Tag Archives: easter

Living in Truth

As we enter Easter month, our series from the Gospel of John brings us to chapter 18, one of the grimmest chapters of the Bible. This chapter recounts the betrayal and binding of Jesus. What makes this chapter especially grim is that Jesus’ betrayal and binding take place at the hands of people who should have known better.

Judas Iscariot was Jesus’ own disciple. More than anyone else at that time, the disciples experienced Jesus’ love and saw countless numbers of His miracles. Along with other disciples, Judas preached the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus commissioned him with power to heal the sick and cast out demons. Yet this man who saw and experienced so much of God threw it all away for 30 pieces of silver.

Annas and Caiaphas were relatives. Each served as high priest and headed the powerful Sanhedrin, the assembly of elders. They knew the prophecies concerning a coming Messiah, but they chose to interpret them their own way. Instead of seeing the obvious signs of Jesus’ divine presence in their midst, they chose their own political and religious agendas over the truth of God, corrupting themselves and helping to condemn generations of their people.

Pontius Pilate, the cynical (“What is truth?”) Roman governor of Judea, saw through the jealousy and false accusations of the Jewish religious hierarchy. He found Jesus innocent of any crime, but still gave up Jesus to the mob for crucifixion. Cheap politics paralyzed his ability to do the right thing when it counted.

We look with horror at these villains who should have known better and wonder at how wickedly they tortured and killed the Lord of glory. But we should also examine ourselves for times when we bind Christ in what we do (or don’t do) and say. For example . . .

Do we read the Bible as a religious habit rather than to hear His voice and express more of His light and glory through our lives to a darkened world around us?

Do we secretly judge others for whom Christ died and rose again, acting more like Annas and Caiaphas than our Lord and Savior who died for us?

Do we regard Jesus as something less than Son of God, King of kings, brother and best friend?

Do we deny Christ by behaviors/attitudes that clash with our professions of loyalty to Christ?

Do we tie His hands, through unbelief, from doing His mighty works through us?

Do we fail to trust Him with the issues of our lives, with the lives of those with whom we live and work, and those in places of authority in government and culture?

Do we fail to live the gospel in its fullness, or deny to the world the salt and light that Jesus intended to come through us?

Do we fail to obey Christ when His commands conflict with our understanding and desires?

Thank God that Jesus Christ did not stay bound! After three days, He rose again and destroyed the power of death and every other weapon of Satan. In His boundless love, He has forgiven us and given us His Holy Spirit to help us. Let us confess our sins and thank God for His everlasting love for us in spite of ourselves. Then let us tell everyone how He has taken away our sin and overcome the world.

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God Gave First

2017-04-He-GaveWe owe God everything. Everything we have comes from God.

He owns all we see, taste, hear, touch and smell. Our thoughts, talents and acts come from faculties He gives us. The things we make for ourselves come from the things He makes. Our jobs come to us because of the natural resources He provides. We depend upon God for our children, grandchildren, the flowers in our garden, and every other blessing in life.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” the Psalmist says. All of it. Stewardship means to manage all of God’s blessings in God’s way, for God’s glory. As we do so, we are blessed in ways beyond our imagination, both in this world and the world to come. We are all stewards of God’s gifts. The question is—are we good stewards or bad stewards?

Stewardship is based upon our relationship of trust in the character of God. Every time we act as if it is all ours, we insult the character of God. We tell him our nite minds know better how to bless ourselves than He can bless us with His in nite power and might.

True stewardship has no relation with the attitude that says, “I did it myself,” or “I have a right…” Instead, we thank God for everything and in everything. Stewardship is never a legalistic matter, but relational. God cares nothing about the quantity we give so much as the quality of our relationship with Him. Do we trust Him to do what He says He will do?

Jesus demonstrates this with the poor woman who put only two coins into the offering. She gave everything she had, Jesus tells us. She gave recklessly, not knowing where she would find her next meal. But Jesus saw her faith, and we can be sure that after He praised her faith, He helped her to better her poverty-stricken condition.

Good stewardship brings God’s blessing. God never asks us to sacrifice anything without first making a sacrifice Himself, and He did that perfectly on the cross through His Son. He has proven Himself trustworthy. Good stewardship means to trust God to do what He promises—through all we are and have.

Whether we are grudging or free in our stewardship reflects how we view God and His sacrifice to reconcile us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. The more we see ourselves as sinners in need of God’s grace, the more we will want to express our gratitude to Him and make His interests our own. The less we see ourselves as sinners, the less our gratitude and any desire to thank God through our stewardship.

God’s invitation to trust Him with all we are and have is an invitation to discover Him in His fullness, to experience His glory as we give Him glory. When we refuse to offer Him back what He has given to us, we declare that we are gods.

This Easter, let us thank God for His great sacrifice through His Son which gives us our salvation in this life and the next. Let us make His interests our own, which means making sure we do our part to declare the Good News to all who still do not know Him.

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Your Life, His Grace

In the Greek New Testament, the word for “witness” is also the root word for “martyr.” When Jesus tells His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses…,” He is also saying, “You will lay down your lives for My sake.”

This does not mean that we must seek martyrdom to become a “witness” for Christ. But it requires that we count the cost of discipleship. We must see ourselves as soldiers for Christ. When a new recruit takes his oath of loyalty, he gives his superiors the right to send him anywhere, even into battles that require great risk to his life, from which he may not return.

A-bigger-lifeTo become a “witness” for Christ means that we serve a life bigger than this earthly life. The circumstances of our lives are short and uncertain. There are other things better and eternal, centered on Christ. A true “witness,” like Jesus, has compassion upon people and a world that wander like sheep without a shepherd. Whether in life or death, true witnesses trust Jesus to provide everything they need, to go wherever He says to go.

Jesus warns His “witnesses” that He may assign them to take the gospel as “sheep to wolves.” Many will gladly accept the Good News, but others will hate the “witness,” claim that he is destroying society and seek to defame him or her.

Like Jesus, witnesses may also have to stand before the authorities in trial for their faith. But their suffering will further the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will give them the words to say at the right time.

We are to become Christ’s witnesses with the perspective of Christ’s own suffering and of His Second Coming. We are to know that whatever suffering we face will bring glory to God, a great reward in heaven and ultimate judgment for those who persecute us. We are to know that even if we lose our lives, human power over us ends at death, but God’s power is eternal.

Grace is costly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us. The gift is free, but it costs our lives. Beware of “cheap grace,” he warns, “the grace that we [not God] bestow on ourselves…forgiveness without repentance…baptism without discipline, communion without confession.”

“Costly grace,” he goes on, “costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew what he was talking about. God called him as a witness to serve Him in Nazi Germany—a place unfriendly to the gospel. He became a leader of the Confessing Church when other German churches were giving in to Hitler. His friends wanted to save him by bringing him to America, but after a few months, Bonhoeffer knew he must return to the place God called him.

Bonhoeffer indeed paid with his life, but he became the ultimate winner. Days after his death, Hitler went down to defeat—and suicide. Bonhoeffer’s witness continues throughout the world in his writings and his example of commitment to Jesus Christ.

This month, as we celebrate Christ’s costly sacrifice and His triumphant resurrection, may each of us also count the cost of discipleship and commit ourselves to effective witness however and wherever Christ calls us.

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