Religion & Spirituality:Christianity
Easter 2015 - Part 8
The Story continues
Last time we looked at the resurrection and how Jesus Christ was raised to life by God Father in the power of God the Holy Spirit! Before that, Jesus was forsaken on the cross as he bore the sins of the world – the sins of all history – past, present and future. God had to turn his back, and forsake His son, because God is holy and the Father couldn’t bear to look upon sin. So He had to forsake Him, abandon Jesus if you like. But it was never going to be a permanent forsaking or abandonment! Only a temporary abandonment and this was shown in the resurrection when Jesus came to life again! Think of when you were taken to your first day of school, and your parents left you behind. You were forsaken and abandoned by your parents then. But that was always also going to be a temporary abandonment as they came to collect you later on in that day.
So, as we have seen, the good news is that Jesus is still living. The rest of the four Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts tell us a little more of what Jesus did before He ascended into the heavens.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Luke 24:45-53
Jesus’ resurrection is the catalyst for the mission of the church, beginning with the disciples and throughout history. Jesus’ mission to earth is coming to an end and shortly He will be returning to the right hand of the Father. Before He does so though, He has some more words to say to His disciples.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ authority is a major theme. Let me read from Matthew 28:16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Where Matthew records Jesus doing miracles, this is to highlight Jesus authority in action and not just merely in words. Matthew records Jesus’ authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) and he imparted authority to his disciples for a short time when they went on a mission in Matthew 10. Jesus has authority (Matthew 28:18) over all things, all people, all circumstances and happenings. Jesus has authority over all spiritual beings, whether angels or demons. Jesus has authority over all nations, governments and rulers. Jesus has authority over all earthly and spiritual authorities. Jesus has the authority. This means regardless of what ever the Christian Disciple faces, Jesus is in control. Therefore, as Christian Disciples, we can obey him without fear of retribution from those who would seek to harm us. We can obey him regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is a great comfort to know, that he is in control of everything!! Through his death on the cross and his rising from the dead, Jesus has conquered all enemies.
Now people sometimes confuse authority with authoritarian. Authoritarian means severe, rigidity and a dictator. None of these things apply to Jesus. We have been given a free will, but as his Disciples, we should choose to exercise our free will to obey him and live a life worthy of him. As the Christian depends on Jesus’ authority, the Christian Disciple gains wisdom, guidance, and power.
But the story does not stop there!
Jesus walks with us, wherever we go and in particular in the darkest periods of our life. Just as he did with the two people on the road to Emmaus, he walks with those who proclaim to follow Him (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32). Jesus speaks whenever the Bible is faithfully preached and read from, just as He opened the eyes of those on the Emmaus road when He explained the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). Jesus meets us in the Communion or Lord’s Supper, with the bread and wine, which symbolise His flesh and blood as an act of remembrance of what He did for humanity.
One of those people is Elizabeth. Here is her story of how Jesus meets with her!
Easter is a time of reflection and promise for me. It is a time to be one with Christ. I have gone through many trials and tribulations in my life. It is because of the Promise that Christ gave us when, He died and then resurrected that I know I am able to overcome any obstacle placed before me. I can rise above in faith knowing that I have been given divine inheritance to move forward as a soldier marching to war for God and reaching towards victory in his name.
Jesus is my light, my love, my essence in life. I live to be close to him and to serve him well with all my heart and soul. I Celebrate the Christ that lives in me through the Holy Spirit and that empowers me to keep going on even in the midst of chaos or turmoil. He leads me to greener pastures, He restores my soul, He shows me unconditional love, He leads me to his heart forevermore. I am filled with the Christ like spirit and I receive God's joy, love, hope, and wisdom to know what is right in my life.
If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then the Disciples would not have had a story to tell. But Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, and the early church exploded numerically as the twelve Disciples exercised Jesus’ authority and His power. We read about the growth of the early church in the Book of Acts and we read about the early church in the letters of the New Testament.
In these verses from Matthew 28, which I read earlier, Jesus commanded his Disciples to go make other disciples. In order to fulfil this command, He assigned the three tasks of going, baptizing and teaching as obligatory activities of daily life. Baptism was symbolic of coming under the Lordship of the Trinitarian Godhead. Baptism leads to teaching, which is a core part of disciple making. Teaching was not just to be an oral activity, but an active of helping everyone, including the weakest. These instructions to Jesus’ Apostles are just as applicatory to us today. If we are following Jesus Christ, we are the product of the original disciples and early church following Jesus’ words abundantly.
Christianity is a faith whereby all Christian Disciples are to show and tell others of the goodness of God. Indeed God Himself is a missionary God. Ever since Genesis 3 and the fall of man, God has been on a mission to bring and call people back to himself. That was the purpose of the nation of Israel, to be a light to all nations of the goodness and glory of God! That was purpose when God, who is outside of time and space, entered human history taking on human flesh and restricted himself in a human body as the man we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus’ whole mission was one of calling people back to life in God. As followers of Jesus Christ, all Christian Disciples are to evangelize. Evangelism is showing and telling others of God’s message of reconciliation to all people of all time. It is not forcing people to adopt Church standards (1 Corinthians 5:12) and nor is it simply a message of join the church as a symbol of good works (Ephesians 2:v8-10).
Telling others about Jesus is evangelism. Talking about Him, letting him permeate conversations. Revealing how He has changed your life! Showing the Gospel by living a constantly transformed life, reveals that Jesus Christ still lives today. The prime motivation for evangelism is out of gratitude for what God has done, in that we love because he loved us first. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” As his servants we are to tell and live out God’s reconciling message
We are all to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), telling and showing people the love of God. In the last words of Matthew’s Gospel, all Christian Disciples are to make disciples throughout the whole earth! Making disciples is not just evangelism but ensuring that guidance and care is given to new believers. How is this achieved? How can the Christian Disciple exhibit Jesus’ authority and power in evangelism? Who gives the impetus for Christian Disciples once Jesus had ascended back to the right hand of God the Father?
It’s not easy! Nobody said that it would be! The message= Christians tell others is called the Gospel. It is anathema and unpopular with people. The Gospel is never popular, and if it is, then it is not a truly Biblically Gospel. There is a false Gospel being preached where financial prosperity is the central claim. There is a false Gospel where Jesus is a cure-all being the central claim. There is a false Gospel, which says Jesus when laden with the sins of the world, was not forsaken by God the Holy Father, who cannot stand to look at sin. For Paul, and for all true Christian Disciples, the true and legitimate Gospel is “Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Finally, part of Evangelism is verbally identifying with Jesus Christ. Never apologize for what you know and believe to be a superior way of life. However, that does not mean to be smug and arrogant about it because we are commanded to walk humbly and meekly. It means to just be natural about it. As a college principle told me a long time ago and I still remember the words “Let your spiritual life be natural and your natural life be spiritual.” One way to do this is to project the idea that you are not your own boss - Jesus is your Lord and allow him to take both the strain of life issues and also the glory and majesty. Remember that those who reject you also reject Jesus.
Play or download the mp3 to hear more about this fascinating man, Jesus Christ and the events of Easter!
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