Dashed Hopes In Christ

Hopelessness

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21a).

These words were spoken by the men taking a journey to Emmaus whom Jesus approached and started asking questions of. Apparantly, they were discussing the events that had happened; i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Jesus joined them and asked a question. Scripture says somehow, they couldn’t recognise him:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus , about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them . But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:13-17a).

The first response to that question Scripture tells us was sadness: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Luke 24:17b). These words are not encouraging since it showed a sense of disappointment. Now what better explains all of this is that these were people with misplaced hopes of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They had defined Christ’s ministry according to their most immediate felt needs. During Jesus’ lifetime on earth, the Jewish nation was under Roman rule and hence the Messiah, in their understanding was going to deliver them from that rule. Another of such misplaced hopes is seen in Acts 1:6 before Christ’s ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” the disciples asked.

You see, one thing is clear here. Their agenda differed from God’s. While they looked to the restoration of Israel from Roman rule; God’s agenda was on a global scale gathering a “great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Many people in the same sense come to Christ with wrong hopes. Some come with the hope of an improved life, better life prospects, looking for a spouse, seeking healing for a disease etc. In the gospels, we see a group of people who sought Christ for the wrong reasons. And Christ rejected them:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus f on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).

Clearly, these people didn’t have a true heart in seeking after Christ. And Christ knowing what is in man (speaking of his divinity) rejected them. Now it is one thing to come genuinely to Christ for salvation and another thing to come with our expectations rather than his will. In such situations, you are likely to have your hopes dashed and blame Jesus or say Christianity doesn’t offer what it promises. No, in actual fact, Christianity doesn’t promise some of the things people hold so dearly like prosperity and a good health.

So we are not disappointed in our walk with Christ, let’s bear in mind the only thing guaranteed and promised in Christ is the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life if we come to him by faith and turn from our old ways. All other things apart from these are not guaranteed and will lead to dashed hopes.

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Christ Was Crucified For Our Sins

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I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38; 19:4;6).

Three times in his trial, Jesus–the Great and Sovereign Judge of all—was found not guilty by a human judge Pilate. However, justice was perverted and an innocent life killed.

Though innocent, his death was to keep in line with biblical prophecy. His death was no random death in human history. He came to die for the sins of humankind. Isaiah prophesied of his death saying: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). Matthew narrating the annunciation recorded the angel telling Mary “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). John the Baptist, calling the attention of the people gathered, pointed to Christ saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

Apostle Peter reflecting on Jesus’ death quoted Isaiah saying: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Peter 2:24). Finally apostle Paul also summarised the intent of Christ’s death saying: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21).

All the biblical writers attested to this one truth that Christ died for sinners. He gave his life so we might have life and be reconciled to God through faith. Jesus died so sinners will be delivered from eternal damnation: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The message of Easter is Christ’s death for sinners. God condemns all human beings as sinners separated from him and culpable of death (Isaiah 53:6,Romans 3:23;6:23). However, hope is provided in the death and resurrection of Christ to reconcile sinners unto himself (1Peter 2:25).

The Great Work Of Salvation

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Israel was carried into captivity from their land of habitation into foreign lands. (Ezekiel 36:16-20) because of sin. Ezekiel as a priest and prophet of God was among those carried into captivity hence the scene of his prophecies is that of captivity (Ezekiel 1:1). In Ezekiel 36, God announces a restoration of the nation Israel despite their sin and rebellion: “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land” (v.24). In these prophetic words of restoration, we learn many lessons about how God restores and reconciles sinners unto Himself.

1: Salvation Is A Work of God

God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel saying “I will…” In this phrase appearing about six times in the text, we notice that every action towards the restoration of the Israelites was solely a work of God. Salvation is monergestic as opposed to synergistic. God was restoring Israel for the sake of His name not because of any meritorious deed by them.

In an earlier verse, He told Ezekiel “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name …” (v23). God acted in the interest of Israel “for the sake of [His] holy name”. David in Psalm 23:3 echoes this same truth: “He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake”. (see also Ps.115:1).

No Place For Boasting

“For His name sake”

Here is an overarching theme of the Bible. Everything God does is to “the glory of God alone”—Soli Deo Gloria (Rev 4:11). There is no room for boasting in ourselves and our good deeds because salvation is “not a result of works” (Eph 2:9). It is by “grace” we “have been saved through faith”, It is not our own doing (v8). We owe our salvation to the glory of God. We are saved “to the praise of his glory”(Eph. 1:12, 14). The grace of God strips us off of all avenues of boasting. God saves on the merit of His grace. John Piper rightly noted: “When it comes to being a candidate for grace, your background has nothing to do with God’s choice.

Simply, we contributed nothing towards our salvation.

2: Cleansed By The Water Of The Word And Of The Spirit

Like the Israelites, we are also a people unclean by nature and in captivity to sin. We need cleansing and restoration. The Bible records that God created Adam and Eve and gave Adam a commandment to keep (Gen 2:16-17). Adam disobeyed God and by his disobedience, sin entered the world (Gen 3). Now, Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth (Ps 51:5, Rom 3:23, 5:12), except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin. In Adam, we are all separated from God by virtue of an inherited sinful nature and total depravity. As Adam was driven away from the presence of God (Gen 3:23-24), sin has driven us away from the presence of God and like the Israelites, we are under captivity and bondage to sin.

To The Rescue

However, despite our captivity and bondage to sin, God didn’t leave us in a hopeless state. He sent Christ to die in place of sinners to reconcile us unto Himself. God cleanses us from our sin by the water of the word and of the Spirit. Wherever the word of God goes forth, the Spirit of God follows to do His work (Acts 2:37). In John 17, what is termed Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer, He prayed that the Father sanctifies the disciples in the truth, because His word is truth(v17). Peter taught that, we are “born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”(1Pet1:23). The Spirit convicts sinners of sin when the word is ministered. The sinner is brought to a point of self-awareness of their sinful nature then they are brought to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.

3: Regeneration

As said previously, all humankind are sinful, born in sin from the womb. The Christian, prior to his salvation was “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) If we were indeed dead in trespasses and sins and separated from God then the sinner can’t save herself. Dead men have no life neither can they inject life into their deadness. To be dead in sin is to not possess the ability to choose God; the inability to come to life by ourselves: To be alive therefore and come to salvation, we need an external influence to resurrect and give us life from our deadness (Jn. 6:44).

4 Alive To God

What God does in regeneration is to infuse life into our dead heart through His Spirit. Our cold, dead, unresponsive heart to divine truth is made alive to divine truth. Our unyielding heart now willingly yields to God. God’s Spirit then indwells the sinner as a guarantee one has been born of God and they belong to Christ (Eph1:14. Rom 8:9).

If God doesn’t intervene in a sinner’s life, there will be no spiritual life and spiritual birth. We must therefore pray that God will intervene in the lives of unbelievers so they will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

What Has This Got To Do With Christmas?

Genesis 3:8-15

 

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I have been given this text to read as one of the lessons in a community carol’s night organised by our resident’s association. The first question I asked when I had the text was “what has this got to do with Christmas?

However, reading and pondering the text, it is as relevant as any other account of the birth of Christ in the gospels. If you are familiar with Genesis 3, that is where the fall occurred; sin entered the world and thus all of humankind became sinners.

In Genesis 3 also, God announced his redemptive plan for salvation. In that pronouncement, Christ—the seed of the woman was revealed. The seed of the woman shall bruise Satan’s head, and Satan his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Theologians call this (v.15) protoevangelium; that is, the first gospel. The bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman paints a picture of the passion of Christ and bruising the head of the Serpent is the victory Christ won over the devil in his Crucifixion (1Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 2:14-15).

The point is that Christ’s incarnation which we celebrate as Christmas was for the purpose of destroying the work of the devil and deliver sinners from bondage (1John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15). This is why we celebrate Christmas: the ‘seed of the woman’, prophesied in Genesis 3:15 was born to bring hope to a dark dying world burdened with sin. Of course, we know the date of his birth is only commemorative, but he was born and the importance of the season is that his birth was God’s plan from the beginning by which he will reconcile sinners to God.

Genesis 3:8-15 has everything to do with Christmas. The deliverer from sin and destroyer of Satan’s work was revealed.

The Light Of The World

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Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Light dispels darkness. Where there is light, darkness cannot be present. Metaphorically, Christ speaks of himself as the light of the world. This points us to the fact that there is darkness in the world. He goes on again to say whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of the world. This also means is anyone not following Christ is in the darkness which is in the world. Again, anyone who follows him has come out of the darkness of the world.

Here we see a contrast between light and darkness.

Now the ” I am the light of the world” is one of a number of “I am”  statements by Jesus  Christ recorded in John’s gospel. These “I am” statements are not a simple first person pronoun usage; rather, they point us to Christ’s divine identity and his saving relationship with sinners in a fallen world (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:28, 28, 58; 18:5). You may also be familiar with some of these specific metaphorical rendering of the “I am” statements:   “I am the bread of life, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life and the true vine (John 6:35; 48, 51; 10:7; 11; 14, 11:25; 14:6; 15).

All these words were spoken in various contexts where they addressed specific needs ultimately pointing to our need of a Saviour.  “I am the light of the world” is an identification with divinity –Jesus is God— which we can trace back to John’s prologue : “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).

Now if Jesus says he is the light of the world, it means that;

The World Is In Darkness.

Darkness here depicts a world of sin and ignorance; lack of knowledge of God. Darkness contrasting with light is the realm of evil; the kingdom of darkness. The whole world, Jesus said lies in wickedness (1John 5:19). In the beginning, God created a perfect world and he saw that all he made was good (Genesis 1:31). However, this perfect world was plunged into sin when Adam disobeyed God’s command subsequently inflicting the world with sin causing a separation between God and man (Romans 3:23). This darkness is a universal darkness. Every human being is affected by the effects of this dark sinful world. It is called total depravity. We are all badly hurt by the sin problem

Life Without Christ Is A Life of Darkness.

If the world is in darkness, it follows that everyone who enters it enters a world of darkness–filled with sin and ignorance of a knowledge of God. We all enter the world corrupted by a sin nature. Burk Parson in a sermon notes that “we enter the world dead on arrival.” Further, there is a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan and any person who enters the world is automatically under the bondage of Satan and until they come to faith in Christ, they are doomed for destruction and under Satan’s rule. Paul says this clearly when he described the former world of the believer which is the present world or reality of the unbeliever. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They are following the course of the dark world which is  sin and bondage under Satan’s rule (Eph 2:1-3).

If you don’t know Christ and have no relationship with him as your Lord and Saviour, this is your world. You are dead in sin and living in darkness.

Life With Christ Is A Life of Light.

Where light is, darkness gives way. Because Jesus is the light of the world, the darkness of the world must give way. So if a person walking in darkness encounters Christ and comes to saving faith in him; they are rescued from darkness and brought into the light; the light of the world, Christ Jesus. Just as darkness depicts sin and ignorance, light represents righteousness and life. When we come to Christ who is the light of the world, our dark; sinful and ignorant life is illuminated with light, which is the life of men.

All human beings are in bondage to sin until they come to faith in Christ. Are you burdened with sin? Are you heavy laden with guilt? Christ calls you to come into his life. He will forgive you of your sins and bring life into your dark world. Come; Christ calls

The Author Of Eternal Life

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And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Hebrews 5:9).

The text is speaking about Christ. Indeed, the whole of the book of Hebrews speaks of Christ and his superiority over all things. Christ offers salvation and eternal life. But one may ask, why Salvation?

Salvation is needed because of humanity’s sin problem. We trace the sin problem to Eden where the fall of Adam became the fall of the whole human race. The image of God, in which we were created was defaced. We are alienated from God because of sin. Our mind lacks understanding, our hearts corrupted and hardened by sin and and only Christ can save us from this alienation.

Why Is Christ Fit To Offer Salvation?

1: He is a Perfect Saviour

Among many meanings, the word perfect denotes completion and fulfillment. Christ was made perfect in the sense that he fulfilled all of God’s plan for salvation. He kept and fulfilled all of God’s law that we couldn’t keep.

2. Christ is the author of Salvation.

Only through him can sinners be saved. He went to the cross for sinners. And he has a name above every name. In his name salvation is offered.

3. He paid the ransom

Christ gave his life as a ransom for our sins. He paid the debt of sin we owed.

The Call To Obedience

You don’t own your soul and without Christ you are lost eternally. And the salvation Christ offers is salvation of the soul—eternally. Seek Christ to save your soul. Those who hear him take his word preciously and obey the gospel.

The good news is this: you are helpless, bound for hell and a Saviour in Christ comes to appease for your sins and offered salvation. Come to Christ. Look to him for your salvation. Jesus shows us abundant love and mercy. While we were sinners he died for us.

—This is a summary of sermon notes I made of a sermon preached by  Pastor Ferguson Kcofie  on 26/11/2017 @ Truth Missionary Baptist Church, Dansoman-Exhibition. Truth MissionaryBaptist Church is a Reformed Baptist Church in Accra-Ghana and is the church I attend.

Also, the notes are mine and hence solely liable for any misinterpretation of doctrine or the sermon which may appear in this summary.

No Resurrection, No Christianity

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John Chapter 20

The whole of  John Chapter 20 speaks of Christ’s resurrection and the events surrounding it. The resurrection is a fundamental Christian doctrine upon which Christianity stands or falls. Without the resurrection, Christianity has no hope to offer. Paul makes that point clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:11-19. Now considering the centrality of the resurrection to Christian doctrine, it is important we study it. In this article, an adaptation of a lesson I taught at a fellowship meeting, I will consider five points about the resurrection which can be gleaned from the text.

The Resurrection Is historical.

The empty tomb points to a true historical event. Christ was crucified. He was buried. And he resurrected. Dr Simon Gathercole of the University of Cambridge in an online article noted that,

The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur. [1]

To establish the historicity of the resurrection, let’s look briefly at three points worth considering about the resurrection in the text.

(i) It happened on a specific day.

The resurrection is recorded to have happened on the first day of the week which is a Sunday. Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday. He rose on the third day. The disciples will further adopt this day as the Lord’s day—the day of worship. That day became the believers “solemn assembly” when they met to worship (Deut. 16:8Jn 20:1926Acts 20:7).

ii) There Were Eye Witnesses Account

Jesus didn’t vanish into thin airwhen he resurrected. He showed himself to people as proof of his resurrection. Mary Magdalene (vv. 1-2; 11-18), Peter, John and the other disciples (vv.3-10; 19-20), Thomas  (v.26). In Jewish tradition, witnesses must be two or more to be admissible and the events met that criteria (See Deut. 17:619:5).

(iii) The Resurrection Wasn’t A Hoax.

Before Christ resurrected, there were fears his disciples will steal his body and feign a resurrection (Matt.27:62-66). However, firstly, the disciples were not expecting a resurrection to go to the extent of faking one (vv. 2; 9). They had also locked themselves up for fear of the Jews and there was no indication they had the capability of stealing the body (v.19). Moreover, the tomb, according to Matthew was under security guard (Matt. 27:66). Finally, the folded grave cloths defeats a robbery. What grave looter has the luxury of time to nicely fold grave cloths?

(iv) There Was An Empty Tomb

That there was an empty tomb is evidence for the resurrection. If Christ didn’t resurrect, then his body must have been seen in the tomb. However, all who came to the scene looked into the tomb and didn’t see Christ’s body. Mary Magdalene thought the body had been stolen. Peter and the other disciples looked into the tomb and saw nothing. There was simply no body in the tomb. A very informative article from the gospel coalition by Paul Rezkalla, titled 4 Reasons to believe in the empty tomb is worth our attention in this discourse. These four points are (i) The empty tomb predates the gospel, (ii) the body was buried in Jerusalem, (iii) the empty tomb was discovered by women and (iv) there were claims of a stolen body. [2]

A Fulfillment Of Scripture

John speaks of the resurrection in relation to Scripture: “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead (v.9). Jesus, while he was with them also spoke of his death and resurrection (John 2:19-22). Paul also speaking of the resurrection speaks “in accordance with Scripture” (1Cor.15:1-3). The resurrection happened as Scripture prophesied. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus rebuked the disciples for not believing what was spoken of him about the events in Scripture of his death and resurrection:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27).

We see Christ walking them through Scripture—the Old Testament— and opening their eyes to the truth of what was written about him.

The Resurrection Is The Foundation Of The Great Commission 

When Christ appeared to the disciples, he charged them with the great commission: “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (vv.21-23).

Christ sends the disciples, gives them his very breath of life — the Holy Spirit and puts authority in their proclamation of the gospel which when believed brings life and damnation to those who will not believe. Because Christ rose; the disciples had the power and basis upon which to witness about the gospel (1Jn. 1:1-31Pet. 1:16-20). Paul says  “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1Cor.15:14 ff). Christ rose from the dead and that’s the hope of believers and sinners who will run to him in faith. Matt Permann in an online article titled Historical Evidence for the Resurrection points out seven reasons for which the empty tomb gives credence to the resurrection. And he mentions preaching of the gospel as the first. He wrote:

…the resurrection was preached in the same city where Jesus had been buried shortly before. Jesus’ disciples did not go to some obscure place where no one had heard of Jesus to begin preaching about the resurrection, but instead began preaching in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus had died and been buried. They could not have done this if Jesus was still in his tomb–no one would have believed them. No one would be foolish enough to believe a man had raised from the dead when his body lay dead in the tomb for all to see. [3]

The Resurrection Teaches Christ’s Divinity.

One thing we cannot miss in John’s gospel is Christ’s divinity. John opens his book with that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John 1:1). Thomas’ response to Christ  in v.28 is instructive: “My Lord and my God!” Been a Jew, that is blasphemous if Christ was not God. And knowing who Christ was, he would have rebuked Thomas if his assertion about him was inaccurate. Again, we will note in the text that, when Thomas first told the disciples he would see the marks on Christ’s hands before believing, Jesus wasn’t present. But in Christ’ second appearance to the disciples, he showed Thomas his crucifixion marks:

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe. (vv26-27).

Christ’s omnipotence and omnipresence is displayed in that event. He knew Thomas’ doubts though he wasn’t physically present when Thomas expressed those doubts. All things are bare and naked before God (Heb. 4:13). Christ is God. Peter tells us it was impossible for death to hold him down  (Acts 2:24).

Faith And Eternal Life In Christ

John ends his account by saying:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God , and that by believing you may have life in his name (vv. 30-31).

To John, this is his overarching motive for writing his gospel account; that people will come to Faith in Christ. The end goal of Christian ministry is leading people to faith in Christ by the preaching of the gospel. Anything else apart from this has no grounds. All we do as Christians and ministers of the gospel must have this one goal: that people “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God , and that by believing [they] may have life in his name.” Anything else is, borrowing from  Paul, to be counted as dung.

Notes:

1 Dr Simon Gathercole, What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/14/what-is-the-historical-evidence-that-jesus-christ-lived-and-died.

2. Paul Rezkalla, 4 Reasons To Believe In The Empty Tomb, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-reasons-to-believe-in-the-empty-tomb

3. Matt Permann, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection