A REALISTIC call to live a life of victory

Easter Sunday. This is considered a special day in the church calender – a victorious day, a happy day. I think it is great that we have a designated day that focuses on the reality of Christ’s resurrection (especially for non-Christians) but I am also so thankful that we don’t NEED this day, because we as Christians are encouraged and called to walk in the victory and power of Christ’s resurrection every day!

This is the reality: In Christ we have the victory; we have the power to overcome; we have the faith to believe mountains can and will move; we have overwhelming joy; we know we are loved; we are redeemed; we are victorious………

Except……… lets have a reality check here!

The reality is it doesn’t always seemingly work out like that or feel like that. If we are being honest with ourselves and others we sometimes get weighed down, discouraged; we lose the joy that we told in ours in Christ Jesus. We perhaps allow doubts to creep in and steal our assurance that Christ is in control. We continue to move forward, but we shuffle with our heads down rather than stride forward in the power of Christ with our heads held high.

Is THAT living as a Christian?

Well, as we are going to discover tonight…..we are on a JOURNEY of faith that one ends up in one place – a eternal place of praise, adoration and victory. For us who truly believe, each of us are in a different place on that journey and VICTORY IS ASSURED, despite any wobbles we have along the way.

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith and it is in Him we have the assurance of eternal life and ultimate victory. As we remember over this Eastertide, it is a complete victory that came at such a great cost, as the only begotten Son of the Father was forsaken for us on the cross of shame.

However, as we know (and as we specifically remember today) that Christ’s death was not the end of the story! I would like to read two passages of scripture that detail the events immediately following Christ’s resurrection and then encourage us all that our own wobbles, doubts and fears are echoed even in the disciples response to Jesus’ resurrection. Then we’ll discover that Jesus has an answer for them and for us today!

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre [tomb] And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 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. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

Matthew 28:1-8, 16-17 KJV

And then the same events from another writers angle, this time, Luke:

Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be unto you.”

They were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Feel Me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

When He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet disbelieved for joy and wondered, He said to them, “Do you have any food here?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate it before them.

He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.”

 

 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and accordingly it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:36b-48 MEV

The disciples had walked and talked with Jesus right the way through His ministry years; they had seen thousands of people fed with a bit of fish and bread – twice; they had seen the blind see, the paralysed walk and even seen Lazarus raised from the dead. They had heard His parables and witnessed Jesus Himself proclaim that He was I AM (an absolute categorical proclamation that we was God Incarnate). His coming was the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy as Jesus Himself taught them.

This is Just one of those conversations from the book of Mark:

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 8:27-31 NKJV

So here, Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection (not for the first time). The disciples heard from His own mouth what was going to happen – yet they were dismayed, confused and bewildered when it did.

Therefore it is really interesting to examine for a moment the disciples reaction to the first appearance of the risen Lord Jesus:

…when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

They were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit….

And while they yet disbelieved for joy and wondered….

It is clear from these accounts that even though they had ‘walked with Him and that they talked with Him’ for three years they still didn’t understand or fully grasp what Jesus was teaching prior to His crucifixion……or they did but they still didn’t truly believe it.

The disciples just didn’t fully understand. They certainly believed He was sent from God – a Saviour, a messiah – but they were perhaps guilty of constructing a picture in their own mind of what their Savour looked like. We can perhaps speculate that they were expecting another King David, a warrior/King who would gloriously overthrow the oppression of the Romans.

What was Jesus response to their doubts, fears and unbelief?

Did he rebuke them or disown them for their wavering belief?

NO!! HE REASSURED THEM, HE SHOWED THEM HE WAS A PHYSICAL BEING, HE OPENED THEIR MINDS TO THE SCRIPTURES, HE ENCOURAGED THEM, AND COMMISSIONED THEM!

He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.”

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and accordingly it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things

It is at only at this point they fully understood who Jesus was, their doubts and fears answered, their purpose in Him revealed. The power to fulfil the commission was yet to come (at Pentecost), so we can refute the common fallacy that the disciples were cowering in a room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They were praying and waiting, but as they were waiting the last two verses of the Gospel of Luke tells us:

.they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Luke 24: 52-53 KJV

These 1st Century, world changing events speak to us today.

It surely encourages us to know that Jesus’ own disciples, both before and even on occasions after the resurrection event we have looked at here, didn’t always grasp what the Master was doing. Although they had a perfect Teacher, they often failed to understand him correctly. Nevertheless, Jesus used them mightily to take the message of Christ to the nations.

The thing is, we haven’t physically walked with Jesus as they did. Our faith is built on ……the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 KJV

So the reality is this….. If we are really honest with ourselves, there are times and seasons in our lives where we wonder where God is. Sometimes life events weigh us down or challenge our faith; sometimes we just drift away from the presence of God; sometimes we are disappointed that we have not seen answers to prayer; sometimes it is our own stubbornness and disobedience that puts distance between us and God.

As it was with the disciples in that day, He is in the revelation and restoration business today! So despite our doubts and fears, our disobedience and faithlessness He LOVES us, He CARES for us and He constantly reassures us of these things by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

We are far from perfect, we are However, children of the King. He is patient with us while we work through our struggles and fears; He is willing to teach us, open up our hearts to truth and revelation; he loves us with an everlasting love; He cares for us so much He was willing to sacrifice Himself for us.

What is also abundantly clear is this:

He longs to open our minds to understand the Scriptures

He longs to encourage us by means of His abiding presence

He longs to draw near to us

He has commissioned us

He has empowered us

He has SAVED US FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

He has given us purpose

He has empowered us

He has given us all things to walk victoriously in HIS power.

A modern worship song puts so much better than I could:

Mighty Saviour, lifted high

King forever, Jesus Christ,

Crowned in glory, raised to life

The same power lives in us.

Let us therefore, tonight resolve to walk victoriously in the power of the resurrected Christ, despite our tendency to wobble and wavier.

 

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Idols in heart

At the end of Ezekiel chapter 13 we read ,
“When any of the Israelites or any foreigners residing in Israel separate themselves from me and set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet to inquire of me, I the Lord will answer them myself. I will set my face against them and make them an example and a byword. I will remove them from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’

This got me thinking in the wee small hours of the night about what we call idols of the heart now. Is it the same as what God meant when He spoke these words to Ezekiel? I doubt it. We can carry many “idols” within us and not even realise we have them there and love/ worship/ desire/idolise them. So what can this mean to us in a very different time and age?

I believe that we can idolise people, places, work, church, worship, ourselves, hobbies, media, social media and even church activities without the knowledge that they have taken such a place. Sometimes we put things too high up because our relationship with God isn’t as it should be and we conceal this within us with business and activity. Sometimes it’s accidental. Somehow life got so busy or stressful that it took over our thoughts all the time pushing out those close to us and the Lord with them. Maybe it’s slowly spending too much time on or doing an activity and we don’t see the worrying signs that it has become an idol.

It doesn’t really matter why that thing has taken hols of us, but it does matter to understand it has to go. We have such a forgiving and loving God, but He is jealous for us. He sent the Spirit to help us in these circumstances, and isn’t about to let you go from His hand now.

I talk to myself more than anyone today. It is all too easy to let times with Him slip when they should be the times we long for more than anything else in the world! Guard your hearts and minds. Keep them wholly for Him.

No sleep

So, I find it very difficult to get any sleep. I suppose I have gotten used to it more now, but still find the darkest hours of the night disturbing and lonely, even with my beautiful family only yards away from me. My husband made a picture for me and framed it near my pillow with a verse from proverbs in it, which in those times of bad thoughts, loneliness, times of attack or times when God seems so far away, I can look at this verse and be reassured that He never leaves or forsakes me.

Proverbs 3 vs 24-25

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of the sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes.