Tag Archives: obedience

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B


The Victory that Overcomes the World

The covenant which God made with Abraham, that was extended to the children of Israel, was based on an agreement. God chose a people set apart for himself so that he might bless them. Receiving that blessing, however, required an obedience to God’s Commandments. Keeping their end of the agreement was such a struggle for Israel, as history testifies.

In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter is surprised that God would accept Gentiles into his kingdom who had never been part of such a struggle. He had Been told by God to preach the Gospel to a group of Gentiles, but it does not appear that Peter was fully prepared for the response to his sermon:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.   (Acts 10:44-48)

Although Peter had received teaching directly from Jesus for three years he still lacked an important understanding concerning the Gospel. What had Peter missed? A key element to the Gospel that we might also miss today, if we are not careful. God stepped in and accomplished what Israel or anyone else, for that matter, was powerless to do.

The psalmist wrote:

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm
has he won for himself the victory.

The Lord has made known his victory;
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

What is this victory? God won a victory over sin and death through his Son Jesus Christ. His victory is for all humankind. Sin leads to death, both spiritual and, ultimately, physical death. Despite their best efforts, Israel was not able to overcome sin. They failed to keep God’s Commandments just as we have failed. Therefore, death still reigned. But Jesus defeated sin and death through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and by resurrection from the dead.

God had invited the Gentiles to participate in his victory over sin and death. What must have surprising to Peter is that God seemed to offer such an easy way out of their alienation from God. And they responded so quickly.

The intent of God was to make our salvation easy. We can be victorious because Jesus was victorious. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God —  not the result of works, so that no one may boast   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For those of us who still want to earn our way, however, receiving God’s grace is not so easy. We must admit that, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.

Yet there is still something that we can do, and must do. Jesus’s victory must become our victory. We are to participate in his victory. What that means is not so easily understood. It has not been preached all that well. The Apostle Paul goes a long way in explaining it. Paul writes:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:12-14)

Jesus has already made Paul his own, Paul writes. That is vitally important. Jesus has already made each one of us his own. Will we make him our own? Paul writes that he wants to press into Jesus. He wants to fully embrace what God has provided. He wants to have a part in Christ’s victory over sin and death.

The Apostle John makes this same point in his First Epistle:

And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?   (1 John 5:4-5)

Faith and trust in Jesus is our response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul writes:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.   (Philippians 2:11-13)

God is doing a work in us, We want cooperate with God in this process of spiritual growth. Paul deals with this matter throughout the entire Book of Romans. But if we are looking for a simple explanation, we have nothing better that the words of our Lord. Jesus was asked:

“What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”   (John 6:28-29)

Belief is something we must exercise everyday. Some may confuse it with a work. It is not a work, but it is required by, God. God is accomplishing all the work on our hearts and minds. Our part is to remain in fellowship with him and allow him to have free access to our hearts and minds.

Satan understands the Gospel very well so his purpose is to interrupt our fellowship with God. He discourages us. He attempts to make us blame God for all our problems. There will be problems. Jesus did say:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”  (John 16:33)

It is too bad that the feel good gospel, “your best life now,” is supported in many of our churches. It is a deception which Satan loves to use for his advantage and our confusion.

Jesus has conquered the world. He has overcome sin. He has overcome hell and the grave. We are over-comers as well when we put our trust in him. Paul writes:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 8:37-39)

Are we ready to overcome the world? Then, reborn in Christ, we are well on the way. We will cross the finish line because we will stay in the race no matter what. We will keep our faith and trust in Jesus every step of the way.

For everyone born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that has overcomes the world, even our faith.  (1 John 5:4)

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Good Friday

Behold the Lamb of God

Long before the cross was even an instrument of torture and death there was prophecy concerning a certain death by crucifixion. Long before anyone had experienced this torturous death we have a perfect description of the crucifixion of Jesus:

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  (Psalm 22:14-18)

What was the purpose for such an agonizing death? The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

In the face of so great a sacrifice on our behalf what are we to do?

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  (Hebrews 10:19-23)

The cross always brings us to the point of decision. We cannot look away from it. We must look upon the Lamb of God in His agony. If we are to participate in the victory of Jesus on the cross, we must first taste of His passion. It is a defeat of our flesh. It is a defeat of our will. It is a defeat of our pride. Down through the ages the cross has spoken to humankind. What is the cross saying to us today?

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Saint Joseph

Faithful Stewardship

King David wanted to build a permanent house for God. Nevertheless, through the Prophet Samuel, God promised David to build him a permanent house:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.  (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

Joseph was a carpenter. He was not a rich man. He was a husband and a father. He was known in his village but his recognition probably did not extend much beyond it. He was devout as many good Jews were in his day. He cared for his family and was a faithful in following the Jewish traditions and customs. He lived for a season and then he passed away. Yet Joseph had a great deal to do with the building of the permanent house of David.

Joseph was a descendant of David. He was part of a very significant chain of events. He was given a commission by God the Father to be the earthly father and guardian of His beloved Son. Not fully understanding what God was asking him, Joseph accepted this commission. He accepted it under what, for him, were difficulty circumstances. Mary was already pregnant before Joseph married her. This would have been a disgrace in Judaism. He was asked to believe that her pregnancy was an act of God, something that was unheard. Joseph believed God and faithfully carried out his commission.

We, too, are part of an ongoing chain of events. We, too, have been given a commission by God. One of the ways in which we realize this may be true is through the difficult circumstances in which we often find ourselves, especially when we are required to make difficult choices. Faith, courage, and a trust in God are required. Life will test us. There will be obstacles and distractions. We will prevail only with God’s help.

What God asks us to do has great significance. We are part of an eternal plan of God. What we do now may seem fleeting or temporary. Nonetheless, God has established a permanent Kingdom that will not pass away and we a part of it. Our life and ministry are very much apart of that Kingdom.

What we do now is recorded in heaven. We may not understand the significance of what might seem like unimportant events, but we will when all is revealed to us. In the meantime, God needs us to be faithful. Let us take courage and follow the example of Joseph.

The psalmist wrote:

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”  (Psalm 89:1-4)

Joseph was an insignificant carpenter. But no one is insignificant in the eternal plan of God. Let us step into the ministry to which God has called us. One of our greatest ministries is watching over our children and bringing them up in the knowledge of the Lord. This Joseph did. Because of his faithfulness he was given the assignment to be the earthly guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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