A growing church is a successful church.” Christians fail to consider that growing attendance might only mean that their services are more comfortable to worldly-minded people. Paul performed a great miracle through Christ’s power, but church attendance at Philippi did not zoom to one thousand. “Wow! We’re going to have to start a second service!” By the way, let’s read all the New Testament Scriptures! Yes, sometimes churches might see thousands added to their numbers. But it is just as true that sincere, godly people of faith in God might have little to show for their labors.

This is impossible to accept if you listen to lies claiming that God doesn’t want people, especially his people, to suffer. Paul and Silas, two men of faith yet severely flogged and locked in prison, are a painful refutation of such lies. But the Lord Jesus predicted suffering, for the whole church (Matthew 10:16-39; 24:9), and for the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15-16). And the Lord blessed those who are persecuted because of righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).

True Christianity is not an easy path. Let us remember what Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). I really don’t know what God will do in our present situation. Hatred grows daily. As Christ’s ambassador, if you trust Him as your Lord and Savior, all I can offer you is a cross in this world—and eternal glory in the world to come! Should we quit? Never! What did Paul and Silas do as they suffered horribly? They prayed and worshiped (16:25)! We will be very wise to follow their good example.

Grace and peace, David

Not an Easy Path (Part One)


Acts 16:16-24

Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. As she followed Paul and us she cried out, “These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God” (16:16-17 CSB).

A few years ago, my son Trevor and I planned to hike up North and South Bubble “mountains” in Acadia National Park during a vacation trip. As we reached the far end of Jordan Pond and started our ascent, we saw a trail marker for South Bubble. There I made a serious miscalculation. “It’s only four-tenths of a mile to the top!” Right, but it was also hot, steep, and the granite path was exposed to the sun. I also was not in good physical condition. It was not an easy path, and as a result, we only climbed South Bubble.

True Christianity is a good path, since it is a saving relationship with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But it is not an easy path. Perhaps in the sheltered, Christianized west, it has seemed easy, but that was always more apparent than real. Had professing Christians been more zealous and faithful, we might not have wrongly assumed that it was easy.

Now we live in a rather twisted kind of intolerant pluralistic culture. We must face challenges from postmodernism, various eastern religions, and the pursuit of personal pleasure that tolerate anything except a truly Christian viewpoint. (If you doubt this, try to tell others the gospel, especially in public settings.) Christians must regain our balance and strength, so that we do not collapse on the trail. Since we are united to Christ, we will certainly follow the trail to the end in heaven, but we ought to want to be useful along the way. So, let’s look at this picture of the early church and learn from the experience of that great pathfinder, the apostle Paul.

True Christianity will always have to confront other religions and philosophies (16:16-18). In western civilization, this was not the case for many centuries, as institutional Christendom provided a Christian illusion as the dominant outlook. Under the protection of Christendom, true Christianity could influence western culture with little challenge from other religions or philosophies. This happened because of three events.

  • The “walling off” of Europe from Muslim expansionism
  • The elimination or total suppression of competing cultures in the Americas
  • The salvation of many people through great revivals, such as the Reformation and the First Great Awakening

Part of our present problem in this time of change is the need to retool our thinking. Years ago, Bob Dylan wrote a song called, “The Times They Are a Changing.” He was right, as our culture changed very quickly, but Christians did not listen. We can’t waste our time looking back at supposed “good old days”, which weren’t as good as we imagine. (Most people never read history books!) The old ways are gone forever. We must live in the culture God has permitted to develop since World War II. Therefore, we need to pray.

Usually, the church must compete in a non-Christian world for survival or expansion. This was Paul’s situation at Philippi. In God’s providence, he was breaking a new trail into the utterly non-Christian continent of Europe. When Paul, Silas, Luke and a couple others went to Philippi, they were the only Christians anywhere in the west! They were entering a new world uninfluenced by God’s Word, the Bible, and the ideas that flow from being true followers of Jesus.

Christians must be aware of various aspects of life in a culture where true Christianity is challenged. We must know the reality of the spiritual forces of evil. The Philippian slave girl in our text was under the control of a demon, and so she could do what was beyond natural human ability. True Christianity acknowledges the existence of spiritual powers that are unholy and wicked. They have power—sometimes great power (Matthew 24:24).

We must realize that wickedness will misuse truth for evil goals. What the slave said (16:17) could be heard as true, if you don’t realize her context. Her intent was mockery and disruption of Paul’s evangelistic mission. Some in our day think, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” The Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul did not share that view. God’s work must be done in God’s way (Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; Titus 2:7-8

Our great need is to comprehend and lay hold of the greater power of God the Holy Spirit (16:18; cf. 1 John 4:4). This requires love of God and truth and… prayer.

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Six)

They will perish, but you will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end (Psalm 102:26-27 CSB).

God is immutable. “The unchangeableness of God is linked to his eternity… but they are not identical. The eternity of God means that God has always existed and will always exist; nothing comes before him, nothing after. The unchangeableness of God (immutability) means that God is always the same in his eternal being” (Boice, The Sovereign God, p. 183).

It is important that we invest time to understand this attribute and listen carefully to what the Scriptures actually teach. It is hard to understand because creation and we change constantly. There are three general ways that God is unchangeable:

  • God is unchangeable in his being (Malachi 3:6).
  • God is unchangeable in his attributes (Psalm 100:5).
  • God is unchangeable in his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

Having stated these three truths, let us think about them. First, God is unchangeable in his being (Psalm 102:26-27). This means that we always worship the same God. The living God is not in the state of becoming something; he is the “I AM”.  “God is the exact same God and not something different. The God of the New Testament is not different from the God of the Old Testament. He is not older, wiser, more knowledgeable, bigger or smaller, greater or lesser, stronger or weaker. Only ONE God, as the eternal I AM, is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Morey, Battle of the Gods, p. 211, his emphasis). This provides a rock of stability to us. If God could change, how could we ever depend on him? For example, what if his power was diminishing? We could not be assured of eternal life, because his power is necessary to sustain ours. Let us rejoice that God does not change!

Second, God’s attributes do not change (James 1:17). “What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our heavenly Father never differs from himself. In coming to him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when he will see no one. Neither does he change his mind about anything. Today, this moment, he feels toward his creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as he did when he sent his only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind” (Tozer, quoted by Boice, p. 187).

Third, God’s purposes do not change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Hebrews 6:17-18). What God has planned to do for Christ (Philippians 2:9-11), for his redeemed people (Romans 8:28-30) and for the wicked (Matthew 25:41) does not change. Neither does his word change (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Someone might ask, “But what about the few passages in Scripture that speak of God’s ‘repenting’?” (See Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11, 35.) Do these pose any problem to the doctrine of the immutability of God?

“First, we have already stated that the immutability of God concerns the being of God. None of the passages in question speak of a change in God’s nature, but rather describe some act of God. Second, all of these passages describe a change in God’s works in terms of his revelation, relationship, or attitude toward man” (Morey, p. 222).

When we say that God is unchanging, we do not mean that he lacks emotional expression toward his creatures in conformity with his holiness, love, and justice. The personality of God demands that he has emotions, like we do, because we are created in his image. When God tells us in these passages that he “repented”, he is revealing his sorrow over the evil situation that occurred, just as we would say, “I’m sorry I ever did that,” though we might make exactly the same choice again for various reasons of love, truth, or justice.

The historical outworking of God’s plan of redemption might appear to show that God has changed his mind (from the fall to the old covenant and then to the new covenant), but that is an apparent change only. God revealed his plan in stages, and now with the New Testament Scriptures, we have the full revelation of his plan (Ephesians 3:2-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

Grace and peace, David

Joseph and Temptation (Part Three)

Genesis 39:11-23

When we encounter temptation, the invitation to evil and its consequences is obvious. Yet by God’s amazing love and power, there is a radically different possibility—an opportunity to show forth the triumphs of his grace! What we see in this account is an interesting contrast between the ugliness of human depravity and the beauty of renewed godliness. God made use of both to accomplish his own purpose.

Joseph suffered a furious attack of seduction by Potiphar’s wife. It happened while Joseph was at the place of duty (39:11). Remember Joseph’s prudence. Men sometimes encourage women by flirtatious or seductive talk. Since we live in a culture that lusts after salacious humor, it is too easy to say things that carry a double intent. At times, it is done for a laugh at a woman’s expense; at others to send out signals of the man’s interest in the woman. But Joseph had taken the opposite course (39:10). In God’s providence, he was in danger. No one else was in the house. The modern small office or store provides a similar situation. Proper behavior and good intentions alone cannot protect us from the snares of temptation (cf. Matthew 26:41).

Joseph had a narrow escape (39:12). Her act was whorish (cf. Prov 7:10-13). His only way out was holy flight. He used the best available means to resist her advances, his feet. “It is better to lose a good coat than a good conscience” (Henry). Joseph had a godly, instead of a worldly, concept of manliness.

Joseph experienced a bitter aftermath. One might expect Joseph to be even more outwardly blessed by God immediately after such obedience to him. However, Joseph’s battle is incomplete. Two new enemies appear.

First was the unsatisfied lust of Potiphar’s wife (39:13-18). An old saying says something like, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” Potiphar’s wife was humiliated by Joseph’s refusal to join with her in sin. She determined to get revenge. Let us learn from her sin.

  • Lust can never bring lasting joy. Consider the lust of Amnon for Tamar (2 Samuel 13).
  • Lust eventually gives birth to hate. Love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). Lust soon tires of its toy and seeks someone else for excitement. It should not surprise us that marriages built on the sand of selfish passion collapse. Only commitment to love one other person produces endurance.
  • Lies then become easy to tell. She was able to twist the circumstantial evidence in her favor. Notice, by the way, her craftiness – “this Hebrew” (39:14). “A great deal of evidence may be brought against a perfectly innocent man. Let us, therefore, be slow to condemn persons of unblemished character” (Spurgeon. cf. 1 Timothy 5:19).

Second was the jealous anger of Potiphar (34:19-20). He is not to be blamed in this (Proverbs 6:30-35). However, she cleverly made him feel guilty (39:17). Watch out for those who manipulate people with guilt feelings. God restrained Potiphar’s anger so that Joseph was not killed. “This is to be ascribed to the good providence of God, which restrains the waves of the sea, and the passions of men, and sets them their bounds which they shall not pass, which watched over Joseph in a peculiar manner” (Poole). However, the rejection of forbidden pleasure gained Joseph shackles and irons. Deeper suffering came to him (Psalm 105:18).

I doubt the health, wealth and prosperity error would have had much appeal to Joseph at this point. Joseph’s obedient faith led him to a prison, Christ’s to a cross, and Stephen’s under a pile of stones. “The iron is entering into his flesh and into his spirit. The earth is shaken beneath him. The heavens are darkened over him. ‘My God,’ he may cry, ‘my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Psalm 22:1)” (Candlish).

Unexpectedly, Joseph receives a slight improvement in his situation. His life has been like a wiggly road along a mountain. He found that he had a “fellow prisoner”. The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden (39:21 NIV; cf. Is 43:2; Ps 139:7-12). God’s worked by common grace in the warden’s heart to make him favor Joseph.

For this reason, we see Joseph back in training for God’s purpose for him (39:22-23). He received another supervisory position. He had learned to manage slaves. Now he had to learn to handle a more difficult group. In this, Joseph had renewed success. Notice the emphasis of the Spirit of God – the Lord. . . gave him success in whatever he did.

Learn to hope and endure, regardless of how deep and dark your prison may be. Think of how you may glorify God in that place. Your present darkness might be the place where God causes his glorious light to shine.

Grace and peace, David

A Double Evil

Jeremiah 2:12-13

Be appalled at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly desolated! This is the Lord’s declaration. For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves—cracked cisterns that cannot hold water (CSB).

God’s story takes in all aspects of human experience. A novice to the truth might anticipate that it would only speak of joy and glory. Yes, it ends in the fullness of both glory and joy. However, along the way, as the Lord of glory interacts with people, he feels our sorrows, our ugliness, our ruin. The Forever Blessed One calls us to feel the disgust caused by people’s rejection of his joy and glory. The verbs are meant to shake us out of our complacency: Be appalled… be shocked… utterly desolated. Why such horror? It is because the visible people of God had committed the evil exchange, that lies at the core of fallen humanity (cf. Romans 1:18-23). What is this evil? It is the exchange of the all-glorious God for worthless idols.

The Father calls this a double evil. First, people abandon God. Abandonment of others is very much a part of this world. One day there is love, joy, peace, acceptance, and friendship. The next is the awfulness of rejection, the benefits of friendship gone. You may weep if you have been abandoned by family or friends.  Watching his people walk away is intensified because the Lord fully understands what they are walking away from—the fountain of living water. Fresh water is necessary for life, but people want the dust of death. Second, people make substitutes for God, but the substitutes are defective. Instead of the fountain, they want cisterns, and they’re cracked, unusable cisterns at that! If you have ever seen someone trade a loving family for some ruinous pleasure, you know the tearful outrage that this brings to one’s heart. God spoke through Jeremiah to call them back from this senseless, double evil.

This word is not simply for Israel 2600 years ago. It is for us. The temptation to commit this double evil surrounds us, and because of remaining sin, it can stir within us. Our Father in heaven calls us to a joyous walk in the light with him. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Read his word, think on it, talk to your God, and share your life with him. Give thanks for the blessings of his grace; dare to ask for more grace.

Do not abandon God on Monday or any other day, because it is gray and rainy, because other people are making your life miserable, or because you feel lonely and dejected. Do not make substitute pleasures out of the gods or goddesses of money, power, popularity, and pleasure. Learn anew where true pleasure is found, in the fountain of living water. Refresh your heart in the Lord today.

Grace and peace, David

Joseph and Temptation (Part Two)

Genesis 39:6-10

So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her (NIV).

In our last article about Joseph, we made a few general observations about temptation. Everyone encounters temptation every day. The Lord Jesus taught his followers to pray to be rescued from temptation (Matthew 6:13; 26:41). Joseph’s encounter with it ought to provide sufficient motivation for us to pray. Let’s analyze his first battles with the temptation to sexual immorality.

Potiphar’s wife aggressively tried to seduce Joseph (39:7). Joseph was in a very vulnerable position. This complicated sin’s attack.

  • He was an unmarried young man with normal sexual desires. We must always realize that sexual desires are very good. God created people with a longing for sexual fulfillment. He made us to enjoy sex. This was not Joseph’s temptation; instead, it was to fulfill his sexual desires outside of a marital relationship.
  • He was a man with frustrated ambitions. It would be too easy to seize something to prove himself to himself.
  • He was a servant. Normally, he would have to obey her orders. In other words, he had a ready-made “excuse”. When we make excuses to do something that we know is sinful, we fall into a dangerous trap. Joseph wasn’t looking for an excuse; one was personally delivered to him by his “employer”. Many in business receive these “excuses” to drink excessively, to go to “gentlemen’s clubs”, and to party wildly while away on business trips.

Joseph was caught in a surprise attack. If he were tempted to sexual immorality with a servant girl, that would be a common affair. As the head slave, he could have had occasion to seduce women with a lower position in the household. But his master’s wife had designs on him. This was more unusual. Note, I did not say unheard of. We do not have to go looking for sin. It will seek us (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).

Joseph made a godly refusal of her wicked seduction (39:8-9).

  • He reasoned from general principles. Honor demanded that he not violate the trust that his master had in him. Joseph also respected the marriage relationship that God had established which people have followed from creation (cf. Roman 2:14-15; Genesis 20:3-7). People know that they ought to be faithful to their spouses.
  • He reasoned from godly principles. He was able to call the seduction to illicit sexual pleasure by its correct name: “such a wicked thing.” He viewed sin as foremost of all as an offense against God (cf. King David’s confession of his adultery, Psalm 51:4).

Joseph had to endure an unrelenting assault by Potiphar’s wife (39:10). His sound and solemn reasoning did not change her mind. Temptation does not walk away when it is first spurned. Joseph had to be on constant guard against this temptation: she spoke to Joseph day after day. Let us not think that temptation will grow tired of harassing us. Temptation is always optimistic about its chances for victory. Joseph acted wisely while being tempted. He refused the sin. “No, I won’t go to bed with you.” He also refused the occasion of sin. In general, if you would keep yourself from harm, keep out of harm’s way. May God give us grace to learn from Joseph’s example.

Grace and peace, David

The Importance of the Resurrection (Part Two)

Romans 10:9-10

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (NIV).

In our previous post on these verses, we saw that Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of his crucifixion. Yes, God the Father sent his Son as the Lamb of God to take away our sins, but he also sent him to rise the third day. What did God intend through the resurrection?

Belief in Christ’s resurrection means salvation. Let’s begin with the place of belief—“in your heart”

What is the meaning of the heart? So often in our culture we use heart in reference to the emotions. But in the Bible the heart is the center of personality, which includes the mind and will, along with the emotions. It determines what a person is.

So then, to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead means that the truth of Christ’s resurrection has so secured the consent of what we are that it determines all our convictions about religion and life. Think of a farmer planting his corn. The seed is sown in the ground, and as it grows, a mature corn plant develops. So it is spiritually, the Holy Spirit puts the truth of Jesus and his resurrection in the heart, and a life develops that conforms to that truth.

The person that is Christian in name, but not in reality, may agree to the fact of the resurrection intellectually, but the truth of Jesus and the resurrection has not taken over his life. Contrast this with the apostle Paul (Acts 17:18, 30-31). What has happened in your heart?

The happy result of this kind of belief—“you will be saved”. What does it mean to be saved? To be saved is to be rescued from the holy wrath of God that is against sinners because of our rebellion against God and his laws and to be brought into the possession of eternal life and joy (Romans 4:5-8; 5:1-2, 9-11). Observe carefully that the Scriptures speak with certainty at this point—“you will be saved.” There is nothing of a “hope so” attitude or a “blind leap of faith”. Not, not at all! Instead, we read a solemn guarantee. Read Romans 8:31-39. Do you have this certain hope?

The belief that saves produces a grand outward confession—“Jesus is Lord”. The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” refers to the lordship that Jesus has because he died and rose again. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9 NIV).

  • Since Jesus is Lord, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, there is a message of the good news of peace to all (Acts 10:36).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he rules over all for the good of his church (Ephesians 1:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, all angels, authorities and powers are subject to him (1 Peter 3:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is waiting for his enemies to become his footstool (Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 10:13).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he has poured out the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is exalted to the highest place, has a name above every name, and every knee will bow to him and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

“The thing to be confessed is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is, we must openly recognize his authority to the full extent in which he is Lord; acknowledge that he is exalted above all principality and powers, that angels are made subject to him, that all power in heaven and earth is committed unto him, and of course that he is our Lord. This confession, therefore, includes in it an acknowledgment of Christ’s universal sovereignty, and a sincere recognition of his authority over us. To confess Christ as Lord, is to acknowledge him as the Messiah, recognized as such of God, and invested with all the power and prerogatives of the Mediatorial throne” (Hodge). The Christian recognizes Christ’s lordship and bows before him now. But what of you?

The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” is the fruit of faith in his resurrection. Someone might say, but confession is mentioned before belief, so how can it be the fruit of faith? The answer is simple. The apostle is following the order mentioned in verse eight. “Confession is here put before faith, as it is confession which gives visibility to faith—Paul following the order suggested by the words of Moses” (Brown). Notice also how he turns confession and faith around in verse ten.

Confession with the mouth is evidence of genuine faith in the heart. If someone believes that Jesus Christ is risen and so has become Lord of all, he/she will confess that verbally and openly. “Confession verifies and confirms the faith of the heart” (Murray).

A person “becomes righteous, perfectly righteous, through believing God’s record concerning His Son. But the evidence that this faith is genuine is found in the open confession of the Lord with the mouth in everything in which His will is known. Confession of Christ is as necessary as faith in Him, but necessary for a different purpose. Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness. Confession is necessary to prove that this gift is received” (Haldane).

“Those who are ashamed or afraid to acknowledge Christ before men, cannot expect to be saved. The want of courage to confess, is decisive evidence of the want of heart to believe, vers. 9, 10” (Hodge). Since Jesus Christ is risen indeed and is Lord over all, shouldn’t you bow in faith before him and trust him as your righteousness and so be saved?

Grace and peace, David

The Importance of the Resurrection (Part One)

Romans 10:9-10

True Christianity is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. It proclaims the person of Christ, because salvation comes through knowing Christ and so being united to him by faith. The great call of the gospel is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. True Christianity proclaims Christ’s saving acts that were performed in space/time history. On a literal twenty-four day in the first century, Jesus actually died outside the real city of Jerusalem in Palestine. And three days later he actually rose from the dead. It also proclaims Christ’s word and the word about Christ in the Holy Scriptures. The Lord tells us the meaning of what he did.

Without interpretation, historical events can be meaningless or even misleading. For example, imagine viewing pictures of two groups of men. Both groups appear to be very happy and pleased. Obviously something exciting has occurred as they congratulate a man in the center of the group. You can sense their pride of accomplishment, and perhaps you even might want to smile as you view their happiness. Surely something good has been accomplished for mankind! Then someone interprets both events. The man in the center of the first group is Alexander Graham Bell, but the man in the center of the second group is Adolph Hitler. The interpretation radically alters one’s view of the second group!

It is a fact of history that the tomb of Jesus is empty. Even the most violently determined opponents of Christ and Christianity in the first century could not dispute that fact. But what is the significance or importance of Christ’s resurrection? Let us think about this together. We must start here: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for justification—for being declared right with God.

Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of Christ’s crucifixion.

  • When Christ died, he died to pay the just penalty for the sins of his people. We deserved God’s wrath and the wages of sin, which are death. In Christ’s death on the cross, we see our death put to death. As John Owen said, it is “the death of death in the death of Christ.”
  • But the goal of the death of death is life for his people, and that life is eternal life. So in the risen Lord Jesus Christ we have the free gift of righteousness. That is why we read, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified” (cf. Romans 4:25). “Express mention is made only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were affected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality” (Calvin).

We should think of Christ’s resurrection as the greatest triumph of human history. This day should fill our hearts with inexpressible and glorious joy!

The resurrection of Christ is God’s public declaration.

  • In Christ’s resurrection, God publicly acknowledges that Christ is all that he claimed to be. Consider John 5:20-29 and all Christ’s “I am” statements.
  • In Christ’s resurrection God publicly accepts all that Christ came to perform. Did he die to satisfy wrath? The resurrection proclaims that God is satisfied. Did he die to be the sacrifice for our guilt? The resurrection proclaims that God has taken away our guilt. Did he die to remove God’s alienation from us? The resurrection proclaims that God is reconciled to us. Did he die to set us free from the law, sin and Satan? The resurrection proclaims that God has set us free!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that something of immense significance has happened. It is like the great day when a large debt is paid and you hold the title to the property free and clear. But in this case it is much better, because in Christ you have eternal life and glory! So then, let us rejoice greatly, knowing that God has accepted every believer in his Risen Son.

Grace and peace, David

Christ’s Good Confession Before Pilate (Part Two)

John 18:33-38a

Today, which is Good Friday, we will continue our look at Christ’s first trial before Pilate. The Roman governor asked Jesus two more questions.  He pressed Jesus for more information. “What is it you have done?”

Jesus denied that he was leading a rebellion. He appealed to the events of the arrest to prove that he was not a political rival to Caesar. Anyone who plotted a revolt would have soldiers who would protect him. But no such thing happened. We learn an important principle. Christ’s kingdom is not advanced, promoted or defended by human ways or wisdom. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV). For this reason, we must do God’s work in God’s way; that is, by faith relying on God’s power.

Jesus explained his kingdom. It was not of earthly origin. Jesus constantly talked about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. Seeing this is so, you cannot become a part of Christ’s kingdom by worldly means—not by birth, not by compulsion, not by joining an organization, and not by going through some ritual (like baptism, communion, confirmation, or the altar call.) Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13 NIV). Thus, his kingdom does not refer to a place, but to a kingship or a rule. To know what this kind of a rule means, study Romans 14:17-18.

Then in a somewhat ironic way, Pilate continues, “You are a king, then!”

Jesus claimed to be a king. In its strict literal sense, the Greek reads, “You are saying that I am a king.” However, the phrase “you are saying” is equivalent here to “yes”. See Matthew 26:63-63 and Mark 14:61-62. Though Pilate might mock or scorn his claim, Jesus firmly asserts that he is a king. In this way he gave a good confession before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13). At this point the early church took up his banner, and today so must we. “Jesus is Lord” is our good confession (Romans 10:9). Sinners are content if he is presented as a rich uncle, a super psychologist or a great healer. But no sinner wants Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Leader. No one can truly say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Jesus claimed to testify to the truth.

  • Only Jesus could have made this statement. He is the one who both was born and who came.
  • Jesus knew that his Father sent him to proclaim the truth to a world lost in error. cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8
  • Jesus presented himself as the truth. Cf. John 14:6
  • Pilate responded by asking what is truth? In doing so, he showed that he was not of Christ’s kingdom. How sad! He had the truth before him, but could not see it!

What about you? Are you of the truth? Do you listen to Christ’s voice? Is Jesus Christ your Lord? What evidence can be found in your life? What are you doing to extend Christ’s kingship? You ask, “How can I do that?” Witness. Follow Jesus in making a good confession for his name’s sake. Stand for Christian values. Live in such a way, and speak in such a way that others know that Christ is your King.

Grace and peace, David

Christ’s Good Confession Before Pilate (Part One)

John 18:33-38a

It is good for Christians to remember the events of Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday. Our faith is not like other religions that are based on the philosophic speculations of people or the performance of (magic) rituals. Christianity is rooted in history; that is, in what the living God did in Jesus Christ in the space/time world in which we live. We follow the Lord Jesus Christ who lived among people, who was arrested and tried by people, who suffered and died for people at the cruel hands of wicked people, and who rose again the third day and was seen by people. And today many people have their lives deeply changed by Jesus Christ!

The Four Gospels devote a major portion of their content to the events of the Passion Week. Some have called them passion narratives with extended introductions. The early church grasped the importance of the history that occurred and set down these events in its creeds. For example, read the Old Roman Symbol, the Apostles Creed, and the Nicene Creed.

Our text presents the first part of our Lord’s trial before Pilate, the Roman governor. Here we see two striking figures. Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory and the Ruler of the kings of the earth stands trial before Pilate, the representative of the world’s only superpower of that time. Let us peer into this interview. Pilate used three lines of examination, summarized in three statements. We will look at the first of these in this article: “Are you the king of the Jews?”

We need to know the background to this question.

  • Behind the scenes, the gospel writers tell us that the Jewish religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. But they had a problem. They did not have the authority to execute anyone. Therefore, they needed to invent a charge that would cause the Roman government to execute Jesus. Politics hasn’t changed much, has it? If things aren’t going one’s way, then sin boldly to gain your wicked ends. The idea of fact or fiction is meaningless to the postmodernist person. What matters is that you tell a story to persuade others in order to reach your goal. Manipulation, deceit, disrespect and abuse are applauded rather than condemned.
  • Therefore, they told lies about Jesus to Pilate, along with his claim to be the Messiah, a king. It seems they hoped that Pilate would act swiftly to suppress any rival to Caesar – if he valued his own life.

How Christ handled the question.

  • Jesus sought the meaning of the question. Did Pilate mean king in the Roman sense? Was Pilate asking if he was a political revolutionary? Did he mean king in another sense? Was Pilate asking if he was the Messiah, the ruler of God’s people? Consider the example of Christ in avoiding an unclear or complicated question. Sometimes it is not best to answer quickly. Draw out a person’s meaning.
  • Pilate responded that this was a Jewish matter. He had not sought Jesus’ arrest. The Jewish religious leaders had handed Jesus over to him. What is going on?

Pilate wanted to know why this happened, for usually the Jewish religious leaders were eager to follow anyone who stood for the Jewish people against the power of Rome. Therefore, Pilate asked another question. We may expect people to ask many questions when we share the good news of Jesus Christ. People need time to understand the meaning and the truth of the ultimate significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead them to ask the right question. Then rely on the Spirit to direct you to the Scriptures for the correct answers.

Grace and peace, David