“For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 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” (John 10:17–18).
I have quoted this verse again because it contains truth about Jesus’ death that directly affect us. The word “authority,” sometimes translated “power,” comes from the Greek word ἐξουσίαν (exousian) which conveys the idea of “power with authority and there is no obstacle” able to hinder the purpose of its use. Jesus had both the divine power and authority which He exercised in going into death and then in throwing off death in resurrection. Both were absolutely essential for our salvation. Death was the judgment of God for man’s disobedience. In order for Jesus to empty the judgment of God for us, He must enter the domain of death and conquer it by raising again. But there is more. For those who believe and trust Christ for atoning, or satisfying God for their sins, Jesus left every one of those sins in the grave, hidden from the eye of God by forgiveness.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).
True conversion through the gospel of grace means that we see ourselves crucified and buried with the Lord Jesus. We realize and accept that through His sacrifice, God’s holiness was completely satisfied and the authority in Jesus broke the power of sin over our lives. “So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin” (Roman 6:11).
With our human limitations, it is hard for us to grasp the enormous implications of those final words from Jesus on the cross, “IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30). From God’s perspective, His holiness demanded wrathful judgment on sin and man’s sinful condition needed to be completely satisfied. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God was the only answer. He must be crucified and thus lay down His life of His own accord.
“For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 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).
Is it enough to know that Christ died for us? (Romans 5:8; along with many other Scriptures). Paul takes this objective truth and makes it very personal or subjective; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live” (Galatians 2:20). We will never experience freedom from sin until we see ourselves as crucified with Christ and dead to sin (Romans 6:10-11).
Most of the problems we face personally and in the Church begin with not understanding what happened at the cross of Christ. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). Freedom begins in the heart and soul, and if persons do not grasp that freedom, they will never fully understand the moral and religious freedoms that God has called us to stand in.
I ask you, do you see yourself crucified with Christ? If not, the next two days will not have real meaning to your heart, mind and life. Come back tomorrow for more of the story.
As we think about the effectiveness of the Early Church, there was a certain characteristic about their thinking that we need today. While the Church today faces hardships and persecution, more in some places than others, it was a totally new experience for them. Yet, when opposition came, they were convinced of several absolutes:
1. The absolute authority of God’s Word (Acts 2:16, 25, 34).
2. The Holy Spirit had come and filled them for witness (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4).
3. The Lord worked with them and confirmed the message of the gospel (Mark 16:20).
In the face of such a powerful demonstration of God working, the religious leaders “called them [Peter and John] and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). With arresting them just before this and the possibility of being thrown in jail, do you think they might have backed down just a little? Notice Peter’s reply to their demands; “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge” (4:19). Peter rightly points to their ultimate authority.
This confrontation is followed by urgent prayer by the church in Jerusalem. There was no request for protection or God’s judgment on their accusers. The church asked, “Lord look on their threats and grant to Your servants to continue to speak Your Word with all boldness” (4:29). There was no let up or backing down to the opposition because God heard and answered their prayers and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness” (4:31). THEY WERE UNSTOPPABLE! ARE WE?
One of the inspiring things I love to do is read stories of persons who kept preaching and sharing the gospel of Jesus in the most difficult circumstances, mostly when they were under persecution. In these conditions, whole families, villages, tribes, prison cells and communities have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Having read some historical accounts of prisons in the days of the Early Church, I can imagine the physical suffering that Paul endured during these times. Yet, Paul never says much about his suffering except for 2 Corinthians 11:21-29. The power of Christ’s risen life was what propelled him forward in his mission. He prepares Timothy for this way of life in his last letter; “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the Word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9).
When the power of resurrection in Jesus really grips our souls, we want to know that power even more. Nothing can stop those who make it their pursuit to live by this power “and share His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). In such persons, “the Word of God is not bound!” If we judge how successful ministry will be by circumstances, we may miss the greatest opportunities to see God at work through His Word. Many measure success by numbers, buildings and money. God measures success by the strength of our devotion to His Son.
Paul follows this verse with, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2:10). I was strongly reminded today that this eternal perspective must be mine in spite of any suffering God may allow me to go through. Seeing others captivated by salvation in Jesus Christ is my eternal reward!
Yesterday we examined the difference between obeying a law and obedience to a command of Christ when indwelt by the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him. I want to pursue this, but from the perspective of Paul’s heart. From research, it seems that Matthew was written one year after Paul wrote First Corinthians, so he would not have read Matthew 28:19, “GO”! But notice Paul’s attitude toward spreading the gospel:
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
I will quote Roland Allen again on this subject because he expresses my thoughts on this. “Obedience to the commands of the Gospel is a spiritual act. The ‘Gospel law’ is a law of liberty, that is, a law of internal life, not of external compulsion” (ibid, page 21). Paul uses the word “necessity,” meaning, “a complete obligation of a compelling nature,” is “laid” or “to be forced on him so as to have power over” his decisions. This could be nothing else but the power of the Holy Spirit working in Paul to such a degree that it would be a “woe” or a disaster, a horror to“not preach the gospel!”
I wonder how much of our missions are driven by this compelling power and control of the Spirit? Do we really have a sense of “obligation,” not the demand of law? Do we feel the Spirit moving in us, whether in our Jerusalem or in some place at the ends of the earth? We each must answer these questions.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…For this is the covenant…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33).
These days have come!! The question we must ask is whether we realize how amazing and wonderful these days are? The Law of God was first written on stone tablets and given to Moses when the children of Israel began their journey through the wilderness. It was an external law that had to be obeyed but carried with it consequences; blessing or curse. The fact is, neither Israel or we could completely obey the requirements of the Law which brings condemnation.
How would God write His law on their hearts and ours? He was indicating that His law would no longer be external, but internal, written on the heart; “you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). When this takes place, obedience to the commands of Christ are no longer driven by an external written law, but through love given by the Spirit for the Author of the commands.
Roland Allen writes, “the commands of the gospel are internal…implanted. Under the Law the command is bound up in the letter. The letter is the standard. But in the gospel, this is not so. Under the gospel it is the Spirit which is communicated. In the gospel, the Spirit is the standard.” (Essential Missionary Principles, 1913, page 16-17). Are you driven by the external law or the internal command written by the Spirit?
“If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to measure yourself by other Christians; and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things which He will never let you do.
Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, can push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their Christian goals, but these things you simply cannot do. Others may boast of their work or their writings or their success, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you ever try it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but most likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and the joy of seeing Him supply your needs day by day out of an unseen Treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and keep you hidden and unappreciated because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work on and on without others knowing how much you are doing; and then, to make your work still more precious. He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
The Holy Spirit will rebuke you for little words or deeds or even feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem to be concerned about, but you must make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and He has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in the way He deals with you, but if you will just submit yourself to Him in all things, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are very near to His heart.
Settle it then, that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hands, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted with this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, then you will have entered the very vestibule of heaven itself.”
G. D. Watson (1845-1924) – Article found in the flyleaf of Dr. Henry Morris’ Bible – founder of Institute for Creation Research.
“I am destined to proclaim the message, unmindful of personal consequences to myself.” “I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.” All three quotes come from Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760).
I am often challenged by the attitudes of servants who have gone before me. So often I find myself being more concerned about my own comforts and success, rather than the timeless purpose and treasure of presenting salvation, the gospel message, and the “whole council of God” to the whole world. We often feel the pressures that John the Baptist felt from religious leaders; “Who are you?” or “Are you Elijah,” “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:19-21). To the priests, Levites and Pharisees of John’s day, titles and position was everything. John was absolutely content to be a “voice…crying out in the wilderness” (1:23) pointing to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29).
The cultural pressures on us today are just the same and we must be driven by the indwelling Holy Spirit to deny self and lift up the Lord Jesus. “He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:14). Paul had one passion; “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20. God has left us here for this purpose. Will we live for this, die and be forgotten for Christ?
Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) from northern England wrote, “The world will never believe in a religion in which there is no power.” We must be very careful that what we preach does not merely appease the rational mind, the social concerns, or attempts to be morally OK. If there is no awakening, no conviction of the Holy Spirit, our converts will simply join a powerless organization.
The prophet Joel was given a very unusual message, but it was appropriate for the place and times God placed him in. We often associate Joel with the Lord’s prophecy “that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (2:26). But before this prophecy, He declares the real condition of the people; “Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail…Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth…Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers…Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests…Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders…and cry out to the Lord” (1:5, 8, 11, 13-14).
How critical was this period in Israel’s history? “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near” (2:1). This alarm is repeated in 2:15-16. In the face of these extreme warning, God gives the promise “that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (2:26). This promise is of God acting on His own to ignite a transformation of the heart “so you shall know that I am the Lord your God… and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord” (3:17-18).
I doubt that I or anyone else understands how critical our day is. Yet, I am convinced that I need an awakening from the Lord, a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on my life. Every day the burden of this gets heavier. What God will do and when He will do it, I do not know, but it is very urgent! Will you join me in asking the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts for His powerful awakening?
“A spiritual revival is not important to the Church…it is imperative! At this moment (which I believe is the darkest in our nation’s history and, for that matter, in world history) the Church is plagued with inertia.” (Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way, A Message for the Church, Bethany House Publishers, 1983, page 55). This statement is even more true in 2018.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel [and Church, American and the world], for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1–2).
While Ravenhill uses the word “revival,” I suggested that our present conditions require more than a revival, they demand an “awakening”! We are too familiar with ‘arranging revival meetings’ where we select the date, the preachers, the songs, and the food, but we cannot select how the “awakening” is going to take place in the heart. This is where we fall short. We have forgotten the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting our hearts about our own condition and then crying to Him for mercy in bringing about a powerful transformation in us.
The word “revive” in Scripture expresses the concept of making us “come to life,” while “awaken” adds a strong sense of alarm regarding conditions we are not aware of. When I survey the spiritual landscape of the Church, beginning with my own heart, I deeply feel alarm and urgency! The Spirit must step in with a powerful work in me/us. He is the only one who can do this. John 3:5; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:14 all point to the fact that we cannot affect change in ourselves. It must be the work of God by the Spirit. Will you cry to Him for this “awakening” to take place, first in you?
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