21. Power

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 21. Power  

1 Cor 1:18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

“The message of the cross”. What does that mean? It has to mean more than the simple historical fact that a Jewish preacher-miracle worker was put to death some two thousand years ago outside the walls of Jerusalem. That is the starting point, those are the facts, but they are only the beginning.

The rest is what we have referred to as the significance or meaning of those events and that may be summed up as ‘Christ died to carry our sins, our guilt and our punishment’ and that in itself is the greatest statement that has ever been heard in the world, for it opens up the way for us to receive God’s salvation which includes being justified  (made right) in His sight, being adopted into His family, and receive the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit – and all that comes because of the cross, because of Jesus dying there for us.

But to most people, they read that paragraph and yawn and turn to the affairs of life and fail to realise they are ‘perishing’; they are living without God, they are living by their own wisdom, their own very limited resources, and are therefore very vulnerable to the struggles of life (see Jesus’ parable in Mt 7) and they have no eternal destiny. As we saw yesterday, “Their destiny is destruction.” (Phil 3:19). In their blindness all this talk of the cross is foolishness.

But for you and me “who are being saved”, it is something else! Notice the tense – “are being”. Salvation is a threefold process: when you surrendered to Christ you were saved. As we live out our Christian lives, we are being saved. When we get to heaven we will be finally saved. When we came to Christ, the power of his Holy Spirit was imparted to us. Now day by day we live our lives empowered by Him. When we get to heaven we will have new bodies empowered and brought about by Him. Everything about this new life is about power – His power released in us and it all comes because of what Christ did on the Cross. Our part was simply to believe it and receive it and remain open to it and respond to it.

Paul emphasised this when he wrote, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  (1 Cor 1:17) No, he was saying, what we do is not by human strength or human wisdom because that would detract from the wonder of the truth about salvation; no, it is all the power that flows to us because of the wonder of what Christ achieved on the cross, the potential of our justification which is there to be received.

10. The Word of Truth

Meditations in Colossians: 10. The Word of Truth

Col 1:4-6   we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.

We are familiar with understanding the word ‘Gospel’ to mean Good News but here Paul also calls it “the word of truth” and it is worth pondering on the meaning of that. In prophetic circles we speak of someone receiving “a word”. We don’t mean that they have received a single word but that they have received a collection of words – from  a sentence to a whole collection of say ten paragraphs – that form a message from God. But note also that when Paul describes this word he calls it “the word”. It is not just a word which would make it just one among many but it is a single unique message from God and there is no other message like it. But more than that, it is the message of truth which implies that it is a unique message that somehow encapsulates all that is vital in and for life.

Truth? That which conforms to reality, which is exactly true and does not in any way deviate from that which is. So here, says Paul, we have this unique message from God that conveys or sums up the will of God, the reality of the plans and purposes of God. You want to know if there is a God? Ponder on the Gospel message, Could this just be the planning of human beings or has it got an origin that goes beyond us?  What sort of God is there if there is one?  Ponder on the Gospel and see a God of infinite compassion, a God of love and mercy who plans from before the beginning of time to redeem mankind that has abused its free will and got into slavery to this thing called Sin, this inescapable propensity of godless self-centredness.  You wonder if there is any escape from this self-centred godlessness that seems to lead to unrighteousness and self-destructive thinking and behaviour?  After you realise that our state is helpless and thus hopeless, we hear the Gospel and grasp for it like a drowning person.

This word tells the truth? Listen to Paul elsewhere: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved……  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:1-4) There was the Gospel encapsulated.

It is all about Christ who the Gospels reveal is the unique Son of God who came to earth from heaven. Here he lived, growing from a baby to an adult and then at about the age of thirty started three years of the most remarkable ministry that the word has ever seen. The apostle Peter described him in his first sermon to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, first in human terms: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22) Later he said the same thing to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38).

That is all implied in Paul’s summary and is a prerequisite to the fundamentals of why Christ came: “Christ died for our sins.” Peter spelled it out again and again: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him,” (Acts 2:23,24 to the Jews at Pentecost) and “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead….. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12 before the religious leaders) and “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen….. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:39,40,43 to the Gentiles)

But the outworking brought so much more. We have seen the facts (the truth) of what happened – Jesus came, revealed the Father, was crucified and rose from the dead, all, we are told, the means to bring about the forgiveness of our sins. That is what HE did but then there is OUR response and then what HE does as a response to us! Our response, to the conviction by His Holy Spirit, is to surrender to Him, believe in Jesus (an early act of faith) and receive what he then imparts – forgiveness, cleansing, adoption and the impartation of what becomes the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. Thus we are ‘born again’, made new, and He reveals a plan and purpose for our lives that we live out in our remaining years here on earth.  But it doesn’t stop there. We have received eternal life and the guarantee of a glorious future with Him in heaven after life on this earth. This is the package that we call the Gospel. This is what has happened to Jesus (it is true!) and this is what has happened to us (it is true!)  This is the word of truth.. Hallelujah!

7. Message of a Prophet

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 7. The Message of a Prophet

Mk 1:7,8 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

You wonder what people though when they listened to John the Baptist. Initially his message was one of repentance but it was repentance for a reason. The reason? There was one coming after him who was coming with power! But there was more than that; John considered this person so great that he, John, wasn’t even worthy enough to be his servant. But why would he think that? Surely John could have been a servant to a king? So this person is going to be greater than a king? What sort of person is this coming one going to be?

So what more did John say about him? He is going to baptize people in the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? Well John immersed people in water as a sign of their cleansing, so this coming one is going to immerse people in God’s Spirit? How can that be? What do we know from the past of God’s Holy Spirit?  He brooded over creation (Gen 1:2), He came on a man and filled him with creative ability to design and make materials for the Tabernacle (Ex 31:3), He enabled seventy elders to prophesy (Num 11:25), He came on Balaam and enabled him to prophesy (Num 24:2,3),  He came upon a variety of judges to empower them to lead (Jud 3:10, 6:34 etc.), He came upon Saul and enabled him to prophesy (1 Sam 10:10) and also stirred him to lead Israel (1 Sam 11:6) and came on David to lead (1 Sam 16:13).

In other words, whenever the Holy Spirit came, He brought power and change. So this coming one is not merely coming with words, he is coming with the power of God to change people! This is a new era! So far God’s people have sought to follow God’s rules (the Law) in order to be God’s people, but now it sounds like God Himself is coming in power to change His people on the inside. Is this what Jeremiah meant when he prophesied, I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.” (Jer 31:33,34)

Lord, let your Spirit transform my life and keep on transforming it. Thank you for the wonder of what you have done already by your Spirit because of what Jesus achieved on the Cross.