Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday, September 30th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Malachi
Today's scripture focus is Romans 1:8-15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now)in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

In his sermon Marks of True Spiritual Service (Part 3), Pastor John MacArthur outlines for us Paul's teaching on true spiritual service. For the most part, these are things we already know, but perhaps need to be reminded of, or worked on.

First, we are all called to serve.  Not just Paul.  We may not have Paul's specific apostolic calling, or his particular gifts but we can mirror his attitude, motives and desires and serve in the areas God has called us to using the abilities He has gifted us with.

v9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son 
is the key verse here. We don't want to serve God mechanically, or externally.  We want to serve from a worshipful heart, internal desire resulting in service.

The first mark of true spiritual service is a thankful heart (v8). - thankful for other people, thankful for fellow servants of God, thankful for having the opportunity to serve.

The next mark of true spiritual service is a concerned spirit (v9b).  Paul prayed for other believers constantly.  We need to be thankful for what God has already done, but still deeply concerned for what has not been done yet in the lives of those around us.

Thirdly, a willing spirit (v10).  Paul knew the Roman church had problems, so not only did he pray for them, but he was willing to be part of the answer.  Are we willing to be used of God?

Fourthly, a submissive spirit. We need to be willing to be used by God, but only if God so wills and in the way He wants to use us.  It is God's plan, not ours.

Fifthly, a loving spirit (v11).  When we love someone, we want to give, we want to help them.  Love seeks the best for others and is not concerned about getting or taking, but rather about giving. Selfless service.

Sixth, a humble spirit (v12).  We don't think we have all the answers.  Yes, we want to give to others and help them, but we also realize that they can be of comfort to us as well, we can learn from them as well. Teaching each other, learning together.  Humble.

We also need a fruitful spirit (v13).  The purpose of teaching is not teaching, it's fruit.  The purpose of preaching is not preaching, it's fruit.  The purpose of music is not music, it's fruit.  The purpose of any ministry is not the function itself, it's the results, it's the product, it's the fruit.

Fruit is attitude.  Galatians 5:22-23a  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Fruit is also action, what we do.    The fruit of our lips is praise.  The fruit of our hands is giving.  The fruit of righteousness is the behaviour of our lives.  Are our lives bearing fruit?
Fruit should also be multiplied.  In other words, we should work at bringing other fruitbearers into the kingdom, spreading the gospel.
MacArthur....Paul says my desire is to see believers with the right attitude, believers with the right holy life style and people added to the Kingdom. 

Closely related to a fruitful spirit is an obedient spirit (v14).  Paul had an obligation to fulfill and so do we.  Whatever God has called us to do, we are obligated to do it.  We are also obligated to preach teh gospel to those around us, no matter their rank in society.

And then we need an eager spirit (v15).  Paul was consummed with the desire to do the work God had called him to do.  Are we eager to serve?  Are we eager to worship Sunday mornings, eager to study the Word, eager to grow in our faith, eager to step out in obedience?  If it comes out of your heart, you're eager.

We need a pure, bold spirit (MacArthur adds the beginning of v16 in here as well)  I am not ashamed of the gospel
I think we have a lot of people today who are ashamed of the gospel.  We don't want to offend anybody and so we water down the gospel and don't talk about sin at all, just focusing on God's love.  Yes, God is a God of love.  But He is a holy God who does not, cannot, tolerate sin. And if we compromise the message we make is inoffensive, yes, but then we also make ineffective and useless.  Never compromise.  Never be ashamed.

Paul served with his spirit....he was bold and eager to preach out of a great debt to God and because he desired fruit and all of this was born out of a thankful, concerned, willing, submissive, loving, humble heart. He was unashamed.

Is that how you and I serve?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 1:16-17
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Luke 1, John 1:1-14

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday, September 29th - Romans!

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 11-13, Psalm 126
Today's scripture focus is Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

I'm very excited about digging into the book of Romans!  I often find Paul's letters to be somewhat difficult to grasp - especially with his writing style and tendency to use super long sentences! Case in point, Paul's got almost the entire gospel presented in this introduction to the book of Romans.

First we are introduced to the preacher of the good news - Paul - which shows us the important truth that God has chosen and entrusted human instruments with the task of spreading the gospel, under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then we see that the promise of the good news was already seen in the Old Testament.  Jesus didn't come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.  The New Testament is the completion of the promise of the Old Testament.

We then see that the person of the good news is Jesus Christ.  It's what we do with the Son of God that determines whether we inherit all the riches of the Father.  We see both His humanness (v3 - descendant of David) and His deity (v4 - declared to be the Son of God with power through the Holy Spirit as evidenced by His resurrection).  MacArthur sums it up so succintly.... He had to be man to take man's place. He had to be God to conquer sin and death and hell and Satan.

And when we receive Jesus Christ, the first of the riches that we receive is grace and apostleship.  We are saved by grace - the unmerited, completely unearned favour, mercy, and lovingkindness of God. And with the receiving of that grace also comes apostleship - the responsibility to be messengers of the gospel. To serve Christ for His glory using the gifts He has uniquely given to each of us.

We are to go out proclaiming the good news and calling all believers to be obedient to the faith. If faith does not manifest itself in obedience, that faith is dead.  There is no such faith.  No, works can`t save you.  Only faith, through God`s mercy and grace, can save you.  But when faith is genuine it always results in good works. Obedience is the evidence of faith.
It is not faith unless it obeys. Salvation is submission. Salvation is affirmation of the Lordship of Christ.
And we should long to proclaim this message!
We are sent for obedience to the faith among all nations because that is what has happened to us.

The good news also comes with tremendous privileges!
We are the beloved of God.  What an incredible thought - we are the beloved of God.
We are also called - we are the elect.  It is never ever calling alone but there is always with that call the act of faith in Christ that goes with it. But nonetheless, we're called. From our viewpoint, we come to Christ as an act of our will. But from God's viewpoint, it was determined before the world began and He called us to Himself. 
And we are saints. Saints! It`s true, we are!  By virtue of being beloved of God, by virtue of being called, you are a saint. You've been made holy. What does it mean? To set set apart from the world unto God...The Holy of Holies doesn't exist, the veil was rent. The holy place is no more, the temple's been destroyed. The tithe isn't anymore because we're not under a theocracy. The priests aren't around anymore. The nation of Israel has been temporarily set aside. What is left that is holy? I'll tell you what it is, it is the new temple of God which is His church. And we're holy. We're set apart unto God. Set apart from sin unto God. And we're to live like that.

And the purpose of the good news?  The glory of God.  Yes, when we are saved we are spared hell, we are promised heaven and we experience the love of God. That`s all true.  But that`s all secondary.  The primary purpose is the glory of God.

God is glorified when you believe His gospel. God is glorified when you love His Son. God is glorified when you accept His diagnosis of your sin and your need. God is glorified when you take Him into your life. God is glorified when your plans become His plans and your thoughts become the thoughts that are common to Him. We live and exist for the glory of God...

The good news comes from God. It is the gospel of God, verse 1. And it is preached by the preacher, promised in the Old Testament, personified in Jesus Christ, providing grace and service, proclaimed by those who receive eternal privileges and it is all for the purpose of glorifying God.


Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 1:8-15
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Malachi

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday, September 28th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 8-10.
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 28

The Resurrection

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The resurrection.

The single most important event in the Christian faith.

Yes, Christmas is amazing - the thought that Jesus would give up His place in heaven for 33 years to come to earth in human form is mind boggling.  And yes, Good Friday is also incredible - that the God-man Jesus Christ would willingly lay down His life out of love for wicked sinners is phenomenal.  But if it ended there, it would really be useless.

The hope of the resurrection permeates scripture.
Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. 

Psalm 73:24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Hosea 6:2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.

Isaiah 26:19 But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

Daniel 12:2  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Job 19:25-27 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! 

Ecclesiastes 3:11b He has also set eternity in the hearts of men

The resurrection is absolutely critical.  If there was no resurrection, our faith is useless.

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then all gospel preaching is useless, faith in it is useless, the apostles (who preach the resurrection) are all liars, the power of sin remains unbroken and everyone who died believing in Christ is damned.

The resurrection is the most monumental event in the history of the world.  And the way it is told is simplicity itself - which is testimony to it's truthfulness.  Simple, without pretension, using common words, it states the simple and convincing truth.

v11-15 also confirm the resurrection.
There are a few theories to explain away the resurrection - all of them absurd.
One is that Jesus didn't actually die. Which is ludicrous - as the Romans were killing machines and knew exactly when someone was dead and when they were not.  MacArthur summarizes it well....
 if this theory is true, it means that Jesus successfully survived severe beating and loss of blood, crucifixion and further loss of blood, the spear thrust into His side, again draining the blood out of His body through a gaping wound. He survived entombment with 75 pounds of spices on His already weakened body. He survived three days with no food or water. Woke up without any medical assistance having lost most of His blood, moved the stone, walked out and convinced everyone that He was fine and alive from the dead. Once He got outside, overpowered the Roman guard and then walked seven miles to Emmaus on feet that had been pierced with nails. Ridiculous...that's absurd.

The next theory is that there was no actual burial and Christ's body was thrown in a pit with other common criminals.  That also makes no sense - why would the Jewish leaders seals the tomb and have the Romans guard the tomb if no one in it?

Another theory is that all those who saw the resurrected Christ were simply hallucinating.  That's ridiculous as it's obvious from scripture that the disciples were not anticipating a resurrection, and how would 500 people experience the exact same hallucination.  And even if somehow that was all true - then Christ was still dead and the Jewish leaders should've been able to come with a body.  Which they couldn't.  Because He was no longer dead.

There are a few other weird and unbelievable theories like telepathy, conjured evil spirits and the like, none of which hold up at all.

The last theory, and probably the most credible, is that someone stole the body.  The Jewish leaders and Romans obviously wouldn't steal the body, which only left the disciples, and that is why Matthew records v11-14 to show the religious leaders coming up with this story and basically testifying to the resurrection.  They knew the truth.  The guards came and reported to them everything that had happened - the earthquake, the rolling of the stone, the blazing angels, the empty tomb.  The Jewish leaders knew Jesus was dead, they knew what happened was supernatural, they knew Jesus had been resurrected. They never questioned it, our question the soldier's validity - they knew the truth.  The disciples had not stolen the body - if they had, the guards would've reported it!  The truth brought shock and fear, but not repentance or faith.  Instead they immediately came up with a lie and a cover up story.  And then they bribed the soldiers to lie, and promised that they would smooth things out with Pilate so they wouldn't be in trouble.

The hardness of their hearts is astounding!  They knew something supernatural had occurred, they knew Jesus Christ had been resurrected and they didn't even want to find out if it was true or not!

And Matthew includes it here so shows how ridiculous an assertion it was that the disciples stole Jesus' body.  They didn't believer there would be a resurrection, they were a bunch of fear filled men that fled at the least sign of danger, it wouldn't happen.  And the lie is a ridiculous one at that - while they were sleeping the disciples came and stole the body.  If they had been sleeping they wouldn't have seen anybody stealing anything - they would've been asleep!  It's absurd.  And the testimony of Jesus' enemies is a huge confirmation of the resurrection.

The resurrection is true - you can believe the testimony of Jesus' friends or the testimony of His enemies.  It makes more sense to believe in a supernatural resurrection than it is to believe any of the other versions of the "truth".

What does the resurrection mean?
It confirms the truthfulness of God's Word.
It confirms that Jesus is the Son of God as He claimed to be.
It proves that Jesus conquered sin and death and hell and rose victorious, making salvation complete.
It proves that the church is established - in Matthew 16 Jesus said that the gates of hell (meaning death) would not prevail against the building of His church, and the resurrection proves this to be true.
It proves that the judgment is coming because the Judge is alive, and He has been given authority by God to judge mankind.
And it proves that heaven is waiting and Christ is preparing it for His own - for us!

And, finally, in the last passage of the book of Matthew we have the Great Commission.  And so much could be said about this, but the basic point is simple - we are to make disciples of all nations.  Disciples.  Not just converts.  Not just "prayer repeaters".  Disciples.

What God wants from us is availability - we need to be willing to go where God wants us to go.
He wants a worshiping heart that's centered on Him.
We need to have a submissive spirit, acknowledging that He has complete sovereign authority.
And He wants obedience.  We have been commanded to make disciples - to making learning believers - from all nations.  He's commanded it.  Are we obeying it?  What are we doing about it?  All of us!  Not just foreign missionaries.  All of us.
How do we do it?  He tells us right here.  We need to go.  We don't wait for people to come up to ask and ask how they can become a Christian.  No, we need to go to them and tell them the good news.  And when a person genuinely believes, they demonstrate that by being baptized as a step of obedience - where they declare to the world their faith in the Saviour and their submission to His Lordship.  Not cheap grace.  Not easy believism.  Real faith, real obedience, real fruit.  And then we need to teach them.  A true believer will want to learn and they need to be taught so that they can grow in their faith.

And the only way we can do any of this is through His power.  Thankfully He is always with us, His power is always available to us.  He is with us always until the very end of the age - until He comes again, until we are with Him for eternity.

And that's our last passage in Matthew!  Tomorrow we start in Romans - I can't wait!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 1:1-7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 11-13, Psalm 126

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday, September 27 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 6-7.
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 27:45-66.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

I think sometimes we have a hard time reading about the crucifixion and really "feeling" it.  Many of us have heard the story so often, all through our lives, that we just kind of read it with the "yep, read this before" mentality.  It doesn't help that it is written in a very succinct, almost matter-of-fact way.  Most of the stories in the Bible don't talk much about how anyone felt about things that were happening.  It's kind of like a factual news report.  Many things are conveyed in a single sentence and it is up to us to think about that sentence and the connotations that go with it.

There are several supernatural events in this part of Jesus' story.  There isn't anything supernatural about crucifixion.  That was standard operating procedure at the time.  However, for three hours God blotted out the sun.  This wasn't just a big storm cloud passing over.  This was utter darkness during the normally brightest part of the day.  From John MacArthur:

And God was affirming by the darkness that the cross was judgment, the place of the severest, most comprehensive divine judgment, then and there on Jesus Christ. And since God only judges one thing, that is sin, it is a judgment on sin. God then affirms that he is judging our sins in Christ, as we heard tonight in Isaiah 53, he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement to produce our peace fell on him, and by his stripes, we are healed.
The darkness then is God's commentary, God's way of saying that his fury is unleashed on Christ. Here is judgment on sin, born by the innocent sin bearing substitute. But there is more. Verse 46, and this is something only our Lord could know. "About the ninth hour," 3:00 in the afternoon, the end of the time of darkness, "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Only he would know that God would have forsaken him. And by the way, it says he cried out, and it is literally the Greek word for scream. After six hours of immeasurable agony, three of them in total darkness. After six hours, the feeling, the fury of the wrath of God upon him, as his sin bearing comes to a climax, he is strong enough to cry and express the sense of alienation he feels for the first time in eternity from God. And by the way, this is exactly what Psalm 22:1 says he would say. It is the fulfillment of that prophecy which says the same thing, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Secondly, Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up his spirit.

 "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit." He cried out again. Very interesting. This is intended by the writers of Scripture, and by the Lord himself to indicate how strong he is. It's six hours into his crucifixion; he is still able to scream. It's cradzhas, it means literally to scream. He's not gonna slowly fade into some kind of coma, which with crucified people could take days. He will not die of exhaustion. He will yield up his spirit when the time is right. And if you compare the gospel of John and the gospel of Luke, you find that Jesus had already said "it is finished", John 19:30, and he had already said "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit".

And then we have the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.  This is something of great significance - huge significance - and it gets one sentence.  But people from that time would have understood what that meant and we don't, off hand, because we live in a different culture and a different time.

Now you have to understand that the temple is naeas, the holy of holies, and the holy of holies had a barrier so that no one could go in there. Only the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement could go into the holy of holies, where the arch of the covenant was, and there sprinkled blood on behalf of the nation for their sins on the mercy seat on the top of the arch. And the high priest going in there had to have bells on his garment so that if he had gone in there in any sense unclean, and God had killed him, they would know he was dead because they wouldn't hear the bells. As long as they heard the bells, they knew he was still alive, and moving around.
This is symbolic of the fact that people were shut out of God's presence. No one really could go in there. But it wasn't a gradual change. When Jesus died on the cross, God himself ripped that curtain from top to bottom, ripped it, because Jesus had done what no priest could ever do. Only one priest, a high priest, could go in there, and he couldn't take anybody with him, nor could he make the way for anyone else to come. But at the death of Jesus, God himself ripped the curtain wide open and the holy of holies was open to all. And by the way, this was 3:00 in the afternoon on Passover, and the temple would have been jammed with people.  Notice it was ripped from the top to the bottom to show that men didn't do it. I doubt that they could have done it, so heavy was it. But for sure they couldn't have done it from the top to the bottom. The finger of God did it. In one moment, the holy of holies that no one had ever seen was completely exposed to everyone. No more Day of Atonement. No more high priests. No more priests. No more sacrifices. No more barrier. And soon, the whole temple would be trampled by the Pagan Romans. And to this day, never ever rebuilt. At this moment, the corruption of that robber's den started to come down. And what was the father saying? Access is open to all. Christ the great high priest did what no priest could ever do. He threw the way to God open. He ripped the barrier. And the father punctuated his work by himself ripping the curtain. And then in verse 51 again, you see another act of God, "the earth shook and the rocks were split." God was giving people preview of what is going to come to those who do not come by way of Christ into his holy presence. One day in the future, God is gonna shake the whole earth. There will be massive earthquakes described in the Book of Revelation, the likes of which no one could even comprehend. And finally, the whole disintegration of the world as we know it. Hebrews chapter 12 talks about the fact that we are a part of an unshakable kingdom. But there's coming a day when God will shake the world.

And one more supernatural thing that I was really curious about today, as I read, and I don't know if I've ever really thought about this one sentence before either.  "The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life."

There was a resurrection, folks. There was a resurrection. Did you get that? You say, "What came out of the graves?" Somata, bodies, bodies, not spirits. This isn't some ethereal thing. These aren't ghosts. Bodies, this is a real resurrection. What bodies? Many bodies...not all of them, it was a very discriminating one. Only select ones. Who were they? Saints. What are saints? Holy ones...from out of the Old Testament era who were waiting for their resurrection, who had been waiting perhaps a long time. When Jesus died, their spirits came from the abode where righteous spirits dwell and were joined with glorified bodies that came out of those graves.
You say, "Is this a real glorification? A real resurrection?" Absolutely. So many people who know the story of the cross, miss this. This is important. This is another statement by God. This is a resurrection, a real literal physical bodily glorified resurrection.
But what happened? They came out of the graves..period. The next sentence says, "After His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared unto many." Can you imagine what kind of testimony they have? "We have a guest for dinner tonight, you won't believe this..."
You say, "What would they be testifying about?" I'll tell you what they'd be testifying about, resurrection. But they didn't go into the city and do it until Christ had risen. Why? Because 1 Corinthians 15:20 says He's the firstfruits of them that slept, right? So it wasn't until after He was raised from the dead that they along with Him began to speak. And I don't think they spoke to anybody except those who already believed. There's no biblical evidence Christ ever appeared after His resurrection to anyone other than a believer. And they went in and I'm sure the believers were thrilled to meet them. And they would say Christ is alive and His being alive is the guarantee that you will live and we're living proof of that. Glorious miracle.

People in all times and cultures have been fascinated with supernatural events.  Some out of superstition, some out of avid curiosity, some out of fear, some out of a need to prove that they are actually NOT supernatural, but explainable scientifically.  And many practical, down-to-earth, common sense people would probably use these supernatural events that we've read about today as proof that this story couldn't possibly be true and that the whole Bible is just a book of fables.  But we who believe that the Bible is true and that all the supernatural events described therein really happened, and that these particular supernatural events were a foreshadowing of what is still to come, need to read these passages and look deeper into what those single sentences are trying to tell us so that we can be prepared when that day comes.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Matthew 28:1-19.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Nehemiah 8-10.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday, September 26

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 1-5
Today's scripture focus is Matthew 27:15-44

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”18 For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews. 38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

There's one really important question here that everyone deals with, whether they realize it or not.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?”

Everyone will have to answer that question.  Will you hate Him, like the religious leaders?  Will you mindlessly reject Him because everyone else does, like the fickle crowd?  Will you decide you're just not interested in dealing with this at all and put it aside, like Pilate's wife?  Will you deliberately choose to just get rid of Jesus, like Pilate?  All of those choices result in the same thing - sacrificing eternity.

There's only one choice that can save us and that is to choose salvation, to choose forgiveness, to choose Christ.

But here all we see is incredible wickedness.  Evil has taken over and it's not enough to just crucify Jesus, He is mocked, spit on, blasphemed, defamed, slapped, punched, scourged - He endures suffering beyond what we can even imagine - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

And He endured it all for us.

He stayed on the cross, not because He couldn't come down, but because He wouldn't.

He knew that He alone could pay the penalty for our sin - the only pure, spotless Lamb, sacrificed for all mankind.  He endured the sorrow and iniquity of every single person that has ever lived or will ever lived, all at the same time - it's indescribable and unimaginable what He endured.

For love.  For mercy.  For forgiveness.  For justice.

And on the cross, He offered forgiveness - verbally.  Even to those who killed Him, who mocked Him, who reviled Him, who tortured Him, who rejected Him - if they would only repent, they could still be forgiven.  In the midst of excruciating pain, He shed tears for those who shed His blood.

Unimaginable love and compassion demonstrated in such an overwhelming way.  Thank you Jesus! May we not only repent and receive you, but live our lives in obedience to you in gratitude for what you have done for us.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Matthew 27:45-66
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 6-7