Essential Questions: Did Jesus have an earthly life after his ressurection?

A numbers of years ago, I met a woman who had no idea that Jesus spent any time on earth after his resurrection.  We had a deeply fascinating conversation about the fact that Jesus spent 40 days on earth between his resurrection and his ascension into heaven.  It is because of this conversation that I decided to make this question my blog post this week.  Given that we are currently in the 40 day period as part of the Church’s liturgical year, I thought it was appropriate to look at this issue this week.

There are several stories in the Bible about  Jesus’ encounters with his disciples after his resurrection.  These meetings each tell us something about Jesus after his resurrection.

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Thomas encounters the Risen Jesus.(Can Stock)

 

(1) Jesus had a physical body.

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:11-18 ESV)

Jesus was standing there in front of Mary in physical form.  Mary thought he was another person; the gardner.  She did not think the man she saw was some form of a spirit.  Yet, Mary did not recognize Jesus at first.  Perhaps it was grief.  Perhaps he looked different.  Perhaps she wasn’t expecting to see someone she thought had died three days earlier.  Whatever it was, Mary did not recognize Jesus right away.  Yet, there was something about the way that he said her name that caused her to recognize him right away.  There was no doubt that it was Jesus.

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24: 37-39)

Again, it is clear here that Jesus has a physical body that his disciples can touch.

(2) Jesus could walk and talk.

Not only did Jesus talk to Mary was understood.  He talked to his disciples in all his encounters.  He talked to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus while he walked with them.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”…So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (Luke 24:13-18, 28-31)

(3)  Jesus could eat.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit….And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-38, 41-43 ESV)

It is very clear from this encounter that Jesus could eat.  Food didn’t just drop through him as though he were a spirit.  In fact, Jesus specifically ate in front of the disciples to prove that he was there in bodily form.

(4)  The marks of the crucifixion remain on his body.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20-21 ESV)

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:24-29 ESV)

Jesus’ body still has the scars from the crucifixion in his hands and his feet from where the nails held him to the cross.  The scar also remains on his side where the Roman soldiers put their sword into him to see if he was really dead.

(5) The normal laws of physics did not seem to apply to Jesus anymore.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  (John 20:19-20 ESV)

The disciples were behind locked doors, and Jesus appeared to them.  He did not need to have the doors opened.  He just appeared in the room.

He could also leave just as easily.  After he broke the bread with the disciples after their walk to Emmaus, he vanished from their sight after they recognized him.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:28-33 ESV)

Check out the stories for yourself.  See what else you can learn about Jesus and his life on earth after his resurrection.  Share what you have learned in the comments.

John 20

Luke 24

 

 

Essential Questions: What do you mean Jesus rose from the dead?

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Today is the day after Easter Sunday – the day that we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead.  What do we mean that Jesus rose from the dead?  Exactly that.  Jesus died on Friday and on Sunday, he was alive again.  On Sunday, the tomb was empty.  Jesus had risen in body from the dead. (John 20:1-10)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7).

God had restored Jesus physically from the dead.  Jesus had a body.  He was not just a spirit.  The risen Jesus was seen by many people after his resurrection.  For example, John, chapter 20 lists three encounters.

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).( John 20:14-16)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[b] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”(John 20:26)

Paul’s letter first letter to the Corinthians also talks about several of the accounts.

Now perhaps the story of the resurrection seems too fanciful to be believable.  Paul also addresses these questions:

For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ must still be dead. And if he is still dead, then all our preaching is useless and your trust in God is empty, worthless, hopeless; and we apostles are all liars because we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, and of course that isn’t true if the dead do not come back to life again. If they don’t, then Christ is still dead, and you are very foolish to keep on trusting God to save you, and you are still under condemnation for your sins; in that case, all Christians who have died are lost! And if being a Christian is of value to us only now in this life, we are the most miserable of creatures. (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)

But, why should the resurrection be any different from any other part of our salvation story?  The bible is full of  stories which seem crazy.  Resurrection from the dead is no stranger than anything else God has done in the story of salvation.  How about the sea that was divided?  How about the story of the walls of Jericho which came down after being walked around seven times and yelled at?  How about the story of Daniel who spent the night sleeping with lions?  The list is long.  Take some time and look at some of these Old Testament stories.

As I see it, either we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and people saw him, or we don’t.  However, I can’t see how you can believe some of the  other stories of the bible and not believe this one.  God does crazy.

As Paul puts it:

So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

For believers in Christ, Easter celebrates the pivotal point in history when God restored our relationship to Him.  For non-believers, Easter is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 1:18).  If we are wrong in our belief, we have lost nothing.  BUT, if we are right, we have the ultimate secret to happiness and eternal life that the world so desperately is seeking.

What do you believe?

 

 

 

Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Today’s post as part of our Holy Week series has been written by Mark Latulipe!

Happy Easter! – ALLELUIA! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

Easter Sunday – the day that we remember the incredible and historical event that changed it all. On Good Friday Jesus hung on a cross and carried the weight of all our sin. He paid the cost of that sin, which is death; but it doesn’t end there. After his death on the cross and burial, Jesus rose and came up out of the tomb and was alive again. Not even death could hold Him down. Jesus did all this to accomplish everything that was promised and He did it because he loves more than we can comprehend.

Luke 24: 1-49 – This passage that has been on my mind this Easter season.  We read about three encounters that happen after Jesus had risen: the women at the tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the other disciples. The ones I want to talk about are the encounters with the disciples.

First, we have the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. They were talking about what had happened – Jesus on the cross- and this “guy” comes up to them and asks them “what’s up” (paraphrasing). On any other day this would have been normal question; but on this day it was not. The disciples’ reaction was, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v18)

Given their emotional state, their snappy maybe even snarky remark was understandable. They “explained” to this guy what had happened and he turns around and says to them that they don’t even know what really happened. He explained to them that they were being foolish because despite knowing the scriptures and despite knowing what Jesus had told them before his death, they still believe that Jesus was actually going to come back from death. (Oh snap, they just got told!) So they continued their conversation with this man as they walked, still not recognizing that this man was Jesus. They didn’t realize it until he broke bread with them, just as He did before his death.

Then we have disciples. Fortunately they recognized Jesus or at least that this being, possibly a ghost, looked and sounded like Jesus. Even after all His teachings and all the time they followed Him before His death, it still took convincing from Jesus himself to make them believe. It took seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet for them to know that this was Jesus, alive again.

For me these encounters these people have with Jesus really shows our human nature and a struggle we all face. Despite knowing the scriptures or the story, and despite knowing Jesus, we still need to be reminded of who He is, what He did, and why He did it. We constantly need Jesus to say to us “hey, remember me, remember what I did for you, and remember why I did it.” We need that reminder sometimes daily, but that’s ok. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that we need reminding; those who knew Jesus best on this earth, who actually witnessed his death, still needed a reminder. And that’s what Easter is about; we celebrate and remember Jesus and the incredible things He did for us.

So take time this Easter, before church and before the family dinner, to sit and pray, and ask Jesus to encounter you, so that you can truly be reminded of “who He is, what He did, and why He did it” – Happy Easter!!!

Holy Week: Good Friday

Today’s blog post has been written by Laurin Vroom!

Hey there friends!

Today is what we call “Good Friday” also known as “Holy Friday.” It doesn’t seem so good when you think about what we’re celebrating today: The crucifixion of Christ. This is the day we remember what Jesus went through to bring us back into intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus was hit, mocked, spat on, whipped and ultimately hung on a cross next to the lowest of criminals. You can read the story in more detail in Matthew 27:27-55.

There is something good, no great, that came of all this torture and unfair treatment. Christ suffered out of an intense, selfless love, for humanity. He wanted to demonstrate how much He loved His Father, and what complete obedience and unconditional love looked like. He shed His blood, so that it would symbolically cover over our sin, and make us righteous so that we can once again be in an intimate relationship with God- no longer separated by sin. This is an incredible Truth to get our heads around.

I want to challenge you today, to sit somewhere comfortable, by yourself, read the story of the Cross and seriously reflect on what it means, and what Christ’s sacrifice means to you. Think about how hard it would be for you to forgive everyone who spat, hit, beat, whipped and mocked you if you were being killed for a crime you never committed. Think about Jesus’ words, and how super-human Jesus’ forgiveness is.

When Christ ascended to heaven, He later gave the gift of His Holy Spirit, so that this super-human power can live inside of us! This holy power of God, living in us, is what strengthens us in our faith, helps us forgive those who’ve wronged us, helps us love those who hate us, etc. Anything you think is too hard for you, you can look to the Cross, to the One who gave everything for you and you will always find the strength you need.

There is a song that is super appropriate that I encourage you to listen to as you reflect: Once and for All by Lauren Daigle.

Her song reminds us that we can remember, connect and experience the love of Christ, when we remember the Cross and what He did for us on Calvary. That even though you and I are like the criminals that hung next to Jesus- sinful, broken, selfish, screw-ups- He still extends His love and grace to us when we look to Him. She sings about laying down her life to live for Christ, just like He laid down His life for us. I’ll leave you with a few of her lyrics, and pray that on this Holy Day, you take the time to remember what a gracious, loving and selfless Savior we live for.

God I give You all I can today
These scattered ashes that are hid away
I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame
The empty places where I’ve worn Your name
Show me the love I say I believe

O Help me to lay it down
Oh, Lord I’ll lay it down

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my saviors loss
and In the crimson flowing from the cross
Pour over me, pour over me

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

Holy Week: Holy Thursday

Today’s Blog Post has been written by Tim Huyer!

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As we prepare for Good Friday, we consider the sacrifice of Christ and what his death means for us.

For me, the image of Jesus, hanging on the cross, uttering the words “It is finished” is one of the most powerful images I can imagine. While suffering indescribable torture – not just the physical torture of a horrific execution but also the much worse spiritual torture of bearing the wrath of God against all of our sins – he gasps out these three words.

These words, like all the words in Scripture, are a message to us. In this case, it was a message so important that, while literally suffocating to death (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2004/apr/08/thisweekssciencequestions), He found the strength and breath to say it to us.

So what do these three words mean? Just exactly was this “it” that is finished? Jesus did not follow grammar rules on avoiding ambiguous pronouns (https://www.cedarville.edu/~/media/Files/PDF/Writing-Center/Student/avoiding-vague-and-ambiguous-pronoun-references.pdf), so there is no clear antecedent to the word “it” in the Gospel. We must instead use other methods to find out what He meant.

We can rule out a few of the things that cannot be the “it” that He said. God’s work on earth is not finished. It continues.

The Word of God is not finished. There is plenty more scripture in the Bible.

Jesus’ time on earth is not finished. We know He rose again three days later. We also know He is coming again.

It isn’t even the last words He said on the cross. Those words, as we know, are found in Luke’s Gospel. (http://biblehub.com/luke/23-46.htm)

“It” must mean something else.

I think the “it” is the purpose for Jesus being nailed to that cross in the first place. The reason why Jesus became man and came to earth.

Jesus came to earth to die for us. He came to fulfill the Law, to atone for our sins, to reconcile us to God. He completed this task, this gift of unthinkable grace, on the cross.

The Bible speaks about our fall from grace. How we sinned and stopped walking with God, turning away from Him time and time again.

Everything changed the moment he spoke these three words.

Because of Jesus’ gift of his death, because of the blood of our Lord and Saviour, our fall is finished. Our being cast out is finished. Our being condemned to death and damnation is finished.

In a way, we can think of a new testament, a new story, beginning at this point. The “it” that is finished is the story of our fall. The story of our redemption is begun. That story will continue until He comes again in Glory and, speaking from the throne, says “It is done.” (http://biblehub.com/revelation/21-6.htm)

Essential Questions: Why the crucifixion?

I know that we haven’t gotten to Holy Week (the last week of Lent) yet, but I have decided to tackle the issue of the crucifixion today.  Often people wonder why Jesus had to die.  They question God’s action in sending his Son to die for sin.  Sometimes people see God as heartless or cruel for acting in this way.  As humans we have a hard time understanding why the crucifixion was necessary.  I won’t be so bold as to say I am going to explain it; but I do hope to give you some things to think about.  Perhaps you know all this information, but see what God has to say to you in it.  God is always speaking to us through the bible and helping us to grow in faith.

Jesus was executed like a common criminal.  In fact, he was hanging on a cross between two thieves (Matthew 27:38).  Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan to restore the relationship with humans.  Adam and Eve broke that relationship when they bought into the servant’s lie and did not believe God, essentially calling God a liar (Genesis 3:4-6).  Even in anger, God did not leave humanity hopeless.  Throughout the Old Testament, God tells His people about the plan; for example through the prophet Isaiah.

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We,who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!   (Isaiah 53:4-6 TLB (emphasis in original)).

The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23).  It is not just the cost of what we consider “big” sins, like murder.  It is the price of all sin.  Before Jesus’ death, an animal would be sacrificed.  It was symbolic in that all sin for the year was placed on that animal and the animal would die instead of the person.  Then Jesus came.  He took the place of the sacrificial animal and he took our place too.

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

Even Jesus said that he came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a random for may” (Matthew 20:28 ESV).

Perhaps you think that we should be able to fix our relationship by doing lots of good things.  We cannot do enough good work to  make up for our sin for two reasons. (1) We basically flawed so it is impossible for us to do that Romans 3:23. Frequently, we cannot do the good that we want to do as our sinful nature gets in the way (Romans 7:19-20). (2) Our idea of good is tainted.  It is not as good as God’s idea of what is good.

We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags (Isaiah 64:6 MSG).

So we are left with God’s plan to fix our relationship.  The crucifixion and death of Jesus. Jesus died and we are saved from eternal separation from God (Romans 5:10-11). His blood was given instead of ours.  Blood gives life.  During a blood transfusion, someone else’s blood is provided to another patient to allow them to live.  In this case, Jesus’ blood gives us life.  

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. 21 For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV)

In a simplistic way, it reminds me of a small child.  They lash out and hurt their parent.  They still want to be in a relationship with the parent.  They cannot fix what they have done.  They don’t know how or don’t have the capacity to do so.  It is left to the parent to fix it.  Without the parent taking the initiative, there is no way to save the relationship.  The same holds true with our relationship with God.  Essentially, we broke our relationship through our sin.  We cannot fix our relationship with God ourselves.  It is impossible for us to do what is required.  God loves us and wants to restore our relationship.  Since we cannot do it, God will do it for us.  He loves us enough that He will do whatever it takes.

In closing, I would urge you to take some time to read the story of the crucifixion yourself and see what God is revealing to you in it.  Even if you go to a church that reads it as part of the worship service, it is important to read through the bible story and see how it speaks to you personally.  Take some time to think about and pray through Matthew 27.  Without truly appreciating the crucifixion, it is hard to participate fully in the joy of Easter morning.

Essential Questions: Why Lent?

In certain Christian traditions, this is the season of Lent.  Lent is the 40 weekdays before Easter.  Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day that we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

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What does the word “Lent” mean?  Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon words meaning “Spring” (lenct) or “March” (lenctentid).  The season of Lent occurs most often in March, so it seemed appropriate.  However, there are some years, like this one, where it starts in early February.

Why 40 days?  The number 40 has always had spiritual significance in the bible.  There are many illustrations of the importance of 40.  For example:

  • Moses was with God for 40 days and 40 nights when receiving the 10 commandments (Exodus 34:38).
  • Israel wandered the desert for 40 years after being rescued from Egypt before entering the promised land (Numbers 14:33-34).
  • Jesus fasted  in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his public ministry (Matt. 4:2).

What is the purpose of Lent for a believer of Christ?  The purpose of Lent is for a believer to realize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23).  Jesus’ death and resurrection repair our relationship with God.  However, sometimes we don’t realize our sin and so we don’t realize our need for God.  (1 John 1:8).  Lent puts the focus on our sin so we can truly celebrate come Easter because of the great gift we have received.

What do we do during Lent?  

  • Stop doing something.  You may hear people talking about “giving up” something for Lent.  Kids often talk about giving up candy or chocolate.  It is a start, but it doesn’t actually get at the real reason for giving something up.  What you are really supposed to do is to give up something that is taking you away from Jesus and the way that he calls his believers to life.  The goal is to turn away from a particular sinful habit and, by the end of Lent no longer have that sin in your life.  You stop the sin not only for Lent, but beyond.
  • Stop eating for periods of time.  Jesus expected his followers to fast as he gave instructions on it (Matthew 6:16-18).  It is a way of reminding ourselves of our spiritual hunger for God.  It also reminds us that we can do nothing apart from Him who provides us with all good things (1 Tim 6:17).  It is so easy for us to forget that everything we have comes from God.  Fasting is also used as a way to get closer to God. (Acts 13:2-3)
  • Start doing something.   Lent is often a time when people try to start or re-start a spiritual discipline, such as reading the bible every day.  Spiritual practices are an important way to keep ourselves connected with God.  It is hard to be in a relationship with God if we do not maintain the connection.  As Lent is 40 days long, chances are you will have developed a good spiritual habit by the end of the period.
  • Pray more.  Prayer is an important spiritual discipline.  It is the conversation that we have with God – not just our laundry list of requests, but also listening to Him.  The more we pray, the closer we become to God.  Prayer is important as we face all sorts of situations (Ephesians 6:18).  It becomes more necessary at Lent as we try to discern the sin we are giving up and then, in resisting temptation.
  • Give away more.  As we grow closer to God and realize that all good things come from Him.  We give out of gratitude that our God cares for us and looks after us. We want to share ourselves and our things with others so they too can recognize the role of God in providing for them.

This blog is just a brief overview of Lent.  If you are interested in more of the history of  Lent, you could check out this website.  If you want to take on one or more of the Lenten behaviours above, I would encourage you to do so.  It is not too late, even though we are partway through Lent.  God will honour your efforts.  Whatever you decide to do, take some time to examine your life so that you understand your great need of Jesus.  It will make Easter a more joyous time.

 

Sacrifice – What does it look like?

Today Luke Bayly brings us Part 2 of his thoughs on Sacrifice 

Hey all,

This is the second part of my blog post about sacrifice in a life lived for God. Last week, we talked about the meaning and purpose of sacrifice by looking at a passage in the book of Romans. In this part, we’ll look at where in our lives we should expect to have to make sacrifices in order to serve God.

 

Sacrifice in Jesus’s life and the apostle’s lives often looked dramatic—living a life of poverty, leaving home and family to following Jesus, martyrdom—and God does, sometimes, call on Christians to make similar sacrifices to these. But recall from last week that our sacrifice is spiritual—the important stuff is going on inside our heart, whether or not it is very visible outside. God may call us to make sacrifices that no one else, aside from you and God, will even recognize as a sacrifice. Oftentimes, this simply means “doing the right thing”. Following are four categories of common situations where doing the right thing pretty much equates to making a sacrifice.

 

Stifling our pride

When we place our self-worth in what other people think of us instead of what God thinks of us, we are tempted to make decisions that draw attention to ourselves at the expense of others, or do things that deliberately put others down in order to save face. For example, there can be heated moments where we feel like we need to one-up our adversary in some conflict. Holding back, instead, and trying to deescalate the argument or deciding to disengage…in the moment, that requires real sacrifice. It may not be very noticed. Maybe it’ll look to others like we’ve lost and our adversary has won. But doing so is an act of love and service to God and to our adversary, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Being honest

This category is pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps we want to evade a punishment by hiding our wrongdoing, or perhaps we’re tempted to exploit an opportunity in a way that unfairly benefits us. To be honest and take a hit for it is an act of love and service to God and to all other people, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Giving up an idol

There will always be things of this world that enthral us—things that are good, more often than not—and we want to experience more of them; invest more of our life into them. But when our love for these things conflicts with our focus on God and service to Him, they have become an idol—a false God in our life. Idols in our life will bend our hearts away from God, and always leave us emptier inside. Turning away from our idols is an act of love and service to God and to ourselves, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Putting time and effort into serving God

At the risk of stating the obvious—giving of our time and energy to serve God and His kingdom, often without monetary recompense, can be taxing. Oh, and speaking of taxes, God often needs our money, too. Perhaps this seems unfair—if God is all-powerful, why on earth does He need…money? And what service can we possibly do for Him that He couldn’t do better, himself? But recall from last week that the ultimate result of all our sacrifices is that we understand more of God’s will and who God is…and that is what He wants for us. Putting time and effort into serving God is, by definition, an act of love and service to God, and you can be sure that God notices and rejoices in it.

Essential Questions: What is the second step if I believe in Jesus?

Suppose that you have taken your spiritual temperature.  Suppose that you have decided to believe in Jesus.  Suppose you have repented.  What do you have to do now?

Be baptized. (It is possible that you already have been baptized, but if so, you can still learn the importance of your baptism to your Christian journey).

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(c) Can Stock Photo

Now, why would I suggest that the next step in your spiritual journey should be baptism?

(1) Jesus ordered his believers to be baptized.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20; See also Mark 16:15-16)

(2) Baptism symbolizes the transition from our self-centred way of life to our new life in Christ.  It shows our choice to turn away from death to eternal life as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God.

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12; See also Romans 6:3-5)

(3) Jesus was baptized.  His baptism identified Him as the Son of God. (Matthew 3:13-17Our baptism identifies us with Christ and also as sons and daughters of God the Father. Baptism identifies us with Christ in two ways.

  1. As a grown person, you are announcing to the world that you believe in Jesus Christ.  Your faith can no longer be a secret.
  2. When we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)

By being clothed with Christ, God no longer sees our sin.  Instead, He sees us through the lens of Christ’s death and resurrection which has washed our sin from us.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

(4) Baptism is a rite of entry into the fellowship of believers; a type of initiation.  When you start CEGEP, college or, sometimes, sports team, frequently they have an initiation of some kind.  Many are silly; but they come from a tradition and have a specific meaning.

Since we become children of God through baptism (Galatians 3:26-27), we also become members of God’s family here on earth- the church universal. I am not talking about a specific building or specific people, but all believers of Christ everywhere become our brothers and sisters.  As members in this wider family, we can flourish and continue our spiritual journey as God refines us into the people He intended us to be.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (Gal. 12:13)

Baptism is not a new idea.  It was used in the New Testament as a way of declaring faith in Jesus and becoming a member of the group of believers.  Take for example the story about Philip and the eunuch. (Acts 8:26-40)

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 

So, if you have not already been baptized, I leave you with the question from Acts 22:16.

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

If you have already been baptized and are just coming to fully believe in Jesus, I suggest that you look at your Christian tradition to see if there is a reaffirmation of baptismal vows.  If your tradition does not have an opportunity to publicly renew your baptismal covenant, consider praying the following prayer:

Lord Jesus, I admit that I have doubted you as the Son of God.  I now believe that you are the Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead in order to save me from my sins.  Forgive my unbelief.  I now turn to you as the my Lord and Saviour.  I admit that evil has a hold on me and it has become a habitual way for me to be myself.  I reject the unloving choices I have made and the sinful failures in my life.  I renew my commitment to turn away from Satan who is the author of sin and tries to separate me from you.  By Your Grace, I have come to know the gift of life that you offer.  Please help me to remain faithful, so I can grow as your servant.  Amen.

 

 

Essential Questions:  Take your spiritual temperature

In the Essential Questions posts, we have been talking about the ideas faith and repentance.  Once you have chosen to repent and believe in Jesus, God will continue to grow your faith and show you the ways in your life that need to be changed.   It is a step by step process.   

In the next few posts, we will be examining what God wants to give us when we respond to Him.  But before we move on, I want you to examine where you are in your own faith journey.  At the beginning of a new year, it is the time when many people take stock of their life.  I want your to take stock of your spiritual life.   

How have your responded to God in 2015?

Have you already repented and turned to God?  What does that look like in your life? 

Are you still questioning the good news? 

What are you wanting from God to increase your faith?  Frequently we want some proof from God that he is there and active before we are willing to stick our neck out.  

Do you have enough faith to turn your life toward Jesus and seek him in all areas of your life? 

Are you ready to be part of a spiritual family?  If you are a member of a spiritual family, how involved are you?  Are you a casual observer?  Are you seeking your identity through your involvement or are you somewhere in between?

Do you find time to rest and just be with God?

What are your spiritual goals this year?  Take a few moments and think about how you would like to further your spiritual journey this year.  In the new year, people come up with all sorts of goals as to their physical health, financial wealth or relationships.  As we begin 2016, what are your goals for your relationship with God?  Do you want more faith?  Do you want to follow God in more areas of your life?  Do you want to read the bible more?  Mediate more?  Pray more?  The list is endless.  Don’t we owe our eternal souls as much time and reflection on our spiritual goals as on the goals we have for other areas of our lives?  (If not more….)

These are just some of the questions that we can reflect on. Perhaps others come to your mind.  Take some time and let God lead you down the path of reflection.   

Write down what comes to your mind as you reflect on 2015.  Write down your goals for 2016.  Writing things down allows you to go back and see how far your have come; how much God has transformed you.  It will prevent your goals from getting lost among the cares of this world, which is frequently the most common enemy of growing our relationship with God.

After you have developed your goals and wrote them down, pray about them.  Give them to God.  Give Him all the cares and temptations and dreams that you have.  And each week find some time to go back and note how God is leading you in each of your goals (write that down too!).  By 2017, you will be amazed at what God has given you.