On my way to church for the three hour service on Good Friday, the news on a local radio station, RJR, summed up the mood and state of my country, at one level."Police discovered that a man who was caught having sex with a minor was one of their own colleagues: Police maintaining a presence in the Central Village area ( near to the old capital Spanish Town ) as intelligence gathered indicate that rival gang members were about to launch an attack on each other following the shooting death of one member of one of the gangs: President of the Jamaica Teachers Association calls on the Minister of Education to publicly retract a statement attributed to him which was unfair, incorrect and ungracious. Plus also weighing heavily on my mind was the shooting death of his one time partner, her child and her alleged lover, by another seemingly deranged policeman and who then also killed himself in yet another orgy of violence in my country.
Yesterday, however, on Easter Sunday, late in the evening, another story unfolded. This time on the sister television station, TVJ, the feature was on another event which summed up the state and mood of my country at another level. The CARIFTA GAMES ( involving the cream of the young athletes in the Caribbean) were on and the Jamaicans were " burning up the track". Winning all the relay events when the experts had predicted that the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago would have won some.
And in the midst of all of these experiences, a nation, at least some of us, paused to reflect on why Jesus died, was raised from the dead, and will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. The single most important thing, on reflection, that the Lord has continued to teach me, at one level, is the pervasiveness and power of evil, and that the only power to overcome that evil was unleashed on Easter morning. And at another level, is the unfathomable love of God our Creator and Redeemer, and whose love for mankind, all of whom He created in His own image and likeness, but which image has been marred by the Sin of Adam, and which love that passeth all human understanding, was manifest at its highest level on the Cross of Calvary. Simply amazing!
The reality then, contrary to what is unleashed daily in the printed and electronic news, is that the evil that has invaded the hearts and minds of some policemen, some entertainers, some politicians, "dons", some journalists, some pastors who are " wolves in sheep clothing", some schoolchildren, some professionals and some business people, and whose collective actions have served to place my country in a "deep dark hole ", can only be successfully overcome by the love which poured out in the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ on the first Good Friday. And which Power was unleashed on the first Easter Sunday.
It is within this context then, that the Lord led me to reflect deeply on the following revelations and to send them by e-mail this weekend and even this morning during my devotions.
ON THE NIGHT OF GOOD FRIDAY
I read something last night that left quite an impression on me, and, therefore, write to share it with you my brothers and sisters in Christ as we continue to be in vigil with our crucified Christ. It's a quotation from John Stott's epic and famous book , " The Cross of Christ", in which he treats with several key issues, including; Approaching the Cross; The Heart of the Cross; The Achievement of the Cross; Living under the Cross. And makes three interesting points in one particular chapter in the first section, which if taken seriously by all of us, could make a huge difference in our spirituality at STAPC and lead us into greater maturity in the faith.
CHAPTER 3 LOOKING BELOW THE SURFACE
In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths - about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ's resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ's cross with integrity and not feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossoms everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. it is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.
Secondly, God's love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. it takes a hard stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. its proper name is 'grace', which is love undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ's salvation must be a free gift. He 'purchased 'it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay. Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now 'finished', there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a licence to sin and can always count on God forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness. Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn - or even contribute to - our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling block of the cross.
ON SATURDAY NIGHT
Tonight I was led to read, again, 2 Cor. 4:10.
" We always carry around in our body the death Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body".
Please pray for me, as I was led to this passage, once again, tonight, after reading a part of John Stott's The Cross of Christ, and the ( generally accepted) assertion that the Cross is central to the Christian faith. I am sure that there is a powerful revelation, beyond what we can discern at the moment, and which deeper understanding will greatly assist our witness at STAPC. Verses 11-12 offer a further explanation but one gets the feeling there is something more in terms of how we need to apply this text to our lives as leaders and as part of the body of Christ.
ON EASTER MORNING
On this Blessed Easter morn the Lord pointed me to an answer. Maybe there are more, but this is certainly one, and it goes to the heart of the Christian experience. The suffering servant and the blessings that flow to others. That's why we carry around in us the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ may be revealed in us. As Christ's comfort only flows through suffering. Directly from His own and through those reconciled to Him. There is no other way. And anyone who advances that kind of theology is guilty of that for which Peter was chastened. Of representing the view of Satan. That is the essence of taking up one's cross, daily, and from which, self-denial, many of us recoil. Again and again, practicing a kind of half-way Christianity, until the Lord really gets a hold of us. In one way or another." Those who I love I rebuke and discipline, so be earnest and repent". And each one is disciplined in a different way. We should pray for discernment to know the difference between discipline and trials and persecution. And in any case they maybe one and the same.
" Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God for just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
2 Cor. 1:3-7. NIV
Praise God who always, always responds to the prayers of the faithful.
Happy Easter to you all.
You however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers ( and sisters), we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live by it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."
Romans 8:9-14 NIV
Finally I pray in keeping with the meditation I read last night before going to bed. And which meditation hopefully will change my own approach to witnessing about the love of Christ.
THE WARNING AGAINST WANTONING APRIL 24
" Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirit are subject to you" Luke 10:20
As Chrisyian workers, wordliness in not our snare, sin is not our snare, but spiritual wantoning is, viz., taking the pattern and print of the religious age we live in, making eyes at spiritual sucess. Never court anything other than the approval of God, go " without the camp bearing His reproach". Jesus told his disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us rejoice. We have this commercial view - so many souls saved and sanctified, thank God, now it is alright. Our work begins where God's grace has laid the foundation; we are not to save souls but to disciple them. salvation and sanctification are the workof God's sovereign grace; our work as disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit.....
Unless the worker lives a life hidden with Christ in God, he is apt to become an irritating dictator instead of an indwelling disciple. Many of us are dictators, we dictate to people and to meetings. jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced it with an " IF", never with an emphatic assertion - " You must". Discipleship carries and option with it.
May the peace that comes with the risen Christ remain and work in and through all of us, for His glory, and for the renewing of our respective countries. Our homeland, and wherever in the world we find oursleves at this point in time. Pray for the city where you are now living, for if it prospers you too will prosper. The Word of the Lord according to Jeremiah 29:7 NIV .Amen