A. Jesus' Ministry Starts - Message & Messengers.
Jesus Christ is spoken of as 'The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived'. That's only part of the reason for his fame. He also came to bring a special message to mankind. One that no previous generation had been given and to make widely available a Godly lifestyle that no previous generation had been offered! The following is an overview of what Jesus did for us.
Jesus started his overt ministry after John the Baptiser was put
He also called disciples to follow him and spread his message from God to the people.
There were many Rabbis in the country at the time who had followers, and who were all preaching of their way (yoke). So at first Christ was taken to be just another Rabbi. But what he offered was so special and came with such power and authority that He immediately stood out.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah. They expected that one day God would send a deliverer and set up His kingdom rule. Christ came along and taught that the good news he brought was that the kingdom of God was near at hand. He showed that the kingdom of God came with power to change lives, and that the people should believe what he was telling them and repent (change their way of thinking to God's so that, as deeds follow thought, their lives would be pleasing to Him).
Joh 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God,
believe also in Me.
Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say,
Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Mat 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching
in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and
healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Mat 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
When the people saw the lifestyle of Jesus and how God worked in Him, they saw that what he taught was possible. But they also knew that it was not possible humanly, or everyone would be doing it! The kingdom message also brought the answer regarding how this life could be achieved, and to spread that 'good news' Jesus had and still has today, his true disciples.
But in summary form the good news we have is :-
Obviously you won't change your way of thinking unless and until you believe that the messenger is bona fide and the message is giving you a better way! We'll consider this way in greater depth later.
Christ as mentioned chose a number of disciples to help him spread his message. These were/are people God picked to believe in Jesus and what he taught. These came/come from all walks of life; with different backgrounds and different characters! Fishermen. lawyers, tax collectors, like...
Peter - Gung-ho mentality. A man of direct action. Act first, worry about the repercussions later.
James/John - Men used to leading. Expect to be in charge. It's only a question of which of them has the slight edge over the other!
Philip/Nathaniel - Quick to accept and believe.
Thomas - Considered; Careful. Wants detailed proof before acting. Though in that he was not much different to the other disciples (see Mar 16:9-14).
Judas - A thinker. Asked the telling question of Jesus regarding how He would be with His disciples but not with the world after his death (This is the other Judas not Iscariot.).
Some on the other hand were apparently so easy going that virtually all we know of them from the Bible accounts is their names!
There main qualities though was/is their willingness to follow Jesus and be guided and corrected by Him regarding what constitutes a life pleasing to God.
Because of this, God and Christ are able to use them to lead people to a true knowledge of Jesus; to lead people to believe in Jesus and put their trust in Him rather than in what they themselves could do or achieve; to lead people to appreciate that their current lifestyles were taking them away from Godliness toward eternal death; and to lead them to see that only Christ and belief in Him could bring eternal life!
The kingdom message is a simple one :-
Relevance to 'the Christian life' today
All through the ages and continuing today God is calling people, as he did the disciples in Jesus' day, to believe and spread that message; Ordinary people, from all walks of life, like you and me!
And, just as in Jesus' time, God molds us into vessels to hold his Spirit and preach/spread abroad the good news of His kingdom. The good news that Jesus lived a sinless life and died for sinners. That He was resurrected (raised back to life) to be the Savior of all those who accept his sacrifice on their behalf and believe on him. That Jesus can bring them repentance and a new life pleasing to God now and for eternity to follow!
When we of the current generation believe that and experience it,
He (Jesus) can, as with the original disciples, use us to lead
people to Him, just as a light in a lighthouse leads people to
God has a part for all of us to play in his kingdom and it starts with what He can do through us now, if we let Him. You'll hear more about those possibilities later.
B. What Does Jesus Teach? - What is the Gospel?Up until John came onto the scene in Israel, what was taught in all religious circles was the Old Covenant. With the coming of John this changed. From that time the kingdom of God was preached.
When John was put into prison Jesus' ministry expanded. John had done his part in preparing the way for the Messiah. Now the foundation of the New Covenant was to be laid in place.
Jesus preached about the kingdom of God. That it's arrival was not far off! (Matt 4:12)
Jesus healed every disease and sickness and paralysis among the people, showing that the kingdom had power greater than the current physical world's problems! (Mat 4: 23)
Jesus cast out demons from those afflicted. Showing that kingdom power extended beyond this world to the spirit world! (Mat 4:23)
Jesus taught the people what kingdom citizenship entailed and what it brought.
Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom
Why should they be rewarded for facing persecution for His sake? Who was he?
And what was this kingdom of God going to be like? Christ explained the characteristics of the kingdom, it's King and it's people, with parables.
- The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a strong bush/tree. It will start small but will take over the world. (See Mat 13:31.)
- The kingdom of God will not lose any members. Like a lost sheep that is rescued by it's shepherd, anyone who goes astray will be saved. (See Luk 15:4-6.)
- The care in the kingdom of God is like when someone loses a coin and searches everywhere until it is found. God will leave no stone unturned to care for and rescue kingdom members. (See Luk 15:8-9.)
- The care in the kingdom of God is like a man who rescues someone who has been waylaid by robbers, even though he does not know them. So the King of the kingdom takes those who were strangers once and (treats them as) makes them his, brothers. (See Luk 10:30-35.)
- the King of the kingdom of God is like a father who even though his son squanders the oppportunities and talents that he has, still looks out expectantly for him to come to his senses and repent. (See Luk 15:11-32.)
- The King of the kingdom of God gives his people talents to use in his service. We should use the opportunities we are given, wisely. (See Mat 24:14-28.)
- The invitation to the kingdom of God is like being invited to a great banquet. Once called be sure to accept and follow the instructions of the King. (See Luk 14:16-24.)
- The invitation to the kingdom of God is like being invited to a wedding feast. Be humble (actually living your life with this attitude), and you will be exaulted! (See Luk 14:8-11.)
Relevance to 'the Christian life' today.All this is based on the premise that -
1 You Believe in Christ and what he said.
Do this and you will be enabled, as Christ lives in you and does His Father's will, to follow Christ's teachings. Christ's yoke (way) is easy and His burden light, because He does the works of the Father in us and through us! To paraphrase Paul, "We can do all things through Christ who strenghtens us". But also, we must not lose sight of what Christ told us when thinking of His humanity which applies wholly to us also, (paraphrasing once more) "We can do nothing of ourselves" (Joh 5:19). And, we also must not forget that when thinking of His position as God, Jesus pointed out that, "Without me (Jesus) you can do nothing!" (Joh 15:5).
You'll learn more of this as we go on.
February - Part 2
The Old Covenant proscribed things that the people must not do and prescribed what they must do in detail. The New Covenant generally describes the principles that we should follow to please God.
The Old Covenant can lull you into thinking, erronously, that you can keep the law and get eternal life. The New Covenant makes it obvious that only God can do Godly things!
The Pharisees kept the law scrupulously and thought they were doing
well. But Jesus said..
Keeping the ten commandments like the Scribes and Pharisees did was not good enough! It was not good enough then and it's not good enough now either.
Paul makes this clear in Phi chapter 3..
Phi 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for
After knowing Christ and putting his faith in him, Paul realised that what he had through keeping the law was 'dung' compared to what he had through faith in Jesus Christ. What Paul now desired and had was "the righteousness which is of God by faith".
Now Jesus Christ in him was keeping a new standard. Jesus's standard.
Under the Old Covenant the act of adultery was proscribed, for
instance. But Jesus said that His followers must have a higher
Relevance to 'the Christian life' today.Jesus wants a people who look to Him and Him only for their eternal security and salvation. Why? Because there is no other way by which we can be saved. We live by faith
Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
We'll learn more of why Jesus HAD TO give himself for us next.
C. Why Must the Christ Die? The Sacrifice For Sin.If there was no God then the worse consequences of our actions or the actions of others would be a shortened life and/or a damaged life; and then you die. End of story.
If on the other hand the God of the bible exists and has made Himself known, then the worse consequence is the loss of the potential of 'eternal life' with Him, which is the gift that He offers us. And, God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him!
Having made man and set him up on the earth, God gave the first people the ground-rules that they should obey. Not living up to the 'standard' of obedience is called sinning, and the penalty for disobedience (sinning) was/is death.
Unfortunately the first humans (not unexpectedly to God.) sinned and
all following generations have continued in sin, either by extension
or in fact.
But God did not want this to be the end of the story. Knowing from the beginning that mankind would not be able to live to the required standard, God fore-ordained a plan for man's salvation. God would send His Son to die as a substitute sacrifice for man.
Only God can live to the Godly standard required, so God (Jesus) would live as a human being and fulfil the requirements of the law. Only God (the creator) can be a sacrifice for all humanity through all the ages, so God (Jesus) would die (without having sinned) as the propitiate (favourable, atoning,) sacrifice for our sins.
This is why Jesus had to die. Not for his own sins, but for ours. Notice also that it was not because of any anger or wrath on the part of God. God has always operated according to His nature of Love and Grace. Our sins brought the penalty of death onto us and Jesus volunteered to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God (the Father) was totally involved in Jesus being our Saviour on the cross.
So Jesus was born into the nation Israel to live a perfect life (Godly) and to be totally obedient to His Father, God (as required of mankind).
And he did. Jesus lived a perfect, righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins by his death. If we accept that sacrfice on our behalf and turn our lives over to Him for Him to live his life in us, God will clothe us in Jesus's righteousness and give us eternal life.
Jesus's way (yoke) is easy and He will give us rest and eternal life because we have faith in Him, believe on Him and follow him.
This is different to the people under the Old Covenent who heard the
word of God and received laws to live by via Moses, but as Paul
points out in Heb 4:2 they did not have faith in God...
And Heb 3:19...
But Christians put their faith in Jesus Christ, not in their own abilities or in Law. He lives in them. and 'now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said' (Heb 4:3).
And having died for our sins, His shed blood cleanses our consciences so that we can serve God in a way that pleases Him. And, having ascribed Jesus's righteousness to us, He will also give us eternal life.
As Heb 9:15 says...
Relevance to 'the Christian life' todayKnowing that Jesus christ died for us, and accepting that sacrifice, and asking Christ to live in us, makes us part of 'the called' ones of God.
With Jesus living His life in us we have a new beginning as God's
people. But everything is because of Jesus and what He has done.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the
throne of God.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We'll have more on Jesus's sacrifice, and victory over death, in following sections.
D. Jesus's Death & ResurectionIn the last section we talked about Jesus having to die for us as the acceptable sacrifice for our sins. But that is not the end of the story. He rose again from being dead back to life. And that is as important for our future as his death was for us! Paul puts it this way...
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
To take the points in order. Jesus dies for us. So by his shed blood
we can be justified (when we accept that sacrifice as atonement for
our sins) and that saves us from the penalty of sin.
Jesus was innocent of all charges laid against him. He volunteered to die for humanity on the request of his Father. And, since he was innocent, while his death paid for our sins, being undeserving of death, it could not keep hold of him. The sting of death is sin and he was without sin. So death had no power over him.
We know from 1st Corrintians, Chapter 15, Verse 56...
So, as it also states in Acts, Chapter 2, Verses 22-24...
There is a duality in many of the things that God does for us. This is often so that we can see a smaller pre-figured event and so be able to appreciate the bigger event that will take place later.
We killed Jesus (God's Son) and God shows us that even this He will
freely forgive, indeed has forgiven, because He loves us! We now
have to appropriate it by accepting His sacrifice on our behalf.
This new life is a life of overcoming. It's a life where we are
called to live according to the commandments and direction of
Jesus Christ. And because we are saved by Jesus and have His Spirit
in us we are enabled to grow into living according to that standard.
As Paul says in 2Cor 5:17-19
Not only living a new lifestyle in Jesus but also being entrusted to take God's message of reconciliation to the world. To let others know that God is reconciling his 'called out' ones to himself in order to save them through the life (resurection life) of Jesus Christ.
All this is made possible because Jesus kept his promise to do the
Father's will. He willingly died for us on the cross, was burried,
and was raised on the third day, just
as the scripture said and as attested to by witnesses such as the
disciples Jesus talked to as they travelled on the road to Emmaus
on that third day, and as seen by the other disciples later that day
See Luke 24:45-47 for instance.
Jesus was raised from the dead and rose into heaven to be once more with the Father as he oversees the lives of the members of His church.
And because of the fulfillment of prophesy, the record of the eyewitnesses to the events of those days, and the saving work that he is doing in us today, we know that we do indeed have a Savior who died for us and rose again from the dead; who is Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Relevance to 'the Christian life' todayAll the Abrahamic religions face a dilemma. A God who requires a holy and righteous (Godly) standard of behavior from his people, and a people unable to fulfil that standard!
So what's to be done about it?
A. God can ignore the fact that no-one succeeds and let the best ones into his paradise after-life reward, because they tried so hard.
B. God can have a system of seeing who keeps most of what he requires and provide a means to forgive them the little they cannot manage for themselves.
C. God can recognize that "Only God can do Godly things" and provide; (1) A sacrifice to pay the penalty everyone will come under, and (2) A Godly life himself, to keep that standard of behavior and bring that life to all those willing to be led by him.
We believe Jehovah followed plan 'C' and this He shows in the bible. He did this because he is a righteous God, who cannot ignore sin; who alone can keep his holy righteous requirements; who did not ask someone else to die for his creation (mankind); and who through his Holy Spirit brings men to the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ; who alone kept the Godly standard of behavior required.
As he inspired Paul to write in Heb 10:12-17.
Forgiveness of sins, and newness of life, comes only through the life, death and resurection of Jesus Christ.
E. The Holy Spirit. The Comforter.When Jesus left the earth to go up to Heaven, he promised that he would send a replacement just like himself who would guide us through our christian lives in the same way as he would, and would bring back to our minds all the things that Jesus said.
Of course for the disciples this was all the things that he had said to them personally in three and a half years of teaching. While for us today it is all the things that he teaches us as we read his word, the Bible. And our guide and teacher; in our original reading of the word; as he reminds us of the way of life Jesus taught us in his word; and by his direct revealation to us, is the Holy Spirit.
And all this was told in advance by the prophet Joel...
God did exactly as he said he would. The Holy Spirit came on that first Day of Penticost with a mighty noise that was heard all over Jerusalem, which made people come from far and near to see what was happening! There were 120 disciples in the Upper Chamber (Hall) and they were so filled and overcome by the Holy Spirit that people thought at first they were drunk. Peter put them straight on that. This was God coming to His Temple!
The Old Testament parallel is that when the Temple was inaugurated 120 priests blew trumpets and Solomon's Temple was filled with the presence of the Lord. In the New Covenant God fills his people, the Temple of God.
The Holy Spirit in this New Testament age lives in us personally. The Holy Spirit, was said by Jesus to be the same kind of helper that he, Jesus, was to the disciples. This means that....
He is a constant companion. The Holy Spirit is with us 24/7 to communicate
with us and fellowship with us as we go through our day.
He is a constant friend and guide as to what is right. Just as Jesus did,
he will make known to us the things of God and always point us towards
Jesus and his teaching.
Joh 14:26 But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
He is a constant help in times of trial.
He is a constant channel to bring us God's joy.
Or, as it says in the 1st letter to the Thessalonians..
Or, as it says in the 1st letter to the Thessalonians..
And, since he is just like Jesus we know also that ..
He grieves at sight of the broken people in the world and the errors we commit
in speech and deed, and He longs to fix all the hurt and pain he sees.
He helps us to see the world as God sees it and to fore-warn us of
future events of import to us personally.
He yearns to bring people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit labours to comfort the sick and the hurting whether it
be physical or otherwise.
He will show us the way to bring people to God as
He spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ via the church.
Having believed on Jesus Christ and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on our
behalf and submitted our lives to Him, we have been given the supreme gift
of The Holy Spirit and now being led by Him we are a new creation.
The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.
Best wishes for grace and the peace of Jesus.