From despair of death to hope of resurrection

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….”Matthew 28:5-6

It had been a painful week for the followers of Jesus. They followed Him as He rode into Jerusalem, hailed as Messiah and King of the Jews. They heard His words as He taught in the temple. They heard His laments and rebukes because of unbelief and heard of the judgments to come. They saw His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. They witnessed His trials, the horrors of His crucifixion and saw His lifeless body taken down from the cross and hastily laid in a nearby tomb before the sabbath day began.

Now, all that remained was to complete His burial before returning home. Jesus was dead. All His teaching about forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and eternal life in God’s kingdom was buried with Him in that tomb.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the women (Luke 23:55 – 24:2): “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre….”

For many today, Easter Sunday is a day to finish properly Jesus’ burial. Lent is over and we can now put Jesus’ sufferings and death behind us and move on to other things – at least for another year. It is a day to say His life and death have meaning and His legacy lives on in our hearts.

But Jesus wasn’t in the tomb! Instead, an angel was there and announced to the women: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….”And, as the women hurried to tell Jesus’ disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. He was alive – not just in spirit, but bodily – they held his feet and worshiped Him.

His death was full payment for the sins of the world, God accepted the sacrifice of His Son and raised Him up, proving our justification (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20). He truly is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26). He lives and we shall live also (John 14:19; Job 19:25-27;1 Thess. 4:13-18). All His words and teaching are indeed true! He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15) and we shall reign with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-7)!

We come today not to eulogize Him in death but to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil and to rejoice in the new and everlasting life He won for us!

O crucified and risen Lord Jesus, grant that we might see and believe the message of the angel and rejoice in Your triumph over sin and death that we might have the certain hope of life everlasting in You. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Words of Encouragement for April 16, 2014

“The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified … Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:21-22,26

If you were in the crowd outside the Praetorium on that first Good Friday and you heard these words of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, offering to release unto you either Jesus or Barabbas, what would you say? Would you ask that Jesus, who was innocent and without sin, who claimed to be the very Son of God, be released unto you? Or would you join the crowd in asking for Barabbas, a notorious prisoner who was a robber, rebel and murderer (cf. v.16; John. 18:40; Mark 15:6-7)?

What would you say after the crowd asked for Barabbas and Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, who is called Christ? Would you join the crowd in crying out of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified”? We say that we would not. But, if we remember why Jesus was crucified and condemned, we must admit that every time we sin, we do say of Jesus, “Crucify Him!” When we sin, we add to the burden of His cross!

Now, if you were Barabbas, in a prison cell and chains, expecting to die for your crimes, what would you do if the soldiers came and set you free – if they told you that you had been pardoned by the governor and were free because an innocent man by the name of Jesus was being crucified in your stead? How would you feel?

Isn’t this exactly what has happened to each and every one of us? We are guilty of sin – we have broken God’s Law and are guilty of insurrection (rebellion) against God Himself! Which commandments have we not broken? We deserve to be condemned by God to the eternal fires of hell which He prepared for the devil and his evil angels! But what has happened? God’s Word has been proclaimed to us – we have been told that God has pardoned and forgiven us because His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, suffered upon the cross the full punishment for all our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 3:10,13; Col. 1:21-22; 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:4-6; etc.).

Now, we don’t know for certain what happened to Barabbas after this; but we might just consider a couple of hypothetical possibilities. What if Barabbas had rejected his pardon? What if he had said, “I want to be tried and judged on my own merits”? There seems to be little doubt but that he would be condemned and probably put to death – possibly even on a cross. What if he accepted his pardon and went back out robbing and killing and rebelling against the Roman Government? Would he not be arrested and condemned for his new crimes?

What about us? God has pardoned us for Jesus’ sake. What if we say, “No, thanks. I will stand before the judgment seat of God on my own merit”? The Bible is quite clear. If we refuse to accept God’s pardon, we shall be punished for not believing on the name of God’s only begotten Son and our Savior (cf. John 3:18). What if we accept God’s pardon but then use our gift of freedom to intentionally continue on in our sinful ways? Will we not be judged and condemned of God for continuing to rebel against Him? Cf. Hebrews 6:4ff.; 10:26ff.; 2 Pet. 2:20-22. The Scriptures leave no question about the end result.

It is true that we by our sins are guilty of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. With the crowd on Good Friday, we by our sins say of Jesus, “Let Him be crucified!” But because Jesus went to the cross for us, we, who are guilty like Barabbas, have been pardoned and set free! God has graciously forgiven our sins against Him, and He offers and gives to us everlasting life with Him in heaven.

Let us give thanks unto our Savior for bearing upon the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins that we might be acquitted and partake of the everlasting blessings of heaven. And, let us use our lives here in this world to the praise and glory of Him who has redeemed us and set us free.

O Dearest Jesus, we thank and praise Thee for bearing upon the tree of the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins. Amen.

 

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:45-46

What is it like to be forsaken by one you love? Think about – imagine, if you will – what it would be like to be rejected and forsaken by the one most dear to you. (For some, this has happened.) How would you feel? Would you not feel devastated and crushed? If this rejection were the result of some sin or failure on your part, it would be more understandable, but nonetheless painful.

Now think how the LORD God must feel! He created us in His image – to live for Him and do His will (Gen. 1:26-27). He loved us and gave His own Son to die for us and redeem us from our sin (1 John 4:9-10). He has blessed us with all that we need in life, our food, clothes, houses, etc. (James 1:17; Psalm 145:15-16). Yet, we have forsaken God!

The Bible tells us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6a); and “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his masters crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (Isa. 1:2-4).

We deserve also to be forsaken of God and condemned for our sins against Him. He would be perfectly “justified” if He were to condemn us in His judgment (Ps. 51:4); for all of us have sinned against Him and deserve to be forsaken and cast into the everlasting fires of hell which He has prepared for the devil and his evil angels (cf. Rom. 3:23; 6:23a; Matt. 25:41).

We may have, at times, felt the wrath of God upon us (Ps. 32:3-4), but God has not forsaken us! Instead He laid our sins upon His own Son, Jesus Christ, and forsook and condemned Him as He hung upon the cross. The Bible tells us that “the Lord hath laid on Him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b).

We read that “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (cf. Ps. 22).

Even if we can imagine how it would feel to be forsaken by one dearest us, we cannot begin to grasp what it was like for our Lord Jesus to be forsaken and condemned of His own heavenly Father! And this happened, not because of any sin or fault in Him, but because of our sin and faults. As our catechism explains, Christ truly suffered for us the tortures of the damned in hell (Qu. 138).

Will God condemn and forsake us on the Day of His Judgment? Not if we have faith in Christ; for He has already been forsaken and condemned of God for our sins, and He rose again in victory (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3,4; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18)!

Jesus tells us, “He that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:18); and, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Those who trust in Christ will never be forsaken of the LORD!

O Dear Jesus, we thank You for bearing upon the cross the curse and condemnation for our sins that we might never be condemned and forsaken of God the Father, but have everlasting life with You in heaven. Amen.

 

Why do Christians celebrate Easter?

While some are quick to criticize Christians for celebrating Easter and point to ancient pagan observances in spring and to worldly customs involving such things as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny, Christians celebrate Easter for none of these things. They have an entirely different reason to observe the festival and to celebrate. Christians observe Easter to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion just outside the walls of Jerusalem.

For the critics, it is true that Easter Sunday, set on the first Sunday immediately following the Paschal full moon, does not always fall on the third day after the Jewish Passover. But since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Christian churches observe the day of His resurrection on a Sunday each year even though Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes observe the festival on a different Sunday than Western churches because of their use of the astronomical full moon rather than the Pascal full moon. Yet, all of this is neither here nor there. It wouldn’t be an issue if Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth in July and His resurrection in November, because it’s not about the date of the observance but the event that is remembered.

At Easter, we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the crux upon which Christianity either stands or falls. If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, His death on the cross for the sins of the world would have been insufficient and there would be no promise or certainty of forgiveness of sins, our being accepted by God or of our own resurrection and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:14-19 KJV): “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

But the Bible goes on to say (1 Cor. 15:20 KJV): “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

Jesus’ resurrection proves that His death was a ransom accepted by God for the sins of the world (cf. Rom. 4:25) and that God, for Jesus’ sake, reaches out to us, lost and prodigal sons and daughters, with mercy and forgiveness. His resurrection proves that Jesus was true to His word that He would rise again on the third day, and it gives us the assurance that He can and will raise up all who have believed in His name unto everlasting life.

How do we know that Jesus really did rise from the dead? By eyewitness accounts.

Again, St. Paul summarizes the evidence for us (1 Cor. 15:3-8 KJV): “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

If anyone had doubts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus in the first century, there were plenty of living eye witnesses who could attest to seeing Jesus alive again following His crucifixion. Our faith rests upon the testimony of those witnesses recorded for us in the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as in the Old testament prophecies of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Christianity would be no different than other religions of the world which tell people all the things they must do or not do to be accepted by and one with their god and maker. Christianity is the only religion which teaches that man does not and cannot measure up to God’s perfect standards because we are all fallen sinners. Instead of man somehow reaching up, the Bible teaches that God reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ and redeemed us from the guilt and condemnation of our sins by the innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. Rom. 3:23-24). Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that we indeed have been redeemed to God! And it is proof that we who have placed our hope in Him will be raised up from our graves on the Last Day to the eternal joys of His kingdom!

And yes, this is cause to celebrate and rejoice! It is a reason to join together and sing God’s praises for accomplishing the salvation of lost and condemned sinners, for winning for all pardon and forgiveness, and for offering and giving the blessings of forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in Jesus’ name!

“I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living Head” (Samuel Medley).

 

If Christ Be Not Raised….

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-20

Today, we as Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave after His crucifixion and brutal death upon a Roman cross just days before.
But not all believe in the resurrection. Even among so called “Christians” there are some who question and deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus and treat the whole issue of Jesus’ bodily resurrection as an insignificant matter, speaking only of a spiritual resurrection in which Jesus’ followers carry on His work by showing love and doing charitable works for the good of all mankind.

But is the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection really important? Does our faith really depend upon it? I invite you to listen to the inspired Word of God penned by the hand of the Apostle Paul and consider the hypothetical question: What “if Christ be not raised”?

“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

What does the Word of God say? If Jesus did not truly rise from the dead, our faith is vain, empty and useless! If Jesus is not alive, you and I are still dead in our sins and have no hope of forgiveness and life everlasting. If Jesus’ body is still moldering or decaying in some ancient tomb near Jerusalem, all those who died trusting in Jesus Christ – from Adam and Eve, Abraham and David to our very own loved ones who fell asleep in the confidences that Jesus would raise them up are lost forever.

And if our faith and hope in Christ Jesus is only of benefit in this life – a crutch or security blanket to help us cope with life’s problems – we are, as St. Paul writes, “of all men most miserable.”

Think of the Apostle Paul and the other disciples of Jesus who suffered the loss of all things and were persecuted and even killed because of their faith in the crucified and risen Christ. If Christ did not rise, what a waste the lives of his followers were! And what about you and me? If Christ be not raised, all our time and effort put into serving Christ and spreading His kingdom would have been a sham, a deception and a complete waste of our time and resources.

If Jesus were not raised, we would have nothing to celebrate today, no reason to be here on Sunday mornings and no hope for tomorrow! Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, there can be no Christianity, no Church, no kingdom of God!

But Jesus did rise bodily from the grave! The tomb was empty. Angels announced His resurrection, and Jesus Himself appeared to His disciples showing Himself to be risen and alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days (cf. Acts 1:3). Jesus appeared to the women, to the twelve apostles and to many other of His disciples on numerous occasions.

The apostle sums up Jesus’ resurrection appearances in this way: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

You see, if anyone during the First Century had questions or doubts about Jesus’ resurrection, there was no shortage of eyewitnesses to His resurrection appearances. He even appeared to more than 500 disciples at once, and most of them were still alive if anyone wanted to talk to them and hear their eyewitness accounts. The Apostle Paul includes himself in the list of witnesses because of the risen Christ’s appearances to Him.

The Jewish rulers who tried to cover up the fact of Jesus’ resurrection by bribing the soldiers to say Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they were asleep – in itself, a foolish story – could have put an end to all question if they had just produced the body, but they didn’t and they couldn’t because there was not a body to be found – they knew the tomb was empty! And, if such a story were true, why would Jesus’ disciples give up everything, including their lives, to promote a lie? They wouldn’t have; but they did give up all, they did suffer painful and torturous deaths for one reason: Jesus did rise, as He said.

And what does the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection mean for us today? It means our faith is not empty or vain. Jesus did indeed pay in full the just punishment for the sins of the whole world, for God raised Him up on the third day (cf. Romans 4:25). We, by the grace of God, are not still dead in our sins. Your sins and my sins are paid for in full and forgiven because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice.

It means that we too will be raised up, Christ, the first fruits, and we also when He returns. As Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). It means those who have fallen asleep before us, trusting in the Lord Jesus, have not perished. They are not lost forever. Rather, those who “sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” on the Last Day (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Yes, it’s true. Everything depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, all is lost, no one can be saved. But Jesus did rise! And, because He died for all our sins and rose again in victory, we have forgiveness for all sins and the assurance that we too shall be raised up to be with Him forever in paradise!

Dearest Lord Jesus, we give You thanks and praise for Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, and for Your glorious resurrection on the third day, that we might be assured of our salvation and await Your return in the sure hope of life everlasting, Graciously keep us unto that Day. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 56; 1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 28:1-10. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:5-6

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Jessica Evans and Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Maundy Thursday Worship with Holy Communion is planned for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17. Good Friday Worship will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Resurrection Sunday is April 20.

An Easter breakfast, hosted at the church by Mike and Kathy Hawes, is planned for Sunday, April 20. Serving will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until shortly before the Sunday School/Bible Class hour at 9 a.m. Easter worship will follow at 10 a.m.

The Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30.

A special congregational Pot-Luck Dinner will be held on Sunday, May 4, after worship, to commemorate God’s blessings upon our church. A brief voters’ meeting will follow the dinner.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

Why do Christians celebrate Easter?

While some are quick to criticize Christians for celebrating Easter and point to ancient pagan observances in spring and to worldly customs involving such things as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny, Christians celebrate Easter for none of these things. They have an entirely different reason to observe the festival and to celebrate. Christians observe Easter to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion just outside the walls of Jerusalem.

For the critics, it is true that Easter Sunday, set on the first Sunday immediately following the Paschal full moon, does not always fall on the third day after the Jewish Passover. But since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Christian churches observe the day of His resurrection on a Sunday each year even though Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes observe the festival on a different Sunday than Western churches because of their use of the astronomical full moon rather than the Pascal full moon. Yet, all of this is neither here nor there. It wouldn’t be an issue if Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth in July and His resurrection in November, because it’s not about the date of the observance but the event that is remembered.

At Easter, we as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the crux upon which Christianity either stands or falls. If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, His death on the cross for the sins of the world would have been insufficient and there would be no promise or certainty of forgiveness of sins, our being accepted by God or of our own resurrection and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:14-19 KJV): “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

But the Bible goes on to say (1 Cor. 15:20 KJV): “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

Jesus’ resurrection proves that His death was a ransom accepted by God for the sins of the world (cf. Rom. 4:25) and that God, for Jesus’ sake, reaches out to us, lost and prodigal sons and daughters, with mercy and forgiveness. His resurrection proves that Jesus was true to His word that He would rise again on the third day, and it gives us the assurance that He can and will raise up all who have believed in His name unto everlasting life.

How do we know that Jesus really did rise from the dead? By eyewitness accounts.

Again, St. Paul summarizes the evidence for us (1 Cor. 15:3-8 KJV): “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

If anyone had doubts about the bodily resurrection of Jesus in the first century, there were plenty of living eye witnesses who could attest to seeing Jesus alive again following His crucifixion. Our faith rests upon the testimony of those witnesses recorded for us in the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as in the Old testament prophecies of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Christianity would be no different than other religions of the world which tell people all the things they must do or not do to be accepted by and one with their god and maker. Christianity is the only religion which teaches that man does not and cannot measure up to God’s perfect standards because we are all fallen sinners. Instead of man somehow reaching up, the Bible teaches that God reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ and redeemed us from the guilt and condemnation of our sins by the innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. Rom. 3:23-24). Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that we indeed have been redeemed to God! And it is proof that we who have placed our hope in Him will be raised up from our graves on the Last Day to the eternal joys of His kingdom!

And yes, this is cause to celebrate and rejoice! It is a reason to join together and sing God’s praises for accomplishing the salvation of lost and condemned sinners, for winning for all pardon and forgiveness, and for offering and giving the blessings of forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in Jesus’ name!

“I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living Head” (Samuel Medley).

Except a kernel of wheat die….

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:24-25

If a kernel of wheat is safely kept and preserved, it remains only one kernel of wheat. However, if it is planted in the ground and dies to itself, it will produce much fruit – many more kernels of wheat.

Jesus used this illustration from nature to point out that He, should He preserve His life and be unwilling to die for the sins of the world, would remain alone and save no one. But by going to the cross and dying for the sins of the world, He would produce much fruit. He would rise from the grave victorious over sin and death and offer and give salvation to sinners like you and me.

Jesus did not try to preserve His earthly life and avoid suffering the just punishment for our sins. He obeyed God’s laws perfectly in our stead and then willingly laid down His life for us sinners. Like a grain of wheat that must sacrifice itself in order to produce more wheat, so Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to save mankind from sin and its eternal punishment.

Thus, all who believe in Him receive the assurance that their sins are forgiven because Jesus suffered upon the cross the just punishment for their sins; and they are assured that they will be raised up on the Last Day unto life everlasting because Christ rose from the dead in victory and ascended into heaven.

The Bible says: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4); and, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).

This little illustration about the kernel of wheat can be applied to our own lives as well. We cannot save ourselves or anyone else from sin and hell by our death; but since Christ has redeemed us by His innocent sufferings and death, we are to live our lives for Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15). If in this life, we live for ourselves and are unwilling to trust on the Lord Jesus and follow Him by living in accord with His Word, if we are not willing to deny ourselves, take up the cross of suffering which we must bear as faithful Christians and follow Christ, then we will end up losing our lives forever! But if we truly trust in Christ as our Savior and set our hope upon eternal life with Him in heaven, we will then lay down our worldly goals and the pleasures of this life and live our lives for the Lord Jesus, who has given Himself to redeem us from sin and hell and has given to us everlasting life with Him in heaven!

Grant that I only Thee may love and seek those things which are above till I behold thee face to face, O Light eternal, through Thy grace. Amen. (TLH, Hymn #398, Verse 4).

 [Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for April 9, 2014

(For those who have not read this on our website or in the Westside Eagle Observer newspaper, it is reprinted below:)

Tetelestai: One dying word that says it all!

It is sometimes said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that may very well be true. But sometimes a single word can also express a truth better than a thousand; and in one particular case, that is most certainly true.

Before He yielded up His spirit and died upon the cross, Jesus uttered what is expressed in a single Greek word: “Tetelestai.” This single Greek word is translated with three English words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And, indeed it was: Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, had fulfilled all that was written of Him and had paid in full for the sins of the whole world! He had accomplished the redemption of all mankind — God’s just wrath against sin had been satisfied and God’s pardon won!

Jesus was hanging in agony during those final moments upon the cross. His mouth was dry from gasping for every breath. He asked for a drink; and after receiving vinegar on a sponge, He proclaimed what the Greek says in a single word, “Tetelestai,” that all was finished and our salvation won!

What does this single word of Jesus mean for you and for me? It means our sins — indeed the sins of the whole world — are paid for in full! It means that God’s favor is won! He no longer holds our sins against us but is gracious and merciful to us for the sake of His Son and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead! It means that, no matter what we have done, Jesus paid the price and God reaches down to us with mercy and forgiveness and offers us a place in His everlasting kingdom!

This single word assures us that all is done and our salvation in Jesus is sure! There is nothing we must do or add to Jesus’ completed work! “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”! And Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves the truthfulness of this single, dying word.

Yet, sad to say, many do not preach “Tetelestai.” They don’t preach as though Christ paid in full and salvation is won. They may say that Jesus died for all sins and rose again. They may even proclaim God’s pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, but then they err by adding conditions to it and requiring their hearers to do certain works or live in a certain way before their sins can be forgiven and the way to heaven be opened to them.

“Tetelestai” means our redemption is complete — Jesus paid in full when He suffered and died for our sins and rose again in victory on the third day! Our salvation is not dependent upon doing certain works, making a decision, speaking a prayer or living according to certain commandments. Our salvation is entirely dependent upon Jesus’ perfect and holy life in our stead and upon His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for our sins. And, “IT IS FINISHED”!

To preach “tetelestai” is not to say, God will save you if you do this, believe that, live like this or pray that prayer. Preaching “tetelestai” is to say God has redeemed you through the death of His Son, your sins are paid for in full and forgiven, God has pardoned you and accepts you, it is finished, it is done, believe it and accept it as an accomplished fact!

The Gospel tells us that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). It tells us that “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2). The Gospel tells us “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4). It tells us that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:6,7). The Gospel proclaims a finished and accomplished redemption upon which man may base his faith, not a conditional redemption which becomes true only if and when a man believes.

Jesus said, “Tetelestai” — “It is finished.” Jesus paid in full. Indeed, He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

How much better to preach the completed work of Christ — that He has fulfilled and completed all for us! Then the hearer who knows his life comes far short of God’s holiness or who is too timid to walk down to the altar or to fill out a decision card can go away with the assurance that His sins are paid for in full and forgiven in Christ’s shed blood and that in Christ Jesus he has eternal life.

When one is given this “tetelestai” assurance, commitment and devotion to Christ — even though imperfect in this life — are certain to follow.

Don’t forget Jesus’ final word on the subject of our salvation: “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”!

 

An injustice that fulfilled justice

“And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people. Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:13-25

What an injustice! Jesus was found innocent by Pontius Pilate, and also Herod; and yet He was condemned and crucified to please the people. Barabbas, on the other hand, was clearly guilty of sedition and murder, and yet he was acquitted and released.

But much more was occurring here than an injustice in the court systems of men; God was executing justice in condemning His own dear Son for the sins of the whole world – for your sins and mine!

If God were to judge and condemn us for our sins, that would be justice; “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; cf. Eccl. 7:20; Psalm 51:4).

We, like Barabbas, are guilty of insurrection and murder. We have rebelled against the LORD our Maker and disobeyed His commandments; and we are guilty of murder every time we hate another, for “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).

But Jesus was not only guiltless of any crime punishable in human courts; He was without sin in thoughts, desires, words and deeds – guiltless before God the Father (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). Yet, instead of condemning us, God judged and condemned His own Son for our sins that we might be acquitted.

The Bible says of Jesus: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24); and, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18; cf. Matt. 27:46).

It is because God condemned His own Son – because “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins and … the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2) – that God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9; cf. Rom. 3:23-26).

It is as the hymn verse states: “The sinless Son of God must die in sadness; The sinful child of man may live in gladness; Man forfeited his life and is acquitted – God is committed” (O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken. TLH, Hymn # 143, Verse 5).

By faith in Jesus, we sinners take hold of this glorious truth, trust in Christ our Savior, and receive the blessings of pardon, peace and life everlasting!

O Dearest Jesus, Thou sinless Lamb of God, we thank Thee for bearing upon the cross the guilt and punishment for our sins, that we might be forgiven of all our sins and acquitted before God the Father. Grant us Thy Holy Spirit and faith in Thee as our Savior, and graciously keep us trusting in Thee unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

Today shalt thou be with me in paradise

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

Like the thief on the cross who mocked and blasphemed the Lord Jesus, so also today many people speak against Christ and His Word rather than acknowledging their sins and turning to Him for forgiveness and life (v. 39). Rather than admitting their faults and failures, people find it easier to speak against and reject the Light of the world who shines into the darkness (cf. John 1:5; 8:12; 1 John 1:5ff.).

Rather than joining the world in their blasphemy and mockery of Christ, let us be like the second malefactor and acknowledge our sin and the punishment which we justly deserve and turn to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life eternal (v. 40-43)!

Jesus had done nothing wrong, but He was crucified and condemned for our sins and the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1,2). When we humble ourselves before Him and confess our sin and failure to obey God’s holy Law, He is gracious and merciful to us and will forgive our sins for the sake of His holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross (1 John 1:8-9).

From Jesus’ words to the dying thief, we see that He is merciful even to the worst of sinners. No matter how great our sins have been, Christ’s blood covers them all (1 John 1:7)!

We also learn the glorious truth that the very day a believer dies, if he trusts in Jesus Christ for mercy, his soul shall be with Jesus in paradise! With the dying thief we pray, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And on our dying day we shall have the assurance of Jesus’ words: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Dear Lord Jesus, we know that You have done nothing amiss, but are holy and righteous. We, on the other hand, are miserable sinners, deserving of Your eternal wrath and punishment. For the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross, cleanse us from the guilt and filth of our sin and remember us when You come in Your glorious, eternal kingdom. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 55; Genesis 1:26-31; John 12:12-43. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis, in chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:24-25

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Jessica Evans and Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Lenten Services continue tonight at 7 p.m. The service will be preceded by a soup and sandwich luncheon at 6:20 p.m.

Church Cleaning is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 12. A signup sheet is on the bulletin board.

Maundy Thursday Worship with Holy Communion is planned for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17. Good Friday Worship will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Resurrection Sunday is April 20.

An Easter breakfast, hosted at the church by Mike and Kathy Hawes, is planned for Sunday, April 20. Serving will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until shortly before the Sunday School/Bible Class hour at 9 a.m. Easter worship will follow at 10 a.m.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Is there life after death? What does Jesus say?

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?” John 11:25 (Read all of John 11.)

If only Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died! So thought both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters (John 11:21, 32). We too may have had similar thoughts when we have lost a loved one to death — if only Jesus would have been here!

Yet Lazarus’ death was for the glory of Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh (John 11:4). Jesus was going to raise him up from the dead. When those who have trusted in Christ are raised up again on the Last Day and given everlasting life in heaven, this too will bring glory to God the Son; for without His innocent sufferings and death in our stead and His glorious resurrection on the third day, we would only rise to the eternal torments of hell!

When Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again, she said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23,24). It is then that Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). Jesus was telling Martha that, not only would her brother rise again on the Last Day, but He (Jesus) is “the resurrection, and the life”! Jesus is the One who will raise up all the dead on the Last Day, and Jesus is the one who gives life. He breathed life into Adam’s breathless body at creation (Gen. 2:7); He breathes spiritual life into us today (John 1:4; 5:21,24-26; 10:10); and He will raise up all the dead on the Last Day and give eternal life to all who have believed on Him (John 5:27-29)!

And so it is that the one who trusts in Jesus as his Savior, even if he dies, shall live again; for Jesus, the resurrection and the life, will raise him up at the Last Day. And whoever lives and trusts in Jesus shall in no way [Greek double negative] ever die forever and ever into eternity; for even when the body dies, the soul goes to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:1-9; Rev. 7:9-17). Then on the Last Day, when Jesus returns and raises up the dead, their bodies will be raised up and reunited with their souls, and they will live forever with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15)!

Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that it is He who will raise the dead and give everlasting life to all who believe on Him? Consider the evidence. Not only did He heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind, He raised the dead. When Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus, who had been dead already four days, He said “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43), and Lazarus walked from the tomb alive! Not only this, but after His own death upon the cross for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day in victory that we might be assured of forgiveness and life in His name!

O dearest Jesus, grant us faith to trust in You as our Savior and hold fast to You, even in death, that we might be raised up on the Last Day, at the sound of Your voice, unto life everlasting and to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Tetelestai: One dying word that says it all

It is sometimes said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that may very well be true. But sometimes a single word can also express a truth better than a thousand; and in one particular case, that is most certainly true.

Before He yielded up His spirit and died upon the cross, Jesus uttered what is expressed in a single Greek word: “Tetelestai.” This single Greek word is translated with three English words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And, indeed it was: Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, had fulfilled all that was written of Him and had paid in full for the sins of the whole world! He had accomplished the redemption of all mankind — God’s just wrath against sin had been satisfied and God’s pardon won!

Jesus was hanging in agony during those final moments upon the cross. His mouth was dry from gasping for every breath. He asked for a drink; and after receiving vinegar on a sponge, He proclaimed what the Greek says in a single word, “Tetelestai,” that all was finished and our salvation won!

What does this single word of Jesus mean for you and for me? It means our sins — indeed the sins of the whole world — are paid for in full! It means that God’s favor is won! He no longer holds our sins against us but is gracious and merciful to us for the sake of His Son and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead! It means that, no matter what we have done, Jesus paid the price and God reaches down to us with mercy and forgiveness and offers us a place in His everlasting kingdom!

This single word assures us that all is done and our salvation in Jesus is sure! There is nothing we must do or add to Jesus’ completed work! “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”! And Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves the truthfulness of this single, dying word.

Yet, sad to say, many do not preach “Tetelestai.” They don’t preach as though Christ paid in full and salvation is won. They may say that Jesus died for all sins and rose again. They may even proclaim God’s pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, but then they err by adding conditions to it and requiring their hearers to do certain works or live in a certain way before their sins can be forgiven and the way to heaven be opened to them.

“Tetelestai” means our redemption is complete — Jesus paid in full when He suffered and died for our sins and rose again in victory on the third day! Our salvation is not dependent upon doing certain works, making a decision, speaking a prayer or living according to certain commandments. Our salvation is entirely dependent upon Jesus’ perfect and holy life in our stead and upon His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for our sins. And, “IT IS FINISHED”!

To preach “tetelestai” is not to say, God will save you if you do this, believe that, live like this or pray that prayer. Preaching “tetelestai” is to say God has redeemed you through the death of His Son, your sins are paid for in full and forgiven, God has pardoned you and accepts you, it is finished, it is done, believe it and accept it as an accomplished fact!

The Gospel tells us that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). It tells us that “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2). The Gospel tells us “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). It tells us that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:6, 7). The Gospel proclaims a finished and accomplished redemption upon which man may base his faith, not a conditional redemption which becomes true only if and when a man believes.

Jesus said, “Tetelestai” — “It is finished.” Jesus paid in full. Indeed, He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).

How much better to preach the completed work of Christ — that He has fulfilled and completed all for us! Then the hearer who knows his life comes far short of God’s holiness or who is too timid to walk down to the altar or to fill out a decision card can go away with the assurance that His sins are paid for in full and forgiven in Christ’s shed blood and that in Christ Jesus he has eternal life.

When one is given this “tetelestai” assurance, commitment and devotion to Christ — even though imperfect in this life — are certain to follow.

Don’t forget Jesus’ final word on the subject of our salvation: “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”!

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version or the Greek New Testament]

 

Words of Encouragement for April 2, 2014

“And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not.” Luke 22:57 (Read Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)

Do we ever deny Jesus? Do we openly follow our Lord Jesus Christ, professing our faith in Him? Or, do we shrink back and hide our faith lest others make fun of us or ridicule us?

Have you told your classmates and fellow workers that you are a Christian, that you trust in Jesus Christ and His holy life and innocent sufferings and death for your salvation? Or, do you keep your faith to yourself and hidden from the view of the world?

Peter, who was called to be an apostle of Jesus, called to tell others of Christ, said he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and death (cf. vv. 31-34)! Yet that same night, when faced with the fear of being arrested and punished for his association with Jesus, He denied three times even knowing Him (cf. vv. 54-62).

Jesus said, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9); and, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

If we truly think about this and consider Jesus’ words to us, should we not also do as Peter did, and “go out and weep bitterly?” Should we not be moved to sorrow over our denials of Jesus? Should we not lament our failures to confess our faith in Christ Jesus in this dark and sinful world?

Not only should we weep and lament over our sins – over our denials of Jesus – we ought also remember that Jesus did not deny us. Even though we have often failed to speak of Him and confess Him before men, He did not fail us. Rather, He took our sins upon Himself and went to the cross in our stead that we might receive pardon and forgiveness of God. For the sake of Jesus’ holy life, His innocent sufferings and death for our sins, and His glorious resurrection, God is “good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon” Him (Ps. 86:5). Our Lord Jesus said, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

When, by the grace of God, we turn to our Lord Jesus for mercy, He forgives our sins and gives us everlasting life with Him. He loves us and washes us from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5). He does not deny us and cast us aside, but He reaches out to save us with His arms of mercy and forgiveness!

Let us turn to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and life! Since Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, let us then also follow Christ Jesus our Savior, confess Him before men and devote our lives to His cause – the cause of bringing lost and condemned sinners to Jesus!

O Dearest Jesus, we lament our sins against You. Forgive us for shrinking back from You and denying You. We thank You that You did not deny us, but willingly went to the cross to suffer and die for our sins and to redeem us from the everlasting torments of hell. Move us to truly love You with all our hearts and souls, to follow You and to confess You before men, telling them all that You have done for our salvation. Amen.

 

“And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee?” Luke 22:64 (Read v. 63-65)

What do you think Jesus thought when they did this – when they blindfolded Him, hit Him on the face and asked Him to prophesy and tell them who had hit him? Did Jesus know who had hit Him? Without a doubt, for Jesus, the very Son of God, knows all things (cf. Luke 5:17-26, esp. v. 22; Luke 9:46-48; John 1:47ff.; etc.)!

Perhaps the best answer to this question is revealed in Luke 23:34, where Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Though we would probably be moved to anger and hatred if this were to happen to us, Jesus, having perfect love for all men, probably felt sorrow in His heart and prayed for these men that they might repent and come to know Him as the true God and their Savior from sin and eternal torment in hell.

Reading these verses, we may think, “How stupid of these men to blindfold Jesus and think that He did not know who was striking Him!” Yet, do we not attempt to do the same thing when we seek to hide our evil ways from Jesus’ eyes? Do we not do the same when we set aside and break God’s commandments in our homes, at our work, in school, when with our friends or when alone and no one else can see? It is like we blindfold Jesus and pretend that He cannot see us!

And do we strike Him? We may say that we are not doing this to Jesus, but why is it that He was arrested, mocked, beaten and crucified? Was it not for your sins and mine? Are we not guilty of slapping Jesus in the face and pounding those nails into His hands and His feet everytime we turn aside from following Him and keeping His holy commandments?

We may like to pretend that Jesus doesn’t know – that He doesn’t see; but the Bible says: “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24). We know that our Lord sees and knows – that nothing is hidden from His sight (cf. Jer. 16:17; Matt. 10:26).

What does our Lord Jesus think as we blindfold Him and hit Him? He would be justified if He were to be angry with us and condemn us for our sins and wickedness. Yet, we know that He desires that none of us “perish,” but that all would “come to repentance” and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). He is our “Advocate with the Father … He is the propitiation for our sins and…the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). And He prays: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Instead of hiding your sins from the Lord Jesus, repent and confess them unto Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

O Dearest Jesus, forgive us for attempting to cover Your eyes and sin against You. Forgive us for striking You and driving the nails into Your hands and feet. Cleanse us with Your holy and precious blood and move us to truly love You and live our lives for You in accord with Your perfect will. Amen.

 

Pastor Moll has posted a series of Lenten devotions based on Isaiah 53 at http://www.goodshepherdrogers.org/2014/03/19/lenten-devotions-from-isaiah-53.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 54; Genesis 1; John 11. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Genesis. Last Sunday, we finished watching a debate on creation and evolution between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. For those who missed part of the debate or wish to review it, it can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI.

More answers to questions raised in the debate can be found at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/features/debate-answers or by searching the Answers in Genesis website at http://www.answersingenesis.org.

 

Verse to Remember

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Jessica Evans and Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Lenten Services will continue on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The Wednesday services will be preceded by a soup and sandwich luncheon at 6:20 p.m.

A Pot-Luck Dinner will follow our worship service on Sunday. All are welcome and invited to join us.

Church Cleaning is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 12. A signup sheet is on the bulletin board. Floor stripping and waxing will be April 4 and 5. Volunteers will also be needed to move chairs and furnishings.

Maundy Thursday Worship with Holy Communion is planned for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17. Good Friday Worship will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Resurrection Sunday is April 20.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

 

Can You See Jesus?

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” John 9:39 (Read John 9:1-41)

Could it be that your own opinions and beliefs are keeping you from knowing and trusting in Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world? Do you turn from Him and reject His mighty work as your Savior because He, somehow, doesn’t fit into your religious views and ideas?

When Jesus healed a man born blind, the blind man came to know and believe that Jesus was indeed the promised Christ and the Son of God spoken of in the

Scriptures (cf. Ps. 2:7). But the Pharisees, even though it was indisputable that Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind (cf. Isa. 42:7), refused to believe on Him and had even agreed that anyone who came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the Jewish synagogue. Because Jesus had made clay and healed this man on the sabbath, they said He was not of God and called Him a sinner.

Thus, a man born blind was given sight – both physical and spiritual – and came to know and trust in Jesus as the Son of God and his Savior from sin. The Pharisees, on the other hand, though they could see with their eyes and knew of Jesus’ mighty working, refused to see and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world. Their own religious views and opinions blinded their eyes to the truth which was so clearly revealed to them. Thus, they forfeited the forgiveness Christ Jesus won for them.

But what about us? Do we let our own religious views and opinions keep us from coming to Christ Jesus in faith? Are we so convinced that God will accept us on the basis of our own religious works and righteousness that we do not see our utter sinfulness and the salvation Christ Jesus freely won for all when He fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world? (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2; 1 Tim. 1:15). And if Jesus were to come to us today, would we reject Him if He did not observe our customs or worship in the same way as we worship?

The clear and unmistakable truth revealed to us in the Bible is this: we are all sinners and have come short of what God requires of us; Jesus is the Christ, true God and true man; He fulfilled all righteousness for us; He suffered and died upon the cross to pay for the sins of all and rose again; and in Him and for His sake, God is gracious and merciful to us and freely offers and gives to us pardon, forgiveness and life everlasting. When God graciously opens our eyes and brings us to know and believe these truths, we have His pardon and forgiveness and everlasting life. When we shut our eyes to these truths and refuse to believe in Jesus, we die in our sins and will suffer the eternal torments of hell (cf. Rom. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; John 3:16,18,36; 1 John 5:11-12).

Open my eyes, O Lord, and let me see Jesus for who He is and trust in Him for forgiveness, life and salvation. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]