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Lately I’ve been noticing some differences between general “Christian living” type books publish today and those published two or three decades ago (not often but sometimes). Many of the authors of those past books are still writing today along with a plethora of Christian writers who have arrived on the scene since then. Over this time span postmodernism has had a major influence on the church, and it is sometimes apparent when comparing some of what is being written today from what was written twenty or thirty years ago. The following brief description of postmodernism as it relates to the church is found at GotQuestions.org:
Postmodern Christianity is just as difficult to lock down in a concise definition as postmodernism itself. What started in the 1950s in architecture as a reaction to modernist thought and style was soon adopted by the art and literary world in the 1970s and 1980s. The Church didn’t really feel this effect until the 1990s. This reaction was a dissolution of “cold, hard fact” in favor of “warm, fuzzy subjectivity.” Think of anything considered postmodern, then stick Christianity into that context and you have a glimpse of what post-modern Christianity is.
Postmodern Christianity falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward. Are these things good? Sure. Are these things bad? Sure. It all depends on how far from biblical truth each reaction against modernity takes one’s faith. This, of course, is up to each believer. However, when groups form under such thinking, theology and doctrine tend to lean more towards liberalism.
For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. This opens up all kinds of problems, as this lessens the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, and even disqualifies biblical truth as being absolute in many cases. If the Bible is not our source for absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ is rendered meaningless.
There will always be “paradigm shifts” in thinking as long as mankind inhabits this present earth, because mankind constantly seeks to better itself in knowledge and stature. Challenges to our way of thinking are good, as they cause us to grow, to learn, and to understand. This is the principle of Romans 12:2 at work, of our minds being transformed. Yet, we need to be ever mindful of Acts 17:11 and be like the Bereans, weighing every new teaching, every new thought, against Scripture. We don’t let our experiences interpret Scripture for us, but as we change and conform ourselves to Christ, we interpret our experiences according to Scripture. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening in circles espousing post-modern Christianity. (Quote source here.)
What initially got me thinking about this difference came from a book I found yesterday at Goodwill that was originally published back in 1997. The book is titled,“Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” by Jim Cymbala, pastor at The Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City and author of numerous books. The full title of the book is “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People,” originally published 21 years ago, and coauthored with Dean Merrill, former magazine editor, editorial director, and a former vice president at International Bible Society (now Biblica). He is also an author of numerous books.
Jim Cymbala is the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York, NY. Pastored by Cymbala since 1972, the Tabernacle has, as of 1996, began holding four services a Sunday, each with at least 1,600 per meeting. This is despite the fact that they have been sending groups out to plant churches since 1985, seventeen as of the printing of his book. In the inner city, a church isn’t likely to grow due to transference of members from other churches, or slick programs. Churches grow in dark places when they meet the deep spiritual needs of the people. Clearly then, Jim Cymbala has something to say.
The first part of the book shows the struggle Jim and his wife Carol endured when they took on a small dying church in Brooklyn, that could not even pay it’s bills. A young man with no formal training in ministry, he heard all manner of church growth advice (p. 24). Finally the Lord spoke to him, saying that if he would lead the people to pray and call on his name, that they would never build a building large enough to accommodate the crowds God would send. On that word from the Lord, Cymbala instituted Tuesday night prayer in his church and, as they say, the rest is history.
Cymbala told his church that the Tuesday prayer meeting would become the barometer for the church, the gauge by which they would judge success or failure (p. 27). By this measure Cymbala sees the church in America sadly lacking. In Brooklyn, broken lives were healed, from prostitutes to drug addicts, not because of polished sermons, or better teaching, but because of love birthed in prayer.
“Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” is a plea to the church in this country to return to prayer. “Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, ‘We are not New Testament churches if we don’t have a prayer life’” (p 50). Many pastors have come to him and told Cymbala that they would be embarrassed to have a prayer meeting in their church because nobody would come. “Does the Bible say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation that ‘My house shall be called a house of preaching?’” (p. 71). He is bold enough to say that he is embarrassed that religious leaders in America talk about having prayer in public schools, when we do not even have prayer in our churches (p. 72).
Cymbala rounds out the book with an assessment of the church’s penchant for novelty (chapter 7), marketing (chapter 8), and doctrine without power (chapter 9). This includes a sober and refreshing look at fads, and “new” doctrines. . . . (Quote source here.)
The Church was born shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, and the Book of Acts in the New Testament tells the story of its beginning and its complete dependence on God for everything–literally everything. When I stated above that I sometimes noticed a difference in the writings of Christian authors from two or three decades ago compared with today, that statement isn’t made as if I’m pining for some type of “good old days.” God and Jesus Christ don’t change from generation to generation or culture to culture (see Hebrews 13:8). However, our focus over time has shifted in ways we might not even notice or recognize.
In the 21st Century we are constantly inundated with new information that molds our thinking and our choices through social media, advertising, peer pressure, and the constant 24/7 flow of information. And there are forces at work that are detrimental to us that we don’t even recognize. Read the description again on postmodernism and the church stated above and see if you don’t agree. We are being molded in a myriad of ways that might seem normal when they aren’t. And they are leading us astray from the only Source of real life that there is. For example, money and materialism has a massive hold on many Christians, yet we fail to recognize the danger it presents to us.
Cymbala’s book, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” is primarily a book about prayer and how powerful it has been in his church and among those attending Brooklyn Tabernacle over the years. In Chapter 3 titled, “A Song for the Desperate,” he states (on pp. 49-51):
Prayer cannot truly be taught by principles and seminars and symposiums. It has to be born out of a whole environment of felt need. If I say, “I ought to pray,” I will soon run out of motivation and quit; the flesh is too strong. I have to be driven to pray.
Yes, the roughness of inner-city life [where Brooklyn Tabernacle is located] has pressed us to pray. When you have alcoholics trying to sleep on the back steps of your building, when your teenagers are getting assaulted and knifed on the way to youth meetings, when you bump into transvestites in the lobby after church, you can’t escape your need for God. According to a recent Columbia University study, twenty-one cents of every dollar New Yorkers pay in city taxes is spent trying to cope with the effects of smoking, drinking, and drug abuse.
But is the rest of the country coasting along in fine shape? I think not. In the smallest village in the Farm Belt there are still urgent needs. Every congregation has wayward kids, family members who aren’t serving God. Do we really believe that God can bring them back to himself?
Too many Christians live in a state of denial: “Well, I hope my child will come around someday.” Some parents have actually given up. “I guess nothing can be done. Bobby didn’t turn out right–but we tried; we dedicated him to the Lord when he was a baby. Maybe someday . . .”
The more we pray, the more we sense our need to pray. And the more we sense a need to pray, the more we want to pray.
Prayer is the source of the Christian life, a Christian’s lifeline. Otherwise, it’s like having a baby in your arms and dressing her up so cute–but she’s not breathing! Never mind the frilly clothes; stabilize the child’s vital signs. It does no good to talk to someone in a comatose state. That’s why the great emphasis on teaching in today’s churches is producing such limited results. Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled. If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but, unfortunately, spiritual life cannot be taught.
Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, “We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.” This conviction makes us squirm a little, but how else will there be a breakthrough with God?
If we truly think about what Acts 2:42 says–“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”–we can see that prayer is almost a proof of a church’s normalcy. Calling on the name of the Lord is the fourth great hallmark in the list. If my church or your church isn’t praying, we shouldn’t be boasting in our orthodoxy or our Sunday morning attendance figures.
In fact, Carol [his wife] and I have told each other more than once that if the spirit of brokenness and calling on God ever slacks off in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, we’ll know we’re in trouble, even if we have 10,000 in attendance. (Quote source: “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” 1997, pp. 49-51.)
In Chapter 6 titled, “A Time for Shaking,” Cymbala writes (on pp. 97-98):
Whether we call ourselves classical evangelicals, traditionalists, fundamentalists, Pentecostals, or charismatics, we all have to face our lack of real power and call out for a fresh infilling of the Spirit. We need the fresh wind of God to awaken us from our lethargy. We must not hide any longer behind some theological argument. The days are too dark and too dangerous.
The work of God can only be carried on by the power of God. The church is a spiritual organism fighting spiritual battles. Only spiritual power can make it function as God ordained.
The key is not money, organization, cleverness, or education. Are you and I seeing the results Peter (in Acts) saw? Are we bringing thousands of men and women to Christ the way he did? If not, we need to get back to his power source. No matter the society or culture, the city or town, God has never lacked the power to work through available people to glorify his name.
When we sincerely turn to God, we will find that his church always moves forward, not backward. We can never back up and accommodate ourselves to what the world wants or expects. Our stance must remain militant, aggressive, bold.
That is what characterized General William Booth and the early Salvation Army as they invaded the slums of London. It characterized the early mission movements, such as the Moravians. It characterized Hudson Taylor in China as well as revivalists on the American frontier. These Christians were not bulls in a china shop, but they did speak the truth in love–fearlessly.
In the familiar story of David and Goliath, there is a wonderful moment when the giant gets irked at the sight of his young opponent. “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” he roars (1 Samuel 17:43). Goliath is genuinely insulted. “Come here, . . . I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” (v. 44).
Does David flinch? Does he opt for the strategic retreat behind some tree or boulder, thinking maybe to buy a little time?
“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” (v. 48).
That is the picture of what God wants for us today: running towards the fray!
David’s weaponry was ridiculous: a sling and five stones. It didn’t matter. God still uses foolish tools in the hand of weak people to build his kingdom. Backed by prayer and his power, we can accomplish the unthinkable. (Quote source, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” 1997, pp. 97-98.)
Easter is just two days away. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is about new life, and the power available to us to live this new life–fresh wind, and fresh fire. God never asks us to sit on the sidelines but to enter the battle, just like David did in the story above. But we should never enter that battle alone. Prayer is our vital link and the source of our power (through the Holy Spirit). In fact, Paul commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing” (see article titled “What Does It Mean to Pray Without Ceasing?” at this link).
A statement in that article linked above states: “As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task that God commands. A lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, continual dependence upon and communion with the Father” (quote source here). So with that in mind, this Easter let’s not just dress up nice to go to church, but learn to lean on God as our source for everything all the time, and . . .
Pray . . .
Without . . .
Ceasing . . . .
YouTube Video: “Because He Lives (Amen)” by Matt Maher:
The predawn of Easter Sunday is about 36 hours away at the time I am writing this post. In fact, at this precise moment, it is the afternoon of Good Friday, which is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If you’ve ever wondered why it is called “Good Friday,” Justin Holcomb, an Episcopal priest (serving as the Canon for Vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida), who also teaches theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary, has written an article titled, “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” In this article, Dr. Holcomb states:
On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).
Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.
In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.
In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.
Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good. (Quote source here.)
The hallmark of the Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. Unique among all of the world’s various religions is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No other religion can claim it’s founder ever rose from the dead. And without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity would not exist. It is that clear cut.
Bill Bright (1921-2003), founder and President of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU since 2011) along with his wife, Vonette (1926-2015), wrote an article titled, “Why the Resurrection Matters to You: Explaining evidence and meaning of the resurrection.” In the article Dr. Bright states the following (quote source here):
The validity of Jesus’ claims about Himself rests on the Resurrection — whether He rose from the dead or stayed in the grave.
Many skeptics say that to believe in a risen Christ is nothing more than a blind leap of faith with little or no basis in truth.
When confronted with the facts, however, those who are intellectually honest have been forced to admit that the Resurrection is an historical event based on irrefutable proofs.
On my spiritual journey from agnosticism to faith in Christ, I, like many people, had a problem with the Resurrection.
But my personal study brought me to a firm conviction that a bodily resurrection is the only explanation for Christ’s empty tomb.
Several evidences helped me reach this conclusion.
Evidence for the Resurrection
- 1st, Christ predicted His resurrection. The Bible records, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things … and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21, New American Standard Bible). Even though His followers did not understand what He was telling them at the time, they remembered His words and recorded them.
- 2nd, Jesus made numerous appearances to His followers. He comforted the mourners outside His tomb on Sunday morning. On the road to Emmaus, He explained things about Himself from the Old Testament. Later, He ate in their presence and invited them to touch Him. Scripture records that Jesus was seen by more than 500 at one time. Some may argue that a few people could have agreed to a deception, but how can one explain the collaboration of 500 people?
- 3rd, the unrelenting faith of the disciples convinces me of the Resurrection. Those disciples who were once so afraid that they deserted their Lord now courageously proclaimed this news, risking their lives to preach. Their bold and courageous behavior does not make sense unless they knew with absolute certainty that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
- 4th, the growth of the Christian church confirms the Resurrection. Peter’s first sermon, which dealt with Christ’s resurrection, stirred people to receive Him as their living Savior. Luke records the thrilling results: “That day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). And that group of believers has multiplied until now it reaches around the world. Today, there are hundreds of millions of believers.
- Finally, the testimony of hundreds of millions of transformed lives through the centuries shows the power of the Resurrection. Many have been delivered from addictions. The destitute and despairing have found hope. Broken marriages have been restored. The most conclusive proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that He is living within believers today in all of His resurrected life and transforming power.
The Resurrection sets Christianity apart. No other religious leader has broken the power of death and conquered sin.
Significance of the Resurrection
The Resurrection confirms that Jesus is who He claimed to be. Let us consider the magnitude of this event:
- The Resurrection proved that Christ was divine. The fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross does not prove in itself He is God. Jesus proved His deity by fulfilling the prophecies of His death and by His return from the grave. The Bible declares that “by being raised from the dead [Christ] was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God Himself” (Romans 1:4, The Living Bible).
- The Resurrection proved Christ’s power to forgive sin. The Bible asserts, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). By rising from the dead, Jesus proved His authority and power to break the bonds of sin and to assure forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept His gift of salvation.
- The Resurrection revealed Christ’s power over death. The Bible records, “Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him” (Romans 6:9, TLB). The Resurrection secured our victory over death as well and “lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6).
- The Resurrection defeated God’s enemy. From the moment of his original rebellion until the day of the Cross, the devil fought viciously and cunningly to overthrow the kingdom of God. Satan must have thought he had dealt the final and decisive blow in this age-old war. But this was the devil’s most serious miscalculation. The Cross was heaven’s triumph. And when Jesus Christ arose, the power of sin and death was forever shattered. Because of the Resurrection, Christians need never fear Satan or death again.
Completion of Redemption
For 40 days after His death and resurrection, Christ appeared many times to His followers.
On one occasion, He gathered His remaining 11 disciples on a mountain in Galilee and gave them His Great Commission.
He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:19,20).
Later, the Book of Acts records that, on the Mount of Olives, He admonished His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit and then to take His message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world (Acts 1:4,5,8).
Immediately after, He rose skyward and disappeared into the clouds, leaving the disciples staring after Him in amazed wonder.
The ascension of Christ was the final act in the drama of redemption. His mission completed, Jesus Christ was exalted to His former glory.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ ranks as history’s most revolutionary event.
One cannot deny that He shook the world in His day.
But His life just as dramatically has shaped the course of history in our time.
On Easter Sunday 2012 I published a short post that included Matthew 28 (click here for the original post) which contains the Biblical account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ll end this post by reposting it again below:
It’s the greatest story ever told.
Do you believe it?
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The Guards’ Report
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Therefore go. . .”
So what are we waiting for?
Go. . . Make. . . Teach. . .
YouTube Video: “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong:
During the next several days ending on Sunday, March 27, 2016, we will be celebrating several events here in America that encompass one of the greatest themes known to humankind–deliverance. Also known as “Passion Week” (the last week in the life of Jesus Christ), it starts this Sunday, March 20, 2016, which is Palm Sunday, and is followed by Good Friday on March 25th, and Easter on Sunday, March 27th. Thrown into the middle of this week is the Jewish holiday of Purim (based on the Old Testament book of Esther), which starts at sundown on Wednesday, March 23rd, and ends at sundown on Thursday, March 24th.
For the past couple of years I have reposted a blog post I first wrote at Easter 2013. That post is titled, “On the Road to Emmaus” (click here for link to last year’s reblogged post). I’ve also posted two other blog posts on Easter titled, “He Is Risen” (click here), and “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” (click here). Also, I have posted a blog post originally written on Purim 2014 with the latest version, “Celebrate Purim 5775 (2015),” published last year (click here for post).
The holidays of Purim and Easter are two holidays celebrating this theme of deliverance. Back in 2005 when Purim and Easter fell on the same day, Day of Discovery published a video titled, “Two Holidays of Deliverance: Purim and Easter” (click here to watch the video). Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:
Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here). [The entire story can be read in the Old Testament book of Esther].
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ~John 3:16-18
While I was tempted to repost my previously written blog posts on Purim and Easter from past years again for this year, the subject of deliverance is one that is too important to overlook. So let’s start by finding out what the Bible says on the subject of deliverance. GotQuestions.org states:
Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” Deliverance in the Bible is the acts of God whereby He rescues His people from peril. In the Old Testament, deliverance is focused primarily on God’s removal of those who are in the midst of trouble or danger. He rescues His people from their enemies (1 Samuel 17:37; 2 Kings 20:6), and from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 7:2; 17:13; 18:16-19; 59:2). He preserves them from famine (Psalm 33:19), death (Psalm 22:19-21), and the grave (Psalm 56:13; 86:13; Hosea 13:14). The most striking example of deliverance is the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 3:8; 6:6; 8:10). Here is God defined as the Deliverer of Israel who rescues His people, not because they deserve to be rescued, but as an expression of His mercy and love (Psalm 51:1; 71:2; 86:13).
In the New Testament, God is always the subject—and His people are always the object—of deliverance. The descriptions of temporal deliverance in the Old Testament serve as symbolic representations of the spiritual deliverance from sin which is available only through Christ. He offers deliverance from mankind’s greatest peril—sin, evil, death and judgment. By God’s power, believers are delivered from this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) and from the power of Satan’s reign (Colossians 1:13). All aspects of deliverance are available only through the person and work of Jesus Christ, who was Himself delivered up for us (Romans 4:25) so that we would be delivered from eternal punishment for sin. Only Jesus rescues us from the “wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Another aspect of deliverance concerns the temporal. While believers are delivered once for all time from eternal punishment, we are also delivered from the trials of this life (2 Peter 2:9). Sometimes that deliverance is God simply walking through the trials by our side, comforting and encouraging us through them as He uses them to mature us in the faith. Paul assured the Corinthian believers that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). In these cases, rescue is not immediate, but in due time, after patience has had its perfect work (James 1:2-4, 12). God makes the way of escape simultaneously with the temptation which, in His perfect will and timing, He permissively arranges or allows for His people.
Deliverance is often sought from evil spirits or the spirit of lust, jealousy, etc. It’s important to understand that, as believers, we already have eternal victory over Satan and demons. But we can be delivered from their influence in our lives by using two weapons God has given us as part of our spiritual armor with which we battle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12-17). The believer defends himself with the shield of faith and uses the offensive weapon of the Word of God. Against these two, no spirit can prevail. By holding up the shield of faith, we extinguish the flaming spiritual arrows they send against us, arrows of lust, doubt, guilt, jealousy, evil speech, and all manner of temptations. With the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, we overcome the evil one by proving his temptations to be lies because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). John’s second letter commends the young Christians whose spiritual strength came from the Word of God living in them. By the offensive weapon of the Truth, we overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14).
Deliverance from sin, rescue from trials, and escape from the influence of a world in the control of the evil one come only through Christ, the Son of God who has come and “has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:19-20). (Quote source here.)
It is God who delivers. When we find ourselves going through very trying times that never seem to end, no matter how hard we may try to coerce or plead with God, or try to work it out on our own or manipulate our circumstances, it is only God who delivers in His way and in His timing. He sees the whole picture, and it’s always much broader then we can possibly know, conceive, understand, or imagine it to be. And it is always far greater and wider reaching than what we as individuals are personally going through at any point in time, although what we are personally going through is also of great importance to Him, too. Everything in this life is connected in one way or another, and in ways we cannot possibly understand. God didn’t create this world and then decide to leave it up to us to run. After all, we know what happened in the Garden of Eden when left on our own, and we haven’t done much better on our own down through the ages to today.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church during the reign of Adolf Hitler in Germany (1933-1945), wrote a statement in his diary in 1939 at a time when he was contemplating returning to Germany after spending only 26 days in New York City. While he was “safe” in New York City from the reach of Hitler, he was compelled to return to Germany in spite of Hitler’s growing reign of terror. While making the decision to return to Berlin, Bonhoeffer wrote the following in his diary:
It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or is it both? . . . Today the reading [a passage of Scripture not noted in this diary entry] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgement. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgement on today and all it’s decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote source: “Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (2014), by Eric Metaxas, p. 130).
Now I assume some people reading this blog post may not believe in God or at least think it is crazy that a God “out there somewhere” (if he even exists) would care about the decisions we make, or even on some level unknown to us, that this God could be directing our steps. However, God is not surprised by any of our actions whether good or evil, but only God can use everything to fulfill His purposes in this world which really does belong to Him. That is not to say we are robots as we certainly do make our own choices, even those choices that turn out to be extremely detrimental to us. When sin showed up in the Garden of Eden, it was passed down to all of us, and we all succumb to it on a very regular basis. The Bible is filled with the history of people who accomplished His will unknown to them on a personal level (even people who never claimed to believe in Him). However, it is also filled with many stories of people who loved God and sought His will on a regular basis.
Here are a couple of verses to get us thinking in this direction:
“The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.” ~Proverbs 16:4
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” ~Philippians 2:13
While scoffers are everywhere, for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, we know that Romans 8:28-30 are key in understanding the very thing Bonhoeffer wrote in his diary on that day he made his decision to return to Germany:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. ~Romans 8:28-30
For the Christian, the more we love and follow after Jesus Christ (and I’m not talking about putting on a religious show), the more He shapes us into what he wants us to be and do in this life. Psalms 37:3-4 states the following:
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
“Safe pasture” isn’t always what we think it might be, but if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart (see Proverbs 3:5-6), the safe pasture can be found even in a hotel room. It is not in the externals of life (e.g., a hotel room) where we find safe pasture, but in Who we trust to take care of us during this journey through life. And, in looking at the second verse, as we learn to delight in the Lord even when fear is stalking our paths, we find that the desires of our heart change to His desires for us, and our faith and trust in Him grows exponentially.
Let’s look at the two verses in Proverbs I mentioned above–Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Being human, our tendency to lean on our own understanding is as automatic as breathing air. I can’t tell you how many times over these past almost seven years now since I lost that job in Houston that I have thought something would work out one way and what actually happened could not have been further from what I thought would happen. It is so hard to “let go” of our own understanding when our world gets pulled out from under our feet. It requires total trust in God that the inner compass he provides will lead us on even when we don’t understand, just as Bonhoeffer stated in his diary entry on that very important decision-making day in his life. And, as we learn to trust that inner compass and submit ourselves totally to God on a daily basis, He makes our path straight, even if that path includes living in hotel rooms temporarily in two different cities as has been my circumstances for the past 17 plus months. And there have been times when I have experienced exactly what Bonhoeffer wrote about when he was making his decision to return to Germany. As we experience God bringing us through each day according to His will and not our own, the world around us opens up in amazing ways we would never have seen and experienced in any other way. And all of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 (the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible) knew the power of following God without knowing where it was leading in this life, but with an eternal perspective in mind.
Returning to the Easter story, Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully God (see John 1:1-18). Imagine being in his shoes from a human perspective during that last week of his life (click here for the chronology of the last week). Imagine what he must have been going through during the last 24 hours before he was crucified. Imagine what he must have been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know part of what he said as it is recorded in Matthew 26:39 when he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Yet he knew the balance of the whole human race was about to change forever through his death by crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection again on the third day. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And for the past two millennium people from all the nations around the world have been coming to him and trusting in him as Savior and Lord.
As Hebrews 12:1-2 states:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the people mentioned in Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As we start into the Passion Week, the last week of Jesus’ life before his resurrection on Easter Sunday, may we commit to . . .
Running with perseverance . . .
The race marked out for us . . .
Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . .
YouTube Video: “Ready” by Third Day:
I can’t resist reblogging another post from a young “cat lover” on the topic of Good Friday (which is today, by the way). This sure beats me trying to write one (and I’m beginning to really like reblogging other people’s blog posts!!!). Anyway, this is really good and I hope you take the time to read it. Thanks, CuriousCatLady! ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
Most people have asked this at some point… The answer normally being some generic story about Jesus dying for our sins – what does that even mean? Are you seriously telling me that Good Friday makes any difference to us in this day and age? Get real.
I’ll try to make my answer as concise as possible. As spoken about in a previous post, there is a problem with the human heart, the cancer of the human race that is ‘sin’. None of us are perfect, but is that really such a problem? It’s fair to say we tend to agree on what is wrong, but differ on what wrongs are excusable. That time I let my friend down, that lie I told, all those times when I put myself first… Surely God can let me off?
But what happens when someone does something against you, your…
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I’ve always struggled some with the darkness of Good Friday. I mean, it’s a super important day in remembering the death of Christ for our sins. Without the cross there would be no resurrection, and as Paul says, if the resurrection is not true we should be pitied.
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
—1 Corinthians 15:16-19
My problem with Good Friday isn’t the significance of what we celebrate, but it’s a dark day. Christ had to suffer God’s wrath on the cross. He bore our iniquities. It’s a brutal day. The movie The Passion of Christ, somewhat captures the brutality that Christ endured. If it weren’t for the resurrection maybe Good Friday would be the worst day in history. It surely is the worst as far as man’s sin sinking to its lowest in crucifying the son of God.
The best thing about Good Friday is knowing that Sunday…
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