Acts 1:4-5 |A Heart of Stone No More

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Religion is man striving and working to secure the favor of God. Live this kind of life, go to this kind of church, give money to the poor, follow the ten commandments… I could write for days all of the things people must do in the name of religion. Religion even carries a dark undertone when used to oppress those that do not follow the rules. It is an ugly business when one group to curry favor with the gods will crush another group who follows different rules for life and becomes offensive to those around them. Beyond this ugliness religion also has a major problem. How does one know when they have done enough or the sacrifice outweighs the guilt before god? I can’t even keep a new year resolution more than 60 seconds how do I know God will accept me and the life I have lived?

The answer is we don’t and so I hear from people all the time. “I hope my good is good enough” or “God knows I have done my best he will not hold it against me”. The problem is that these attitudes are subjective wishful thinking of people who have not spent enough time pondering this most important mystery.

God however knows that religion is not going to save anyone. We should understand that also.

In the days of old God set up an elaborate system of laws that the Nation state of Israel agreed to live under. These laws included religious observances that included ways to ask forgiveness for sins against God and neighbors. The people of Israel did not live up to the laws of that state very well and so after many generations of rebellion God dispersed the people all over the known world. This was a very violent dispersal in a very violent world. Yet even in this dark time God continued to reveal a plan and a promise that would impact the future we current live in.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

God through his prophet told the people that his plan was to give his people a new heart and a new spirit. This promise is fulfilled at the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus. After Jesus was raised alive from the dead one of the last times he physically met with the disciples he asked them to wait what turned out to be a few short days for the promised Holy Spirit. The new spirit would be poured out generously to those who would chase after Christ.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 ESV

So what does this new Holy Spirit have to do with Religion? What does the Holy Spirit an a new heart have to do with our hope that we have been good enough? The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the salvation that Jesus secured on the Cross. Without the Christ and the Holy Spirit living in me the gulf between God and man stands impassable. I can’t be good enough. So, God destroys the hard heart of religion and frees us to stand before him has rightful children. We stand before our heavenly father in full rights of relationship. Our communion takes place through the ministry of this new spirit that God has poured out on those who call on his name in Jesus.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The Holy Spirit is the promised heart and down payment of a guarantee. Not a hope not a work to be good but a guarantee that our relationship with God is permanently restored and one day, come soon Jesus my savior, I will be fully in possession of God’s presence in heaven to give him Glory for all eternity. Don’t live life with a cold religious doubt eating your soul. Submit now. Surrender now. Seek salvation now from Christ who has the authority to give you a new transformational heart of living breathing grace by way of the Holy Spirit.

John 20:9 | Rise and be Alive!

Easter

It is a day that would become the first Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from death, a day that started like any other and as normal as any morning in a world of sin, grief, and death. Those who loved Jesus have come to tend the still fresh grave. Mary Magdalene one of His followers unexpectedly finds the grave disturbed and the body missing. She runs to tell this terrible news to Peter and John but they too are confused and dismayed.

9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20:9 ESV

It is clear to the modern reader of this gospel what has happened because Easter is an event that is celebrated and has been celebrated for a few thousand years. That Jesus destroyed death for all people of every tribe and nation. The disciples and the followers of Christ did not yet fully understand this event that was occurring right before their eyes. They were confused and overwhelmed. John writes that he did not understand at that moment what was happening. To most familiar with what John is communicating this is hard to believe because Jesus told the disciples plainly exactly what was going to happen.

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17-19 ESV

Because of His relationship with the Father and because He was executing the Father’s will perfectly Jesus was in complete control of the future events and Jesus knew the purpose and the outcome.

My post today is to celebrate the wonder of this event and to acknowledge it before others that I am a follower of Jesus because of what God accomplished through Him. But maybe the reader of this post is familiar with the Easter event but not the message and significance of what occurred. Why must Jesus be raised from the dead? What is the purpose and point of this Easter event that makes it an annual celebration and the most important day of observance in the Christian life?

Peter who was confused on that first Easter morning not understanding what Jesus had told him plainly and not understanding the scriptures preaches his first sermon on this very topic. Peter now clearly understands and answers the question about the purpose of Christ and His resurrection on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrives to establish the Church.

31 [King David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:31-36 ESV

Peter tells us that Jesus is raised from death to life by God the Creator to exalt Jesus as the King of Kings. King David acknowledges this future Jesus as his Lord a greater king than himself. God exalts to Jesus to His rightful place a throne next to God the Father. All power and authority both in life and in death is given to this King and Lord.

9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:9 ESV

I am part of the creation and I submit to the Creator who reigns over life and death. He has conquered death and extended to all who accept Him life eternal and free. That is why Easter is so important. That is why Easter has been celebrated annually for thousands of years by every nation and tribe.

24 It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24-25 ESV

Jesus was convicted and sentenced to die for my sins. He paid the criminal’s wage of death on my behalf. Then three days later Mary discovered what Jesus had told them to be true that He was raised to life, the victor, to justify me before God that I a sinner who should be dead is given life and relationship with God the Father and Creator. Easter is upon us once again pointing the way to justification and mercy before God. If you have not already done so admit your selfishness and rebellion against God and submit to the Salvation of Jesus Christ.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit 1 Peter 3:18 ESV