Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TEENAGERS


Teenagers

Should parents brace themselves and expect trouble when their children become teenagers? Well, first off it shocks me to hear parents say that they are trying to raise their children without outwardly influencing them, so that they can ‘decide for themselves’ which religion or what they want to believe when they are older! However, the Bible makes it plain that Christian parents are to ‘Train up the child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’ Proverbs 22:6. To paraphrase in broad terms: ‘Catechise the child on which way you want them to go, and when he starts to sprout a beard or when she begins to menstruate, he or she will continue to obey what you have taught them.’ Thus, Christian parents ought not to expect that little Johnny or Jenny will automatically ‘go off the rails’ at puberty or beyond!

But what are teenagers faced with in the ‘real world’? Promiscuity and pregnancy, drug and alcohol-dependency, bawdy-songs? or, as they say, ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll!’? Teens ought not to be left to experiment and make up their own minds about these things. For obviously this simply is asking for trouble. Sex is not evil. Neither are drugs. The same way that not all rock ‘n’ roll consists of bawdy songs! Rather than an outright condemnation of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, the Bible simply sets the parameters. Parents are to train up their children in these areas, i.e., warn them of the dangers of the illicit use and abuse of sex and drugs (and drink), and how a lot of modern pop-music accompanies and encourages and even glorifies an ungodly life-style.

If the old adage is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, then teenagers must be impressionable! If older people get ‘set in their ways’, then we must point our children in the way they should go during their formative years. Teenagers apparently love to leave the church in droves. How should we retain our youth? Introduce rock ‘n’ roll sounding bands? ‘The Scriptural formula for keeping teenagers in Church is to catechize them as infants.’ Richard Bacon.

Presbyterians have been making good use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for well over three hundred years to train up their children in the way they should go. In a series of 107 questions and answers it simply teaches what the Bible has to say about each question raised. E.g., Westminster Shorter Catechism 9: ‘Quest. What is the work of creation? Ans. The work of creation is, God’s making all things out of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.’ I chose this example to illustrate something of the problem teenagers face today. Did God create everything out of nothing? Did He simply command things into being? Did He do it over the space of six days? And was everything ‘very good’ in the beginning? The untrained and unequipped, i.e., the un-catechised teenager, will have all their bones broken in pieces and will be eaten alive if he or she falls into the lion’s den of non-Christian education! But Daniel said, ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His… He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things… You have given me wisdom and power.’ Daniel 2:20-23.
           Teenagers need to know how to negotiate life’s journey. Therefore, let us teach them how to glorify God and enjoy Him forever

Friday, June 30, 2017

REST IN PEACE


REST IN PEACE

The other week, Patsy and Helen wanted to know what the title of my little Homily was going to be, so that they could put it into today’s Order of Service. I wasn’t really sure, until I was sitting in Church last Sunday morning. That’s when it just sort of came to me: “Rest In Peace!” I wanted the title to reflect, or at least summarize, the essence of the previous reading, in particular the bit where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is saying that He will give rest to anyone who comes to Him, that that person will find rest for their soul. 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Labouring and being heavy laden includes the troubles we face in this life. However, it also means being weighed down by the knowledge of what the Bible calls “sin”, an acute knowing that you don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s the burden of an awakened conscience, an accusing conscience that gives you no rest – until you come to Jesus!

The meaning of this is deep, very deep, deeper than the deepest ocean. It is beautifully summed up in the words of George Matheson’s beautiful hymn: 
“O, love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

The love of Jesus is the type of love that will not let you go. It is an eternal love, a love that lasts forever. That’s why George Matheson could write those words, “I rest my weary soul in Thee!” 

Matheson was born in Glasgow in 1842. He wrote that hymn forty years later, and said, “I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes.” It sort of just came to him on the eve of his sister’s wedding. 

Matheson himself had been engaged to be married some twenty years or so earlier. But when his fiancée discovered that he was going blind, and that there was nothing the doctors could do about it, she said that she couldn’t go through life with a blind-man. So she left him! His sister’s wedding reminded him of that tragic time. His sister had looked after him in his years of blindness, and now, by getting married, understandable as it was, she was leaving him too!

People will disappoint you. They have their own lives to lead with their own sets of problems, but the love of Jesus will never let you go! You need to rest in Him. His rest is forever. As did George Matheson before him, so Allan Barker has entered into His eternal rest.

It causes us pain to lose a loved-one. But Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He wants us to come to Him, and to be yoked to Him, as in the old days oxen were yoked or joined together to plough a field or whatever. Jesus says His yoke is easy. It’s easy and light because He does all the heavy-lifting! But you have to open your heart to Him. You have to trust Him, trust His promise, even in times of grief, times when we go through pain.

“Oh, joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.”

Allan loved rural Australia. Can you picture a thunderstorm rolling through the Outback? Can you see the ghost gumtrees against the backdrop of dark thunderclouds? Can you hear the sulphur-crested cockatoos shrieking as they flee the deluge? Can you see and smell the steam rising from the hot earth after the storm has passed through? Can you see the magnificent rainbow in the sky?

George Matheson said that he changed only one word after he had written his beautiful hymn, because he was asked to. It’s in the line that speaks of the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant promise. Instead of, “I trace the rainbow through the rain” the original had “I climb the rainbow through the rain.” Climbing rainbows in the rain gives a picture of hardship, weary toil. The years of weary toil are over for Allan Barker!

I visited Allan a few times when he was at the Care Centre in Ferny Grove before he moved down to Victoria. One of the things Allan is remembered for is being a Rat of Tobruk. He was twenty-two years old when he was involved in the Siege of Tobruk in1941. Surviving that he then went on to reach the rank of Lieutenant and even living to the right good age of ninety-eight! Wow! 

One of the downsides to living that long is that you lose a lot of your old friends over the years simply by outliving them! Then Allan lost his wife Daphne (Del) in October 2012. How hard it is to lose the ones we love! And now it’s Allan’s turn. So, we say for Allan, a friend, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a great, great grandfather, and a Rat of Tobruk, “Rest In Peace.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NO CORRUPTION!


NO CORRUPTION!

What was Adam like before he sinned? Well, we have acknowledged something just by asking this question, which is that there once was time when Adam was without sin! Therefore, we can safely say that the sinless Adam would be void of all of sin’s corrupting effects on every aspect of his being, body, soul, and spirit. None of us can say that of ourselves, none except Jesus! Indeed, Scripture refers to “the first man Adam” and to Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

To sin is to break God’s Law, because “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Thus, neither the first Adam (pre-Fall) or the last Adam (post-Fall) were lawless, i.e., sinners. Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15b. It was when Adam ate the forbidden fruit that he (and we) became sinners, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12. “For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a.

Whereas the first Adam subsequently became corrupted, the last Adam always remained uncorrupted, i.e., without the decaying effects of sin, body, soul, and spirit. Scripture says that even in death Jesus’ body saw no corruption! “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David … fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up saw no corruption” Acts 16:34b-35. Thus, even in death the last Adam remained as was the first Adam pre-Fall, i.e., without corruption!


Did Jesus really die on the cross then? Of course He did! And He died for our sins, not His own. He had no sin of His own. Whilst nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” Luke 23:46. James says that “the body without the spirit is dead” James 2:26. Therefore, according to the Bible, human death occurs when the spirit leaves the body. Then the rot sets in – but not for Jesus! For He “saw no corruption.” Thus, in death, unlike King David and unlike Lazarus, Jesus’ body saw no decay, no putrefaction.

How was it that Jesus saw no corruption after being dead “three days”? Was He cryogenically frozen to preserve His organ tissue? Was He embalmed? No! He was taken down from the cross and had His body wrapped in strips of linen. Then He was laid to rest in a tomb. Let’s just say that even in death God preserved Him, body and soul and spirit. “‘A body You have prepared for Me’” and “‘Not one of His bones shall be broken’” and “‘For You will not leave My soul in Hades’” and “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’ and “‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ Hebrews 10:5b; John 19:36b; Acts 16:34b.

Jesus was incorruptible before He was raised from the dead and He is certainly incorruptible after He was raised from the dead! Do you want to know what something with no corruption looks like? Then look to Jesus!

Scripture says, “It is not yet revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” 1 John 3:2b. For us then, when we are raised from the dead, just like Jesus, we will have no corruption. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
See also:
https://escapethebox.blog/blog/


Friday, June 2, 2017

MYTHS & MYSTERIES


Myths & Mysteries

Myths and mysteries invariably make me think of mists, (perhaps because the words sound so similar?) And when I think of mists, I think of viewing Scottish scenery in the rain, which in turn reminds me of what the Bible says about faith: ‘Now faith is the confidence of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.’ Hebrews 11:1. Faith kicks in whenever a tour guide says that there is a mountain over there when all we can see is mist! Thus, there are times when the tour guide needs to be taken at their word!

Some call the Bible a book of myths, while others believe its truthfulness but acknowledge that it contains certain mysteries. The Bible claims to have been written by God (albeit using men). Should we take the Bible’s ‘tour guide’ at His word? Or should we just climb back onto the bus out of the rain? If faith is ‘assurance about what we do not see,’ we must presume the tour guide knows what they are talking about.

The tour guide for the Christian is the triune God, Father, Son or Word, Holy Spirit. And God says, ‘In the beginning God [i.e., ‘Elohim’, a plurality of Persons, He, in the singular] created the heavens and the earth’ Genesis 1:1. Is this a myth? Is this a mystery? Is this a mountain covered in scotch mist? Well, the Bible says ‘what may be known about God is plain … because God has made it plain … For since the creation of the world [i.e., the cosmos] God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse’ Romans 1:19-20. The sun, the moon, the planets and the stars, the earth, the sea and the skies, the flora and the fauna, the bens and the glens (i.e., mountains and valleys), you and me – everything, has been made by God. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made’ John 1:1-3.

Are you still sitting there on the bus viewing everything through steamed-up windows? Or are you out there walking around looking at things with the ‘tour guide’? Are you sitting there thinking that God is a myth? Or are you walking with the Lord while contemplating the mystery of the Trinity? There’s a big difference between these two ways of thinking. The ‘tour guide’ says of the former that he/she is one of those who ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ Romans 1:18. Of the latter He says, ‘The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ Deuteronomy 29:29. Yes, how can God be three Persons but one God? How can ‘Our Father which art in heaven … give us [who art on earth] this day our daily bread’? How can the Son/Word, i.e., Jesus, be both God and Man in One Person? And, how can the Spirit of God be everywhere at once while ‘hovering over the waters’?

Dear Christian, you are not on a mystery tour. And you have not come to a mist-covered mountain. ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem … You have come to God … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant’ Hebrew 12:22-24.

Dear non-Christian, come off the bus, join us as we explore myths and mysteries with our ‘tour guide.’ He knows all things!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MOODS


Moods

Some people are moody. You never know what you’re going to get with them. Will they be in an angry or a happy mood today? It can be a bit like Esther approaching the king, will I get my head cut off or will he be pleased to see me?

Outward things, such as décor and music, may help to set our various moods. From dark and dingy to bright and bubbly, colours and wall-designs may affect our mood. Glenn Miller had a big hit in 1940 with the tune ‘In the Mood.’ Hearing it may put you in the mood for dancing! They had a young David play his harp for King Saul to try to change his mood (1 Samuel 16:23). It has been said that music soothes the soul.

We talk of ‘being under the weather.’ I can relate to this! I lived on the west coast of Scotland for some nineteen years, but have now lived in Queensland, Australia for twenty-odd years. Let me open the curtains in the morning to bright and sunny weather any day, over looking out at cold, wet and windy Scottish weather! Even fickle weather can set your mood for the rest of the day.

We tend to hum, whistle or sing when we’re happy. ‘Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.’ James 4:13b. In the Bible, it’s obvious that words, tunes and instruments help set the mood. Some Psalms have musical directions in their headings, e.g., ‘To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments.’ Psalm 4. ‘To the Chief Musician. With flutes.’ Psalm 5. ‘To the tune of “Death of the Son.”’ Psalm 9. ‘Set to “The Deer of the Dawn.”’ Psalm 22. ‘Set to “The Lilies.”’ Psalm 45.

Then there are the reactions of others to our actions that can have us either singing praises or singing the blues, such as, receiving applause or receiving boos for something we have done, (e.g., performing, baking a cake, winning or losing at sports). We can be thankful that those two men that Jesus had called Boanerges, i.e., Sons of Thunder, are not God. They wanted to send thunderbolts to consume a village full of Samaritans because they would not listen to what had they had to say about Jesus. Jesus ‘turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them’ Luke 9:55-56.

   God is not moody. To be sure, in places the Bible speaks of God as being angry or grieved or pleased or displeased etc., in apparent reaction to certain human activities. And yes, God blesses obedience and curses disobedience. However, since He knows the end from the beginning, there is nothing that can sneak up and surprise Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Therefore, He is the mood-setter. ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ James 1:17. We can be thankful that God never wakes up in a grumpy mood! For God does not sleep (Psalm 121:4).

God is the Creator, Ruler and Sustainer of all creation. He puts the décor in place (Genesis 1; Psalm 104). He controls the weather (Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:39). And it was He who gave us music. It once said on a wall of an old German opera house: ‘Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us Music that we might pray without words.’

May your mood be good.

Monday, April 17, 2017

REVIVAL!


REVIVAL!

What is meant by the word “revival” when Christians use it? I’m sure most would agree that a rival has something to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men, women and children in any community, causing them to be born again, i.e., born of the Spirit.

Of the Spirit Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8.

The most obvious revival recorded in the Bible surely is that of Acts 2, where the “Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49; cf., Joel 2:28-29) is poured out by the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26) on the church into which about 3,000 souls were added at that time (Acts 2:41, 47).

Revival, then, is when God, by His Spirit working with His Word, convicts people of their sins and enables them to believe in God for salvation (Acts 2:8; 11,14-37).

Revival is Trinitarian. The Spirit enables people to see the Son who tells us, that to see and to know Him, is to see and to know the Father. (John 14:7; 16:14). God is triune. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct Persons who are/is one God – a community in eternal covenant with each Other.

Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27. He is Saviour of His people. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21b. Jesus berated some Jews who were not His people, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” John 10:26. Thus, revival takes place wherever the Word is faithfully proclaimed, God’s people are present, and the Spirit is pleased to work in their hearts. E.g., “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood [i.e., a pulpit] which they had made for the purpose... And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people … and the Levites helped the people understand the Law … So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:4-8 abridged). Thus, though the Spirit works with the Word, the Word needs to be proclaimed. The people need to be given the sense of it, and helped to understand it.

The Gospel message is the means by which Jesus calls His sheep. It is the duty of His Church to ensure that people hear the message of the Gospel. His people attend worship services and Bible gatherings, hear and are taught the Word. Then they take what they have learned and spread it abroad in their respective communities (whether at work, or at rest, or at play).


Revival only takes place when the Spirit is pleased to move in a special way in a community – like Europe during the Reformation, like America before its War of Independence and during its Civil War, like in Wales during the Welsh Revivals, like on the Isle of Lewis during its revival etc.

Revival is not about giving any given community or its members the opportunity of salvation. Rather, like ordinary faithful preaching, it is a means by which the Good Shepherd calls those who are His sheep, those who have been chosen beforehand by the Father (John 17:2, 9; Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, the Church needs to keep on getting the Gospel right. Otherwise the bugle call will be unclear and we may end up like the pre-Reformation Church (darkness!) as opposed to the Post- Reformation Church (light!) – post tenebras lux.

Revival would occur, (nay it would already be occurring because the Spirit would already be at work), if the Church was to follow that well-known “revival passage” in 2 Chronicles: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

OUR RESURRECTION


Our Resurrection (in Jesus’ Resurrection)

Introduction

Have you ever wondered what is so special about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I mean, it’s an amazing thing for someone to be raised from the dead. There’s no getting away from that. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle – but Jesus is not the only human being who has ever been raised from the dead, is He? The Lord’s Prophet Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. And that was way back in the days of the Old Testament somewhere. And the Apostle Paul brought that fellow back to life – the one who fell asleep listening to one of his sermons. His name was Eutychus. And not only did he fall asleep, but he nodded off a third story window to his death. Paul raised him! And the Apostle Peter raised Dorcas – or Tabitha as she’s called – from the dead. And Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, and he had been dead four days! He also stopped a funeral procession and raised the widow from Nain’s son. Then there was the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus whom Jesus raised from the dead. I’m sure if we looked we could find others in the Bible who have been raised from the dead.

What then, makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special? For He’s certainly not the only person ever to have been raised from the dead! Well, that’s what we’re going to be looking at in the following. We’re given a clear statement of what makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special in Romans 4:25. “[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.”

Of this verse Geoffrey Wilson says, “In this brief sentence of profound import and eloquent simplicity, there is distilled the very sum of saving knowledge.”

Now, above we already have had a look at the first half of this verse. Among other things we saw that our offenses, i.e., sins against God were imputed to Christ on the cross. And we saw that His righteousness is imputed or accredited to us. The cross was the place where the Great Exchange took place. That’s briefly what is meant by “[He] was delivered up for our offenses”. Let’s now focus on the second half of Romans 4:25, “[He] was raised for our justification.”



His Resurrection

Jesus was raised because of our justification. The New International Version puts it like this, “[Jesus] was raised to life for our justification.” So, there was a reason Jesus was raised from the dead. He was resurrected to justify us. That makes Christ’s resurrection unique, doesn’t it? No one else was raised to justify us, only Jesus! Therefore, not one of all those other people whom God raised from the dead, whom you read about in the Bible, was raised for our justification – only Jesus! But let’s not miss a very important point: God IS able to raise the dead, even you and me!

Now then, what else is so special about the resurrection of Jesus? Well, it’s a really remarkable thing to raise someone else from the dead, isn’t it? But how much more remarkable would it be to raise yourself from the dead? Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” John 2:19. He was of course talking about raising His own body from the dead, wasn’t He?  Although it was definitely God the Father who raised Him, He still raised Himself. As He says in John 10, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

So again we see the uniqueness of His resurrection. His was a self-raising resurrection. Think about it, we can’t even pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But Jesus could raise Himself from the dead, remarkable! But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is usually ascribed to God the Father in the Scriptures. To be sure, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all three Persons involved in the resurrection of Jesus. However, in Acts 2:24 it says that God raised Him. Acts 2:32 says: “This Jesus God has raised up.” It’s the same in Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31. We could go on and on rattling off verse after verse where it says that God raised Him up. E.g., 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12.

Hang on to the fact that God the Father raised Him, for it is important. But the point that also needs to be made is that God the Father must have been satisfied with the work of Jesus otherwise He wouldn’t have raised Him! So we see then that Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God the Father has accepted the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins.

When I first arrived in Australia we used to hear people in shops talking about “dockets”. A “docket” as I discovered, was another word for a “bill of sale” or a “proof of purchase receipt”. Anyway, I was happy to stop talking about “receipts” and start talking about “dockets” like everyone else in Australia. But the point I make is that we believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, don’t we? That, “[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.” Therefore Jesus Christ has already purchased our redemption.

Well then, our faith that God has raised Him from the dead is our “proof of purchase”. Therefore, our belief in Christ’s resurrection is our “docket”. If someone asks us how we know we have everlasting life we can say “I have a docket. Jesus Christ purchased my salvation upon Calvary’s cross. And His resurrection proves that I have been saved. And my faith, i.e., my belief that God has actually done this is my personal proof of that purchase!” So, the Christian carries this docket in his pocket with him wherever he or she goes, which is to say that the day has dawned and Christ the morning star has risen in our hearts. Therefore, make sure you have the docket in your pocket – don’t leave home without it!

How do you check to see if you really have faith? Well, as the Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9. Your belief in God’s raising Jesus physically from the dead, then, is your docket. This belief, this faith that God is able to raise the dead, and has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, indicates that you are among the saved. For, as Charles Hodge positively puts it, “The resurrection of Christ … authenticates the whole Gospel. As surely as Christ has risen, so surely shall believers be saved.”

So, it goes without saying that if the resurrection of Christ is not real, then neither is your docket! If Christ was not raised, then your docket is useless. And it would mean that Christianity is a hollow religion – empty as a cheap Easter egg! If we don’t believe in a literal raising of the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus, then we have no docket! Therefore, your faith in Christ and His resurrection is your docket. It’s your proof that Jesus purchased everlasting life for you. It’s your proof that all your offenses, all your sins have been paid for. So, no docket, no refund on the Last Day! That’s God’s policy! Therefore the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead is directly related to our justification.

If Jesus is still in a tomb somewhere then we have not been justified and our faith is futile and we are to be pitied more than any! And if we have not been justified we are dead along with Jesus – if He has not been raised. But God’s Word spells out in the clearest of terms that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And, since Jesus has been raised, we have been justified. Therefore, His resurrection IS our justification. So let’s look at a bit more closely at our justification.



Our Justification

As we’ve seen, our faith is our proof that we have been justified. The Apostle Paul in the passage of Romans we read earlier demonstrates this. There he shows us the direct link between our faith and Christ’s death and resurrection.

As you know, faith must have an object outside of us. We don’t believe in ourselves, for that’s self-centeredness, not faith! The object of our faith,  just as it was for Abraham, is God – the God who is able to raise the dead. In Romans 4:19 the Apostle says of Abraham, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Could you imagine meeting a centenarian and saying to him, “Och! You’re a dead man! You may as well count yourself dead, a hundred years old! You’re already dead!” Well, that’s what Paul under inspiration is doing here with regard to Abraham!

But how did Abraham feel about the fact that being a hundred he was as good as dead? Well, the LORD had made a promise to Abraham that he’d be the father of many nations. And, included in this promise was Christ and His work of redemption. For as Jesus Himself says in John 8:56, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So, as good as dead or no, Abraham believed in the LORD! He trusted in Him. He put His faith in Him. As Paul says in Romans 4:21&22, “And [Abraham] being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”

The faith Abraham had in God is even more remarkable when Sarah is taken into consideration. She’d be about ninety if Abraham was about a hundred. And just as the hundred-year-old Abraham was reckoned as dead, so was Sarah’s womb! Yet the LORD had told them that she would be the one to bear Abraham his offspring! That’s why the Apostle in Romans 4:17 speaks of God as Him “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

So we see then, that Abraham believed in the promise of the LORD and it was “accounted to him for righteousness”. And then in Romans 5:23ff, we see that these words were not written for Abraham alone, but also for us, which is to say that, “Righteousness shall be imputed [or credited, accounted] to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of justification” Romans 4:24&25.

Have you got it? God had given Abraham (who was as good as dead) a docket. And on that docket was written God’s promise to him of everlasting life.

Now, you’ve all been on a train or a bus or whatever when the inspector has come along and asked to see your ticket? The inspector takes your ticket and he validates it, doesn’t he? Well, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son to validate the faith of His people. Abraham’s docket, his faith was validated, ratified, confirmed, i.e., declared to be legally valid when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus Christ personally signed every faith docket in His blood. That’s why Christians talk about having faith in Christ’s blood. It’s His shed blood that seals our faith and His resurrection declares it valid. So, in a word, Abraham was justified by faith. The object of His faith was the God who gives life to dead things – even the as-good-as-dead hundred year-old Abraham, including his ninety-year-old wife Sarah with her dead or barren womb!

One can only imagine how difficult, humanly speaking, it must have been for Abraham to believe. We have the easier task of looking back to something that has already happened. But Abraham had to strain to look forward to something that was only promised by God. The Apostle says in Romans 5:20 that Abraham was “strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” Therefore, even though it all must have looked so impossible to Abraham, it was God who was working faith in Abraham.

Abraham believed that God was able to raise the dead. The Scriptures testify to this. For the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11:17&18, “By faith Abraham ... offered up Isaac … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.” This faith then was “accounted to Abraham for righteousness” by the LORD. So this means that God accepted Abraham as righteous on account of his faith, which is not to say that that Abraham’s faith was the ground of his justification. But rather that his faith was the condition of his justification. Therefore if we would be justified we too need to exercise faith – a living faith. And our faith needs to be directed to the God who raises the dead, even Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus for our justification. Therefore we need to believe that Jesus was brought back to life by God in order for us to be justified.

All that’s left now is to have a look at the meaning of that word “justification”. And as we do so, we need to keep in mind the fact that we are the same as Abraham. Yes, Abraham was a hundred years old, “already dead” as the Apostle puts it. However, before our justification we too in a sense are “already dead!” For not to be justified by God is to be accounted dead in your sins, isn’t it?

To not have your offenses against God forgiven is to be already dead, which is to say that you are reckoned as dead by God. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is also our resurrection. For if God never raised Jesus, we would still be dead – dead in our sins, wouldn’t we? Therefore, as Abraham was already dead, so to speak, so are we until we by God’s grace believe that God can raise the dead!

Can a man actually pull himself up by his bootstraps? Can a dead man pick up the phone and ring the doctor? Well, neither could Abraham (who was already dead) believe God could raise the dead, unless God took the initiative and did something.

Do you see what happened with Abraham? He knew he was already dead. When you get to be a hundred you know you’re on borrowed time, right? Your next breath could very well be your last. Yet God had made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. Even though Abraham got to be a hundred, even though his wife was ninety and had never given birth, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. He kept on believing that the LORD would provide him a son, a Saviour! For make no mistake, Abraham’s family line would have died unless he produced a son. For the LORD did not recognize Ishmael as Abraham’s son. So, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD that he would produce a son. And this belief, this faith that the LORD could give life to the dead was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Therefore the righteousness Abraham had, came to him through faith. It did not come by trying to be good. So, we see then where we today fit in, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9.

Do you believe that God is able to give life to the dead? And do you believe that God has given life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified, dead, and buried? Well then, as He did for Abraham, so God credits your faith in Him for righteousness. Therefore, when we look at the words of Romans 5:25b, “[He] was raised for our justification” we know what is meant. We know that God is able to raise people from the dead. We know that God raised His Son, Jesus Christ from the dead. We know that if we truly believe this, God declares us righteous. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is God’s proof that He has purchased life for me. And, as a docket, as proof of purchase, God has given me faith in Him.

Put another way, the question is this: How do I know I’m a Christian? Well, like Thomas, I confess that Jesus is my Lord and my God. And I believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead! Therefore, His resurrection is my justification.

Conclusion

We have seen that God has raised Jesus Christ for our justification. So let me just remind you what it means to be justified. To be justified is to be acquitted by God. It is to receive an acquittal for the guilt of your sins. God therefore pronounced the acquittal of all believers to the whole world when He raised Jesus from the dead. For the Gospel is to go out to all the ends of the earth. And as it spreads, so does the good news of your acquittal, doesn’t it? The whole world knows that Easter is the day Christ rose from the dead. Therefore, the whole world is getting to hear about your acquittal! For God raised Jesus because of OUR justification – i.e., the justification of those who, like Abraham, believe that God is able to raise the dead and actually did raise Jesus!

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. Our faith is valid because God raised Jesus from the dead! No resurrection, no justification, and our faith is invalid. But He is risen!

And if you meet anyone who asks you for proof of Christ’s resurrection you just show them your docket! You tell them in your own words that Jesus is your Lord and your God – confess Him. Tell them that His Father really did raise Him from the dead. Believe in His resurrection. Tell them that on account of His resurrection, the Triune God has acquitted you of all your sins. And don’t forget to tell them that they too will receive God’s acquittal if only they would confess Jesus as Lord, and keep on believing that God has raised Him from the dead.

Excerpted from my eBook Paving Paradise - https://www.amazon.com/PAVING-PARADISE-Neil-Cullan-McKinlay-ebook/dp/B007SU154U/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492289601&sr=1-11