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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Resurrection Power and the things we learn from Thomas

This is an outline of the message I brought to  the Renmark West and Renmark Town Uniting Church congregations on 27/4/14.
I am occasionally speaking as a layperson in these two congregations.
This is not how I actually delivered the sermon as there were some extra content introduced as I went but I trust  you will get the idea from this.
I also introduced the Congregation to 3 Christian Books that are not widely known about or talked about these days.
"If" by Amy Carmichael,
"Looking Unto Jesus" by Theodore Monod and "100 days of Love" by Thomas Albert Carruth.
These are useful books in showing us in "If" just how far short we actually fall from the Glory of God, "Looking Unto Jesus" shows us how to focus on and go to Jesus only, and "100 days of Love" helps us to learn how to love unconditionally on a daily basis.

Scripture readings:  1Peter 1:3-9; John 20;19-31.

John 20
The Apostles Commissioned
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,[c] for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Seeing and Believing
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas,[d] because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That You May Believe
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

1 Peter 1

A Heavenly Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Resurrection Power and things we learn from Thomas. By Geoff Thompson

How many of us can identify with Thomas?

Just about every one of us if we are honest!

Many of us are people who when we start off in the Christian Faith are people like those who would love for the Ark to be discovered and proven to be on the sides of Mt Ararat.

There are many who want the Turin Shroud to be authentic beyond doubt and that it definitely shows the imprints of Jesus’ suffering.

Many of us are like those who look for signs and wonders like a mysterious apparition on a church wall, a bleeding picture of Jesus, or all sorts of mysterious supernatural happenings.

We look for healings and even sometimes people being resurrected from the dead like a new television show that has recently arrived on our screens.

We probably all would have liked to have been like Thomas or any of the other disciples who saw Jesus after His death and resurrection.

To actually have been there to witness these things first hand.

But God has chosen not to do things how we would like them to be to authenticate our faith.

No! the Bible teaches us that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

And in Hebrews 11:1 “faith is the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.”

So is all faith blind?   Blind faith?

Far from it!

Can we say our experience is the same as Peter describes?

“7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

Of course there is much that is visual and visible for us to see that fits in with the Hebrews definition of Faith.

The evidence of things not seen!

The evidence is all around of the marvel of God’s creation.

Particularly in a rural area like Renmark with beautiful River Murray on our doorstep and all the associated wildlife and sustenance to crops and surroundings the river gives.

In Romans chapter 1 we have this gem:

“20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,---“

How can one look at a beautiful sunset and say there is no God?

Look upon a new born baby human or animal and not be overcome with wonder and praise?

Another evidence we can see clearly is when God transforms someone’s life.

When someone has their life turned around completely by God as they come to Jesus in faith this has an amazing impact.

We may not see what is going on in that person’s mind but we can see the evidence of the transforming of their mind into becoming more and more the likeness of Jesus.

For us of course, if we are Christians, and if we have been soundly rescued from sin through faith in our Lord, the evidence inside us is overwhelming because we know how much we have been saved from.
We know how hard God has had to work on us.
We know that Jesus and His death on the Cross was the only way for that inward miracle to take place.
What I am talking about is how God’s Spirit engages with our spirit, He meets us in the dark places, recesses of our being.
The places we really have difficulty sharing with others.
He ministers deep to deep.

From Romans 8
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

So what about doubts? 

Is it a problem if we have doubts?

It is healthy when we say as someone once said “Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief.”

That person was actually in the presence of Jesus Himself and had been watching Him heal people but still could not believe.

Where does unbelief come from?

Unbelief, I believe, comes from the fact we were all born in the footsteps of our first ancestor, Adam.

From the moment we are born into this world our own nature is bent towards sin and no matter how loving an upbringing we have somewhere along the way we are confronted with the reality of a sinful world that is in rebellion against God.

From the time we can think clearly, most of us are having fed into our minds many happy thoughts, feelings and memories but we also we have a huge amount of negative stuff bombarding us.

We can believe in our conscious mind but all the negative stuff in our subconscious, or heart as the Bible calls it, is feeding us a lot of doubt.
We can allow God to penetrate that stuff and set us free.

When we become Christians the Bible tells us we become new creations in Christ.
We are no longer in Adam we are in Christ.
All things become new.

Many of us might have felt like that when we experienced the joy of first knowing Jesus as our Saviour but the reality is the pull of our flesh nature, the old man as the Bible puts it, can bring us down.

We do need to learn how to take who we are to Jesus.

Give him permission to work on us. To transform us.

A friend the other day in conversation told me it was impossible to change the disposition we are born with.

Now in a sense that’s true !

I believe I was born an introvert and a very shy person.

You might see me here in front of you and thinking here is a person with some degree  of confidence.

Not giving the appearance perhaps of an  introverted and shy person.

But I still am an introvert and quite shy.

When I was young I had difficulty engaging in conversation with anyone unless I talked about football or cricket.

My wife will tell you today my demeanor changes when anyone talks to me about photography.

But the good news is that while I might not be able to change that disposition, when I became a Christian, I exchanged my disposition for the disposition of Jesus.

In Christian parlance this is called the Exchanged Life. The doctrine of Romans Chapter 6.
We can learn to say with the Apostle Paul,"It is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me."

Our natural disposition can become a non event through Jesus.

I remember when I had not been a Christian for very long when I was asked if I would be a part of a role play for people being trained in interviewing.
I was to play the part of a person being interviewed for a job.
This was something I was terrified of.
I thought what if I make a fool of myself and can’t answer their questions.
I stewed about it but decided I would claim the promise in the Bible that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Well I came through with flying colors and for the majority of my working life I had roles where I interviewed and counselled people.
I should really give the credit to Jesus as in no way was it natural for me to be able to do that.

I never would have believed that could happen as a young person growing up.

Now that sort of thing is second nature(good term) to me.

Occasionally I will lapse back into my old nature but that is soon dispensed with when I remind myself of who I am in God’s eyes.

Not my eyes or how anyone else might look at me.

We can all really become new creations in Christ, just like I am sure Thomas did, and we can do this without ever needing to see Jesus literally face to face and as Jesus said to Thomas,
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas,[d] because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I could finish there but one more thing.
A couple of months ago I attended my six year old grandsons’ first cricket practice.
The coach said to these young kids.
“Boys I want you to repeat after me, cricket is the greatest game in the world.”
As much as I like cricket I thought that was bit over the top.
But I would like to say to you today, one week after Easter, that Resurrection power is the greatest power in the world.
I won’t ask you to repeat that after me but it is good thing to be reminded of.
The Bible tells us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us.
Resurrection power, the power of he Holy Spirit, is not like a sounding gong, doesn’t make a lot of noise, resurrection power is available to us and in us as Christians, to enable us know and experience the fullness of God’s salvation.
We don’t need to feel that power overcome us before we serve Him, but as we step out in Jesus name we will certainly know the presence of God.
And it is ok to say to Jesus “Lord I believe but help me with my unbelief”
Will you go away from here today having had a glimpse of how to deal with some of your doubts or knowing how to move forward?
Move from doubt to Faith that works?
Shall we pray that that can become reality?

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