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God is not passive nor aloof.
He is actively on mission searching for us.
Ever since the garden of Eden, God has been asking Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”
Today, God is still looking for us.
In Ezekiel 34:11-12, we see God on a mission for His own:
11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
God sends people on mission to either save people or deliver His word. In Genesis 45, Joseph tells his brothers that God has sent him to deliver his family. Likewise, God sent Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. God also raised up judges and the prophets.
Finally, He sent Jesus Christ on a mission to save us: John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for his disciples, that they would continue on the mission of God. The mission is possible because it depends upon Him, and it depends on His word. His word will not return empty, but it will accomplish its purpose.
Text: John 17:13-19.
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
In verse 15, Jesus prays to the Father that His disciples would not be removed from the world, but that they would be kept from the evil one.
We should realize that living for Jesus Christ makes us God’s agent in a world that has turned away from God.
Perhaps you came to Christ for a healing, or you were lonely, or some other ailment.
As you turned to God, Jesus healed you.
It doesn’t matter what your background is. The point is that you heard the word of God, and decided to follow Christ. You belong to Him, and He wants you to continue on his mission. Jesus prays to the Father that while you are serving Him here, that God would keep you safe from the evil one.
The world system is sold out to sin and corruption, and will one day pass away. In the meantime, we are sent on a mission as a countercultural force that gives life. While we are tempted to love the things of the world, we are admonished not to love the things that the world holds as valuable (I John 2:15-16).
Peter writes in his letter to believers facing imminent persecution:
1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
This country’ entire culture: economically and spiritually, is based upon consumerism.
The truth of the matter is the we were created by God for a much greater purpose. We were called out to work with God on a mission, reaching out to the lost, the dejected, the hurting and broken.
Next, in verses 17-19, Jesus prays that His followers would be agents of God’s truth as they are sent out into the world. Moreover, God has us covered:
1 John 5:18 (ESV)
18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Even though we might come from different denominations, backgrounds, languages, ethnicities, etc, we are united because we are serving God who sent us out on His mission into the world. As Jesus prays in verses 20-21, he is praying not just for the immediate disciples, but for everyone who believes in their message. We are all united by our adherence to the truth, and to the mission that we are called to.
We are to love and serve one another. This is why it is important not to follow the ways of this consumer-driven world, but to follow the example of Christ set before us.
Gal 5:13-15 (NLT)
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
There is nothing casual or leisurely about serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is in the soul-saving business, and so are we. Let us together stand and serve the King joyfully!
|Posted by A.Totire on April 26, 2017 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
The Greatest Story Ever Told
By Pastor Alan Totire
I like a good story, and I am sure that you do too. One thing that can ruin a good story is to watch only part of it, like coming into a movie towards the middle and leaving at the climax…without knowing how the story is going to end.
That is the same way for those people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.
But that’s religion, isn’t it? For some people, that’s all they need.
Actually, what we call “religion” is a story, a grand story that has a definite beginning and end. God is the storyteller, and He is also a participant in the story.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a significant part of that story, but it is by no means finalized on resurrection Sunday.
Stories are important because they have a way of bringing order and meaning to our lives.
Perhaps certain people feel that they do not “get into religion” because they never figured out what the story is. The death and resurrection of Jesus cannot be properly understood apart from the greater story that it is a part of.
You have come in the middle of a story, a grand story. The greatest story ever told.
Not only is Jesus Christ the subject of the story, but he himself becomes the storyteller. While most churches and movies focus on the place of the tomb, our story picks up after Jesus appears to the women at the tomb later that day…
On the Road to Emmaus
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
There are three points I would like to make from this passage:
1) The story retold
The same day Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb, two disciples were talking about the events of what was going on. They were not just sad; they were devastated, trying to make sense of things.
They, like you or me, try to derive meaning from life, a sense that somehow, life is like a story. Perhaps you don’t like the story you are in, but life itself offers some predictability so that we try to assess where we have come from and where we are going.
These disciples were Jewish people who believe in the one true God, who would send them a Messiah and deliver them from their oppressors. They firmly believed that perhaps Jesus of Nazareth was that person. After all, he was a righteous person who did miracles and helped people draw closer to God. But then, the unexpected happened. He was arrested, tortured, and crucified before all. This was a tragedy. Not only did the Jewish religious leaders and the Romans kill this man Jesus, but they also killed the hope that His disciples had.
Just then, Jesus Christ came up to them, and aksed them what they were talking about.
They were incredulous that this man didn’t know what had happened in Jerusalem.
Then, Jesus said, “O fools and slow of heart!” You should have known better. Then, he gives them a lesson in Old Testament history.
He did this because the death and resurrection of the Messiah had to be understood as part of Israel’s own dramatic story, which is unfolding before them. Jesus did not merely offer them prooftexts predicting that the Messiah would die; Jesus had to retell the story so that they knew that the story ultimately belonged to God, and He is the one whom they need to look in order to understand the outworking of God’s plan, from Genesis to Revelation, from creation to re-creation.
2) The story verified.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact, and it is one miracle that can be verified historically.
1 Cor 15:3-7 (ESV)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
This text was written approximately 20+ years after Jesus ascended into heaven. When the Apostle Paul wrote this, there were still people alive who could attest to its veracity.
Theories trying to disprove the resurrection have been tried and failed. For example, the disciples stole the body, the swoon theory. These have pretty much been rejected by New Testament scholars.
Now, internet skeptics are trying to discredit Christianity by saying that it was all borrowed from pagan religions. For example, the Jesus stories came from the Egyptian Horus myth, or from Mitharism. These too, are rejected by scholars. It is well attested that Christianity came from the cradle of Judaism, and in regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there are no parallels in any other religion, even Judaism.
Another claim that surfaced a few years ago but has quieted down is that Jesus wasn’t crucified, but that he married, had children, and lived a normal life. The evidence? Well, an archaeologist uncovered a tomb in Jerusalem where a family was buried in the 1st century. The name of the Father was Jesus, his wife was Mary, and they had children. Problem. Jesus and Mary were common names in those days. Also, only the very rich could have had a tomb in Jerusalem. If Jesus lived a normal life and died, he would have been buried in Nazareth, his hometown.
This was documented by the monumental work from Dr. N. T. Wright, who wrote an 800-page book entitled “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” Wright’s painstaking research into all ancient documents pertaining to resurrection has demonstrated that Jesus’ death and resurrection has no parallels with any other idea pertaining to resurrection. Wright’s book is the definitive work on the subject, and I am unaware of any scholarly work that has called it into question.
In the end, Christians have ample evidence to support their belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
3) The story’s challenge.
A person can most likely convince you that the evidence all points to the fact of the resurrection of the dead. However, you may say, “Yeah, well so what!”
As I said, while today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is not the end of the story. In fact, stories add meaning and purpose to our lives.
One overall statement that we can say about the resurrection of Jesus is that it implies that hope is not dashed or thwarted, but restored.
The story continues.
Its plot is clearer than ever.
Luke 24:30-32 (ESV)
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Before vanishing before the two disciples, they admitted that their hearts were burning within them. Jesus has a way of bringing back hope when it seemed that hope that given out.
Later, Jesus appears to the 12 disciples, which is recounted in the following verses:
Luke 24:44-47 (ESV)
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Again, after demonstrating that he has indeed risen from the dead, he gave them a history lesson, recounting the story of God’s plan of redemption, leading up to the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
If it is true that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true,
Then it follows that the grand story of God’s redemption is true also.
If that is true, where do we fit within it?
We can try to live our lives by trying to pursue one thrill to the next, or by finding our own career or to pursue love. The question then, is how long would that last? Does it give lasting meaning to life?
It is more than a simple fact that a dead man was raised from the dead. The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is available to you today. The question is, will you remain a spectator of this grand story, or will you become a part of it? If you want to become a part of God’s redemptive story, you can give your heart and life to Jesus Christ by giving him your life and by asking him into your heart. He promised that he will save us and send the Holy Spirit into our heart, which will confirm that you are indeed a child of God!
Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.