“He has Risen”
One of the things my parents kept telling me to do when I was young, was to say “Good morning” to them or my siblings when I first got up out of bed and stumbled into the dining or living area. And woe to us if we didn’t say ‘Good morning’, then we would be soon told. Thankfully, my parents were somewhat more lenient if we were not feeling well.
However, there was always one day a year when there was an exception to the rule. And that day was Easter Sunday morning. It was then that the tables were turned and those who had been awake for a while and had gathered their thoughts, would be expected to say to anyone who came stumbling into the dining or living area, “He has Risen” and then we were expected to respond, “He has risen indeed.”
Now that I have grown up a little, I appreciate more the importance of Easter and especially Easter Sunday morning. As Christians we realize that without the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave on Easter Sunday morning, our faith would be futile. It would be the grandest waste of time of all time, for we would still be in our sins and would not stand justified before the Judge of all the earth (1 Cor 15:13-19).
When the angel told the two Marys that Jesus was no longer in the grave but had risen, they were “afraid, yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” We can easily identify with these two women being ‘afraid.’ They had experienced a violent earthquake; the great big stone had been rolled back from the opening of the tomb; the angel’s appearance was as lightning and his cloths white as snow; and the poor guards were shaking so much at seeing all of this, they were like dead men; and last but not least, the once dead Jesus revealed himself to them alive and well (Mat 28:1-10).
What a wonderful thing these two women experienced. Of all the people in Jesus’ inner circle, it was the two women that the Lord of the universe had chosen to reveal the great news that Jesus had risen from the dead. He didn’t reveal it to his beloved disciples, but first to two lowly women.
If this brief account (Mat 28:1-10) was all we had of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it would be enough for us to praise God’s name forever, for it is contained in His holy Word. However, there is so much more evidence in Scripture. For instance, in 1 Cor 15:5-8, the Apostle Paul lists several individuals and groups that saw the resurrected Christ, including Peter and the other Twelve; and then to more than five hundred at the same time; and then to James and the Apostles, and also to Paul himself.
On Easter Sunday morning we praise and worship our Lord and King (as we do every Sunday), for Jesus rose from the dead victoriously and therefore we have been justified, clothed with the righteousness of our Saviour. Hallelujah - what a great reason to greet each other a little differently on Easter Sunday morning “He has risen … He has risen indeed!” JZ
“The suffering Father, Son & Holy Spirit”
This coming week we remember especially the death of our Saviour Jesus Christ. One of the things that is important to remember about this occasion is the planning of the Triune God to bring this about, and again, first and foremost for His glory and the salvation of sinners, also for His greater glory. Our Lord’s death on the cross was not the Father’s Plan “B” after Plan “A” failed with Adam and Eve. It was always the Father’s plan to send His Son into this world to redeem sinners. Several passages of Scripture remind us of this.
For instance, Ephesians 1:4, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight…” 2 Timothy 1:8-10, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
It’s a little (a lot really) mind boggling to think and know that the Triune God was planning creation, the fall of humanity, our redemption through Jesus Christ, and our ultimate glorification for eternity, even before one thing came to pass. It’s also sobering to remember that the Triune God knew of the agony and suffering that the fall would cause, not just for humanity, but also for Himself.
The Old as well as the New Testament has many references to God’s sadness at sinful man’s rebellion. During the time of Noah, “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth and His heart was filled with pain” (Gen 6:6). “The Lord was grieved that He had made Saul King, because he has turned away from me…” (1 Sam 15:11). God’s Old Testament people grieved the Holy Spirit through their rebellion (Isa 63:10).
Jesus was filled with sorrow throughout His ministry on earth as He experienced the consequences of sin and rejection due to His passive obedience to the Father’s will to come and dwell amongst sinners (John 11:35; Luke 13:34). Jesus experienced the full wrath of His Father through His active obedience by going all the way to the cross and becoming the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of all who were known to the Triune God before time began.
Thankfully, Good Friday isn’t the end of the story. Resurrection Sunday follows and we rejoice for not only has our Saviour paid our penalty and redeemed us, through His resurrection we have now been justified (Rom 4:25).
And so in light of the Father’s great plan of salvation, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit, we praise the Triune God. More than that, we now in thankfulness strive to live for Him in true holiness and blamelessly, no longer grieving the Holy Spirit living within us. Have a great Easter, rejoicing and praising our Triune God. JZ.
Meditation: “Stop ‘doing’ and start glorifying”
Many years ago an elderly gentlemen asked me whether I had ever heard of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer one. To his surprise, I told him that I didn’t have a clue. He then graciously proceeded to tell me, and just in case you don’t know or have forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory.
Q: What is the chief end of man? A: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Of course this is nothing less than what Scripture encourages us to do. Note Psalms 34:3; 63:3; 69:30; 86:12; Romans 15:6, 9; and many others (cf Rev 16:9)).
It may surprise you to learn that this single question and answer has had the greatest impact on my life. More than my initial education at primary and secondary level. More than five years of theological study and even more than twenty years of ministry.
I would suggest that until a person has an understanding of this profound question and answer, they cannot know fully their purpose in life as their Creator intended. They may delight in having a great career; developing a great business or even having a healthy bank balance, yet without the fundamental understanding of their chief purpose in life, all these things will leave them feeling as though they have fallen short of attaining lasting satisfaction, fulfillment and joy.
We were not created in the first place to carve out a great career, or a great business or a healthy bank balance. We were created in the first place to glorify God. Yes, we can glorify God in all these other things, for when properly considered they are gifts from God. However, for so many, to glorify God is hardly considered and if it is, it is tacked on the end of all our busy-ness.
Do you know the same trap is true in ministry and in preaching? In today’s modern world, there is a tremendous emphasis placed on preachers to ‘do’ and to make sure their listeners also ‘do.’ To that end, preachers are encouraged to use all sorts of illustrations and load their messages with suitable application so that their listeners have been challenged about the ‘doing’ (or not doing) in their Christian lives.
The ‘doing’ may be to change their life styles, their language, their evangelism techniques, their prayer life, their bible study patterns, their mission or evangelism focus or church planting focus and a whole lot more. And let it be said, most, if not all these things are probably right and proper to ‘do.’ However, I cannot help thinking if this is the prime object of our ministry and preaching, we have missed something.
I would suggest the thing we have missed is what is most important, namely, to encourage God’s people to glorify God first. That’s not being lazy as a preacher for not finding some suitable application from a text. Nor am I suggesting for a moment that we should try and drive a wedge between what it means to glorify God and suitable application that comes from the biblical text.
But surely, it is not so much ‘our doing’ that glorifies God, but what He has already done for us in Christ that we should be delighting in (or if you like - glory-ing in). Dr John Piper is well known for a particular phrase and I believe he sums up what I have been trying to say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
When we are most satisfied in God, we will do the good deeds God has prepared for us to do. The ‘sheep’ in Matthew 25:34-36, did not know when they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited a stranger in, gave clothes to those who needed them, or visited the sick and those in prison. When God’s children’s first desire is to glorify God and that takes precedence over all their ‘doing,’ then they will not only realize their chief end and purpose in life, but will begin to enjoy Him presently and forever. JZ
Meditation – “Church membership”
One of the things that Church Councils (Sessions) need to do from time to time is look at their membership. It often occurs when there is a “Change of the guard” or when a new telephone directory needs to be reproduced. When discussing these things, it is surprising how people decide their Church membership. Over the years, I have heard many reasons why some have joined or are moving on to a different fellowship. Let me share a few with you.
One elderly widow informed me once that she left the fellowship and joined the Jehovah Witnesses, for they had a lovely craft group that met on a weekly basis. Obviously her loneliness and isolation as a widow had impacted her decision.
Some parents determine their Church membership on whether their teenage children have friends and feel involved and connected to the fellowship. Some families have determined their church membership purely on whether there are programs tailored towards felt needs.
A determining factor of Church membership for the elderly is sometimes based on a personal preference for more contemporary singing (or less), or even which Bible versions are being used. And then there are still others who determine their Church membership by whether the church is involved in missions or church planting. And sometimes, disciplinary matters determine Church membership.
Many of the reasons given are legitimate concerns. Our young people and not so young do need to feel part of the fellowship and connected. Youth programs, Bible studies, fellowship groups, teaching classes, mission focus, and being winsome to visitors worshipping with us for the first time are all important. All these things can be considered in determining one’s membership to a local fellowship and Church Councils have a responsibility to make sure these concerns are addressed.
However, I am not convinced that these things alone should ever be the ultimate determining factor of Church membership. One of the primary things we should ask when considering Church membership is, “What creates faith in our hearts, including the hearts of our children?” Surely the answer to that fundamental question is the pure preaching of the gospel as Scripture also affirms (Romans 10:10-14 Cf. Belgic Confession Art 29). Again, we shouldn’t be dismissive of all those others things previously mentioned as important, but with respect, it is the faithful preaching of the gospel that is most important thing when considering Church membership.
Thankfully, the pure gospel can be proclaimed in many ways today and not just by faithful preachers. We have some wonderful, God centered, gospel focused hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that can be sung to proclaim the gospel message. We can use modern technology to bring God’s word to the masses, whether it is by audio or video. We can use radio waves and TV to bring the gospel message.
Yet, it is my prayer when the need arises to consider Church membership, the faithful proclamation of the gospel message may be central in our considerations and may that be complimented with great ‘Word’ programs and winsome Christian fellowship. JZ.