God’s Amazing Plan, Part 5: The Holy Spirit

Last week, we learned that Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s promise. Then He ascended to heaven. The angels told the disciples that Jesus would come back the same way he left. The disciples went back to Jerusalem, rejoicing, to wait like Jesus had told them.  They spent a lot of that time in the temple.

Let’s back up a little and look back to what Jesus said to them before His arrest. We’ve looked at them before, but lets take another look.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14:16-17)

the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,will teach you all thingsand will remind you of everything I have said to you.(John 14:26)

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (John 14:26)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness,because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”(John 16:7-13)

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)

Then right before He ascended to heaven, He said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

All these scripture references are from the NIV. The King James uses the word “comforter” instead of advocate. The Amplified Bible offers “Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—” In John 14:16.

So this promised Holy Spirit that they were to wait would bring power with Him (we often refer to the Spirit as an it, but Jesus says “he”). He will be an advocate, counselor, comforter, reminder and guide. He’s a big deal.

Now, let’s back up a little more and talk again about Jewish feasts. We’ve talked about the Day of Atonement and Passover, but there were several other feasts the God ordained for His people. In Leviticus chapter 23, God gives instructions for all the feasts. This one, called the Feast of Weeks. On the second day of Passover, they were to count off seven weeks (49 days). Then on the feast on the 50th day, They were to present an offering of new grain as well as sacrificial animals.

Greek speaking Jews in Jesus day called this day Pentecost (50). It was one of the festivals during which all men were required to come to Jerusalem. Ten days after Jesus ascension to Heaven, Jerusalem was full of Jews from all over the world there to celebrate Pentecost. Of course, the disciples were there too, just like Jesus had told them to be.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (Acts: 2:1-13)vAct0202Dore_TheDescentOfTheSpirit

There are some who say that they disciples were in the upper room at that time because of the word “house”, but that doesn’t make any sense. That would have been where they slept. They wouldn’t have been there at nine in the morning. They were in a public place, most likely in or near the temple. Where else would all those people been able to hear the disciples speaking the wonderful works of God in their native tongues? And some people thought they were drunk, I would assume because they didn’t understand what was said, and felt the need to respond. You know there is always somebody like that. Peter had an answer for them…Peter, who had denied Jesus, then ran and hid, stood up and addressed the crowd.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.(Acts 2:14-41)

The day of Pentecost marks the birth of the church, and with the help of the newly received Holy Spirit, Peter preached the first sermon. Three thousand “came forward”.

That day the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, and Peter told the crowd that they too, could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So what does the “gift of the holy spirit” mean?

When you ask people today that question, many people talk about speaking in tongues, prophesying or gifts of healing, and those things certainly have been manifestations of the spirit (1 Corinthians 12), but that isn’t what it’s really all about.

Jesus replied,“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

How does He he do that? Guess?

By sending the Holy Spirit, God sent part of Himself.

In Romans 8 (which is an amazing chapter), Paul says,

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Rom 8:9-11)

In his letter to the Colossian church, he says,

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you,the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

So what is the point of having Christ in us? Well, for one thing, He reminds us of the things we have been taught in God’s word. He tells us when we are doing wrong, He encourages us to do right. He proves we are children of God (Rom 8:15-16). He intercedes for us, when we don’t know how or what to pray (Rom 8:27-28)

So God’s amazing plan wasn’t just that he would come to earth as a human being and die for all our sins, it was also that he was going to leave a piece of Himself in each and every one of us who accept his gift. The gift is not only to help us while we remain here, but also to empower us to share the good news so that others come to Him too.

But there’s more.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor 1:21-22)

So what is to come?

Remember what Jesus said in John 14:2-3 and what the angels said in Acts 1:11?

He’s gone to make a place for us. He left His Spirit with us, to help us while He’s gone. He’s coming back for us!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess 4:16-17)

So God’s amazing plan was that He would come as a human, and live a sinless life so that He would be the perfect sacrifice for sin. That way we would be able to fellowship with Him like Adam and Eve did in the garden before they sinned. For those of us who accept His gift, he seals the deal with His Holy Spirit which He put in us to help us know Him and lead others to Him. Then when it’s time, He is going to come back and get us, so that we can live with Him, in His presence for eternity.

We could say a lot more about that, but we’ve gone long here. We may do another series just on the subject of eternity…or at least the little bit we know about it.

I have to ask. Do you know Jesus? Have you accepted the gift he freely offers? If not, please don’t wait. Accept Him as your savior and your Lord today. Get buried in the waters of baptism and rise up to walk in your new life! Will your life be perfect? Of course not, we still live in a broken, fallen world, but you’ll be able to say with the apostle Paul:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers>neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 35-39)

Hallelujah!

Connie

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God’s Amazing Plan. Part 3: If You Want Something Done Right…

I closed my last post on this subject by saying “It’s time”, then I left you hanging for over a year. For that I apologize.

In the 400 hundred years or so since the close of the Old Testament, the children of Israel had been under the rule of the Persians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, The Syrians under Seleucus (one of Alexander’s generals), The Egyptians under Ptolemy (another of Alexander’s generals),  The Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes (who tried to exterminate them), themselves under the Maccabees, and finally, the Romans.

God’s timing is always perfect. He had told Micah the messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
(Micah 5:2)

Mary was chosen to be the mother of the messiah, but she was in Nazareth, and she was poor. Isn’t it amazing that Caesar Augustus chose that particular time to order a census?

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:1-7)tLuk0215Dore_TheNativity

In the first two posts, we looked at the hints of God’s plan for redeeming mankind. By the time of the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Jews (as they were then called) were fully aware that the Messiah was coming. They just weren’t expecting him to come like he did. They definitely weren’t expecting him to be born in a stable.

They had definite ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to do. He would be a great ruler, who would rid them of the Romans, and restore Israel as it had been under David and Solomon. That was how they understood the Old Testament prophecies, but there were some things they missed. To be honest, I don’t know how they could have understood.

We have looked at Isaiah 9: 6-7 before, but let’s look at it again

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Verse seven describes the Messiah they were expecting, but go back to verse six. It says the child will be called “Mighty God”. Wait a minute. No one gets to be called “God” but God. Anything else is blasphemy. How could this person be called “God”?

If He is God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God, and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)

The Word was God. Since the Word became flesh, that means God became flesh. God became a human being. Jesus said as much Himself.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:54-58)

Jesus called Himself “I am”. He was calling Himself “God”, a stoning offense to be sure, unless He was telling the truth.

So part of God’s amazing plan was that He would come to live among us as a human being.

I am not even going to pretend that I understand how the Trinity works. I don’t know how God could be Father in Heaven, and Son on Earth, but I know that He was.

Ok, but why would God do that? What is the point? Well, I guess you can say “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.” In order for mankind to be redeemed, there would need to be a blood sacrifice, because;

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

The animals sacrificed had to be perfect. They had to be “without spot or blemish”. A human stand-in for mankind would have to be perfect too. Do you know anyone like that? No, I don’t either. There isn’t anyone.

God knew there was no way that any human being would ever be able to live a sinless life, but He could. The “Word” was with God from the beginning, was in fact, God, and then became flesh and came to live with us. Jesus was God coming to earth as a human being, to live as human beings live. He had the same physical needs, and He was subjected to the same temptations (Matt 4). The difference is that He didn’t succumb to the temptations. He remained sinless, and as such was able to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)

All of that was laid out in the prophecies too, but they just didn’t get it.

We’ve already looked at portions of Isaiah 53, but let’s start at the end of Chapter 52, and read through 53.

13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

1Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52: 13-16; 53)

I have to wonder who the learned men; the rabbis, the scribes, etc, thought Isaiah was talking about? Did they understand this was about the messiah? Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they did what many of us do when we come to a passage we don’t understand.  Maybe they just skipped over it.

John the baptist understood.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Jesus told both His disciples and His enemies, several times that He would die. He told them why He would die, and that He would be resurrected.

 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:13-17)

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again (Mark 8:23)

 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-32)

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) the plan, but they still didn’t get it. When he was arrested, tried, found guilty and crucified, they were heartbroken, terrified and confused.

tLuk2334Dore_TheCrucifixion

Jesus was crucified during time of the Passover. Like the lamb without defect, he was sacrificed, and his blood covers us, saving us from the second death. Paul says,

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7)

In the last post, we read that on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would offer a blood sacrifice for himself, and then one for the people. This was the only day of the year the priest could go behind the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Ex 26:33)

This was not a little flimsy curtain. From what I could gather from different sources, it was something like 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matt 27:50-51)

The Most Holy Place was no longer hidden. How do you suppose that happened?

God sacrificed Himself for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him. A Day of Atonement would no longer be necessary.

the veil was Torn

John says,

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

When Jesus said “it is finished”, He meant His redemptive work was done. He gave up His own life, to atone for all of us.

That part was done, but there was much more to come.

Connie

Free Indeed

osman-rana-293976
Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Last week, we started talking about sin.

We are going to continue that conversation next week, and maybe a week or two after that, but today, I’m talking about freedom.

On July 4th, Americans will celebrate Independence Day; the day that our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The document told King George of England that we no longer considered ourselves his subjects. Eight years later, we finally earned our freedom, but even then, not all were free. That wouldn’t come until 1865, when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery.

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Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Freedom is a big deal to us, but if you asked the average person what freedom means, you will probably get a host of different answers.

Jesus talked about freedom too.

17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”(Luke 4:17-21)

Jesus told the Jews in the synagogue that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-34)

Jesus said that his followers would know the truth and the truth would set them free. Later he would tell Thomas

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16)

So His followers would know the truth that would set them free, and the Truth is Jesus Himself, as the only way to God.

Set them free from what?

Sin.

38“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)

How did He do that?

He died.

aaron-burden-233841
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Rom 6:7)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb: 9:15)

and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (Rev 1:5)

Why?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But why was it even necessary?

Next week.

Connie

Love Your Neighbor

This week, my husband and I have been working on a pet project of mine. We’re turning our living room into a library. Although there are more shelves to finish, we brought in several boxes of books that have been stored in the barn for the last two and half years so that I could start sorting them. Many of those books belonged to my grandpa who, as I’ve told you before, was a preacher. I’m talking Bible commentaries, sermon notes, books on Christian living, etc. What always surprises me is the number of books he kept, with whose authors he disagreed. I know this because he would often write a scathing one or two sentence commentary inside the front cover or on the end pages of the offending work. I think he didn’t want what he considered bad information getting into innocent hands. Any time I pick up one of his books, I always look for those remarks. Then I make a mental note to read it myself and see what the problem was. Grandpa came from a time when annotating books was commonplace, so I can sometimes see what he was thinking as he read these books. That goes for the “good” ones too. That is a treasure to me now because, while Grandpa is still living, his mind is a victim of dementia.

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One of Grandpa’s comments. He wrote, “This book is not fit for man or beast”. This is a three volume set from the 19th century. He wrote the same thing in all three volumes.

This week, as I was sorting through the books, I found a small book called “The Greatest Thing in the World” by a man called Henry Drummond. For some reason, I picked it up and flipped through it. It is a short book, only 63 pages, but what a powerful message. The subject of the book is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the Love chapter. Mr. Drummond’s message is that the kind of love described in that chapter is indeed, the “greatest thing in the world”. The reason I am sharing this with you now, is because of one passage I read. I felt like God was telling me I was on the right track for this post which I had been working on since last week. It was a passage that Grandpa had also marked so he could find it again. Coincidence, you say? Maybe, but I was sorting close to a thousand books. What are the odds? I’ll post what I read further down. Oh, the book was written in the 1880’s.

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Last week, we talked about Loving God. Now we’re going to talk about loving others.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The Old Testament command to “love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Lev 19:18)

and

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:34)

What Jesus is saying, is that obeying those two commandments will cover all the rest of the law. If you love God, you will want to do what He says. You will do what he tells you to do, and not do what He forbids. Additionally, if you love your neighbor as yourself, you are going to treat them well, leaving you to, again, be obedient to the law.

This is what Mr. Drummond said in his little book.

 “And you remember the profound remark which Paul makes elsewhere, ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Did you ever think what he meant by that? In those days men were working their passage to Heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments, and the hundred and ten other commandments which they had manufactured out of them. Christ said, I will show you a more simple way. If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things, without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfil the whole law. And you can readily see for yourselves how that must be so. Take any of the commandments. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.’ If a man love God, you will not require to tell him that. Love is the fulfilling of that law. ‘Take not His name in vain.’ Would he ever dream of taking His name in vain if he loved Him? ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ Would he not be too glad to have one day in seven to dedicate more exclusively to the object of his affection? Love would fulfil all these laws regarding God. And so, if he loved Man, you would never think of telling him to honour his father and mother. He could not do anything else. It would be preposterous to tell him not to kill. You could only insult him if you suggested that he should not steal -.how could he steal from those he loved? It would be superfluous to beg him not to bear false witness against his neighbour. If he loved him it would be the last thing he would do. And you would never dream of urging him not to covet what his neighbours had. He would rather they possessed it than himself. In this way ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ It is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments, Christ’s one secret of the Christian life.” (The Greatest Thing in the World: pp 15-17)

See what I mean? By the way, you can read the entire text here.

In John 13, Jesus goes a little further. Speaking to His disciples during the last supper, He says,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John13:34-35)

As Christians, we love the Lord, and we love each other.

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:2-3)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6)

Yeah, I know. It sounds great, but the practice isn’t always easy. No, it isn’t. We live in a fallen world full of broken people. We are pulled by our own weaknesses. No one ever said it was easy. No one ever said that we would get it right every time this side of heaven.

So, how are we able to love God, our neighbor, and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

The last two thirds of the fourth chapter of 1 John is about how this love is possible.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. if anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:7-21)

It’s all about the relationship. When we truly understand how very much God loves us, the extending of that love to others begins to come naturally. God gave us His spirit to help us. It isn’t however, like flipping switch. It’s a growing process. One that will take the rest of our lives.

In his introduction to Mr. Drummond’s little book, evangelist D.L. Moody writes, “Would that we could all move into that Love chapter and live there.”

Amen!

Connie

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ death.

I’ve spent the last few days talking to the Lord, and trying to determine what He wanted me to say about it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

That’s it.

God intended for us to have a personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve had it in the garden, before they disobeyed God’s word and put the whole Earth under a curse.

God longs to have that relationship with us again, but only the sacrifice of a sinless life could do that.  That’s a problem, because there isn’t one human being who can live a totally sinless life.

God, however had a plan. He would send His son to live that sinless life, so that he would be the perfect sacrifice.

That’s what He did.

He sent Jesus to live as a human being. The only difference was that He would live a perfect life, and then, when it was the right time, He would offer up His own life in our place.

And that is what Jesus did.

When the work was complete,

…Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

What was finished? Our redemption.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

Hold on though, that’s not the end of the story…it’s just the beginning.

Like this song performed by David Phelps

Connie

Songs for Sunday: All Glory Laud and Honor

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which culminates next Sunday on Easter, or as I prefer to call it, Resurrection Day! I can think of all kinds of music for the death, burial, and glorious resurrection of my Lord, but songs commemorating the triumphal entry into Jerusalem escape me, except for this one.  The funny thing is that I don’t think I’ve ever sung it, except for a few lines that were included in an Easter cantata. It is in several hymnals, including the one we use at our church. I heard someone else sing it once, a long time ago.

The words  were written by Theodulph of Orleans about the year 820. Theodulph, according to Cyberhymnal.com, was appointed as Bishop of Orleans, France by Charlemagne, but when the king died, his successor was suspicious of the bishop and had him imprisoned.  It was during his imprisonment, that he wrote the words to “All Glory Laud and Honor”.  He never regained his freedom, and died in 821. He was about sixty years old.

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

The music was written in 1615, by German composer, Melchior Teschner, who called the piece “St Theodulph”. John M. Neal translated the Latin words into English in 1851.

Here is a YouTube video from WorshipOnYT

For me, the funny thing is that, when I heard it sung way back when, St Theodulph was not the melody. I don’t know what it was, and I have never heard it that way again. I was in high school, and our preacher’s wife sang it. It must have been during some kind of rehearsal for Palm Sunday/Easter, because I remember being there a lot when she rehearsed. The melody was unique, and it stuck with me.  If anyone else has an idea of what it could have been, feel free to comment below.

See you in church!

Connie

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday always comes the Sunday before Easter. On that day, we remember Jesus’
“Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. The event is recorded in all four gospels: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-40, and John 12:12-19.

Before we look at those, look at Zechariah chapter nine. You can read it online here.

This prophecy promises deliverance for God’s people. However, if you look closely, you’ll see something odd.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zech 9:9)

Normally, victorious kings ride horses; majestic, magnificent horses. Here it says the king will be riding a…donkey? Yes, that is what it says.

Let’s look at Matthew’s account of what happened that day.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matt: 21:1-11)

Mark doesn’t really add anything to the narrative, but Luke says some of the Pharisees were offended at what the crowd was shouting.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)

John adds,

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:16-19)

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey, He was proclaiming Himself as Messiah. It was just a few days after He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and the multitudes came out to welcome to Him. The phrase “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” is from Psalm 118, which contains another piece of messianic prophecy. Calling Him “Son of David” referred to prophecy from Isaiah and 2nd Samuel.

By shouting those things, the people were also proclaiming Jesus as messiah. The people knew the prophecies. They really didn’t understand what it was all about though. They were looking for an earthly king. During Jesus time on earth, Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Jewish people desperately wanted deliverance from the Romans, and they expected their messiah to deliver them. He didn’t though, and the crowds that welcomed Him would soon be calling for His crucifixion. If they had really understood the prophecies, they would have known that was part of the plan.

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“Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) oil on canvas, public domain, downloaded from Indianapolis Museum of Art

What are your expectations of Jesus?

Connie