The Spirit of Adoption 2

The Spirit of Adoption | Part 1 | Part 2

Biblical Text: Hos 11:1-11 ESV; Eph 1:3-10 ESV;  Gal 4:1-7 ESV;

THERE’S AN OLD SAYING,

“What the cross cleanses the Spirit fills.”

This sermon is about the taking away of judgement in the cross, next week will focus on the power of the Spirit in adoption.

BACKGROUND

ADOPTION

While I am generally hesitant about going outside of scripture to understand its metaphors, I think this can helpfully be done in the case of “adoption”. Whilst adoption was not practiced within the Old Testament, Paul’s adoption language is found in his letters to churches under Roman law1)See Biblical References Rom 8:15, 23 ESV; Rom 9:4 ESV; Gal 4:5 ESV; Eph 1:5 ESV

In Roman law the adoption of a son was usually delayed to teenage or older years, when the character of the adoptee had been established. An adopted son was freely chosen, desired and could never disowned.

All prior debts were erased, and new rights taken on. Unlike in modern society inheritance began with adoption, not the death of the father, the new son was a joint-sharer in all the father’s possessions from the beginning. This was an unforgettable honour.

The Roman understanding of adoption is of an overwhelmingly positive transaction, however true this may be at a human level, the true glories of adoption come together only in Jesus.

This is true because only the Son of God radically revolutionises our understanding of divine judgement.

I need to spend some time on as the usual human apprehension of the judgement of God because confused notions of punishment always distort our understanding of God as Father.

Judgement: Old Covenant

The glory of Israel was to be adopted by God (Rom 9:4 ESV), but her limitless shame came in descending to the point where her kings, officials, priests and prophets were saying “to a rock, ‘You are my father’(Jer 2:11, 27 ESV)Hosea reminds Israel they were to revel in the reality that they were “loved and called…my son” by a God who had drawn them “with cords of kindness with the bonds of love” radiating from “a heart” of “compassion warm and tender(Hos 11:1, 4, 8 ESV).

The wonders of knowing the Lord as such a delightful Father are however rare under the old covenant. Later in the same passage in Hosea we hear a testimony by God which explains why there is so much confusion about his character. “I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. (Hosea 11:9 ESV).

Deep down in our limitless egocentricity we think God is like us (Ps 50:21 ESV)! When we believe our anger is justified because the guilt of an offending part is clear and their condemnation just, we will inevitably carry out judgement speedily (Ecc 8:11 ESV). The Lord is totally unlike this. Even in the Old Testament the highest point of divine joy is to say, “I have no wrath.(Isa 27:4 ESV).

God’s holiness means his judgement is altogether unlike that of any human authority. In Isaiah he describes his own judgement as a “strange” and “alien” work (Isa 28:21 ESV).

Rabbi Abraham Heschel isn’t far off the mark he says,

More profoundly are the words of P.T. Forsyth,

“To man, the anger of God incites the fear of pain, to God, the anger is pain.”

‘the Father suffered in His Son even more than the Son did’

A revelation of these truths brings a revelation of the true Fatherhood of God. This isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Judgement: Jesus

I once sent an email to a pastor who in a sermon described John the Baptist as “harsh and legalistic”. I believe his comments were a projection of his own painful experiences of being disciplined in childhood. After all, in the Spirit-inspired words of Scripture, John was sent vs.77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, vs.78 because of the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:77-78 ESV). John is a preacher of “repentance” in the context, as Luke 3 puts it, of being a preacher of “the good news” (Luke 3:3, 18 ESV).

The painful discipline of God to which we are all subject is an expression of his tender-hearted loving Fatherhood, not a reminder of any human father/mother who might have failed to discipline us in love (cf. Heb 12:5-11 ESV). Human insensitivity regarding the true character of God as Father astonished even Jesus.

As late as the threshold of the cross, his intimate disciples of still didn’t get the Father-thing! “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ESV). If a noted bishop-theologian could say, “God is Christlike and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all’. (A. M. Ramsay), we must also say, “The Father is Son-like, and in him is no un-Son-likeness at all.” This relates directly to our dreadful fear of judgement (1 John 4:18 ESV).

Jesus declared, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son, vs.23 that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father…. he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22-23, 27 ESV). Christ’s words mean we cannot separate being judged by God as Father from being judged by Jesus. Equality in judging has been shared by the Father with Christ as a human being (cf. John 17:2 ESV).

The Father judges in and through the Son as his perfect image2)See Biblical References Col 1:15-16 ESV cf. John 8:16 ESV.That Jesus is the agent of God’s judgement at the Last Judgement is a prominent theme in the New Testament3)See Biblical References Matt 25:31-32 ESV; John 5:27 ESV; Acts 10:42 ESV; Acts 17:31 ESV; Phil 2:10 ESV; 2 Tim 4:1 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV and a source of confidence and exhilaration (Jude 1: 24 ESV).

The profound reality that someone like us, a fellow human, will be our Judge at the End cannot be separate from how God judges in the present, or from what happened at the cross.

One of my old mentors used to say, “the punishment for sin is sin” (Bingham, citing Augustine cf. Rev 22:11, 15 ESV). He based this conviction on Paul’s exposition of God’s wrath in Romans 1:18-32 ESV, where we are told repeatedly that “God gave them (idolatrous humanity) up to” ever increasing depravity (Rom 1: 24, 26, 28 ESV). This key expression, “gave up” is used later in Romans about how the Father handled Jesus, “He who did not spare his own Son butgave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32 ESV).

The giving over of Jesus to the fulness of divine wrath at the cross (Rom 3:25 ESV) undoes his judgement against us. Whilst the “children of wrath”, as Paul puts it (Eph 2:3 ESV), have always been blind, passive and ignorant about their lost state, with eyes fully open Jesus agrees with the will of God that wrath fall on him.

His prayer in Gethsemane, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV) is the deepest possible cooperation of the will of man with the will of God revealed as a limitlessly intimate Father.

John MacLeod Campbell correctly says,

“This confession . . . must have been a perfect Amen in humanity to the judgement of God on the sin of man.”

John MacLeod Campbell

This union of wills grounded in eternity4)See Biblical References 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV extends through the Passion of Jesus forever assuring us of salvation and restoration. In perfecting his union with the Father through obedient suffering5)See Biblical References Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV Jesus became the Judge slain and raised (Rev 5:6 ESV). At the limits of intelligibility, we must say that in Christ God (the Son) is the Judge judging himself in our place.

As a decision made by Father, Son and Spirit6)See Biblical References John 10:17-18 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV the death of Jesus releases the presence and power of the Last Judgement. vs.31Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. vs.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.vs.33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:31-33 ESV). Calvin was right to say that the cross was the real “descent into hell”. “How was the humanity Jesus able to commit to such agonies?” Only through his Spirit- empowered relationship with the Father.

The Son knows he is absolutely loved. vs.17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. vs.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.John 10:17-18 ESV (cf. John 3:35 ESV).

Knowing such love, Jesus’ heart was filled with faith that he could bring honour to God as a Father in a way that would abolish all the dishonour of humanity’s Fall into lost glory (Heb 12:2 ESV). From Adam to the prodigal son shame belongs to sons who dishonours their F/fathers7)See Biblical References Gen 2:25 – Gen 3:8-9 ESV; Prov 19:26 ESV; Prov 28:7 ESV; Luke 15:19, 21 ESV, but joy is a sign that a F/father has been honoured.

The joy enjoyed by Jesus in heaven has forever cast out all that would shame God’s children (Heb 12:2 ESV). What remains for us in Christ is God’s “good pleasure” as our Father8)See Biblical References Luke 12:32 ESV; Gal 1:15-16 ESV; Eph 1:5, 9 ESV; Phil 2:13 ESV.

Conclusion

The revelation of God in Christ testifies to a loving Father who can be grieved but is never wrathful or punishing towards his children9)See Biblical References Matt 3:17 ESV; Eph 1:6 ESV; Eph 5:1 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV.

To borrow some language from C.S. Lewis, the Father is totally good, even if according to our measure of thinking he is not “safe”.

For these truths to be prophetic, i.e. for them to witness to Jesus (Rev 19:10 ESV), I need to set them in the context of the current coronavirus crisis. The difference between those who have had a revelation of the goodness of fatherly discipline and those whose “guts” are impacted by the wrath of God will come to the surface more and more.

(This is the story line of the book of Revelation.)

By grace, the COVID 19 crisis can be a tremendous gift to the people of God. A gift whereby in the midst of turmoil, panic and confusion we can look to Jesus, who is the heart of the Father once for all unsurpassably revealed to the world (John 1:18 ESV).

Anyone who by faith looks only to Jesus will be supernaturally and wonderfully stilled.

This is the true state of the sons God. Praise the Lord.


MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 28th March 2020

Author: Dr. John Yates

Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST:

N/A

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rom 8:15, 23 ESV; Rom 9:4 ESV; Gal 4:5 ESV; Eph 1:5 ESV
2. See Biblical References Col 1:15-16 ESV cf. John 8:16 ESV
3. See Biblical References Matt 25:31-32 ESV; John 5:27 ESV; Acts 10:42 ESV; Acts 17:31 ESV; Phil 2:10 ESV; 2 Tim 4:1 ESV; Rev 6:16 ESV
4. See Biblical References 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV
5. See Biblical References Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV
6. See Biblical References John 10:17-18 ESV; Heb 9:14 ESV
7. See Biblical References Gen 2:25 – Gen 3:8-9 ESV; Prov 19:26 ESV; Prov 28:7 ESV; Luke 15:19, 21 ESV
8. See Biblical References Luke 12:32 ESV; Gal 1:15-16 ESV; Eph 1:5, 9 ESV; Phil 2:13 ESV
9. See Biblical References Matt 3:17 ESV; Eph 1:6 ESV; Eph 5:1 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV

The Spirit of Adoption 1

The Spirit of Adoption | Part 1 | Part 2

Biblical Text: Ex 4:21-23 ESV; John 14:12-20 ESV; Rom 8:12-17 ESV

INTRODUCTION

God the Father

Since the Fall, history has been an intense struggle of humans resisting the revelation that God is a loving Father. Given the failures of human fathers, and all authority figures, every human heart has an inbuilt bias against submitting to God as Father. Most deeply, sin is an un-sonly rejection of divine Fatherhood. Our aggressive rejection of Fatherly love means the Spirit of adoption must be more powerful than any demon or idol that binds us.

This must involve his use of God’s Word. Whilst Christ and the scriptures are Word of God, the one we see through them is the Father. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount “Father” appears more than twice the topic of the “kingdom of God” (17 to 8). Jesus is so central to John’s Gospel because in it he is the way to the Father, the Truth of the Father and the Life of the Father (John 14:6 ESV).

The Son’s bold declaration, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 ESV)1)See Biblical References cf. John 17:11, 22 ESV, means any claimed intimacy with Christ while neglecting the Father is spiritually impossible. Whilst during the “Jesus Movement” we had our Jesus Houses, Jesus’ T-shirts and Jesus badges, but little knowledge of God as Father, its clear in hindsight we really didn’t know Jesus well at all.

The Charismatic movement has generally failed to understand that spiritual gifts in Church are a share in the charisms first given to the Son of God by his Father! The failure to know deeply the love of the Father is puzzling and troubling. To use an important historical example, the doctrine of adoption has often been placed in the shadow of justification. J. I. Packer’s assessment of this situation is correct, “Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way.” Sonship is the pinnacle of human nature and the expression of the image of God. The Church today desperately needs a Father movement.

The Whole Trinity

DIVINE ADOPTION

The act of divine adoption is so deep and intimate that it engages the whole Trinity. When scripture teaches, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16 ESV), it is referring to the Father, who is the origin of all the love we receive in Jesus through the Spirit. Adoption brings wonder and rapture because it means dynamically sharing in the life of God (2 Pet 1:4 ESV). Precisely because adoption is the impartation of new life flowing from the whole Trinity no limits can be placed on its benefits. Freedom from enslavement to law, limitless eternal inheritance and future glory are all fruit of adoption (Rom 8:18 ESV). Sonship is a thread holding scripture together.

Sons Created and Fallen

Though Adam was created “the son of God” (Luke 3:38 ESV) and humans are “offspring” of the Creator (Acts 17:28-29 ESV), the loss of God’s glory through sin (Rom 3:23 ESV) and bondage to Satan’s false fathering2)See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; John 8:44 ESV; 1 John 3:8, 12 ESV have devastated our relationship with God as Father. However, we must never think that the sharing in Christ’s sonship through adoption merely takes us back to Eden, adoption is a dynamic end-times event which gives us something “much more” than Adam ever possessed (Rom 5: 15,17 ESV). In the process of coming to Christ I need to say a few things about the adoption of Israel.

Israel is a Son

In speaking of the Lord’s covenant relationship with Israel Paul puts adoption at the head of a list of benefits, “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” (Rom 9:4 ESV). No matter how dreadful Israel’s apostasy e.g. “say to a tree, ‘you are my father’” (Jer 2:27 ESV) she is always God’s graciously adopted son3)See Biblical References Ex 4:22-23; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1 called to reverence, love, trust and obey him as Father4)See Biblical References Deut 14:1 ESV; Deut 32:6 ESV; Isaiah 1:2 ESV; Isaiah 63:16 ESV; Isaiah 64:8 ESV; Jer 3:19, 22 ESV; Mal 1:6 ESV. The failure of Israel to be a submissive son points us to Jesus as the human Son the Father never had; truly and fully everything humanity was created to be.

The Unique Son

Unlike us, the eternal Son never needed adopting5)See Biblical References John 3:17 ESV; John 11:27 ESV; John 17:1,5 ESV; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:9 – 14 ESV. He is the ‘one and only Son’6)See Biblical References John 1:14,18 ESV; John 3:16,18 ESV; 1 John 4:9 ESV. In his writings John carefully reserves the usual word for son (huios) only for Jesus. Whilst Christ wonderfully declared, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17 ESV), he remains Son by nature, and we are sons by grace. Atonement depends on his Sonship. On the cross the most beloved Son takes on the state of a child of wrath7)See Biblical References Eph 2:3 ESV cf. 2 Cor 5:21 ESV and in being fully separated from the Father (Mark 15:34 ESV) removes the curse of fatherlessness (Rev 22:3 ESV). Christ’s resurrection joy (Heb 12:2 ESV) is the joy in which we are adopted into the family of God’8)See Biblical References Luke 15: 7; Luke 15: 22-24 ESV. This is a powerful end-times experience.

Adoption and the End of the World

By resurrection, Jesus was declared “to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:3-4 ESV). In resurrection Jesus receives honour from the Father as the all-obedient Son9)See Biblical References Ps 2:7 ESV; Acts 13:33 ESV, in ascension his humanity enters a sonship without limit for us. Heaven is the wonderful place the Father has made fit for such a son (Heb 1:5 ESV ff.). New Testament believers longed for the End because they understood that their resurrection would be the completion of their union with the sonship of Jesus; “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23 ESV). The glory of sonship (Rom 8:18 ESV) is made inwardly real to us by God’s Spirit. “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom 8:11 ESV) is “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Rom 8:15 ESV). The S/spirit of adoption (Gal 4:5 ESV) testifies to our hearts that the “fullness of time” and “the end of the ages” has come upon us in Christ10)See Biblical References Gal 4:4 ESV; 1 Cor 10:11 ESV. From deep within, new covenant sons are conscious that the divine work of re-creating the universe11)See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:17 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV has dawned, beginning with them.

Conclusion

As the risen, ascended baptiser in the Spirit (Matt 3:11 ESV; John 1:33 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV), Jesus has received Spirit-power to make sons in his image. He has gloriously returned our orphaned spirits to their heavenly Father. As “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36 ESV) we keenly anticipate the End12)See Biblical References Phil 3:21 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV about which the Spirit infallibly testifies13)See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:22 ESV; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV; Eph 1:13-14 ESV; Eph 4:30 ESV. To close with a comment relevant to the COVID19 crisis. In this hour we have authority to suffer as sons in a way that can amaze the orphans of our world (Rom 8:18 ESV).


MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 21st. March, 2020. Alive@5 at St Mark’s Bassendean

Author: Dr. John Yates

Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 21st March, 2020.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References cf. John 17:11, 22 ESV
2. See Biblical References Matt 13:38 ESV; John 8:44 ESV; 1 John 3:8, 12 ESV
3. See Biblical References Ex 4:22-23; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1
4. See Biblical References Deut 14:1 ESV; Deut 32:6 ESV; Isaiah 1:2 ESV; Isaiah 63:16 ESV; Isaiah 64:8 ESV; Jer 3:19, 22 ESV; Mal 1:6 ESV
5. See Biblical References John 3:17 ESV; John 11:27 ESV; John 17:1,5 ESV; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:9 – 14 ESV
6. See Biblical References John 1:14,18 ESV; John 3:16,18 ESV; 1 John 4:9 ESV
7. See Biblical References Eph 2:3 ESV cf. 2 Cor 5:21 ESV
8. See Biblical References Luke 15: 7; Luke 15: 22-24 ESV
9. See Biblical References Ps 2:7 ESV; Acts 13:33 ESV
10. See Biblical References Gal 4:4 ESV; 1 Cor 10:11 ESV
11. See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:17 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV
12. See Biblical References Phil 3:21 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV
13. See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:22 ESV; 2 Cor 5:5 ESV; Eph 1:13-14 ESV; Eph 4:30 ESV

Living Near the End

BIBLICAL TEXT:  1 Peter 4:1-11 ESV

Supporting Scripture: Jer 1:4-10 ESV; Ps 116:10-19 ESV; John 15:9-17 ESV

Introduction

The title of this sermon is “Living Near the End” because Peter tells us “the end of all things is at hand” 1 Peter 4: 7 ESV). Such strong language occurs elsewhere in this letter (1:5, 20) and throughout the New Testament (Rom 13:11 ESV; Phil 4:5 ESV; Heb 10:25 ESV; James 5:8 ESV) because the first followers of Jesus knew that with his death, resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit we are in the last stage of God’s great saving plan.

The contemporary Church in Australia finds living on the edge of eternity to be almost impossible. Perhaps however but if we listen to Peter’s exhortations this can change.

EXPOSITION 1 Peter 4:1-11 ESV

vs.1 “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, vs.2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

If “Christ” i.e. the Saviour God in human form has “suffered in the flesh” by dying for us has God in heaven has declared war against evil at a new level of spiritual intensity. As such what Peter has to say about our moral behaviour is militantly counter cultural. Like it or not, if you belong to Jesus you have enlisted in a spiritual army where survival depends on us “arming ourselves” with spiritual weapons (2 Cor 6:7 ESV; 2 Cor 10:3-5 ESV; Eph 6:11-17 ESV).

The most powerful of these weapons is to share Christ’s attitude to suffering. Remember Peter’s description in chapter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Human beings naturally seek to maximise pleasure and minimise pain (Eph 5:29 ESV), but Jesus’ attitude to the cross revealed that the most important thing in life is doing the will of God. In expounding on the expression, “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” an early commentator says, “how could anyone who is affixed to wood or surrounded by blows from stones or exposed to the nibbling of beasts or set on flames of fire or flayed by the excruciating lash or weakened by any other kind of punishment think about committing sin, about bodily desire” (Bede).

Whilst we are unlikely to be tortured for Jesus like this any Christian who endures any form of pain while persisting in faith soon loses interest in shallow self-centredness and become more powerful in the things of the Lord. Such deep things can never remain hidden.

I ran into a German scholar in my hotel corridor in Jakarta a few weeks ago whose ministry is advocacy for persecuted Christians and whose academic interest is mission and martyrdom. I quickly asked him about his personal experience of trusting God through suffering. When he told me that at 20 he suffered from a medical condition that took away his ability to walk and that he had another problem which makes him chronically hypersensitive to the cold I knew he had been qualified by God to speak for hurting believers. Everyone has pains, but only those who trust the Lord with their pain grow in Christlikeness and put away the shallowness of fleshly temptations (Rom 6:1-10 ESV).

vs.3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. vs.4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

The new era which has broken into history in Christ has no place for living for things like food, drink, sex and partying, all of which dominated the pagan lifestyle in the first century and today. (I clearly remember as a teenager saying to one of my friends, “We live for the weekend.” i.e. its indulgences) In a culture which prides itself more and more in tolerating every deviancy, the Christian conviction such pursuits are “lawless idolatry” must come across as intolerant bigotry. If you openly maintain a biblical attitude towards sin you will be abused e.g. on social media.

vs.5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. vs.6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does

There’s a huge “but” at the start of this proclamation. God will have the last word for the standards by which the Lord judges have nothing to do with human opinion. In the End, no evil will be left unjudged, every deed will be accounted for (Matt 12:36 ESV; Matt 18:23 ESV; Rom 14:12 ESV; Heb 4:13 ESV). Even if looked at from the outside the suffering and death of Christians seems to put them in the same category as all other sinners, in eternity we will be “alive in the Spirit” like God himself in the glory of eternal life for the one criterion of judgment is our relationship with Jesus.

vs.7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

That we are close to the End of this world is real to many believers today. When I sat next to a Tibetan refugee on a bus in Indonesia he told me 3 things that conveyed the powerful presence of the kingdom of God.

First, he’d been converted from Buddhism, he was even for several years a monk. Second, some of his fellow workers had recently been jailed for 10-15 years for preaching the gospel in China, third that God was doing mighty healing miracles so entire villages in Nepal, where he is now living, were turning to Christ.

Since this present evil age (Gal 1:4 ESV) is coming to an end the followers of Jesus must be models of moral sanity (cf. 1:13).

Western culture is becoming progressively unhinged, Facebook recognises 71 types of gender, but some groups name more.

We are in the final days predicted by Jesus when “the love of many would grow cold” (Matt 24:12 ESV).

We must “Watch and pray” lest we “enter into temptation” for “the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41 ESV).

The greater the evil surrounding us the deeper the need for sound-minded prayers that God will answer.

The petition, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is on heaven” (Mat 6:10 ESV), is something we must be praying daily. Every earnest believer should want the end of the world to come, quickly (Rev 22:20 ESV).

vs.8 Above all,keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Love is the highest call of the Christian community for only such love will survive the end of “all things”. To love “earnestly” means to be stretched out in love in such a manner as to go beyond keeping a record of wrongs or reacting to the sins of others (Prov 10:12 ESV).  

Love sees sin as sin but refuses to retaliate, it maturely/endlessly absorbs the cost of staying in a relationship (Matt 18:21-22 ESV). “Love bears all things,” (1 Cor 13:7 ESV) because love is the goal of everything God made.

vs.9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Hospitality literally means, “friendship with strangers” (philoxenoi). The gift of open hearts, homes and hands is a great gift. In places where Christians are persecuted (e.g. Syria, Iraq, Nigeria) the provision of a place of safety can mean the difference between life and death.

Irrelevant to us perhaps, but to provide shelter for persecuted brothers/sisters has often made one’s own family a target of persecution.

The NGO Welcoming Australia was started to make all newcomers to Australia feel at home. It’s hardly surprising that its founder is a Christian pastor because the disposition of befriending strangers breathes the Spirit of Christ.

vs.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: vs.11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

As Western societies increasingly detest Christian morality the only churches which will survive as manifestly Christian will be those in which God is heard speaking and where the life of Jesus is revealed in sacrificial service.

Tragically but necessarily, in the economy of God, compromising congregations must die out. Many of which will be Anglican.

Only prophetically inspired messages can convey the urgency of the hour in which we live and the imminence of the final judgement close at hand.

In the extreme times in which we live there is no place for opinions or speculations about the things of the Lord. I was in the eastern states this last week and one word kept on being used about the weather conditions, it is a word better used of the moral/spiritual state of things across Australia, “catastrophic”.

Peter appropriately ends with a word of praise, “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” As long as the Church remembers that the glory and honour and praise belong to God alone it will experience divine power to speak for God and to serve like Christ in the midst of its powerlessness.

Conclusion

Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus who feels at home in this world better check their spiritual pulse as to whether Christ really lives in them (2 Cor 13:5 ESV).

Our call is to live as lights for Jesus in the midst of a “warped and crooked generation” (Phil 2:15 ESV) but too many of the people of God have lost their saltiness or hidden their light under a measuring bowl (Matt 5:13-15 ESV).

The expression, “the local church is the hope of the world” (Hybels), is true only as long as we are centred in every way on Christ. Each of us must ask, “Is my life centred in every way in Christ?”

Is my use of time, talents and treasure centred in a sacrificial way on living for Jesus so that others might come to believe in him? Am I am clearly using the gifts of God in serving others and speaking to them in such a way as to bring God glory through Jesus?

The question, “Do you turn to Christ?”, asked at baptism and confirmation, demands a whole-hearted unambiguous answer, daily.

Let us pray for the strength God provides.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 28th Nov 2019 Location: ?

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date 28th. Nov, 2019.

Christians challenge Costello’s advice to ‘suck it up’

Reverend Tim Costello

Church leaders have hit out at Baptist minister and former World Vision head Tim Costello for “raucously” telling Christians who want religious freedom laws because they feel persecuted to “suck it up” and “calm down”.

Reverend Costello, who is now a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, drew fire for his comments, which downplayed the experience of Australian Christians in the context of the government’s investigation into religious freedom laws and Israel Folau’s sacking over homophobic Instagram posts referencing the Bible.

“I don’t think there is a risk of persecution — Christians need to calm down,” Reverend Costello said in an interview published on The Guardian website yesterday.

“I would say to Christians if you want to see persecution, let me take you to places where there is persecution of Christians and other religious groups — let me take you to Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, and I will show you ­persecution. And if they read their Bibles, Jesus said the world will hate you and misunderstand you for follow­ing me, but to go on followin­g, loving, serving — so I would say, just suck it up.

“Jesus didn’t go around demand­ing legislation to protect his rights. Jesus didn’t advocate for freedom-of-religion legislation.”

A spokesman for the Centre for Public Christianity said Reverend Costello had been “trying to take a bit of the heat out of the ­discussion”.

But Bruce Meller, a minister and assembly clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, called the piece a “strid­ent, raucous overstatement”. “The fact he says it shows that he doesn’t think other Christians are agreeing with him,” Reverend Meller said.

He said that while Reverend Costello was right to recognise the experience of Christians overseas, “negative discrimination is defin­itely being experienced here” and Australian Christians should be encouraged to speak up in the public debate around religiou­s freedom laws. “This is the most important issue we face at the moment, and not just for Christians,’’ he said. “The climate has changed dramatically, and it is that change to which Christians are reacting.

“The atrocious assault on the Muslim community in Christchurch saw an outpouring of grief that was right and appropriate. But when 300 Christians were blown up in Sri Lanka shortly afterward­s, the response was very muted by comparison. Christians are right to react to things like that … They are also entitle­d to speak up when societal pressure becomes increasingly hostile.’’

Michael Kellahan, executive director of Christian think tank Freedom for Faith, said while he understood the point Reverend Costello was trying to make by comparing Christians in Australia with those overseas, Christians needed to “beware of the speed at which things can change”.

“If Australia wants to be able to speak with credibility to places without freedoms we need to show that we take freedom for all people seriously here,” Mr Kellahan said. “I don’t think a comment like ‘suck it up’ stands well … there will probably be Christians who are disappointed to hear that.

“This is a time when all Australians need to stop throwing in quick-catch headlines and think about constructive ways to live together well. If Tim Costello wants to be part of that, we’d welcome that. But suggesting Christians shouldn’t be interested in religious freedoms protection is not a contributio­n to make.’’

Date-stamped: 2019 July 10 - Time-stamped: 12:00 am - By Elias Visontay  - Article Title: Christians slam Costello’s advice to ‘suck it up’  - Article Link: theaustralian.com.au

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