The Resurrection of Jesus—Our Own Experience!

7 04 2012

When speaking of the resurrection, we Christians often try to muster some quality, written, historical evidence, to advance ‘The Case For Christ‘. This is sometimes called ‘Apologetics’.

We also point to the radical change of heart and hope and new boldness, shown forth by the once fearful, and denying disciples.

We point to the details of the many ancient prophecies, (David, Moses, Isaiah and others), that are seemingly, arguably fulfilled by Jesus life, death and resurrection.

We point to the baptising preaching activity of John the baptist, before he was murdered, and his pointing to Jesus. We point to the witness of Stephen before he was murdered. We point to the many people in history—who would rather die than deny Jesus—before they were murdered.

We point to the unusual conversion of a famous Pharisee, Paul (Saul), who was so hostile to the message about Jesus, before he so suddenly became a Christian. We point to the large number of people who actually touched, heard, saw and witnessed the Risen Jesus alive after his crucifixion. There were at least 10 occasions, recorded in the Bible.

We point to the historical reliability of the New Testament itself.

We point to the stunning record that over 500 people saw Jesus alive, after his death, at one time in Galilee.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died (1Corinthians 15:6).

In the laws of evidence, whenever a witness to an event is called before a court, and swears to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth‘, then the court is bound to listen carefully to what the witness has seen and heard, and to take it on face value. And believe the good will of the witness, until other contrary factors may show that the face value of the story lacks credibility.
This is still what all people are bound to do when they see and hear the written evidence of so many accurate and valuable texts from the writers in the early church, as found in the Bible.
However, there is one under-estimated testimony or witness to Jesus Living Presence which it is very important to highlight. And that is, our own story! Our own experience. And that is not merely our experiences! But the very experience of faith itself, which we know!
People are prone to dismiss our ‘experience’ as somehow deluded. Or they see our coming to be a Christian, as a weak moment in our lives, when we needed outside help. Or as some feigned experience, of a Person, that is not really there. However, the fact is that Christians are not primary telling of the things ‘they do’, to try to honour God. Rather we are speaking of the ongoing experience that we have, of the Risen Christ Jesus guiding our lives, and effecting them in highly significance ways. However, in saying that, what we realise, is that the Christ we know by faith is far greater than our experiences of Him, however good and fine – or not – they may be. Faith receives the creative impact of Jesus Christ.
As P. T. Forsyth says: “We know him by faith to be much more than he has ever been to our experience”.
“I know him, and the Church knows Him, as a person of infinite power to create fresh experience of Himself, which is experience of God. My contact with Him by faith is continually deepening my experience of him. And, as my experience deepens, it brings home a Christ objective in history, and creative of the experience, and of the life, and the deeds of a whole vast Church, meant, and moving, to subdue mankind not to itself, but to the faith of the Gospel.” (from The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, P. T. Forsyth, Independent Press, London, 1909, p. 203)
He goes on to say:
“My experienced salvation is not a passing impression but a life of faith. It is not a subjective frame but an objective relation, and even transaction. The peace of God is not a glassy calm but mighty confidence. My experience here is the consciousness not of an impression on me, but of an act in me, and by me.” (p. 204)
What Christ has done for me has become possible only by what He did more powerfully for others whose faith and experience have been deeper and richer than mine, but who reflect my experience all the same, even while they diversify and enlarge it mightily. Standing over my experience is the experience of the whole evangelical succession. And standing over that is the historic fact of Christ’s own person, and His consciousness of himself (“All things are delivered to me of the Father”) as Lord of the world, Lord of nature in miracle, of the soul in redemption, and of the future in judgment.” (p. 204-205)
“Faith is the grand venture in which we commit our whole soul and future to the confidence that Christ is not an illusion but the reality of God. “
So, as we celebrate Easter, we do so with others. Many others. Centuries of others, for whom the reality of faith is greater than the other things in life that they have been fairly certain about. Praise God, for faith’s certainty. And for the reality we know, and our small experience of such a greatness and such a mighty message, and wonderful Lord.Image




The Resurrection—Unlike Anything

6 04 2011

Death. There is “a full stop” at the end of Christ’s death. Death.

It is a real death – a final death –a proper death – a tragic death – a human death. The Eternal Son of God, is… yes, …murdered, put to death. The image of a chrysalis, being transformed into a butterfly is a totally inadequate illustration of the resurrection of Jesus. It should be scrapped! It should be discarded from all children’s talks. It does not demonstrate Christ’s resurrection.

Pupa to butterfly is a marvel, no doubt. But it is not the Easter event at all. It is simply part of the wonder of creation, of life – of life flowing and maturing, growing and moving from one stage of goings-on to another. (It would be better to consider the image of a squashed butterfly – dead, finished! … now bring that to life!!).

The death of Jesus – his murder, and the subsequent resurrection of Jesus cannot be illustrated. There is nothing like it. There never will be. It is unique. No symbol can ever convey or represent this mystery. The glorious resurrection of Jesus was as a man. His risen body is real, not ghostly (Luke 24:39). This grand event is crucial for the future of all creation.

It takes the Holy Spirit of the Living God to publicly portray Christ as crucified, and to sheet home to us the enormous benefits of his death. And of course our total need of it—each one. It also takes the Spirit, to enlarge faith – and assurance, to know this Jesus who has been raised from the grave, for us all.

Looking forward to a glorious resurrection body? (Philippians 3:21). And what of the Father, who so loved the world? What love!  O Worship the Lord in Holy Array!!       Cheers, Trevor





Accidie

30 06 2010

Accidie: ‘an inner sourness, cynicism, apathy and indifference, that makes a person scornful of others; the outworking of spiritual sloth’.

Many of God’s people, fine people, forgiven people, who have once known the joy of God’s grace, in Christ Jesus – have later experienced some measure of ‘accidie‘. Often, Christians are disappointed with their faith, at that point. They are further doubtful about, and even critical of their ministries and their gospel, and themselves, when they experience ‘accidie’. Many feel that those days of high devotion, great enthusiasm and eagerness in the gospel, were a fleeting, partial-illusion. The return to the level plains, seems such a harsh reality check, from the mountain top moments.

One of the problems, for Christians, is that the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus can seem so far removed from daily life.  The remedy of course, does not merely lie with new resolve (more unrewarding self-driving commitment) but with the Holy Spirit stirring us anew, and coming to us, in one way, or another, or another, or – yet another; and of course, a great help, is our corresponding ‘fanning into flame’, any dark ember left with the faintest warmth, or glow.

The role of the Holy Spirit is in large measure to bring the ‘immediacy’ of Jesus crucified and risen, to our lives.  ‘Awake!’ His triumph over sin, for us, in us, and with us, is an amazing event —the amazing event of all of human history.  The totality of sin dealt with once, for all is stunning. Even the sin of accidie, he takes away…. The reality of of Jesus near, present, and powerfully at work in his Lordship, can, should and will, constrain us, yet again to listen to him, hear his voice, meditate upon his Word and rejoice in his grace.

Accidie is not the last word, in any human life. But it is one of the experiences, any genuine Christian can have, from time to time. If you have got it, or some, I do not envy you. And I do not try to cajole you out of it. And I do not even need to think about when or how that may happen. I just say this: ‘The Lord is near’! His resurrection power is able. Take heart! (Even if the feelings are all to the contrary; a grim, glib smile will do!).

So, if you have accidie and you are Christian, then you can join the momentary club, that many others have joined at one time or another. If it lasts a while longer, than you had hoped – yea, well…. so be it.





All Things Must Pass

12 09 2009

All Things Must Pass’, by George Harrison is a collection of music, a 1970 record album, which, as the title suggests, announces the impermanence of all things – life, love and mop top pop bands.  It is ironic that this album stands as one of his greatest legacies!  It was produced at a significant time: The Beatles had broken up as a band, only 6 months beforehand, George’s wife Patty was falling for his best friend Eric Clapton. And George’s mother had just died—things were quickly very different. Looking back over the years of the Beatles huge stardom, this album was ‘his hand full of earth upon the coffin’ of the band (M. Cheney).  Interestingly enough, a song emerging at this same time was Harrison’s search to know God: ‘My Sweet Lord’, (“I really want to know ya yea”…. in, I think, Eastern religion terms). It was a popular song!

All Things Must Pass, is a saying which echoes (sort-of) that of Jesus’ own statement:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away

(Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33).

Not quite all things must pass, then! The words of Jesus have an eternal quality, because they are spoken by the eternal one: How about that?

Saul (or Paul), like many others, fiercely opposed that idea. Maybe you doubt it? But he did come to know it. So can you. It all hinges on the present activity of this Risen Man, this Son of God, and the work of his Spirit in you and me, now.

In the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and seeing that the new eternal kingdom has arrived in him, and will coming fully at his next coming-appearing, the Apostle Paul put it like this:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

We don’t like it when our world changes rapidly. But there is a good aspect to it… Do you think much on the good aspects of this statement?

It was on this insight, that Paul charted his course through life. He had rich insight, and certain faith, in what Christ was doing, and had done. In him there is a new creation. The old things are not only passing away, but, indeed, in a human being who is ‘Christed’ – forgiven, and made new, then those ‘old thing’ are made new.

Many things in our old world—that we liked—are passing away. This we find hard. These are some of mine, or my parents… experiences, think on your own:

(1) The good old slower life, when people had no cars and computer, but they did have time to chat by the roadside, with the horse and dray creating little road noise.

(2)  The good ol’ days when England, Australia, and the noble Westminster system of government, worked well, and people could speak at length, and gain a hearing, and reflect – and not be manipulated by a smart 20 second sound-bite.

(3) The days in Europe, recovering from WW2, as growth and peace came in various places, industry grew, the new possibilities opened up, and the whole future was not threatened by the growth of legalistic Islam, and ghettos and terrorist bomber violence.

(4) The days when a monogamous mum and faithful dad and numerous children, and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, were accepted as the normal basis of family life, and the push, push, push, for the a new anthropology, and view of marriage was not ‘in your face’.

(5) Ice cream and chips were reserved at Christmas or a birthday, not in the weekly supermarket trolley; childhood obesity was not hear of; you could play in the trees, miles from home, without a ‘keep out’ sign, or a sanctimonious ‘safe plastic sterile playground’ [to ward of the insurance claims], or a greenie initiative preventing your joy, you could run home without fear of being molested, stolen, beaten up, or of finding no one at home; these were great days!

(6) There are squillions of thoughts, multiplying, however…

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, who, although Christians, had become bogged in a few deficient ideas: He gave them some health-giving instructions concerning married life, unmarried life, normal creational human passion, and working in the things of the gospel, in the light of this fact:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

Here is the full text.  Try and read it with prayer, not just a critical eye! 🙂

7:1 ¶ Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

10To the married I give this command–not I but the Lord–that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say–I and not the Lord–that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you.

16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

17 ¶ However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.

20 Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.

24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

25Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

26 I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.

29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.

And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

36 ¶ If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. 37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well.

38 So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Yes folks, what a piece of writing!
Yes, it needs some clarification. A commentary will help.
The hope is, that in Christ, you will ‘do well’!
The point is there is a noble, creational way of living, in the present age, in the light of the impending crisis, yes, the coming of the kingdom. This is it. It is a gracious kingdom, with room to move, under the gracious care of the Lord, for each of us. Are you keeping uppermost in mind what matters most?

The world of sin and death, is passing away, and the world of holiness and life, is breaking in upon us. Amidst all the uncomfortable changes, faith sees Jesus.

Jesus Christ, and his kingdom. Thy Kingdom Come.





What We Believe…

4 08 2009

What do we confess to be true about the world we live in, and life itself, and eternity, and judgment?

The Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God.

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from

the Virgin Mary and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father (and the Son).

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

And the life of the world to come. Amen





a prayer for me, and for you…

2 06 2009

Dear Father, 

It seems a long time since we have had a proper talk. As Jesus has taught us to pray, so it is good to say, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name—your name! 

It is good to be able to pray to you. Thanks for short simple prayers. Thanks for little silent groans that you hear and answer. Thank you too, for the sanity that a longer, more framed, and almost formal prayer, brings to one’s mind.  (No wonder people—Anglicans—have for years, loved their book of common prayer). And then the Psalms are so good to read too. 

But it is time just for a slightly theological, prayer-full of the Spirit, rejoicing:

Thank you for sending your dear Son into the world, to become one with us – your beloved, yet sinful humanity.

Thank you Jesus for bearing our sins, in your body on the Tree, once, for all, to redeem this lost world of cities, towns, homes, lonely ones, and powerful nations.

Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us, to open our minds and hearts to know you, and love you, and to bring us insight and understanding of the gospel, and its centrality for all creation, for all of eternity.

Help my family and friends, Lord. Comfort, encourage, heal, humble, strengthen, quieten, forgive them, reconcile, and cheer them—all those good things!

Help me to encourage them. Help my life to be a small blessing to lots of people here and there.

(Even if it is simply talking kindly, and thankfully and thoughtfully, while appreciating the service and work, of the lady in the chicken shop, hot, tired, frustrated with things, greasy, and just serving one person after another—all of them hungry and in a hurry—and her in need of a cheerful moment. Bless your servants Lord, that this world may rejoice in hope now, and one day in full voice!). 

And now unto you O Lord, who by the power at work within us (the resurrection power) is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think, to you be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.





Our Help

3 03 2009

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).

1. These words, John Calvin (1550) chose, as the sentence to commence the weekly worship service. 

2. What sort of help do we have? …. All sorts.

3. Immediately prior to this verse,we read of the snare being broken, by the Lord: The snare is broken and we have escaped.

4. The enormous freedom given to a person, by Christ, is full and free. Such freedom is difficult to comprehend. explain or fathom. 

5. The power of the resurrected Christ Jesus, is bearing down upon us, enabling us to freely choose freedom, as our way of life.

6. We don’t use snares, much in our society, to catch birds and so on. But, in our society, there are so many snares, for human beings to wander into. How vast the freedom of being the object of Christ’s grace, breaking the snare of death—and delivering us from all the stupid ways we use, foolishly, to secure ourselves from it. 

7. Today, I am once again, conscious of the Lord’s help. Are you?








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