Sunday, March 30, 2008

The many sacrifices of Jesus

Last week I talked about Jesus the man. I'm going to continue that theme today, and develop it a little more.

I want to talk about the many sacrifices of Jesus.

Yes there is the obvious one. The cross. That's amazing enough in itself, but there is more.

You see I think sometimes we get so pre-occupied with the divinity of Jesus that we forget that He was also a human being. Yes its important to remember that Jesus was the Son of God. Its important to believe He died and rose again and to understand how much He went through and gave up for us.

But He gave up more than just His divinity.

He gave up more than His own life on the cross.

He gave up some of the human things that we can take for granted. We seem to think it was easy as He was the Son of God. But if he experienced the same temptations and experiences we have, then surely He would have had to make sacrifices - apart from the very obvious sacrifice of His life.

For example, marriage. If Jesus was tempted in every way He was tempted to adultery, to sleep with women outside marriage. He may have been tempted to get married, forget His ministry and continue in the family business and raise His own family, rather than choose the life and death He chose and which God had for Him.

That brings us onto the second thing, His job, His living. He was described as a carpenter but in Biblical times they did more than work with wood. He was what is called a tecton - a mason - so would have been involved in building, architecture and working with stone. The family business. He was the eldest too, so had the pressure of setting the example for the rest. He would have been expected to follow the family business, which would have given Him a secure income. Not wealthy, but secure.

To give that up and sacrifice a steady income to trust in God to provide is another tough choice.

The other thing that may have crossed His mind is the knowledge He would be thought crazy by some members of His own family, and be rejected in His home town. His friends from growing up would have maybe rejected Him and thought Him crazy. He may have been seen to have abandoned His family.

He knew who He was, He knew His mission. He knew what lay ahead. He knew the life He was giving up. He knew what some people would think of Him.

These were temptations to avoid His calling. These were things people valued greatly - wife, family, job, security, respect and friendship of peers. Jesus would have had to give all this up for His mission.

So what did He do?

He was obedient to God.

Obedient to His heavenly Father, rather that to maybe what He would have wanted on His own.

There is a clear example in Gethsemane where we see the conflict of what Jesus the man wants, and where He tries to avoid the pain that is to come. Jesus asks if there is any other way that we can be saved, any other possible path other than the one He takes.

This only makes what Jesus did even more powerful doesn't it? That He was faced with all these temptations, desires and feelings.

Yet because He loved us and knew He was the only way we could be saved was through Him, and because He wanted to be obedient to God and because He was without sin, He resisted and was obedient. He totally submitted to the will of God, even to His own death. Jesus loved us and wanted us to be saved. He loved His Father God and wanted to be obedient to Him.

That was more important to Him than His own desires as a man.

Its not just the divinity and sacrifice on the cross of Jesus that is why we should worship Him. Its that He gave up things many of us take for granted and the life we are now free to have so that we could know Him. That sacrifice is just as important.

Faced with the same choices now, what do we do? Do we choose sacrifice, do we choose God? Or do we choose our own happiness first?

Jesus chose obedience. Jesus chose God. Jesus chose the cross.

What would we have done?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Falling in love with Jesus

I fell in love with Jesus again this week.

I don't think I was out of love with Him, but I think I'd lost the enthusiasm, the fire inside was smouldering. I loved Jesus, but the passion had gone a little.

Then I did a Bible study on Jesus. Talking about Jesus the man, remembering and thinking about how much He had to endure and give up in order to save me. I watched 'The Passion' on BBC and saw what He did for me. I felt it in my heart.

Suddenly I realised how much He loved and still loves me. How He's been through much worse than I will ever go through. And He did it because He chose to. He did it because He loved me. He did it willingly and in total obedience and submission to God. So that I could be free. He allowed it to happen to Him. The worst kind of suffering any man could ever experience.

He gave up everything for me. When I woke this morning, Easter day, and knew the grave was empty and that He'd given it all up for me and emerged triumphant, I just felt overwhelming thanks and love for Him. More than I ever have before. I felt humbled and wanted to just bow down and worship. I sang my heart out at church and at home on my own.

I fell in love with Jesus again. I knew the full gravity and power of what He'd done for me and been through for me even though I've let Him down so often and even though I don't deserve it. I knew a bit more of how much love He has for me. I trusted Him like never before. I wanted to serve Him out of love, not obligation.

Jesus is amazing. There is no one like Him. He gave everything for me and now He's alive. The grave is empty. Forever.

What an amazing person. What a Saviour. I love Him.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jesus - the Man and the Saviour

The above is a trailer for 'The Passion', which was shown on BBC this week and concludes Easter Sunday. A new dramatic re-telling of the story of Easter.

There are some historical inaccuracies, but the thing which struck me the most was that this told the story of Jesus the man.

Other dramatisations are very good, but Jesus is displayed more in his divinity and less of a man. Someone with presence, someone who stood out.

Now this is true. Jesus was divine. Jesus did stand out. But he was also a man. Jesus descended from Heaven and submitted himself to human experience. Jesus didn't just suddenly 'know' the scriptures. He had to learn them like anyone else could have done.

Yes, He had an anointing from God, a unique anointing. He was the Son of God. But he was 100% man as well as 100% God. Jesus grew up a Jew, in Jewish culture. He re-defined culture. He showed us the kind of culture God intends us to live in.

Jesus came not just for the cross. He came to show us how to live God's way out in a practical way. How to live as a man the way God wants us to. He got hungry. He felt physical and emotional. Pain. He was tempted. He had friends. He had family. He shared in all our experiences and temptations. He felt frustrated and angry. He had a sense of humour. He felt love.

He showed us it is possible for men and women to live differently. That it’s possible to deal with all the temptations of this life and issues that we face.

Jesus was divine. But he was also a man. He wasn't distant and above all the experiences of this life - but the difference was that He didn't give in to sin and temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way we are. Every single way. I'm sure that the temptation didn't just come in the desert, or when the cross was near. During his ministry He was probably tempted in circumstances that aren't mentioned in the Bible - in private, in His mind and heart. But they probably happened.

To know what His destiny was and willingly submit to it even though it involved sacrificing Himself. Jesus remember when He came to the cross didn't know for sure what would happen. He'd given up being outside of time. He trusted His life totally to God. He was obedient to what God told Him to do. But in his emotional, physical, mental and spiritual agony on Good Friday it must have been hard to be faithful. The temptation to say no, the temptation to avoid it. Jesus said Himself in Gethsemane that if it was possible He wanted to avoid the cross. The human side of Him didn't want it - but He knew that it was God's will. He loved us too much not to go through with it. He knew it was the only way salvation was possible.

One he resolved to go through with it. Once he submitted Himself to it, He gave Himself to it totally. He gave in to God. He went with it. He allowed it to happen to Him. He didn't fight it.

Right to the end He was obedient. Right to the end He was without sin. Right to the end He forgave. Right to the end, He loved.

Yet He was physically still a man. He still felt all the emotion, pain, temptation and mental torture that it is possible to feel for a man. But He felt one thing we never experience.

Separation from God.

To save us, He had to take our sin, and He had to suffer the punishment God has for sinners. He had to be abandoned by God. In order to save us God had to abandon His own Son.

Imagine that.

None of us, not even non-believers, ever have to experience that. God is always with us. God's presence is here on earth with us, if only we choose to recognise it and hear it.

Jesus had to cope not only with the worst kind of physical, emotional and mental suffering ever known, but also being abandoned by God.

And yet, He still was obedient. He still was without sin. He still did not abandon His mission.

What love. What mercy. What obedience.

Jesus was a man. He shared all our human emotions, temptations and experiences. He had friends, He had family, and He knew what it was to live every day as a human being and lived as one of us with us. He showed us how it’s possible to live on this earth and serve and follow God.

He was a man.

He also suffered more than any of us can ever suffer. And remained without sin. Remained obedient right till the end. And remained a man.

He truly was the Son of God. He is truly amazing. He deserves all our praise and worship.

The Jesus in 'The Passion' was Jesus the man, but a man who was clearly different. Who was clearly divine. Who was obedient to His calling, to His father to the point of death. Who showed His divinity through His lifestyle. His actions. His words. His obedience.

But who also showed that despite our sin, it is possible for us to live how God intended, and then through His sacrifice made that way possible.

I'm proud and honoured to know Him, to follow Him and to be His friend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Giving God our best - everywhere and with everyone


Its something that other people do isn't it. Or something that the Pharisees do in the Bible, but not us.We often subconciously say to ourselves that we've just about got it nailed or start to think we're right most of the time, and we'd never really be hypocrites. We get complacent, and its a subconscious thing that happens without our realising it.

Well today I realised that's certainly true for me.

It’s ironic, having been talking in my last post of Jesus as a way of life, a lifestyle choice, that today I was humbled in the most powerful and deep-rooted way ever, and by a non-Christian at that.

Without going into detail, basically there is a key part of my life which I'd put down as a minor priority, when actually it’s a big priority. My work. For so long my life has been outside work, my faith has been outside work, something I do everywhere else. Work was what I did to live and didn't matter as much.

Today that changed. I realised that was all wrong. I realised that I'd seriously mucked up.

In fact, doing my job well is a fundamental part of being a Christian.

If I'm a Christian that means I give 100% commitment and energy to doing every part of my life well, giving it my best - including my work. God gave me this job, God is with me watching me at work. When I'm at work people know I'm a Christian and how I work and treat people is going to impact people's view of Jesus as well as their view of me.

Doing that aspect of my life well is key to being a Christian - for all of us.

It hadn't been for me.

That has to change. That is going to change for me. Starting right now.

I knew this before, but today realised in my heart that if we're not taking one important area of our life seriously, if we're not giving it our full attention, effort, concentration and commitment then we aren't honouring God with it.

If we don't take how we treat others seriously. If we don't take church seriously. If we don't take our private times with God or our Bible study seriously. If we don't take how we treat our bodies seriously. If we don't take our attitudes seriously. If we don't take our jobs seriously. If we think any of those doesn't involve God and it doesn't matter how well we do them.

Any of that means that we aren't involving God in it.

It means we're probably not orientating ourselves around God, but around what we want. It means we're consuming God. Taking what we can get and leaving the tough stuff about life behind.

That's not being a Christian. That's being a hypocrite.

That's what I've been doing. That has to stop.

I'm writing this here so its on record. People who know me, please keep me accountable in this.

But everyone who reads this, think about your life carefully.

What important areas of your life are you not giving your full attention and commitment to? Who really is your God, what do you really orientate your life around?

Be honest.

If God's the most important thing to us, then things like work, healthy living, treating people properly, church and forgiving and serving others are all things we should be giving total commitment to and working hard at. With all our energy, time and resources.

Not just taking what we can get and leaving the rest behind. That's consumerism and the culture of yourself as the most important thing in this world and that's not the way to live.

Its certainly not the way I want to live.

I know I will still make mistakes, but the one mistake I hope I never make again is ignoring the fact that Jesus and being a Christian needs to impact me wherever I am, whatever I'm doing and whoever I'm with. I need to try my best to be the best I can in whatever I do or say, in all the different parts of my life.

Becuase Jesus is involved and wants our best in all of them.

For us to become like Him, its simply something we have to do.