Just Great

“The whole extent of hell, the present suffering, the bitter recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future, will never be thoroughly known except by those who go there.”- J. C. Ryle

Because we have never visited hell we don’t know how great a death we have been saved from.  But Paul said “Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” ( 2 Corinthians 1:10) To deliver us from such great death, God provided a great, chain snapping, bondage breaking, and sin cleansing salvation.  The Bible calls it a great salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:3)

In this great salvation, Jesus has saved us, delivered us from death and hell but that’s not all. We are saved from the devil, from shame, hopelessness, and fear.  Yes!  We are saved from sins power, from the flesh, from bitterness and hatred but greater than the things He saved us from, are the things He saved us for.

He saved us for a new life – He saved us for peace and for purpose. He saved us for heaven for His family and for the kingdom of God. He saved us for divine power and for works of ministry but mostly He saved us for Himself.  Jesus purchased us at a great price we are worth so much to God. He paid the same price for you as he paid for Billy Graham and the Queen. He died to save Englishman and Indians.  He saved tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and sailors; rich men, poor men, beggar men, and thieves.  It is a great salvation! When Jewish Peter was on a roof wondering if God could love gentiles like us, he saw a sheet came down from heaven holding unclean animals. It was not a handkerchief and it was not a size that could fit inside his lounge. No, it spread out over the earth.  “He saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. (Act 10:11)  Every unclean thing was inside this great sheet. God said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Act 10:11) 

Friend, He has cleansed you. You are not common or unclean. God gave Peter a great picture to say that no person is too unclean nor is their sin so great, that God cannot save them by His great Grace.

 

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Greatness

God is great in so many ways. God is great as to His strength and power but also great in His dimensions, and His extent. Actually His greatness is immeasurable along with His excellence and glory. He is not great in comparison with anyone or anything. He is great by Himself; there is no other like Him.  He is not just first, He is the only God and beside Him, there is no God.  He is great as to His age, being without beginning or end; the Ancient of Days but age doesn’t apply to Him. God is great as to His abundance and all that He does. The Greek word for great is mega. He is Mega in His pre-eminence.

On top of all that, all His attributes are great.  So He has attributes like great mercy.  Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Num 14:19 

Now when you have greatness, it is yours to give away.  King David said  “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 1Ch 29:11-12 

You can only give what you have so God is able to give greatness to His people.  He gives His kingdom to his people; He gives His glory in John 17, He gives power at Pentecost and He gives His greatness to His people.

He took the apostle Paul and made a great murderer into a great missionary and it doesn’t matter who you are today, Gods plan is to put His greatness inside your heart and life.  “To know what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power”  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, Eph 1:19,  Eph 2:4    God is placing his greatness into our lives!

And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Act 4:33 

Even while the apostle preached with great power, great grace was deposited into the heart of those hearing.

Grace is really Divine influence upon the hearts of men. So when the resurrection was preached in great power by the apostle, great grace (Divine influence) came upon the people. As the resurrection of Jesus (The miracle-producing power that can bring something that is dead, back to life) was preached in the power of the Spirit, the same grace or life-giving resurrection power came upon those that heard until faith was born in the faithless, those that were hopeless began to find hope and those who were discouraged believed again. Even the dead in spirit come to life.

Great Grace comes into our lives when Gods great power is talked about.

Friend, what you hear about God and what you can see of God is what you experience of Him. In other words when you see His greatness, greatness gets inside of you.  God is revealing His greatness to us so He can work some of His greatness into us.  Not great skills necessarily or great talents but a great heart, a great attitude, great character, great vision, great purpose and great faith.

 

 

Because of His mercy

Noah believed Gods warning about the coming rain, built his ark and survived the flood. Afterwards, he built an altar and offered burnt offerings upon it.   Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar.  And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake” (Gen 8:20). 

Noah is a picture of a “saved” man; a man delivered from judgment.  All flesh upon the earth apart from Noah, his family, and some clean animals were destroyed. Because Noah was delivered from the judgment of God he makes an altar because he had experienced God’s mercy.

God revealed Himself to Abraham so he made an altar to God (Genesis 12.1). The Lord delivered Moses from the enemy so Moses built an altar in recognition of Gods help and mercy. (Exodus 17.1)

Able, Gideon, Joshua and David all experienced the mercy of God and then built altars to the Lord.  Worship is a recognition that God has manifested His mercy to us; that we have been partakers of His love and delivered from our enemies.  Their worship and their sacrifices were acceptable to God because they were offered because of their experience of the mercy of God.

Today the only acceptable altar on which we can offer our sacrifice is a revelation of the mercy of God.  I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1). 

The “therefore” is the conclusion of what preceded in Romans three to ten.  In Romans three it tells us God saves us and we are justified from sin as Able was.  Romans five tells us we have peace from God as Gideon had.   Romans six tells us we are told we are now alive to God like Noah was alive after the flood. In Romans eight, we are told there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus and Romans nine says that the Gentiles have received mercy and been grafted into God’s purposes like Abraham.

All these Old Testament men had received mercy and then worshipped God. Therefore in Romans twelve Paul says because you also have experienced God’s mercy like Able, Gideon, and Abraham, present a sacrifice!  Our body – a living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service or worship.

Friend, devoting ourselves entirely in worship that stems from a revelation of the mercy of God, will always be acceptable worship to our God and Saviour.

Just like Jesus?

Sometimes we feel a little bit underpowered and think “shouldn’t I feel like a super hero. When I walk down the street shouldn’t people fall under conviction and telephone poles melt into the pavement or shouldn’t our day filled with miracles as the sheer power of our shadow falls upon broken people .

We forget that Jesus divinity was veiled by His humanity. When Jesus walked along the street people couldn’t see obviously that he was the Son of God. Some people still thought he was the son of Mary and Joseph. He wasn’t glowing apart from on the Mount of transliteration. The rest of the time he just looked like everybody else and still needed to eat and rest. As a child he knew nothing and had to memorise the Torah by the age of 12.

We can not know anybody after the flesh. Your humanity doesn’t matter;  it’s your divine nature inside that counts.  You don’t need to have a degree in order to pray for a doctor with a Ph.D.  You don’t need to have money to pray for a rich man; you have more resources than the U.N. you have the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus became a man, to win back that which was lost by men. What was lost by the first son (Adam) was won back by a Son of God and that dominion is now given back to the sons of God.   Jesus and us are brothers for we are both sons. The difference is that  Jesus was sinless and Jesus was the firstborn of the new creation. Col 1:15.  We are touched by sin and we are the second born.   The firstborn son in a Jewish family got the double portion because they were responsible to care for and provide for the rest of the family. It was a heavy responsibility. It was their responsibility to bear the judgement for all the other siblings’ errors and provide judgements were needed. When Joseph was about to be killed by his brothers, Rueben the firstborn said don’t kill him.   His firstborn responsibilities were kicking in.  You could say that the firstborn were liable for Justice and judgement while the second borns receive mercy. Jesus was the firstborn of the new creation. He was the one that received judgement. He was the one that brought justice so the second born (that’s all the rest of us sons and daughters) could receive mercy.

Friend,  we are the sons and daughters of God  in the world.  The Son and the other sons have the same purpose.  “I came down no to do my own  will but the will of him who sent me.” John 6.38 .  Jesus said “as Father sent me so I send you into the world” John 17.

We may feel not much different but we are completely different. We are 100% human but with a divine nature. He is resident within us and that changes everything, every moment, everywhere.

Enter the kingdom

God is righteous and heaven is for the righteousness; therefore everybody in heaven must be righteous. Under the law people had to be righteous to enter paradise. Under Grace, people still have to be righteous to enter heaven.  There is no change.  In fact Jesus said except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees you could never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The only thing that has changed is how we become righteous; how it is obtained.    We can now be righteous before God by faith.  It is not a lesser righteousness, but a different means to being right before God.

Jesus is the righteousness of God and if you have Jesus you have righteousness.   God demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rom 3:26 

 God is not indifferent to sin in fact He is holy and must condemn sin. This is the reason Jesus was punished for our unrighteousness. Now our faith in the Savior is accounted for righteousness.  Our faith justifies us – or declares us to be as if we had never sinned.

Friend, it doesn’t mean we are righteous in our self nor is it legal fiction where God says we are righteousness when we are not. But we are actually righteous in Christ or because Christ is within us, we truly are righteous.

The theology of work

Adam was connected to God and to his work, but since the fall, man has had trouble connecting work and God together.  The best many Christians have been able to do, was connect Sunday with God where as all week as well as the day of rest, Adam and Eve were connected with God in their work.

In fact it seems from scripture, that eternity will be filled with creative fulfilling important work; not clouds and harps.   Work is our first mandate.  Our first calling is as regent under God (Earthly rulers representing heavenly king), is to rule over the earth and subdue it. We are commissioned to subdue the earth. Engineers, builders, dressmakers, and florists all make the earth work for us.   We are take the earth resources and use them we are to take the earths challenges and overcome them.

Humans are world makers.  Agricultural, material, political, aesthetic work, musical, artistic work, relationship work, or technical work we are making our world.

So when man makes a tunnel under the sea from England and France bringing people together, God says yes!   God wanted to use man to release potential of the planet. Gods potential in the plant, is released when we work with God.  And that is what we all working to do. Release the potential of creation.

So a teacher releases potential in their pupils. A mussel farmer releases potential of the ocean.   And doctor releases potential of healing in a person. God actually heals but the doctor assist the process of releasing the full potential of healing. A cook releases the potential of veggies.

Parents, builders, everyone; if we aren’t releasing potential, then we aren’t working with God.   If you’re holding down, holding back, keeping something or someone under, then start working with God.  This is the reason why the 5 fold ministry is called the work; it’s all about releasing potential in people.

Friend, there are no easy jobs done by Christians. We all have time and abilities and we all use resources, machines and responsibilities. Your job is no harder that mine and no easier.  Every job done faithfully and well is difficult whether a builder or accountant.  It is no harder for me to do my job well that it is for you to do your job well.

Jesus our brother

Brothers in ancient Greece and Rome were very loyal to their siblings. Even secular writer like Aristotle said that a brother would think of their brother; they would rejoice in brothers by any downplaying of his advantage and share their resources and any glory that they were given.

In the book of Philippians Paul is saying that when Christ came to earth he become a brother. Jesus was exalted into a place of great authority because of His actions not as son of God but as the son of man.  When Jesus took up the form of man he became a brother of mankind.  The cross was a manifestation of brotherhood not Son ship with God and redemption was affected not by Jesus in His unique divinity but by his humanity in becoming our brother or kinsman redeemer.  When Paul said ”let this mind be in you …”  he was saying it’s the same mind that Jesus had to become a brother to humanity. He became a Redeemer a brother to redeem us.

He was thinking of us as a brother would.  The mind of Christ toward us as brother, in seen in His consideration of us and his rescue of us. The mind of Christ is the mind of brotherhood.   Jesus acted the role of a perfect brother.

He Rejoiced in his brothers. The mind of Christ and his brotherhood is seen in His downplaying of his advantage to raise mankind to share his joy.  He was not in competition about who could see the father’s face.

He shared resources. He shared his  divine recourses and relationships.  So whatever he inherited, his  brothers would inherit too including the Spirit. He would not see a brother struggle and not step up to the plate to help. He could not see a brother flailing or not succeeding and turn a blind eye

He also shared His glory. The mind of Christ and His brotherhood is seen in His determination to share His glory with us.    The cross was to bring his brothers to see the father’s face. He wanted to bring all brothers to have the same place a privilege. Jesus was the example brother

Friends,  God is enabling us to see our identity in these days and our identity is not just about Son ship with God but about brotherhood with Christ and your brothers.  Paul says that lack of oneness in brotherly love is inconsistent with our identity as brother of Christ and of each other.  Disunity is a violation of the mind of Christ as brother.  Philippians 1. 29.

Brotherhood

Paul constantly calls the Philippians brothers and he uses brothers strategically because of what it meant to be a brother in the ancient world. The ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish world was very tribal.   It mattered where you were from it mattered what family you were from. Most adult men were still known as the son of someone. A person’s family of origin is the primary source of their status and location in the world. It was important from whom people descended. Genealogies serve to defend the claim of honor, identify social roles and obligations, establish inheritance rights to indicate birth order and honor order. Levite’s assumed their role based on their lineage. Who the father was, was more important than who the Son was.   So a good name (Fathers)was better than great riches.  The name of your father opened doors for the son.  (Another’s name )People were known by the father’s name in Jewish culture Bar Abbas, bar Bar timaus  are derived from birth.

Also  in Greek Roman world view the relationship between siblings was the closest strongest and most intimate relationship in the ancient world. They were considered same blood, same stock and this was only enhanced by similar upbringing. The greek word  is Adelphos, and means from same womb.

I think this is sometimes lost on us in the Western world. Our natural brothers can so isolated from us we are independent and disconnected but not in Pauls day.

Aristotle said “Brothers love each other as being born of the same parents; for their identity with them makes them identical with each other.  They are therefore in a sense, the same thing though separate individuals.”     Nic Eth.  8.12.3

Brother in that time would always think of their brother; they would rejoice in brothers by any downplaying of his advantage and share their resources and any glory that they were given.

And what the Philippines heard Paul saying you are my brothers and you are brothers of each other.  You are siblings of one another, with a shared father and shared family.  As it is in the natural so it is in the spiritual family. This was the ethic of the day even among pagans.  So Christians are explicitly instructed to treat one another as family; young men as brothers older women as mothers, younger as sisters.

In fact Philadelphia the love of brothers and sisters, is the central ethic shaping relationships in the church. You would not have had to say anything more to a Christian than “he is your brother,” to explain a how he should be treated.  Brotherhood alone is able to evaluate what is compatible and incompatible with Christian lifestyle.

Add to … godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love.  2Pe 1:7 

Righteous at last

God is righteous and heaven is for the righteousness; therefore everybody in heaven must be righteous. Under the law people had to be righteous to enter paradise. Under Grace, people still have to be righteous to enter heaven.  There is no change.  In fact Jesus said except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees you could never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The only thing that has changed is how we become righteous and how it is obtained.    We can now be righteous before God by faith.  It is not a lesser righteousness, but a different means to being right before God.  It’s only difference is how we become righteous.

Jesus is the righteousness of God and if you have Jesus and you have righteousness.   Rom 3:26  God demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God is not indifferent to sin but holy and must condemn sin so Jesus was punished for our unrighteousness. Now our faith in the Savior is accounted for righteousness.  Our faith justifies us – or declares to be as if we had never sinned.

Friend, it doesn’t mean we are righteous in our self nor is it legal fiction where God says we are righteousness when we are not. But we are actually righteousness in Christ or because Christ is within us, we truly are righteous.

Inheritance

The land before them stretched out as far the eye could see. God had called the Promised Land, their inheritance and they were to make sure the inheritance was not lost or given away but handed on to the children

In the New Testament Pauls basic theology is receive Jesus Christ and you will become a child eligible for part of His inheritance, or co heirs.  All that God has given to us in Christ, is our inheritance. Every blessing we are given; the Holy Spirit, peace with God, every privilege we enjoy,  every right we are given  in the name of Jesus, every benefit we receive such as salvation forgiveness   and  atonement.

Friend, every state we enjoy now and for eternity. This is the inheritance God has given His New Creation family.   It is complete in Jesus. He has paid the price so fully, that He could enter in to heaven and take a seat.