Mercy 4. Mercy and Judgement

1 Tim 1:12-17 ESV | Matt 18:23-35 ESV

INTRODUCTION

As we saw last week, the writer of Hebrews (Heb 12:24 ESV) was keenly aware of the availability of mercy when he stated, we have come “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

If the blood of the first prophet to suffer, Abel, cried out from the ground for vengeance1)See Biblical References Gen 4:10 ESV; Luke 11:49-51 ESV the blood of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of all prophetic witness, cries out with far greater authority for mercy and forgiveness.

Christians, whom Paul describes as “vessels of mercy (Rom 9:23 ESV), should naturally be aware of the disproportion between grace and judgement (Rom 5:15-19 ESV).

This James’ point, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment(James 2:13 ESV).

Once “children of wrath(Eph 2:3 ESV) under terrible divine retribution we are now those who “have received mercy(Rom 11:30 ESV) and continue the age-long prophetic conviction that God’s nature is always to have mercy.

In this world, judgement isn’t an end in itself but a preparation for mercy. Being aware of the nearness of the mercy of God is a pulse running through the Bible. It is tied to a knowledge of God’s heart, that the judgement and destruction of the wicked gives the Lord “no pleasure2)See Biblical References Ezek 18:32 ESV; Ezek 33:11 ESV.

PROPHETS

This awareness is especially acute in the prophets, and perhaps most blatantly in the one prophet who didn’t agree with the Lord’s preference to forgive. The book of Jonah starts with God’s call to the prophet to “preach against” Nineveh for its wickedness (Jonah 1:1-2 ESV).

As we know, Jonah immediately headed away from Nineveh, because as he later explains, “I made haste to flee… for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and who relents from sending disaster.(Jonah 4:2 ESV).

Whilst Jeremiah is a prophet of judgement so notorious that there’s even an English word, “jeremiad”, to sum up threatening’s against evil, he is also the prophet of the endless mercies of a coming new covenant (Jer 31:2, 9, 20, 31-34 ESV).

And in his tradition come the inspired words, vs.22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;vs.23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.(Lam 3:22-23 ESV).

Amos has 8 chapters of devastation, but he knows how to cry out for God to turn from afflicting his people, successfully, “ “O Lord God, please forgive! How can Israel stand? He is so small!” ” (Amos 7:2-3, 5-6 ESV). And God did relent. Amos ends with a prophecy about a sort of super-Edenic state (Amos 9:11-15 ESV).

Then there’s Isaiah who sees a new heaven’s, and earth3)See Biblical References Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV emerging from cosmic judgement.

Habakkuk prophesies a terrible invasion when God visits the world with pestilence, plague, fire and fury (Habakkuk 3:5-16 ESV), but his prayer ascends above the desolation, “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.(Habakkuk 3:2 ESV). John the Baptist is at the end of this line.

I was once moved to correct a pastor who preached that John was “harsh and legalistic”. For  according to the scripture John came  in “the tender mercy of our God” and his message to the crowds to “ “flee from the wrath to come” ”4)See Biblical References Luke 1:78 ESV;  Luke 3:7 ESV was a God-given opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness5)See Biblical References Mark 1:4 ESV cf. Rom 2:4 ESV.

All these prophets, and others, such as Moses (Ex 32:30-34 ESV), were great intercessors because they knew God full of mercy (Jer 31:20 ESV) so that he never afflicts “from his heart” (Lam 3:33 ESV)

They all knew “mercy triumphs over judgment.(James 2:13 ESV), but none of them knew exactly how. This tension between the crushing righteous judgment of the Lord and the “wideness in God’s mercy” was resolved in the life of Jesus.

JESUS

In Jesus, there is always a victory of mercy beyond judgement.

This first becomes manifest at his baptism. vs.21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, vs.22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:21-22 ESV).

Jesus is immersed in waters that symbolise the destructive power of God’s judgement that came with the flood of Noah to cleanse the world from evil6)See Biblical References Gen 6:5-7, 11-13 ESV cf. 2 Pet 3:5-7 ESV.

His immersion is prophetic of the judgement that will engulf him on the cross7)See Biblical References Ps 69 ESV; John 2:17 ESV. But the “well pleased” of the Father speaks of the coming triumphant joy of resurrection life8)See Biblical References Luke 24:41 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV.

The dove descending on Jesus, like the dove that settled upon the earth after the flood of Noah (Gen 8:6-12 ESV), symbolises mercy beyond a coming flood of judgement. Christ’s vocation is to fulfil the ministry of all the prophets, he will take away judgement and issuing in the triumphant endless mercy of his Father. the true intent of divine judgement is shown in Jesus anger at those who denied to the needy.

In Mark 3 when the Pharisees are merciless about healing on the Sabbath Jesus became angry with them (Mark 3:5 ESV). Even more clearly is his teaching in the parable of the unforgiving servant, in which the master stands for God.  vs.32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.vs.33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’vs.34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt.vs.35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ” (Matt 18:32-35 ESV).

The seemingly unforgivable sin is not idolatry, murder, adultery or some other grievous act but a lack of forgiveness.

Forgiving the undeserving image God’s mercy and unconditional mercy is what human beings need to deliver them from the threat of eternal judgement.

I remember some time ago a conversation with a church worker talking whose church they were trying to reach out to the unchurched by avoiding words like “sin”. Instead, they’d use something like “darkness”.

Our tendency is to make excuses for our rebellious humanity, but being sinless Jesus could see our predicament clearly and our extreme need for mercy.

The legalistic and merciless attitude of the Pharisees directly opposed the mercy and forgiveness of God reaching out to tenderly heal the sufferings of broken people. Jesus understood the profound interconnection between mercy and forgiveness because his destiny was the cross.

The cross is the final revelation of God’s righteous wrath and his infinite mercy at the same time. The cross is the standard of the Last Judgement in its exclusion and inclusion of sinners into the kingdom of God.

To quote, “The absolute ultimate judgment of the world took place in Christ’s death….the last standard…The last judgment is behind us.  The true judgment-seat of Christ, where we must all appear, is the Cross… Christ… is eternal Judge in His great work as the Crucified, a work historic yet timeless and final.  In Him… the absolute condemnation … and irreversible judgment was passed upon evil.  There, too, the judgment of our sins fell once for all on the Holy One and the Just.  The judgment Christ exercises stands on the judgment He endured … He assumes judgment because He absorbed it. ….” (P.T. Forsyth).

That the Last Judgement is completed in Jesus (cf. John 5:24 ESV) is a remarkably potent truth that was once impressed on my heart in a highly unusual way.

Arriving at Uluru by a car late in the afternoon, when night fell I was strongly directed by the Spirit to go and pray alone facing the Rock.

As I walked onwards, I could sense that demonic powers were watching, as the site is an ancient centre for Indigenous spirituality, and more recently the New Age. I could sense in the Spirit that many other Christians had prayed at the site before me and that some of them had prayed cursing instead of a blessing (Luke 6:28 ESV).

Arriving in sight of the Rock I found myself not praying, but repeatedly proclaiming to the spiritual world, “Judgement has been taken away.” In Christ, there is no more judgement. because the fullness of God’s mercy has already been expressed in him.

JUDGEMENT AND MERCY

The writers of the New Testament have a sharp and deep understanding of the mercy of God. As “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” Paul received mercy in an outpouring of grace to make known the unlimited mercies of God (1 Tim 1:12-17 ESV).

And so he extols the wealth of God’s mercy; “you… were by nature children of wrath… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved(Eph 2:1-5 ESV).

And there are many other verses that highlight divine mercy9)See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:3-4 ESV; Tit 3:5 ESV; 1 Pet 1:3 ESV; 1 Pet 2:10 ESV etc.. But it’s the structure of the book of Romans that expounds the impetus of mercy for the Christian life; Romans shows that all God’s purposes, including his judgments, have his saving mercy in mind for humanity.

At the end of a very long argument beginning with how God in wrath hands all people over to the consequences of their sins, (Rom 1:18-32 ESV especially vv. 24, 26, 28), Paul concludes with, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.(Rom 11:32 ESV).

This scripture is a tremendous encouragement to us in those times when the wickedness of the world threatens to depress us. With an inclusive understanding of the wideness of God’s mercy Paul goes on to exhort his readers, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Rom 12:1 ESV).

Gratitude for the judgement removing mercies of predestination, adoption, justification, sanctification and so on that Paul has presented throughout Romans motivates Christian living. Periodically throughout Church history moves of God have been propelled by a revelation of this limitless mercy.

CHURCH

Tormented by a guilty conscience Luther went on an impassioned quest to find a merciful God. In his own words, “At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I turned to… the following words: “In it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written,He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ ”

There I began to understand the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous live through a gift of God, namely by faith.

And this is the meaning: The righteousness of God which is revealed by the gospel is passive righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith… Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Luther’s is an individual example, but as we see the strong hand of God coming heavier and heavier on our nation the Lord’s purpose is to intensify humility in all our hearts so that we might receive a revelation of both the necessity and availability of his mercy.

I believe that at the moment, an atmosphere of “cheap grace” in the churches is stifling such a revelation.

The letter of Jude combines communicates the sort of presence we need today, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.(Jude 1:20-23 ESV).

Jude’s confidence in the readiness of the Lord to show mercy is based on the revealed character of Christ, once judged for us and now coming back as Judge.

The mixture of fear and mercy before an imminent coming fiery judgment contrasts with prevalent church attitudes today where the sins of the flesh are either treated legalistically, the very opposite of mercy or treated as mere “mistakes”.

What we need instead is a revelation of the seriousness of sin settled once for all through the blood of the cross10)See Biblical References Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:12, 26, 10:10 ESV. This brings us to the topic of the Last Judgement.

LAST JUDGEMENT

judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy(James 2:13 ESV) is a theme that echoes throughout scripture11)See Biblical References Job 22:6-11 ESV; Ps 18:25-26 ESV; Prov 21:13 ESV; Ezek 25:11-14 ESV; Matt 6:15 ESV; Matt 18:32-35 ESV.

We are in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed, not just for sexual depravity but for “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy(Ezek 16:48-50 ESV).

Hard as it may be to absorb, the prophetic parable of the sheep and the goats teaches that those who don’t feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned are sent into “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels(Matt 25:31-46 ESV).

There is a wideness in God’s mercy, but it cannot encompass the stubbornly merciless whose hardness of heart is a sign that they don’t have the love of God abiding in them (1 John 3:17 ESV). At the End the time for mercy is past. (Rev 14:9-11 ESV).

CONCLUSION

It has been argued that there are four stages of a society’s progressive descent into judgement, hardness12)See Biblical References Rom 1:18, 21, 28 ESV; Eph 4:18 ESV, darkness 13)See Biblical References Rom 1:21-22, 28 ESV; Eph 4:17-18 ESV, being handed over by God14)See Biblical References Rom 1:24, 26, 28 ESV; Eph 4:18 ESV and public shamelessness15)See Biblical References Rom 1:24, 26, 27-31 ESV; Eph 4:19 ESV.

If this is an accurate assessment our culture has reached the final stage.

A worldly society suffers under intensifying judgement16)See Biblical References Rev 18:6-8 ESV cf. Prov 137:8 ESV; Jer 50:15, 29 ESV; Jer 51:24, 29 ESV so that scripture appeals to the Church, “ “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues17)See Biblical References Rev 18:4 ESV cf. 2 Cor 6:17 ESV.

If we would avoid partaking of the judgement the world draws down on itself18)See Biblical References Rev 11:5 ESV; Rev 13:10 ESV; Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 18:5-7 ESV; Rev 22:18-19 ESV cf. Deut 19:15, 19 ESV; Hos 4:1-3 ESV we must live radically different lives. Here’s an example.

The so-called Mother Teresa of Cairo, Mamma Maggie, was a wealthy university professor educating the elite. Then one day she visited “garbage city” where thousands of Coptic Christians recycle rubbish in an environment without clean water, schools, healthcare and a high infant mortality rate.  Overpowered and nauseated she fled to a dark room asking God if he was a God of mercy and of love, how could he let this happen?

She says, “Later I felt that he was saying that it was my turn to do something about it.” Since then she has started St Stephen’s School and charity with 90 centres in Egypt that have assisted tens of thousands of needy people. Where do we see men and women suffering in need of God’s mercy, and what is he asking us to do about it?

Grace and mercy in time of need (Heb 4:16 ESV) are ours for in Christ we are vessels of mercy who can confidently ask God to bring pour forth mercy through own lives. As Daniel in exile knew that the Lord would show mercy on account of his prayers (Dan 9:9 ESV) and as Jesus in his petitions in Gethsemane had faith for a coming mercy beyond a time of judgement19)See Biblical References Heb 5:7-8 ESV; Heb 12:1-2 ESV, through the gospel this can be our expectation.

The Lord will not abandon his people in this hour.

Related:

MERCY SERIES

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 16th June 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 16th. June, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Gen 4:10 ESV; Luke 11:49-51 ESV
2. See Biblical References Ezek 18:32 ESV; Ezek 33:11 ESV
3. See Biblical References Isaiah 65:17 ESV; Isaiah 66:22 ESV
4. See Biblical References Luke 1:78 ESV;  Luke 3:7 ESV
5. See Biblical References Mark 1:4 ESV cf. Rom 2:4 ESV
6. See Biblical References Gen 6:5-7, 11-13 ESV cf. 2 Pet 3:5-7 ESV
7. See Biblical References Ps 69 ESV; John 2:17 ESV
8. See Biblical References Luke 24:41 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV
9. See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:3-4 ESV; Tit 3:5 ESV; 1 Pet 1:3 ESV; 1 Pet 2:10 ESV etc.
10. See Biblical References Heb 7:27 ESV; Heb 9:12, 26, 10:10 ESV
11. See Biblical References Job 22:6-11 ESV; Ps 18:25-26 ESV; Prov 21:13 ESV; Ezek 25:11-14 ESV; Matt 6:15 ESV; Matt 18:32-35 ESV
12. See Biblical References Rom 1:18, 21, 28 ESV; Eph 4:18 ESV
13. See Biblical References Rom 1:21-22, 28 ESV; Eph 4:17-18 ESV
14. See Biblical References Rom 1:24, 26, 28 ESV; Eph 4:18 ESV
15. See Biblical References Rom 1:24, 26, 27-31 ESV; Eph 4:19 ESV
16. See Biblical References Rev 18:6-8 ESV cf. Prov 137:8 ESV; Jer 50:15, 29 ESV; Jer 51:24, 29 ESV
17. See Biblical References Rev 18:4 ESV cf. 2 Cor 6:17 ESV
18. See Biblical References Rev 11:5 ESV; Rev 13:10 ESV; Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 18:5-7 ESV; Rev 22:18-19 ESV cf. Deut 19:15, 19 ESV; Hos 4:1-3 ESV
19. See Biblical References Heb 5:7-8 ESV; Heb 12:1-2 ESV

Loving the Trinity

Prov 8:1-4 KJV | Prov 22:1 – 31:31 KJV | Ps 8:1-9 KJV | Eph 4:1-6 KJV | John 16:12-15 KJV

INTRODUCTION

Despite popular opinion, the revelation that there is one God in three Persons is the most foundational and practical of all Christian beliefs. For instance, contemporary society’s commitment to “equal” i.e. same-sex, marriage and the fluid nature of gender identity can be traced back to a rejection of the Trinity. Political correctness continues to infiltrate even the Church, which is called to be a place of holy communion with the one true God.

A Catholic friend recently sent me material about church schools using gender-neutral language in prayer so “Godself” replaces God himself.

This same crusade against patriarchy reaches up to an episcopal level were from time to time, instead of, “In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, you will hear, “In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”.

But what God does isn’t equivalent to who he is and Jesus himself gave us the name in which we should be baptised (Matt 28:19 KJV).

The Trinity isn’t an intellectual puzzle to be solved but the revelation of a God who is love, who loves to be loved and who wants to share every element of his being with us.

Jesus prayed, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” ” (John 17:26 KJV).

For many years I struggled to feel loved by God, but those days are over and with the help of the Spirit (Rom 5:5 KJV) those still stuck in that place can receive a revelation of the scriptural truth, “God is love(1 John 4:8 KJV), today.

We shouldn’t hear this, as our idolatrous culture does, as equivalent to “love is God”.

The answer question, “I want to know what love is”, doesn’t come from a quest for “love”, but from insight into in the way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love each other and us. Especially in the cross.

LOVE IN GOD

Father, Son and Spirit are not named for three “individuals” who choose to love one another, in God loving and being are one. God exists-in-love.

The Father has always loved the Son with the whole of his substance, and the Son has always loved the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit in the totality of who he is.

The absolute primacy of love in God has massive implications. To say, for example, “God is wrath”, is completely false because the Father has never had a reason to be angry with his Son. Scripture unveils a history shaped by the other-centred love of the Persons of the Trinity.

The Bible testifies that creation comes from the Father1)See Biblical References 1 Cor 8:6 KJV; Rev 4:11 KJV; Rev 10:6 KJV through the mediation of the Son2)See Biblical References John 1:3 KJV; 1 Cor 8:6 KJV; Col 1:15-17 KJV; Heb 1:10-12 KJV and by the power of the Spirit3)See Biblical References Gen 1:2 KJV; Job 26:13 KJV; Job 33:4 KJV; Ps 104:30 KJV; Isa 40:12-13 KJV. Digging deeper we find a level of intimacy that reveals the Persons of the Godhead live for one another.

In Colossians 1:16 KJV we read about Jesus, “for through him God created everything… Everything was created through him and for him”. In other words, the Father created all things for his Son. Christ himself said, vs.22the Father…has given all judgment to the Son, vs.23that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.(John 5:22-23 KJV). Since there is total sharing in the Godhead what is done by the Father for the Son comes back to him.

God the Father will be glorified through the glorification of his beloved Son (1 Cor 15:24, 28 KJV). As a return for his sacrifice, the Father has “highly exalted” Jesus with “the name that is above every name” ” so that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father(Phil 2:1-0-11 KJV)

At the close of the book of Revelation, we hear of “the throne of God and the Lamb(Rev 22:1, 3 KJV).

There are not two thrones in heaven, Father and Son reign forever in the power of the Spirit on a single throne4)See Biblical References Rev 22:1 KJV cf. John 7:37-39 KJV. The Father loves nothing more than for us to love the Son, the Son loves us to love the Father and all this love is in the Spirit (2 Cor 13:14 KJV).

To forget that the glory of every Person in the Trinity is to glorify the others always leads to confusion. When I was a young Christian there were popular T-shirts around with John 14:6 KJV printed on them, “Jesus said,I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”; but none of them included the rest of what Jesus’ said, “no one comes to the Father except through me.

No wonder that generation struggled with the Fatherhood of God. “Love” is perhaps the most corrupted word in the English language, to understand what “love” means in the eyes of God we must have a revelation of the death and resurrection of Jesus whose life meaning was defined by these events. “ “For this reason” ”, he said, “ “the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” ” (John 10:16 KJV)

LOVE AS SACRIFICE

With the coming of Jesus a new form of knowing God entered the world, one defined by self-giving rather than self-seeking, selflessness rather than selfishness, a manifestation of all-embracing unconditional forgiving love. God’s love is defined by his sacrifice of himself for those who don’t love him.

What’s the most famous verse in the Bible? “For God so loved…the world” i.e. those opposed to him “that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.5)See Biblical References John 3:16 KJV cf. 1 John 4:10 KJV.

Sometimes grieving people say, “I feel as though a part of me has died.” This is a metaphorical way of speaking about our human experiences, but it really happened when the Father was separated from the Son on the cross as he cried out, “ “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” ”(Mark 15:34 KJV).

When Jesus took all the lovelessness of the world upon himself6)See Biblical References Rom 8:3 KJV; 2 Cor 5:21 KJV; 1 Pet 2:24 KJV death entered into the life of God.

The Persons of the Trinity never stopped loving one another, but the infinite agony of the cross marks a suspension in the circle of loving experience in the Godhead. Suffering, sin and death were taken into God so that in Christ we might eternally and uninterruptedly be immersed in his love.

In the death and resurrection of Jesus for us, human nature has been beautified and by grace made worthy of love. “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has passed away; behold, everything has become new.(2 Cor 5:17 KJV).

Raised up with Christ and hidden with him in God7)See Biblical References ph 2:6 KJV; Col 3:3 KJV our humanity has been so radically renewed that love is now at the essence of our being. This love has no limits in its powerful working.

In a Japanese P.O.W. camp holding men building the Burma Railway, the prisoners were behaving like brute beasts. The officers refused to share their rations, theft was common, and no-one cared for others’ needs. Then one day a work party returned, and a shovel was missing from the count.

Infuriated, the guard in charge threatened to kill everyone unless the thief stepped forward and confessed. No one moved. Then finally a man stood up and said, “I did it.” He was mercilessly bludgeoned to death in front of all the inmates. Soon after this the work detail did a recount of tools and found they’d made a mistake, nothing was missing.

A Bible verse came into the mind of one of the prisoners, who later became a pastor, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV). From that time on life in the camp began to change, men were still suffering and dying, but now they were caring for each other without selfishness.

They began to feel they were called to a fellowship of love and started doing art, founded a “university”, planted a garden, built a chapel. The miraculous power at work transforming the rabble into a community was the love of the man who gave his life for his friends, and enemies, on the cross, which is also the limitless love of Almighty God.

Christ’s sacrifice is the fulness of an extraordinary love that has grown to infinity through being given away. We are all called into this fellowship of love.

Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts then there is no hurt but only more love. As I held and fed the morsel of life that was an aborted baby, I held the hand of our man dying from cancer and felt his trust and gratitude, I can see, feel and touch God’s love which has existed from the beginning.

Experiences like this, not clever intellectual arguments, testify to our hearts of the reason why God created the world.

KNOWING THE TRINITY

In the age of fake news and endless exposure of hypocrisy cynicism and suspicion of people’s motives abounds. But the gospel of the death-and-resurrection of Jesus reveals an all-powerful love that’s never manipulative or self-seeking.

The deepest mystery of the universe is not accessible to science, psychology or philosophy, but unveiled in the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit poured out for us in Jesus.

Loved without limit, the call to follow Christ is a call to follow without limit, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matt 22:37 KJV).

A call to love totally and unconditionally. In this life, nobody can love God like that, but Jesus has promised, “‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23 KJV).

CONCLUSION

Jesus has shown us a Spirit-led way to the Father.

As he gave up everything for us, we must give up everything to him. That’s what love means, that’s how love works. The more we are united with the sacrifice of Christ, the more we have a revelation that God is infinitely loveworthy and the more we are freed from a selfish need to love ourselves before we love God and others.

The problem with the wider Church today is that it is choked up by an immature love. Mature love doesn’t love God for his benefits, real and wonderful as they are, but loves God for his sake.  It is being bathed in this love that drives out all fear of being unloved (1 John 4:18 KJV).

In heaven, we will fully love God as God loves himself. Who Jesus is and what he has done for us is that powerful.

I was out praying the other day and my heart was simultaneously filled with two sensations, I sensed this deep desire to share all things with the Lord, and far more deeply his desire to share all things with me.

This will be my life forever. Will it be yours?

Today, God’s love, the love of the Father, Son and Spirit calls us all to give our lives to Jesus, this is the loving thing to do. And if we do this, not only as individuals but as a church, we will find flowing through our lives Spirit-inspired actions manifesting the life of Christ to the glory of God the Father. Actions of extreme generosity, mission, evangelism, prophetic community, social concern…  such love is what it’s all about.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 15th Month 2019 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 15th Month, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References 1 Cor 8:6 KJV; Rev 4:11 KJV; Rev 10:6 KJV
2. See Biblical References John 1:3 KJV; 1 Cor 8:6 KJV; Col 1:15-17 KJV; Heb 1:10-12 KJV
3. See Biblical References Gen 1:2 KJV; Job 26:13 KJV; Job 33:4 KJV; Ps 104:30 KJV; Isa 40:12-13 KJV
4. See Biblical References Rev 22:1 KJV cf. John 7:37-39 KJV
5. See Biblical References John 3:16 KJV cf. 1 John 4:10 KJV
6. See Biblical References Rom 8:3 KJV; 2 Cor 5:21 KJV; 1 Pet 2:24 KJV
7. See Biblical References ph 2:6 KJV; Col 3:3 KJV

Pentecost and Prophecy Today

Acts 2:1-21 ESV | Ps 104:24-35 ESV | Rom 8:14-17 ESV | John 14:8-17 ESV

Introduction

Last Sunday we read how just before Jesus ascended into heaven he promised his disciples he would send the Spirit to empower them to continue his mission (Acts 1:8 ESV).

Seated at the Father’s right hand as Lord of all1)See Biblical References Ps 110: 1-7 ESV; Acts 2:36 ESV; Acts 10:36 ESV he poured out the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost equipping the church to minister in the world.

The Spirit doesn’t send himself nor is he sent directly by the Father, but only at the request of Jesus2)See Biblical References John 14:16, 26 ESV; John 15:26 ESV; John 16:7 ESV cf. Matt 3:11 ESV; Mark 1:8 ESV; Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV; John 1:33 ESV.

The church is to do what the Spirit says as Jesus has always done what the Father says3)See Biblical References John 5:19 ESV; John 15:26-27 ESV; John 16:13 ESV.

This is why throughout Acts we read phrases like, “the Spirit said to Philip/Peter/the church in Antioch/Paul” and the obedience which follows always results in the advancement of the kingdom of God4)See Biblical References Acts 8:29 ESV; Acts 10:19 ESV; Acts 11:12, 28 ESV; Acts 13:2 ESV; Acts 20:23 ESV; Acts 21:4, 11 ESV.

Hearing and obeying the Spirit in his testimony to Jesus is the essence of prophecy. From the time of Abel on  (Luke 11:51 ESV), God has sealed his God-ness amongst his people through the Spirit inspiring prophets (Isa 40:13-14 ESV).

Not just men like Isaiah and Jeremiah, but Abraham, Moses, David, Miriam, Hannah are many others are registered as prophets5)See Biblical References Gen 20:3-4 ESV; Ex 15:20 ESV; Deut 18:18-20 ESV; 1 Sam 2:1-10 ESV; Heb 11:32 ESV.

It was Moses, the most important prophet under the old covenant who expressed the heartfelt wish, “ “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” ” (Num 11:29 ESV). And that is exactly what the heart of the Father at Pentecost.

The Pentecostal event is saturated with prophecy.

Prophecy at Pentecost

When the Spirit inspired all the 120 Spirit disciples in the upper room to declare “the mighty works of God” in all the languages “under heaven(Acts 2:5, 8 ESV) he was telling the world that Jesus is Lord of all (1 Cor 12:3 ESV), and that the long history of human confusion beginning at the Tower of Babel had ended.

Peter proclaims this supernatural speaking in languages as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, vs.17But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; vs.18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” ”  (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).

Since all God’s people are now “seated with him (Christ) in the heavenly places(Eph 2:6 ESV) all can hear from heaven and all can prophesy of the riches of God’s plan fulfilled in Christ6)See Biblical References Col 2:3 ESV cf. 1 Cor 12:8 ESV; Eph 3:10 ESV.

Peter expounds this truth plainly, vs.10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: vs.11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.(1 Pet 4:10-11 ESV).

The prophetic ability of all God’s people is a fruit of our intimate union with Christ.

In the ancient world, such as in the famous Delphic oracle or as in Islam, the prophet was a mere instrument of God through whom the Spirit of God moved like wind through a flute.

But New Testament prophecy is essentially relational. Paul said that “the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us7)See Biblical References Rom 5:5 ESV cf. Luke 11:13 ESV; Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 15:8 ESV; 1 Thess 4:8 ESV, the Spirit is given in such a way in love so that we are moved to share in Jesus’ continuing mission in the world8)See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV ff; Acts 10:36 ESV.

With the Spirit living in us (cf. Col 1:8 ESV) we sense his flaming passion (Rom 12:8 ESV) to tell others about the great works of God in Jesus.

Our hearts share the Spirit’s desire and pour out words about our wonderful Lord and Saviour and we cannot be silent.

When the ruling Jewish council tried to stop Peter and John speaking about Jesus they replied “ “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” ” (Acts 4:20 ESV). This impetus is what it means to be filled with the Spirit9)See Biblical References cf. Mic 3:8 ESV; Luke 1:67 ESV; Acts 4:8, 31 ESV; Eph 5:18-19 ESV etc..

Does the Spirit of God still inspire prophecy today?

Is the Holy Spirit essentially a Spirit of prophecy?

A Prophetic Community Today

If you visit many churches it would be easy to say “No” because the people do not seem moved and empowered by the Spirit to speak to others about Jesus. But the Spirit who after Pentecost is called “the Spirit of Jesus(Acts 16:7 ESV) is by his very nature the vital link between the heavenly Lord and his earthly Church.

Very few, churches, including most charismatic/Pentecostal churches, are willing to embrace the consequences of this mighty truth.

The implication of the gift of the Spirit to “all flesh” at Pentecost, not just church leaders, is radical indeed.

Do we really believe Peter’s words that “sons and daughters” will “prophesy(Acts 2:17 ESV) as really; like anyone else?

Last week our family service emphasised children belong to the Church family just as much as adults do.

If we genuinely believe that, and as a denomination which practices infant baptism and admits kids to communion we must, we must also believe that children’s faith in Jesus qualifies them to receive the Spirit and to see, hear and speak things from God. Children can, and should, function in the gift of prophecy10)See Biblical References 1 Sam 3 ESV; Luke 2:46-47 ESV.

This reality is rarely prayed for and expressed because it’s a threat to the spiritual maturity of teachers, parents and whole congregations.

This is no shallow matter it’s a weighty matter we must understand in terms of the war Satan and his unclean spirits11)See Biblical References 1 Tim 4:1 ESV; Rev 16:13-14 ESV etc. constantly wage by setting false prophecy against the testimony of Jesus (Rev 19:10 ESV).

The Struggle for Prophecy Today

On the Day of Pentecost, the crowd testified of the 120 disciples, “we hear them telling in our own languages the mighty works of God.” ” (Acts 2:11 ESV). Spirit-inspired speech about God’s mighty works is the essence of prophecy.

Peter’s prophetic preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2:4, 14 ESV), highlights that King David was “a prophet(Acts 2:29-31 ESV cf. v.25) who “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ”.

Since the mightiest work of God is the death and resurrection of Jesus, anyone who shares the gospel in the power of the Spirit is engaged in a prophetic action. The prophetic character of the gospel is ceaselessly contested by clever people (1 Cor 1-2 ESV).

Sometimes we sing the song, “In Christ Alone” which contains the line, “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”.

Since the Presbyterian Church (USA) doesn’t believe in God’s anger they wanted to change that line to “the love of God was magnified”.

When the songwriters didn’t give permission to alter it they dropped the song from their hymn book. Closer to home there has been a range article’s in The Messenger (magazine of the Anglican archdiocese of Perth) this year over the resurrection.

The former cathedral dean openly denies Jesus bodily rose; form the dead, he was then supported by the former archbishop, Peter Carnley, then Archbishop Kaye sort of “papered over” the controversy only to find David Seccombe writing that a bodiless resurrection is no resurrection at all!

To attack the bodily death-and-resurrection of Jesus is to attack Jesus personally and this is the dangerous character of false prophecy.

There are men and women in teaching positions in the diocese who deny that the Bible, in any meaningful sense, is the Word of God.

According to these clever people when Israel Falau quoted 1 Cor 6 about who was going to hell, he didn’t quote Spirit-inspired scripture.

Whereas many such opponents of the gospel are academics Peter and John are described in Acts as “uneducated, common men” who “had been with Jesus(Acts 4:13 ESV).

At Pentecost, the Spirit was intentionally poured out on ordinary people who couldn’t rely on the power of their intellect but would instead of the supernatural power of God that raised Jesus from the dead.

In this way, all the glory goes to God (1 Cor 1:26-31 ESV).

I was speaking to someone recently who mentioned a church which has a Down’s Syndrome drum player and how at times it is clearly visible that the anointing of the Lord is upon her as she plays with the liberty of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17 ESV)

This is a spiritual realm impossible for naturally minded people cannot grasp (1 Cor 2:14 ESV).

One of the devil’s great successes in quenching the prophetic ministry of the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19- 20 ESV) was to erect the division between clergy and laity, between experts and amateurs. If the Reformation rediscovered the “priesthood of all believers” the contemporary Western Church must rediscover the “prophethood of all believers”.

Believing in the Prophetic

From Pentecost on as he’s poured out on the Church, the Spirit of God goes through a sort of name change. As “the Spirit of Christ/Jesus Christ/God’s Son12)See Biblical References Rom 8:9 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV; Phil 1:19 ESV he is always moulding us into Christ-likeness so that we might speak, live and love as Jesus did.

He is forming a prophetic community13)See Biblical References Acts 2:42- 47 ESV; Acts 4:32- 35 ESV. In this high calling, we must agree with the mind of the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6 ESV).

Those with a heart for families in Ashfield, the Mainly Music team, BGT, Coffee and Chat, Contemplation and Conversation, the Gospellers, Men’s Breakfast, MU, music, youth, Godly Play, Bible studies, Sunday services, we all are called to be Spirit-filled ministers of God (Rev 1:1 ESV).  

Paul gives a command which most of the Church most of the time disregards, “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy(1 Cor 14:1 ESV).

We need to pray consistently and zealously to be people through whom the Spirit acts and speaks.

The Church and the world desperately need men, women and children giving a clear witness of Jesus (Rev 19:10 ESV). At St Mark’s we are called to be nothing less than “Pentecostal Anglicans”.

Conclusion

The Spirit longs to speak for Jesus (Rev 2: 7 ESV etc.) through all of us!

This is an essential part of the Pentecostal miracle.

In Christ, given his Spirit (Gal 3:2-5 ESV), the spirit of prophecy is ours now and forever14)See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:22 ESV; Eph 1:13 ESV; Eph 4:30 ESV.

Something tremendous has taken place in each Christian’s life, in revealing himself to us the Lord has made each of us a prophetic person so that in the Spirit’s power Jesus might be revealed to others.

I was out praying the other day and thinking “What do I really want to ask from the Lord?”, and my heart was bursting with one desire, that I might have more power, more intimacy more of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord to persuade others of just how wonderfully extraordinary Jesus is.

This is the Spirit of Pentecost.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: 8th June 2019 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

8th June, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Ps 110: 1-7 ESV; Acts 2:36 ESV; Acts 10:36 ESV
2. See Biblical References John 14:16, 26 ESV; John 15:26 ESV; John 16:7 ESV cf. Matt 3:11 ESV; Mark 1:8 ESV; Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV; John 1:33 ESV.
3. See Biblical References John 5:19 ESV; John 15:26-27 ESV; John 16:13 ESV.
4. See Biblical References Acts 8:29 ESV; Acts 10:19 ESV; Acts 11:12, 28 ESV; Acts 13:2 ESV; Acts 20:23 ESV; Acts 21:4, 11 ESV.
5. See Biblical References Gen 20:3-4 ESV; Ex 15:20 ESV; Deut 18:18-20 ESV; 1 Sam 2:1-10 ESV; Heb 11:32 ESV.
6. See Biblical References Col 2:3 ESV cf. 1 Cor 12:8 ESV; Eph 3:10 ESV
7. See Biblical References Rom 5:5 ESV cf. Luke 11:13 ESV; Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 15:8 ESV; 1 Thess 4:8 ESV
8. See Biblical References Luke 4:18 ESV ff; Acts 10:36 ESV
9. See Biblical References cf. Mic 3:8 ESV; Luke 1:67 ESV; Acts 4:8, 31 ESV; Eph 5:18-19 ESV etc.
10. See Biblical References 1 Sam 3 ESV; Luke 2:46-47 ESV
11. See Biblical References 1 Tim 4:1 ESV; Rev 16:13-14 ESV etc.
12. See Biblical References Rom 8:9 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV; Phil 1:19 ESV
13. See Biblical References Acts 2:42- 47 ESV; Acts 4:32- 35 ESV
14. See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:22 ESV; Eph 1:13 ESV; Eph 4:30 ESV

Mercy 3. The Blood of the Cross

Heb 4:14-16 ESV; Heb 10:19-25 ESV; Heb 12:18-24 ESV

INTRODUCTION

In my first sermon in this series I mentioned that one reason why I was moved to teach on mercy was a heartfelt prayer by someone who quoted from Heb Chapter 12; we have come “to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Heb 12:24 ESV).

If the blood of Abel cries out for vengeance (Gen 4:10 ESV) then the blood of Jesus cries out for mercy on sinners like all of us. this is a tremendous truth.

So far in this series, I have focussed on how divine mercy frees us from our miseries flowing from the power and pollution of sin.

But the mercy of God goes to the root of things healing us from the penalty of sin and cancelling out the ultimate consequences of our guilt and rebellion against God.

The mercy of God is grounded in the very depths of God’s own being, it’s no afterthought once things have gone wrong in the world. Since Jesus is the Lamb slain from before the world’s foundation1)See Biblical References Rev 13:8 ESV; 1 Pet 1:18-20 ESV the divine provision of blood to cleanse us of sin is eternal.

The Father has always seen our misery and in Christ made provision for us before we could sin or confess or repent. There is a “wideness in God’s mercy” that is far more profound than the limits of human misery. The shape of this mercy for sinners was prophetically revealed in the Old Testament and enacted in the New.

THE SHAPE OF ATONEMENT

In the holy of holies, the tablets of the Ten Commandments were placed in the ark of the covenant as a perpetual reminder of law-breaking humanity’s deserving of divine wrath.

Yet over the ark and between the cherubim the all-holy God still dwelt in a cloud of glory.

The point of connection between the polluted realm of fallenness and the purity of the Lord came on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies enveloped in a cloud of sweet incense to mediate for the people by applying sacrificial blood to the ark’s mercy seat.

The priest’s survival was a sign that God had accepted his sacrifice and cleansed and covered the sin of the people for another year (Lev 16 ESV).

We know Jesus is the true High Priest2)See Biblical References Heb 3:1 ESV; Heb 5:1 ESV etc. who entered the most holy place in God’s heavenly presence taking his own sacrificial blood (Heb 9:11-12 ESV).

The cloud of incense around the earthly High Priest shielded his eyes from the death-dealing glory of God above the ark, but Christ’s own death is the fragrance that satisfies God’s longing for a complete offering of life given in love (Eph 5:2 ESV).

Through the blood of Jesus, the glory of God is mediated to lawless humans so that in the place of endless misery there might be an eternal pleasure.

CROSS

Whilst I firmly believe the heart of the cross is beautiful at a more profound level I agree with this statement by a theologian, “The cross is not and cannot be loved.” (Moltmann). In its appearance to ordinary human sight, the death of Christ is a foolish ugly scandal3)See Biblical References Isa 52:14 ESV; 1 Cor 1:18 ESV ff..

It is a very uncomfortable thing to come terms with the misery Jesus endured to bring us into the mercy of God.

An ancient spiritual principle teaches that if the whole of humanity fell in Adam then Jesus needed to be a complete human being in order to save us.

Jesus had a human body, soul, spirit, mind, will and emotions4)See Biblical References John 1:14 ESV; Rom 8:3 ESV so that he could take upon himself the fullness of our miseries and deliver us in the fullness of God’s mercies.

What happened to Christ on the cross must encompass the words of the lamenting prophet, “ “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.” ” (Lam 1:12 ESV).

Martin Luther had a very powerful understanding of how Jesus took into himself our wretched condition.

“Our most merciful Father, seeing us to be oppressed and overwhelmed with the curse of the law . . . sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him all the sins of all men, saying, ‘You be Peter that denier, Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor, David that adulterer, that sinner who ate the apple in Paradise, that thief who hung upon the cross… you be the person who has committed the sins of all men. See therefore that you pay and satisfy for them.”

Martin Luther

These are true words, but in relation to how Jesus has obtained mercy for us, they need to be more pointed.

Christ himself recounted in the story of the unforgiving servant the terrifying decree that the Master spoke, vs.32‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. vs.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?vs.34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. vs.35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ” (Matt 18:33-35 ESV).

The same thing comes across in the words of James, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy(James 2:13 ESV). Gethsemane was so traumatic on Jesus because he knew he must bear the severity of these decrees.

To the natural man, the cross (1 Cor 2:14 ESV) looks like Jesus passively enduring a terrible injustice (cf. Matt 27:14 ESV).

This is especially true today when our society, obsessed as it is by identifying with victims, women, gays, trans, children, coloured people etc., can only see Jesus as a victim.

But we see Jesus actively embracing the totality of human misery in obedience to the will of the Father and for his glory. Misery didn’t “happen” to Jesus, his “blood” wasn’t taken from him (John 10:17-18 ESV).

On one level. since misery is the result of lost glory, Jesus suffers as the most miserable of sinners, but on a far more profound level, his misery is his glory because it’s the means by which his Father is glorified (John 12:27-28 ESV).

The frequent mention of the blood of Christ in the New Testament5)See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; 1 Pet 1:2 ESV; Rev 1:5-6 ESV; Rev 5:9-10 ESV; Rev 7:14-15 ESV etc. isn’t an appeal for sympathy towards Christ’s sufferings, but a testimony to the power of a life sacrificed for others that we might live freed from endless misery. This is what the power of the blood of Christ is all about.

In April last year about 1,000 performers comprising an orchestra, massed choir, plus professional and community ensembles gathered on the streets of the City of Perth to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. At the centre of the event was an endless audio loop of a recording made in 1971 of an anonymous homeless man constantly singing on the streets of London. Here is what was played again and again;

“Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, Never failed me yet Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, There’s one thing I know, For he loves me so…”

There’s something ineradicable about the impact of the blood of Jesus. Jesus was not ashamed to indwell the true breadth and depth, essence and darkness, of human misery.

Our miseries are a weak echo of the miseries he has made an end of in his death (cf. Heb 5:7 ESV). We can only see the true depths of human misery in the misery of Jesus’ cry, “ “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ” (Mark 15:34 ESV)

The suffering of the cross without the revelation of the mercy of the Father was an indescribably horrible experience for the Son of God. The death of Jesus was no mercy killing, he tasted the sentence of endless misery on our behalf. How could God the Father ask his Son to endure into the place of no mercy far from his presence? The only answer is his unconditional unlimited love for us.

The Prayer of Humble Access from the Anglican Prayer Book is true in what it affirms about God’s relationship with sinners, “We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under you table. But you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy.”

However, the merciful love working through the blood of the cross for us suspended Jesus’ experience of such mercy. In the wisdom of God, this absence of mercy for the crucified Jesus magnified mercy to humanity in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation far beyond any of the ravages of misery brought on by sin.

THE POWER OF THE BLOOD

In Acts 20:28 ESV Paul makes a statement which can be translated, “ “Pay careful …to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” ”

The blood of Christ has an infinite value, “glory”, which far outweighs in worth all the evil ever committed.

There’s a mercy in the blood shed for us that turns misery under wrath into glory in grace because Jesus first exchanged his natural glory for our sinful misery (2 Cor 5:21 ESV).

This is why the “sprinkled bloodspeaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Heb 12:24 ESV). To gaze into the cross through the blood is to gaze upon the love of God encompassed in the cloud of our misery and to have a final revelation of the majesty of divine mercy.

When this blood touches the human conscience, all is absolved and we are cleansed us from every guilty shame we feel about our miserable state6)See Biblical References Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; 1 Pet 1:2 ESV; Rev 1:5-6 ESV; Rev 5:9-10 ESV; Rev 7:14-15 ESV.

I remember testimonies of people saying that when they first came to Jesus they just felt “clean”. God’s own blood purifies us from the depth of depravity and pollution caused by the loss of his glory7)See Biblical References 1 John 1:7 ESV ff; 1 John 2:2 ESV; from wallowing in misery we know we are being re-glorified (2 Cor 3:18 ESV).

When the old saints spoke of “pleading the blood” for lost sinners they were not being ghoulish but reckoning with the only power that can shelter guilty humanity from the just judgment of the Lord.

From the time of Abel shed blood has cried out for divine vengeance, In our own time we might think of the blood of persecuted Christians, aborted babies, slaughtered Indigenous people, trafficked women, and most recently the victims of euthanasia8)See Biblical References Deut 24:15 ESV; Ps 9:12 ESV; Jer 46:10 ESV; James 5:4 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc..

Thankfully, much louder than these voices is the cry of the blood of Jesus pleading for mercy. In Jesus, there is “the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.(Heb 4:14-16 ESV).

Jesus’ life in heaven is pleading mercy for sinners because his blood has cleansed the holiest presence of God (Heb 9:22-23 ESV). As the blood of the Passover lamb covered the Israelites from the destroying angel so Jesus’ blood covers the sins of the world (John 1:29 ESV).

To plead the blood is to claim the protection, deliverance and legal rights from the condemnation we have in Christ and to pray it will impact the lives of others. There is a dimension to this however which can easily be missed, or even avoided.

BLEED FOR THEM

Paul encountered countless sufferings9)See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:8-10 ESV; 2 Cor 6:4-8 ESV; 2 Cor 11:23-33 ESV; Eph 3:13 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV which in the normal course of events would have filled his life with misery.

But as with the rest of the New Testament10)See Biblical References Matt 5:12 ESV; 2 Cor 6:10 ESV; Phil 4:4 ESV; James 1:2 ESV there’s a note of joy rising above sorrow which is the distinguishing mark of what it means to follow Jesus. why?

Much greater than the miseries of his own condition the apostle chooses to endure suffering for others that he knows will make him more like Jesus.

This is a glory far greater than any misery. In describing deliverance from a crisis that he thought would kill him Paul uses the strongest language; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.(2 Cor 1:3-4 ESV).

Deliverance from affliction by the “Father of mercies” empowered him to live out the message of mercy to multitudes.

Like Jesus, he understood that God has not saved us from the cross but through the cross. Any situation in life, no matter how naturally misery-inducing, when yielded with understanding to the Lord, can be transformed from an occasion for misery to a vehicle for God’s mercy to flow out to others.

CONCLUSION

Jesus said, “ “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” ” (Matt 5:7 ESV). This was supremely true of Christ himself whose mercy extended to the point of being deprived of mercy for us in dying that he might be immeasurably comforted for us in the resurrection from the dead.

Christ’s call on our lives is to move through the power of the Spirit from our natural passivity and languishing in misery to share into the proactive power of the blood of the cross.

The outpoured blood of Jesus was the most active thing that ever entered into the world, carrying the infinite healing energy of the loving mercy of God it has carried all before it (cf. Heb 9:14 ESV).

This blood speaks not of vengeance but of complete divine victory.  

This is the power into which we are called, to offer up our lives as living sacrifices amidst the miseries we will undergo in this world so that these woes are transformed into mercies for others.

This is a high supernatural calling that inverts the whole order of life in a fallen world.

The mercy for which we can continue to plead personally will become in Christ mercy that flows out through us for the deliverance of many. May God in his mercy grant us such Christ-shaped life.

Related:

MERCY SERIES

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 9th June 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 9th. June, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rev 13:8 ESV; 1 Pet 1:18-20 ESV
2. See Biblical References Heb 3:1 ESV; Heb 5:1 ESV etc.
3. See Biblical References Isa 52:14 ESV; 1 Cor 1:18 ESV ff.
4. See Biblical References John 1:14 ESV; Rom 8:3 ESV
5. See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; 1 Pet 1:2 ESV; Rev 1:5-6 ESV; Rev 5:9-10 ESV; Rev 7:14-15 ESV etc.
6. See Biblical References Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV; Heb 10:22 ESV; 1 Pet 1:2 ESV; Rev 1:5-6 ESV; Rev 5:9-10 ESV; Rev 7:14-15 ESV
7. See Biblical References 1 John 1:7 ESV ff; 1 John 2:2 ESV
8. See Biblical References Deut 24:15 ESV; Ps 9:12 ESV; Jer 46:10 ESV; James 5:4 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc.
9. See Biblical References 2 Cor 4:8-10 ESV; 2 Cor 6:4-8 ESV; 2 Cor 11:23-33 ESV; Eph 3:13 ESV; Phil 3:10 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV
10. See Biblical References Matt 5:12 ESV; 2 Cor 6:10 ESV; Phil 4:4 ESV; James 1:2 ESV

Ascended Sonship

2 Ki 2:1-15 ESV
Ps 110: 1-7 ESV
Acts 1:1-11 ESV
Luke 24:44-53 ESV

Introduction

The ascension of Jesus is the climax of his earthly life for it is the point when his humanity is taken up into God’s home in heaven. The ascension completes the resurrection and commences Christ’s exalted victorious reign over evil powers and his prayers as High Priest1)See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV; Rom 8:33 ESV; 1 Cor 15:23-28 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV.

From heaven, Jesus is head of the Church and filling everything with his presence for us2)See Biblical ReferencesEph 1:23 ESV; Col 2:9-10 ESV. Only as the ascended Lord could Jesus send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we will talk about next week3)See Biblical References Acts 2:33 ESV; Eph 4:8 ESV.

In heaven, Jesus still has a real human body. When the disciples actually saw someone, who looked like them, ascend in a cloud into heaven they had an insight into their own future glorious existence with God. Whilst our minds cannot possibly grasp the greatness of these things our Old Testament readings can help our understanding.

Old Testament Figures

Psalm 110:1 ESV, “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.””.

This is the most quoted Old Testament scripture in the New Testament4)See Biblical References e.g. Matt 22:4426:64 ESV; Acts 2:34-35 ESV; Rom 8:34 ESV; 1 Cor 15:25 ESV; Heb 1:13 ESV because it tells us that as a perfected human being Jesus now shares God’s rule over the world. Strictly speaking when things don’t go right for you, don’t blame “God”, whoever he is, blame King Jesus.

Get angry with the person who on our account experienced our trials, tests, weaknesses, hopes and fears, who understands what we are going through. Even as he exerts his Lordship over all things (Acts 10:36 ESV) Jesus understands our fragile humanity, he is our sympathetic heavenly High Priest praying for us constantly5)See Biblical References Heb 4:15 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV, praying for us NOW.

Our second Old Testament reading speaks of a very special relationship between the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha. “Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double share of your spirit on me.” (In the Old Testament a “double share” was the inheritance a father reserved for his first-born son (Deut 21:17 ESV), Elisha desires to inherit the presence and power of the Lord he saw in Elijah. He wants to be the firstborn prophetic son.) vs.10 (Elijah) said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, you will have your request….vs.11 And as theywent onsuddenly chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. vs.12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!”!” And he saw him no more.(2 Ki 2:9-12 ESV)

My father, my father!”, is passionate ground-breaking tender-hearted language, and it’s drawn out of Elisha’s heart because in seeing Elijah ascend he knows he’s the spiritual son of the older prophet and that the glorious presence and power of God seen in his spiritual father will from now on be manifest in his life.

This story is a prophetic sign of the disciples inheriting the spiritual ministry of Jesus for them, like Elisha, saw their Master ascend in glory into heaven. As it says at the start of Acts:

 The Father Acts     

And when he (Jesus) had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.(Acts 1:9 ESV). Jesus is “taken up” by the power of God the Father who proudly exalts his Son as a human being into his own glory.

By ascension, the all proud Father takes the Son up into his closest heart enveloping him in his love with the glory that was theirs “from before the foundation of the world(John 17:5 ESV).

The New Testament writers tell us Jesus is now before the “face of God(Heb 9:24 ESV) and “in the bosom of the Father(John 1:18 ESV). His sacrificial obedience as a human being has been rewarded with the unlimited intimacy of indwelling the Father’s heart. It is the ascension which makes sense of some of Jesus’ difficult sayings.

Here is a scripture from John which was a favourite in the Pentecostal church I used to attend, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.(John 14:12 ESV).

The most exciting part of this scripture isn’t the promise that the Church will do greater miracles than Christ but that this will happen because he went back to the Father for us.  

In another place Jesus says, “ “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.(John 14:28 ESV). The Father was greater than the Son in his mortal earthly humanity, but as ascended Jesus is equal in power with the all-powerful Father(Phil 2:9 ESV).

Remember what Jesus said to Mary she tried to hold onto his resurrected body outside the empty tomb, “ “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”” (John 20:17 ESV).

There are two marvellous truths expressed in Jesus’ words. Jesus is a brother who has gone before us, and his Father is now our Father.

A preacher told this story about how knowing the ascended Lord overcomes our fear of death. Back in the days when travel was by the sea a young boy who had been orphaned longed to travel from the U.K. to Hawaii.

He was very nervous about travelling so far alone. But when people asked him about why he was so determined to go he said “Oh? Don’t you know? My older brother is there.”  He didn’t want to travel to the unknown land for the palms, tropical weather, or the island songs…. The Christian’s true motive for wanting to go to heaven isn’t to arrive at a “happy place”, it’s because our older brother Jesus (Rom 8:29 ESV) is there preparing for us a place in his Father’s house (John 14:1-2 ESV).

The ascension testifies to us that the Father of Jesus is full “Our Father(Matt 6:9 ESV). Most of us are so used to “Father” language around the Church that we miss how radical a thing it is to know God as Father.

A Muslim lady who was amazingly converted called her book, “I Dared to Call Him Father”.

Islam flatly denies the loving Fatherhood of God, and in Judaism, “Father” is only a symbolic way of talking.  To know God as Father is a matter of the heart.

I ran into a young believer recently who was confused about God’s will for his life. Since I believe that when we have an intimate relationship with God the Father we know his will6)See Biblical ReferencesJohn 4:34 ESV; John 5:30 ESV; John 6:38 ESV, I asked this chap who he normally prayed to e.g. “God”, “Lord” “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”.

When he said, “the Father”, I was quite puzzled. But when I asked him why he prayed to the Father he explained that someone had told him that’s how he should pray.

He was calling God “Father” but it was not coming from his heart. So I laid hands on him and prayed he’d have a heart revelation that Jesus had ascended into heaven to send the Spirit into his heart so he could cry out “Abba! Father!”7)See Biblical References Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV and know that God was blessed to be his Father.

Jesus is in Charge

Jesus is much more useful to us in heaven than if he were still on earth. He came down from heaven to share our mortal life and he went back to heaven so we might share his immortal life.

The New Testament is emphatic about this, “God, being rich in mercy… made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:4-6 ESV), vs.1seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. vs.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.(Col 3:1-3 ESV).

The key to triumphing over the trials of this world (Rom 5:17 ESV) with love, joy and patience is to receive from the life of the ascended victorious Jesus. He will help us, he will empower us by his Spirit, he will never ever fail us.

The visibility of the ascension was a sign for all the followers of Jesus of his love and power for us. The ascension brought about for humanity a new revelation of the identity of God, Jesus, who is both God and one of us, now defines who God is for us.

What Christ IS, God IS, because Christ IS God’s Right Hand.

T.F. Torrance

God is Christlike, and in Him, there is no un-Christ-likeness at all.

Michael Ramsey

John Calvin speaks pastorally in saying:

our condition is pitiable… Thus we look to our head who is already in heaven, and say, “Although I am weak, there is Jesus Christ Who is powerful enough to make me stand upright. Although I am feeble, there is Jesus Christ who is my strength. Although I am full of miseries, Jesus Christ is in immortal glory and what He has will some time be given to me…

Calvin

Since the character of Jesus and the character of the Father are identical we can trust God for anything and everything. how embarrassing it is when we fail so often to do this.

Conclusion

Our Communion service starts with an exhortation, I will say, “Lift up your hearts” and you will respond…“We lift them to the Lord”.

The Lord to whom we lift our hearts is the heavenly ascended Jesus, a human being who is sovereign over the whole universe and over every detail of our lives, how wonderful. He is ruling for our good, in every circumstance8)See Biblical References Eph 1:22 ESV; Rom 8:28 ESV.

As his humanity has been taken up into the eternity of God so the time will come when ours will be, such is the all-loving character of God’s power for us.

Given that Jesus has fully triumphed as a human being for us why the hell are we frightened to tell people about him, why do we fear suffering, sickness, ageing, death, why do poverty and rejection scare us?

Let’s yield every part of our weak and impoverished lives, our families, finances, time and talents to his heavenly glory.

Let’s lift up our hearts to the ascended Lord and look forward to the day when he will come again to take us to himself, that where he is, we might be also9)See Biblical References John 14:3 ESV; John 17:24 ESV. And in doing so we surely will find that our final home is where he is, in the heart of the Father.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 02 nd June 2019 Location:

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

2nd. June, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV; Rom 8:33 ESV; 1 Cor 15:23-28 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV
2. See Biblical ReferencesEph 1:23 ESV; Col 2:9-10 ESV
3. See Biblical References Acts 2:33 ESV; Eph 4:8 ESV
4. See Biblical References e.g. Matt 22:4426:64 ESV; Acts 2:34-35 ESV; Rom 8:34 ESV; 1 Cor 15:25 ESV; Heb 1:13 ESV
5. See Biblical References Heb 4:15 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV
6. See Biblical ReferencesJohn 4:34 ESV; John 5:30 ESV; John 6:38 ESV
7. See Biblical References Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV
8. See Biblical References Eph 1:22 ESV; Rom 8:28 ESV
9. See Biblical References John 14:3 ESV; John 17:24 ESV

Mercy 2. The Teaching and Miracles of Jesus

Luke 1:46-55, 68-79 ESV | Luke 6:32-36 ESV |  Luke 18:35-43 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Whilst the mercy of God in the Old Testament period is often downplayed by Christians, it was only the merciful patience of the Lord which preserved human life from the time of the Fall1)See Biblical References Rom 3:25 ESV; Acts 17:30 ESV until the coming of Jesus.

Having said that, no matter how powerfully God’s mercy was expressed in his saving acts for Israel and in the Law and ceremonial rituals, it is only in the humanity of Jesus that divine mercy takes on a definite, permanent and unsurpassable form.

The coming of God in human flesh means the Creator and Judge has shared the depths and sharpness of our need for mercy.

Having lived all our lives immersed in misery our true need is easily overlooked. I was reading an article on mental health in Australia the other day. The author remarked that anxiety disorders are the leading cause of death in females between 5-44, 1 in 5 women in their 30s and 40s are alcohol dependent, women between 30 and 50 are 4 times more likely to die of an accidental overdose than in a road accident, but you never hear about this, and 1 in 5 Australians experience mental illness in any one year.

For men 1 in 8 will experience serious depression during life, 1 in 5 serious anxiety, 1 in 7 depression or anxiety in any given year. Human life is ravaged by misery. We need mercy!

In Jesus, and only in Jesus, is God’s heart of mercy fully exposed.

The mercy of God is no mere kindness for kindness sake, something he does to feel good about himself, it involves a plan whereby his own life penetrates inside the power of sin and evil to wreak misery, and through atoning suffering deliver us from the guilt that oppresses us.

The work of God in Christ takes hold of a world deprived through sin, of the full glory of its being and restores it far beyond where it ever else could be.

JESUS IS THE MERCY

Jesus’ coming is emphatically announced as a mercy; first in the Song of Mary, “ “his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation… He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,” ” and then in the prophecy of Zechariah, “ “that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; vs.72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,… to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, vs.78 because of the tender mercy of our God” ”  (Luke 1:50, 54, 71-72, 77-78 ESV).  “tender mercy” is a good translation, as is, “heartfelt mercies” (The Message), for the mercy that God reveals in Christ, comes from the deepest recesses of his being where he’s affected by our wretchedness.

The mercy from God that goes out to save wasn’t restricted to the people of Israel but extended to the nations. Paul explains this was at the heart of his missionary zeal, vs.8For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, vs.9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.(Rom 15:8-9 ESV).

In the coming of Jesus, God set himself on the side of suffering people. In his merciful and assertive actions of teaching and healing Christ sided with fragile, fallen humans in a war against the entrenched forces of evil we have brought upon ourselves. I am not convinced that the Church easily understands the mercy of God.

There have been 31 reported suicide attempts amongst the asylum seekers on Manus Island since the federal election a few weeks ago?

What does that mean to God? Is the popular sentiment expressed towards ISIS brides in Syria who now want to return home, “She made her bed. Let her lie in it”, something Jesus would affirm?

In his perfect sympathy with human sufferings (Heb 4:15 ESV) Jesus brings a new and deeper revelation which challenges all our popular notions of God, “He was great not because he was above feelings, but because he could feel as no man could.” (P.T. Forsyth). Jesus never brought mercy by accusing people but by shouldering their weakness upon himself. Remember what his disciples said when they came across a blind man, “ “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” ” Jesus replied, “ “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” ” (John 9:2-3 ESV) And he proceeded to heal the man, as he always did.

APPEALS FOR MERCY

The tender mercies of God manifest in the softness of Christ drew forth from the miserable pleas for mercy,2)See Biblical References Matt 9:27 ESV; Matt 15:22 ESV; Matt 20:30-31 ESV; Mark 10:47 ESV.

A pagan mother comes, “crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” ”, Christ sets her daughter free (Matthew 15:22 ESV); a distressed father appeals, “ “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.” ”, the boy is delivered of the demonic presence (Matt 17:15 ESV); a blind beggar cannot be restrained, “he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” ”; straightaway Christ restores his sight(Mark 10:47-48 ESV).

These were all a fulfilment of those Old Testament prophecies we looked at last week of the day when pleas for mercy would become before God and he would hear and cleanse. When Jesus told the parable of the tax collector, who, “standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’(Luke 18:13 ESV), and who went home “justified”, he was recounting what he was already seeing happening in his ministry.

TEACHING

The Lord’s teaching about mercy was itself a mercy. “ “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” ” (Matt 5:7 ESV); “ vs.35love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most-High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.vs.36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ” (Luke 6:35-36 ESV).

To be merciful, not powerful, knowledgeable etc., things we admire is what makes us to be like God.

Jesus’ words extolling the Father as merciful remind me of an incident in the life of Charles Spurgeon. “When I was racked…with pain, to an extreme degree, so that I could no longer bear it without crying out, I asked all to go from the room, and leave me alone; and then I had nothing I could say to God but this, ‘Thou art my Father, and I am thy child; and thou, as a Father, art tender and full of mercy. I could not bear to see my child suffer as thou makest me suffer, and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him, and put my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt thou hide thy face from me, my Father? Wilt thou still lay on a heavy hand, and not give me a smile from thy countenance?’ … so I pleaded, and I ventured to say, when I was quiet, and they came back who watched me: ‘I shall never have such pain again from this moment, for God has heard my prayer.’ I bless God that ease came and the racking pain never returned.” Such is the mercy of our Father.

Remember the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan, “vs.36Which of these three [priest, Levite, Samaritan], do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” ” asked Jesus,vs.37 He [legal expert] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.(Luke 10:36-37 ESV).

Christ spoke God’s Word to the self-righteous religious leaders; “I desire mercy and not sacrifice3)See Biblical References Hos 6:6 ESV; Matt 9:13 ESV; Mark 12:33 ESV, “you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.(Matt 23:23 ESV). The arrogant and self-sufficient shunned Jesus but the humble and desperate flocked around him to receive God’s mercy.

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, about the man who when released from an impossible debt by his master refused to cancel the tiny debt of a fellow servant, the conclusion is plain scary.

vs.32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.vs.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ vs.34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt.vs.35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ” (Matt 18:21-35 ESV).

MIRACLES

The mercy present in Jesus’ miracles was operating at multiple levels. But most importantly it is working inside him. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled(John 11:33, 38 ESV).

He literally “snorts” like a war horse going into battle, in indignation, anger and agitation at the reality of the evil confronting him. Jesus is completely intolerant of the power of death to hold back the glorious purposes of God for us. he goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead.

In other places when Jesus is “moved with compassion” to heal4)See Biblical References Mark 1:41 ESV; Matt 20:34 ESV; Luke 9:22 ESV the word means the movement of the inner parts, like the intestines.

The whole life of Jesus is engaged battling and overcoming the onslaught of evil as he steps forth as a total revelation of the heart of God. In carrying the sorrow of God for the world in himself Jesus needed to be continually sustained through prayer.

As the mercy of God moves through the humanity of Christ his own humanity was being matured (cf. Heb 2:10 ESV). But something beyond teaching and miracles was needed to completely atone for human sin and restore the glory of God to miserable sinners.

Why does no-one talk like this these days? The Creator must share totally in human suffering and death.  To bring mercy to the miserable will cost God everything. This is the mercy of the cross.

CONCLUSION

In Christ, God stepped into a human condition breaking up under the weight of guilt, shame and his own threatening judgement.  Despite all empty boasts and technological optimism, we are all subject to inescapable inner bondage and anxiety about existence and its termination in death.

And as we age the demolition to which we are subject becomes increasingly unavoidable. Only the limitless mercy of God revealed in Jesus, which is Jesus, can deliver us. In Jesus is a mercy, that refused to be defeated and has triumphed for us all, his death and resurrection has triumphed over our stubborn refusal to cry out for mercy to God.

Last week I commented on how we seem to be lacking the urgency that underpins pleas for mercy found in the Old Testament. Such prayerful pleas for mercy are also characteristic of great moves of God in the Church. When Martin Luther spoke of “my boundless misery” no-one considered him a depressive or suffering from low self-esteem.

He meant that the real truth is that outside of Christ there are no places in life where a human being is free from the misery and wretchedness of the loss of the glory of God. Karl Barth puts this in a potent, raw and even brutal way unobscured by any makeover.

 “I can toss and turn on my sick bed, I can transfer or be transferred from one sick bed to another. When it [sickness] is particularly severe, I can change hospitals, or, if I prefer, arrange for private treatment. But I am always sick, and my sickness is always the same. It is the incurable misery which dominates my life and always emerges in one form or another.”

If divine mercy flows to human misery then we surely need, an insight into how the Lord sees our present spiritual state, personally, in the Church and in the nation. Then we will cry for mercy, then the Lord will touch our misery. God’s heart wants to touch our hearts through the cross, the subject of our teaching next week.

We begin to sense the limitless nature of God’s mercy when we ask the most painful questions. Which are not about us but about Christ’s great sufferings. Why was there no mercy for Jesus when he died so painfully on the cross?

Where is the mercy of the Father when his Son cries out in utter misery, “ “My God…why have you forsaken me?” ” (Mark 15:34 ESV).

The mystery of God’s mercy is only fully unveiled when we see that when God appears to be a merciless Father, no Father at all, he is most fully the mercy our misery needs.  Let’s keep asking the Lord to reveal to us how he sees our need for mercy and how he has fully answered our need in Jesus.

Related:

MERCY SERIES

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: 2nd June 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

2nd June 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rom 3:25 ESV; Acts 17:30 ESV
2. See Biblical References Matt 9:27 ESV; Matt 15:22 ESV; Matt 20:30-31 ESV; Mark 10:47 ESV
3. See Biblical References Hos 6:6 ESV; Matt 9:13 ESV; Mark 12:33 ESV
4. See Biblical References Mark 1:41 ESV; Matt 20:34 ESV; Luke 9:22 ESV

Mercy Series 1: Introduction and Old Testament

Mercy Series : Ex 25:17-22ESV | Lam 3:13-33 ESV

This series on the Mercy of God was provoked by two things. First, a follow up to my last sermon here, “Handed Over by God”. This very weighty teaching focussed on divine judgement and the desperate need we have to submit ourselves to the sovereignty of God. The second episode which provoked speaking of mercy came at our “Firestorm” prayer meeting for revival two Fridays ago. There was a prayer then based on Hebrews 12,You have come…. to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Hebrews 12:22, 24 ESV). Abel’s blood spoke vengeance, but Christ’s blood cries for mercy. We surely need an outpouring of the mercy of God.

Instead of trying to tackle this massively important subject in one or two weeks

I am doing four studies: 1. Background and Old Testament 2. The Teaching and Life of Jesus 3. The Blood of the Cross 4. Mercy and Judgement.

On the surface “mercy” would seem to be a very uncontroversial subject, with the biblical terminology covering overlapping words to do with pity, compassion, grace and kindness.

Though unlike pity, which focuses on a feeling, the mercy of God stirs him up to take action for the needy.

In different books of the Old Testament, the Lord is likened to a nursing mother or a father whose inner parts move him to tender mercy towards the broken state of Israel.

Overwhelmingly, the mercy of God answers to human misery1)See Biblical References Isa 49:15 ESV; Isa 63:15-16 ESV; Ps 103:13 ESV.

There’s a popular song that begins with, “Well, everyone needs compassion A love that’s never failing But let mercy fall on me”. Instinctively we all know this is true and real.

(I think that overwhelming sense of the availability of mercy was what was lacking in the now famous Israel Folau post about sinners going to hell.)

The Old Testament is permeated by testimony to the limitless mercy of God.

When Moses wanted to see the glory of the Lord, God declared himself to be, “ “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness(Ex 34:6 ESV).

In various places the declaration is made that “God is merciful2)See Biblical References Deut 4:31 ESV; Ps 116:5 ESV; Neh 9:31 ESV with mercy “great… overall he has made”3)See Biblical References Pss 119:156 ESV; Pss 145:8-9 ESV; Pss 149:5 ESV “abounding”4)See Biblical References Deut 5:10 ESV; Pss 57:10 ESV; Pss 86:5 ESV and which “endures forever”5)See Biblical References 1 Chron 16:34 ESV; 2 Chron 7:6 ESV; Ps 136 ESV; Jer 33:11 ESV.

All the Old Testament saints deeply understood mercy was at the centre of God’s being. It was because Jonah understood, “you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster(Jon 4:2 ESV) that he ran away from the Lord.

When David foolishly counted his soldiers he was given a choice of punishments, three years of famine, three months of fleeing foes or three days of plague, “Then David said…, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” ”  (2 Sam 24:14 ESV).

MERCY AND MISERY

The Old Testament is uncomfortably direct when it comes to speaking of the fractured human condition.

David admits, vs.3 “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. vs.4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat…. let the bones that you have broken rejoice(Ps 32:1-4 NLT)6)See Biblical References Ps 51:8 ESV b.

Without God’s glory humans are in fearful pain, distress, anxiety, dread and torment, possessed by sin, caught in a vast network of evil, pressured by guilt and the threat of judgement and crushed by divine wrath.

The power, penalty and pollution of sin are all pervasive7)See Biblical References Job 15:20 ESV; Prov 13:15 ESV Eccl 8:6 ESV.

The Old Testament writers were blunt about our total inability to extract ourselves from final suffering and death (e.g. Ecclesiastes). But thankfully God initiates mercy continually open to release the distress of his people.

We read something very powerful in Judges about how the Lord feels about the effect of his own punishments on his people, “he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.(Judges 10:16 ESV).

As her covenant partner, God’s heart carried Israel’s pain, “In all their distress he too was distressedIn his love and mercy, he redeemed them(Isa 63:9 ESV).

In deep mercy, he repeatedly sets bounds to his own anger. “ vs.7For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies, I will gather you.vs.8With a little wrath, I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness, I will have mercy on you,Says the Lord, your Redeemer.(Isa 54:7-8 ESV)8)See Biblical References cf. Ps 78:37 ESV ff..

Though when Israel utterly rebels the prophets warn of a time of “no mercy”9)See Biblical References Hos 1:9 ESV; Hos 2:4 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV or forgiveness.

Knowing that the Lord must punish, Habakkuk pleads, “in wrath remember mercy(Hab 3:2 ESV). Since such pleas for mercy are so rare today we must suppose that we no longer believe we need mercy like those under the old covenant. This may have a lot to do with their longing for atonement.

ATONEMENT

The cry “be merciful to me, O God10)See Biblical References Ps 6:2 ESV; Ps 30:10 ESV; Ps 31:9 ESV; Ps 57:1 ESV often arises in the psalms with a plea for forgiveness.

After the sin with Bathsheba David desperately petitions God, vs.1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.vs.2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!(Pss. 51:1-2 ESV).  

All the prophets know God is essentially an atoning God (e.g. Ezek 16:63 ESV).

Daniel’s urgent prayer (ch.9) for release from Babylonian exile carries an indelible sense of need for the mercy of God, vs.3I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes…. vs. 9To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him…. vs.11 All Israel has transgressed your law… the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses… have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned….. vs.17 Now, therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. vs.18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations… For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. vs.19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God…” ” (Dan 9 3,9,11,17, 18-19 ESV) The only hope for those who rebel against God’s law is his undeserved mercy.

MERCY SEAT

At the heart of the divine provision for mercy in the Old Testament is the “mercy seat”. The sin of the people was atoned for through the application of sacrificial blood to the cover on the ark of the covenant on the Day of Atonement11)See Biblical References Ex 25:17, 22 ESV; Lev 16:2, 14 ESV f; cf. Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 9:5 ESV. This was a ritual full of rich symbolism.

Over the ark and between the cherubim rested the glory of God where he met with his people12)See Biblical References Exodus 25:17, 22 ESV; Exodus 29:42 ESV; Exodus 30:36 ESV; Leviticus 16:2 ESV; Leviticus 16:14 ESV. From there, the Lord governed Israel with the ark as his footstool and the site of his worship13)See Biblical References 1 Sam 4:4 ESV; Ps 99:1, 5 ESV; 1 Chron 28:2 ESV.

Inside the ark, however, were the Ten Commandments witnessing to their failure to keep God’s Law and consequent condemnation under divine wrath.

This was especially clear in Israel’s history as these were the second copy of the tablets made after Moses broke the original copy incited by the worship of the golden calf14)See Biblical References Ex 32:19 ESV; Deut 10:5 ESV.

The sacrificial blood sprinkled on the mercy seat over the tablets of the law made it the place where God’s anger was turned away from (cf. Ps 85:1-3 ESV).

As such the mercy seat was a symbol of the merciful power of God and the site where the heavenly King gave revelation15)See Biblical References Exod 25:22 ESV; Lev 16:2 ESV; Num 7:89 ESV concerning his laws, which apart from atonement were completely unbearable.

The mercy seat was a place of forgiveness in God’s closest earthly presence and a symbol that mercy triumphs over judgement.

The mercy seat mediated between the holiness of God and sin so that a forgiven people could continue to worship Yahweh in his presence at a sanctuary cleansed from the pollution of sin (Lev 16:16 ESV).

Through the sprinkled blood on the Day of Atonement God was favourable to the vows and prayers of his people. This was a wonderful system given by God’s mercy for the conveyance of mercy. But Israel only presumed upon it.

OBSTACLES TO MERCY

Generations refused to remove the pagan “high places” which were centres of idolatrous worship16)See Biblical References 1 Ki 15:14 ESV; 2 Ki 12:3 ESV; 2 Ki 14:4 ESV; 2 Ki 15:35 ESV; though God had commanded them to be destroyed without mercy17)See Biblical References Deut 7:1-2 ESV; Deut 13:8 ESV; Deut 19:13 ESV.

To substitute pagan sacred sites for the God-designated place of holy worship in the temple was to reject the appointed means of atonement.

The love affair of the people with merciless idols, “Leave Israel alone, because she is married to idolatry.18)See Biblical References Hos 4:17 ESV; Hos 9:10 ESV, meant, the Lord had to send them into Babylonian exile far away from priest; temple and land19)See Biblical References Isa 47:6 ESV; Jer 13:14 ESV; Jer 21:7 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV. The divine strategy is always to pour out wrath, not to annihilate, but so mercy might be remembered by the people and called forth by their pleas to the ever-open heart of God.

In the end, the tender-hearted mercy of God will triumph over his “strange and alien” work of judgement (Isa 28:21 ESV). In the midst of a Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians Lamentations pronounces; vs.22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; vs.23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23 ESV).

So the faithful covenant God prophesied a return from exile, “ “With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” ” (Jer 31:9 ESV). God is a merciful Father whose mercies are without limit.

ESCHATOLOGICAL MERCY

The prophets, possessed with a knowledge that “God delights in mercy” and forgiveness (Mic 7:18-19 ESV) predicted a time when the cycle of rebellion and grace would end 20)See Biblical References Isa 14:1 ESV; Isa 49:13 ESV; Isa 54:7 ESV; Jer 12:15 ESV; Jer 33:26 ESV; Ezek 39:25 ESV; Zech 1:16 ESV, a time of Final mercy.

“ “And I will pour out …a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn….On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.And in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land…And also I will remove from the land…the spirit of uncleanness.(Zech 12:10, 13:1-2 ESV).

Everything that had ever been symbolised by the cleansing and atoning rituals of the mercy seat would be finally true for the people of God. This was great hope, a hope which we know has been fully realised in Jesus.

CONCLUSION

The psalmists speak unapologetically about their great need for mercy, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.(Psalm 123:2 ESV), vs.2Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled…. (Pss 6:2 ESV) vs.9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body!(Pss 31:9 ESV).

This is clear in the Old Testament, but do we realise that God’s people today have been struck by his justice so we might be moved to appeal for mercy. There is a gift of distress that earnestly entreats the divine favour (Hos 5:15 ESV).

P.T. Forsyth challenges us, “With us, mercy belongs to our spare time, with God it is his business…. The mercy of God is no near and so great that we often cannot see it.” (P.T. Forsyth).

Many Christians have never really felt the majesty of God’s mercy. Since the mercy of God is felt most acutely in his treatment of sin the Church needs a new revelation of forgiveness. Here is one of my favourite liturgical prayers,

“O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. ~ Collect for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Perhaps we should ask the Lord to speak to us about our how high places, family, finances, sport, prosperity, church, leisure, ministry…. and to ask him how he feels about them. Perhaps he will share the burden of his heart for the state of our hearts so that moved by his grief we might call out for his mercy.

Related:

MERCY SERIES

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 26th May 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 26th. May, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Isa 49:15 ESV; Isa 63:15-16 ESV; Ps 103:13 ESV
2. See Biblical References Deut 4:31 ESV; Ps 116:5 ESV; Neh 9:31 ESV
3. See Biblical References Pss 119:156 ESV; Pss 145:8-9 ESV; Pss 149:5 ESV
4. See Biblical References Deut 5:10 ESV; Pss 57:10 ESV; Pss 86:5 ESV
5. See Biblical References 1 Chron 16:34 ESV; 2 Chron 7:6 ESV; Ps 136 ESV; Jer 33:11 ESV
6. See Biblical References Ps 51:8 ESV b
7. See Biblical References Job 15:20 ESV; Prov 13:15 ESV Eccl 8:6 ESV
8. See Biblical References cf. Ps 78:37 ESV ff.
9. See Biblical References Hos 1:9 ESV; Hos 2:4 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV
10. See Biblical References Ps 6:2 ESV; Ps 30:10 ESV; Ps 31:9 ESV; Ps 57:1 ESV
11. See Biblical References Ex 25:17, 22 ESV; Lev 16:2, 14 ESV f; cf. Heb 4:16 ESV; Heb 9:5 ESV
12. See Biblical References Exodus 25:17, 22 ESV; Exodus 29:42 ESV; Exodus 30:36 ESV; Leviticus 16:2 ESV; Leviticus 16:14 ESV
13. See Biblical References 1 Sam 4:4 ESV; Ps 99:1, 5 ESV; 1 Chron 28:2 ESV
14. See Biblical References Ex 32:19 ESV; Deut 10:5 ESV
15. See Biblical References Exod 25:22 ESV; Lev 16:2 ESV; Num 7:89 ESV
16. See Biblical References 1 Ki 15:14 ESV; 2 Ki 12:3 ESV; 2 Ki 14:4 ESV; 2 Ki 15:35 ESV
17. See Biblical References Deut 7:1-2 ESV; Deut 13:8 ESV; Deut 19:13 ESV
18. See Biblical References Hos 4:17 ESV; Hos 9:10 ESV
19. See Biblical References Isa 47:6 ESV; Jer 13:14 ESV; Jer 21:7 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV
20. See Biblical References Isa 14:1 ESV; Isa 49:13 ESV; Isa 54:7 ESV; Jer 12:15 ESV; Jer 33:26 ESV; Ezek 39:25 ESV; Zech 1:16 ESV

Made for Glory by John Yates

Isa 43:1-7 ESV
Ps 8: 1-9 ESV
2 Cor 3:7 – 18 ESV
John 1:1-14 ESV

Introduction

As a depressed teenager, especially when on alcohol, I was driven almost to the point of insanity about why I existed. I had no sense of being created to reflect the splendour of the glory of God and to display the overwhelming weight or worth of God’s character. An experience of God’s glory changes people forever.

Abraham was able to take his beloved son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him at God’s command because the glory of God had appeared to him1)See Biblical References Gen 22: 1-24 ESV; Acts 7:2 ESV. Moses became the leader of Israel because he saw the glory of God in the burning bush (Ex 3: 1-22 ESV).

The prophets faithfully brought the word of the Lord to a rebellious nation because they first had insights into the glory2)See Biblical References Isa 6:1-13 ESV; Ezek 1:1 ESV ff..

When Christ turned water into wine we’re told, “This…was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And [so that] his disciples believed in him.(John 2:11 ESV).

The glory revealed in the blinding light that shone on Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3 ESV) converted him from a terrorist into Christ’s apostle Paul.

We were created and it is encountering with the glory which makes us more like God. see it or not, glory is everywhere.

Made for Glory

Since the psalmists testify,the skies declare the glory of God” and humans have been crowned “with glory and honour” (Ps 19:1; Ps 8:5 ESV) all of us we were born under a canopy of God’s glory and encounter the glory in every other person.

So when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sri Lanka exhorted the government to punish terrorists “mercilessly, because only animals can behave like that” his curses (James 3:9 ESV) effectively he denied these truths and that Christ died for the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:15 ESV). To understand what Jesus has redeemed we must first come to terms with the gravity of what we have lost.

Losing the Glory

When a baby is born it’s natural for people to say, “s/he looks like his/her mother/father.”

When God first looked at humans made in his likeness and glory3)See Biblical References Gen 1:26-28 ESV; Isa 43:6-7 ESV he saw the reflection of his own grandeur and it gave him tremendous joy (Prov 8:22-31 ESV).

Adam and Eve were radiant with the glory of God as they walked in love, peace, joy and dignity with God and creation (cf. 1 Cor 11:7 ESV). Then when the serpent tempted Eve humans effectively said to God, “We don’t want you as our heavenly dad, we want the freedom to be like the serpent.” (cf. John 8:44 ESV).

Paul says of all those who have fallen short away from the splendour of the Lord, vs.22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, vs.23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.(Rom 1:22-23 ESV)4)See Biblical References cf. Ps 106:19-20 ESV.

To one degree or other, every Australian has exchanged the glory of God for idols like happy families, financial security, ecstatic experiences, entertainment, sport, sexual identity, nice houses, pleasant churches and so on.

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Rom 3:23 ESV), can sound like abstract theology, but the cost of our despising God’s magnificence is horribly clear when you visit a nursing home full of dribbling people, a neo-natal ward where little babies are dying, a psychiatric institution where a parishioner tells you he is Jesus, have a friend with terminal cancer before their time, witness a marriage breakdown, know someone who commits suicide or take a funeral of a 12 year old murdered by a teenager in cold blood.

Made for the indescribable glory of godliness fallen humanity is crippled by shame and enslaved through the power of sin, Satan and death (Heb 2:14-15 ESV). This is a tragedy so profound that it can only be remedied by “the Father of glory(Eph 1:17 ESV) and only at the cost of his own Son.

From the foundation of the world the Father’s plan was to share with us the glory seen “in the face of Jesus Christ(2 Cor 4:6 ESV), unlike the glory Adam lost but an incorruptible glory that can never perish5)See Biblical References 2 Pet 1:4 ESV; 1 Cor 15:42-43 ESV because it is a glory built through sacrifice.

Eternal Glory

At the start of his Gospel John summarises its message, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth(John 1:14 ESV).

Jesus is the visible glory of the invisible God (Col 1:15 ESV).

His teaching, his power to cast out demons and do miracles and heal astounded people so that they spontaneously glorified God6)See Biblical References Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 7:11-17 ESV; John 7:46 ESV.

But none of these great marvels could permanently deliver disabled humanity from the curse of sin, Satan and death.

Only a limitless concentration of God’s glory on behalf of others could do this-this.

The death and resurrection of Jesus transfers of glory from him to us by a wonderful exchange

Calvin

But the cost of this marvellous exchange is incalculable.

Listen to Jesus praying on his way to the cross, vs.27Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I have come to this hour.vs.28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.(John 12:27-28 ESV).

Jesus groans in distress for he knows that in, going to the cross he will be stripped of God’s glory there, but he also understands this suffering is so that in resurrection his fragile humanity might be clothed in indestructible glory.

He yields his fears and frailties to the Father so that we might share in this glory (2 Cor 8:9 ESV).

True glory, God’s glory is always for others.

To the natural eye, there is no dazzling splendour or weightiness of God’s presence in the weak broken bleeding man on the cross. But the resurrection (Rom 6:4 ESV) unveils the secret that eternal glory is a crucified glory.

The weightiness of Christ’s life is that in sacrificial love gives up everything that God might be glorified. Stripped of all temporal glories Jesus became for us the eternal glory of God in human form (1 Tim 3:16 ESV).

Wounded Glory

That the glory for which the world was made is the wonder of Christ crucified and raised i.e. the gospel (2 Cor 4:4 ESV), irresistibly moved the writers of scripture to exclaim in doxology again and again, “To God…our Saviour….be the glory forever and ever. Amen.7)See Biblical References Rom 11:25 ESV; Rom 16:27 ESV; Eph 3:21 ESV; Phil 4:20 ESV; 1 Tim 1:17 ESV; 2 Tim 4:18 ESV; Heb 13:20-21 ESV; 1 Pet 4:11 ESV; Jude 1:25 ESV; Rev 5:13 ESV.

This is what everything is all about. This is why I forbade our Bible study the other week to pray about health, finances, family, or workplace issues, so that we might concentrate on a prayer from 1 Peter that cannot fail to be answered, “…that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV).

This is a request that God reveals himself as the God of Jesus through all we think, say and do.

This is the meaning of life, the universe and everything but this grand truth needs some further exposition.

The educated consensus back in the ’70s was Anzac Day would die out with the passing of WW II veterans was a grossly mistaken expectation.

The expectation of Sri Lankan terrorists that they can mortally wound the Church is a fatal error.

The most profound truth of the universe is that when someone willingly suffers for a cause higher than themselves, suffers for the sake of others, exceptional glory is revealed.

True glory is a wounded glory, we know it is a crucified glory (1 Cor 2:8 ESV).

As Paul testifies, “Through suffering, we always carry around in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies…this shows the all-surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.(2 Cor 4:10-11, 7 ESV). I have preached this truth here on Good Friday and last Sunday night.

In the flesh we may be inadequate but when in Christ we yield our limitations to God for his glory everything changes.

When my previously depressed, alcoholic friend became a paraplegic but surrendered all to Jesus and began radiating his love to all around her, when through his disabling stroke Chris turned with his whole heart to the Lord Christ’s presence turned him into a street preacher, when I handed over to the Lord my apparent inability to enjoy undisturbed sleep I discovered a new level of dependence on God in prayer.

Each of us entered into a deeper measure of the mystery of Christ for manifestations of glory are manifestations of crucified glory.

Whenever we yield the wounds and weariness of life up to God for his glory something of Jesus life is infallibly communicated through us to others.

In the flesh we are inadequate but when in Christ we yield our limitations to God for his glory everything changes. “Christ in you the hope of glory(Col 1:27 ESV) says, Paul.

There is untold compassion, love, mercy, energy, salvation and healing…in the crucified and glorified Christ in us that God wants to release for others.

Conclusion

Whether  you have a heart for families in Ashfield to know Jesus, for children and mothers to know the Lord through Mainly Music, the people of Bassendean, and beyond, to find God through BGT, Coffee and Chat, Contemplation and Conversation, the Gospellers, Men’s Breakfast, MU, music ministry, youth meeting, Godly Play, the Bible studies and Sunday services, the mystery/key to the healing and restoring manifestation of Jesus’ life is crucified glory.

It’s not our feelings of fear, weakness and inadequacy that stop the manifestation of the healing and saving glory of God through us.

What stops St Mark’s people doing what God wants us to do in the power of Christ is our failure to hand over to Jesus all that holds us back. I’ll tell you what I think the Lord is saying about us and you can test it with him in prayer (1 Thess 5:19-20 ESV).

God is hiding his glory8)See Biblical References Job 23:8-9 ESV; Ps 13:1 ESV; Ps 89:46 ESV; Isa 45:15 ESV; Isa 54:8 ESV; Luke 10:21 ESV; 1 Cor 2:7 ESV; Rom 11:33 ESV in the dark tomb of our guilt, defeats, desolations, shames, anxieties and confusions, waiting until we hand them all over to him so that the resurrection glory of Jesus might shine forth in our midst.

Without the surrendering of our lives like this St Marks as we know it has no viable future. (The status quo is unsustainable.) But everything will change if in our deepest hearts we unite in the prayer of Paul; “to him (God) be glory in the church/(in St Mark’s) and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:21 ESV)

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 4th May 2019 Location: St Marks Bassendean

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

4th May, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Gen 22: 1-24 ESV; Acts 7:2 ESV
2. See Biblical References Isa 6:1-13 ESV; Ezek 1:1 ESV ff.
3. See Biblical References Gen 1:26-28 ESV; Isa 43:6-7 ESV
4. See Biblical References cf. Ps 106:19-20 ESV
5. See Biblical References 2 Pet 1:4 ESV; 1 Cor 15:42-43 ESV
6. See Biblical References Mark 1:27 ESV; Luke 7:11-17 ESV; John 7:46 ESV
7. See Biblical References Rom 11:25 ESV; Rom 16:27 ESV; Eph 3:21 ESV; Phil 4:20 ESV; 1 Tim 1:17 ESV; 2 Tim 4:18 ESV; Heb 13:20-21 ESV; 1 Pet 4:11 ESV; Jude 1:25 ESV; Rev 5:13 ESV
8. See Biblical References Job 23:8-9 ESV; Ps 13:1 ESV; Ps 89:46 ESV; Isa 45:15 ESV; Isa 54:8 ESV; Luke 10:21 ESV; 1 Cor 2:7 ESV; Rom 11:33 ESV

Revival Studies 5. The End of Revival

Part 1.
Earnest Prayer
17 March 2019

Part 2.
The Spirit and Revival
17 March 2019

Part 3.
Fullness is Christ
24 March 2019


Part 4.
Beautifying the Bride
15 April 2019

Part 5.
The End of Revival
28 April 2019

.


Ps 110; Acts 2:1-41 

Introduction

My final talk in this series “The End of Revival” is about God’s ultimate purpose in sending revival. Teachers on revival are correct to link post-biblical moves of God in the Church to Pentecost as a paradigm for revival. In seventeenth-century New England Cotton Mather was a John the Baptist like figure praying for a “new Pentecost”, his prayers were answered a few years after his death with the First Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield etc).

Back in Europe, Moravians united in prayer under Count Zinzendorf received a visitation of the Holy Spirit  on the 13th August 1727 so that “their hearts were set on fire with a new faith and love towards the Saviour, and likewise with burning love for one another”, they referred to this as their “Pentecost” and it launched a 24/7 prayer meeting that continued for more than 100 years and the first great expansion of Protestant missions.

The pivotal nineteenth-century Second Great Awakening revivalist Charles Finney said, “The antecedents, accompaniments and results of revival are always substantially the same as in the case of Pentecost.” Much nearer us, the Indigenous leader of the Elcho Island revival in the NT that broke out in 1979 wryly comments, “People come and say,” Oh, that’s charismatic.”

What is this “charismatic”?

To us, it was a Pentecost with praying, singing, healing, evangelism. It was to strengthen the church.” (Rev Djiniyini Gondarra).

The Church’s awareness of God’s immediate overpowering presence, striking physical phenomena (v.2ff.), deep conviction of sin (v.37), multitudes being converted (v.41) and widespread awe (v.43) are present in revivals because they are present at Pentecost.

Teachings on revival are often historical and descriptive and fail to open up the broad theological horizon behind Acts 2 which alone can reveal to us the “end” of revival.

Along with the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost is a new stage in the history of salvation because it is an event in the life of the Trinity.

Revivals have profound significance because they share in an unusually intense way in the purposes of Pentecost to renew humanity and define the identity of the new covenant people of God.

Pentecost the Proto Revival

The events of Pentecost transcend ordinary time and space, vs.1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.vs.2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. vs.3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.vs.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance…. (Act 2:1-4 ESV)

Whilst fire, wind and words from heaven signified the arrival of God at Mt Sinai to give the Old Testament law1)See Biblical References Ex 19:12-22 ESV; Ex 20:1 ESV, at Pentecost the Spirit is outpoured through grace and the fire and wind empower the disciples to speak the saving word of God in all the languages “under heaven”2)See Biblical References Acts 2:1-4, 5-11 ESV cf. 2 Pet 1:20-21 ESV.

The amazed crowds puzzled inquiry, “ “What does this mean?(Acts 2:12 ESV), is answered by Peter with a testimony to events beyond the visible and audible level of the earth.  vs.32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. vs.33 Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.(Acts 2:32-33 ESV).

The Father was so infinitely delighted with the obedient humanity of Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5-11 ESV) that he gave him all of his Spirit to rule over the universe (Heb 1:8-9 ESV).

The spectacular divine revelation at Sinai communicated fiery judgement (Heb 12:21, 25-26 ESV) but the wind and fire from heaven at Pentecost communicate the power to eternally renewing the whole creation has come in the exaltation of Christ.

Those who heard and saw signs of the divine presence at Sinai kept their distance from God in fear, but the Spirit sent by the glorified Jesus at Pentecost communicated to the disciples what he was seeing and hearing before the face of his heavenly Father.

They can now speak and act in unison with him (cf. John 5:19 ESV). “All flesh” i.e. all types of people, young, old, male, female had all become prophets (Acts 2:17-18 ESV).

“Pentecost has changed all things” (Bingham) because it witnesses to the transformation of human existence in the exalted life of Christ communicated to his Church.

Raised to heaven at God’s right hand Christ gives the Spirit to his Church as the Father once gave him the Spirit on earth.

As a glorified human, Jesus pours out the Father’s promised Spirit of God upon the Church3)See Biblical References John 7:37-39 ESV; Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV so that we may in his power enable others to see and hear God for themselves.

[Pentecost reveals that in Christ humanity has been taken “into God4)See Biblical References cf. John 3:21 ESV; Col 3:3 ESV; 1 Thess 1:1 ESV; 2 Thess 1:1 ESV; 1 John 3:24 ESV; 1 John 4:15-16; Jude 1:1 ESV.]

Revelation’s dynamic symbolism testifies that Jesus “has the seven spirits of God (the Spirit in fullness Rev 1:4 ESV; Rev 4:5 ESV) and the seven stars (the Church Rev 1:16 ESV)” (Rev 3:1 ESV).

Incredibly this means that the Church and the Spirit are in the closest possible relationship so that the natural state of the people of God is to be filled with the Spirit. (This insight has been troubling me greatly.)

Being Spirit filled the Church becomes a visible witness to the infinite joy and delight of the Father in the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet 2:9 ESV); this witness is by its essential nature communicated to the world in converting power.

The references to hearing and seeing at Pentecost have another layer of interpretation, Peter’s preaching about the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh” is contained in an apocalyptic context.

vs.19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke;vs.20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the day of the Lord comes, the great and glorious day.vs.21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’(Acts 2:19-21 ESV)5)See Biblical References Joel 2:30-32 ESV.

Whereas this is language is used in the Old Testament to broadcast the end of an old empire and the triumph of a victorious earthly kingdom6)See Biblical References cf. Isa 13:10 -13 ESV; Isa 24:1- 6, 19 – 23 ESV; Isa 34:4 ESV; Ezek 32:6 -8 ESV; Joel 3:15 -16 ESV; Hab 3:6 -11 ESV, [In line with Jesus end-times passages in the Gospels7)See Biblical References Matt 24:29 ESV; Mark 13:24- 25 ESV cf. Isa 2:19- 21 ESV; Isa 5:25 ESV; Jer 4:23- 28 ESV; Am 8:7 -10 ESV] at Pentecost these apocalyptic symbols declare that “the kingdom of the worldis becoming “the kingdom of God and his Christ” for from this day Jesus is triumphantly putting all his enemies under his feet (Ps 110:1 ESV).

From this time on his Spirit anointed people are offering themselves willingly on the day of his power and his kingdom is being spiritually established in the world8)See Biblical References Ps 110 cf. Ezek 37:1-10 ESV.

Pentecost is a pivotal answer to the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10 ESV).

Apocalyptic meaning did not end with Bible times. 9/11 was a message to global capitalism that security cannot be established by money and military power.

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral was a sign that even the most beautiful constructions of sinful mortals must perish (2 Pet 3:7 ESV).

One of my favourite stories is about the life Christiaan Beker who became a theologian especially interested in apocalyptic themes in the apostle Paul.

A Dutchman, Beker was a Nazi slave in Berlin towards the end of WW II. Falling sick with typhus, a Polish youth beaten to a pulp for picking up a cigarette butt in a work camp was placed in the hospital bed next to him, the young man died 3 days later and Beker began to consider whether his time was near.

It was then that he determined to become a theologian but around the same time, he became convinced he would not live. He made his way to the window to see how he would die. The night sky over Berlin was ablaze with searchlights and anti-aircraft fire. The city itself was a conflagration, bombs exploding and buildings consumed in flames. That day he confessed that “Only God is real.” i.e. permanent

Church for Glory

In the period between the first and second comings of Jesus, God is enacting a merciful plan. Instead of confronting humanity with a vision too dazzling to directly behold and live9)See Biblical References cf. Acts 7:55-56 ESV; Acts 9:3 ESV; Rev 1:12-17 ESV, God has called the Church to be like a prism refracting his glory into a diversity of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7 ESV) and multi-coloured wisdom (Eph 3:10 ESV)

All the power, majesty and glory of God is gathered up in the Church (Eph 3:20 ESV) and dispersed in a way that can be seen, heard and received unto salvation.

The church is a revelation of Jesus Christ birthed at Pentecost, and revivals are mercifully sent to manifest the invisible Christ’s glory with special clarity10)See Biblical References Acts 4:30 ESV; Acts 5:12 ESV; Acts 11:21 ESV.

Revival is about the “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” of the Lamb (Rev 5:12 ESV) radiating through the Church into the world so that it may be saved (John 3:17 ESV).

To petition God for the manifest coming of his kingdom is a petition that reaches far beyond church meetings.

Every genuine revival has penetrated the cultural realms of social justice, law, politics, education, health, art, music etc.

I have been sensing recently how the exalted Lord wants to continue amongst us the tangible dynamic he began at Pentecost, then the hearers were “cut to the heart”, later “the Lord opened Lydia’s heart” and when hands were laid on people they “received” the Spirit with power11)See Biblical References Acts 2:37 ESV; Acts 8:17 ESV; Acts 10:47 ESV; Acts 16:14 ESV; Acts 19:2, 6 ESVcf. Acts 2:33 ESV.

Such palpable realities have continued down the centuries, Calvin was “inflamed” by a desire for true godliness, John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warned”, German Pietists spoke of their hearts being on fire for God (Luke 24:32 ESV), and multitudes have been overcome by supernatural peace or joy12)See Biblical References cf. Phil 4:7 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV.

The point/“end” of such phenomena is not our personal experience but to reveal the identity of Jesus as the crucified, resurrected and glorified Lamb of God (Rev 5:6 ESV etc.)

I had an insight into the ongoing presence of Pentecost power at a prayer meeting in the city last Tuesday. Chris, the silver-haired older visibly disabled Indigenous brother who sometimes attends here, is a well-known street preacher around Perth, told us the following story. Thursday of Easter week he had a sense that God wanted him to preach in public, but he had no idea how that could happen.

Then he was in the Galleria shopping centre and the fire alarm went off, a crowd moved outside and he told them openly about Jesus’ love in his death and resurrection. This is what I sensed when I laid my hands on him about this event.

As Pentecost was in God’s plan a “fullness of time” event13)See Biblical References cf. Mark 1:15 ESV; Gal 4:4 ESV; 2 Cor 6:2 ESV when we are led by the Spirit we can enter that same fullness of time again and again – this is the space where the fullness of the Spirit connects with the fullness of Christ in the overwhelming manifest favour of the Father.

This is the place of God’s rest in Christ where strivings cease (Heb 4:10 ESV) and in this space manifestation of God’s wisdom, power, healing, conversions etc. take place. When such things come together on a mass scale “revival” happens.

Why Revivals Fail

If the “end” of revival in terms of God’s great goal is a renewed humanity sharing in the glorious love of the Trinity, then the “end” of revival in terms of its premature death must also be explained likewise.

Much of what happens in revival movements confuses the energies of the finite human spirit with the infinite resources made available to the Church in the “life-giving S/spirit” of Christ (1 Cor 15:45 ESV).

When the gratification of our spirits is made the goal of ministry, when things at our level are substituted for the fulness of the Spirit as he proceeds from the Father and the Son14)See Biblical References John 14:16 ESV; John 15:26 ESV, then “devival”, a decline in the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5 ESV), always follows.

This is the crisis we face across the churches today with their activism, pragmatism, relevance, rationalism, worship of worship or political correctness.

When the Lord has a set apart people who in their deepest hearts are satisfied with nothing less than a manifestation of what happened when the Spirit was sent from the Father through Jesus to bring him and him alone glory in the Church for the salvation of the world, then we will have “another Pentecost”.

Conclusion

Our thinking about revival has been far too small.

When people “received” the Spirit in Acts, the rest of the New Testament15)See Biblical References Acts 2:28 ESV; Acts 8:15, 17 ESV; Acts 10:47 ESV; Acts 19:2, 6 ESV; Gal 3:1, 14 ESV and in subsequent revivals they were sharing in Jesus heavenly reception of the Spirit according to the promise of the Father (Acts 2:33 ESV).

They were sharing in the Trinitarian dynamic of God’s own life! Prophetically, looking through the lens of the Father’s pleasure in Jesus made manifest at Pentecost, this is how we should interpret the Lord’s promise, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:13 ESV).

At Pentecost Jesus received all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in the overwhelming favour of his favour and poured them out on the Church for the salvation of the world to the glory of God.

As an action of the exalted Christ Pentecost put in motion the restoration of human life of such magnitude that the Bible describes it as a “new creation16)See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:17 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV and a “sharing in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).

The Spirit glorifies Christ by revealing him through a revived people, the Church, to be an immortalised “life-giving spirit(1 Cor 15:45 ESV) in whose triumphant humanity we can all share.

The energies of the crucified and risen Lamb (Rev 5:6 ESV) released at Pentecost are undiminished until he comes again.

Once full of the Spirit always full is true for the once crucified Jesus but not for the Church (Eph 5:18-19 ESV); we need to be filled again and again.

Since in Christ “the seven spirits of God (the Spirit in fullness Rev 1:4 ESV; Rev 4:5 ESV) and “the seven stars” (the Church Rev 1:16 ESV) are in the closest possible proximity (Rev 3:1 ESV) let us come to him and drink of the water of life17)See Biblical References John 7:37-39 ESV cf. Isa 44:3 ESV; Isa 55:1 ESV; Rev 22:17 ESV, let us drink in deeply Jesus’ own life in the Spirit18)See Biblical References Rom 8:11 ESV cf. Isa 12:3 ESV.

The lost need to “see and hear” (Acts 2:1-4, 11, 32-33 ESV) the mighty works of God in our own day as they did first at Pentecost.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 28th April, 2019 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

28th April, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Ex 19:12-22 ESV; Ex 20:1 ESV
2. See Biblical References Acts 2:1-4, 5-11 ESV cf. 2 Pet 1:20-21 ESV
3. See Biblical References John 7:37-39 ESV; Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV
4. See Biblical References cf. John 3:21 ESV; Col 3:3 ESV; 1 Thess 1:1 ESV; 2 Thess 1:1 ESV; 1 John 3:24 ESV; 1 John 4:15-16; Jude 1:1 ESV
5. See Biblical References Joel 2:30-32 ESV
6. See Biblical References cf. Isa 13:10 -13 ESV; Isa 24:1- 6, 19 – 23 ESV; Isa 34:4 ESV; Ezek 32:6 -8 ESV; Joel 3:15 -16 ESV; Hab 3:6 -11 ESV
7. See Biblical References Matt 24:29 ESV; Mark 13:24- 25 ESV cf. Isa 2:19- 21 ESV; Isa 5:25 ESV; Jer 4:23- 28 ESV; Am 8:7 -10 ESV
8. See Biblical References Ps 110 cf. Ezek 37:1-10 ESV
9. See Biblical References cf. Acts 7:55-56 ESV; Acts 9:3 ESV; Rev 1:12-17 ESV
10. See Biblical References Acts 4:30 ESV; Acts 5:12 ESV; Acts 11:21 ESV
11. See Biblical References Acts 2:37 ESV; Acts 8:17 ESV; Acts 10:47 ESV; Acts 16:14 ESV; Acts 19:2, 6 ESVcf. Acts 2:33 ESV
12. See Biblical References cf. Phil 4:7 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV
13. See Biblical References cf. Mark 1:15 ESV; Gal 4:4 ESV; 2 Cor 6:2 ESV
14. See Biblical References John 14:16 ESV; John 15:26 ESV
15. See Biblical References Acts 2:28 ESV; Acts 8:15, 17 ESV; Acts 10:47 ESV; Acts 19:2, 6 ESV; Gal 3:1, 14 ESV
16. See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:17 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV
17. See Biblical References John 7:37-39 ESV cf. Isa 44:3 ESV; Isa 55:1 ESV; Rev 22:17 ESV
18. See Biblical References Rom 8:11 ESV cf. Isa 12:3 ESV

The Very Happy Executioner

Luke 23:26-49

Introduction

Is it OK for the AFL to put games on Good Friday, and for you to watch them on TV? Was my mum in tune with God’s feelings about this day when she refused to wash the clothes, or, in line with the title Dale chose for today’s Gospel reading should we speak of, “Very Happy Friday”?

Since God the Father doesn’t have opinions about the death of his Son it is imperative that we pay close attention to the inspired record of Christ’s death in scripture. In going through Luke we have seen how society’s outcasts, a Gentile soldier, a sinful woman, a Samaritan leper, a blind beggar, and a tax collector all found hope and healing in Christ. This is exactly what happens as Jesus is dying on the cross, those with status mock him but outsiders turn to him as the source of salvation.

EXPOSITION

The devout women lamenting over Jesus’ fate must have been shocked by his turning and (vv26-31) exhorting them to lament for themselves and their children.

The extreme language of people calling on mountains and hills to collapse on them to end their misery portrays a coming divine judgement without apparent limit1)See Biblical References Hos 10:8 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV.

Jesus knows his innocent death will fulfil God’s salvation plan, but that within a generation Jerusalem which has rejected him will be flattened, its inhabitants slaughtered or enslaved (Luke 23:34-35 ESV).

The next time Jesus’ speaks he is praying from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.(Luke 23:34 ESV) Under the most extreme circumstances Jesus is practising what he has preached; “ vs.27 Love your enemies… vs.28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….” ”2)See Biblical References Matt 5:44-45 ESV; Luke 6:27-28 ESV. Forgiving your murderers is a rare and remarkable thing; but even more potent is the fact that unconditional forgiveness solely for the sake of those harming us makes Jesus unique in the whole history of religious and moral teaching.

The Bible is painfully realistic about the corrupt state of the human heart when the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers hear Christ’s praying for them their mockery only intensifies.

His Jewish slanderers know a suffering dying man can’t possibly be God’s Chosen favourite, the Messiah, and since his Roman attackers know how a real King behaves, this fellow on the cross must be an impostor.

To them, it is categorically obvious that if Jesus can’t save himself he cannot be the Saviour of the world. Then at a level that makes no sense to ordinary thinking the power of God starts to operate through the suffering powerless Jesus to save.

vs.39 One of the criminals who were hanged hurled insults at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!vs.40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? vs.41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.vs.42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.vs.43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23: 39-43 ESV)

The criminal who hurled insults at Jesus, “Save yourself and us!” has brought Jesus down to his own selfish level. In looking solely to benefit himself in his interaction with Jesus he cannot be saved. He cannot understand that God’s Son will be delivered not out of death through death.  

This is how the saving power of God works. In Romans Paul helps us understand how the cross works by saying we Christians must face “trouble…hardship…persecution…famine…nakedness…danger or sword” then concludes with “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” (Rom 8:35, 37 ESV).

If Christ doesn’t always pull us out of troubles the power of his love enables us to live above them. The video starts Let me share what happened to a clinically depressed alcoholic friend of mine, I’ll never forget finding her unconscious from a suicide attempt dragging her out of her house and getting an ambulance.

Sometime later she fell and broke her back. When I visited her in hospital, they had her laid out motionless on a special bed in the form of a cross. The symbolism was unmistakeable so guess what I spoke to her about?

When she cast herself unreservedly on the mercy of Jesus it was only some time before she was living in forgiveness and freed from anxiety, depression and addiction. She’s in a wheelchair, but through her physical brokenness, she shines as more than a conqueror through Christ’s love.

The other criminal in our story rebukes his blaspheming companion

“Do you not fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” ” This man accepts his sin and its wages (Rom 3:23 ESV) and his testimony to Christ’s blamelessness shows the power of God working in his heart.

Anyone who humbly let’s go of self-righteousness and looks to Jesus will enter heaven. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Unlike the mockers he addresses Jesus by his personal name and in so doing calls on the unique name of Saviour of the world3)See Biblical References cf. 17:13; 18:38; his plea “remember me” stirs echoes God’s promises to deliver his covenant people when they call on his name4)See Biblical References Judges 16:28 ESV; 1 Sam 1:11, 19 ESV; Ps 115:12 ESV.

This dying criminal is the first person in the Gospel to recognise that the sufferings of Jesus do not exclude but fulfil his Messianic kingly calling to save the world. He understands Christ’s voluntary suffering love is the triumphant power of God to save us, sinners.

Jesus answers him with words that must have filled him with inexpressible hope and comfort, “ “today you will be with me in paradise.” ”.

Today” means he doesn’t have to wait until the End of the world to be saved, salvation is close at hand5)See Biblical References 4:21 ESV; 19:9 ESV, for as Messiah Jesus possesses the kingly right to open the doors of paradise to all who come to him.

As a Jew this man knew “Paradise” as the home of only one type of person, the dutifully righteous whose blameless lives pleased God.

Now Jesus opens heaven to the very sort of person who the religious teachers of the day taught could never be saved.

Jesus is saving people – even as he hangs on the cross. We must all pay the closest attention to exactly what Jesus is promising the condemned man, “today, you will be with me in Paradise”.

Not with all your loved ones, as in popular Western imagination, not with virgin wives as in the Koran, not with pure impersonal bliss as in Buddhism but “with me”. Eternal fellowship with Jesus is heaven.

Everyone who turns to Christ as Saviour can have a sure knowledge of eternal life. 

The father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther struggled long over whether his life could ever be worthy enough to earn God’s favour.

Then he understood that the good news of the gospel is that righteousness is offered as a free gift to be received by faith in Christ alone. “Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise…whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love….”

In his grace, God now sends two supernatural omens concerning the murder of his Son. The darkness covering the earth for three hours is supernatural because an eclipse at the Passover time of full moon is impossible.

This is the prophetic darkness of “last days” judgement6)See Biblical References Joel 2:30-31 ESV; Amos 8:9 ESV; Zeph 1:15 ESV and a sign of the fate of those who ultimately reject Christ7)See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV.

Such signs are meant to prepare hearts for the gospel. In a few weeks’ time, many of this crucifixion crowd were in fact converted by the preaching of the gospel on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-23, 36 ESV). In our time the Lord can still warn from heaven today and we should pray for him to do so.

This is a true story.

A new professor at UWA (who I did meet once) was invited by the Christian Union there to speak on Creation and Evolution. When he entered the hall he was intimidated by the size of the crowd and especially by the number of hostile senior academics present.

Fearfully approaching the podium he was praying about how to start when suddenly there was a tremendous clap of thunder and all the lights in the place went out, all but one, the one illuminating the podium. So he said, “Now you know what you are up against”.

The second supernatural sign as Jesus died was the tearing of the curtain temple in two from top to bottom by the hand of God who was saying that law-based system of temple and sacrifice that had segregated Jew and Gentile, priest and lay, male and female was ended.

In Jesus, unrestricted access to God’s presence had been opened. In uttering his final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus dies peacefully full of the assurance that God is a Righteous Father who will raise him from the dead8)See Biblical References John 17:25 ESV; Rom 6:4 ESV.

Then, climactically, the Roman centurion unable to contain what was going in his heart “glorified God” for by grace he sensed God was fulfilling his great saving plan9)See Biblical References 2:20 ESV; 5:25-26 ESV; 7:16 ESV; 13:13 ESV; 17:15 ESV; 18:43 ESV, his response was to the glory manifested in the sufferings of Jesus.  In testifying, “ ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ ”10)See Biblical References Pss 22 ESV; 31 ESV cf. Acts 3:13-14 ESV; Isa 52:13-53:12 ESV he acknowledges Jesus’ supreme status before God the Judge as a blameless person.

Finally, the crowd go away “beating their breasts” They know something terribly unjust has happened but with Jesus departed they as yet have nowhere to turn for forgiveness. Meanwhile Jesus’ disciples, weak as always, “stood at a distance” (Ps 38:11 ESV)

CONCLUSION

The Good Friday story of the death of Jesus reveals an all-forgiving Father.

This Father is forgiving in his justice and just in his forgiving because his Justice and Forgiveness are not abstract concepts but real in Christ who prayed for the forgiveness of us all and who was heard because he is the One Righteous (Acts 3:14 ESV) Son of God suffering for us.

The criminal who called on the name of Jesus, and the centurion, were very happy men not because they thought they’d got away with, literally for both of them, murder, and we’re going to a “happy place” but because they had literally face to face come, with the goodness of God as Father and as Saviour in Jesus and were totally overcome.

If God can do that for them, he can do the same for us. Like them we need to turn to the Lord today, Jesus is the door into Paradise (John 10:9 ESV) and his is the name in which we are saved, (Acts 4:12 ESV).

For anyone who trusts in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross Good Friday is a Very Happy day indeed. Let us pray.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 19th April 2019 Location: St Marks, Good Friday

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 19th April, 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Hos 10:8 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV
2. See Biblical References Matt 5:44-45 ESV; Luke 6:27-28 ESV
3. See Biblical References cf. 17:13; 18:38
4. See Biblical References Judges 16:28 ESV; 1 Sam 1:11, 19 ESV; Ps 115:12 ESV
5. See Biblical References 4:21 ESV; 19:9 ESV
6. See Biblical References Joel 2:30-31 ESV; Amos 8:9 ESV; Zeph 1:15 ESV
7. See Biblical References Matt 8:12 ESV; Matt 22:13 ESV; Matt 25:30 ESV
8. See Biblical References John 17:25 ESV; Rom 6:4 ESV
9. See Biblical References 2:20 ESV; 5:25-26 ESV; 7:16 ESV; 13:13 ESV; 17:15 ESV; 18:43 ESV
10. See Biblical References Pss 22 ESV; 31 ESV cf. Acts 3:13-14 ESV; Isa 52:13-53:12 ESV