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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Living with Blessings

I hope our study through Ephesians is proving to be beneficial for you. I know I have read this book many times, but for me, this time is like new! It never ceases to amaze me how every time I read through the Bible, I always find something fresh and exciting that I had not seen before! By the time this newsletter comes out, we will be going through a transition in the book. One thing you will notice is that there are no commands, no rules, no instructions, and no laws in the first three chapters (except 2:11 when we are told to remember our former sinful state before Christ). The sermons over the last few weeks have focused on what God does for us by giving us his spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1), giving us life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10), and uniting us around the message of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22). All of this gives us freedom and confidence to live in relationship with God like Paul (Ephesians 3). Ephesians 1-3 is a section that is packed full of all the blessings we have because of Jesus' work in his life, death, and resurrection. It shows us who we are in Christ all by God's grace!

When we get to chapters 4-6, we find a shift. St. Paul moves from describing what God has done for us and who we are in Christ to now giving direction on what the life of those in Christ should look like. We might summarize it this way: God has blessed you beyond what you can imagine. He has given you life in His Son and He has made you a part of His holy people, so live like it! Chapters 1-3 tells us who we are, chapters 4-6 tell us to be who we are. You are not a dead sinner any longer, you are a child of God, so be that child in this world.

Too often when we talk about the Gospel we stop with the forgiveness. And sometimes that is a good thing. We need that forgiveness every second of every day! But the gospel is a promise of, not only of forgiveness of sins, but also of being made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5,10)! Paul starts the second half of the letter by saying, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1) It will be our goal for the next few weeks to figure out what a life worthy of our gracious calling looks like. By God's grace we have been set free from the bondage of sin and death and we have been given new life in Christ Jesus. It is by grace we have been saved! It is my prayer that through this next section of Ephesians, we would learn what a life grounded in grace looks like!

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus: The Resurrection Part 2

"Did you see that?" This is a common question we ask those around us when we see something spectacular. Maybe we are at a sports game and a great play takes place, or maybe we see a car accident, or maybe a surfer riding a huge wave. When we see something that is shocking or exciting we ask the question, "Did you see that?" because we want others to be in on what we just witnessed. If the other person missed it, we try to explain what we just saw.

When the apostles wrote the Gospels, they have set out to tell us what they saw, Jesus risen from the dead! They knew he died on the cross and they expected him to stay dead. But then something spectacular happened, he rose again and appeared to them! This convinced them that Jesus was no only their savior, but God in flesh conquering death for sinners, that they set out to tell the world about it. You can read about their experiences with Jesus after his resurrection at the end of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and at the very beginning of the book of Acts. From the Bible we have ten appearances recorded (and there may have been more). He appeared to different people in different places at different times, thus demonstrating to many that he is alive!

But, as with all Biblical truths, people have set out to disprove these appearances. Many people will argue that the disciples and others may have seen Jesus, but these visions were hallucinations. What they were seeing was what they desperately hoped to see and not the resurrected Jesus in the flesh. Paul Little says, "[The Hallucination Theory] is plausible until we remember the common laws observed by modern medicine that apply to such psychological phenomena."

First, it is worth noting that hallucinations usually occur with people who are very imaginative and have a nervous makeup. But Jesus appeared to numerous people, not just imaginative, nervous people. He appeared to Thomas, for example, who, rather than being nervous and imaginative, was completely skeptical and had totally given up on Jesus.

Second, hallucinations are pretty subjective. That is, they are different from person to person. No two people have the same hallucination at the same time. We have accounts of Jesus appearing to two people (Luke 24:13-35), to at least the eleven apostles (Luke 24:36-50), and to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Third, hallucinations typically take place at certain times and in certain places with ideal hallucination circumstances. These encounters with Christ took place both inside and outside. They happened in the morning, during the day, and at night. There is no real pattern to them. They happen for a while and then just stop taking place, unlike most psychic experiences which are regular and continuous.

Fourth, hallucinations take place in the minds of those who so intensely want something to be a reality that they project that reality into existence. But everyone thought Jesus was done for and no one expected him to walk out of the grave. They were all hiding, trying to save themselves.

Finally, hallucinations don't eat. Jesus is constantly eating and cooking after the resurrection (Luke 24:30,41-43; John 21:10-13).

These were no hallucinations! Jesus actually rose from the dead. As 1 Corinthians 15 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!" and "But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

Pastor Bob

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