Friday, 22 April 2011

THE CROSS

On this special Friday when we celebrate the death of Jesus it is good to look back and consider why He died.

The Apostle Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. A few verses later, in his same epistle he said, “I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2]

The symbol of Christianity is a cross – an instrument of torture. Wherever you go you will the symbol of the cross – on jewellery, on graves and in churches, but the real cross is not so popular!

It was not popular to the Jews because it hurt their religious pride or the Greeks because it hurt their intellectual pride. It is certainly not acceptable to Muslims who say that it is impossible for a prophet to die in such a way.

However, neither religion nor intellectualism has the ultimate answer to man’s dilemmas and problems. Ask Solomon, the richest man of his generation. He wrote the story of his search for God in the book of Ecclesiastes. He sought answers in education and learning [1:12-18]; in work and business [2:12-26]; in philosophy [3:5-8]; in morally good living [7:1-12:12] but the result was failure! Thirty-seven times Solomon uses the words, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

We need to understand what happened on the cross – why is it so important? It is not the material of the cross but the Person on the cross that makes it so powerful.
Following his statement, “We preach Christ crucified,” Paul says, “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” [1 Corinthians 1:24]

THERE FOUR SPECIFIC REASONS WHY JESUS DIED UPON THE CROSS FOR EVERY PERSON

SUBSTITUTION – JESUS DIED IN OUR PLACE

Peter says, “Christ died, the just for the unjust” [1 Peter 3:18]
Here is the principle of substitution:
[a] We are all sinner – by nature and by deed
[b] Because God is both holy and just He must judge sin
[c] God wants to have fellowship with us, but cannot because of our sin – it has separated us from God
[d] Because God is just His justice must be satisfied – the penalty of sin must be paid.
[e] Only when the penalty of sin is paid can the sinner be set free and have a relationship with God.

On the cross Jesus took our place, bore our sin and satisfied God’s holiness and justice.

In the Old Testament a sacrificial lamb was killed so that a representative of sinful man could come into God’s presence. The sacrificial lamb pointed to Jesus and prompted John the Baptist to say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].

Jesus took the punishment for sin that we deserved and were due to receive. As the hymn writer wrote, “ In my place condemned He stood, Sealed my pardon with His blood.” Jesus was our SUBSTITUTE.

RECONCILIATION – JESUS DIED TO RECONCILE US BACK TO GOD

We understand reconciliation as the joining together of two parties who have been in dispute, and is often understood in the context of marriage.

Our relationship with God has been damaged by sin – we are alienated from God. The Bible says that outside of Christ a person is dead toward God and there is nothing that we could do about it, however much we may have tried. But took the initiative in bringing about reconciliation. Paul speaks about what were outside of Christ, lost, dead, controlled by fleshly lusts and passions, worldly, but God reached out to us [Ephesians 2:4]

God, was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself  [2 Corinthians 5:19]
We have reconciliation…. and peace through the blood of His cross [Colossians 1:19-20]
“… we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son [Romans 5:10]

REDEMPTION – JESUS BOUGHT US BACK FROM SATAN AND SIN

The song sung about Jesus in heaven says, “You were slain, and have redeemed
us to God by your blood, out of every people” [Revelation 5:9]

To redeem something means to make a payment to buy it back. The word was appropriate in the slave market where a good man might by a slave with payment and then sign a document to release him and set him free. The same word,
“redeem” can be used of goods that have been pawned to make money but are then bought back.

Peter writes, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect [1 Peter 1:18-19].

Jesus, speaking in the synagogue, quoted from Isaiah 61:1-3 and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from the darkness for the prisoners.” Jesus paid the price to redeem us, heal us and give us freedom!

RESTORATION – JESUS DIED TO FORGIVE OUR SINS

Paul writes, “In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” [Ephesians 1:7]

To forgive is the Greek word ‘aphiemi” which means “to send away.” God has taken our sins and put them on Jesus – He has sent them away from us! With this forgiveness we are released the guilt of sin, the penalty of sin, the mistakes of the past and the fear of death!

The Psalmist knew the meaning of this when he wrote these wonderful words:
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 
He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” [Psalm 103:8-12]

“From north to south is limited because there is a North and South Pole, but from east to west never comes to an end. That’s how far God has removed our transgressions from us.” [Corrie ten Boom]

The Lord says in Isaiah, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will remember your sins no more” [Isaiah 43:25]

The prophet Micah said, “You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea.” [Micah 7:19]

A young man had wandered far from home and had been deeply damaged in the world. He wondered whether his parents would accept him back. The train line to the station where his parents lived went past the bottom of their garden, and there was apple tree in the garden. He wrote to his parents and said that if they were happy to accept him home to put a white handkerchief on the tree at a time when he would be on a train going past the house. He continued by saying that if there was no handkerchief he would continue on his way and not come home. As the train neared the garden he could scarce bear to look. He asked a fellow passenger to look for him. The fellow passenger shouted with excitement and told the young man to look. The whole tree was covered with white handkerchiefs. That’s how much God wants us to come home!

“Praise my soul the King of heaven,
To His feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing?

Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him, praise Him,
Praise with us the God of grace”   

Monday, 18 April 2011

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

This past week Esther and I had a good time of ministry and also rest in Ireland between Tuesday and Saturday. It included speaking at a well-attended business-persons lunch, speaking at the fast growing Green Pastures church in Ballymena and then a day of teaching in the Servant Academy of Green Pastures. We stayed in a most beautiful apartment overlooking the fabulous Port Stewart beach, and were able to do some walking, as well as having meals with several old friends.

Yesterday we were back in our church in Bracknell. It is the Kerith Centre. Please check out their website at www.kerith.co.uk. I was asked to speak on "Jesus in the Old Testament" as part of the church series working through the Old Testament. It was a good day. As part of the message I quoted the words of Don Moen in his song "Name Above all Names" taken from album, "God with Us." So many people commented on these words yesterday and as you read them out aloud you sense the anointing as Jesus is glorified. Here are the words:


NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

In Genesis Jesus is the ram at Abraham’s Altar        
In Exodus He’s the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus He’s the High Priest
In Numbers He’s the Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by Night
In Deuteronomy He’s the City of our Refuge
In Joshua He’s the Scarlet Thread out Rahab’s window
In Judges He is our Judge
In Ruth He is our Kinsman-Redeemer
In First & Second Samuel He’s our trusted Prophet
In Kings and Chronicles He’s our Reigning King
In Ezra He is our Faithful Scribe
In Nehemiah He’s the Rebuilder of everything that is broken
In Esther He is the Mordecai sitting faithful at the gate
In Job He’s our Redeemer that ever liveth
In Psalms He is My Shepherd and I shall not want
In Proverbs & Ecclesiastes He’s our Wisdom, and
In the Song of Solomon He is the beautiful Bridegroom
In Isaiah He’s the Suffering Servant
In Jeremiah and Lamentations it is Jesus that is the Weeping Prophet
In Ezekiel He’s the wonderful Four-Faced Man, and
In Daniel He is the Fourth Man in the midst of a firey furnace
In Hosea He is my Love that is ever faithful
In Joel He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit
In Amos He’s our Burden-Bearer
In Obadiah our Saviour, and
In Jonah He is the great Foreign Missionary that takes the Word of God into all of the world
In Micah He is the Messenger with beautiful feet
In Nahum He’s the Avenger, and
In Habbakuk He’s the Watchman who is ever praying for revival
In Zephaniah He’s the Lord, mighty to save
In Haggai He’s the Restorer of our lost heritage
In Zechariah He’s our Fountain, and
In Malachi He’s the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings

Saturday, 9 April 2011

DAVID - A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART


It is only nine days since we arrived back in the UK from Singapore and yet we seem to have done so much. I preached twice at Emmanuel Church [EEC] in Westminster and Edgware. Traveled to the Midlands and spoke at the funeral of a very special friend. Spoke with Life Group leaders at our home church of Kerith, here in Bracknell. Last night I spoke to students from Singapore and Malaysia in Central London. We helped move our daughter Angie out of her and Mario's rented accommodation [the owner wants to sell]....and...it's been very busy. Mario is in the Seychelles working on a special project for several weeks so Angie has moved back home to be with Esther and I. When Mario returns they will go house hunting.

Tomorrow we are ministering in St. Paul's Church in Cheam, and I am in Ireland for meetings from Wednesday to Saturday. Do please pray for us. On our return from Ireland things will be a bit quieter and we have quite a number of days that are free of any engagements.

I have had great joy in writing and preparing this week's Spirit Food message. What an epitaph to have and a testimony from God Himself, to be called "a man after God's own heart."

David was one of the most remarkable men in history – from his family line Jesus came!

The Bible says that Abraham was a friend of God. It says that Enoch walked with God, but perhaps most amazing of all it says about David that he was a man after God’s own heart. That was God’s testimony about David! [Acts 13:22]

When you consider David’s failures this may seem a strange thing for God to say about David!

David committed adultery, told lies and murdered! He was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing! [1 Samuel 11]
David took a census of the people of Israel in disobedience to God and it cost the lives of seventy thousand people! [1 Samuel 24]
David was not allowed to build the temple because he was a “man who shed blood” [1 Chronicles 28:1-3]
David’s own family was dysfunctional – three of David’s children, Amnon, Absalom and Tamar went completely off the rails [see 2 Samuel 13-18]

Under our present judicial system David would have been considered a criminal and guilty of war crimes. When you consider David and King Saul you might be tempted to ask which of them was the greater sinner and yet the Bible says that God rejected Saul but said about David that He was a man after His own heart!

If David failed so badly What would make God say this about David?

Let’s consider some of the good things that David did in his life that might have made God say this about him.

BECAUSE HE DID GOD’S WILL IN HIS LIFE
God said about David, “….he will do all my will [Acts 13:22] and “…he served the purpose of god in his generation” [Acts 13:36]. Is this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS YOUTHFUL COMMUNION WITH GOD
Consider his writing the 23rd Psalm as looked after the sheep on the hillside. He was just a young boy but he already loved the presence of God, and his shepherd psalm has blessed multitudes of people. Is this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF WHAT HE BECAME INSPITE OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL BACKGROUND
According to Jewish Rabbinical tradition David was born out of wedlock – there is no mention of his mother in the Bible. He was an embarrassment to his family – he was not present when Samuel came to anoint the future king of Israel [1 Samuel 16:11]. He was looked down upon by his brothers – when he brought them food [1 Sam.17:17-18, 26-29]. When he said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me [Psalm 51:5] he was not giving the theologians a proof text for original sin but sharing his own background! Despite such rejection and insecurity David became a mighty man of God. What an inspiration! Is this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS REMARKABLE FAITH IN KILLING GOLIATH
He had killed a lion and bear – why should the giant, Goliath, be any different! [1 Sam.17:34-37]. David refused to trust in Saul’s armour – a picture of natural human reasoning! [1 Sam.17:38-39], and instead he made an amazing statement of faith [1 Sam.17:45-47]. Perhaps this is the reason that God called him a "man after His own heart."

BECAUSE HE REFUSED TO KILL THE MAN WHO WANTED TO DESTROY HIM
Because of jealousy Saul was determined to kill David. David had opportunities to kill him [see 1 Sam.24:3-11; 26:7-12]. See David’s attitude to Lord’s anointed [1 Samuel 26:9-11]. Is this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS FEARLESSNESS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
His joyful dancing before the Lord cost him his wife! [2 Sam.6:14-23]. Michal despised David, but he was determined to honour God [2 Sam.6:20-23]. Is this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS AMAZING LEADERSHIP ABILITY
He took a band of rabble rousers and trouble-makers and welded them into one of the greatest armies in history [see 1 Samuel 22:1-2]. A group of men who were in distress, in debt and were discontented gathered to David and became his “mighty men!” It is also not insignificant that his brothers and family also joined with him. Perhaps it was his leadership ability that made God say of David that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS REMARKABLE SENSE OF INTEGRITY
David said, “I will not offer to the Lord that which has cost me nothing” 
[1 Samuel 26:24]. Is David's integrity the reason God said of him that he was a man after His own heart?

BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE OF KINDNESS
“Is there anyone left of the household of Saul to whom I can show kindess? [2 Samuel 9:1,3]. King Saul had been David’s great enemy and yet here is David showing kindness to his family. It is the story of Mephibosheth, a son of Saul and a man lame in both feet [v3]. Mephibosheth had such a low self-esteem – he called himself “a dead dog” [v8] – but David brought him to Jerusalem & Mephibosheth ate daily at the king’s table [v10,13]. What tenderness and kindness - Surely this would be a reason this why God said of David that he was a man after His own heart?

These actions of David were all good, but were merely symptoms, and not the reason why God said that David was “a man after His own heart!” The key is not David’s successes or his failures but his heart! When Samuel came to anoint the new king of Israel he said – “man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart!” - God is most interested in our hearts – not our failures or our successes!
“God will be judge us not by what we did or didn’t do but by the motives of our heart” [A.W.Tozer]

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT DAVID’S HEART THAT MADE GOD SAY “HE IS A MAN AFTER MY OWN HEART”?

DAVID HAD A HEART OF WORSHIP
He loved to be in God’s House [Psalm 27:4] – “One thing have I desired of the Lord”
He loved to worship the Lord –  the Psalms are evidence of that.
“The chief end of man is worship God and enjoy Him forever” [Westminster Catechism]
There is tremendous power in worship. Don Moen says that God created worship for our good! To worship God is good for us and so often we find healing as we worship Him. A paraphrase of Psalm 34 verse 9 says, “Worship God if you want the best; worship opens the doors to all His goodness.” [The Message]
David loved God’s presence. His testimony was that, “In His presence is fullness of joy”
He longed that God’s will should be done – despite his own failings and inadequacies!

DAVID HAD A HEART OF DEPENDENCY
When he was in need David cried out to the Lord – “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me…” [Psalm 61:2]. He desperately wanted God’s presence and was afraid of losing God’s presence because of his sin. He cried out, “cast me not away from your presence”[Ps.51:11]

DAVID HAD A HEART OF REPENTANCE
When he failed the Lord he wept before Him and cried out for forgiveness. Psalm 32 and 51 are such an evidence of his broken heart over the sin in his life.    

It doesn’t matter whether you are a maid or a master; one who leads or one who is led; a rich person or a poor person – what matters is your heart! This is what God looks at!
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” 
[2 Chronicles 16:9]