Okay, get ready, this is a long one, but if you can make it through the whole thing, you will be blessed.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-20)
I am so thankful for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. I don’t believe any human on earth at the time of Christ would have described the day of unbelievable suffering that Christ endured as “good”, yet that very Sunday, the “good” was revealed.
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all His enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under His feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that He is excepted who put all things in subjection under Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15: 21-29)
Why did Christ suffer and die on the cross and? To save us. To save us from what? The wrath of God. Isn’t God loving? Yes, but He is also just and holy.
“..but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:8-10)
How did Christ endure the cross? He focused on the joy that it would produce.
“…Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
In this fallen world, we are all going to endure suffering and even death. However, in Christ, we may have peace with God, and in Christ, we will overcome all the trials in this world.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
How are we to endure the suffering that surely is part of this age? By keeping our focus and reliance on Christ alone.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-1)
The race set before me continues. My last scan showed cancer growing, so the chemo was stopped. The doctors are sending me up to the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle on May 12th to apply for a clinical trial. There is a two week screening period after that before I know if I qualify. If I do, I will need to be infused weekly in Seattle. If it works, then I would continue until either disease progresses or I am unable to tolerate treatment. This is indeed overwhelming, but we are taking things one day at a time and trusting in God. I am so thankful for my family and their support. A gift from God to me. I am trusting and hoping in God and His Word alone. “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5) As the hymn states, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
There are many reading this who are enduring a hard trial of their own. If you are not a Christian, this trial is meant to draw you to the One who loves you so much that He died for you. If you are a Christian, this trial is purposeful, transforming you into the image of Christ.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Life here on earth is short.
The Bible uses similes to describe its brevity. Our life is like: smoke (Psalm 102:3), an evening shadow and withering grass (Psalm 102:11), a withering flower. The older I get, the more I experience this truth. Our days are also numbered (Job 14:5), and God Himself is sovereign over this time (Psalm 31:15).
We will die.
While no one likes contemplating death, it is a reality that we all must face.
“The Bible speaks of two ways in which people die. There are those who die in faith and, because of that faith, are linked to the atoning work of Christ and receive the benefits of His atoning work, including entrance into His kingdom. The other way that the Bible speaks of dying is dying in sin. Those who die in sin are those who die in a state of impenitence. Such people have never bowed the knee to the living God and cried out from their helplessness for His grace. Instead of clinging to the cross and coming with nothing in our hands, it is our nature as fallen creatures to try to bring something in our hands that will pay the price that needs to be paid for our redemption. This is the height or, perhaps, the nadir of folly. The only thing we can be sure of is that death will give us judgment. The question is, do we have that faith by which we are linked to the righteousness of Christ and all the benefits of His ministry on our behalf, or will we stand alone at that judgment bar of Christ?” (Justification by Death, by R.C. Sproul)
Consider Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus that is the Son of God.“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) The Jesus that IS God. Part of the Holy Trinity of Persons in One Divine Person. (1 Cor. 8:4-6; Mt. 3:16-17, 28:19; Eph. 3:14-15; Prov. 8:22-31; Jn. 1:14, 5:17-26; 1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 19:13; Jn. 15;26; Mic. 5:2; Jn 1:1-2).
Christian, “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:3) “Set your hope fully on the grace that will brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
Stand firm in the true grace of God. (1 Peter 5:12) “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)
Hope in the Lord. Trust in the Lord.
As the Lord continues to work in my life, He is weaning me from this world through His severe mercies. He continues to cast my eyes heavenward, to my unfathomable inheritance that will not perish. I rejoice in the sovereign, triune God and the living hope with which He has gifted me. I am thankful trials are purposeful and under the control of God alone.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
If you have read all of the above, I thank you. I pray that it blesses you. It has been a labor of love in the preparation, both of sharing my heart with you all, and sharing the love of Christ with you. I am grateful for the honor you have given me to proclaim the Lord great.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
May 5, 2011