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a great sinner in need of a great saviour

Reconciliation Through The Cross

Reverend Stuart Coulton, principal of Sydney Missionary & Bible College, is preaching from Colossians for this year’s Easter Convention. This evening’s talk was preached from Colossians 1:15–23(NIV).

15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Here’s some notes I took down from the very edifying talk.

Intro: You can find the Easter story anywhere in the New Testament. If you take away the Easter story, you take away the New Testament. Everything in the New Testament must be understood in the light of Easter.

The church in Colossae was facing false teaching that distorted the gospel–gospel PLUS. The church was at risk of spiritual amnesia. Who did the Colossians put their faith in? 

The Supremacy of Jesus

Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. He is pre-eminent. All things were created by him and for him. What a remarkable world Jesus created! Everything was made by Jesus for Jesus. How? Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the God who otherwise be invisible. If you would know God, you must know Jesus. There’s no where I can go that Jesus is not supreme. Many are familiar with Jesus. Have I lost the wonder? Familiarity often comes with a lost of wonder. I wonder if it’s true for you?

There’s a switch from 3rd person from v. 21ff. The gospel is personal or it has no power. There must be a personal response to the gospel message. And we must first understand our plight. We were alienated from God and powerless to save ourselves (v 21). But now (v. 22), “he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death”. Only God, only Jesus can save us. The death of Jesus shows how tragic our situation really is. What plight would be so serious as to call for such a sacrifice? What love God has for us to give his precious Son? Do I know that Jesus died for me, even me?

I can’t doubt my forgiveness if I have put my trust in Jesus.  I am “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (v. 22).

I can’t live independently without Jesus. He is Lord of all my life.

This is the gospel which Paul proclaimed of which he became a servant and so must I. 

Thank you God that you did not spare your Son to reconcile me to you. Jesus you are supreme and Lord of my life. Take my life for your sake. Amen.

 

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The Most Important Week In Human History

“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”” (Mark 11:8–10, NIV)

“It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mark 15:25–32, NIV)

From Palm Sunday to Good Friday

The contrast between Palm Sunday and Good Friday could not be greater. On Sunday, Jesus was heralded with shouts of “Hosanna!”. On Friday, Jesus was crucified with criminals. On Sunday, Jesus was blessed as a conquering king. On Friday, Jesus was cursed as a powerless Messiah. On Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a colt. On Friday, Jesus was brought to Golgotha, crucified on a cross.

So what happened between Sunday and Friday? How did Sunday’s royal entry lead to Friday’s shameful mockery? How can the Lord die?

Let the Scriptures be Fulfilled

On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested as if he was a robber said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). Jesus’ arrest and death on the cross was not ultimately the plan of the chief priests, scribes nor elders but God. Readers of Mark’s gospel would have heard Jesus teaching, “the Son of Man must suffer man things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). But Peter did not understand Jesus’ plain teaching regarding his death and rebuked Jesus. Peter in return was rebuked strongly by Jesus for not setting his mind on the things of God (Mark 8:32-33).

Jesus must be Killed

Jesus must be killed. This was God’s plan. Jesus taught his disciples the second time in Mark 9:31, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But the disciples did not understand and they were too afraid to ask.

Jesus must be killed. And for the third time he tells he disciples in Mark 10:33-34, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise”.

We would think that after three times, the disciples would get that Jesus must die. But the request of James and John for their own glory indicate their complete ignorance that Jesus must suffer and be killed (Mark 10:35-45). All the disciples were still unconcerned of the things of God. They did not understand that Jesus must be killed. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The Servant King

They could not see Jesus as the fulfilment of the suffering Servant of Isaiah.

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:1–3, NIV)

They could not see that the substitutionary suffering of the Servant King Jesus is the death that brings life.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6, NIV)

Come and See

This Holy Week, let us look up from our self-centredness and fixed our minds on the God and other-centeredness of the cross of Christ. Let’s sit under the preaching of Colossians during this Easter Convention and learn of the “Reconciliation, Freedom, and Transformation through the Cross”.

This Holy Week, let us come to the cross and see Jesus our suffering King of love who died and on the third day rose again. This is the gospel we must proclaim.

Come and see, come and see
Come and see the King of love
See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears
Soldiers mock, rulers sneer
As he lifts the cruel cross
Lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill

We worship at your feet
Where wrath and mercy meet
And a guilty world is washed
By love’s pure stream
For us he was made sin
Oh, help me take it in
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive’
I worship, I worship
The Lamb who was slain.

Come and weep, come and mourn
For your sin that pierced him there
So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail
All our pride, all our greed
All our fallenness and shame
And the Lord has laid the punishment on him

Man of heaven, born to earth
To restore us to your heaven
Here we bow in awe beneath
Your searching eyes
From your tears comes our joy
From your death our life shall spring
By your resurrection power we shall rise

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1989 Make Way Music,
http://www.grahamkendrick.co.uk

Holy Communion-Who is worthy?

Let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, and bounty to the poor; while to the healthy, the righteous, and the rich, if any such could be found, it would be of no value. For while Christ is therein given us for food, we perceive that without him we fail, pine, and waste away, just as hunger destroys the vigour of the body. Next, as he is given for life, we perceive that without him we are certainly dead. Wherefore, the best and only worthiness which we can bring to God, is to offer him our own vileness, and, if I may so speak, unworthiness, that his mercy may make us worthy; to despond in ourselves, that we may be consoled in him; to humble ourselves, that we may be elevated by him; to accuse ourselves, that we may be justified by him. [4.17.42]

 John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 447.

Where Does Meaning Come From?

It is incidentally worth observing that something quite mysterious, almost magical, occurs during this stage (of elementary reading). At one moment in the course of his development the child, when faced with a series of symbols on a page, finds them quite meaningless. Not much later-perhaps only two or three weeks later- he has discovered meaning in them; he knows that they say “The cat sat on the hat.” How this happens no one really knows, despite the efforts of philosophers and psychologists over two and a half millennia to study the phenomenon. …Indeed, this discovery of meaning in symbols may be the most astounding intellectual feat that any human being ever performs-and most humans preform it before they are seven years old!

  • Mortimer Jerome J Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), 25.

The Fear of Fear

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:14–19, ESV)

Last weekend, Living Praise continued our study of 1 Peter. We read the command, to “conduct ourselves with fear“. It is not uncommon to hear Christians qualifying the word “fear” with reverent, awe etc. We seem to be afraid to define fear for what it is.

Well, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. This command by Peter is framed in the context of a father and son relationship. We are to be holy because our heavenly Father is holy. So holiness is a mark of obedient children. Our failure to behave as children of God does not make our Father abandon us. The command to be holy is given to a people who have already been redeemed by God.

Tim Keller in his book Prayer illustrates the concept of the “fear of God” by retelling a scene from The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame).

“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” where the characters Mole and Rat meet the animals’ deity, the god Pan and hear him playing his pipes. They are stunned:

“Rat,” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid!! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet-and yet-O, Mole I am afraid!”

That captures the concept of the “fear of God” as well as anything I know. We could say that fear of punishment is a self-absorbed kind of fear. It happens to people wrapped up in themselves. Those who believe the gospel-who believe that they are the recipients of underserved but unshakable grace-grow in a paradoxically loving yet joyful fear. Because of unutterable love and joy in God, we tremble with the privilege of being in his presence and with an intense longing to honour him when we are there. We are deeply afraid of grieving him. ..Of course, we can’t really harm God, but a Christian should be intensely concerned not to grieve or dishonour the one who is so glorious and who did so much for us.

Keller, Prayer, p.98-99

Joy In The Midst Of Trails

Today’s Sunday Service was one of those when the Word of God that was preached and hymn sung hits me like…I don’t have the words of it. But what I have is the living hope that Christ has secured my salvation. According to God’s great mercy. By his great power. For my joy. And for God’s glory. Hallelujah!

Because the past resurrection happened
Our future is secure
Therefore, our present is joy.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is
imperishable,
undefiled, and
unfading,
kept in heaven for you,
who by God’s power are being guarded
through faith
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice,
though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been grieved by various trials,
so that the tested genuineness of your faith
—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you have not seen him, you love him.
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him
and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible
and filled with glory,
obtaining the outcome of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1:3–9, ESV)

The Preeminence of Revelation

From the definition of Theology as the science concerning God follows the necessity of its being based on revelation. In scientifically dealing with impersonal objects we ourselves take the first step; they are passive, we are active; we handle them, examine them, experiment with them.

But in regard to a spiritual, personal being this is different. Only in so far as such a being chooses to open up itself can we come to know it. All spiritual life is by its very nature a hidden life, a life shut up in itself. Such a life we can know only through revelation. If this be true as between man and man, how much more must it be so as between God and man. The principle involved has been strikingly formulated by Paul: ‘For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? ‘ (I Cor. 2:11). The inward hidden content of God’s mind can become the possession of man only through voluntary disclosure on God’s part. God must come to us before we can go to Him. But God is not a personal spiritual being in general. He is a Being infinitely exalted above our highest conception.

Geerardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, p.3-4

What Does A Blessed Man Delight In?

Three questions from The Songs of Jesus by Timothy and Kathy Keller that will help fill in a blank journal when reading the Bible.

Adore – What did you learn about God for which you could praise or thank him?

Admit – What did you learn about yourself for which you could repent?

Aspire – What did you learn about life that you could aspire to, ask for, and act on?

So here’s my reflection on Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 (ESV)

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Adore – Thank you God that you desire to bless the righteous and you know his ways. You are also a just God who punishes the way of the wicked.

Admit – I confess that I do not always delight in the law of the Lord and my heart and mind are often captured by other things.

Aspire – Please help me Father God to prosper in all I do-to be one who delights in you and your Word.

The Songs of Jesus includes a prayer with each devotional that helps with responding to God’s Word. Here’s the prayer for Psalm 1.

Prayer – Lord of the Word, don’t let me be seduced by the world- either naively going with the crowd or becoming a hardened cynic. Help me meditate on your Word to the point of delight. Give me stability and contentment regardless or the circumstances. How I need that! Amen.

The Messiah Was Coming

The very fact that so many people considered the Messiah’s coming more of a fairy tale than a future event was, in itself, a cause for repentance. It wasn’t just that God had promised to do it. It was that the reason he promised to do it was like an intimate promise between lovers. God’s promised Messiah as a merciful gift of love to a people in all their pain, brokenness, and struggle, and make everything new. They were desperate for this, and the proof of their desperation was perhaps most evident in the fact that they couldn’t bring themselves to live as though this promise was real.

Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

-Russ Ramsey, Behold the Lamb of God, p.4

This beautiful Advent narrative is currently free on kindle. The above is why you need to download it.
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