Jesus Rules!

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses … Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified – Acts 2:32, 36

The resurrection is both a vindication of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sin and a victory he exercised over the strength of both sin and it’s consequence – namely death and separation from God and all his goodness and life.

It is not a “proof”, it is a demonstration of an essential Biblical truth – that Jesus, God the Son, is both the rightful ruler and administrator of his creation. It calls for a response on our part, in which no response or insistence on indifference is a rejection. However, if your response is acceptance, there are consequences you ought to consider – namely that genuine acceptance of Jesus claim to be ruler will be reflected in how you respond and interact with culture and society and generally live your life both individually and in relationship with others.

Theologian Millard Erickson explains The Rule of Christ in his book, ‘Christian Theology’:

The Gospels picture Jesus as a king, the ruler over all of the universe. …

A problem arises here. Just as there is a tendency to think of Jesus’ work of revelation as being in the past, there is also a tendency to think of his rule as being almost exclusively in the future. For as we look about us at the present time, we do not see him ruling very actively. True, the Bible states that he is a king and the Jerusalem crowd so hailed him on what we now call Palm Sunday. It is as if the door of heaven was opened a bit so that for a brief time his true status was seen. Despite this, at the present time there seems to be little empirical evidence that our Lord rules over the entire creation and particularly the human race.

… is there evidence of a reign of Christ over modern-day humans? Indeed there is. The kingdom of God, over which Christ reigns, is present in the church. He is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18). When he was on earth, his kingdom was present in his disciples’ hearts. And wherever believers today are following the lordship of Christ, the Savior is exercising his ruling or kingly function.

In light of the foregoing, we can see that Jesus Christ’s rule is not a matter merely of his final exaltation, as some have thought to be the case. It is in connection with the final step in his exaltation, when he returns in power, that his rule will be complete. The hymn in Philippians 2 emphasizes that Christ has been given “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9–11). A time is coming when the reign of Christ will be complete; then all will be under his rule, whether willingly and eagerly, or unwillingly and reluctantly.

Serious reflection on this ought to result in an increasingly consistent willingness to demonstrate your submission to Christ’s rule in a way that exemplifies the very nature and character of Christ himself. That, in itself, is an assurance that our “conversion” from unbelief to belief in Jesus is the real thing, not just a pretense and not just an attempt to manipulate favour from God or others.

This is one reason why we “do” Church; not because it makes us look good to others; not because it is a means to end, as though through regular practice we could make ourselves better; but that learning what it means and what it looks like when Christ is ruler will immediately effect a change in how I relate to other professing Christians and how I will relate to those who are not Christians. That is, of course, unless my life is sham. If it is, I don’t need to wallow in grief and disappointment, all I need do is turn away from false pretension and turn towards God in both thought and deed. Which is exactly what Peter told his listeners to do in response to his first public speech about Jesus.

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” – Acts 2:37-39

Jesus is ruler (Lord) now. Presently, you are I are afforded, through God’s kindness and patient love, an opportunity to accept or reject that rule. That won’t always be the case though. Will you, through acceptance of Jesus’ rule, be a leader and a culture maker or will you react to and be conformed by your culture?

Does it really matter if Jesus rose from the dead?

Resurrection Sunday is a High Day of the Christian Calendar. Whilst we celebrate the resurrection of Christ EVERY Sunday by gathering together to sing, pray, read the Bible and be taught, challenged and encouraged from the Bible, the rest of world sits back and wonders what all the fuss is about. This Sunday is your opportunity to show and tell.
Gentlemen, I encourage you to get your best suit and tie out and encourage the rest of your family to join us in celebrating in style. Just as you would for a wedding or formal reception or dinner at work.

For a congregation such as ours, where casual dress is the norm and we do not have legalistic dress codes, we can make an even bigger distinction about Resurrection Sunday by making a big deal out of the day and treating it like a celebration! This day is not like any other. This day is an anniversary celebration of the crux and foundation of our faith. Without this day our faith is futile, wasteful, hopeless and nothing more than empty religion.

Secular media, comedians, satirists, agnostics and most others with an anti-Christian bent will come out with stories, presentations, documentaries, ridicule and jest this time of year in particular all in a bid to ask – “Does it really matter if Jesus rose from the dead?”.

Maybe he didn’t really die, maybe he just passed out after being beaten to bloody pulp, had the flesh ripped from his back by a cat-o-nine-tails, spent 6 hours impaled to a lump wood and had someone shove a spear up under his ribs and tear open his pericardial sac. After all, that sort of experience isn’t likely to result in death is it?!

More likely, some will conject, his body was stolen and the whole event was fabricated. Never mind the complete failure of anyone to produce a corpse and prove the claims fraudulent. While you’re at it, it’s best to overlook the fact that if the disciples stole the body then you need to come up with an astoundingly good explanation for the way in which their lives were transformed from crippling fear to world wide revolutionaries.

I suppose some reasonable chronological snobbery is in order as well, because it’s likely that if a claim was made today by over 500 individuals whose integrity was considered beyond question and were freely, readily available for interview, interrogation and cross examination by any legal, political, media, sociological, psychological, or curious individuals or group they would be debunked in an instant! After all it was probably some combination of mass hysteria, hallucination or hypnosis that prompted anyone to make such a claim as this. Witnesses rarely agree – so all we would have to do is get a few of them to contradict each other and that would put an end to it all. This is something that the authorities and skeptics would never have thought of back then, after all they weren’t as smart as you and I. Were they? They had no access to education, reasoning and logic or the great philosophical teaching from Greece and Rome that we learn about in University today and upon which we base our world view! Did they?

Bottom line: He lived, He died, He IS Risen!
Lets party!

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. – Colossians 1:6 (NIV)

Why Jesus Only

When we met for the first “Grace at Night” event on 5:00pm February 28th we discussed the question of “Why Jesus?”

i.e. Why do Christians insist that Jesus is the only way to God? Isn’t that a bit eXtreme?
We very briefly talked about some of the objections made to this idea and provided some food for thought in response.

1. All religions are the same and teach the same thing
On a very superficial level this might appear to be the case. Rather than being an objection to Christianity it is a dismissal and refusal to consider and discuss the claims of Christ. No one, thinking seriously, is going to assert that suicide cults or groups that sexually molest children are equivalent to nominal Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or any other main stream religion today. They are vastly different in their beliefs and practices. However even for those religions that do have some commonality there are still huge differences. Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic (believe in and worship one supreme God). Yet they have vastly different and contradicting views about God’s character, attributes and form. Christians understand that Jesus was in fact God born in flesh and that he died in our place. Islam does not accept that God could assume human form, let alone, die physically. If we look further afield, Buddhism does not even recognize the existence of a God, personal or otherwise. So Religions are not the same nor are they teaching the same thing.

2. Each religion sees part of the spiritual truth, but no-one can see the whole truth
This is an appeal to a well know anecdotal account of the Wise King, Four Blind men & the Elephant – However it misses the undeniable logic that understanding the parable requires an omniscient perspective. How else could you know that the blind men only experienced part of the elephant unless you are in a position where you claim you can see all it. It sounds like a protest that spiritual truth is beyond our ability to grasp. Yet, using this logic, that becomes arrogance. What is the superior vantage point that you alone posses to see the inadequacies of everyone else? The only way you can insist everyone has a part of the truth is if you have all of it or are in a position superior to everyone else.

3. There is no such thing as Universal truth
There are conditions and dependencies in where we live and how we’re raised that influence our beliefs. The argument goes that because we are all to a certain extent affected by our history and geography we can’t claim to compare or judge against others in differing circumstances with opposing beliefs. In other words, Truth is relative. But, if you don’t draw a distinction, relativism itself is relative and therefore not applicable – which leads to nonsense. All of us make a decision about what affirmations about God, human nature and spiritual reality are true and what are false and we base our life on that decision. You cannot say, no-one is able to objectively determine what beliefs are right and wrong unless you also admit that of your own. We all make truth claims that are exclusive and we all compare them to others and judge against their validity.

So where does this leave Jesus and Christianity?
As Tim Keller notes in “The Reason for God“:

A Christian has the strongest possible resource for practicing humble, sacrificial, generous peace-making. At the center of our view of reality is a man who died for his enemies and paid the price for their forgiveness. Genuine reflection upon that leads to a vastly different way of dealing with those who are different. As and when you follow Jesus you are not going to act in violence and oppression towards those that oppose you. Now, many calling themselves Christian have done just that. But their inconsistency does not undermine that the strength of Christianity’s core beliefs is a powerful motivation for peace-making.

The central problem of man kind and Why Jesus deals with it
Christians accept the Bible’s diagnosis that our main problem is sin. Other religions agree with that – yet that does not compel them to Jesus. Why not use another religion or my own ideas about God to address the problem?

The difference is subtle. All religions (and so-called non-religions) have the tenent that their leader/teacher/guru/guide/etc shows them the way of salvation. Keeping commands, following rituals, absolution, mental ascension etc.
Whereas in Christianity, Jesus IS the way of salvation.

Religion / irreligion both teach the way of salvation is self-improvement. What that looks like and how it is achieved differs from group to group – but that is the essence of it. Despite all your attempts at personal morality, keeping the rules, recycling your waste, changing your light bulbs, reducing your carbon footprint, donating a fortune to charity – you are relying on your efforts to be good enough and to outweigh anything you might have done wrong.

The inevitable result is pride and arrogance towards those who don’t follow the same set of rules and you chose to separate yourself from God’s offer of grace in Jesus.

The attacks and riots recently against Christians in India and Malaysia or the attacks and riots in Denmark recently when a newspaper cartoonist satirized Mohammad typify the extreme of a prejudice against those who don’t follow the same rules. Just like the criticism and attacks against Christianity in Western media either in the guise of comedy or current affairs – what they say is “If you don’t agree with me, you are stupid“.

Regardless, Jesus offers Himself as our saviour – that’s what Christianity is all about. Stop trying to save yourself from yourself and put your faith in Jesus alone. To do anything else will damn you, because your sin, instead of being dealt with, has increased and become worse. God wants, through Jesus, to exchange your sin for His life.

That is why we have statements like this in the Bible:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36

If you exclude salvation through Jesus – you damn yourself, because you and I cannot possibly attain God’s perfection.

Keller refers to Victor Hugo’s ‘Le Miserables’. Jean Valjean steals silver from a Bishop, is arrested and brought back. The Bishop gives him even more silver and releases him from arrest. That pardon transformed Valjean from self-pity and bitterness to graciousness and generosity. Javert, the policeman is the rule keeping moralist intent on hunting down Valjean. Through the twists of the story, it is Javert who falls into Valjean’s hands. Instead of killing him, he lets him go. Javert can’t deal with this change in Valjean – it doesn’t fit his picture of what a criminal is like and so he kills himself.

God gives us his grace through Jesus and IF we receive it, it so transforms us that we are unrecognisable. The religionist will freak out in despair, because this contradicts their rules. Religion is all about – do this, don’t do that and sooner or later you will reach heaven. Jesus says, you don’t need to try to get yourself to heaven, I have come down from heaven to give you life.

Christians insist that Jesus is the only way to God, because no amount of belief or religious practices will ever deal with the problem of our sin and pride. Jesus alone, is the way of our release and rescue.

The Christian who tries to live his life otherwise is living a lie. Christians need Jesus just a much as everyone else. Paul tells us that through Jesus we live and unlike Jean Valjean we don’t receive a bag of silver, we receive forgiveness and new life.

the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me – Gal 2:20

Events Jan and Feb 2010

The Events Page has been updated with details of 2 series starting in January and February 2010 at Grace Church.

RESOLVED – is a topical discussion about the determinations and resolutions you can make as you plan for the year ahead.

1-2 Samuel is a study of the Old Testaments books dealing with the beginning of the monarchy in Israel. These are the books that give us the stories of Priest/Judge Samuel, King Saul and King David & how all of this points us to the Ultimate Judge, Priest and King – Jesus.

These books deal with things like, parenting, praying, God speaking to us, Godly leaders, ambition, humility, spiritual warfare, pride, enemies of God, politics, marriage, courtship, lust, adultery, dysfunctional families, divorce, murder, witchcraft, babies, death, worship, music, dancing, manliness, womanhood – so just about everything really!

The series will continue through to Mothers Day in May.

Following Directions

Back to Psalm 119.

Since moving into a part of Sydney I had never lived in previously I have gotten considerable use out of a GPS Navigator in our car. Prior to purchasing the GPS device, I was out one evening visiting a new family that had started attending our Church and got lost. What should have been a 15-20 minute trip turned into a very stressful 70-80 minutes. Getting home was no less an adventure, and took about 50 minutes. The following pay period we invested in a GPS device and travel has been considerably easier.

As I have become more familiar with the area, I rely on the GPS less often. This doesn’t lessen it’s value, as I still use it to map out the location of variance in speed limits, safety camera locations and School Zones. When traveling home from the office of an evening I have a choice of about 4 or 5 routes that I take depending on the time and traffic conditions. However, the GPS is insistent on taking the same single route each time regardless. I usually ignore it, and after a few commands to “turn a-round” it recalculates the route from my new position. Occasionally, when I go somewhere new, and I know how to get to the area but not the specific address I will leave the GPS off until the very last minute in the hope that I haven’t gone too far in the wrong direction. After all, men don’t like asking or taking directions, even from machines 🙂

The tendency to not follow directions is something that is prevalent in most of us when it comes to spiritual guidance. Like the owner of a new GPS, a new believer is often keen to read as much of the Bible as often as possible. They find, within the scriptures, a light and a guide that leads them in the way everlasting. They relish the time spent reading, praying, listening to sermons, participating in Bible Studies, small groups and conventions because in each of these they are increasingly exposed to Christ in his Word. They literally hunger for it, exactly as a new baby craves milk. Yet after a while, it is not altogether uncommon, for this enthusiasm to wane. Instead of being a daily source of spiritual nourishment, the Bible is relegated to the “Open in case of emergency” box. Soon afterwards, it is simply not consulted at all, even in times of crisis.

Quoting Harry Blamires, Kent Hughes in his “Disciplines of a Godly Man”, mentions a “religious anorexia, a loss of appetite for growth in Christ” as attributable to Christians dogged refusal to regularly read the Bible.

God calls us in His Word to a massive and positive discipline of the mind. This can only happen through a profound exposure to and continual immersion in God’s Word, accompanied by the illumination of the Holy Spirit –” (p. 76)

Refusing to read, Hughes adds, is “in effect “editing God” and [you] will never have a fully Christian mind”. (p. 78)

When the Psalmist is seeking guidance and stability, he looks to the scriptures; not to subjective experiences, inclinations, impulses or other dubious phenomena, but to the objective, declaration of Jesus Christ and the will of God found in the Bible. Christians often lament and become angst riddled about making decisions concerning marriage, study, career and ministry. God’s wisdom is readily available to us in the Bible, if only we would pick it up and read it and allow that to influence our thinking instead of anxiously waiting on the advent of a special impulse or blinding vision. Praying and asking God to “direct your steps” whilst making lifestyle decisions is a prayer that he will definitely answer. You won’t know to pray like that if you don’t read the Bible though. Tolle Lege!

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Psalm 119:133 (NIV)

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