Tag Archives: salvation

Trinity Sunday, Year B

Life through the Spirit

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday in many liturgical churches around the world. The third person of the Trinity is perhaps the most controversial if not the most neglected person of the Godhead. We have sermons and teachings on God the Father and God the Son almost every week. How much do we hear about the Holy Spirit of God?

If we were to boil down the importance of the Holy Spirit to one phrase we might say that the Holy Spirit is the “life-giver.” From Genesis we read:

The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:7)

The Holy Spirit is thought to be the breath of God. Without his breath we cannot live. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

When Nicodemus visits Jesus at night, unlike many other Jewish leaders, he acknowledged that Jesus must have come from God  Jesus responded to him in a curious way:

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:3-8)

Jesus was saying that the Spirit gives life. He is talking about a new life sustained by the Holy Spirit. This life comes as a gift from God above, yet it is a life that must be received and lived in. This life has a force of its own, like the wind, and must be allowed to chart a new course and direction for those who embrace it.

How we cooperate with the Holy Spirit is all important. The Gospel of John speaks powerful about the Holy Spirit and the writings of Paul add much-needed theological commentary. As Christians, we cannot ignore the importance of the Holy Spirit.

Some may think: “I have Jesus and the cross. That is enough for me.” Yes, it is, provided that we understand that the cross of Christ is also our cross. Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.   (Romans 8:1-4)

Jesus fulfilled the just requirements of the law of God by his death on the cross, because the wages of sin is death. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, he washes us clean from all our sin. We need to no longer live under the penalty of what might be called the old law of God or the law of sin and death. But what do we now live under?

The Apostle Paul tells us that the law of the Spirit has replaced the law of sin and death. We are no longer subject to this old law. Paul writes:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.   (Galatians 5:18-25)

This law of the Spirit is a higher law under which we can live by through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to say that we must choose this new law:

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:12-17)

In other words, we must choose to allow the Holy Spirit of God to govern our lives. To choose not to live by the Spirit is to choose death over life. Jesus said that he came to “give us life and life more abundantly.” The Apostle Paul wrote: “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.” The flesh only leads to death and decay. Satan wants to steal our lives from us by having us concentrate on the flesh, or worldly passions. Our minds and hearts need to be on the Spirit.

However, it will cost us to live by the Spirit. We will experience persecution. We will have our own cross to take up daily. Does this sound like the Christian faith we have been taught? Perhaps it is time for us to grow up and become the children of God and not the children of this world. This world is passing away. Those who live by the Spirit are being renewed day by day.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Abiding in the Love of Jesus

In many of our churches today we are offered doctrine that, when followed, assures us of our salvation. It could be one of the reasons why we have so many denominations. “Your church believes this but my church believes this.”

Ultimately, doctrine has to do with the fear of punishment. It cannot eradicate that fear, however, because it cannot pay the price of sin. Even though the doctrine keeps changing, even though the goal posts are moved, sin remains. And for that reason, fear remains. Only love conquers fear.

In his first Epistle John writes:

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   (1 John 4:16-18)

If we could teach only one Christian principle, what would it be? Perhaps we should return to the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John:

Jesus said to his disciples, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.   (John 15:1-5)

Church doctrine for many cases is an insurance policy. It guarantees our salvation should we stray from the faith. Have we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior only to walk away from him? If we are his disciples then that is not an option. And perhaps, if we could comprehend his love for us, we would not want to walk away.

Jesus said:

Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”   (John 15:6-8)

Bearing fruit is a product of abiding in the love of Christ, We cannot do it on our own. When we try, we fail. The proof of our abiding is in how we treat others. Again we have the words of John in his First Epistle:

Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.   (1 John 4:20-21)

How can we love others when we are so focused on the self? We are called to deny ourselves and take up our own cross and follow Jesus?

Let us remember what Jesus gave up for us. Philip Interpreted this scripture for the Ethiopian Eunuch:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”   (Acts 8:32-33)

When he understood what the scripture meant, the Eunuch immediately wanted to surrender his life to Christ. What is our response today? Are we ready to abide in the  presence of Jesus? If so, our salvation is sure because we are abiding in his perfect love.

Again, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle John:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   (1 John 4:18)

Doctrine is a very poor replacement for the love of Christ. All we need to do as true Christians is to abide in the love of our Savior.

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Resurrection Sunday: Easter Early Service

Freedom from Fear

One of the following readings from the Old Testament:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation] 
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 [The Flood] 
Genesis 22:1-18 [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac] 
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea] 
Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all] 
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 [Learn wisdom and live]
Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]
Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones] 
Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people] 

Romans 6:3-11 
Matthew 28:1-10 
Psalm 114

Hallelujah, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Hallelujah! Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The good news of the Gospel is that his resurrection is also our resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.   (Romans 6:3-11)

Jesus died for us so that we will no longer be slaves to sin and death. Again, Paul writes:

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.   (Romans 6:3-11)

Slavery to sin and death engenders fear. Fear had taken over the disciples of Jesus after his crucifixion, In their minds all had been lost. The miracle worker was with them no more. It took his resurrection appearance to change their fear and sorrow into joy.

The women had gone to Jesus’s tomb on the first day of the week. That is when they had an encounter with the risen Lord. We read in Matthew:

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of 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.”   (Matthew 28:9-10)

We live in a fearful world today. But as Christians, we do not have to live in fear. If we are still living in fear then what we need is a personal resurrection appearance. We may or many not see him in his physical person, but his Spirit has entered our hearts provided that we look to him alone for forgiveness and salvation.

A personal resurrection appearance can be blocked if we are still clinging to the old self which refuses to die. It is time to turn away from our flesh. It does not satisfy us. In fact, it enslaves us by fear. Isaiah wrote:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;

and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?   (Isaiah 55:1-2)

The joy of Easter is the old self cannot live when we worship the risen Lord. The flesh cannot survive the joy of the resurrection. Today, Jesus is saying to us: “Do not be afraid.” Let us listen for his voice. He will appear to us and will say: “Go and tell others that you have seen me.”

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