46. Conclusion

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 46. Conclusion

Jn 12:32  “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Rev 1:5   Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

How to put all these studies together? It is impossible in a relatively small space to cover every one of the studies of the past six weeks. All we can do is observe our starting point, our finishing point and the key parts in between.

Jesus our model for growth: Our starting point was our ultimate goal which was to consider the New Testament call to us to grow. Our framework for that was John 12:32 above and I suggested from the outset that there were expressions or outworkings of that verse: first, Jesus lifted up on the cross to die for our sins, second, Jesus lifted up from death by his resurrection and, third, Jesus exalted on high through the ascension, so he is now seated at his Father’s right hand, where his presently ruling.

Jesus’ model applied to us: That was the framework, and I suggested that this same framework can be observed in the Christian life – first, our call to die to the old life and to sin, then second, our call to live the resurrected, Spirit-empowered life, and finally, to realize and see that that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms where we are to rule with him, as the Spirit-led body of Christ on the earth, that is bringing in the kingdom or rule of God on the earth. Perhaps a few key items for each of those.

Death: Without death to the old life and to our old way of doing things and our old ambitions, we cannot come and receive Christ as both Saviour and Lord. Christ cannot bring his salvation to us and cannot lead us in a new life if we insist on holding onto the things of our old carnal life.

Resurrection: Without death there can never be resurrection.   Resurrection is the shorthand picture of what takes place when we come to Christ. When we are ‘born again’ it is a work of the Holy Spirit who God places within and so the Spirit becomes an inner source of revelation (teaching) and power (for life transformation and service).  All the virtues and all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit find their origin and expression in Him.

Ascension: This is the area that many of us struggle with most. It is first of all seeing ourselves seated with Christ in heaven, linked by his Holy Spirit, second, it is understanding that now he is there ruling over the affairs of the world, even in the midst of his enemies who will eventually be destroyed, enemies that are all things contrary to the way God originally created this world perfect, and third, it is seeing ourselves as now his body on the earth, directed by him from heaven, led and empowered by his Spirit on a daily basis and, finally, fourth it is understanding that his body now, as two thousand years ago, is to work to bring the kingdom or rule of God on the earth.

It is the enormity of this third phase that leaves many of us struggling and is, perhaps, the most difficult area for growth. Perhaps there are various reasons for that. First, it is a spiritual experience that is expressed into the physical world. We are all right with the spiritual bit (e.g. simple prayer) but when that is extended to hearing God and responding to His directions that mean us stepping out in the physical world to bring physical changes, our faith wavers.

Second, we have settled in the past in the good, but only partial, teaching that the spiritual parts of being a Christian are just about being a witness, sharing the Gospel with friends, family etc. etc. Now that is good and right, but it stops short of Jesus call that said, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.” (Jn 14:12) and his explanation of those works is seen in Matt 11:5 and Lk 4:18,19. The other ‘spiritual’ aspect that we have watered down is in respect of prayer which is so often simply reduced to telling God what He ought to do and uttering words into the air, instead of it being a life-filled experience where there is a two-way communication. It is the so-often absent ‘hearing element’ of prayer that releases faith for action.

And So: So there we are, death, resurrection and ascended to a place of ruling, that is our syllabus or our learning program, a program that is not merely about learning words but putting them into action (Mt 28:20). To conclude, note our second starter verse from above: “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Rev 1:5) There again we have the three phases of the life and ministry of the Son of God.

First, he was a faithful witness, sharing in all the Father was doing (Jn 5:17,19), perfectly fulfilling the plan of the Godhead, formulated before the beginning of time and resulting in his death on a cross for the sins of mankind. Second, he is the firstborn from the dead, having been raised to life after death. Third, he is now the ruler of all the earth, seated at his Father’s right hand, working slowly and purposefully in the midst of his enemies on the earth to bring the rule of God which will be culminated in his Second Coming. Oh yes, there is very much yet a future element to all this, as there is for us. That says to us that we are working towards a guaranteed future when, if we learn these things, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” while at the same time being welcomed home as the sons and daughters, the children of God, that we are.  Hallelujah and Amen!

19. Recap 2

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 19. Recap 2

Phil 3:10    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection

Death before Power Resurrection: Before we move on into the third Part, we will remind ourselves of the things we have covered in Part 2.  It has been all about the power that God has released in our lives by the presence of His indwelling Holy Spirit which, when we consider it in the light of our previous lives that were dead to God, we have referred to as ‘resurrection lives’. We considered that for the resurrection life to come into being, death has first to take place, death to self, death to the old life, death seen in the form of surrender to the sovereignty of God, a new reliance on Jesus for the rest of life.

Righteousness the New Goal: From there we went on to consider that the goal of the new empowered life is righteousness, conforming to the will of God, and we reminded ourselves that that comes in two forms. First, it is our righteousness that is seen through God’s eyes as a result of the work of Jesus on the Cross.  Second, it is practical day to day righteousness that is being lived out as we conform to the teaching of the Bible and aided by the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Fruit of that righteousness is peace and security.

Prayer, a New Way of Looking: We followed on by thinking about this new empowered life also been seen as a life of prayer, of becoming aware of the presence of God in a new way and responding to that presence, realising it is all about what He wants, Him knowing all of our needs already, and so entering into a new life of learning to listen to Him. In the corporate dimension, prayer within the church grouping, there is released a new dimension of revelation and direction.

God’s Provision: Because prayer is so often seen as asking for our own needs, we went on to consider the Lord’s provision for us, His grace, which comes in the form of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We saw that His resources as witnessed in two different ways: first, sometimes He delivers us out of the situation and, second, He sometimes delivers us in the situation by allowing it to continue but providing for us in the midst of it.

God’s Word – Transforming Revelation: One of God’s ‘provisions’ we considered was His word that we see both in the form of the Bible AND of the communication of His indwelling Holy Spirit, directed by Jesus, ruling at the right hand of his Father. This ‘revelation’, we said, should always bring life transformation. We examined this in the light of the examples in the Scripture of individuals being told to ‘eat’ God’s words and eating, we went on to consider, brings change to the body.

The World of Possibilities: Stepping aside from what we call the spiritual disciplines, we considered the bigger subject of how this power of God in us opens up a world of possibilities. Observing various Biblical characters, we realised that so often when God comes to bring revelation and direction, our personal sense of inadequacy has to be overcome before we can move into the fullness of His will for us.

Sacrifice & Transformation: To conclude this Part we looked at two aspects of Paul’s teaching, both of which are vital to this resurrection life.  In the first we saw Paul’s call to lay down or sacrifice our lives for God’s use. Underpinning everything about the resurrection life is this primary call to be available to God. Power flows in His children when we are seeking His presence and His will, and to do that means a laying down of our own wishes, our own ambitions and our own way of doing things. It is only within this context that the power of God is experienced.

But then, second, came the question of mind transformation, changing our way of thinking to conform to His – His overall will and goals, and His way of doing things. We realize that our life is a combination of His leading and our responding and when we respond to His leading we find a power resource available that we had not known before.

Summarizing? How can we summarize these things? Well, strangely you might think, there is very little about specific doing. These things are big ways of working, if I may put it like that, and that is on purpose. Our intent has been to focus on the reality of the resurrection life, the life empowered by the Spirit. It will only be as we move into the third Part that we will see specific things that we can DO as expressions of the kingdom of God. This Part, we might say, has been about principles.

So, yes, first, there is the principle that death must precede resurrection. For the resurrection power life to happen there has to be death to the old life and surrender to God.  Then, second, there is the realization that this is power is to enable righteousness. Third, it is a new of “God first” looking at life, especially experienced in prayer, which opens the door to the realization that, fourth, it is a life of power resources made available to us in the form of the Holy Spirit, available for every situation and circumstance. Fifth, we see it is also a life of transformation as the power of the Spirit opens our eyes and our hearts to ‘hear’ His word, the revelation of His will for our lives. Sixth, we see that this opens a whole new world of possibilities, only limited by our self-unbelief, but never His power.  Seventh, there has to be the balance of seeing it as a life of sacrifice whereby we give our entire lives over to Him for His use and disposal. Eighth, there is also the recognition that to fully enter into these things our minds need renewing to enable the transformation to take place.

Now that is interesting because I hadn’t planned it like that (I hadn’t planned it!!!) but eight in scripture is the number of resurrection. So here are a number of principles that we will take into the final Parts to see how these things are expressions of how Jesus works in and through us to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. Before we do that, let’s just remind ourselves that this is all about us growing up in Christ. As we understand and take on board all these things, so we grow. As we move into the third Part we will seek to get a third perspective on the Christian life which will enable us to grow in Him.

17. Resurrection Sacrifice

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 17. Resurrection Sacrifice   

Rom 12:1    I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 

Our Goals Restated: I think more than any other series I have ever embarked on, in this one I (we) need to restate our purpose again and again if we are to get to the heart of the scriptures, and as we consider how we can grow in Christ. Our present goal is to examine the Christian life, considering it as a resurrected life, a life empowered by the Holy Spirit and raised to life after we have previously, pre-Christ, been spiritually dead. We are thus considering various facets of the Christian life observed as expressions of the Spirit reflecting the resurrected life of Jesus – mainly the factor of the Spirit empowered life that overcame death.

We have considered various aspects of this and there will almost certainly be overlaps in those considerations and now I wish to consider a facet of that life I have never considered before in respect of Jesus after he was raised from the dead – the fact that this was a strictly limited period of his overall life plan, if I may put it like that, and he is clearly still working out the will of the Father.

Jesus’ Role Limited: If Jesus had just been doing his own thing, he could easily have thought that having passed through the crucifixion experience, seen to have died and now raised from the dead, he was in an admirable position to draw followers even more than before, but he didn’t. Instead he concentrated on the core of his followers and seems to have focused his teaching on them in an out of the way place in Galilee in the north. The plan was for them to be his witnesses after they had been filled with the Spirit after their return to Jerusalem. He, himself, would ascend back to heaven and leave them to be empowered and carry on his work, as he directed it at the right hand of his Father in heaven.

Yet again, I suggest, we see Jesus sacrificing his will to the plan of the Godhead and it is that aspect we turn to now. Now of course (the overlaps I mentioned), we have considered submitting to the sovereign will of God when we came to Christ and although it might be thought this is more appropriately something considered in the first Part about ‘dying to self’, we bring it right into centre place when it comes to the resurrection life. We could get carried away with the idea of being raised to a new life, a life of freedom, talking about possibilities as we just did in the previous study, but here we need to bring the balancing teaching with the reminder that those possibilities are ‘in Christ’ or ‘in God’; they are possibilities inspired and empowered and directed by him,

Balance: So, with all this talk about a resurrected, empowered life, it is appropriate as we seek to bring balance, that we pick up on a little of Paul’s teaching to the Romans: “I urge you, brothers and sisters …. to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” or as the Message version expands it, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” Whatever else this verse means, it can perhaps be summarised as, ‘Give God everything about you, for Him to do with it as He wills, to change it or dispose of it even.’

Struggle: Now in the interests of strict honesty, I have to confess that I have struggled with this concept. As I prayed beforehand, it seemed right and yet as I wrote, I felt hypocritical as I felt I didn’t do it, and I felt ignorant in that I am sure I don’t know what it really means, and so I put aside this study and felt uncomfortable. And then a verse came to mind and it all made sense: “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10;38,39) The same thing is said almost word for word a little later: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Mt 16:24,25)

Death Guaranteed: Look at the elements of those verses: you want “to be my disciple”? This isn’t for everyone; this is for those who will be Christians, who will agree to follow Jesus (like we saw in the case of Levi). Such people “must deny themselves”, i.e. must die to self as we saw in the first Part. Such people must take up that sign of death, the Cross, and follow the walk of Jesus. If again we take that imaginary conversation between Jesus and Levi, it might now go as follows:

“What are we going to do?

“You’ll find out as you follow me.”

“Where will it end?”

“Do you really want to know?  (Silence) My death on a cross, and you too will die, not physically but in every other way. (Silence) At that point you will run away but I will come after you and we will talk again and again I will ask you to follow me. At that time, you will see in my resurrection, a new possibility, but it will always be under the shadow of death, for they will come hunting you and many of you will literally give up your physical lives as you remain loyal to me. Come follow me.”

That is what it meant for the earliest disciples. For some Christians around the world today it will mean exactly the same. For us? We won’t know until our lives come to a literal end on this planet. In the meantime, although we live with his power within us, what I have termed ‘resurrection lives’, we are called to live that life as if we may have no tomorrow. Part of giving our bodies, as Paul put it, means making ourselves available to Jesus for whatever he wants to do with us,

The Reality of ‘Being Sent’: It’s that same old ‘sovereignty thing’ we considered before, and for some of us it seems really scary but that is only because we imagine God sending us to places (it used to be ‘darkest Africa’ or smuggling Bibles into Russia) that scare the life out of us – but if the life has already gone and we are now running on his life, his power, we don’t have a life to defend, just a new one to live on turbo-charge.  The thing is that God knows what is best for each of us and so, yes, there will be some who get a call to Outer Mongolia (I’ve met some of them, they are incredible) but most of us will simply get a call to our neighbours or our unsaved family where we may find rejection but, on the other hand, we may find a prepared ground and we’re just going in to harvest.

Thinking Aright: Part of this ‘finding our life’ when we give it up, is finding a new way of thinking, but we’ll keep that until tomorrow. When we get our thinking right, it is easier to do the things the New Testament says about us. An example? Well the fact that God totally loves us. He is not going to get you to do something or go somewhere that is completely beyond you – well yes it may be, but a) He will always be with you in it and b) He will always enable you to handle it. That’s the joy of this resurrection, empowered life, and so talk of giving up your life is no longer so scary because i) you’ve already done it once when you came to Christ and ii) the power will always be there. Again and again we ‘die’ and say, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you. I will do what you say,” and then to our surprise, it suddenly seems easy!  Amazing! Well, of course, it’s His power you are experiencing.

11. Resurrection = Power

(We pick up the threads again of the series we started before Lent, particularly appropriate after Easter))

PART TWO: Lifted up – for Resurrection

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 11. Resurrection = Power

Phil 3:10    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection

The Resurrection Parallel: As we move into the second Part of this saeries, we remind ourselves that we are basing these studies on Jesus’ words about “when I am lifted up” which can have three applications. The first was about being lifted to die and the second one, which is a quite natural follow-on when we consider Jesus’ life, is about resurrection. The parallel with Jesus death and resurrection and the same happening, in spiritual terms at least in our lives, is strong in the New Testament.

We have seen it previously in Romans 6; now see it in Ephesians 3:  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”  (Eph 3:18-20) i.e. the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that now indwells you. There is a hint of what is coming in the final Part that we will consider – ascension and ruling in heaven and that is put as a parallel by Paul when he speaks about our inheritance. At this point in time, this is expressed as hope for the future which we are encouraged to believe in, as we take hold of it today in the power of God that we experience. Do you see how all these things are inter-related?

Death essential: Of course without death there cannot be resurrection. We see that from earliest preaching: This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan 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) and the apostle Paul, as we saw previously, follows on from that: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  (Rom 6:4) It sounds an obvious thing but when you apply it to the spiritual parallel of our lives, it becomes vital. If we do not put to death all those things we considered in the first Part, they will act as a hindrance to us being able to enter into the experiences paralleled by resurrection which we will consider as we go through this Part.

Indeed, when we start thinking about resurrection parallels in our lives, the thought that death MUST go before, puts a new emphasis behind all we said in that first Part. Our starting point had been the picture of the seed falling into the ground and ‘dying’ and without that happening, it cannot possibly ‘germinate’, get nourishment from the soil, be watered and grow. The burying and ‘dying’ is vital.

God’s Sovereignty must mean Our Surrender: But then we considered the matter of sovereignty, and this is where a unique dynamic comes in. Unlike a do-it-yourself activity or working from a self-help book, living out the Christian faith is not only about following the instructions of the teaching in the New Testament but also taking the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit; it is a personal relationship thing and that can’t happen unless we are willing to put aside our own hopes, desires and dreams and submit to the Lord’s plans for our lives – which are always better!!!! But for His will to prevail, ours has to die.

Available to all People: When it comes to people, it is so easy to let personal likes or dislikes prevail, but Jesus is open to all and wants us to be available to all, but we cannot do that and be his instrument unless we are willing to die to those likes or dislikes in respect of people, our own prejudices. If it applies generally to people, it certainly applies where we have a need to be forgiven or to forgive. Failure to die to self means the Lord cannot raise up new life in the form of reconciliation and healing.

Don’t Lose the Resources: Then there was the subject of allowing people or systems or methods to replace our reliance on the Lord Himself. While we rely upon or look to anyone or anything other than the Lord as our resource, we will not be able to receive the flow of His Spirit, His power, into our lives. We have to die to those other ‘resources’ if we are to become recipients of the Lord’s resources. Jeremiah had to bring the word to God’s people, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water,” (Jer 2:13) which was all about substitutes.

Reliance in all areas = blessing in all areas: Anxiety and worry, and the whole subject of trusting the Lord is, at the heart of it, all about knowing the Lord in daily experience, not merely in reading about Him in His word. Death to self means turning to Him, relying upon Him, turning to Him with all problems and difficulties, whether intellectual, material, spiritual or emotional, and not making our own intellect or cleverness, or our own will-power, the resource we will rely upon.  Anxiety closes us down. Reliance releases resources.

This is a very real issue. Another way of putting it is to ask are we godly or godless, selfless or selfish, when it comes to running our lives? Death to the godless and selfish approach to life is essential if we are to let the Lord move in with resurrection power to deliver us in the trials we face in life and shine as His children.

Pleasure, a supplementary gift: Finally we considered the difficult path of enjoyment and pleasure that can exclude the Lord from our lives. In such a case it is death to excess, death to making pleasure the source of meaning and fulfillment for our lives. Where the seeking after pleasure through goods or experiences has subtly grown to fill our lives to the exclusion of the Lord, then balance is never going to come and all we can hope for is a jaded ‘existence’ if we fail to put to death such a reliance. In today’s age that is a particularly hard thing in modern life.

Life Options: So there it is: failure to face and deal with these very real issues means we will be consigned to a mundane life of ordinariness, jadedness and frustration, a life where the glory and wonder of the Lord cannot break through in resurrection power. Clearly the opposites of these things that we have considered, and which need putting to death, will be goals of the resurrection life and so, having dealt with them thus far, we will endeavor not to repeat them in the following studies. Instead we will consider what the resurrection life means and how it can be experienced, even in what we might consider the ordinary aspects of the Christian life, so they can become less ordinary and become a source of excitement, faith and hope, rather than drab, taken-for-granted features of formal religion. Remember, this second Part is all about power to live the new Christian life.

11. Two Stages?

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 11. Two Stages?

Acts 5:30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.

There is a danger, as we view the last days of Jesus on the earth, that we compartmentalise each part of Jesus’ ‘experience’ on earth – born, growth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and, indeed, this is often helpful but it can detract from a key fact – every phase is linked and every phase is part of the overall plan that we have previously considered, the plan formulated by the Godhead before Creation.

Yet when we come to accounts of preaching in Acts, death and resurrection go hand in hand. The above quote is Peter before the Sanhedrin, and earlier on the day of Pentecost he spoke of Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23) and then immediately about the resurrection (v.24). Later after healing the cripple as he speaks to the crowd, he closely links the two: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” (Acts 3:15) Still later, when speaking to the household of Cornelius, he again linked them closely: “They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” (Acts 10:39,40)

In a different series recently, it crossed my mind that there could not be (and in our case cannot be) resurrection without a death. Now I don’t want in any way to diminish the work of Christ on the Cross, but I do want to pick up on what comes through in these verses, that the cross was stage one of a three stage exultation of Jesus: cross – resurrection – ascension. The latter two are dependent on the first.

Those closing words in verse 40 immediately above are important, “and caused him to be seen”. If you read the apostle Paul’s testimony about the number of people who saw the risen Christ (in 1 Cor 15:5-8) the word ‘appeared’ is used four times. It was important that Christ was seen after he rose from the dead. This may sound obvious but think about it. As God he could have quietly risen from the dead and ascended back to heaven without anyone seeing him, but the fact is he was seen, again and again by well over five hundred people and they bore testimony (and we’ll come to this in the next study) and thus Christ was vindicated, he showed that he was who he had said he was, the glorious Son of God.

Thus these two interlinked parts are vital and need to be held together: Jesus died for our sins, for our justification, but he rose from the dead – as he said he would (Mt 16:21, 17:9,23, 20:19, 26:32) – to be seen to confirm, justify and vindicate all he said he would do and thus confirm all the teaching that would follow of ‘the work of the Cross’. The resurrection confirms the purpose of the life AND the death.

35. Confident Expectations

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 35. Confident Expectations

1 Cor 15:14,17-19   if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith …… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

A People of Hope? As I have working through this series on ‘expectations’ I have come to realise (or just see more clearly) that hope, or confident expectation, is everywhere, especially in the New Testament and so, we are called to be a people of hope, a people of confident expectation. Thus, when I suspect that a large majority of Christian do not live with this expectation, I conclude that it must be because they do not read their Bible or take in what is there.

Back to Basics: Very often with such studies we start out with some complexity but then find ourselves going backwards it seems and becoming more and more simple, and so, as we must be drawing nearer to the end of this series, let’s see if we can be absolutely basic.

The Resurrection: If we have this hope, this confidence, we have emphasised again and again that it is to do with the future, but why can we have this confidence? On what is it built? Well, very obviously, it is built upon Jesus, upon what we read of him in the Gospels, but even more it is built upon his resurrection. If Jesus had just come with good teaching and did a variety of miracles and healed a lot of people, we could say he was just a good man, but he stands out in history as having died by crucifixion and then within three days as having risen from the dead. There is also the small matter of his ascension! The fact that this happened to Jesus, not only marks him out in history, but it also indicates God’s approval of him, as well as setting down a foundation of believe in a power that is there available for our lives also, a power we have already observed that will take us through death and into an eternal life with God.

Our Salvation Package: So, when the ‘salvation package’ is laid out before us, we find it includes us being justified (because Jesus has taken our guilt and shame), us being adopted (because Jesus has taken away any barrier between us and the Father) and us being receivers of his own Holy Spirit (because Jesus has redeemed our lives from the enemy and his way of living). All of these things, I have just shown, we have because of what Jesus has done. Thus, our confidence for these things is in Jesus, and our confidence in Jesus is because of what we see of him in the Gospels, and especially his death and resurrection. Because we are sure of these thing, we can be confident about tomorrow and especially the ‘tomorrow’ that includes our death and what comes after it.

The Ingredients of Tomorrow: Thus, seeking to be as simple and obvious as possible, if we can backtrack over these things, as I look into the day ahead of me and the many days, weeks, months or years I may have left to me, I can look forward to such times that will be free from guilt or shame because I have been justified. Even more, I can look forward to such times being those when I am aware of being a son of God, a child of God, part of God’s family, part of His household (Eph 2:19), and thus a receiver of all of the love and goodness that flows in that relationship with the Father. And underpinning all this, is the glorious and wonderful presence of His Holy Spirit who indwells me and equips me and empowers me to do the work of Jesus.

All of these things, I have with complete confidence and it is a confidence that they will be there, just the same, every day of my life that remains. There will not be a day when I have to feel guilt and shame, there will not be a day when I do not know the love and provision of the Father, and there will not be a day when I will be devoid of the Holy Spirit and His power and enabling. THAT is the confidence, THAT is the hope we have for this day, and tomorrow and every day after that.

Holding Firm: In case this sounds too good or too easy, let me balance it with the following that comes earlier in that same chapter as our starting verses: By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Cor 15:2) Now there is a faith element to all this. Why is it that so many are not living in this threefold expectation I have just laid out? It is because of lack of faith to believe God’s word, the Gospel that Paul said he had preached.

Please, if you need to, if you recognise that you do not live with this daily threefold recognition (and we could add more things to those three), then go back and reread the paragraphs above until you take them in and absorb them and are able to say, “Yes, that is the basis upon which I live each day!”

The Unacceptable Alternative: And to go back to the beginning, we can say these things with a certainty, with this sure and confident expectation – this hope – because of Jesus and because Jesus died AND rose again. I do like the way Paul puts it, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … your faith is futile …… we are to be pitied more than all men.” We either believe it and live it, or we pack our bags and go and join the miserable atheists, materialists and humanist. Trying to settle somewhere in between (“well you ask too much of me”) means we incur the strong words of Jesus: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! …. you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold” (Rev 3:15,16) We don’t want to be that; we don’t need to be that. All we need do is go back over and over those three sets of truths above – justified, adopted, empowered – and get them well and truly settled in our lives, and then live them!

These things we should be able to be completely confident about, and when we are we can live every day with this confident expectation, and the wonderful thing is that when we do, it opens a door for God to move in and through us and who knows what the outcome will be? All I can say is that a) it will be change and b) it will be good! As you finish, dare to pray: “Lord, thank you in anticipation for this day and this week ahead, that I can live it in the knowledge of your love, live it as your child and live it with your power. Thank you, Lord. Amen!”

31. Copying Jesus

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 31. Copying Jesus

Acts 2:25-27    I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.  

Following Jesus: Jesus is always to be the one we follow, the one we copy, and this is as much true about expectations as it is about anything else.  I have always been slightly worried about the “What would Jesus do?” campaign of a number of years ago because it has the potential for legalism and of ignoring the Holy Spirit’s inner leading, but nevertheless Jesus is indeed to be the one we follow and seek to imitate.

Resurrection Hope: It was the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, under the anointing of the Spirit, who took the words of David from Psa 16:8-11 and declared them prophecy that spoke out the heart of Jesus in respect of the resurrection. Now when it comes to expectations these words are worthy of our consideration, so let’s check the quote first of all.

Verse 9 of Psa 16 says, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,” but Peter changed it to “my body also will live in hope,” Perhaps David when he first wrote it did not dare to take that final step about a resurrected body and yet he clearly hinted at something akin to that as he continued, “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay,” and if that wasn’t enough he concluded, “you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psa 16:11) There is definitely a thought there about living in God’s eternal presence after we die. Peter, and we must remember, under the anointing of the Spirit, extends this in respect of Jesus to suggest that he knew the reality, he (Jesus) had known he would be resurrected.

Jesus Sureness: Now this, of course, is quite true because we have read, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) which was reiterated by Jesus in Mt 17:22,23 and Mt 20:17-19 as well as more oblique references in Mt 17:9 and Mt 12:39,40 and Mt 26:31,32 which also became obvious public knowledge (see Mt 27:62-64).

Two Applications: Now that was Jesus and we just said that we are to walk in his footsteps and when it comes to his resurrection there are two ways this applies to us: first in respect of the life we now live and, second, the fact of our bodily resurrection. These are both the hope (expectation) that we have today. Let’s consider them both.

First of all, our lives today. The apostle Paul taught, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:4,5) Christ’s resurrection is to be symbolic of our lives today.  But this isn’t merely symbolic, it is about the power within our lives today which will take us on after physical death, which takes us on to the second application, life after death.

A little later he wrote, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:9-11)

Now this take a little explaining. When he says, “your body is dead because of sin,”  he means, as the Message version puts it, “you yourself experience all the limitations of sin” and the Living Bible helpfully adds, “your body will die because of sin” i.e. the fact is that, humanly speaking, each one of us will physically die one day because of the ‘sin thing’ since the Garden of Eden, but, nevertheless, because the Holy Spirit indwells us and enlivens our spirit, there is yet a further existence for us after our physical death whereby we will receive new resurrection bodies.

Before we came to the Lord, the Bible speaks about us having been ‘dead to Christ’ or ‘dead to God’ but when we receive the Holy Spirit and are born again, our spirit is brought alive, resurrected if you like, and alive to God. As the apostle Paul said in that earlier argument, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11) So it is a very real and very practical application for our lives today – Him in us, gives us a new resurrected life, and who knows where He will lead us tomorrow.

But it is also life after death: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:20-22) So there it is, but it is not simple and obvious. When, is a question asked. Paul continued, “each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (v.23)  i.e. when Christ returns. How, is the next question. Paul replies, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (v.42-44)

What is ‘a spiritual body’?  Clearly a body that is imperishable and does not rot as a physical body does. Did Christ’s own body after he was raised from the dead give us a clue, a body that did not seem to be limited by time and space, that appeared to be able to pass through physical matter?  Again Paul wrote, “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (v.49) A ‘body’ is clearly part of the package for our eternity and perhaps we will just have to wait until after death to experience the reality of it. In the meantime, we have this expectation: there is a life beyond death, a life that involves a body. In the meantime, there is a ‘life’ that exists now which includes spirit, His Spirit linked to my spirit and that may be the clue to our eternal future as well. Amen.