Life to the full

I think the Scripture chosen by Selwyn for reading and meditation is another excellent choice.

John 10:1-10 (NIV): “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

We, follow Jesus  because we know His voice; He will lead us through the gate to eternal life.  There are no other gates by which a person can enter paradise.

In the introduction to today’s study, Selwyn asks an important question: “Why are some Christians so grim? That is the question we touched on yesterday and which we raise again today. If abundant living is supposed to be the inevitable consequence of having Christ within, why is it that with some people it isn’t obvious?”

How would you answer this question?

In, 1 John 4:17-19 (NIV), we read: “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

And, we have these verses in Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:34b-40 (NIV): ” … Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I think that the Christian who is always grim and downcast has not yet obtained that level of faith, which is able to trust in the truth of Scripture – to fully trust in God’s love – to trust, that nothing can separate them from His love. If, we listen to the voice of Jesus and allow ourselves to be guided by Him; the Holy Spirit will, over time, transform us  into His likeness. Then, as our love becomes perfect through the power of God, we will be able to drive out all fear. 

Our Shepherd is Christ – who, or what, can takes us away from Him?  As you would have noticed from the above verses, Jesus said: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” The knowledge that we are saved, must lift our heads – and fill our hearts with abundant joy, which overflows into all that we do.  

Fearlessly trusting in Jesus’ words – how could we act like defeated people – and, go around looking like lost and worried sheep – with long, grim faces?  What do you think?

What a face!

The verses selected by Selwyn for reading and meditation, are worth a lot of our time, spent – being still, in meditation, before God.

Romans 5:1-18 (NLT): ” … When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died – from the time of Adam to the time of Moses – even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.

But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it (those who believe in Jesus) will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone (who believes).

The important point to be taken from the above verses is that the benefits of God’s gift of forgiveness, is ONLY for those who receive it.

As Selwyn says in his introduction:“Yesterday, we acknowledged that in Adam all die. But just as Adam’s sin brought untold consequences of disruption and chaos, so Jesus’ atoning work on the cross brought untold consequences of cohesion and order.” Selwyn empahsises the point that it’s only those who are ‘in Christ’ will be made alive (with Him in heaven).

I think Selwyn’s conclusion cannot be stressed enough – Christ ‘in you’ should shine through your life – 24 hours, 7 days a week. He wrote: “If we are alive in Christ, and He is alive in us, then surely some manifestation of that life ought to break through. If it doesn’t, we should ash ourselves why.”

In countries where there is active persecution – I can understand why some Christians may be careful – in the way they live their faith. However, in the western world – if your next door neighbour doesn’t know that you are a follower of Jesus – then you have a real and present, problem – that you must address.

Your view?

Life – only in Jesus

I thought that some of the material in today’s study to be very challenging.

The following is a rather long quote from today’s study; but I think there could be a risk of unintentionally modifying the context – if I decided to pick bits and pieces: ” … Everything which is in Jesus, having been surrender to Him, has life – by the very fact of being in Him. It is not something added as an extraneous gift but something that is inherent.

Everything in Jesus lives and everything outside of Him – dies.

One writer explains it in this way: ‘Your money, if kept outside of Him and His purposes dies, dies because it has no purpose. Your deeds outside of Him also decay and die for they have no eternal purposes, hence no eternal life. Your relationships, including marriage relationships die if they are not in Him. They have no eternal meaning and hence no eternal life. [Marriage relationships, which are in Christ, may have eternal benefits – but the marriage contract – ends, when we die. It does not continue after death.] All is permanent, safe and secure in Him. Outside of Him nothing is permanent, safe and secure – In Adam all die.’ “

The verses selected for reading and meditation also contain some bits which are hard (well, for me, they are 🙂 ) to understand.

I’ll include here, a subsection of those chosen by Selwyn, 1 Corinthians 15:22-18 (NLT):Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, ‘God has put all things under his authority.’ (Of course, when it says ‘all things are under his authority,’ that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.”

The challenge for many, I think, is to accept the fact that good things done by people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus – have no eternal value. It doesn’t matter how much money an atheist gives to charity – it has no eternal value, for that person.  Do you agree?

“He didn’t stay dead”

Selwyn spends another day looking at Jesus’ resurrection.

Like Sewyn, I love this story: ‘ … a little girl in Sunday school who, hearing for the first time about the death of Jesus, began to cry. “He was such a wonderful Person,” she sobbed. “Why did He have to die?” A boy sitting next to her put a comforting hand on her shoulder and said, “Don’t cry He didn’t stay dead.” … ‘

The truth of the boy’s words, can be applied to any follower of Jesus; and upon my death – I hope someone says at my furneral –  ‘”Don’t cry, he won’t stay dead.”

The other aspect, which I liked – were the verses taken from Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:10-18 (NLT): God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

For he said to God, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.”  He also said “I will put my trust in him,” that is, “I and the children God has given me.”

Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, Jesus is able to help us when we are being tested.”

Theses are truly remarkable verses – don’t you agree?

Did you notice the circular references to God, the Father, Jesus and by implication the Holy Spirit?  Here in Hebrews we read, “God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory.’ In Paul’s letters, we read that all of creation was for, and though, Jesus.

‘Present!’

I think the verse (below), which Selwyn uses from Paul’s letter to the Romans – is one of the great ‘in-Christ’ verses; the contrast couldn’t be clearer – we suffer death if we go our own independent way – or, we accept the gift of God through Jesus, that is, eternal life.

Romans 6:23 (NIV): “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Selwyn states: “Death (for a follower of Jesus), as we noted, is falling asleep, a departure (with an implicit arrival), a giving up to God of our spirit.”

I really liked today’s conclusion – I could just imagine the monks sitting in a circle. Love to do something like it, in my local church service – ummmm, perhaps too radical. 🙂

Here’s the conclusion: “The monks belonging to a certain order regularly recognise Christ’s resurrection. As they sit in a circle, the name of every monk is called and each replies, ‘Present.’ The the name of Jesus Christ is called, and together they reply, ‘Present.’ His living guarantees our living. ‘Because I live,’ our Lord said, ‘you also will live’ John 14:19).

The dominant theme that is emerging in my mind – is this: do we live our lives, now –  in the light of our promised eternal life OR do we fearfully live in the imagined shadow of death? It’s a searching question – don’t you agree?

 

A change in vocabulary

I think, it’s a good way to think of death – a process of falling asleep because we are sure that we’ll awake to a new morning, as a brand new person, with Jesus.

The only problem with this view is that when I fall asleep each night there ‘s no pain associated with it; usually it’s a very comfortable sensation. I do not fear death in a spiritual sense, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not too keen on the process of dying if there’s a lot of pain associated with it.

The verses set for reading and meditation [1 Corinthians 15:12-22, NIV], focus on Jesus’ resurrection: the evidence that God’s sacrifice was totally successful –  the sting of death, completely removed.

” … But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 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.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Jesus). For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Selwyn concludes today’s study, as follows: “Obviously, a new concept of death had been accepted by those who knew Jesus Christ. And since they rejected the old ideas about death, the vocabulary had to be changed. ‘Death’ dropped out of the Christian experience. Christians did not die; they just fell asleep.”

Putting the pain issue aside for the moment; I think a good test of  the maturity of your faith is to ask yourself if you’re prepared for your death –  that the work you are currently doing for the Lord is your highest priority (as confirmed through prayer),  and there’s nothing ‘important’ that you are putting off – to do at a later time.  Another way of saying the same thing is: do you keep a short account with God – and, are all major spiritual issues being dealt with – before you ‘fall asleep’, each night? 

 

Quarrelling with God

I agree with Selwyn when he states: “Perhaps no subject raises so much argument as that of the relationship between men and women.”

He also makes the important point that those who quarrel with the teaching concerning the equality of men and women are arguing with God.  Men and women are equal in God’s eyes – and, He has given to each, their own role – their own set of responsibilities – there are different roles – but equal in status. 

Who, in their right mind, would dare shout out to God –  that one role is superior and the other inferior? Sadly, many men have bought condemnation upon themselves by treating women as some type of possession, with no rights. These men will find to their dismay; just how wrong they are when they give an account of their actions, to our Almighty God.

Romans 11:33-36 (NLT): “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”

Who wants to quarrel with God?