Posts Tagged ‘Faith in Christ’

WreckingBallandWindow

Breaking and Smashing © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:12 –BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 4

THE FOOLISH PLAN OF GOD

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God … This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.” 

KISS THE SON

In the New Testament Psalm 2 is associated with Christ and so prophetically it invites us all to put our trust in the Son of God. The promise of salvation still stands. We love John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” but remember John 3:16 is found in the context of verse 17 and 18. John 3:17-18 (NLT) says, God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

David speaks to the rebellious kings, giving them time to come under his authority in Psalm 2:12 (NLT). He speaks of himself when he says “Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!”  

Judgment will come swiftly, but first, he offers joy and peace and refuge to those who submit to him. This is a picture of Christ in the future. God’s Royal Son.

Literally, Psalm 2:12 says “Kiss the Son.” The kiss in the ancient world was a symbol of affection and submission. In the Greek language of the New Testament the word for worship, proskuneo, means “to kiss towards. To come forward to kiss.” Worship wipes away the tears of judgment.

In John 5:22-27 (NLT), Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. … The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. And He has given Him authority to judge everyone because He is the Son of Man.” 

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Derek Kidner says “Take refuge in Him. There is no refuge from Him: only in Him.”

The invitation of Psalm 2 is the same as Act 16:31 (NLT), “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

Pastor Ross

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IMG_4896© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Rothenburg City Square

Matthew 18:7-9 – SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN ROTHENBURG

IMG_8292.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Rothenburg Welcome

The yellow flowers growing in the fields heralded our entrance to a quaint, walled medieval city called Rothenburg in Germany. There we found streets untouched by the centuries, ancient doors that led us to fascinating treasures and a garden overlooking a beautiful valley.

IMG_8347.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Path to a beautiful Park and Garden

Doorway to garden.jpeg© Photo by Ross Cochrane – Doorway through Church into walled garden.

IMG_8342.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – Bella Vista from the walled garden

I climbed the bell tower in the city centre with my brother-in-law, up a long narrow stone and wooden stairway, finally arriving at a small doorway which led to the upper part of the tower. I admired the door with its ancient iron tracery and latches.

Tower of Torture.jpg© Photo by Julie Cochrane – The Bell Tower

Looking forward to the view from the top, my mistake was to look down as I attempted to pass through the passage, the visor of my cap screening the top of the opening. I discovered that the stone in the tower is very unforgiving and despite the unkind remarks later about the tower rocking and the bell ringing, the only thing resounding was my head as I reeled back toward the stairs from which I had ascended.

Bruised and battered and with a bell sized lump on my forehead, I tentatively made my way, somewhat more carefully, to the top, to be confronted with the most amazing view of the township.

IMG_4891© Photo by Ross Cochrane – walkway around top of Bell Tower

© Video by Ross Cochrane – View from Bell Tower

With all its quaint beauty, my thumping headache perhaps should have reminded me of a more sinister past in this Medieval haven. Through a beautiful archway, we came across a wood and iron basket hanging from a lever, a relic from the Torture Museum. Torture was considered to be a legitimate way of extracting confessions, names of accomplices, or the details of a crime or treasonous act against the king.

Torture at Rothenburg May 2016.jpg© Image by Ross Cochrane – Torture Museum

Here in the loveliest of places, even the Church leaders, in an effort to maintain power, decided that any deviation from Church doctrines amounted to treason against the King of kings. And those who search for inconsistencies in the Christian faith are quick to point out the travesties of Biblical thinking these leaders used to justify their own use of torture to extract confessions and even to make people recant their faith in Christ.

IMG_8311.JPG© Photo by Julie Cochrane – A Quaint Village

Apparently Church leaders in Rothenburg somehow justified themselves in ignoring Jesus teaching on loving your enemy. In Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27 Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” 

Such torture reminds me of the gross images of torment Jesus uses in Matthew 18:7-9, not towards others but in relation to ourselves; “So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Greek the Gehenna of fire).” 

Sure, Jesus is not being literal but don’t water this down! This is important! Jesus is using graphic hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration). Jesus tells His disciples that humble obedience is essential when you become a follower of Christ and not to be dissuaded by others. He uses language that is forceful and overstated to get His point across.

Did the religious leaders of His time threaten to employ such torturous methods to stop people from believing in Christ? If so, Jesus turns their language around, using the very language of persecution and torture to emphasise how important it is to believe in Him without wavering.

In Matthew 18:7 (NLT) Jesus warns “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.” 

He goes on to say that it is better to do the torture on yourself than be tempted to enter eternity without believing in Christ. Better to be rid of actions and behaviours (hands), focus and vision (eyes) and any other course or direction (feet) that would try to tempt you away from trusting in Christ.

In context, temptation to sin is the exact opposite of being humbly obedient and responding to Christ. Anything or anybody who thwarts a person’s response to Christ in humble obedience is tempting them to sin.

Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation to deal with temptation to sin. So what is He saying to me and you? He is saying in effect, “Deal with the cause! Focus your attention on the things that would stop you from being humbly obedient to Christ (eyes). Take whatever action is necessary (hands) so that you don’t stumble (feet) in this basic area of belief.”

Wall of Rothenburg 2016.jpg© Photo by Ross Cochrane (Walled Village of Rothenburg)

So does this mean if I am not humbly obedient to Christ then I’ll go to hell? Jesus is simply saying do whatever is necessary! Whatever or whoever tries to stop you from believing in Christ, cut it or them off from your life, because those motivations and people will not be found in eternity.

This is important because the only unforgivable sin is not believing in Christ.

2 Cor. 10:5 says “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

Romans 6:11-13 (NLT) says “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

1 John 5:18-21 (NLT) says “… We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

Ross Cochrane

Matthew 17:22-23 – THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY… 

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb).

Recently (2014) the media has exposed the sinful and cowardly beheadings and crucifixions of innocent people by an extremist Muslim group called Islamic State. These barbaric acts have disgusted the world and the Islamic State has been condemned as the enemy of true freedom. Even previous enemies have formed a coalition to stop their murderous advance.

The Bible associates people who commit such violent acts in the name of any religion as those who have given themselves over to demonic influences. Satan, the Great Enemy (1 Peter 5:8) is described as the Prince of Demons (Matthew 12:24), whose followers pursue his evil ideologies; accusation and blame against others (Revelation 12:10), murder of innocent people (John 8:44), pride in their blasphemous actions (Isaiah 14:12-20), and temptation of others to join them in sin (Genesis 3:1-7). They are fierce (Luke 8:29) and powerful (Ephesians 2:2) but cowardly (James 4:7). They are shrewd and intelligent (2 Corinthians 11:3) but blind, deceived (2 Corinthians 4:4) and ensnared by evil (Genesis 3:1-7). John 8:44 (NLT) calls them the children of their father the devil, who “love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

Jesus tells His disciples that “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of HIS ENEMIES. He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples are filled with grief (Matthew 17:22-23 NLT). They will remember His words at His empty tomb, when angels will draw their attention back to this conversation. In Luke 24:6-8 (NLT) they say “…Remember what He told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of SINFUL MEN and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day.” Enemies and Sinful people murder the Messiah.

Was it Judas who betrayed Jesus? Was Jesus really referring to the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin and the Romans as being His enemies? Afterall their deceit and barbaric acts resemble the Islamic State atrocities.

Romans 5:9-11 (NLT) confronts us with a stark truth! It was not only Judas, Jews and Romans who killed Jesus! The list of murderers is much wider than those who directly sent Him to the Cross. It says “Since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son WHILE WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. …” 

The men who Crucified Jesus were the Romans but it was OUR sin that held the hammer that nailed His hands to the Cross. Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver, but it was OUR sin that greeted Him with a betrayers kiss in the garden. The Romans beat Him and scourged him and abused him, but it was OUR sin that placed the crown of thorns on His head.

It was OUR SIN that brought Him to the Cross. WE were His enemies! WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE! Somehow retrospectively, our sin (that which identifies with Satan’s purposes) caused His death and when He died He died prospectively for that sin. Romans 5:8 (NLT) says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.” We were the ones for whom He died, while we were His enemies.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. John 3:16-19 (NLT) says “…God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” In John 10:10 (NLT) Jesus says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…”

We are all enemies of God, in darkness, associated with evil, betrayers and accusers. All that we despise about the worst of us is exposed by the death of Jesus. Yet Jesus is the only One able to restore purpose to our lives. John 10:10 goes on to say My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 1:12-13 says “But to ALL WHO BELIEVED HIM and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 3:16 (NLT) echoes these words and says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb). Death was my enemy because Sin was destroying my life. Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and defeated the power of sin and death.  He is the only One who has come to save me and you.

Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and if I choose His invitation to believe in Him, then I am able to see His love for me and respond to Him as friend and Saviour. His invitation is extended to anyone who places their trust in Him. Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:19-20 – WHY DON’T I HAVE ENOUGH FAITH?

Mustard Seed Faith

Mustard Seed Faith

Why are some people healed and others not healed? Is it my faith that is deficient? Jesus is asked a similar question by His disciples when they had not been able to heal a little boy. In Matthew 17:19-20 (NLT) they ask “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” They took the responsibility for it and they were willing to learn.

Jesus goes on to say “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Jesus is clear. YOU don’t have ENOUGH FAITH. No escaping this. They were responsible, and healing the boy was dependent on them having enough faith. They didn’t have it. How can the disciples, who travelled with Jesus and saw so many miracles, not even have mustard seed sized faith? How could their faith be lacking; so scarce, meagre and skimpy; so weak and unequal to the task? What hope do I have? What kind of faith is mustard seed faith?

Whatever kind of faith they had, it didn’t work. Was it faulty faith; flawed and defective? Faith so damaged and inadequate for the task that it couldn’t complete anything it tried; so wanting and insufficient that it did no good?

Jesus faith was overflowing and rich, strong and sufficient to heal the young boy. His was faultless faith, but their faith was band-aid faith at best, cosmetic, feeble faith, impotent to act, incapable of making a difference. Their faith was poor and undernourished, skin and bone faith; anorexic faith. Too weak to be effective? Was it the argument with the Scribes that diseased their faith with sin? Were they in need of healing themselves?

Is faith just optimism draped in impotence? Jesus faith is positive and powerful? Is their faith a bonsai faith, kept small and so stunted that it is inept; dwarfed by the enormity of circumstances that are in need of a miracle? How could this be? Midget faith is not mustard seed faith!

Is faith fatalism wrapped with acquiescence? Someone said “some mountains are moved. Others we just have to climb.” Some things can’t be changed? Jesus faith didn’t accept this. Mustard seed faith is faith that never gives up at the first obstacle. It persists in prayer and trust in God until it sees mountains moved; difficulties decimated, healing realised. Mustard Seed Faith inspires me to persist because it sees heaven’s perfect perspective, and refuses to accept earth’s imperfect problems. Jesus Faith is not dependent on circumstances but circumstances are changed by His faith. He draws on heaven’s resources to change earth’s conditions.

What made the disciples faith try to run on empty? Why was there no spiritual energy left in the tank? Why couldn’t they just gather around in Pentecostal Power and shout until the demon was removed?

For the disciples the dispute with the scribes was a massive stumbling block, the father’s request to cast the demon from his son seemed an enormous mountain. The doubt they experienced was huge. The world was a threatening experience of demons and arguments and a crowd that could be gathering to stone them if they didn’t succeed with a miracle. They were angry, fearful, doubting and helpless.

Jesus appears to be reminding His disciples of an important truth, YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. YOU don’t have enough, but I have more than enough to go around.” Faith is faith because of Him in whom we believe. Our faith is appropriated through relationship with Christ. It is HIS faith and faithfulness that we draw upon. Even when we appropriate a mustard seed sized portion of faith from Jesus it will still move mountains. We can choose our falling-short, feeble, band-aid, bonsai, low tide, empty tank kind of faith, or choose His all-powerful faithfulness.

He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Not OUR system of perception but His. Look at the world through HIS eyes. I-once-was blind-but-now-I-see faith. Lean-not-on-my-own-understanding faith (Proverbs 3:5). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” faith (Galatians 2:20 NASB). 

Mustard seed faith perceives my world from God’s viewpoint and uses that perspective to change my world. He invites me to be an instrument of God for change through faith in Him. 

PS Just received a phonecall to visit a lady who is very sick… She was unable to speak, but I shared the message about faith in Christ and she listened as I prayed for God’s healing grace and invited her to place her trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Matthew 11:7-11 – THE GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED!

The Greatest Roadworker

My sister and her husband Pete are on a holiday working their way through OUTBACK PLACES in Australia. Unfortunately they can’t travel on the dirt roads at the moment because of an unexpected rainy season. They have to stick to the highways because if they get off the track they will sink in the mud and never get out.

A policeman friend of mine told me how he did just that. He said he was driving along one minute and the next he was sinking into the road. He was stuck in the middle of nowhere out in western Queensland. There were no trees to hitch a winch to, just scrub. About 5 or 6 other vehicles got stuck trying to get him out. In the end it took a crane from a nearby mine to get them all out of the mud. By that time the mud was half way up the doors. Not good to be engulfed by the road you are trying to drive on. The only way to survive the wet season in the outback is to drive on the SEALED ROADS.

There’s even a sealed highway through the middle of the Nullarbor Desert in Australia. But what intrigues me is WHO ACTUALLY MAKES HIGHWAYS IN THE DESERT? I imagine road workers and crews from the outback to be no-nonsense hard-working men with skin like leather. The only people they would see for miles would be the tourists. Of course road workers are the best people to ask questions about the way ahead and their SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES would be invaluable.

Matthew 11:9 describes such a man. He was a ROAD WORKER AND A PROPHET. He knew the road ahead. Jesus described him as “MORE THAN A PROPHET”. What is he getting at? He goes on to describe him in effect as a council ROAD WORKER, PREPARING THE ROAD for Jesus to come.

Out in the middle of nowhere surrounded only by tourists who were trying to make their way through a wasteland created by their own sinfulness and self centred living, John the Baptiser was telling a HARDHITTING NO-NONSENSE STORY of how to survive such a wilderness and how to get back on the road that leads to you to God.

He certainly wasn’t trying to draw attention to himself, even though seeing a man walking around dressed in camel skin and eating locusts and wild honey is a little disconcerting. He was trying to draw attention to JESUS. In Matthew 11:10 (NLT) Jesus says “John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will PREPARE YOUR WAY before You.'”  

He is referring Isaiah 40:3 (NLT) written years before which says that John was not just a road maintenance man; he was a HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION ENGINEER, making a HIGHWAY IN THE WILDERNESS for the Lord. “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! MAKE A STRAIGHT HIGHWAY THROUGH THE WASTELAND for our God!” The wilderness is just a wasteland without a highway that leads you to the Lord. I don’t want my life to be a wasteland.

John was a rough and ready looking character with a straight talking preaching style that would leave you wanting to jump in the water and be baptised just to avoid the heat of His fiery rhetoric.

Jesus gave him high praise. In Matthew 11:11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist….” Jesus always has a way of bestowing ROYALTY ON A ROADWORKER. Preparing the road for Christ and actually seeing Jesus walk on that road makes you the greatest person who ever lived. No other prophet had experienced seeing the Messiah. There was a road train of resources coming down the road John has prepared and Jesus is at the wheel. We now have access not just to a MESSAGE OF REPENTANCE and baptism, but the MESSAGE OF ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST. Anyone who accepts Christ and comes under His authority is even greater than John. He says, “…even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” (Matthew 11:11)

In the eyes of Jesus, John was the GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED. Even before his birth Luke 1:15 (NLT) says “for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” He wasn’t a rock star or a wealthy businessman. He didn’t have a whole lot of fame and power. He was just a SIMPLE ROAD WORKER who believed in Jesus as the Messiah and who totally committed his life to that belief.

God bless you Church as you take the road less travelled. That straight and narrow highway that gives you access to God through believing in Christ. It’s a road that leads you to the Cross, to repentance, to faith in Christ, to obedience and to eternal life. It is the greatest journey you will ever take. 

Pastor Ross