Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

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    What are We to Make of “Believers” Who Fall Away?

    Posted on May 25th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    If you’ve been a Christian for a while, it’s almost a guarantee that you can make a list of friends or acquaintances who once professed Christ, and maybe even loudly, but who now, tragically, no longer participate in the life of the church.  They may be open about the fact that they have left behind their Christian upbringing. Or maybe a tragic event shook them and they never recovered. Many just seem to drift, moving slowly yet surely away from the Savior they once joyfully embraced. The situation is not only sad, but it’s also confusing.

    What are we to make of these “believers” who seem to have fallen away?

    Before answering that question directly, we need to consider some biblical principles to help us think through our response. And just to be clear, we’re not talking about someone who misses a couple of Sundays or that guy who makes an inappropriate comment here or there. We’re talking about people who used to identify as followers of Christ, but who no longer seem to care about Christ or the church, at least not as far as we can tell. They seem altogether indifferent to the things of the Lord.

    What We Don’t Know

    First, we need to recognize what we don’t know. Unlike God, we cannot look on the intents and motives of the heart, which means that we cannot be one-hundred-percent certain about someone’s spiritual condition. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The complexity of the human heart, combined with the unknowns in certain situations, means that our spiritual assessment of such people should always be expressed with humility and with a sense of our own limited knowledge.

    What We Do Know

    Second, we need to recall what we do know. We know from a number of passages that those who belong to Christ cannot lose their salvation. For instance, Jesus says that his sheep will “never perish” because no one is strong enough to snatch them from his hands or the hands of his Father (John 10:28-30). Paul also speaks of the certainty of the believer’s salvation, claiming that everyone whom God foreknows, predestines, and justifies will also be glorified on the last day (Romans 8:29-30). These and many other passages assure us that God’s children do not get kicked out of the family. Eternal life cannot be lost.

    While true followers of Christ do not lose their salvation, Scripture is also clear about the fact that those who belong to Christ persevere to the end. That is, true believers always continue trusting in and obeying Jesus until God calls them home. Sure, they continue to battle sin, and they may wander for a time, but they do not ultimately fall away. And, of course, this is God’s work in them, for they can only persevere in the power of the Spirit. A number of passages teach what has historically been referred to as the perseverance of the saints. For instance, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). Other passages could be cited to make the same point: true Christians do not depart from the faith (see 1 John 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

    What’s at Stake

    If one of the characteristics of true believers is that they always continue in the faith, then it follows that walking away from Christ and his people is serious, as in eternally serious. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Jesus also spoke of branches that would be “thrown into the fire” because they did not abide in him (John 15:6). The stakes could not be higher for those who walk away from the faith; judgment and eternity hang in the balance.

     What Love Requires

    To return to our original question, what are we to make of “believers” who seem to have fallen away? We know they haven’t lost their salvation, but because true believers always persevere in the faith, we also can’t be sure that they ever had it in the first place. It’s entirely possible for people to claim to be followers of Christ and then later prove to be unbelievers. Jesus talks about such people in the parable of the soils: they initially receive the word, but because they have no life-giving root to their faith, or because their love for the things of the world is stronger than their love for Christ, they ultimately prove that they don’t belong to God (Mark 4:1-20). Profession doesn’t always mean possession.

    We might say, with all humility, that there is evidence that such people do not belong to Christ. Hopefully their wandering is temporary, and by God’s grace they may eventually repent, but given the stakes, we should not assume anything. Either way, we must seek after such people. The concern of fellow believers is one of the means that God uses to preserve his people to the end. It’s also one of the reasons why church membership and church discipline are safeguards for those who profess Christ. For the good of our souls, we need other believers to hold us accountable. With compassion, urgency, and with much prayer, we should reach out to those who seem to be wandering. Love requires nothing less.

  2. How to Prepare for Your Summer Mission Trip

    Posted on May 20th, 2015 by Jonathan

    Summer vacations are not the only trips in view when the last school bell rings and the neighborhood pool opens. For many of you, these things also mean that your summer mission trip is just around the bend. It’s good that you begin thinking about it now. You’d be well served not to wait until the week (or night) before to begin preparing for it.

    So here are some simple ways to get ready, between now and the airport terminal.

    Begin Praying Now. This should go without saying, but prayer must undergird any sort of ministry in which you engage. Why? Because you can’t change people; only God gives new birth. Your dependence on him for this should be evident in your prayer life. If you aren’t praying, not only may your missions goals be too low, but your trust may be misplaced.

    Know Your Team. This may already be happening, but if you aren’t meeting with your team before you leave, try to get together with them soon. While praying together and planing together have enough merit on their own, meeting with your team will also help you discern personalities and roles. One of the greatest opponents to your effectiveness as a team is disunity, and spending some time together before you find yourselves in an unfamiliar and/or stressful context may help to prevent any potential quarreling.

    Rehearse the Gospel. I was privileged to spend a summer on mission in East Africa. I had been warned that on-the-spot introductions to speak were common. As it turns out, that couldn’t have been more dead on. At one point I was actually handed a megaphone in a crowded market. Thankfully, part of that warning came with an encouragement to prepare a gospel presentation. I would encourage the same. Even if you’re not going to a culture where impromptu sermons and megaphone preaching is common, it would be still wise to prepare a clear and concise statement of the gospel that you could share at a moment’s notice.

    Look to Local Partners. I doubt you are unacquainted with the mission of your local parters, but if you are, get to know their vision before you get there. Little could be more encouraging to a long-term missionary than showing genuine care for the ministry they’ve devoted their lives to. But more than this, doing your homework will also tell you how to best come alongside them in their work. On a short-term trip, your time is best spent serving the long-term partner since they’ll be there long after you leave. So take a back seat, follow their lead, and see what will actually serve them longterm (not just give your team the best experience). And as a side note, you can begin serving them before you go by asking them if there is anything you can bring them from home – like care packages from loved ones, books, and even snacks they cannot get in their local country.

    Be Ready to Grow. Don’t substitute your personal walk with Lord for serving him on a mission trip. It’s incredibly easy to place all your focus on your team, the work you’re doing, the travel plans, and all the sights to see. In doing so, you neglect communion with the source of your power. You must proactively combat this tendency to forgo your daily devotions on the trip. So before you leave, come up with a basic plan for reading your Bible and prayer. Also, expect to learn and grow a lot through what you do and experience; it would be prudent to have some sort of journal in which to process your thoughts.

    Plan for Change. Though flexibility is key on the mission field, being flexible is different than not having a plan. In fact, flexibility often requires more planning. When your in-country transportation is running two hours late, have a section of Scripture ready to begin (or continue) memorizing. If the ministry plans fall through for a day, have some sort of backup plan in place to encourage your teammates and/or local partners. If a more pressing need arises, don’t be so married to your original itinerary that you can’t adjust. Humbly serve according to the advice of trusted local leadership even if it diverges from your preconceived notion of service. And if something strange is placed on the dinner plate before you, it’s time for you to expand your palette.

  3. Your Calling is to Proclaim the Word

    Posted on May 19th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Near the end of Paul life, he wrote the following words to Timothy:

    As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:5-8)

    Don’t you want to be able to get to the end of your life and speak with such confidence? I’ve done all that the Lord has called me to do.

    Be encouraged by the fact that you don’ have to meet a souls-saved quota, give away a certain amount of money, or write a best seller. You have only to “fulfill your ministry” (verse 5). You’re free from comparing your ministry to others’. You’re free to simply trust God and obey his calling.

    Still, that may leave you with the question of what your calling is. David Platt can answer you from Scripture: your calling is to proclaim the Word. The Word is able to make people wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15), it is breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16)… and it is therefore exactly what a dark world needs to hear. Platt elaborates:

    Proclaiming this Word in this world will never be easy. On any level. But here’s the deal: whether it involves going to our neighbor next door, or to a nation on the other side of the world, or both… let’s speak this Word with a reckless abandon, doing all that God calls us to do in this world, knowing that it will be costly, but believing that it will be worth it. Or maybe better stated, knowing the He will be worth it.

    While we cannot spell out the specifics of how you are to fulfill your ministry, we can give you a sure way not to fulfill your ministry: don’t proclaim the Word. If we were given the Word so “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” then we can’t teach disciples from all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded without it (2 Tim 3:16-17, Matt 28:20).

    You can hear David Platt’s entire sermon on 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8 by listening to the latest episode of the Radical Together Podcast. Additionally, you can use these message notes to follow along.

  4. What’s Really Going On as Funeral Pyres Blaze in Nepal

    Posted on May 7th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    With the death toll at well over 7,000 people and climbing, the tragic scale of the earthquake in Nepal is hard to put into words. Perhaps the sadness is more effectively captured in this vivid account of the continually blazing Katmandu funeral pyres than it is in a quantitative catalogue of casualties. Here’s a heartbreaking excerpt:

    The family of Usha Shrestha gathered along the banks of the Bagmati River on Monday to bear her body down to the funeral pyres.

    They carried her on a stretcher fashioned from green bamboo, her body wrapped in a lavender flowered sheet, a red-and-gold sari and a marigold cloth written with God’s name.

    They dusted her with red powder and placed small, crumpled bills atop her chest. They laid her jewelry over her heart, roughly two days after it stopped beating.

    A professional body burner stacked logs of sal wood, a teak-like timber, onto a small platform and laid packets of ghee, a clarified butter, amid the timbers to ensure the flames would take light. One by one, her three sons prostrated themselves at her feet, their weeping uncontained by the surgical masks stretched across their faces.

    Then the eldest son performed the ultimate filial duty, laying a flaming stick upon his mother’s lips.

    As the flames spread across her chest, the body burner heaped straw atop her corpse, sending bluish smoke billowing into the sky over the white stupas of the Pashupatinath temple.

    Since Saturday evening, when the 45-year-old widow was crushed in her home by Nepal’s massive 7.8 earthquake, Hindu funeral pyres have been burning here almost around the clock. As of mid-Monday, nearly 300 bodies had been cremated, authorities at the temple said, more than six times the normal rate of roughly 15 to 20 per day. (The Chicago Tribune)

    The report goes on to relate the perspective of a professional body burner in Katmandu. Though devastatingly sad, you should read the rest of it. And as you read it, be reminded of what is really going on as the funeral pyres smoke and smolder. David Platt was reminded of it during a visit there a couple of years ago:

    I stood at the Bagmati River in South Asia where every day funerals are held and bodies are burned. It is the custom among these Hindu people when family or friends die to take their bodies within twenty-four hours to the river, where they lay them on funeral pyres and set the pyres ablaze. In so doing, they believe they are helping their friend of family member in the cycle of reincarnation. As I saw this scene before me, I stood in overwhelmed silence. For as I watched these flames overtake the bodies, I knew based on Scripture that I was witnessing at that moment a physical reflection of an eternal reality. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that most if not all of the people I was watching burn had died without ever hearing the good news of how they could have lived forever with God. (Counter Culture, 248-249)

    As we look to Nepal, may we bear in mind the eternal state of souls who die without Christ. To only meet their needs with water, shelter, and medical attention is a travesty of a remedy. Without the gospel, the flames of funeral pyres are not the only fires that Nepal’s dead will face.

    Hear David Platt address the current situation in Nepal on the latest Radical Together podcast episode: A Christ-Compelled Response to Nepal.

  5. Vietnamese Church Leaders, In Their Own Words

    Posted on May 6th, 2015 by Cassity

    Throughout the month of May, we’re encouraging people to Pray for Vietnam, our Secret Church 15 prayer focus. We’d love for you to join us by making use of the 30-day prayer guide at PrayForVietnam.org. Before you begin, read the stirring words from Vietnamese church leaders below as they tell us what life is like as a Christian in Vietnam.

    *Note: Names and other information has been omitted for security purposes.

    1. How do you remain faithful in persecution?

    “I know that I must have a personal walk with the Lord. We must be realizing that we are weak—we have to let go and let God. I recount the latest incident where I thought, ‘This is the end.’ Then I am reminded that the Lord [is faithful].”

    [I know that my] faith is in God and Jesus Christ. We believe what we are doing is right. I vowed [from the beginning] never to quit.”

    “I am willing to die for my faith. I was trained [by other Christians]. I quote verses from the book of John. Our people are like sheep before the wolves. It is my responsibility to protect them and lead them. I will never give up.”

    2. How do you train new believers to face persecution?

    “[I make it] very clear that we are coming together to worship the Lord. We have a clear vision to spread churches. I use my experience [with persecution] to teach them.”

    “Our first rule is: never run away. If I run away, I become a betrayer to Jesus and these people.”

    “We used to hate the authorities who persecuted us. [After a meeting] with five other church leaders, I said we should change the way we are with [the authorities]—try to talk about the good things about them. We should show them Christ’s love. We should show them that we love Vietnam and want to build up the country.”

    “I inform them this is not an easy faith. They will face trials. I bring them along with me to see how I handle things so that they will know how to count the cost.”

    “I explain why persecution happens. [I tell them to] pray and study the Bible to grow in faith. If they spend time with God, they can stand firm.”

    3. How do you pray for Vietnam and fellow believers?

    “[I pray that] the Lord will still keep persecution in Vietnam. We don’t pray for it to go away or for freedom. We pray for the gospel to have freedom to break through barriers. [Through this I want to] excite the younger generation and raise up faithful workers who will go through difficult circumstances.”

    “I pray for the authorities because they do things contrary to God’s word. We pray for them to have a chance to repent.”

    Join these church leaders in praying for the peoples of Vietnam, especially the persecuted believers who face opposition daily for their faith. For more on Vietnam and how you can pray for the people there, visit PrayForVietnam.org.

  6. God Has Designed Your Church to Be Unimpressive

    Posted on May 5th, 2015 by David Burnette

    As you look out over the members of your church each Sunday, what do you see? The “movers and shakers” in your community? The most successful businesspeople? The intellectual elite? The best-dressed or the best-looking?

    Maybe that describes some people in your church, but on the whole, my guess is that your church looks pretty normal. You might even say unimpressive. However, this unimpressive outward appearance does not mean that something has gone wrong with your church’s message or mission. Listen to how Paul’s describes God’s people in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28:

    Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.

    Not powerful. Not of noble birth. Foolish. Weak. Low and Despised. How’s that for a description of the church? Not exactly a Who’s Who in the eyes of the world. But notice that this unflattering description of the church is not a bug in God’s design; it’s a feature. God chooses the nobodies of the world, and he does this for a very specific purpose. His goal is to remove any grounds for human boasting so that we might boast in him (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). By using unlikely means–like you and me–the spotlight is on his power and his grace. That way, he gets the credit. And this is not a new strategy.

    God chose Abraham, a childless pagan, to be the father many nations; he chose Jacob rather than Esau; he chose Israel instead of Egypt; he chose a young shepherd-boy to behead a nine-foot giant from Gath. The list goes on and on. This counter-intuitive strategy is nowhere more apparent than in the message of the cross, where God has chosen to save sinners through a crucified Messiah. The message is foolish to some, and a stumbling block to others, but this is precisely the way God wants it.

    Of course, God does save some who are respected in the eyes of the world. Being smart or rich or influential doesn’t disqualify you from the kingdom any more than being lowly will earn God’s favor. Sinners from all different walks of life need a Savior. However, we shouldn’t be surprised when our churches aren’t very flashy in the eyes of the world. Jesus says that his kingdom begins as a mustard seed, not an oak tree. This city on a hill is visible because of its love and humility, not its prestige.

    The unimpressive look to our churches should not cause us to doubt the power of the gospel, nor should it lead us to change our message in order to gain a hearing from our culture. It is actually our ordinariness that draws attention to Christ. No one would wonder where our strength or contentment came from if we were only made up of the political and social elite. We should simply give thanks that God saves sinners like us, and that he is pleased to call us his children.

    So as you look out over your church each Sunday, don’t be worried if you do not see many who are wise or powerful. All is going according to plan.

  7. New Podcast Episode: Fasting from Food to Feast on God

    Posted on April 20th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    The latest episode of the Radical Together podcast is now up, and in it David Platt talks about the much-neglected spiritual discipline of fasting. Along with prayer and the Word, which we’ve been looking at over the past few months, fasting reminds us of our dependence on God, and it increases our love for him. In this episode David defines biblical fasting as follows:

    The periodic putting aside of food (and maybe even water for a time) as a physical expression of a spiritual reality–the expression that, more than our bodies are dependent on food, our lives and our souls are dependent on God.

    Whether we’re facing a major decision or simply seeking to be faithful to God on a daily basis, this week’s podcast episode is designed to help us see that fasting should be a normal expression of the believer’s trust in God. As David points out, Jesus himself begins addressing the topic in Matthew 6:16 by saying, “When you fast . . .”, not “If you fast.” However, if fasting sounds like a chore or a burden, or maybe even like a foreign concept, then you’ll want to tune in to this week’s episode to find out how fasting can be a way of feasting on God.

    For more on the topic of fasting, you can also check out Session 2 of Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life. (If you tune in at the 60:00 mark, you’ll catch David’s teaching on fasting.) To see past episodes of the Radical Together podcast, or to keep up with new ones, go here. You can subscribe via iTunes by going here.

  8. Twelve Bad Reasons to Downplay or Distort the Gospel

    Posted on April 20th, 2015 by Jonathan

    If you’ve ever been overseas, you may have some idea about what it feels like to be an outsider. A bit homesick, no taste for the local cuisine, uncomfortable with various cultural practices, always sticking out, unable to fluently converse in the local language… it’s tough to deal with all of these things.

    We feel some of this same strain as Christians living in this world. When we are born again, we become citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20), and then the Bible refers to us as sojourners, exiles, ambassadors, and even strangers. Though this earth is not our home, here we are. And the more we become like Christ, the more we feel this tension.

    Our culture presents us with tons of different scenarios that highlight who we truly are, in all our strange glory. It’s tempting, at these junctures, to distance ourselves from our heavenly country and align ourselves more with this one by acting more ashamed of the gospel than of the culture’s many shortcomings. Sadly, we often justify doing this with terrible reasoning.

    Here are twelve bad reasons to hide, downplay, or distort the truth of the gospel and our new, otherworldly identity.

    1. I need to stay relevant. While being able to read and address your culture means having some level of familiarity with it, we should always avoid sin and we should never distort truth. We must remember that we are set apart as holy and different so that we can lead people to the truth. Being holy and speaking the truth of God’s ever-relevant Word – even the parts that sound crazy – will always be the most relevant thing we can do.

    2. I don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. If you had to forcefully shove your friend off the road so that he didn’t get hit by a truck, you would not hesitate for fear of bruising his shoulder with your push. Even more so, we must ask God for grace and wisdom to lovingly call our friends and family to repent and trust in Jesus even though they may object and take offense.

    3. I can’t make a difference. This sentiment simply reveals a prideful view of ourselves, because in reality, none of us can make a heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26). God is the one who transforms and redeems. We are simply called to faithful obedience.

    4. The end will justify the means, even it involves compromise. We must remember that God ordains both the end and the means. I’ve heard it said that what you save someone with is what you save someone to. In other words, you cannot proclaim the gospel (which means dying to self and following Christ) with things other than the gospel (self-help, prosperity, entertainment, etc.).

    5. I’ve seen it work before. God is faithful in all things, and he uses good and evil alike for his great purposes. Remember, he often speaks through unlikely means (e.g., Balaam’s donkey and evil rulers) and uses people’s sins to accomplish good (e.g., Joseph’s brothers and the crucifixion). So just because we’ve seen God work in a particular situation or use a particular model of ministry doesn’t mean he is endorsing it. God’s Word is always our standard and ultimate example.

    6. What I do doesn’t change who I am or what I truly believe. It’s tempting to try to justify acting in ways that are contrary to our Christian beliefs in order to avoid alienating someone we are trying to engage (e.g., going to a sexually explicit movie to try to build a relationship with an unbelieving friend). But “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Matt 7:17). And, “the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk 6:45 )

    7. I don’t have a choice. Caught in the furious current of our culture, it may seem like we don’t have a choice. But continually before us is the choice to fear God or to fear man, to follow him or to reject him. Even in environments that are greatly hostile toward Christ, we must count the cost and follow him no matter what. Peter gives us a good example of making this choice in Acts 5:27-32.

    8. I may endanger the good that exists if I’m too bold about sin. For example, if someone becomes convinced that Jesus is worthy of worship but doesn’t see anything wrong with sleeping around, we could be tempted to ignore their sin so as to not “turn them off” to Christ. It’s true that not all battles are worth dying over. But the gospel is. And for the sake of the gospel, we must boldly uphold and proclaim biblical truth. If we ignore or excuse sin, then there is no apparent need for a Savior.

    9. God isn’t that concerned with  X . We can easily downplay controversial issues as insignificant. However, issues like the sanctity of marriage and life are just as near to God’s heart and just as tied to the gospel as issues like ending human trafficking and poverty alleviation.

    10. God will forgive me. Paul debunked this one best when he said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2).” God never condones or excuses sin.

    11. Other Christians are okay with it. It sometimes seems like “Evangelical Christians” everywhere are being pressured into accepting and justifying cultural trends, even those that are clearly contrary to Scripture. We must stay true to the Word, though, and resist the temptation to follow a Christian leader just because what they’re saying is popular or easy hear.

    12. I can appeal to a passage Scripture. All Scripture is God-breathed and inerrant. But because of sin, this is not true of human interpretation. We should be wary of seeing something in Scripture that hasn’t been seen or accepted by the church in the 2,000 years since it was established. What we believe about a certain verse or passage must fit with the whole counsel of God’s Word.

    May the Lord find us faithful and true.

  9. Resurrection Past, Present, and Future

    Posted on April 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Hopefully, if you’re a Christian, you realize that Christ’s resurrection is a foundational part of your salvation. This is worth celebrating at Easter and throughout the year. But have you stopped to consider how wide-ranging the implications of the empty tomb are? Consider briefly how Easter Sunday affects your salvation past, present, and future.

    Resurrection Past: On Easter, we remember when Jesus rose from the grave three days after dying on the cross.

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor 15:3-5)

    Though this certainly has redemptive implications (if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be “of first importance”), it is essentially a brief historical account. Jesus died. Jesus rose. People saw him.

    So in one sense, celebrating the resurrection means remembering a historical fact, albeit a supernatural one. Simply put, approximately 2,000 years ago, Jesus rose from the dead. If you dispute it, you have to contend with the other, apparently related, historical fact that a religious movement sprang up almost overnight, and a rapidly growing community of people would be persecuted and put to death for believing that Jesus didn’t stay dead in his tomb, but was alive.

    Resurrection Present: On Easter, we live in the present reality of the resurrection. This is where the redemptive implications of Jesus’ vacant tomb come into play.

    We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

    When we are united with Christ by faith, his resurrection is our transformation. We now walk in newness of life, empowered by the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11). We can have victory over sin. We can participate in the mission of God.

    This is all reinforced by the present reality that Jesus is still alive. His resurrection was not temporary. And now, as he sits at the right hand of God the Father, we can rest in this promise:

    Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

    Talk about security. This leads right into the third reason we should celebrate it.

    Resurrection Future: On Easter, we look forward to the future resurrection of our bodies.

    But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor 15:20-22)

    Because Jesus has been raised, so will be those who are in him – eternal communion with God in heavenly bodies. What a hope!

    As we look back to Jesus’ resurrection this Easter, let us also celebrate its present and future implications.

  10. Extending the Blessing of Good Friday

    Posted on April 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan

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    The goodness of Good Friday is seen nowhere more clearly than Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'”

    This is the gospel. And it’s worth pausing to reflect on it this Good Friday as we remember when Jesus went to that tree.

    But I wonder if we might also take a few moments today to reflect on the rest of the sentence begun in Galatians 3:13. Why did Jesus die on the cross? If we keep reading, we’re told that Jesus became a curse “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14).

    A quick refresher on “the blessing of Abraham.” Refer way back to Genesis 12:2-3:

    And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

    Jesus died so that the doors of God’s Genesis 12 promise to Abraham would be flung wide open. In Jesus, one of Abraham’s descendants, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. How could this be? Because Christ’s full and final sacrifice on the cross is not applied on the basis of family heritage, but on the basis of faith. All people can now be blessed with the presence of God through faith.

    We are the Gentiles. We are the beneficiaries of this extended blessing, poured on us because Christ’s blood was poured out. But as the beneficiaries, we are also the conduits. We are now part of Abraham’s bless-to-be-a-blessing family (Gal 3:7). And just as our faith came by hearing of this good news in Christ, so others’ faith will come by us telling of this good news in Christ (Rom 10:17).

    Today, there are still over 6,500 Gentile families who have yet to hear about it and, subsequently, have not taken hold of the blessing through faith. So don’t let this Good Friday end with reflection on this supernatural and glorious exchange. Rather, remember that Christ died so that the blessing would extend to all the families of the earth… then extend it.