Month: November 2017

What next? (Mark 16:14-20)

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Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.

But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?

Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.

There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.

And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.

These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).

Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.

Are you on-board?

[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]

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Resurrection (Mark 16:1-13)

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Mourning is overtaken suddenly by alarm, by trembling and astonishment, silence & feeling afraid.

Death & pain & sadness are suddenly swallowed up by victory!  Jesus is alive, the grave is empty.  It was borrowed for three days but it is empty now, our God has robbed the grave!

Our whole faith rests on this truth – Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!

Bow down in worship and wonder, in awe and amazement.

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.

Perspectives (Mark 14)

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In Mark 14 the central figure is Jesus. The Mark’s Gospel slows down in these final hours of Jesus’ life, earlier chapters sometimes covered multiple days but now it’s slowed right down, these final moments matter, these events show us who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for you and I.

The writer like a modern day director of a video, keeps switching perspectives, revealing how a whole variety of people saw Jesus, what they understood about who He was and what He had come to these final moments to do.

The Murderers (vs1-2)
Ever since Mark 3:6 thoughts about how to capture and kill Jesus were real. When the chief priests and scribes saw Jesus all they wanted to do was kill him, Jesus filled them with rage and fury – that was their perspective. It is possible to feel right about the wrong thing! They were convinced they were doing a right thing in planning to kill Jesus, felt justified in their actions, felt they were even doing a good thing. Is there anything you’ve convinced yourself of that you feel right about, but maybe is in fact wrong to do?

The Worshiper (vs3-9)
In sharp contrast we have the woman who boldly approaches Jesus lavishly pours out her love and thanks and devotion to Jesus in an act of worship fit for a king. He is worth it, her love for Him is worth expressing in this way, it is not wasteful as some felt, it is an entirely justified act of lavish beautiful worship according to Jesus (14:6). Does ‘lavish’ describe your devotion to Jesus Christ?

The Betrayer (vs10-11 & 44-46)
Was Judas one of those who protested at this woman’s wasteful worship? A whole years wages wasted on Jesus. Maybe he was happy for Jesus to be a good teacher, a miracle worker, but for people to worship Him in this way – inappropriate, too much, wasteful and wrong…? He is not with Jesus, his heart has shifted, and so he decides to betray Jesus for a some of money. How could someone be so close, in the tight circle with Jesus and yet be unmoved by Jesus at a heart level? Proximity to Jesus does not guarantee faith in Jesus and love for Jesus.

The Friends (vs12-21)
It’s festival time, it’s that time for meals with close family. The close friends and followers of Jesus want to prepare a meal for the Passover. Jesus knows it is His last meal with these ones He has shared His life with, these ones He has invested the most in, and these ones He is about to leave to continue the Father’s will on the planet. They share a meal but there is an awkward moment in the meal as Jesus reveals to them that one of them has it in his heart to betray Him.

The Inner Circle (vs32-42)
The three closest to Jesus are called by Jesus to follow Him into the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus calls them to watch and pray. Jesus is not Himself, they see Jesus distressed, troubled, saying disconcerting things… ‘What’s going on?’ they must have wondered but exhausted they fall asleep more than once leaving Jesus alone in His hour of need as He cries out to the Father if there is any other way. How alone Jesus must have felt, even His closest disciples aren’t there when He needed them. Graciously still, Jesus knows, their hearts are with Him but their bodies are weak (vs38).

The Father (vs36/39)
Was the Father crying with Jesus? What was it like for the Father to hear His Son crying out, Father “remove this cup from me” and to remain silent because there wasn’t another way. Oh how deeply our salvation cost the Father and the Son! Did the Father look away because He could no longer look on His Son, writhing in prayer? Oh what pride and love must have swelled in the heart of the Father to see and hear the Son say; “Yet, not what I will, but what You will.” (vs36)

The Deserters (vs43-52)
Everyone left Jesus, abandoned Him. Not one remained. Alone.

The Accusers (vs53-65)
Jesus – arrested for nothing, falsely accused with trumped up charges that weren’t even consistent. He remained silent before them, didn’t try to defend Himself like He could have and only answered when the High Priest said; ‘Are you the Christ?’ “I AM” Jesus said. I am God, I am the Messiah and you will see it in time to come Jesus went on to say. For which they began to beat Jesus and spit on Him and mock Him.

The Denier (vs66-72)
Although he had deserted along with the rest of them, Peter loved Jesus and so followed at a distance, looked on at His trial. But when challenged regarding his relationship with Jesus he too deserted Jesus denying Him with his words, over and over again. He believed he wouldn’t, believed he would risk all to follow Jesus, but he didn’t and it impacted him deeply.

Who is Jesus to you? What’s your perspective?
Do you truly see what He has DONE for you?
Will you live your whole life as a lavish worship response?

Choose your focus (Mark 13)

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When it comes to questions regarding the end of the ages, the last days, the tribulation, judgement day & Jesus’ second coming – there are lots of questions and abounding interpretations.

Chapter 13 starts with one of the disciples remarking to Jesus how amazing the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem was. Maybe surprisingly to them Jesus replies prophesying about the imminent destruction of the temple (which happened in AD70) and launches into a discourse that teaches them regarding this imminent tribulation in Jerusalem & also instructs the disciples and us on the end times.

When we read sections like this in Scripture, may I suggest an approach. Focus on the imperatives – the crucial action items, the things we are urged to do.

Its a bit like driving in thick mist. Most years around this time of year when I and my family travel down to another part of the country at night, there is a section of the trip that almost invariably poses the challenge of really thick mist at night. The national speed limit is 120km/h but on those night long sections of driving safely require a speed as low as 20-30km/h. There is just too much that can’t be seen, questions as it were; is there an oncoming bend in the road (with dangerous cliffs), is there a truck or car just around the corner? In moments like this, apart from slowing down, I choose to focus not on what I can’t see, but to focus on what I can see! I can see the yellow line on the left margin of the road & I can see the middle line of the road. So I focus on those and know that what’s imperative is for me to stay between those two lines in order to stay on the road and to stay on my side of the road.

Passages like this are similar. Sometimes they uncover more questions than answers, provide more mystery than revelation. They are difficult to reconcile with other passages at times… However they also contain yellow & white lines – the imperatives.

Read again through this chapter and look for every imperative, everything you can do, are instructed to do.

What’s the overall impression you have now of what Jesus is telling you regarding the end times?

  • “Be on your guard” 3x
  • “Don’t be anxious” 1x
  • “Persevere” (implied from ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ vs13) 1x
  • “Stay awake” 3x

We are to be watchful & alert, not fearful, we are to persevere knowing Jesus will come for His ‘elect’ (vs20&27)! Come Lord Jesus come.  Choose your focus!

Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)

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To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments.  We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues.  However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!

Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst.  Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.

And Jesus connects this with how we treat others.  If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us.  This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  That’s true godliness, true holiness.  That’s what we should be majoring in!

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God.  And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

 

The Rich Young Ruler & Jesus (Mark 10:17-31)

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Consider for a moment the interaction between the young ruler and Jesus and what God is saying to you from it.

Who is Jesus?

The young man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” as he asked his question.  Jesus, however, resisted.  Wouldn’t let the man limit to his own ‘little box’ he’d made for Jesus.    Jesus is the majestic Lord of all, almighty God, ruler & creator of the universe, Lion of the Tribe of Judah…  You can’t just choose yourself who He is in your life.

You see, Either Jesus really is God or He is not.  If He is God then it follows that we MUST SURELY obey Him explicitly in ALL of life.  However, if He isn’t God then really don’t bother with anything about him ever again.

Good news not good advice

The young man’s question exposed that he didn’t understand the gospel, he was  legalistic and religious.  He wanted to know what more he could DO to inherit eternal life.  He was focussed on his moral performance thinking that was what God required from Him.  He was looking for GOOD ADVICE from Jesus, ‘what more can I DO to please God enough to earn eternal life?’.

Jesus’ response was designed to expose the futility in that thinking.  Go and keep all the commandments, and then give away everything you have to the poor!  With man this is impossible, Jesus said later on.  It is impossible to obey all the commandments fully and to have the right heart that God requires – no one can do it (Romans 3:10-12), no one.  That’s why Jesus came to earth, to do what we can’t do!

That’s why the gospel is GOOD NEWS not GOOD ADVICE.  It is not information about something we should DO, or something more we should DO (which is what the young man was asking).  The gospel is the GOOD NEWS of what Jesus has already DONE for us in our place because with us this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Thank you Jesus for the good news of the gospel!

Letting go to lay hold

Lastly from this passage we see that the young man sadly could not loosen his grasp on his possessions and money, couldn’t let go of what his security and pleasure was founded on and so went away – ‘disheartened’ (Mark 10:22).

You, can’t hold onto Jesus truly unless you let go of what you’re holding onto first!  We can’t simply add Jesus to the rest of our lives, following Jesus means laying down of everything in our lives at a heart level – giving it all up to lay hold of Jesus, trusting that Jesus is worthy of that level of devotion and trusting that Jesus is good and will reward those who do lay it all down for Him.