276.“FROM GLORY. THROUGH GORY. TO GLORY!” The Easter story in 6 words. (Expanded version!) Part 2 of 2.

“Oh, No!” might be the cry of some English language purists to see the phrase “through gory.” Some might object, “Don’t you understand that “gory” is an adjective? It is inappropriate to use it in this way.” Exactly!

  • Even as it was inappropriate for so many to cry out in answer to Pilate’s question about what to do with Jesus. They cried out, “Crucify Him!” and again “Crucify Him!”
  • Inappropriate to take the Son of God who had come from glory [to live a perfect human life in this world and to die for sinners] and crucify Him.
  • Inappropriate to take the Creator of the universe and nail Him to a part of His creation.
  • Inappropriate for some of His creatures to shame and mock their Creator as He hung on a cross, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Mat 27:40. He was not there to save Himself but to save those who scoffed.
  • Inappropriate for them to demand He come down from the cross at their command. He wasn’t there to do their will in coming DOWN from the cross so that they might believe. It was in fact the opposite to what they demanded. He was there doing his Father’s will in being lifted UP on a cross so that people might look to Him in faith and be saved, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:13-15.
  • Inappropriate for them to continue their mocking instead of believing.

The Easter story has a wonderful ending. Jesus rose from the dead. However the process through which He achieved that victory over sin and death was messy, gory in the extreme, but necessary for the salvation of sinners.

This is how the writer to the Hebrews expressed these truths, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2.

1). FROM GLORY. The Goal To Be Achieved By Jesus

Jesus. “who for the joy that was set before him.”  What joy?

  • The joy of returning to glory with the Father. Joh 17:1 “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
  • The joy of knowing He had accomplished the work God had given Him to do on earth. Now He was about to return to His home in glory. Joh 17:4 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
  • The joy of knowing that because of His work of redemption, His followers would be with Him in glory. Joh 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

2). THROUGH GORY. THE GOAL ACHIEVED BY JESUS THROUGH A GORY PROCESS

Jesus. “endured the cross”,

  • The Cross was part of God’s purpose for Jesus as “the lamb slain from foundation of the earth”.
  • He predicted it would happen. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14.
  • He warned His followers that He was soon to die. Mat 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
  • He humbled Himself to endure suffering on the cross. Php 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
  • On the cross He bore the sin of the world. 2Cor 5:15 “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” AND 1Pet 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
  • On the cross He, as the sinless One, was made sin, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. 2 Cor 5:21.
  • By means of the cross, His death brought about the possibility of a reconciliation between God and sinful humanity 2Cor 5:19 “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus. “despising the shame.”

  • He knew He would be shamed. His parables foretold shaming and rejection of a son who was sent by the father. For example, in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Luk 20:13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” The parable predicted the rejection of Jesus, the Son of God and the Jewish Messiah.
  • Reviling Him was part of their shaming of Him, 1Pet 2:23 “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” He would not allow Himself to respond to their attempts to shame Him as He fulfilled the Father’s will for Him.

3). TO GLORY. THE GOAL ACHIEVED BY JESUS (for us as well).

Jesus. “and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • Jesus said He would rise again. We saw it above in Mat 16:21 “… and on the third day be raised.”
  • He said that he would return to be in glory with His Father, Mat 26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
  • Paul wrote that God showed His power in raising Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand, Eph 1:19  “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
  • Jesus included His followers in His Good Friday to Easter Day activities. They too have died with Him in their faith-union with Him, Rom 6:8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” They too sit in the heavenlies with Him, Eph 2:6 “and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

SUMMING UP:

  • The title, (From Glory. Through Gory. To Glory!” The Easter Story In 6 Words) might sound a bit crude and a bit dramatic. However, we can never, in a lifetime of lifetimes, have any real appreciation for what Christ suffered on that First Good Friday. It was a “gory” mess as the Son of God who had come down from “glory”, was brutalised and crucified on that day.
  • It was through that “gory” death that sin and death was defeated and Jesus was raised to return to glory with His Father.
  • The marvellous thing for His disciples through the ages is that He wants us to see ourselves now as being “seated with Him” in the heavenlies, in the place of honour, acceptance and authority.
  • We may not yet be with Him in glory, but the process of our glorification has begun. As we remain focussed on Jesus an inner transformation is taking place in us by His Spirit, 2Cor 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Blog N0.276. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 4th April 2018. 

 

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275.“FROM GLORY. THROUGH GORY. TO GLORY!” The Easter story in 6 words. (Micro version!) Part 1 of 2.

The heading “FROM GLORY. THROUGH GORY. TO GLORY!” The Easter story in 6 words, is a Micro version of the full Easter story. So if someone asks you to explain the Easter story in less than 4 seconds, you can do it!

This a mini reflection, after reading the words in Hebrews 12:2 “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hopefully a more expanded version will follow! Before next Easter!

Blog No.275. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 4th April 2018.

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274. Jesus Wept For People during His Last Days On Earth. “Jesus wept!” Would He weep for you today? John 11:35 and Matthew 23:37.

There are 2 main references to Jesus weeping. They are instructive and challenging for us today.

The first situation where Jesus is described as weeping, we can relate to.  We have all been in similar situations. Sad situations in which tears flowed readily and grief was expressed sometimes loudly. Jesus wept when He saw the grief of Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus had died, ‘“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.’ John 11:32-35.

 However there is something unusual about this incident. It says that Jesus was “deeply moved.” The word is (embrimáoma, ἐμβριμάομαι) which can mean strong indignation or deep grief. He was also “greatly troubled” where the word is from (tarássō, ταράσσω meaning to disturb or to stir up.)  The scene affected Him deeply. So much so that He wept.

An interesting truth

This is where it gets very interesting. In verse 33 we are told that Mary and those who were with her were all weeping. But there are 2 main words for “weeping” in the New Testament. One is ( klaiō, κλαίω) meaning to sob, to wail aloud or bewail. That’s what Mary and the others were doing, weeping loudly in deep grief.

We note though that when Jesus is described as weeping in the same situation, a different word is used.  It is the second word for weeping, namely (dakrúō, δακρύω) meaning to shed tears or to sob quietly.  It raises this question. Why didn’t Jesus show the same depth of grief that Mary and the others had shown? They were wailing or grieving loudly. He was shedding tears! We get an answer by looking back to what Jesus said when He heard of the death of Lazarus. ‘[Jesus] said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”’ John 11:11. In brief, Jesus was moved by the expressions of grief He had witnessed BUT He wasn’t grief-stricken because He knew He was about to do something about the situation. He was going to restore Lazarus back to life. There was no need for deep grief knowing He would bring Lazarus back to life.

A Challenging truth!

Jesus wept on another occasion. It was when He entered Jerusalem shortly before His death. We read how that situation was described, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it … “  On this occasion it was not a quiet sobbing or the shedding of tears (dakrúō, δακρύω) as we saw in John 11:35. Rather it was the deep gut-wrenching cry of grief or despair that came from His lips (klaiō, κλαίω).  Why? Because this situation was something He could not change, even though He would have longed to have done so. This was His lament, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44. He had been sent by God to be their Messiah, their Saviour. He would live and die for them. But they had rejected Him and God’s purpose for themselves through Him.

This is similar to the passage in Mat 23:37 where Jesus also lamented over the hardness of heart of the people of Jerusalem and their rejection of Him. (In truth, their rejection of the Almighty God Himself in rejecting God’s purpose through Jesus.) He cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! “Mat 23:37. They had been given many opportunities to respond to Him but they had failed to do so. Judgment would follow.

He was grieving deeply because He saw what their rejection of Him would involve for the people of Jerusalem. How haunting are the words of Jesus in some translations, “I would …. but YOU WOULD NOT!” Rejecting their long-promised Messiah, and the purpose of God in Him, they would come out from under their God’s protection. A catastrophe would inevitably follow for the people.  Jesus saw it all about to happen and He wept, deeply, for them!

It was all so unnecessary! How much better to have received Him, the One whom God had sent to save them from their sins.

The challenge to us today! How does Jesus see you and me?

Does He see you as His friend?

To those who believe in Him and receive Him, He gives the privilege to become children of God. As such they are brothers and sisters in Christ. He calls them His friends as He said to His disciples “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13-15.

When He left this earth, He did not leave us alone. He gave us another Comforter or Helper to be with us forever. In fact, to indwell us. To impart His presence in and through us.  Jesus promised, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:16-19.

Until He returns at the end of human history as we know it, He prays for those who are His, for His friends, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25.

 Does He see you as His enemy?

Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23. It seems that in Jesus’ eyes there is no “sitting on the fence.” Nor are there simply “interested or disinterested observers.”  Nor are there “fellow travellers.” One is either for Him or against Him, in His opinion. As He told us. For our good!

Who in their right mind would want to be opposed to Jesus, the Creator, the Saviour, the Lord and the coming Judge of all the earth?

 The First coming of Jesus into the world gave humans a choice, to accept Him or to reject Him! As John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:10-13. Some chose to believe Him and to receive Him. Others chose to reject Him.

The Second coming of Jesus into the world brings no further choice.

There are no second chances. Judgment will be made according to the choice we have made in this life. The choice about what to do with Jesus, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Heb 9:27.

Is that how we see ourselves? “Eagerly waiting for him?”  If we don’t see ourselves in this light, perhaps He doesn’t either! Now that would be a real problem! For us!

But for those who have received Him and believed in His name, as they eagerly wait for Him to return, there is a God-given confidence, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” 1 John 2:28.

The whole Good Friday to Easter story gives meaning to what the world is all about. In the simple words of the verse that is called the “gospel in a nutshell” we are told why Jesus came, and died, and rose again, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. God saw a world in need. Spiritually perishing in their sin. He chose to send the world a Saviour, His own Son, who died for the sin of the world on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Day. As we put our trust in Him and receive Him into our lives as our Saviour and Lord, we are saved. We belong to Him! Friends! Forever!

It is so easy to become His friend. Not by being good or doing good, for we could never be good enough nor do enough good to qualify. But if we pray to the Risen Lord, something like this, He will become our friend!  “Jesus, I am sorry for trying to live life on my terms, not yours. Please forgive my sin. I invite you to come into my life to be my Saviour. I want you to be the Lord and Master of every part of my life from this moment on.  Thank You Jesus for your promise that You will come in as I open the door of my heart to You. Guide and strengthen me by Your Holy Spirit so that I may live for you and to Your glory. AMEN.”

Blog No.274. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 31st March 2018

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273. “Good Friday!” What the “Good” God did for an undeserving world. The truth in Isaiah 44:22 for today!

“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22. 

“Will that heavy cloud ever lift?” That was the question in my mind as I drove our daughter to school on many mornings. We lived at an altitude of over 3000 feet and heavy fogs were frequent. Sometimes it was difficult to see the road ahead. However on many mornings as I drove home from the school, all you could see was Peter, Paul and Mary! No, not the singing group but the spires of three churches in the middle of town poking up through the low cloud. St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral of which I was the Dean, St Paul’s Presbyterian church and St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.   On some days the heavy cloud had almost miraculously disappeared and the sun was shining brightly on the city. On other days it was just plain misty. But often the mist disappeared within a matter of minutes as I drove home.

For some people however their concern is not with that sort of cloud. Rather it is the heaviness that they feel envelops them. They feel that life’s circumstances are choking them. They have no sense of freedom. They cannot see any light in their situation. Everything around them seems to be dark and threatening. They feel an oppressing sense of guilt and shame. They wonder if that oppression will ever lift from them.

What a wonderful sense of freedom came to many people when they encountered the words of Isaiah 44:22 in the Bible. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.  The words for “transgressions” in the Hebrew Old Testament (pesha) and in the Septuagint Greek Old Testament (anomia) have the meaning of rebellion and lawlessness primarily against God. It is no light thing to believe that you have offended the God of this universe by turning away from Him and by doing things that He has declared to be against His will. What a joy to know that God can blot out or wipe away our guilt as we turn to Him and ask for mercy.

Likewise Isaiah talks about our “sins” being taken away, using the imagery of mists dispersing and disappearing. (Chattath is the Hebrew word for “sins” and hamartia is the word in the Greek Old Testament). Both words have the meaning of the evil we commit against God and against our fellow humans.

 Millions of people are familiar with the words of the 2 Great Commandments of Jesus. Matthew 22:37  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment.  39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Most would admit that they have been guilty of breaking those two Great Commandments by not perfectly loving God and fellow humans as they should have.

This verse promises that sins against God and against fellow humans can be blotted out by Him. What is needed? It is for people to turn back to Him. Why? Because as verse 22 says, He is the only One who can redeem them or set them free from the power and guilt of their sin. We will see in future articles that the freedom God gives to people is freedom from the guilt of sin and also freedom from its power in our lives.

GOOD FRIDAY made the promises of Isaiah 44:22 possible. On that day Jesus as the Son Of God offered a sacrifice on the cross that would take away all sin. It would provide an eternal redemption for His people. The sacrifice was the sacrifice of Himself. As St Peter wrote in his first epistle, 1Peter 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  No wonder “Good Friday” is “Good”. It reminds us of the good news that Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God became a human, so that he might die as a human, to bring us to God.

Where does Easter fit in with all this? The Jesus who was crucified on that first Good Friday rose from the dead on that first Easter Morning, the victor over sin and death and over all the powers of darkness.

Good news, but so what? What significance does it have for us today, you might ask? It challenges us to respond to Him. Jesus as the Son of God and as the creator of the universe came to His own creation. On Good Friday He died for sinners. St Paul reminds us of the implications of that death for us, 2 Corinthians 5:15   he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:- 

1]. Have you ever had disturbing thoughts that the day on which Jesus was crucified was called “Good Friday”? If you did, why do you think you were troubled by its name? Should we continue to feel disturbed by it? If not, why not?

2]. Have the terms “cloud” and “mist” had any application to you? You felt that you had been enveloped in a thick cloud and you could not see the way ahead. Even your brain seemed to be foggy? Or did you feel that mists were swirling around you and you had lost any sense of direction in life? If so, what helped you emerge from the fog or the cloud so that life became more bearable?

3]. Have you had any sense in your life that your sins had been blotted out or erased? What caused that to happen? Do you still feel that those sins have been dealt with or do they still trouble you?

4]. What do you think is needed for people who feel burdened by sin to get rid of that burden? Is feeling sorry or remorseful enough? What would you suggest they do?

5]. The words of Isaiah in this verse look forward to the coming death of the Messiah or the Christ. How do Peter’s words above in 1 Peter 2:24 fulfil what Isaiah prophesied in our verse today from Isaiah 44:22?

Blog No.273. (A revisit of blog No.020.) Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on (Good) Friday 30 March 2018. 

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272. THE WORLD IS SCREAMING OUT FOR TRUE HUMILITY NOT FOR HUMAN GREATNESS! Philippians 2:1-11

True Humility Is Necessary, Very Costly But Ultimately Rewarding. Philippians 2:1-11. 

It’s very sad to see people who are living far below their potential. They might be very intelligent but have never committed themselves to study. They might be gifted athletically but never bothered to compete. They might have been blessed with a wonderful spouse and children but never bothered to invest quality time in those relationships.

A friend once described “hell” like this. It would be like looking at a film of our life as it could have been, if we had fully trusted in the Lord. For some people it would be a living hell to see what they had missed out on in their lifetime by living as they did and by their unavailability to the Lord. What a shock it would be to some people to discover how life would have been so much better and so much more fulfilling if they had given themselves over completely to the Lord.

Paul looked at the church in Philippi and realised that they were far short of their God-given potential. They were not taking hold of all the resources they had in Christ. That was so especially in their failure to love one another as they should have. Instead of being united as one, they were divided. It was time for Paul to introduce the antidote into his letter to them.  They needed to be reminded of the unity they had in Christ. Then he would challenge them to be humble. The example of humility he set before them was the example of Christ Himself. Jesus had humbled Himself to come down from heaven to become a human to die for the sins of the whole world. They needed to follow His example of humility to become what they were meant to become personally and in their relationships.

1).    THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT.  It exists and must be lived out in practice.

Firstly, the unity of the Spirit exists. Paul writes in verse 1, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy” . The “If” here could be translated as “since”. Paul knew that these things mentioned in verse 1 actually existed. That is his point. These things already exist says Paul.  As he wrote in Ephesians 4:3, “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We notice he says “maintain”, not “create”. You maintain something that is already existing. (That is why prayers for Christian unity should not be asking God to do something He has already done. He has made all believers one in Christ. However we should pray that God would show us all the human barriers that He sees are preventing us from sharing in that unity. And ask His help to remove them!)

Secondly this unity must be lived out in practice. It is as though Paul is saying, “Become in practice what you are by the grace of God.” He writes in Php 2:2 ,“complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” [NOTE 1]. That is, “Let the Holy Spirit of God make you become what you are meant to be, as children in the same family of God”. All believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. They are ALL children of the same Heavenly Father. They are to live out this reality in their everyday living.

 2).      THE PATTERN OF HUMILITY SEEN IN JESUS.  His is the only true genuine pattern of humility to follow. Even Paul the writer observed, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. “1 Cor 11:1. He saw a pattern that believers were meant to follow. It was the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ Himself. He patterned his own life on that example. Others could follow his example but only inasmuch as it reflected the true humility seen in Jesus. He begins to spell that out in verse 3.

i).  Having The Right Attitude Towards Others. Php 2:3 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It appears that some of these elements existed in the church in Philippi.

“Rivalry” (eritheía) is also translated as contention or strife. It is the attitude, “I want what you have and I will use others in my quest to get it.” Such people are users. They may use their money or their position or even their friends to gain what they want. No wonder they tear apart a Christian fellowship. (See NOTE 2 below for all the other uses of the word in the New Testament. It is not a pretty picture!)

“Conceit”, kenodoxía from kenos = empty and doxia = glory.  Vainglory, a desire for praise (The attitude “I deserve it more than you.”) There are those who will not give praise to another person because in their conceit they imagine that that they have done better or could do better.

By contrast the right attitude is that which is focussed on others, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  The word [huperéchō] means to hold above or to see someone as superior to someone else. It is the attitude that says, “I am here to serve you “rather than “You are here to serve my purpose.,” Jesus had spoken of the necessity of that attitude in Matthew 20.  The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted Jesus to guarantee that her sons gained the highest places in the kingdom of God. Jesus took the opportunity to remind His followers of the nature of greatness. Mat 20:26  “… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. “ He Himself would set the example, 20:28  “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 ii).   Having The Right Focus On The Needs Of Others. 2:4)  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. “We do need to take care of our own interests, but should not be focussed only on them. It means taking time to really notice people. It has the added dimension of looking even further to see what their needs might be and how one could be used in meeting those needs.

 iii).   Having The Right Mind (The Mind Of Christ). 2:5,  “Have this mind (phronéo = have a mindset) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Jesus in His incarnation determined to do the will for God for Him. It meant that He was willing to forego many of His privileges as the Son of God.

He had status as the Son of God. He was willing to put those priviliges aside. (6) “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (He didn’t hang on to what was rightfully His.)

He once had power and authority as the Son of  God. He limited Himself to live as a human (7) “but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (He could not empty Himself of His divinity as the eternal Son of God but He emptied Himself of all His divine privileges. He did not draw on His omniscience (knowing all things) but had to ask questions. He did not draw on His omnipresence (being able to be in all places simultaneously) but was confined to a human body. He did not draw on His omnipotence (able to do all things) as He lived as a human. He attributed His teaching and His miracles and healings to the work of His Father working through Him. He was the Father’s instrument. (John 14:10, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.“ In  human form He had rely on God for all these things.

He handed Himself over to do the will of God, come what may. (8) “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That was God’s eternal purpose for Jesus as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) to bring forgiveness and salvation to humans

His purpose for us is not the same ( to be the sin-bearers of all the sins of the world). But God requires the same sort of commitment from us, to humble ourselves before Him, to do what He wants us to do in this life.

3).    GOD EXALTS TRUE HUMILITY.  Jesus humbled Himself to do the will of God throughout his life. When He prayed just hours before his death in the garden of Gethsemane, He cried out, Mat 26:39  … “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  His humility in becoming a man and living and dying as a man was followed by His exaltation by God to the highest place in the purposes of God.

  • No greater name. Php 2:9 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” No one at any time has compared with Him or will ever compare with Him. He is supreme.
  • No greater Person or Power in the Universe. Jesus is Lord! Php2:10 “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Everyone and everything will ultimately be subject to Him.
  • Jesus is exalted as King of Kings and as Lord of Lords, the Ruler of this whole universe. Nothing or no one will ever take His place. We have to submit to Him in every area of our lives, for every moment of our lives. He is to be Lord of all.
  • What does that mean for those who have no time for God in this life, and who reject Jesus? Unfortunately for them it means rejection by Jesus when He comes. It means eternal rejection. It means being barred from the presence of God and from all that is good. Paul put it like this in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” What strong language! What does the loving Jesus say? He told us in Mat 25:46  “And these (unrighteous) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The world has had enough of human greatness. As I write, leaders in Russia and China and many other countries are wanting to grab ever more power to exercise over their peoples. Lord Acton once warned us about such longings for more power, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Humans find it difficult to be in positions of power. Some may have an exaggerated view of their own importance and see their position as their entitlement. But all of us are the recipients of God’s grace. None of us would have our “important” position were it not for His over-ruling in our lives. But having been placed there, we are meant to be the dispensers of His grace to others in loving service to them.

The question that all of us in important positions should ask ourselves is this. Am I serving people to help them reach their greater fulfilment in life in God or am I using people to help me achieve my own goals in life? As I mentioned above and in Note 1, self-seeking and selfish ambition are never pretty, but are destructive for society!

How challenging for all of us are these words in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.“ (NASB)

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[NOTE 1.] Notice the unity or oneness in this verse. Php 2:2  “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

“Same mind” is from  autos phroneō [αὐτὸ φρονῆτε] which means “thinking the same”.

“Same love” is  autos agapē [αὐτὴν ἀγάπην.]

“In full accord” is sympsychos [σύμψυχοι] which means “of one soul” where [σύμ] means “together with” and [ψυχοι] is from ψυχή, psuchḗ meaning soul.  

“of one mind” is from heis phroneō  [ἓν φρονοῦντες] which means “thinking the one thing”.

[NOTE  2.] One can see the divisive nature expressed by this word (underlined) in the following verses,  Php_1:17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  Rom 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 2Cor 12:20, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions.  James 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Jas 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Blog No.272. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog Sunday 25th March 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Glorification, Judgement, Prayer, Salvation, Second coming of Jesus, STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

271. Love Makes The Most Of Every Opportunity. (Sermon suggestions for Mark 14:1-9 for Palm Sunday 25March 2018).

Our reading begins and ends with deceit and the deliberate planning to murder Jesus.  But in between, there is a beautiful story of love that was shown to Him.

  • As Jesus reclined at table in a private home, a woman came to Him carrying perfume valued at perhaps a year’s salary.
  • She came to show that she loved Him.
  • Others might be plotting His death, but at least one person was showing Him that He was special, to her.
  • I want us to look at how love behaves, as we see her loving attitude to Jesus. The expressions of love are shown as follows.

1). LOVE TAKES THE INITIATIVE. SHE CAME TO HIM

We don’t know what sort of contact this woman had had with Jesus before this.  

  • She may have been grateful for a blessing she had received at His hands.
  • She may have been overcome with the sheer integrity of His life.
  • Whatever it was, she wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass to express her love. She came to Him.
  • She was perhaps the last person to show Jesus He was special, in her eyes.

2). LOVE OFFERS THE BEST THAT ONE HAS

When the woman anointed Jesus she was parting with the best that she had.

She could have thought with worldly wisdom,  

  • “I’ll use some cheap perfume. Then I can pour it all over his head.”
  • Or she could have thought, “I’ll just put a little dab on His forehead and keep the rest for another time.”

But there wasn’t going to be another time. Within hours He was going to be dead.  She broke the jar and poured it all over His head and anointed His head with it.

Love offers the best that one has, sacrificially and generously. [Perhaps the value of a sacrificial gift lies not so much in what is given but in how much is left for oneself after the gift is given!]

3). LOVE MAKES THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY

It would have been so easy for the woman to put off what she wanted to do until a later time.  

  • But she wanted to do it, today! It meant crashing a private dinner party.
  • It meant her actions may have been misunderstood.
  • Some might have questioned her morality.
  • Others may have been secretly jealous that Jesus had been the recipient of such unashamed love.
  • Some may have been secretly jealous that they had never been free to be so uninhibited in showing love to their own loved ones.

She did what she could, when she could. St Paul described such an attitude as, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph 5:16. NIV.

Not taking advantage of the opportunities

As a young person, I was deeply challenged by the words that go something like this, “I shall pass through this world but once. If therefore there be any kindness that I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now, let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again”. (Attributed to Stephen Grellett 1773-1855).

The moments for expressing love which are never taken up, may be lost for eternity. Many families worldwide and throughout the ages have lived with regret expressing such thoughts as, “Why didn’t we tell [him or her] that we really appreciated and loved [him or her]. Now it’s too late! If only we could turn back the clock!” No human can!

4). LOVE IS NEVER WASTED

I want us to notice the different values placed on her action in pouring ointment on his head and anointing Him.

i).         The crowd’s value judgment. “Waste!”

  • Many there perhaps, including some of the disciples were thinking, “What a waste.” And they rebuked the woman publicly.
  • In fact they tried to be spiritual about it, saying, “This ointment could have been sold and given to the poor”. They saw it all as a terrible waste. They were indignant with her.
  • But wait a minute! It was her ointment, not theirs, to do with as she pleased.
  • There was something sinister in what they were saying. What they were really saying was this “He isn’t worth it!” He isn’t worth it!”
  • What a terrible thing to say about the Creator of the world.
  • Everything belonged to Him for He made it all.
  • A little bit of the creation He made was being poured over His head and people didn’t like it. “It’s a waste. He isn’t worth it”.

ii).        Her value judgement. “Precious”

  • Jesus was precious to her.
  • No sacrifice would be too great for her to make for Him.
  • She didn’t have the truth we know now, that within hours, He would be hanging on a cross bearing the sin of the whole world.

iii).       Jesus’ value judgment. “Beautiful”

What did Jesus think? He rebuked those who had rebuked the woman, and told them to leave her alone, for what she had done was no waste, but a “Beautiful thing.”

Isn’t it incredible that the same action can be taken so differently by people.

  • She said to Jesus by her action, “I love you, I appreciate you.”
  • Most others there said, “It’s a waste!”
  • Jesus said, “It’s beautiful.”

 Not only was it beautiful, but it was timely.

He needed to have that love expressed to Him at a time when He knew His final hours had come. The poor could benefit from help at any time, but He had only hours to live.

  • Her opportunity to show love, was not wasted.
  • Love is never wasted, it’s a tremendous investment, because it releases more love. As the apostle John wrote of the love of God, “We love, because He first loved us.”
  • It was His initiative in sending His Son into the world to die for sinners that made some respond in love to His love and in turn be motivated to love others.
  • Love gives in spite of not being appreciated. It can bring forth love in the other person.  It is never wasted.

 5). LOVE IS ETERNAL

So significant was this expression of love in the eyes of Jesus that He gave it eternal value, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 14:9.

  • Lots of important things have been done in the history of the world in human terms, but so many have faded from memory.
  • But this action of the woman will never be forgotten.
  • Even up to the Second Coming of Jesus, people will still be saying, “Remember the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with costly perfume, as an expression of her love for Him?”

 Our expressions of love are also eternal.

  • They help change the world around us for good.
  • Then they spread out to touch the lives of others, who in turn acting in love, touch more people.
  • But our failure to express love shrivels us up. It shrivels the world around us and affects the lives of many people.

This is a very powerful story. But the tragedy may be, that we see it simply as a nice thing she did for Jesus.

  • Judas was unmoved by such a display of love. Immediately after, he went out to betray Jesus to the chief priests.
  • Jesus obviously saw it as more significant than that. The story was meant to be shared wherever the gospel is shared.
  • Why? Because He knew we needed to be challenged with a human example of someone who loved.

To whom do you need to reach out in love?

Parents? They are the only parents you will ever have! They sacrificed much and risked much in bringing you into the world. They supported you as best they could in the good times and the bad times. Their own family lives may have been difficult and they may never have had a good pattern of fathering or mothering to follow, but they did their best. Praising them for the good and forgiving the not so good or even the bad, releases you to be a better parent to your own! It also provides a good pattern of parenting for your own children to follow in their family lives. St Paul wrote, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:8. We mainly associate that with the responsibility of parents towards their children. But it applies also to the responsibility of children to their siblings and parents and the wider family. Perhaps financial AND emotional support!

Do you need to reach out in love to your spouse? How recently have you told him or her that you really appreciate them and deeply love them? How many negatives do they cop from your mouth before breakfast? Could you increase the positives and decrease the negatives? Perhaps get rid of the negatives altogether?

A friend? They were thoughtful and kind to you but have you ever bothered to say, “Hey. Thank you. I deeply appreciate what you did for me.”

A child? You are the only father/mother your child will ever have. You have an unique relationship with them. They are part of you. Your expressions of love to them will often mean more to them than the expressions of love given by other people.

A son in law or daughter in law? You may think that no one is “good enough” for your beloved child. But they are doing their best in most cases and need to be appreciated for every kind or thoughtful thing they do for your child. But have you bothered to notice those things or have you labelled them as “losers” and fail to see any good?

Mother in law/ father in law? Being loving to the parents of the person you married shows you appreciate your spouse and the parents who brought him/her into the world.

The woman in our story ministered to Jesus! Did He need it as the Creator of the universe and the Son of God? He deeply appreciated all she did for Him as a human and called it “beautiful!” He noticed. He cared. He communicated His love and appreciation

Well how about us? How do we go in expressing love to those to whom we should express it? Can we do it? No? But we can with God’s help.

The question is, “Will we do it?” We begin by beginning! We can love those we should love, as we allow God to fill us with His divine agape love. As Paul wrote, as we commit our lives to Jesus He can fill us with His Holy Spirit. Then His love can flow through us to those who need it, “… because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom 5:5.

A SUGGESTED PRAYER

“Lord fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can love other people with Your divine love.  Please use me as an instrument of Your love, to bring blessing and healing into the lives of others, especially in the lives of those You are placing in my mind now and in the future.  I ask it in Jesus’ name and for His sake, AMEN.”

Blog No.271. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 18th March 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Sermons and articles on the Gospel of Mark | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

270. Good Mental Health. A Brief Overview from a Christian point of view

[This article is adapted from an article I wrote recently for a Christian magazine in Florida USA. It gives a brief overview of factors contributing to Mental Health.]

Good mental health? How is it possible? Our enemies in life have to be recognised and strategies adopted to give us victory over them. Well, what are the enemies in life that all humans face?

Amazingly we get one of the best explanations as to the enemies we all face as we look at the teaching in the Baptismal and Confirmation services of the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal church.) The services are of course based on the biblical teaching on these subjects. In these services, three enemies of humans are recognised which need to be renounced as being dangers to us.  They are, the World, the Flesh and the Devil. In the words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer the wording is as follows: “DOST thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by them?” Answer. “I renounce them all.”

How do these enemies seek to influence us, and how can we gain victory over them?

I]. THE ENEMY AROUND US. The World. The World And Its Influence On Us

Jesus spoke of “the world” as being the people who do not know God and who do not submit to Him. He warned His disciples that they would suffer misunderstanding and rejection by the world, “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19.

What is needed by humans is a trans-formation, not continued con-formation to the world’s values and ideas. St Paul wrote that humans can have new mind-sets. They need to have them in order to understand God’s will for humans. Rom 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

New ways of thinking can lead to new ways of behaving. Correct behaviour in the sight of God will prove to be good and acceptable and perfect in the experience of humans.

II]. THE ENEMY WITHIN US. The Flesh. Our Fallen Human Nature.

Some religious teachers asked Jesus a question about what makes humans impure. His answer shows that evil comes from within people, not just from their response to their external environment, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23.

St Paul expressed the same truth in describing the characteristics of our fallen human nature, the flesh, as, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… .” Gal 5:19-21.

How can we have victory over the impulses of our fallen nature? By allowing God to fill us with His Spirit. Then and only then will the fruit of the Spirit be continually manifest in and through us. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These characteristics remain as we remain open to His Spirit, as Paul describes in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Responding to His leading and to His empowering by His Spirit brings radical mental and behavioural changes to those who do it.

III]. THE ENEMY AGAINST US. The Devil.

Satan [the Evil One] has always been against God, His purposes and His people. He works through deception as he attacks the minds of humans with his lies. He is “diabolos [διάβολος] the word for “Devil” which means the “accuser.” He besieges the minds of humans with accusing thoughts. But three things are helpful in gaining victory over him.

i]. One is that he has power but it is limited power. He has been disarmed, “He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Col 2:15. He may be like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour but you can “resist him, firm in your faith.”1 Pet 5:9.

ii]. The second is that his lies, deceptions and accusations can be overcome. How? By bringing our thought life into obedience to Christ, “We … take every thought captive to obey Christ”. 2 Cor 5:5. The Lord can free us from the power of the damaging thoughts and accusations Satan plants in our minds. It is wise to ask the Lord to help us discern the origin of the thoughts that come into our minds by handing them over to Him. He can help us by His Spirit to discern whether it is a thought from within ourselves which may be true, partly true or untrue; or whether it is from Satan who tries to sow lies and deceits as well as accusations against the people of God; or whether it is the Lord trying to get our attention. In the last case, what He puts in our minds is always in accord with His revealed truths in His word the Bible.

iii]. The third is that we can be assured of our identity in Christ when the accuser [or other humans he may use] try to tell us we are no good. All of us have had thoughts such as “You are not good enough!”  “You are nothing and you will never amount to anything.” “You are just a hypocrite!” “How could God possibly use you in any way. You’re hopeless!” “You may call yourself a Christian but your life certainly doesn’t show it!” And so on!

Jesus doesn’t condemn us. He died for us. He was raised so we could be made right with God,  “[believers] to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Rom 4:24-25. Not only that but at the present time He is interceding for us, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

We belong! To Him! We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” Rom 8:39,  as we keep on handing every aspect of our life over to Him.

Knowing AND acting on these truths will bring us into better mental health! Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” but it is only the truth that is acted on, that will bring us the peace of mind and the freedom we desire and need to have.

Blog No.270. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 16th March 2018 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Mental Health, Prayer, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment