Thursday, March 31, 2016
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:24-31)
Failure of hope often denies a blessing, and thus was Thomas denied the blessing of seeing the Risen Savior sooner instead of later. In so doing, Thomas exposed his doubts and lack of faith to the other Apostles.
The Apostle Thomas was conspicuous in his absence on this first-day visitation of the Lord to the disciples who were gathered together in waiting. There is little question that all of the disciples were in some degree of doubt, more or less, of the developments and rumors of the day; yet, they gathered together in a common bond - minus Thomas - to confront their anxieties. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb 10:25) Whatever was the reason for the absence of Thomas, it does not seem justified to me. Of course, we all suffer from a lapse of faith leading to doubt and fear. Thomas seems to have dismiss the reports of the women as mere rumor and not truth. Having seen the prior miracles of the Lord, he was unjustified in doing so.
The strong encouragement to us concerning Thomas is this: in spite of the doubting nature of Thomas, the Lord, nonetheless, chose him as an Apostle. Despite our great weaknesses of faith and hope, the Lord called and finally chose us as well to be a disciple of His. Thomas even discounts the eye-witness report of his fellow apostles: The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. Christ will, at length, pay a special commendation to you and me in view of our faith which is based on the same Word Thomas held in unbelief and which we have accepted at 'faith-value.'
The Lord may linger making His presence known to us to test our faith. But at the decisive moment, He will always reveal Himself to those who seek Him. Eight days may pass before He reveals Himself, so patience is tempered by hope. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Please note that though Jesus had a glorified Body, it was both spiritual and physical. He was able to pass through closed doors by the mystery of God.
We see in the Gospel of St., Luke that Thomas was not literally the only apostle to doubt: 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them. (Luke 24:36-43) And we note Jesus ate physical food at His first appearance to the Apostles.
When Jesus appears this second time to the Apostles, Thomas is, indeed, present. Perhaps his doubts were lessened by the prior eye-witness account of the others, and he decided to investigate more fully their report. It is interesting that Jesus does not inquire of the doubts of Thomas, but immediately addresses them nonetheless: 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. There seems to be, to me, two salient points that are illustrated in this passage: 1) That Jesus understands our weakness of faith and may pursue our doubts until we truly believe; and 2) We are blessed indeed who believe the Word of God above every doubt and weakness. We were not, as was Thomas, an eye witness to the Risen Christ; but we believe with that same faith demonstrated in Abraham of the Promise of a Redeemer.
It seems that the spiritual presence of Christ was sufficient to allay the doubts of Thomas. We are not told that Thomas acceded to the invitation of Jesus to hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side. the overwhelming spiritual impact of the sight of the Risen Christ seems to have been sufficient. Later, Thomas became the apostle to India and reportedly perished India as he was establishing a church there. But he heard the Gospel report and doubted first. Confirming faith emboldens and makes us courageous in righteousness.
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. We see readily that Thomas did not at first believe the report of the Apostles; but the Word was written and inspired of God for our benefit to believe and accept. We have eternal life only through His Name.
John appends his own seal and certification to this Gospel at its very end: 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:24-25)
Since Christ is the Creator of all things (See John 1:1-4 and Genesis 1:1-5), all of the books in the world are not sufficient to record His works. Can you imagine the voluminous work required to record the meticulous creation of a single gnat which the world as yet cannot create?
Faith is magnified in the dissolution of doubt. I read that there was a great draught in Texas lasting several weeks. The crops were all dying and the cattle were famishing for water and green grass. Sunday morning, the elderly minister called for a special prayer meeting to call upon Heaven for rain. He mounted the pulpit and said, "Brothers and sister, we are going to have an all day prayer service next Sunday; so come prepared with a basket of foods and plan to stay from sun-up to sun-down in prayer for rain." On the next Sunday, the congregation showed up at sunrise prepared for prayer. The preacher asked, "Did everyone come prepared to pray for rain, trusting in the Lord to send it?" All responded, "Amen, brother." The old preacher then asked, "Well, then, I have only one question: Where are the umbrellas?"
In the words of Frederick William Faber:
For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.
And in the words of Washington Gladden in Ultima Veritas:
In the darkest night of the year,
When the stars have all gone out,
That courage is better than fear,
That faith is truer than doubt.
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:19-23)
Then the same day at evening that is, the first day of the week, the same day when the women had gone early to find the vacant tomb. The time was a time of growing darkness (evening). The disciples, though they had hearsay evidence of Christ’s resurrection, it was not as certain to them as a first hand witness. When the hour grows dark, the LORD may surprise us with Light! Those wicked of this world seek to separate themselves from the reality of a Living God. But the day will come when that separation will become real and eternal. At that day they will run to the mountains and plead for the mountains to fall on them to relieve them of their misery of separation from God, for to be separated from God is no less than Hell itself. A kind and consoling word will never be uttered in Hell.
Since there is a separation from God, there is no mercy. To the reprobate sinner, there remains only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Heb 10:27-29) I speak often with men, women, and young people who argue for a different kind of mercy than God offers – a mercy that ignores the Law of God, and attempts to adjudicate intentional sin by false claims of love and mercy. Yes, God forgives, but He does not condone habitual and intentional sin that goes without repentance.
Willful sin is an affront to a Holy God. If God condemns adultery (and He does in the most explicit terms), it is an offense to the Holy Spirit for a professing Christian to indulge in that sin. If God condemns homosexuality (and He does in the most explicit terms), it is an affront to the Holy Spirit to persist in the sin after forgiveness of the same by God. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:22) I do not say these warnings out of any malicious umbrage to the sinner, but out of warm affection and regard for their souls that may yet be saved by a solemn warning believed. The heart of man desires, continually, to sin; and he will invent many and varied justifications for his sin, but God will not honor those gossamer and flimsy veils for unmitigated sin at the Judgment Seat. It is God’s Law, or Mercy, by which we shall be judged. If we choose Law, we perish. If we choose mercy, we will be changed into souls with a humble regard for God’s Sovereignty, and a heart of contrition for all sin.
What has this to do with our Easter message today? It is germane in many points. We may presume, erroneously, that God is not privy to either our outward sins, or those of the thoughts of our hearts; but He has constant access to every single act and thought of every person born of woman.
When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, there comes an unexpected joy! Men tend to gather around common fears in time of trouble. These men were fearful of the same evil men as those who crucified our Lord. They were in reclusive retreat. Do not judge them harshly for we would, beyond doubt, be of the same frame of mind under similar conditions. But here they had gathered quietly and inconspicuously. There was no singing and no praising. Despair was in the air. They had shut and secured the door against ALL comers.
Came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. The disciples had certainly not expected this ‘intruder.’ “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them! (Matt 18:20). Jesus always provides that which is most needful. These men feared for their lives and yearned, beyond measure, for peace. At just such a time, Christ the “Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings.” (Mal 4:2) He stood in the very midst of them so that all could equally view His presence and know it to be Him. No doors will separate Him from His people for He, Himself, is the Door to the Sheepfold!
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Though we may hide ourselves from man and God, He will not hide Himself from us when we gather in His name. He never comes in a doubtful fashion, or as an imposter. He proves Himself by the terrible wounds of His crucifixion. This could leave no doubt in the minds of the disciples as to His identity. They were well aware of the cruel ten inch nails driven through His Hands and Feet, and of the terrible pierce made into His side which made an opening in His heart for those of us of later ages to enter therein. They were glad when they saw the LORD. Should we not be glad also? We may be made glad by seeing Him through His Word, for He is the Word. And the Comforter will always point to Him if we seek Him.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Do not believe that I come bringing more fears and trouble than you presently have had. Jesus reinforces His greeting of peace by reiterating it. Anything which comes to us, the believers, from the Father will always be for our good. The Father has sent Christ to us! We often reflect on the great love of Christ in suffering for us on the cross – and that love is, indeed, beyond any which we can imagine. But how often do we consider the immeasurable love of the Father in sending us His Well-Beloved and Only-Begotten Son to suffer the insults, offences, and torture of the cross for us. You may take it as a given that the Father suffered every whit as much as the Son (and maybe even more). The Father, in His abundant Love, sent His Son Jesus, to die for us - but not to die only, also to rise as well from the Tomb for us. Jesus was the perfectly obedient and loving Son. He did all that His Father had required. And He, too, acted out of an abundance of love which mortals cannot comprehend! His dying paid the price for our redemption. His resurrection assures us of a home in Heaven!
But we must know that love is the great power which drew Christ to the Cross. That love gift from the Father in sending His Son is now to be our own model in being sent by Christ into the whole world to preach the Gospel to all nations, tribes, and tongues.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. This act was to impart the breath of God (inspiration) to the Apostles to carry forth the evangelizing Gospel and, in so doing, act with heavenly authority.
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. What meaning do we associate with this counsel of Christ? Does the priest or minister possess power to forgive, or forego forgiveness of sins? Not at all. But having received the breath and inspiration Christ, we may clearly act in accordance with His Word to declare the forgiveness of sins which God has assured all who forsake and repent of sin. The best explanation I have seen is that of the great Bible scholar and teacher, Matthew Henry:
He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, thus showing that their spiritual life, as well as all their ability for their work, would be derived from him, and depended upon him. Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith, comes accompanied by this Divine breathing; and without this there is neither light nor life. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt of God, but through this. After this, Christ directed the apostles to declare the only method by which sin would be forgiven. This power did not exist at all in the apostles as a power to give judgment, but only as a power to declare the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have clearly laid down the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a false professor; and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment.
Jesus does not mean to grant a sacerdotal mystery in this last sentence. No man, or priest, can forgive sins – or even grant forgiveness of sins on behalf of God. We are to preach and teach the Gospel – precisely the same Gospel that we have heard and read in the Words of Christ. Those who hear, believe, and repent of sin, shall be saved by our preaching and teaching. Their sins have been remitted by our preaching of that sound doctrine and truth of the Gospel. Many will not receive the truth. In fact, their hearts may be hardened against that truth. What hardened their sinful hearts? Our preaching of truth hardened their hearts so that they will have no excuse at the Judgment. They will not be able to proclaim, “No one ever told us!” The Word of God is a two edged sword. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:12-13) Being a discerner of the intents of the hearts and thoughts of men, it has a dual purpose – either to convict of sin, or to condemn in sin. It most often, unfortunately, condemns of sin since the greater numbers of mankind will always choose the broad road that leads down to destruction. BEWARE that easy and downward sloping path. Choose the Narrow Way that leads up to God. AMEN
Do we bear these marks?
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Devotion on Hymns of the Church - Christ the Lord is Risen Today - Easter Tuesday - 29 March 2016, Anno Domini
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. (Matt 28:5-6)
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)
Millions of faithful voices sang this hymn this week at the Easter Service. How many of them truly believed that Jesus Christ rose even as they sang that hymn, but He did! His resurrection was timeless and not limited to a single hour or day. Jesus is the I AM of the Resurrection. "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Note the Divine title of Christ - the I AM! That titled is qualified in His special role as the Resurrection. If He is not the Resurrection, we are without hope. His Resurrection is ongoing since Godly souls rise in Him every moment of the day - now and forever as long as seed time and harvest remain.
Written by Charles Wesley and first published in 1756, the hymn is the product of a number of writers and hymnists. The most popular tune is Easter Hymn - author unknown to man, and known only to God.
It is interesting to note how modern Bible versions (translated from corrupt manuscripts) pass along the error of their specious translation in their English translation. See how Matt 28:6 is changed in its significant meaning from the Received Text rendering above: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."
Matt 28:6 (NIV) Observe the past tense 'has risen" as opposed to "is risen." This may seem a trivial change, but it is not. It goes to the heart of who Jesus is as the Great I AM!
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia! The Christian heart is securely buried in Christ. His entire hope of resurrection lies in the hope of resurrection offered in Christ; therefore, as Christ rises today, so do all who are in Christ - just as those who were in the secure chambers of Noah's Ark. Christ is our Ark and we rise with Him daily. His is the place of security, and we are invited to enter in. This does not nullify the fact that Christ did visibly and gloriously arise on the First Day of the week from the Garden Tomb; but that resurrection illustrates the ongoing resurrection the believer has in Christ. Every Word of God must evoke an echo in our own hearts so that both Heavens and Earth reply.
The Greek alliteration of the Hebrew word, Hallelujah/Alleluia, occurs sixteen times in the hymn; therefore, it deserves some illumination. Here is how Jamiesson, Fauscett, Brown describes it: " Alleluia--Hebrew, "Praise ye JAH," or JEHOVAH: here first used in Revelation, whence ELLICOTT infers the Jews bear a prominent part in this thanksgiving. JAH is not a contraction of "JEHOVAH," as it sometimes occurs jointly with the latter. It means "He who Is": whereas Jehovah is "He who will be, is, and was." It implies God experienced as a PRESENT help; so that "Hallelujah," says KIMCHI in BENGEL, is found first in the Psalms on the destruction of the ungodly. "Hallelu-Jah" occurs four times in this passage. Compare Psalms 149:4-9, which is plainly parallel, and indeed identical in many of the phrases, as well as the general idea. Israel, especially, will join in the Hallelujah, when "her warfare is accomplished" and her foe destroyed." Note the correct interpretation of the nature of Christ in this explanation: " It means "He who Is": whereas Jehovah is "He who will be, is, and was." It implies God experienced as a PRESENT help.
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia! Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!" Jesus experienced the pains of death so that we will be spared that death. He lay in the tomb over the Sabbath Day in rest. Just as the Creator (Jesus Christ) rested on the Seventh Day after creating the worlds and all living, so He rested on that Passover Sabbath after completing that spiritual Creation which He sealed with His death and burial. We may exclaim with Paul, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)
Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia! Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia! Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia! Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!" There is an old gospel song my mother used to sing on sunny and cloudy days which proclaims,
I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me,
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
I am pleased to proclaim it was a Divine, Immutable and Infinite Love that compelled Christ to the Cross for us. And it was that same divine Love that denied the tomb its most esteemed Occupant. It is not in the nature of death to surrender any who comes into its domain; but Christ is the Master of Land, Sea and Heaven. He is that brilliant Light before which the darkness of death can only flee and not confront. The labors of the Creator of Paradise at Eden, over which He labored and which was marred by the sin of Adam, yet exists in Heaven to where the Tree of Life has been quartered. God will not surrender the labor of His hands to Satan, but will, rather, restore all living of Eden and of earth (of believers) to that Edenic Paradise. 1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the TREE OF LIFE, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:1-2)
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia! Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! Before we rise on the wings of love with Christ, we must first have followed Him along the dreary trails of this world - not only along the lush shores of Galilee's happy waters, but along the dreary rocks and crevices of the Wilderness. Not only do we follow Him to the feast and banquet, but also on the tiresome journey to Samaria, to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and to Gennesret (and up from Jericho as the Good Samaritan). If we are to enjoy a safe passage, we must, at least, be willing to walk on the sea as did Peter. We take up our "I AM" crosses daily and follow Him on the Via Dolorosa and on to Golgotha, and to the Garden Tomb (for we must die daily to self). Planted there in that Garden, as was He, we shall also follow on that glorious resurrection morning when stark and brilliant light shall separate the heavens and all shall rise in Christ to eternal life and bliss. ALLELUIA!
Sunday, March 27, 2016
No sermon from Bishop Jerry today. Not to worry, he and Debbie are merely on travel to Stateville to GHQ! All is well. He sends his heart felt joy of our Lord to each of you! He provided the Easter Letter and a lot more this past week. If you don’t get his daily devotions, let Hap know and you can.
If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week.
Today is Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The central event of not only the Christian Year; but of Christianity and the entire world. Witness the terms AD and BC. Anno Domini (the year of our Lord) and Before Christ. Even the politically correct BCE - CE (that is to say, Before Common Era and Common Era) divides time at the birth of our Lord. Even those who fall in that trap must recognize Him!
When you google images for the term Easter, you find 95 percent of the images, eggs, bunnies and chocolates. That is NOT our celebration. That is NOT what Easter is about. Easter is not about finding goodies inside plastic shells. The Christian year has four main celebrations. Christmas celebrates the incarnation or human birth of Jesus, the Christ of God. Epiphany celebrates His revealing to the Gentiles, that would be us! Good Friday remembers, the word celebrate hardly fits here, the one time sacrifice for all mankind for all time by our Lord and Savior (that is where the word savior comes in) that we might be accounted as perfect when we stand before Him at the final judgment day. Today, Easter is, in Spanish La Resurreccion, in English The Resurrection, The Return to Life of Jesus, Christ of God, who returned from death, from Hell, to deliver His promise of eternal life in person!
Consider these words from the Collect:
… Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect…
In the Collect, we acknowledge by the sacrifice made on Good Friday by the One and Only Perfect Man, a single sacrifice, made one time, for all mankind, for all time by our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, we have eternal life. We no longer our bound to the rules of the Old Covenant whereby animal sacrifices were required. These sacrifices have never worked, as they could not provide what Christ provided in His Sacrifice. He provided a body free and unblemished from the tarnishes of sin. He was truly the perfect Lamb without blemish or spot. This would allow Him to stand in our place. He truly took our place upon the cross of sin literally and figuratively. By Jesus Christ overcoming death, we through Him, are no longer under the threat of death of our eternal soul in the Pit. No longer can anyone condemn us to death, they may destroy our bodies, but we live on in Him and through Him in Heaven. With the acknowledgement God sent His Son to be our Savior giving us eternal life, we go on to ask His Help so our hearts might desire good and with that Help put those desires into action so that we might accept that eternal life offered us by that same Jesus Christ. That is what that preventing is all about. Today we think of the word as meaning stopping something, but it also means going before one, as in this case God’s special or particular grace preparing the way for us. Without Him to smooth the road, we will not make it.
Paul then tells us, if we say we are with Christ, we must act with Him. The Sacrifice He made for us is not free. There is no free lunch, nor in this case is there a free ticket to Heaven. There is a continual debate in many denominations whether we are saved by faith alone, or by good works. Our answer to this debate should be that only the faith of Jesus can save us, His faith, not ours; then our faith in Him, our belief, our trust, in Him, not in our own selves. If we have faith, we have to firstly believe, and if we truly believe, we must of necessity back up that claimed faith with actions or works so to speak. So we are saved by our faith, but our faith requires operative action upon our part. We must continually seek to better our selves by setting our sights on Him in Heaven and guiding our actions by Him, by associating with others likeminded. We must turn our backs on this earth if we truly face heaven. We must use Jesus as our compass, for looking to ourselves results only in confusion. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24 “One cannot serve two masters.” We must choose Him or Mammon. I know which one I choose, hopefully you do too as well.
When we come to Holy Week, we find a triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, triumphant in the eyes of the beholders, beholders who really have no clue what this is all about. The crowd, with some of the same people who later condemned Him, welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with the expectation He came to free them from the Roman yoke, to hold them up, to put their feet on the Romans’ necks. Yet, He knew where He was going and what would happen. He was in control of the situation, He knew what was going to happen. He would not have set the plan in motion if He didn’t know it would work. He knew that the end result would be a success, but He also knew that there would be incredible pain and suffering involved on the road to His resurrection.
As He saw the road ahead was filled with obstacles, the pain and suffering, so too, do we know that it will be filled with hard times and suffering also. But like He, we must persevere on the straight and narrow path, refusing to ever give up. He never gave up on us, why would we give up on Him? When we are in trying and very difficult circumstances let us remember Our Lord’s circumstances. When those who had followed Him abandoned Him, including Peter who denied him three times. Add to this being betrayed by one of those He had included in the ranks of the Apostles, who had been seduced by the greed of earthly treasures. Then on top of this, His unfair trial, then His painful death upon the cross for us all. Then He had to descend into Hell and do battle with the Devil.
Compared to all of this, are any of our circumstances even close? Can any of them truly compare to the sadness, despair and agony our Lord felt in Holy Week, with the Dramatic Conclusion on Good Friday. The answer is no, no matter how hard and trying our circumstances are, we cannot even come close to the magnitude of pain He felt. We must remember how hard things were during this week for Him, especially as He knew precisely what would happen to Him.
The week built towards the First Day of the First Week of the New Covenant. Jesus knew what He was doing.
Reflect on this, during World War II on D-Day, the first waves were National Guard and new recruits. No veterans of Torch, Norway or Dieppe. Why? Because all the soldiers were patriots and all were ready to defend their country; but like Peter, the new guys did not know what that really meant.
Crucifixion, a cruel painful death. Painful beyond our comprehension. Think about the mechanics of being nailed to a cross. Think about that. Then think about the descent into hell to do battle with the devil. Think about that. No matter what you imagine, like D-Day the reality exceeded the expectation.
Yet Jesus, being God, knew exactly what He was volunteering for. And He rode towards the sound of gunfire with full and certain knowledge of His Death and also of His Resurrection. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15.13
Jesus went with full knowledge aforethought where no one would go – FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOR US. That is Good Friday’s lesson.
Today, The Resurrection, Easter or as it is called in Spanish, Dia de la Resurreccion, is the day that the promise of everlasting life was delivered. It is the completion of the sacrifice He made for us on Good Friday, it is His triumphant return from the depths of Hell, having procured an eternal victory for all of those who would truly follow Him and act upon His name. He went for us with full knowledge of where no one but Him would go, so that we may have eternal life. Dwell on that and think of how much love He truly has for us, that he went and endured significant and terrible emotional pain for us.
This one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind was made for YOU. All you need to do to get the benefit is follow Christ. So, what does that mean? See John 14.23: Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
It is not if you attend church or not that makes you a Christian, it is if you do what He asks of you. Going to church just gives you help and encouragement. It makes you part of a team, part of a coherent unit. After all, the more people there are in a group like the church, the more stable it will be. And more stable also will our spiritual lives be if we have friends and family involved in it as well, to keep us on that straight and narrow path.
Today, you have a choice, just like every day. Today you can be a Chreaster, that is one who celebrates Christmas and Easter and does not live the life or you can be a Christian. One who follows Christ. There is a difference between the two and it is big The key in the difference is actions and faith. You have to have faith in Our Lord and you have to act for our Lord. This will determine if you are a Christian truly or only one in name.
If you choose being a Christian, be prepared for constant failure and shortfall of goal. So long as you do your best and never give up Christ will account you as perfect when it counts.
Today, the first day in Eternity or another day off your life towards death. Your choice. Jesus made His, you make yours.
When the time comes, how will you ACT?
It is by our actions we are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
 GHQ – General HeadQuarters – The home office of the Anglican Orthodox Worldwide Communion. He conducted a combination Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday service in Enterprise last week. All is well.
 This is so very important to remember, Jesus knew EXACTLY what He was doing. Yet, He did it anyway. He went through with all of this knowing ALL.