The Glorious Gift of Work

A few days ago I was discussing the excesses of our entertainment generation, and the way that can so easily creep into our lives. I finished by saying “What is God’s great plan for you and I to find fulfilment? Not television or concerts or the weekend. God wants us to be fulfilled, and He’s given us a wonderful gift to ensure that happens — the gift of work.” Today, I want to spell this out in a bit more detail

Work is good

Why then do we never wake up on a Monday morning and shout to the heavens: ‘Thank you God! I can go to work today!’ Why instead, do we spend our week longing for Friday and the weekend?

It is true — work really is good…

  1. Genesis 2:15 says, ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ In paradise itself, where everything was ‘very good’, work was being done. And not just being done, Adam’s very existence in the garden was in order to work.
  2. Ephesians 2:10 tells us ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.’ Adam was created so he could work. The Christian was saved in order that he could work.
  3. In Matthew 9:38 Jesus says we are to ask God to ‘send out workers into his harvest field’. The Christian is not just to work, he’s to pray that more would joining him!
  4. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful… so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ One reason the Bible was given was so that we would be able to work well.
  5. Finally, in John 17:4 Jesus says, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.’ What did Jesus do while He was here on earth? He worked!

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It changes everything… (part 2)

The uniqueness of the resurrection

The Bible does not say that the resurrection of Jesus is an unusual event, or even a rare event. The resurrection of Jesus stands in history as an unique event, unmatched and unparalleled, before or since.

We do occasionally hear stories of people who have been raised from the dead, either by the miracle of modern science, or some other kind of miracle. Perhaps many of these stories are not true, but even if they were, this would not lessen the claim of Christ that his resurrection was unique. We could put it like this: there may have been many raisings from the dead, but there has only ever been one resurrection. (Of course, it’s a great exaggeration to say that ‘there have been many raisings from the dead’. But the Bible does give us a handful of occasions when it does happen, and it’s just possible it may even have occurred outside Scripture.)

How is the raising of someone like Lazarus different from the resurrection of Jesus Christ? When Lazarus was raised from the dead, his old life was returned to him. Miraculously his body had not decayed, but it was still his ordinary human, mortal, fallen body. Not so with Jesus. When he returned from the dead, he was different. He was still Jesus, but His body was no longer mortal; it was now immortal. He could enter locked rooms without need of doors or windows. He was not recognized by the travellers to Emmaus, yet he could still show his wounds to Thomas, and He could still eat fish with His friends.

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Articles in this series:

  1. It changes everything…
  2. It changes everything… (part 2) <-- This article

It changes everything…

Seven years ago a film was released about Jesus called The Miracle Maker. After seeing Jesus’ baptism, miracles, and parables, we’re taken to Gethsemane, Calvary and then the tomb. Once the tomb is shut, we see Mary Magdalene sitting on the floor, weeping inconsolably. As the camera pans away from her tear‑stained face, behind her is a man with his hand on her shoulder. Only his white robes and his sandals are visible, his face is yet to be revealed.

I’m sure you know who that man is. But when my wife watched that film in the cinema, there was at least one little girl who apparently did not know what was about to happen. As she watched the camera pull away from Mary, the man behind was revealed. The little girl could contain her excitement no longer: ‘Mum’, she shouted out for all the cinema to hear, ‘It’s him! He’s alive!’ That little girl discovered for the first time something that most of us have long forgotten. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is astonishing, and it changes everything.
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Articles in this series:

  1. It changes everything… <-- This article
  2. It changes everything… (part 2)

The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived!

This post is not meant to be a New Testament overview of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Instead, it’s a follow-up to my recent The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

When the Holy Spirit returned after 400 years of silence, He did not come quietly. He bursts onto the scene. The Spirit overshadows Mary so she conceives a child (Luke 1:35). John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), his mother (1:41) and father (1:67) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and both parents prophesied as a result. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon in the temple (2:25). When John began his ministry, he did so speaking of the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit (3:16), and testifying of the one on whom the Spirit descended (John 1:32f).

The Holy Spirit’s activity in the early chapters of the gospels was remarkable. For the first time the Holy Spirit was described as having filled a person. For the first time we are told explicitly that He visited women. But it was after all only two women, and only half a dozen people in all – and all of them Jews. Remarkable and unexpected as it was, this was not a pouring out on all people. The promises in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel were not yet fulfilled.
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Articles in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
  2. The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived! <-- This article

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit is active during the Old Testament. At creation, we find that the Spirit of God is hovering above the waters. During the exodus from Egypt, the time of the first kings, and most notably during the ministry of the prophets, the Holy Spirit is active. But despite the wide ministry of the Holy Spirit during all of this period, what the Old Testament believers saw was just a small deposit of what was to come.

For example, in Numbers 11:17 we read that “God will take of the spirit that is on you [Moses] and put the spirit on them.” (The “them” are Israel’s elders.) God did exactly what he promised, and “when the spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.” (11:25) The narrator goes on to tell us that two elders, Eldad and Medad, were not with the others. “Yet the spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.” Moses, brushing aside Joshua’s concerns, exclaimed, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (11:29)

This vignette from the Pentateuch illustrates perfectly the nature of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament. 1) The event is exceptional: the Holy Spirit came on little more than a few hundred men in the thousands of years than encompass the Old Testament. 2) The event is transitory: the Holy Spirit came, then went.

And yet there was a hope (you might say a prophecy), that one day all of the Lord’s people would be prophets and the Lord would put His Spirit on them.
[Read more…]

Articles in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament <-- This article
  2. The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived!

Looking forward to Jesus’ return

Tragically, there has been a lot of nonsense written and spoken about the return of Christ. For example, in 1988 Edgar Whisenant published a wildly popular book (which sold around 4 million copies), entitled 88 Reasons why the Rapture will be in 1988. It wasn’t, of course, but undaunted Whisenant wrote a sequel the following year. In a rare moment of common sense the publishers decided not to call it 89 Reasons why the Rapture will be in 1989. Instead it was titled The Final Shout – Rapture Report 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993. I suppose that’s what’s called hedging your bets.

But don’t let the nonsense put you off. The return of Christ is glorious and well worth dwelling on.

Why is Jesus coming back?

Of all the questions we could consider when looking at the return of Christ, the most important is probably Why is Jesus coming back? It is rarely answered. Whenever your thoughts wander to Christ’s return, let them dwell on this question before you ever start thinking about dates and signs and millennial views.