The Resurrection of the Lord

(Luke 24:1-12).

The most fundamental teaching of the new covenant and the core principle of Christianity is the resurrection of the dead. Without the resurrection the rest of the christian covenant does not hold together. It is through the resurrection of Jesus that man receives release from his sins and the freedom from law so that he can come and stand before God. And it is in this section of the scripture that we see Jesus resurrected and the commencement of the new covenant age.

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Jesus Fulfilled the Law

(Luke 6:17-19)

After appointing the twelve we see Jesus comes down from the mountain and is greeted by a great crowd of people. His fame had spread considerably and his ministry was well into stride at this time.

At this point he is about to commence what has become known as the sermon on the mount. As we often see, God confirmed the message by the miracles and the signs that were performed. Here in this section of scripture all the people sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed all who were ill with diseases or possessed by unclean spirits.

Once this cleansing work was done Jesus settled down to teach the people the truth of God and the message of the New Covenant. His message was a remarkable message for it was so different to that taught by the scribes and Pharisees. I was considering this earlier today and it struck me that the difference between what the Pharisees and scribes taught and what Jesus taught can be seen in the scripture in Matthew 5:17, which is part of that writer’s version of the sermon on the mount. Matthew wrote, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” I had never before today recognised how profound this statement is and my mind began to reel with the understanding of this scripture, which I will attempt to explain.

Jesus said to the people that, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23:2-3) So he is saying that the scribes and Pharisees were teaching the law, but not very good at keeping it. Why? Because they approached the law as if it were based upon works. They were KEEPERS of the law, that is, they were COMPLIANT to what the law taught by doing what is required, that is by doing the works of the law.

But in Jesus we see a man who did not come to just keep the law, but to FULFIL the law. Think about the word “fulfil” for a moment. To fulfil something is to be completely and totally immersed in it; to live it or to be filled fully in it. The Lord asked the Pharisees at another time which is the greatest of the laws and we found that it was to love God and to love your neighbour. Paul also said, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) So when Jesus fulfilled the law he did so by living a life of love, which is to be in the nature of God for God is love.

But the Pharisees, indeed Israel in total, failed because they did not approach the law from the perspective of faith but as if it were based upon works, as Paul wrote in Romans 9:31-32. Now this is important for Jesus certainly approached the law from the basis of faith, but how does this work? Well first you must believe that the law is the right thing to do and it is what God wants. If you don’t do that, then you are like a Pharisee and just a keeper of the law. But when you BELIEVE it is right, not just because it was written on tablets of stone but because it is the right thing to do, then you internalise the law and live “in it” and FULFIL it rather than living “by it” and UNDER it. You do what is right no longer because the law says, “Thou shalt…” but because you say to yourself, “I shalt…” because it is the nature of God. And when that transformation takes place you no longer need the law for you do by nature what the law requires. You become committed rather than compliant and so prove the truth of the love that is in the laws of God. For the law is based also upon love. God gave the law to his people because he loved them and wanted them to live the best life possible. The law gave them boundaries so that they would not hurt themselves or others and this was based on God’s love. He did not give them the law as a stick or a set of manacles to bind them, albeit there is an element of bondage under law, but instead he gave them the law to protect and free them from sin by defining sin so they could escape it and do right. Most could not see this.

But who needs to be told by a law to do right when you do by nature what is right? Does God need a law to tell him right from wrong? No, because the law was laid down for the unjust and ungodly; for sinners and not for the righteous. It was laid down so that sin would be revealed for sin and could be dealt with and also so that God’s wisdom and knowledge between right and wrong could be taught to the people for their growth and protection. But when Jesus came he released those people from law who come to him so that they can learn to “live” what is right and not just “do” what is right.

This is also why Paul wrote “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31) Jesus set us free from the law through his death and baptism so that we could be transformed into his image by the Holy Spirit. But even though we are not under law we do not throw it away. Rather we become immersed in God’s love as we learn and grow, and through the transformation of the Spirit we find the place where we stand as Jesus stood; in fulfilment of the law. When we walk in Spirit we are applying the love of God to the weaknesses in our nature to overcome those problems in us that lead to failure and sin, so that we can be made perfect as Christ is perfect. But God has done this beforehand so that we first receive this righteousness by faith, and in time we will receive it by fact.

There is much more I am discovering about this matter and it is a great revelation. I hope you find value in this too and as the Lord unfolds this to me I will share it with you for your thoughts and comments as you see appropriate.

Rise and Walk

(Luke 5:17-26)

When Jesus was healing the paralytic let down through the roof he asked the Pharisees which was easier; to say “Rise and walk” or to say, “You sins are forgiven.” This is an interesting question and shows again both the power of God and how Jesus views the world in a different way to the way that man does.

rise and walk your sins are forgivenIf we look at things from a human perspective, if a paralytic was before us we would think it impossible to say rise and walk. From a human perspective no man could just say the words “Rise and walk” and expect the paralytic to stand up and wander off. For the people in this world such a thing is not possible for if they could do this there would be no paralytics.

But to say to someone your sins are forgiven is certainly much easier from a human perspective. If someone has committed a sin against you personally, you have the ability and the authority to forgive that person of the sin they did against you and to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” You may not and cannot forgive the sins they commit against others, but where you are involved then it is in your power to forgive sins. This is not the way that the Pharisees saw things of course for they said that Jesus was blaspheming by saying “Your sins are forgiven,” for they believe that only God can forgive sins. And while it is true that only God can take away sins, man does have the ability to forgive sins when those sins are committed against you. Jesus showed us this in the Lord’s prayer and expanded on this in Matthew 6:14-15 saying, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So it is essential that we forgive sins against us so that we can receive the forgiveness from God. Quite a different approach to what the Pharisees were saying. And of course Jesus IS God so he can forgive and take away all sin anyway, which is what he showed in the scriptures under review here.

So when we look at both these matters from a human perspective, a man might consider there is some possibility to forgive sin where they are the wronged person, but there is no way that any man can say to a paralytic, “Rise and walk.”

But Jesus sees things differently than man does. For Jesus the ability to say to a person “Rise and walk” is no issue at all. He can call upon the power of God who made man in the first place and fix the problems causing paralysis with no effort at all. In the same way he can also not only forgive sins, but take them away and blot them out completely.

But which of these is more important, to say “Raise and walk” or to say, “Your sins are forgiven?” Again the human perspective would be to have the man regain the ability to walk. But in Jesus eyes that is the less important aspect for it is the forgiveness of sin that is important. To be maimed, lame or blind is of no significance at all when compared to being sin free. It is whether a person is a sinner or sin free that will determine whether they can enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus made this point saying in Matthew 18:7-9,

7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

So whether a person is a paralytic or maimed or lame or blind or anything else of a physical nature is unimportant. It is more important to be set free from sin for this is how you shall receive entry into eternal life in the kingdom of God. And this is what Jesus was showing to the paralytic as well as the people. It is better to be set free from your sin for that has the greater reward, than to have anything of this world including the ability to walk.

But also in this scripture we see Jesus proving his point to the Pharisees and the people. They all believed it was impossible for a paralytic to rise and walk, but Jesus said to them, “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” (Verse 24 ) By saying this he was saying in effect that because he COULD say to the man to be healed and to rise and walk, it was the proof that he also had the power and authority to take away sins, which was far better and more important. It was proof also that he was not blaspheming but was doing the will and the work of God.

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Spreading the Gospel

(Luke 4:42-44)

Jesus quite often went into the wilderness and desolate places. It was perhaps the only time he could get a moment of space to pray and speak to God. In this section of scripture he goes into a desolate place but is followed by the people who would have kept him from departing if they could. But Jesus said to them that he had to preach the good news in other towns for that was the reason he was sent.

bible galatiansJesus was sent by God the Father to preach the good news of salvation to all of mankind. He came to commence this ministry and to spread the word and to call others to service as disciples to then continue to spreading the gospel. Clearly it was and is still well received when you consider that from one man, Jesus, there are now in the vicinity of over two billion people who call themselves Christians today.

In spite of the divisions among the churches over forms of worship and differences in doctrine, the fact is that at the foundation of all Christian belief is Jesus Christ himself. The essence of the Good News of the gospel is the fact that Jesus Christ came to offer mankind salvation from sin and freedom from bondage. There is no other way that any person can be set free from the passions and bondages of human nature, and especially from sin, than through knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Sure some people can gain release from physical addictions and bondages like alcoholism, drug addiction, nicotine and the like, but no man by himself can be set free from sin and the desires of the flesh.

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers this freedom. And best of all, it is a gift. You do not work for it, you cannot buy it, you cannot do anything to get it. You only need to accept it by faith.

But what should you believe? What is the basis of this faith that we are asked to accept about the life and message of Jesus Christ? How do you find this truth when there is such division in the churches over what is or is not the truth of Jesus Christ?

Well far be it from me to condemn the teachings of any of the churches for they all have something to offer, even if it is only a place to find Jesus. But it is important for every person to seek out their own salvation. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit as Counsellor, comforter, teacher and guide so that we can find the truth. So the starting point is to ask Jesus for the Holy Spirit to work in your life and bring you understanding. Read the bible and take in his teachings for the word contains the truth of the Gospel and the words of God to guide all of us.

You may actually need to step outside of the churches to find the truth. The writer of Hebrews shows us this as an analogy when speaking about the death of Jesus. He wrote in Hebrews 13:11-13 the following words:

11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13 Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.

When the animals used in the blood sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem were burned they were taken out of the temple and out of the city to be burned. Likewise when Jesus suffered and died for us he was taken out of the city and put to death. The analogy here is that as the animal bodies were taken out and away from the temple, Jesus too was taken away and out from the temple. The animals gave their blood as sacrifice for sin and Jesus gave his blood as sacrifice for our sin, and much more too. Thus the writer tells us to go out from the temple and perhaps to step away from organised religion so that we can find the Saviour.

Am I saying that Jesus cannot be found in the churches? Absolutely not! What I am saying though is that you may find the Saviour, but to advance in Christ and to learn the truth may require you to look outside of the comfort of the church. There are many things taught in many churches that are not in accordance with the truth of the gospel. To find the truth might require you to stand outside the church because your salvation cannot rely on anyone else but yourself and Jesus Christ.

On the Day of Judgement there will be no advocate between you and God, no priest, pastor, minister, clergy or whatever. On the final day it will be you alone standing before the Lord to give account and thus you may need to step outside the church to find the truth about Jesus and where you stand. Jesus went into the wilderness and sometimes we need to go into the wilderness as well.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Billy Alexander)

Jesus Heals the Sick

(Luke 4:38-41)

In many places through the gospels, Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons. This was a significant part of the message of Jesus and also part of the work of the Apostles when they commenced their ministry. In fact when Jesus first sent them out in pairs it was to preach the good news of the Gospel and to have authority to cast out demons and to heal every disease and infirmity. (Matthew 10:1) So why was this such an important part of the ministry?

healing the sick and infirmWhen Jesus performed these miraculous works he could not be hidden. People came from all around to receive these gifts of healing and release from Jesus as gifts from God. And these miracles bore witness to the ministry he brought as well as to his authenticity as the Christ from God.

Then we see that Jesus told the disciples when they were to spread the word that these would be some of the signs to accompany the message. Healing of the sick and casting out demons would accompany those who believed and the Lord would confirm the truth of the message by giving these signs. He showed this at the end of Mark 16.

We also see that Jesus was preaching a message of freedom and release from bondage. Both demon possession and sickness are physical and spiritual forms of bondage from which men need release. The message of liberty provides release from all forms of bondage and slavery, including these afflictions.

But do we still have access to this healing power today? Absolutely! I can testify from personal experience the power of God to heal in my own life. I have personal testimonies of the power of God to heal me on my website at this link. The Lord has healed me of a number of serious and not so serious illnesses. And there were reasons for the healings and things learned both by myself and others.

But aside from my own experience, does the Lord still offer the gift of healing the sick to the church? Yes he does, and the process is described in the book of James in chapter 5 verses 13-15. It is quite a simple process which you or I can readily take advantage of when or if the need arises. If you are ill all you need to do is this. Approach the elders of the church and have them anoint you with oil and pray in faith for your healing, and believe that you will receive the healing from the Lord. That’s it!

The Lord does not want his people to suffer unnecessarily, which is why he has given this authority to the elders of the church. It is not his will that anyone suffer and why this healing power is still available to us today. It may not be a miraculous or instantaneous healing as happened in the Lord’s day, but sometimes it happens that way too. What is important for you when you are suffering is to be humble, come to the Lord in obedience to the word and seek the anointing with oil and prayer from the elders for your healing. The Lord has given them his authority for this purpose so that you don’t have to suffer needlessly. So do not be afraid to seek his gift in this way and like those in the bible receive the healing on offer.

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Casting Out Demons

(Luke 4:31-37)

It was evident that the demons knew who Jesus was. In this section of scripture we see a man possessed by a demon and the demon crying out to Jesus, “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Verse 34) The demons recognised the power of God in Jesus and stood in fear knowing they were on the brink of destruction.

casting out demonsJesus silenced the demons in this man telling them to be quiet and to come out of him. The demons obeyed for even they recognised the power and authority of God. This reminds me of the words of James who said, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder.” (James 2:19) And yet many of those who lived at that time and saw his mighty works and heard his ministry and teachings did not believe. It is no different today for still there are many who refuse to believe in the only name that can save a man from sin and death, and give the hope of the promise of eternal life which is all possible in the name of Jesus.

The demons stood in fear of Christ. The demons believed and recognised Jesus’ power, but they will not be saved. The salvation that exists today is given to men and women who believe in the saving power and the grace of God to bring us to perfection in Jesus Christ. Perfection is the ultimate aim, and it is possible. Jesus was perfect and we are to be transformed into his image, which is perfection. Jesus himself taught that if we follow him we can become perfect saying, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) The key to perfection was not in selling and giving to the poor, for that is a ministry of works. But the key is in following Jesus. In the example from Matthew Jesus was talking to a rich young man and he had a problem with money. Thus the Lord told him to forgo all of that for it would stand between him and God and prevent him from following Jesus. The key is to let nothing stand in the way of your salvation through following Jesus.

Man is in bondage. This man in the Luke verses was in bondage to demon possession and Jesus set him free. The rich man in the Matthew verses was in bondage to the love of money and he needed to be set free but was not prepared to make the break.

The basis of the work and ministry of Jesus was to set man free from all things that bind him. Jesus came to take away the sins of the world as John the Baptist said. (John 1:29) Casting out demons showed that Jesus had the power to set us free from spiritual bondage. Healing the sick showed that he had the power to set man free from physical bondage too. But the focal point in all of this is that we need to have faith to receive the freedom that the Lord offers. Even among Christians there are many who are still bound in things they should or could be set free from, if they would allow the Lord to do the work in their lives. Too often we stand in the way and try to do it all ourselves, but we must remember that this is a spiritual war and the weapons of our warfare against all forms of bondage are spiritual. Let us then turn ourselves over to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who will fight on our behalf and who has already won the victory which he now offers to those who believe.

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Freedom and Liberty

(Luke 4:14-21)

Here we see the beginning of Jesus ministry where he speaks of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. The prophecy said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Verse 18-19)

libertyThere are several messages in these words, but there are two things that strike me most. First that this is a high level description of the role that Jesus was to play and the ministry he had come to give. And second, the underlying basis or principle of his ministry was about freedom and liberty.

At a high level we see in this scripture that Jesus came because he was anointed to preach good news to the poor. His gospel is good news to all of mankind, and certainly in a spiritual sense we are all poor. He also came to provide the recovery of sight to the blind and once again, not only to those who cannot see, but also to those who are spiritually blind. His word opens our eyes to the things of God which are not perceived by man. His truth opens our eyes to understand the things and the ways of God that will lead us to eternal life.

And in terms of liberty we see this message repeated time and time again throughout the scriptures. Consider the scriptures as examples like:

“The truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) “…and having been set free from sin…” (Rom 6:18) “Now we are discharged from the law.” (Rom 7:6) And there are many, many more.

The very essence of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is freedom. He came that we may be set free from everything to do with this life. Man is born under great bondages; bondage to sin, bondage to law, bondage to the evil passions and desire of the flesh and bondage to death. Just look at the state of the world today and it is clear that man is in bondage to all manner of destructive devices, attitudes and passions that lead to his destruction.

But Christ appeared so that all of these and other bondages could be removed. He came to set you free. He came to “…proclaim release to the captives and … to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” as mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah. All of us are those who are in need of release from bondage and who are in oppression. Many may not believe they are in oppression, but every person on this earth is under a ruler whose desire is to destroy. The ruler of this world who has power over all the things of this world is Satan as mentioned in my previous post. Satan is not interested in the welfare and comfort of men. His purpose is to deceive and destroy mankind as he is the great opposer of God. It is God’s will for all of mankind to find salvation, but they will not as many will be deceived and taken by Satan to their ultimate destruction.

Jesus came to proclaim release from Satan’s clutches. He offers us life into eternity if we follow in his ways. His great offer to us is peace that we do not have in this world. A slave is not at peace, only a free man can find peace. Jesus came to make all off us free men and women so that he could bestow on us the gifts and inheritance of God. Look to him for your salvation and find the freedom he is giving to you without cost.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Joy Freschly)

The Sons Are Free

(Matthew 17:24-27)

There are a number of lessons in this short section to do with the paying of the temple tax. Under the Mosaic Law there was a tax to be paid to the temple. When asked if Jesus paid the tax peter responded that he did. Jesus used this instance to give Peter and us a valuable insight into the working of the kingdom of God.

Jesus asked Peter whether taxes are paid to the king by their sons or others. Naturally the sons of kings do not pay taxes so Peter responded that others paid taxes. Jesus then made the point that the sons then are free from paying any taxes, tolls or tributes.

When we consider that the temple was the temple of God and supposedly operating for the kingdom of God on earth, then in fact Jesus being the Son of God was exempt from the tax. The kingdom over which the temple was ruling was the kingdom of God. Jesus as the Son of God was exempt. Likewise we who enter into God’s kingdom through Jesus’ death are sons of God too, so we now are also exempt from paying taxes, tolls and tribute to the king.

Jesus also made the statement that the sons of the kingdom are free. Jesus came so that we could be set free from sin and death. He also opened the way for man to enter into God’s kingdom through his death and resurrection. As we have put on Jesus death through baptism, we have also received life through his resurrection. This can be seen in Romans 6:3-4 saying, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Through Christ we have entered into the kingdom of God and are sons of God. As we are therefore now sons of His kingdom, we are free in relation to all aspects of the kingdom. We are free from sin, law, toll and tribute. We have passed from death to life and now live by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Now in Peter’s case he had already responded for Jesus, which he should not have done without asking. We too should not respond on behalf of another without checking first also. But rather than tell Peter he was wrong and that he should go back and rectify his mistake, Jesus took the route of compassion and mercy. Instead he said to Peter to go catch a fish and he would find a shekel in the mouth of the first fish he caught. Rather than anger the temple tax collectors he was instructed to pay this shekel to them, half for Jesus and half for Peter.

So in effect even though Peter had wrongly said Jesus would pay the tax, Jesus in ultimately did not pay it anyway as the money did not come from his purse or efforts. He remained free being the son of the true king, the kingdom of God.