New Identity 2

“John answered them all, “I baptize you with water.
But one more powerful than I will come,
the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”
(Luke 3:16)

Reflection:
All four Gospels testify to the fact that Jesus Christ will baptise His followers with the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit, whom we understand to be God, was poured out in a completely new way on the Day of Pentecost. He transformed the spiritual lives of the disciples and the way that they lived. He also equipped them with the gifts and power that they would need for their new lives and ministry. And when in response to Peter’s Pentecost sermon the crowds were convicted and cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter’s response was brief and explicit,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call”  (Acts 2:38-39)

This is the fulfilment of the prophecy of John the Baptist, it is the fulfilment of the promise of the Lord to send another “Counsellor, the Holy Spirit” and is the fulfilment of His word to Nicodemus concerning being born again through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

New life does not come without the Holy Spirit and yet He is freely available to all believers – not only as a once off blessing but as a continuing source of life and love and light.

  • “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26)

Finally as Paul makes clear “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)

Our new identity comes about because God has called us to Himself and given to us the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the One who brings about the transformation in our lives from being children of the world to becoming children of the Most High God.

Response:
Keep on praying for more of the Holy Spirit in your life and invite Him into all your areas of concern

Prayer:

Holy Spirit of God please fill me with Your presence, pour the love of God into my heart and teach me all that I should know as I journey onward with You. Amen.

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Find Me!

“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says,
`Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin”
(Luke 15:8-9)

Reflection:
What constitutes one of your most precious possessions?

For the woman in Jesus story it was a coin that was probably a part of her wedding headdress. For others it might be something like her family charm bracelet, with small objects commemorating important members and events. To lose one is to leave a gap of association that cannot be filled. These icons open windows into bigger pictures and memories and have a significance far exceeding their monetary value. Whatever these important items may be, to lose one will probably result in some committed and ongoing searching until, hopefully, it is found and restored happily to its proper place.  And although we may not throw a celebratory party we will certainly want to share this good news with others.

The point of the story is to show us how significant and important we are, individually as well as collectively, to our God and Father and our Lord and Saviour. If any one of us is missing or even distant the gap is noticed and He looks for us. Notice that we do not have to search for the way back but only to turn around and find that He is there. Most of the time our sense of lostness comes from looking away from God towards something else.

 If you are feeling distant or disconnected from God know that He is aware of it and wants the relationship to be restored and deepened. Ask Him to show you where your focus has been and to help you bring it home to Him again. He is not sitting there in a huff but watching and waiting to celebrate your return as He draws you back again.

Response:
Only God can satisfy your thirst and need  – not the world

Prayer:

Lord God I look to You for my life and meaning – please help me to draw closer to You so that You can draw closer to me. Amen.

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My Identity

“You are my Son, whom I love”
(Luke 3:22)

 

Reflection:
God spoke these words to Jesus at His baptism in the River Jordan. Immediately afterwards He went into the desert where He faced the three major temptations known to man. All of them had something to do with identity –and it was from the secure foundation of His own identity in God that He was able to recognise and refute them.

We find a similar situation in the very first Psalm which stands as a gateway into the rest of the Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2)

The person who is blessed is the one who has established their identity as a man or woman of God. That means that they can recognise and say ‘No!’ to the advice and ways of the world and instead base their lives and living on the word of God.

The need for and reality of this new identity is stressed by Jesus and Paul.

  • “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3)
  • “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(Romans 12:2)

The key question, therefore, is ‘Who am I ?’ Am I a man or woman of God and living according to His word and ways – or am I still a child of the world and subject to its influence and ways? As Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24)

Response:
Who am I?

Prayer:

Lord God I acknowledge You as my Lord and Saviour. Please help me to delight in the revelation of Your love and will in Scripture and to live in Your Way. Amen.

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Chrsit Alive

“He is not here; he has risen!”
(Luke 24:6)

Reflection:
The empty tomb is important in a number of ways. And for us to realise its full significance the disciples had to be able to see into it and even enter it. So the stone had to be removed. This could not happen by human action for the guards would have prevented it. Instead Matthew tells us that

“An angel of the Lord came down from heaven
and, going to the tomb,
rolled back the stone and sat on it”
(Matthew 28:2)

The guards, quite understandably, “were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”

When the disciples arrived and entered the tomb the found the strips of linen lying there and the burial cloth folded carefully and laid down separately. Jesus body had clearly not been taken away nor had He needed any help, but had risen and left the tomb by Himself. It would have seemed to the disciples that He had vacated the linen cloths that had collapsed without Him, taken off and folded the head cloth, and left by His own power in His own time. As Peter Marshall wrote, “The stone was rolled away from the entrance not to permit Jesus to come out, but to enable the disciples to enter.”

Such was the impact of this that John, one of the two who entered the tomb, could later write of himself,

“The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first,
also went inside. He saw and believed”
(John 20:8)

There was more to the empty tomb but for the moment this was sufficient and paramount.  Jesus Christ has risen and left the tomb by the power and authority of God. As He had foretold He had laid down His life and taken it up again.

“I lay down my life–only to take it up again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have authority to lay it down
and authority to take it up again”
(John 10:17-18)

Response:
Jesus Christ is alive today

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I acknowledge You as the King eternal and my Lord and Saviour for today and every day. Amen.

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Your WIll Father

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
yet not my will, but yours be done.”
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”
(Luke 22:41-44)

Reflection:
Here was the last and greatest temptation of them all.

Everything within Jesus drew back at the contemplation of the horror that lay before Him. It was not just the trial and the false and angry accusations that would be levelled at Him. Nor was it the unspeakable brutality of the flogging and the crucifixion with its naked viciousness and searing agony – with no relief and nowhere to hide. There was more. He would be crushed beneath and drowned in the accumulated sin of the world – past, present and future. As it was poured into Him He would suffocate as the Breath of Life left Him and, for the very first time in His existence, He would be separated from the knowledge and intimacy of His relationship with the Father. Everything within Him would die as He hung wretched and alone under the burning blackness, the hideous humiliation and the scathing abuse of Calvary.

There was only one resource that was still open to Jesus – and He took it. He began to pray Himself out of the situation and to pray His Father God into it. He opened Himself with His anguish to the Father – praying so earnestly and intently that His ‘sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ This was not Jacob wrestling with God but the Son of God wrestling with His humanity.

He prayed and He prayed and change began to take place. The human Jesus gave way to God the Almighty as He prayed ‘not my will, but Yours be done.’ And, by the time that He returned to the others, He was at peace and in command of Himself. God’s will had taken precedence and He would walk into it in faith and submission.

Here was the fulfilment of His refusal to accept any of the easy options offered to Him by Satan in the desert. For God to be honoured the process would have to be as faultless as the end result. There are no short cuts. God does not build eternal salvation on faulty foundations. All this Jesus knew and accepted so that God could be truly glorified.

Could I say it too?  “Not my will, but Yours be done”

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(Picture from the Passion of the Christ)

Body and Blood

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which is poured out for you”
(Luke 22:19-20)

Reflection:
The history of God’s people is the story of sacrifice.

In Eden an animal was sacrificed so that God could clothe Adam and Eve as He expelled them from the Garden. Prophetically Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac only to be stopped by the Lord at the last moment. The lambs were sacrificed to save the Israelites from harm when the angel passed through Egypt to slay all the first-born in the land. And then there were the sacrifices of the desert journey and in the Temple of the Promised Land – sacrifices which had everything to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Not for a moment could anyone seriously believe that the blood of a beast could atone for the sins of the men and women created in the image of God. They were continual reminders that for sins to be forgiven, and the sinner cleansed in a miraculous way, there would need to be some eternally effective and holy sacrifice.

  • “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4)

The time had arrived. So had the sacrifice.  Here said John the Baptist was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This great truth was affirmed by the apostles.

  • “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)
  • “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Here in these pregnant moments, not long before He died, Jesus draws us into the mystery and the actuality of this great act of sacrificial salvation. He gives His body and the pouring out of His blood in a covenant of reality. There is no symbolism on the cross – it is cruel and clear and complete. As we take the bread and wine we accept and associate ourselves with Him in His death. He dies for us. In His death we die to ourselves – putting away the old self.  When He rises again He brings us with Him into the wonder and glory of our redemption as the eternal daughters and sons of the glorious Father.

There can be no greater promise given to us than that sealed by the shedding of the most precious blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As we ‘do this in remembrance of me’ we acknowledge, affirm and accept this great sacrifice and confirm that we live in and through and by it.

Thank You Lord Jesus – thank You so very much!

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