Archive | September 2013

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Colossians 1:12-14

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood,the forgiveness of sins.                       NKJV

In our passage, the Apostle Paul concludes a prayer of thanksgiving.  In this portion of his prayer he gives thanks for several glorious facts that God has already completed.  First, He has delivered us as Christians, once and forever, from the power of darkness (13a).  Satan and this world have been conquered (Colossians 2:15).  His past control and influence in our lives has been broken (Eph. 2:2). We don’t need to fall before him any longer.  If that is the negative side of deliverance, now see the positive side. Second, we have been definitely conveyed, transferred, or moved into the realm of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (13b).  Our sad past, whatever it may have been, no longer needs to govern and limit us. No matter what our past sins may have been, we are now in Christ and the power of his kingdom is more than sufficient.   This transferal occurred the moment we trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  God says that it is ours to believe and take hold of.  Finally we have full forgiveness of sins (present tense), redemption through his blood.  

This prayer then is not only a call to a new walk; God has made every provision for its reality in our lives. He took us out of Adam and all his weakness and failure and he put us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. Let us take hold by faith and walk in accord with God’s will expressed so eloquently in this prayer. Let us always affirm what God says.            Gordon E. Johnson

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From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Mark 14:72

A second time the rooster crowed.  Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”  And when he thought about it, he wept.                       NKJV

It may well be that as long as Peter lived, his tears began to flow whenever he remembered his denying his Lord.  His sin was very bitter, and God’s grace in him had afterwards a perfect work.  Peter’s experience is common to all Christians according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone.  We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not.” (Mark 14:29)   We eat our own words—with the bitter herbs of repentance.  When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been—we may weep rivers of grief.

The crowing of the rooster for the second time brought Peter’s denial of his Lord to his full attention.  He thought on his cowardliness which led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart which drove him to do so three times.

Do we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stubborn and in denial?  Will we not repent, and cry unto the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love and the joy of His salvation?  May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest before long our consciences are seared black and our Christian testimonies are wrecked.  Peter also thought upon his Master’s look of love (Luke 22:61).

The Lord followed up the rooster’s warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love.  That glance was never out of Peter’s mind so long as he lived.  It was far more effectual than ten thousand sermons would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep—when he recollected the Savior’s full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord—is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers.  Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow!  Charles H. Spurgeon

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Mark 14:53-65

And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.  But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest.  And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.  For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.  Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’”  But not even then did their testimony agree.  And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing?  What is it these men testify against You?”  But He kept silent and answered nothing.  Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy!  What do you think?”  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!”  And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.                  NKJV

Throughout all of Christian history there have been countless volumes written regarding Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin.  Eighteen Jewish laws were broken by the Sanhedrin which made Jesus’ trial illegal: trial for a capital offence could not be conducted at night, a trial could not be conducted on the day before the Sabbath, the members of the Sanhedrin had to be in unanimous consent, the use of false witnesses whose accounts contradicted one another, etc…  There is no lack of historical evidence that put Jesus at odds with the Jewish religious leaders of his day.  And we have been told throughout his ministry that many of them plotted to get rid of him.

Focusing on the legal issues of Jesus’ trial may be interesting, but they are not extremely important to one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  To understand that Jesus was innocent of any sin or charges against him is, of course, extremely important to know.   However, to use the gospel records of his trial to affix blame and punishment for his death to the Jews alone is ridiculous.  This focus on blame has been one of the chief causes of anti-Semitism in the world.  It has labeled the Jewish people as “Christ Killers.”  These texts and others like them were used to support the Holocaust, during which approximately six million Jews were killed in state sponsored violence.

All four gospels agree that Caiaphas, the high priest and the Sanhedrin ultimately condemned Jesus for the religious crime of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.  If Jesus’ was guilty of blasphemy, how did His trial become a political issue requiring Roman involvement?  If blasphemy is a lack of reverence for God, is Jesus guilty?  How did He show a lack of reverence for God?

In Exodus 3:14, God give his name to Moses as “I am.”  It is rendered in Hebrew as יהוה (YHWH) without the vowels, so that it cannot be pronounced.  (Most scholars believe that when the vowels are added it is pronounced YaHWeH).  In most English translations it is shown as LORD (in all capital letters).  In New Testament Greek the name of God would be rendered as ἐγώ εἰμι (I am).  Caiphas “the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  “‘I am’ said Jesus.” (ἐγώ εἰμι).  Jesus is doing much more than pronouncing the name of God: He is claiming to be the name.  He is saying that He is God (John 8:58-59).

Jesus not only answers in the affirmative when asked whether or not he is the Messiah, but He goes further and explains exactly who and what the Messiah is.  Not only did Jesus admit that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One and the Son of Man, he also claimed to be God.  This was more than they could bear to hear.  The title of Messiah can be interpreted in a political way (King of the Jews), so in this case it was easy to translate the religious charge of blasphemy into a political charge of treason against Rome.  From this point the crucifixion was a done deal.

The most amazing thing about what Jesus said at his trial is that IT IS ALL TRUE.  The trial was really about who Jesus is.  It cannot be blasphemy to utter the name of God when you are God. Something that we need to bear in mind is that the trial and passion of Jesus was the means by which God procured our salvation.  Everything that transpired was for our sake, and because of our sin.  If we want to cast blame for the trial and passion of Jesus, we need to stand in front of a mirror and take a good long look.             David Winkle

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Mark 14:43-52

And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.”  As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.  Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.  And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?  I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”  Then they all forsook Him and fled.  Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.  And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.               NKJV

You may remember from high school biology class that most animals, including humans, have a sympathetic nervous system.  It comes into play during a threatening situation, and it helps us determine whether we will respond aggressively by fighting, or whether we will flee.  Most people refer to this as the “fight-or-flight response.” Whether it was a real or artificially induced threat, we have all experienced it. Sometimes we stand our ground, and sometimes we cannot seem to muster the courage to keep from fleeing, at least at first.

For the Apostles there was a brief moment of bravery, when Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.  But courage gave way to cowardice and the human instinct for survival.  The Apostles all fled, as well as a young man named Mark, who ran away naked, leaving his clothes in the hands of his would-be captors.

In the end, everyone deserted Jesus.  His was left alone with his captors and lead away into the night; a night that would be filled with abuse, punishment and mockery.  Just a few hours earlier, Peter had promised Jesus that he would face death before he would deny him.  Reality turned out to be quite different.  Yet how can we criticize the Apostles’ response to that threatening situation?  Do we believe that we would have performed any better in those circumstances?  Like Peter, we all talk the big fight, but when it comes what happens to our resolve?

Have you ever wondered why the gospel writers included stories of horrendous failures by people we would consider spiritual giants?   These larger than life heroes of the faith failed miserably in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested; and their failures continued throughout the night.  

These accounts were recorded to give us a historical view of what transpired. However, they were also recorded for the successive generations of Christians like us who would come after them.  Like Peter, James, and John, we will all have our times when we suffer “faith failures.”  Please note that these failures did not define who they were as disciples.  Peter is not remembered as Peter the Denier.  James and John are not remembered for their cowardice in the garden.  They were each forgiven and restored.

You and I are not remembered before God by our failures. When our lives go spinning out of control and we run away from God, we too are forgiven and restored.              David Winkle