Surrendered to God’s Grace

“The eyes of both of them were opened” Genesis 3:7

This is the first time any person ever felt guilt. Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover their guilt was futile. Covering for guilt and the ultimate removal of guilt would require the death of a substitute. Guilt caused them to flee God’s presence instead of coming to Him. Guilt still does this to those who are yet to be forgiven. Those who most vehemently oppose God are the one’s sensing guilt the strongest. Their sin is against God and only He can forgive their sin. To remain just, a satisfactory substitute would have to die. Adam had brought about a fundamental change in his being which must die. Only a new creation could allow him into God’s presence again.

With the guilt came conviction of sin for which Adam and Eve had no remedy but to flee God’s presence. This did nothing to diminish the conviction or remove guilt. Instead of desiring God’s presence they wanted to hide from Him. People who have believed Satan’s lie still prefer to hide from God.

We observe here that God pursued Adam and Eve until He caught up with them. He then gave them opportunity to have a change of heart which they eventually accepted. First they played the blame game. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent but in reality they were both blaming God. This characteristic of fallen people can be readily observed in all spheres of society throughout history and is still very evident today. It is, we accuse, always someone else’s fault!

When they eventually surrendered to the grace of God, God clothed them in animal skins thus picturing the means by which they and all who choose to believe what God has said will be saved. God is still in pursuit of people but sadly most will not heed His words of love, grace and forgiveness. Don’t be among them but be among those who humbly acknowledge their sin against God, turn to face Him and receive His gift of forgiveness. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

One who has received the gift of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ will not run away from God when they sin. Having experienced His forgiveness before, they will return to Him whenever they are aware of sin (1 John 1:9). This is a mark of one who has truly chosen to reject Satan’s lie and believe what God has said.

The First Human Death

“Has God indeed said …” Genesis 3:1

These are the first recorded words of Satan and their echo is still reverberating around the world as strong as on that first occasion. People around the world are showing open rebellion and defiance against their Creator. Sin has made people more willing to shake the fist of defiance at God.

Satan chose to discredit God through Eve most likely because she had not heard the original command from God (2:16-17) She received it second hand from Adam. This is a good reason why everyone should hear from God first-hand and personally. This made Eve vulnerable, as it will any person who does not read God’s word for themselves, and Satan knows it.

Apparently Eve chose to accept Satan’s criticism of God without consulting Adam and she ate of the fruit. This put Adam in a place that he could not have envisaged. He would have to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. For how he should have responded, refer to Numbers 30:8. In full knowledge of what he was doing Adam accepted Satan’s criticism of God and so sin and death entered the world. The first human physical death was Adam and Eve’s son, Abel, murdered by their firstborn, Cain (4:8). Abel’s death must have caused immeasurable grief and shock to Adam and Eve. Seeing this terrible consequence of their sin would have been horrific.

The record of the Bible is one of God speaking to people, through the prophets and through the Lord Jesus Christ, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even so Satan still finds numerous willing ears to his question. Since he spoke to Eve through the serpent he has continued to ask of men and women, “Has God indeed said…” The response is evident all around us. God allows Satan to serve Him by continuing to test the hearts of men. But there is the voice of Jesus calling men to repent, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Each person will make their own choice as to whether they will believe Satan’s lie or God’s truth. Receiving Satan’s lie as truth is to call God a liar and a deceiver. Satan is a murderer and a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

To choose to believe what God has said is the opposite of what Adam did in the Garden and opens the grace door (John 10:9-10) to salvation purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

Do Not Lose Heart

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” 2 Corinthians 5:4

In my role as a volunteer driver for the local shire I was transporting a lady to a hospital appointment. She had been employed in the medical profession for a significant portion of her life and had witnessed many people suffer terribly leading up to their bodily death. She commented that she hoped that she would have the right to euthanasia should she ever be in that situation. From the viewpoint of one who believes that there is nothing beyond the grave – that one’s existence ceases altogether at death – this makes logical sense. This is why some people, some quite young, choose suicide. They believe it will end the pain that they believe has no end otherwise. One can only imagine their great disappointment to discover their error and that they have robbed themselves of ever having the opportunity to receive new life in Jesus Christ. Of course that presupposes that someone would share the Gospel with them. We cannot know how many suicides might have been prevented if Christians shared the Gospel.

In the verse above Paul gives us a Christian view of similar situations. Yes, we do groan as our bodies age and feel all kinds of pain. Christians are also often burdened with the same slow and painful deaths that many unbelievers experience. It is necessary that our earthly tent is destroyed so that we can put on the eternal dwelling place (v 1). The how, when and where of our bodily death is God’s sovereign choice – just as was our birth.

The person without hope in Christ just wants to be rid of their pain and suffering; but the person with hope in Christ, while having no desire to cling to this body (v 8), is more focussed on the new resurrected body we shall have when in Christ’s presence. This is why Paul writes, “Not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed.” A little further on Paul writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (v 8).

If we only focus on what we want to leave behind, we will not have much in the way of joy. Those latter years of our lives will be a time of sadness, grief and perhaps self-pity. However, if our focus is on Jesus and what lies ahead, we will have joy in the glorious expectation of that day we see Him face to face. Yes, there will still be the groan to be free from our dying body; but our affections and desire will be upon being fully clothed in Christ (5:2).

Just before these words Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (4:16). The perishing of our body Paul writes is a “light affliction but for a moment” and God has a purpose in it (4:17).

Eternal Life

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Our concept of what is eternal life may actually fall short by a considerable margin. It is possible that we mention eternal life as a substitute word for salvation. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Our concept is that having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we have also inherited eternal life. It is helpful for us to give considerable time and meditation as we read the Bible as to what that actually means. It is not synonymous with salvation or a change in our way of life but it is an integral part of salvation.

In the verse at the head of this article and reading it in the context of Jesus’ prayer to the Father for Himself, His disciples and all those who will believe in Him, we have a more clear expression of what eternal life is. It is not just about going to heaven and it is not just about being saved from sin and its consequences. It is what Paul refers to as being made alive to God (Ephesians 2:1) which means that we are now able to having a living relationship and fellowship with God.

In this prayer Jesus is not praying for our salvation. The subjects of this prayer are already forgiven and saved. He is praying that they would have the same intimate relationship with the Father as He does and with Himself also. As we read the Gospel accounts we may be inclined to be a little jealous of the disciples who saw and spoke with Jesus every day. They saw the miracles and they heard His teaching first hand. However, though He is not physically present with us, as He was with them, He is none-the-less present with us every moment of every day.

Eternal life is the experience of living with Jesus and the Father day by day. In 14:23 John records Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and make Our home with him.” This is the closest personal relationship that we can experience in this earthly life.

In the later years of his life after all the other apostles have been killed and long gone, John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Eternal life is a Gift in Christ, not apart from Christ, but it is not just a ticket to heaven that we keep in our pocket ready for future inspection. Eternal life is living in fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father by the Holy Spirit here and now and forever. The potential has been ours from the moment we first believed. We now have the opportunity of nourishing it to maturity in readiness for that great day when we see Jesus face to face.

The Glory of God

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

This is the greatest and most desired miracle of all. It is the only miracle that is permanent into eternity. The forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the sin disposition that we inherited from Adam is the reason for Jesus being born into this world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel we can read of the restoration of life to Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, knew that Jesus is God incarnate (vv 27, 32) and that He could have healed him before he died. Neither of them, nor Jesus’ disciples, considered that He could restore Lazarus to life after he had died. Their faith was real and genuine but Jesus would stretch and strengthen their faith by revealing more of Himself. Notice that Jesus initiated the whole situation that allowed Mary, Martha and Lazarus to endure suffering and grief in the process.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would soon be taken and crucified. This experience with Lazarus being raised would help prepare them for that rapidly approaching day when they would need to accept that Jesus had been raised bodily from death.

We notice in the Gospels that miracles of themselves do not bring about belief in who Jesus is. Upon the resurrection of Lazarus many did believe in Jesus (v 45) but there were also many who did not even though they were well aware of the miracles Jesus had done (v 47). Indeed, it was the miracles that provoked them to want to kill Jesus (v 53). They would also try and kill Lazarus to conceal this miracle (12:10-11).

Lazarus suffered an illness until he died and after Jesus raised him to new life he was hunted in order to kill him again. All this was because Jesus desired to reveal Himself more fully to His friends and disciples. You can check with Lazarus when you see him but I am sure he has no complaint against Jesus.

Jesus came into this world to save sinners and give to them resurrection life. We can read the verse at the head of this article with immeasurable gratitude and praise. But His coming is not about us though we benefit beyond measure. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v 40). This whole event was about Jesus revealing the glory of God but only those who believed in Him would see it. Jesus making us alive from bondage to sin and death is so that those who believe may see the glory of God. At Christmas time it is only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will see the glory of God.

The Day of Visitation

“… because you did not know the time of your visitation” Luke 19:44

These words came from the lips of Jesus mingled with His tears. He had presented Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah and been rejected. His presentation began in the town of Bethlehem. The scribes and Pharisees knew that Messiah would be born in there but they were too preoccupied to even have a small contingent in Bethlehem waiting for the arrival of Messiah.

Instead of the religious leaders being summoned for the great arrival shepherds were invited to the birth of the King of kings. Instead of Israel’s king being invited, Gentile men living in expectation of this King came.

The words of Jesus, “… because you did not know the time of your visitation” could be repeated throughout history to people collectively and individually. There have been many periods in the history of the church when the Holy Spirit has opened the minds and hearts of great numbers to turn from sin and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It could be said of the multitudes that did not respond that they missed their opportunity. Each time the Gospel has been shared individually many have responded but for those who would not receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit they also missed their opportunity for eternal life. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Christmas and Easter are times when the world has its attention drawn in some measure to Jesus Christ. It is a special opportunity for those of us who know Jesus Christ to share the Gospel with others. For those who do not know Him it is an opportunity to come humbly to Him and find mercy and forgiveness. Since that is the reason He came, He will give it to the genuine seeker. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). The next verse reveals that the world is already condemned and in need of a Saviour.

When a person or group of people miss the time of Christ’s visitation to them it is a time of sorrow to Jesus and it ought to be so for us also. It is a time of grief when a soul does not take advantage of their opportunity to know Jesus Christ. Jesus finds no pleasure in a person dying without sins forgiven (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). In contrast, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). In the one, any hope of an intimate relationship is lost forever. In the latter, that intimate relationship will endure for eternity. We pray that many will know His visitation this Christmas.