Monday, May 11, 2009

We are worth much more

If you happen to see a $10,000 dollar bill (I know it doesn't exist but let's assume it does) in the mud, would you pick it up? Many I know would pick it up because of the stated value of the bill. There is substantial value in it.

Does it matter if it is made of paper? Does it matter if it is covered in dirty, yucky mud? All these matters little to none at all. All because of the value stated on the paper.

Likewise, God sees the value in us. We are so precious in His sight that He sent His only Son to die for us and redeemed us back to Himself. Once in a while, we fall into mud (ie sin). But that does NOT change the value He had placed on us. There is nothing the washing of the water (ie Word of grace) cannot do to wash the exterior.

The purchasing power He had used to redeem us back gave us our worth. It was an overpayment for us in fact. More than we could ever think of. We deserved only the lowest but He gave us the Highest.

If a friend tells you that the $10,000 dollar bill is only worth $10 dollars, would you believe it?

None of us would. Simply because we can see the value for ourselves. Someone had printed the value on this piece of flimsy paper.

If we can believe the power vested by the monetary authority on that paper (even though it is just a paper), surely we can more than believe the Creator and Almighty who had placed our precious worth in His Word. He calls us Beloved, Redeemed, Precious, Children of God, Sons and Daughters, Heirs, a Holy Nation and Royal Priests.

The $10,000 dollar bill was just an illustrated value.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are worth MUCH MORE than that. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Eph 2:4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Friday, May 08, 2009

What happened to Jesus during the three days of His death?

I pray this sharing will shed light to what happened to Jesus during the three days of His death.

I want us to focus on Jesus - God's redemption and the eternal home He had prepared for us. I do not find joy speaking about Hades or hell. However hell is as real as Jesus claimed it to be.

Read Luke 16 The Rich Man and Lazarus
19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.

23In hell (original Greek is Hades), where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

This story is real.
So is Lazarus. He is not a story-made person by Jesus because Jesus does not use real names for parables in which He uses "There was a certain Jew, rich man, priest" etc. So we know a beggar named Lazarus actually existed during Jesus' time. And this story is not a parable but an actual situation.

Both died. Where did they go?
Lazarus went to be with Abraham in a place called Abraham's Bosom while the rich man went to Hades, or Sheol and was in torment, awaiting judgement. It was not clear why Lazarus went into Abraham's Bosom and why the rich man went into Hades.

However it cannot be that the rich man was rich therefore he went to Hades, or sheol. Because Abraham himself was rich, and so was Jacob and David, etc. I strongly suggest that Lazarus believed Jesus while Jesus was on earth while the rich man rejected Him. But that is another topic for discussion beyond this subject matter.

Where is Abraham's Bosom? Where is Hades?
No one could be justified through the Law. All have sinned through Adam's one disobedience. Yet there is a group of people known as the Righteous Dead. These are the people who believed in faith that God will provide a saviour and Redeemer in time to come. These people looked forward (or ahead) by faith that one day their sins would be cleansed and taken away completely. Not covered by sacrifices of the blood of bulls or lambs which were temporary.

That's why Abraham, even when he had lied was not struck dead. This included Jacob. All these people lived before the Law. Even after the Law was given, God's judgement was tempered with mercy. That's why David pleaded mercy when he committed adultery. Yet a death had to be wrought for his sins because David lived under the Law. However David looked forward for a time in future when he prophesied "Blessed is the man whose transgessions are not counted against him"! That's us, brothers and sisters in Christ. David saw us as - Blessed!

These people were put in a holding place called Abraham's Bosom. For those who rejected God's provision for a Saviour, they were put in Hades, a place of torment awaiting God's judgement. These are two different places because there is a great chasm between Abraham's Bosom and Hades (or Sheol) as mentioned in the story. These rightoues dead waited patiently for His death for them to be set free. That's where Lazarus went, I believe.

Hades is also a place of darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. See Luke 13:28 "28"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out." And Matthew 25:30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Where is Paradise?
Recount the thief who asked Jesus to remember him and Jesus assured him "Today you will be with me in paradise"?

The thief too looked forward for his sins to be forgiven and he was counted as part of the Righteous Dead, awaiting the Saviour to cleanse and save him completely. Hence I believe Paradise is in truth Abraham's bosom because Jesus had yet to ascend into heaven. First Jesus must pay for the sins he had carried (see later).

Where was Jesus in the three days He died?
We know that when Jesus died, He carried the sins of man throughout time, even those of Adam. Thus Jesus died a sinner, even though He committed no sin. There is a deeper purpose why He died a sinner too.

First He descended into the lower regions (Hades, or Sheol) carrying our sins. He died a sinner. One of his victorious work was to wrestle the keys of Death and Hades from the devil, which He did.

Ephesians 4:8 This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."
9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Revelations 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

And then He crossed over and went to Abraham's Bosom to bring the Righteous Dead with Him into heaven. See in Ephesians "He led captives in his train"? These were the Righteous Dead who could not ascend into heaven because of Adam's sin.

Another supporting verse John 10
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

There are other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I believe most refer to the sheep from another pen as the Gentiles. But can it also not refer to the Righteous Dead?

These righteous dead were those people (ie Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, including the thief, etc) who died before Jesus' death but were awaiting for Him to come and free them and bring them into heaven. Thus when Jesus died, the tombs of many holy men broke open and they became alive in Christ!

Matthew 27: 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Why did Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him?
John 20 Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary could not recognise Jesus because He was in his glorified form. She only recognised Him when He called her and opened her eyes. When she looked to embrace Him, He told her not to touch Him. Yet in later scriptures, we see that He allowed Thomas to touch His side and hands. Why?

Because His work as High Priest had not yet been completed. Remember He still had to present His blood before His Father in the Holy of Holies and sprinkle them before the Mercy Seat. We also know the physical tabernale is a shadow copy of the one in heaven. Thus the final work was God's acceptance of His blood and believing man is completely cleansed and sins taken away. Jesus was doing the exact priestly work as required in the Old Testaments. He came to fulfil the Law, every bit of it, such that it satisfied God completely! For more understanding, read Hebrews in details to see Jesus' priestly work.

Hence He told her, "Do not hold (or touch) me as I have not yet returned to my Father." A High Priest cannot be defiled or touched just as he enters the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood upon the Mercy Seat on top of the ark. Likewise Jesus was carrying His own perfect blood for the cleasning of all of those who believed in Him, including the Righteous Dead. If only Mary's eyes were opened, she would have seen the spirits of many righteous men of the Old Testaments around Jesus.

So when Jesus went into heaven carrying his blood, the angels sang in joy. Man is now allowed into heaven for the first time. And heaven exploded with:

Psalm 24: 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Because of the perfect sacrifice and atoning work of Jesus was completed. The Lamb that that was slain was obedient till death and fully glorified God in Himself.

What is hell then?
Death and Hades are not a state of mind or being. Because Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire which is called Hell. How could a state of being or mindset be thrown into hell? It does not make sense. Hell is now a place for those who rejected God's redemption through Christ. It is also for the devil and his fallen angels. It is a place completely separated and apart from God. There is no redemption here. It is the second death.

Confusion also arose in 1 Peter 3:19...whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

That word preached is NOT 'the gospel preached for redemption' but 'to herald, or proclaim Lord's judgement' that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Not as a particular teaching by Catholics who hold that there is a second chance for redemption.

Jesus literally went through three days of 'hell' to save us completely.

May you be blessed by this sharing.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Is love a chore?

I read something about reasons for obeying and serving God. Are we doing it because because He first loved us, or we love Him, or because it is the right Christian thing to do, or because we want His blessing, or because we fear His wrath?

1 Corinthians 13:4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.

I used to think this is the kind of love we must exhibit as Christians. I used to think this is the kind of love I must show to my neighbour. I was wrong. I can never in my lifetime reach or achieve this kind of love. Only God can. Thus this verse is the kind of perfect love God has for us.

Love will automatically fulfill His commandments, of which the two pillars are based upon - Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind. And love my neighbour as myself. I can never do it. But Jesus can.

This love as described in both Corinthians and the Law comes only when we know how much we ourselves have been loved by God. And this love was shown when Jesus willingly died for me. Without accepting His love, I can only sustain my own kind of love. My own selfish love.

Perfect love casts out all fears. This love comes only from God. There is no other perfect love, except that which a righteous man died for sinful men to redeem us back for His own. His blood shed completely cleansed me so much that I can stand before a holy God righteous and pure, and dispel the accusations thrown at me. His blood has drawn aline around me, protecting me and crying, "Redeemed!"

Love covers a multitude of sins. How much and how deep is the multitude of sins? Wide enough when His arms were thrown open wide on the cross. Deep enough that He went into the very depths of hell to wrest the keys of death back for us.

When this love displayed by God through Christ sits rooted within you, you don't have to be told not to kill your neighbour. You won't steal his stuff either. You won't commit adultery because you love your wife. All these are possible when we are first filled with His love for us. We, on our own, can only love so much.

Obedience out of fear has good short-term effects - but for how long? Eventually people will just run away from the prospect of an angry, judgmental God because we could not fulfill what is required from Him. Or turn away as the Israelites did because fulfilling those laws becomes a chore. How can we even fulfill the first commandment which is to have no other gods before or besides God? Who can truly say God is always #1 in our lives all the time?

And wanting blessings alone without knowing His love is only selfish gain. It is not worship of God but worship of self.

When we come to understand and experience how much God loves us, worship becomes a natural response. It fills our entire person even as our souls' longings are satisfied. We no longer fear Him because His perfect love for us, shown by sending His Son while we were deep in sin, drives out all our fear. And receiving His blessings is as easy as a child receiving from a loving father.

In Proverbs 10:22 (Amplified Bible) The blessing of the Lord--it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].

This is the kind of blessings I want from the Lord - no sorrows and no toiling (or self-effort). Some people have told me this refers to spiritual blessings. Think again, if these blessings are spiritual, how can sorrow be added to them? Surely it means more than spiritual blessings. Can it not mean *gasps* material things too?

A story I once heard:
There was a woman who was married off to a tyrannical man. He dictated her every move and made her his servant. He wrote a list of her daily duties: waking up at 5am everyday, cooking his breakfast and serving it to him in bed, making coffee, getting his newspapers for him to read, basically waiting on him hand and foot. She was miserable.

One day the man died, and the wife was free. She married again later, to a patient, gentle man who loved her. One day she was looking through her stuff when she found the old list her husband had drawn up for her. She realised suddenly that she did the exact same things for her current husband - but because now she did them out of love, it was no longer the chore it had been.