I am Alive

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”

Ephesians 2:1

There can hardly be sweeter words than these to a person who knows that they were spiritually dead with no fellowship with God but now have intimacy with Him. What real joy can one have if they only have a vague and uncertain hope of heaven? John writes, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). He is referring to the very words of Jesus who said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy is in knowing (1 John 5:13).

Our Creator had placed Adam in His beautiful garden and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We know that he did eat and he did die immediately in regard to intimacy of fellowship with God and he brought both spiritual and bodily death to all mankind (Romans 5:12).

Clearly, from the verse at the head of this article, we can be made alive to God again and this is the foundation of our joy. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul writes that being made alive is a gift. That is, we have done nothing to deserve or merit God’s favour. “The gift of God” might be better translated, “The Gift which is God.” God Himself is the Gift in the Person of Jesus Christ. At Christmas we focus on the arrival of that Gift and at Easter we focus on the means by which He made it possible for we who were dead to be made alive.

We will be filled with joy when we are aware that salvation is God’s gift to anyone who will believe Him. Who can attain to God’s righteousness and holiness from conception to bodily death? Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and he goes on to write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As we read Ephesians 2:1 again, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” our hearts leap with joy that He has given the perfect Gift which is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Just as He Said

“Take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me”

Acts 27:25

This account of Paul’s shipwreck has many things to teach us. First and foremost is the quote above. As we read the Bible we find multitudes of similar situations where a person or people have taken God at His word literally. It is folly not to do so. Paul had been told by an angel sent by God that if everyone stayed on the ship all would be saved. Only the ship would be lost.

Paul, God’s man, had warned against taking this journey at this time (v 10) but the experts contradicted him because they had a vested interest (v 11). The majority also ignored his warning because they were impatient (v 12). In the Bible we notice that the experts and the majority are frequently wrong. When the storm hit they believed they could weather it without Divine help and took the usual means to keep the ship afloat. The ship’s tackle was thrown overboard on the third day (v 19) and later the ship’s cargo followed but none of this helped.

In this dire situation when all hope was lost (v 20) only the man of God had an answer and eventually the others allowed him to take the lead. For any to survive, they all had to stay on the ship (v 31). Some, who did not trust Paul’s word from God, tried to leave but were thwarted (v 30). Paul knew the day of deliverance was at hand and led the crew, soldiers and passengers in thanks to God for their deliverance before they were saved. That is true faith. The end was as the angel of God had told Paul. The ship was lost and everyone on board was saved (v 44).

The ship is a type of Christ. He died that we might live. All who are in Christ will be kept safe. The key to salvation is in verse twenty five quoted above. Like Paul, we must take God at His word and stay with Jesus Christ. The centurion, named Julius (v 1) was persuaded by the experts and the majority before the storm (v 11) but later we discover that he chose to believe Paul (v 31). Later still, he was protective of Paul (v 43). The faith of Paul did not keep him from the storm and shipwreck but it was the means God used to cause the centurion, and probably others, to realize that God’s word is superior to that of the experts and multitude. Whether any received eternal salvation we are not told but there is a clear salvation message and illustration for us. Paul took God’s word literally and so should we.

With All Your Mind

“The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”

1 Timothy 4:1, 2

None of us like to hear that someone we love and care for has taken on board teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ that we know is false. We like it even less when that person is someone we have prayed for and shared the truth with. However, denying that they are deceived doesn’t help. It is the truth that sets people free, not lies.

We live in a world that gives false hope. Many churches that claim to be “Christian” also give false hope. The doctrines (teaching) they give is contrary to truth and no matter how moral an organisation may be, if it teaches contrary to the Bible then it is leading people into hell.

We would do well to heed Paul’s warning. Hiding our heads in the sand will not help. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy was to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:13). The Bereans were commended for doing just this so as to protect themselves from erroneous teaching.

In the past few decades, in churches, there appears to have been a move away from absolute truth in favour of appeasing the ideologically perverse world or having a good feeling in “worship.” For many, worship has become an experience in which the truth of the Bible is inconvenient. The cry in many churches has been to cut back on teaching the Bible and have more bland songs that touch the emotions and not the intellect or mind. Jesus said we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship without sound teaching is not worship and it must involve the mind. Jesus said that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30) One of the saddest things is to see someone we care for reject the true Gospel and accept the lie. The best thing we can do for them is to cling to the truth, not water it down or compromise it. Love and truth go hand in hand and are inseparable just as worship and sound teaching go hand in hand and are inseparable. These are foundational aspects of the Divine Nature of our God and essential for our fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3).

Reason for Joy

“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

For two thousand years Christians have looked forward to this great and glorious day by meeting for worship on the first day of the week. This is the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. We worship the Lord Jesus on the first day because we look forward to that day when we will see Jesus face to face in resurrected bodies.

The Law called for a day of rest and worship on the last day of the week but because of Christ Jesus’ substituttionary death on our behalf we are free from the requirements of the Law and the penalty for sin. We now look forward to experiencing all that it means when we are called home to be with the Lord.

This past year has been a trying one for the world. People who do not know or understand God’s word grope around for solutions to the world’s problems but they do not inquire of the Lord through prayer and reading His word. The answers are there but as long as they are rejected and men place higher value on their own wisdom they will remain in darkness and never find the right answers.

Anyone who will choose to turn from sin and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will receive His forgiveness and be among those mentioned in the passage above. The New Year looks rather bleak for the world but the Bible forewarns us who believe God’s word that this is what we can expect. As tragic as this future is, understanding what God has said about future events will bring comfort, peace and joy to anyone who will trust Jesus.

He promises that “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” and He gives the reason. “This is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:37, 40). Please note the emboldened words: “everyone” who sees and believes has everlasting life and it is Jesus Himself who will raise up all those who have believed – at the appointed time.

Now, this is surely reason for us to look forward to the coming year with hope, joy and expectation. The world is enshrouded in the darkness of ignorance but we who have trusted and come to know the risen Jesus live in the light. “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

A Red Sea Day

“You will arise and have mercy on Zion;

For the time to favour her,

Yes, the set time, has come”

Psalm 102:13

The writer of this Psalm follows the pattern of several other Psalms. It is a pattern from which we can learn and profit in our daily lives. We may not be in his exact situation but it is possible that we will have similar thoughts and feel the same emotions as a result of seemingly impossible situations in which we find ourselves.

In the first eleven verses we discover that he feels as though the Lord has deserted him and death looms large and imminent (v 11). His enemies clearly have the upper hand (v 8) and in great agony of heart and desperation he calls out to the Lord for speedy relief. He requests speedy relief because his end seems at hand.

His pain is revealed in that he is deeply affected emotionally (vv 3, 4). This has also caused a loss of appetite so that he is not eating properly – if at all (v 5), and is causing him to lose sleep (vv 6, 7). Out of this he cries out to the Lord for a speedy response (v 2).

The Lord’s response to the psalmist is recorded from verse twelve and commences with, “But You, O Lord …”

The response the writer receives is a guide for us when we feel that we are in an impossible situation. For truly “born from above” Christians we can expect this will happen at least several times in our walk with the Lord. It is a part of learning to trust the Lord at our “Red Sea” times. Do you remember that when Israel left Egypt the Lord wasted no time in bringing Israel to an impossible situation at the Red Sea? Read about it in Exodus 14.

As the psalmist writes his eyes are lifted to the horizon of time when Israel will rise to glory under the Lord’s hand and leadership (vv 13, 21, 22). Not only is he gazing with the eye of faith in God’s covenant promises toward the earthly reign of Messiah Jesus on King David’s throne in Jerusalem but also to the more distant horizon where he sees the new heavens and new earth (v 26). On that horizon is the New Jerusalem lit up by the glory of God 24/7 with no need of the sun (Revelation 21:22-27).

When we focus on our short term problems the Lord will provoke us to lift our eyes to see His long term outcome. This will restore a correct perspective and renew hope even when we feel despair in what appears to be a hopeless situation. When Joshua was faced with an impossible situation “he lifted his eyes and looked” (Joshua 5:13) and the answer was before him. Another Psalm (123:1) encourages us:

“Unto You, I lift my eyes,

O You who dwell in the heavens”

In Psalm 121:1 the writer lifts his eyes and sees his enemies in the hills and asks the question, “From whence comes my help?” The answer is in the next verse, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Many of us will face impossible situations in the coming year. Perhaps you can already feel the sands of your “Red Sea” between your toes. Just as the Lord led Israel to that impossible situation He has led or will lead you to yours. Lift your eyes to the horizon of time that the Lord gives in the Bible. It is the Lord who made heaven and earth and will make a new heaven, new earth and New Jerusalem who will open the way for you.