The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Power of the Resurrection

He is risen! He is not here. -Mark 16:6c


The resurrection embodies the power of God available to humanity. The resurrection is God’s imprimatur on the cross-work of His only Son Jesus. The resurrection is something unique to Christianity and something many fail to experience the full effect of because they do not understand its significance. Let’s look at the power of the resurrection and pray God uses it to have its full and powerful impact on your life.

In the Gospel of Mark it states:

Mark 16:6 – “But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”

The angel calmly comforted those who were learning of the resurrection of Jesus for the first time. The resurrection is powerful and awesome and must have been shocking to those first witnesses. Jesus wasn’t there, “He is risen, as He said.” Those are powerful words. Why are they powerful?

It was extremely important that the stone be moved from the tomb entrance and these women learn of the resurrection of their Savior Jesus Christ. Over three hundred (300!) verses are devoted to Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament. It is extremely important for believers to grasp and recognize the import of the resurrection because without it our faith is futile.

The resurrection is the linchpin, the power of the Christian faith. The resurrection is God’s exclamation mark on the work of His Son Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the evidence of the completion of Christ’s work and that it was acceptable to God for atonement and forgiveness of sin. Therefore, what place and purpose does the resurrection have in the life? What power does the resurrection manifest?

First, the Resurrection is a Powerful Sign For Unbelievers. The resurrection is a powerful sign for unbelievers. This means that in light of the resurrection, there is no excuse to not come to Jesus for salvation. Jesus stated:

  • Matthew 12:38-41 – "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.41 "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."

The resurrection is one of the most well documented and provable events in history and as such unbelievers should take it to heart and come to the Lord. If any skeptic truly seeks out the truth of the resurrection, they will come to see the truth of it. Many have sought to study the resurrection in an effort to refute it only to find that it truly happened just as He said it would and ultimately came to faith in Christ (Matthew 28:6). (See Who Moved The Stone by Frank Morison, a skeptic who came to Christ when he investigated the resurrection). Before you forget about the resurrection and whether or not the gospel is for you, you need to check it out and see for yourself. If you fail to do so, you will not only miss out on the meaning and purpose you were created for, but you will miss out on eternal life.

Second, the Resurrection has the Power to Destroy Doubt. Jesus gave the ultimate answer to anyone who would antagonistically say to Him, "Show me!" His answer was His power over death displayed in the resurrection. Read what Jesus said to those who doubted:

  • Luke 24:38-43 – "And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?39 "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?"42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.43 And He took it and ate in their presence."

The reality of the resurrection destroys doubts because if Jesus is raised from the dead, than any and all other obstacles to belief in Him are eliminated.

Third, the Resurrection is a Declaration That Jesus is The Son of God, God. While those who follow God are often called “sons of God,” Jesus was referred to uniquely as, “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1; 3:11; 15:39; Matthew 8:29; 26:63-64; John 10:36). Don Stewart explains the significance of Son of God” as a title of Jesus when he states:

The title “Son of God” indicates the relationship the Father had with the Son. The Son was equal to the Father [John 1:1-3,14], yet He, unlike the Father, became a man. In doing so, He put Himself in a position of submission in which He obeyed the will of the Father. The sonship refers to His position as servant, not His nature as being less than God.

We may say therefore that Jesus, though the same substance as the Father, took that relationship of Son upon Himself by submitting to the wishes of the Father. As the Son He is no less God, He is merely taking on the role of a servant to show us what God is like and what He requires of us. [1]

The resurrection is important to establishing and revealing that Jesus is the Son of God. The apostle Paul was inspired to say that through the resurrection, Jesus is declared to be the Son of God. We see this in Romans where it states:

  • Romans 1:1-4 – “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” 

The resurrection is the Spirit’s way of pointing unbelievers to take notice of who Jesus is, the Son of God, God in the flesh. 

As Son of God, Jesus is higher than the angels as shown in the following verses:

  • Hebrews 1:1-5 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: 1 “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”?” 

Jesus is higher than the angels AND IS EQUAL WITH GOD. We see this in the following verses.

As the Son of God Jesus is the second Person of the Triune Godhead as the baptismal formula indicates:

  • Matthew 28:19 - “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” 

As the Son of God Jesus is God and should be honored with the same honor as the Father, as seen in the following verses:

  • John 5:22-23 - “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,23 “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” 

Jesus the Son of God shares in the Father’s glory. We see this in the following verses:

  • John 17:1-5 – “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,2 “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.4 “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” 

You can’t have the Father without the Jesus His Son and you can’t have the Son Jesus without the Father. You can’t see Jesus as less in nature and substance than God the Father; if you do, you lose both. The Scripture states this in the following verses:

  • 1 John 2:23-24 – “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” 

It is through faith in Jesus the Son of God that a person is saved from their sins and given eternal life as seen in the following verses:

  • John 3:18,36 - “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. . . 36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 
  • John 6:40 - “And 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 20:30-31 – “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.” 

Now all of this is declared and validated as true through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, The Resurrection Proves Jesus’ Teachings Are True, Authoritative and Powerful. Jesus’ resurrection validates and confirms that what He said was true. Jesus is faithful to His word. Not only that, but the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus has the power to fulfill His word. Jesus walked His talk; He backed up what He said by doing what He said He would do.

In Matthew 16 it states:

  • Matthew 16:21 – “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Compare Mark 8:31-32)

The promise of the resurrection was something emphasized by Jesus in His mission and ministry. Had He not risen from the dead, all of what He said would have been proven a lie. But since He did rise from the dead, all that He said is proven truthful.

Without the resurrection Christianity would be relegated to the scrap heap of all other religions. The power of the resurrection is indispensable to Chr9istiaintiy and is what sets Christianity apart from mere religion (i.e. mans’ pursuit of God) and puts it in the realm of relying on the finished work and power of Jesus Christ in death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Without the resurrection, there is no redemption or acceptable atoning work because the resurrection is God’s stamp of acceptance and approval on the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without the resurrection, what Jesus said and taught are mere empty words. With the resurrection, the words of Christ are full and powerful.

It was on the basis of the resurrection that Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel powerfully because the resurrection confirmed the truth of it:

  • Acts 2:22-24 - "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;24 "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it."

Peter preached the gospel fearlessly in Jerusalem, the very City where Jesus had been publicly executed on the cross. What the Spirit used powerfully was the fact of the resurrection. When Peter preached the gospel on Pentecost, the empty tomb of Jesus was just a stones throw away. There was no denying the power of Jesus to fulfill His promise to rise from the dead (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31-32; 9:10-11; Luke 9:21-22; John 2:19-22).

Paul explained the power and indispensability of the resurrection to Christianity when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."

The resurrection proves the authority and power of Jesus teachings.

Fifth, the Resurrection Is the Power of the Gospel. The resurrection is central to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ; you cannot accept Jesus without accepting the resurrection. You would not want to accept Jesus without the resurrection because without the resurrection Jesus becomes just another teacher. Worse than that, without the resurrection Jesus becomes a liar who misled people to think He would rise from the dead. And without the resurrection Jesus become just another impotent teacher. But with the resurrection, the gospel is infused with power over death, with the power of reality and truth. Peter said in his sermon at Cornelius’ house:

  • Acts 10:34-40 – "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.35 "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.36 "The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—37 "that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:38 "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.39 "And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.40 "Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,"

To the Corinthians the apostle Paul writes:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,"

The resurrection is central to the power of the gospel message. There is no gospel without the resurrection. The gospel has no power without the resurrection.

Sixth, The Resurrection Demonstrates the Power For Life Available to the Believer. When the apostle Paul discusses the practical application of the righteous life he does so referring to the resurrection because if the resurrection is possible, all other obstacles in life pale in comparison. If God in Christ had the power to defeat death, every other obstacle in life pales in comparison. Read how Paul includes reference to the resurrection as demonstrating the power of God available to the believer:

  • Romans 6:4-14 – "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (See Philippians 3:10)

The power of God demonstrated in the resurrection is the same power that is made available to the believer to live life. The apostle Paul wanted every believer to know this and said so through Divine inspiration when he wrote:

  • Ephesians 1:15-21 – "Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come."

Indeed Paul was inspired to write that knowing this power was of the utmost importance for people:

  • Philippians 3:7-11 – "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

The resurrection is not simply a theological truth or something that happened millennia ago. The resurrection shows us the power of God that is at our disposal in life now! Disciple, you need to know and apply the power of the resurrection to your lives!

Seventh, The Resurrection Gives the Believer Power by Giving Them Hope for The Future. The resurrection empowers the believer to encounter the unknown future and the unknown of death because Jesus has conquered death and gone one before us to prepare a place for the believer. The resurrection gives the believer hope at the point of death and beyond as the following verses state:

  • John 11:25 – "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live."
  • 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 – "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."55 "O Death, where is your sting? 1 O Hades, where is your victory?"56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
  • Philippians 3:20-21 – "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."

The resurrection of Jesus is the proof that He is able to remove any stone in your life that is keeping you from Himself. That gives us hope. Peter said it best when he was inspired to write:

·         1 Peter 1:3 – “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,” 

Eight, the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus was, is and always will be sufficient to fully and completely satisfy His just and holy requirement of the Law as it pertains to the forgiveness of sins. This is a truth of pure and limitless grace. IN John’s inspired account of the crucifixion of Jesus it states:

  • John 19:30 – “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

“It is finished!”  Theses words indicate that Jesus declared that all of the Father’s just and holy requirements of the Law were satisfied so that on the basis of His cross-work and only on the basis of His cross-work, a person could come to God and by trusting in Jesus’ redemptive work, seek forgiveness for their sins and receive forgiveness justly. God doesn’t just overlook sin when He forgives, He forgives on the basis of the just and satisfactory work of His only Son Jesus. This is what Jesus declares when He says, “It is finished!”

But there is more to this story. Jesus’ words, “It is finished!” are powerful and packed with truth and substance. But it is the resurrection that validates His claim. Jesus said, “It is finished!”  and it is the resurrection that proves the words true. The resurrection of Jesus declares the work necessary to make salvation possible is completed; God’s justice is satisfied. That’s important because it also means, there is no more work to accomplish, there is no more outstanding debt of sin to be paid for those seeking salvation. The sinner does not have to work their way into God’s good graces, they merely have to plead the blood of Jesus, they merely have to come by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and receive the gift of salvation based on the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Glory! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

The resurrection makes good works for salvation unnecessary. The resurrection makes purgatory unnecessary. The resurrection makes it possible to come freely, as we are to receive forgiveness for our sins, always.

Not Permission to Sin; but Power to Not Sin

A word of caution and correction; even in Paul’s day people were inclined to abuse and misinterpret this great provision of God (Romans 6:1ff.).  While good works and a holy life are not necessary for salvation, that does not mean we have a license to sin. Quite the contrary, God’s grace does not provide us with permission to sin; God’s grace provides us with power not to sin.  God in Christ does not save us to indulge our sinful self or be sinfully selfish, carnal and fleshly. God in Christ makes a way to overcome enslaving sin and the sinful self (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). God’s provision of grace in Christ’s cross and resurrection should so impact us with the love of God that we no longer live for ourselves but live lives of loving appreciation shown in the offering of good works and selflessness to God for His glory. This is God’s plan (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:10).

Getting Rid of That Heavy Stone Burden of Sin

We have said that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day heaped religious burdens on those who they ruled. Life is filled with burdens that weigh us down. These burdens keep us from soaring with the Lord. How can we rid ourselves of the heavy stony burden?

We need to first realize that no matter the form our burden takes, it is sin. Either our burden is the result of sin generally or it is the result of sin in particular that we have done. The Bible states:

  • Psalm 38:4 – "For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me."

Once we accept that we are weighted down by sin, we need to bring our sinful burden to the LORD:

  • Psalm 55:22 – "Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."

Jesus is the One who bore our burden of sin for us and when we put our faith in Him, give Him our burden by faith, and believe in Him, He has the power and will remove our burdens from us. As Isaiah wrote:

  • Isaiah 53:4-6 – "Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (See also 1 Peter 2:21-24)

We need to receive the gift of salvation offered in Christ (John 1:12; Romans 6:23) and by faith trust Jesus to take away our burdens of sin. The heart of the gospel is the resurrection of Jesus because when you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you are saying you believe everything else he said. Paul put it this way:

  • Romans 10:8-9 – "But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

What is it to believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead? Is it not to trust in faith that the stone meant to shut Him up in that cold hard tomb has been rolled away? It is to believe that Jesus really is able; He has the power to take away your burdens of sin. Confess then that Jesus is Lord for having done this, and that by the power of the resurrection He is able to forgive sin.


[1] Don Stewart, What Everyone Needs To Know About Jesus, (Orange County, CA: Dart Press) p. 83-84

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Cross of Christ

“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

- 1 Corinthians 2:2


Why is the cross of Christ so important to the Christian? In the early 1900s a man by the name of Harry Emerson Fosdick spoke out against the cross of Christ and what he viewed as tasteless “bloody” religious doctrine. Thankfully the Church for the most part resisted and rejected such commentary. However, the diminishing of the necessity of the cross of Christ has been continued in the relatively recent emerging church theology. If the resurrection of Jesus is the power of God in Christianity, then the cross of Christ is its heart. If you cut out the cross from the Gospel, you cut out the basis for its good news of forgiveness of sins.


Below are ten aspects of the cross that speak about the absolute necessity of Christ’s sacrifice on it. The cross was not optional, it was and is essential to salvation and defeating sin (See Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). Meditate on the crux or sum total of what the Bible says about the cross of Christ.


First, the Cross of Christ is indispensable to the Gospel. The New Testament states:


  • 1 Corinthians 2:2 – “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 

These words of Paul to the Corinthians demonstrate to us just how central and indispensable the Cross of Christ is to the gospel. Paul made the Cross of Christ is central focus and he explained why as we look at the verses that precede the above verse:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 

You see, in the Cross of Christ we have the embodiment of God’s wisdom and power. Wisdom is the ability to solve a problem. God solved the problem of sin powerfully in the Cross of Christ. How did He do this?


Second, the Cross of Christ is the means God uses to deliver us from sin. Paul was inspired to write:


  • Galatians 1:3-5 – “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

The Cross of Christ is the means by which God provided a way for sinful humanity to be delivered from the evil world in which we live. Apart from God, sinful humanity is caught in the clutches of sin and in bondage to sin. Sin causes pain. Sin is like a narcotic that although the user knows it will kill them in the end, they can’t stop in their own strength the using and abusing of it. How does God deliver sinful humanity from this evil world and sin through the Cross of Christ?


Third, the Cross of Christ is where Jesus became a curse for us. Later in Galatians Paul writes:


  • Galatians 3:10-14 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” 

In our own strength, apart from God’s help, we are under His righteous law. Under this standard one offense, one misstep in regards to keeping God’s law is enough to put us under the cruse or penalty for the law. God is totally just and as a just Judge, He penalizes sin. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). God’s wrath is on sin (Romans 1:18). At the Cross of Christ, Jesus took our place on the cross and became a curse for us. Here we see the substitutionary nature of the Cross. What is the significance and meaning of Christ’s substitutionary cross-work?


Fourth, the Cross of Christ is where Jesus satisfied God’s Holy Justice. In another epistle of Paul’s, he is inspired to write:


  • Romans 3:20-26 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” 

The law of God was given not to make one righteous, but to expose utterly the sinfulness of humanity (Romans 3:20). The law of God removes all excuses from sinful humanity because it shows that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:1-18,23). But God sent His Son Jesus Christ to the Cross to be a propitiation, or an atoning sacrifice that satisfies God’s holy justice. We cannot do anything that will satisfy God’s just standard; therefore, God sent His Son and in Him satisfied His own standard of holy justice. On the Cross of Christ Jesus took the sins of the world upon Him as well as God’s holy just wrathful penalty for sins upon Him and paid the price for all sin. God did this to demonstrate beyond doubt His righteousness. A Holy God does not simply dismiss sin without dealing with it, but justly made a way to deal with sin and remove its penalty. All sin is forgiven, past, present and future, on the basis of Jesus’ propitiation on the Cross. And what is even more incredible is that God is the, “just and justifier” BECAUSE GOD WAS IN CHRIST RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF ON THE CROSS. As Paul was inspired to write:


  • 2 Corinthians 5:19,21 – “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. . . 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 

We have seen God’s justice, but what about God’s love?


Fifth, the Cross of Christ is God’s greatest and clearest demonstration of His Holy Love. Also, in that epistle Paul says:


  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

The Cross of Christ is God’s greatest demonstration of “His own love.” God’s love held nothing back, not even His son, not even Himself. Greater love has no one than this, that God laid down His life for sinful humanity.

But what about after we have been forgiven through faith in Christ, is the Cross of Christ useful in living life?


Sixth, the Cross of Christ is the means to live a life of death to sinful self. In the letter to the Galatians Paul writes:


  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” 

  • Galatians 5:24 – “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” 

When we accept Jesus as our Savior and exercise God’s gift of saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) it’s as though our old sinful self is crucified with Him. From that point we are in a righteous position before God, sins forgiven, slate of recorded sins wiped clean forever. But where do we go from there? The above verses tell us that by faith now in Jesus we put fleshly desires in the wastebasket of the cross. The apostle Paul was inspired to explain this in the following way:


  • Romans 6:4-14 – “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” 

Practically speaking, after we have experienced the new birth (John 3:3,5; Titus 3:5) we will experience fleshly lusts from within us to sin which are connected with the “old man,” or old sinful way of living. This is because we have yet to receive glorified bodies (Romans 8:23), and there remains a struggle with the “old man” who still rears his head to seek control of us. But in the Cross of Christ there is a means of victory. When the old man attacks with his lusts, then by faith we need to “reckon” or put to the account of, lay, place, those lusts and temptations in the casket of the cross, close the lid, and stand in your right position by faith before God in Christ by the Spirit. This is the sanctifying process of the Spirit in the believer (Ephesians 5:18).

But what about the temptations from the world outside of us?


Seventh, the Cross of Christ is the means to gain victory over a sinful world. Read what the New Testament states in this regard:


  • Galatians 6:14 – “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

Here we see that the same process is used when temptations come from the world. By faith we maintain our position before God and cast the temptations in the casket of the Cross and close the lid.


But how do those who are unsaved react to the Cross of Christ? Will they joyfully respect the Cross of Christ?


Eight, the Cross of Christ is a foolish concept to the unsaved, but the power of God to the saved. That the cross is folly to the world is testified to in the following verse:


  • 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The world views the Cross of Christ as foolish, a barbaric notion of an imaginary religious belief system. But to those who have experienced the power of the gospel in the Cross of Christ, there is no need to explain, but only receive by faith.

Ninth, the Cross of Christ will bring persecution from the religious and worldly (i.e. fleshly; self-centered; self-absorbed; self-serving). The cross is the enemy of self and those who prefer to live for self, battle against the cross and those who follow it as we see in the following verses:


  • Galatians 5:11 – “And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.” 

  • Galatians 6:12 – “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” 
  • Philippians 3:17-19 – “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” 

Those who depend on religious works (i.e. “circumcision” – Galatians 5:11), fleshly pursuits (Galatians 6:12), and “whose god is their belly” will all persecute those who live by faith in the Cross of Christ.

Tenth, the Cross of Christ eliminates prejudices and brings peace in the Spirit. Our world is wracked with division, even in the church. But the cross has an answer to such divisions. Read what the inspired words of the letter to the Ephesians states:


  • Ephesians 2:14-18 – “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one [i.e. Jews and Gentiles], and has broken down the middle wall of separation,15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” 

The Cross of Christ is the answer to the divisions in the world caused by the sinfulness of humanity. Sin divides and destroys; but the Cross of Christ unites and brings us into the presence of the Father by the Spirit. THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS THE BRIDGE THAT ALLOWS THE SINNER TO CROSS OVER THE CHASM OF SEPARATION FROM GOD CAUSED BY SIN (Isaiah 59:2), AND STEP INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD AND HIS PEOPLE PERSONALLY FOR ETERNITY.

The Cross of Christ is an incredible provision by God and is offered by His grace to us.  The crux of the Cross is that we can be forgiven for our sins (Colossians 2:13), indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-14), and given eternal life (John 3:16) through faith in Jesus and His cross-work (Romans 10:8-10). We can come into the presence of God through the Cross of Christ.

When Jesus endured the cross, He did so joyfully. He had full assurance that He was fulfilling the will of God. He believed this because in His love for you and me, He knew it was necessary if we were to deal with and defeat sin in our lives and spend eternity with Him (Hebrews 12:1-4). It’s really all about Jesus, not us. When we bring our sin and our fleshy sin nature to the cross of Christ, we find a potent and powerful solution to that which opposes the Christ-life in our lives.

So, in light of this, I encourage you to come to the cross of Christ. It’s really not about what we have to do, but about what Jesus has already done at the cross. The more we focus on the cross of Christ and meditate on its profound provisions, the more victory we will experience. The cross is the key to unlocking the door to the abundant life Jesus promised. I pray we all open such a door and experience all the Lord has for us. It all starts, at The Cross of Christ.



Saturday, March 3, 2018

“Wait and Be Raised” – John 11

In our world today there is frequently a skepticism toward the supernatural on one hand and a gullibility to pseudo miraculous events on the other. God does intervene miraculously in the world today. But we should always view such events prayerfully, in the Spirit, and according to God's word. What are the intended purposes of God's signs? What can we, or should we glean from them? This is the focus of our study.

We are fast approaching Resurrection Week, the holiest holiday season of the year for Christians. This study is meant to launch us into the spirit of this season. By looking at the raising of Lazarus by Jesus we can learn a great deal about God's purposes for His signs as well as how God often works in our lives. That's important because we should never neglect God's working in our lives, and we don't want to mistake God's required season of waiting before He works as Him not working at all.

In John 1-11 we see seven signs Jesus did to prove His deity and Godhood. In John 2 Jesus did His first sign at a wedding in Cana which showed like God, He can turn the water of the word into the wine of redemption and like God He saves the best for last. In John 4 Jesus did His second sign of healing the nobleman’s son with a mere spoken word; a feat showing that like God His word is powerful. In John 5 the third sign of Jesus is His healing a man who had been lame for 38 years. In John 6 we see the fourth and fifth signs of Jesus as He walks on water and feeds over five thousand people with a few morsels of food. In John 7 Jesus establishes Himself as Messiah and the Source of the outpoured Holy Spirit. And in John 8 we see Jesus proclaim Himself the light of the world and great I Am.  In John 9 we see the sixth of seven miraculous signs of Jesus mentioned by John in his gospel, the healing of the man born blind. In chapter ten we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd declare clearly His deity and oneness with the Father. In chapter eleven we will see the seventh and final miraculous sign done by Jesus and recorded by John.


John 11 

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

Bethany is east of Jerusalem past the Mount of Olives “about two miles away” (John 11:18). Luke tells us that Martha was one given to work and service and Mary was given to sitting before the Lord and taking in what He had to say in a worshipful manner (Luke 10:38-42).

It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

In John 12 Mary will anoint Jesus with costly fragrant oil (cf. also Mark 14:3-9). Lazarus is mentioned only here and in John 12.

Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

Jesus had gone to Bethbara known for being the place where John the Baptist baptized people (compare John 1:28 and 10:40-42). This was about twenty miles from Jerusalem.

Lazarus was sick. The natural thing was for his sisters to send word to Jesus so He could come and heal him. They acted on their faith. They believed Jesus could and would heal their brother. Their confidence that Jesus would come and heal their brother was based on Jesus’ love for him.


When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”


From the beginning of hearing of the sickness of His good friend Lazarus, Jesus is in tune with God’s plan. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The glory of God and Jesus is always the objective in God’s plans. When God and Jesus are glorified, as we will see, everyone profits.


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.


Doesn’t that sound a bit contradictory or out of sync with what we’d expect? If Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus wouldn’t He immediately run to help them as soon as He heard of their need? But Jesus didn’t do this. He waited.


John 11 contains an incredible miraculous sign of Jesus. A man dead for four days will be raised from the dead. But before that happens, there needed to be waiting. We don’t like to wait. We don’t understand why sometimes we have to wait. We don’t like to wait on God to work. John 11 speaks to us about the waiting necessary to see God work. What does it tell us about waiting?


First, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work in a God-glorifying way (John 11:4). Jesus said very clearly what His plan in this situation was: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus had a plan and that plan would glorify God and the Son of God. He waited until circumstances were in place for His plan to be fulfilled. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, His disciples and probably others didn’t understand why Jesus waited “two more days” to go to help Lazarus. But it was all part of God’s plan. We need to remember that. When God requires we wait, it isn’t necessarily because He is saying “no” to our request, He may simply be orchestrating circumstances to do what He plans to do.


Second, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t love us (John 11:5-6). Verses five and six are connected as a causal clause. It’s as though because Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, He waited. Jesus had a greater plan than merely healing a living man. Jesus wanted to bless those He loved with a resurrection.  


Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”


Jesus’ movements were directed by the Father (e.g. John 7:8). Jesus lived with purpose. He lived to follow the plan of the Father. Jesus walked in the light and those who followed Him would see in His light. By the time Jesus does leave Lazarus will already have died (John 11:11, 39). That became a dark truth. But Jesus is able to bring light even in seemingly hopelessly dark situations.


11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.


Third, waiting and not understanding doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:11-13). The disciples thought that when Jesus spoke of Lazarus sleeping that he was resting and would get better. Interestingly this jives with medical science. It is during sleep that the body heals. In an article published in the Washington Post (No, you’re not sleeping enough, and it’s a problem: 15 scary facts in new NatGeo doc dated 12/2/14 by Emily Yahr) “Almost all mental illnesses have associate sleep problems, experts say.” [1] But what ailed Lazarus was not going to be healed by sleep. The disciples didn’t understand this. But their lack of understanding didn’t inhibit Jesus working.


We don’t need to understand all of what God is planning to do in order for Him to work. In fact, more often than not we will not understand why we have to wait or what God is doing before He does it. God has a way of surprising us. All we need do is continue to follow Him and watch what He does.


14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”


Fourth, waiting and the appearance that all is lost doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work and include us in His plans (John 11:14-15). Jesus broke through their cloud of confusion. “Lazarus is dead” Jesus said. Can’t get blunter than that. It must have shocked the disciples. A flood of “whys?” must have entered their thinking. Now all seemed lost. If only Jesus had left immediately. But just because Jesus waits doesn’t mean He isn’t going to work. And when the time is right, Jesus invites us to join Him in His work. What a blessing His disciples were in for! What a blessing we will experience if we only wait with Jesus and join Him when He invites our participation.  


"Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15). Those are the words spoken by Jesus to His disciples about the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was dead, not merely asleep as His disciples wrongly assumed (John 11:13). And Jesus was glad for this. Not because it would cause pain or that He didn't like Lazarus, or Mary, or Martha. He loved them all (John 11:5). Jesus loves us too. Jesus was glad Lazarus had died because it was part of the Father's plan to build their faith. He wants to build our faith too.


How can our faith be built? Why should we put a priority on faith building? What do we learn from Jesus’ faith building tactics that can help us cooperate and be used in God’s faith building procedures? These are questions this teaching aims to address.


The Bible states, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Spiritually speaking, we can’t walk or get anywhere without doing so by faith. We progress and move on in our spiritual walk “not by sight,” or not merely by what we see around us or what we understand about what is going on around us. In fact, faith building utilizes the lack of sight; not knowing. The account of the resurrection of Lazarus is a good example of this. This is a chapter about the necessity of waiting in order to see Jesus’ resurrection work. But it is also about what is involved in building faith.


Building faith involves testing. Belief, faith, is like a muscle. To grow strong faith must be tested. Faith must be tested in order to be trusted and revealed as true. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write, “In this you greatly rejoice [i.e. the prospect of resurrection, our incorruptible inheritance in heaven, and “the power of God through faith for salvation”] , 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” (1 Peter 1:6-9). This flies in the face of making decisions purely based on financial reasons. (Which is, in and out of the church today, one of the primary if not the primary determiners in decisions in our world today.) Our faith is “much more precious than gold that perishes.” According to God and His word, our faith is more valuable than the most precious commodity this world has to offer. Nothing in this world is as valuable as your faith. Do we really believe that? Do we make decisions from that world view? Would you pass that kind of test? Would you choose faith over fortune? Are your decisions made based on building your faith or finding financial “freedom”?


A faith untested cannot be trusted. This is why life is more making money. Life is more than financial comfort. It is a great mistake to run after comfort. Comfort makes faith flabby. Comfort atrophies faith. Faith dies when we live at ease. Christian, you are called to be more than a couch potato! Challenge, difficulty, and circumstances that require perseverance and hard work are the proving ground of faith. Faith is birthed by grace. Faith is built as we by grace go to work. We are what we are by God’s grace. But that does not excuse us from “labor” (Greek kopiao in 1 Corinthians 15:10); hard wearying, fatiguing, labor. It would have been relatively easy for Jesus to heal Lazarus before he died. But Jesus knew building faith involves testing. The faith of His disciples, Martha and Mary had to be tested strong. Jesus is looking to build believers with ram-tough faith. How tough is your faith when tested? The resurrection of Lazarus is a faith building experience.


Building faith involves God's planning. Jesus followed the Father's plan not man's plan (John 11:15). The people in this story are all in a hurry. Jesus isn’t in a hurry. Jesus is on a mission. He operates by His Father’s schedule not the schedule of those around Him. He moves about in a calm calculated way to fulfill His Father’s plan. Can you say that? Have you discerned God’s will for you in quiet waiting before Him with His open Word before you? Or do you rush around with no clue of God’s will for your life?


Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1a). Faith invites that inner witness of the Spirit. The Spirit directs the faith-full to carry on, push forward and push through. Faith involves hope. Hope is the eye of faith for the future. Faith and hope are both guided and governed by God's plans, not our own. Faith asks, "What is God's plan for my life?" Faith waits on God for its marching orders. Then faith pursues God's plan with an assurance God will be faithful to fulfill His plan in and through us. Faith believes God’s calling is God’s enablement.


Building faith involves uncertainty. The question on everyone's mind and in everyone's heart was "Why?" Why did Jesus delay? Why did He let Lazarus die? Why did He act in such an apparently unloving way if He loved these people? (John 11:5, 21, 32). Why did Jesus wait? Faith is the belief in things not seen (Hebrews11:1b). It's in circumstances where you can't see how God is going to work things out that faith, in God, is worked out.


It's in those times where all you have is God, where He is your only hope, that you discover faith and that He really is, your only hope. It is in the death of your plans, your resources, your efforts, abilities and strategies, where nothing works anymore and all seems lost, that is where faith is born and raised. That is where God can come through and faith is strengthened. Faith is built when our time runs out and God comes through. He reserves the right to come through with plans that may differ from our own. His coming through may not mean rescue, healing or resurrection. His coming through will in every way mean we will be closer to Him and know Him more intimately. Our faith will be made stronger.


Building Faith is challenging not comfortable. It would have been so much more comfortable to heal Lazarus before he died. Jesus could have come to heal Lazarus in the comfort of his home. It would have spared these people a lot of grief, sorrow, and pain. But it is the flesh, not faith that lusts after comfort. It is the flesh, the sinful nature, not faith, that lives in comfort and ease where everything is easy, no work is required, and God is easily forgotten. Without a challenge God can't come through. God is omnipresent (e.g. Psalm 139). But if there could ever be a place where God's presence is not, it would be the place of comfort, easiness, and ease.


Faith building is the process that involves us coming to the point where we realize I can’t. . . but God can. Once Lazarus was dead, there was nothing anyone other than Jesus could do. They might have thought That’s it, he’s dead, we can’t do anything about it. Thankfully they didn’t stop there. They still went to Jesus. Only Jesus is Master over death.


If we stop and give up every time we can’t do something we miss out on the chance for God to use our circumstances to show us He can. Submit your circumstances to Jesus. Let Jesus tell you when to press on or when to give up. People who give up do so because they haven’t sought the Lord for His will. Without any awareness of God’s will or plan a person is driven only by circumstances, good or bad. Without an awareness of God’s will we become like the man tossed to and fro by the wind on the ocean (James 1:5-6). Lack of direction makes one easy prey for doubt. Untethered doubt wrecks faith.


The next time you have a big decision to make, ask first, “Father, what is Your will for my life here?” Then ask, “Father, which choice will best build my faith?” Then step out in faith. It will always be uncomfortable when God is building our faith. We don’t like to submit or surrender, even to God. We don’t like uncertainty. But discomfort and uncertainty is not something to run from. That is something to run too! These are tools God uses to build our faith.


Building faith involves risk. Risk is the possibility of loss. It is the flesh that settles for safety and no risk. Mary and Martha and the disciples wanted Jesus to come before Lazarus died (John 11:3). They didn't want to risk Lazarus’ death. But faith involves risk. Faith requires we trust God in the face of danger and threat of loss. Faith is brought to life through risk that leads to reward. Therefore life worth living involves risk. God's plans involve risk. I’m not talking about presumption. Presumption is prayerless risk taking. I’m talking about obeying God even when it is risky. There is no faith building without risk.


Building faith involves facing fears. Lazarus was dead. Death is permanent. Death is scary. It is scary if you face it without faith in God. Martha and Mary feared the death of their brother Lazarus. They had faith in Jesus, but they were human. As the days went by and their brother moved closer and closer to death, their fears must have increased. The longer it took for Jesus to arrive, the more fearful of death they became. They would have to face these fears with Jesus.


It is devilishly deceptive if your faith is presumptuous or based on anything or anyone other than Jesus. Faith involves facing fear by trusting in Jesus. Jesus alone is the resurrection and the life. It’s only through faith in Jesus that we can experience salvation, resurrection and eternal life (John 11:25-26). Fear is the foe of faith. Faith in Jesus can obliterate our fears.


Building faith involves submission and obedience. Martha and Mary and the disciples were surrendered and obedient to Jesus' plan even if it meant death was involved (John 11:16, 22). His disciples accompanied Jesus on this life threatening journey (John 11:16). Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27). And it was Martha who obediently ordered the stone to her brothers tomb to be moved aside even though he had been dead for four days (John 11:39-41). Because of their submission and obedience they saw a resurrection. We have to learn to wait in faith. We have to learn to submit to Jesus and obey Him. We have to learn to trust and obey. And like the classic hymn says, “for there’s no other way.” There’s no other way for faith to be built.


There's another reason to submit and obey in God's Faith building plans. If we resist God's faith building plans it can be dangerous. Unlike Martha, Mary and the disciples an Old Testament prophet named Jonah fled west when God's will was east. He resisted God's call. He hated those God loved. He proudly and indignantly rejected God's desire to call sinners to repentance. He couldn't and wouldn't accept God's plan. He refused to go where God wanted him to go. So God let him go. Jonah may have responded better if he had taken time to get alone with God in prayer. God has a way of getting us alone with Him. God prefers one on one conversations. And so God sent Jonah a storm. God had him swallowed whole in a great giant fish. He shook him in the sea monster. He stopped him, spoke with him, and brought him to his senses. God persuaded Jonah. He taught him how to walk in faith. He did what was required to get him going back in the right direction; to minister to the lost, to see a resurrection, and to build his faith. God can be very persuasive. God is all knowing and always has what looks to us like a contingency plan. God is never surprised.


Building faith involves difficulty and challenge, even failure. Jesus appeared to have failed His friends. If He had been there earlier, He could have prevented Lazarus' death (John 11:21, 32). And after four days in the tomb to remove the stone would have made a smelly defiling failure! (John 11:39). But Jesus is a Master of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Jesus knows how to bring beauty from ashes (cf. Isaiah 61:3). Have you crashed and burned? Are you down and out? Are you perplexed by defeat? Are you running from difficulty? Are you fleeing from life's challenge? That very well may be God's will for you. Failure and falls are sometimes what are required for faith to be built. Difficulties and defeats are necessary for us to learn we can't, but God can. God steers us with these not with ease. Rise with Him in faith.


Building faith involves death.Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14).  Faith is built in despair; when there is no reasonable hope. Jesus was glad for the hopeless situation of Lazarus' death. Why? because it was the perfect environment for faith to be built. They had to be brought to the place where Jesus was their only hope. They had to trust Jesus if they wanted Lazarus back. They had to come to a point where they said, “Yes, Lord. I believe” (John 11:27). Jesus alone, builds faith.


Building faith involves fire. The fire of testing is where faith is proven. When a person dies decay sets in like a slow burning degenerating consuming fire (John 11:39). Eremacausis is the gradual oxidation of matter from exposure to air and moisture. Eremacausis is a fire of death that burns up the dead body with decay. When the fire of life leaves, the fire of death takes over. When your faith is tested will it burn you out, burn you up, or burn you bright?


Where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you doing? What do you want to do? What is your dream, your destination, your destiny? Life is more than ease and retirement. Are you walking by faith? Is faith building your priority? Or are you looking for an easy way out? Are you ready to retire? Some old preacher once told me, "I'm not retired, I'm re-fired!" Are you looking for an early retirement, or a refirement? Faith fires us up.


Building faith involves destiny. Lazarus' destiny seemed set. But Jesus wasn't finished with him. Lazarus' death was his destiny and would become his greatest means of telling about Jesus' life giving ways. For Lazarus to be mightily used for God's glory he had to die. Death is part of faith building; death to self; death to my ways, my expectations. If you would have asked Lazarus while still alive if he wanted to live, he probably would have said "Yes!" But if he could have seen how he would be used for the glory of God and Christ as a result of his death and resurrection, he would have said “For the glory of God and my Savior Jesus, let me die a thousand times over!” Lazarus had to die to truly live for the glory of God (John 11:4). So do we. Are you willing to die?


At the end of the road of life what will your story be? Will it be a story of boring comfort and ease void of challenge and victory; void of faith? Will it be a life of complaints over the challenges you faced and the hardships you surrendered to? Will you lament the lost opportunities to build your faith?  Will you have to admit you hated what God loved and  rebelled against His will? Or will you be able to say through the wise eyes of faith, "Yes, life was a challenge, but I accepted the challenge and pressed on with Him in faith. Yes, it was hard and high but I pressed on harder and higher by faith. My life has been a living sacrifice to God by faith. I went where He wanted by faith. I stayed where He wanted by faith. I lived by faith. I worked, pressed on and overcame, by faith. I have come to see why Jesus was glad that Lazarus was dead and why He has purposely allowed deaths in my life; dangers, doubts, defeats, and discouragements in my life. It was so I may believe. And because of that I am glad too." What will your life testimony be?


16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.


Fifth, waiting that causes pain and grief doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:16-19). Lazarus was dead. He was dead for four days now. Martha and Mary were grieving the loss of their brother. And the delay of Jesus coming compounded their pain. God doesn’t joyfully inflict pain on people. Yes, Jesus was “glad” that He wasn’t there to heal Lazarus because He knew the greater joy that would come from what He was about to do. But sometimes pain and sorrow are a necessary part of God’s plan. In the end there will be no regrets.


We need to hope in Jesus until His plans fully come to pass. Faith is what bridges the gap between our request and God’s answer. Hope is the faith that gets us through to the conclusion of God’s plan.


When a loved one dies, the chances of them being resurrected like Lazarus aren’t high. But we don’t grieve their loss like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We grieve and sorrow in the hope God provides. That hope is that one day, if we know Jesus as our Savior, we and our departed loved ones, will be reunited in eternity with glorified perfect bodies with Jesus. When that happens we will see that anything suffered temporarily in this life will be worth the glory we have with Jesus (e.g. Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Waiting may be painful even though it is a part of God’s plan. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Any pain involved in God’s plan now will be worth it when we reach our final destination.


20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.


Sixth, waiting that causes us to think, “what if?” doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:20-21). When we are required to wait and things look bad, and we are tempted to think, “what if?” it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work. Our finite minds often aren’t capable of understanding God’s big picture or His ultimate plan. But that doesn’t prevent Jesus from working.


22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”


Seventh, waiting while things don’t look good doesn’t mean we should give up on Jesus (John 11:22-24). Things looked bleak to Martha. There was no denying Lazarus, her brother, was dead. But rather than react with bitterness toward Jesus, she responded in faith. Rather than berating Jesus about not coming sooner, she expressed her faith in Jesus. She said in faith, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She hoped in God and was willing to continue on with Him and Jesus even though her brother, (who she thought could have been healed if Jesus was there) had died and it would be the rest of her life before they would be reunited. When we wait on Jesus to work we need to trust Him; no matter what!


Sometimes we can be very subtle about disbelief. We can disbelieve Jesus and do so with theology. For instance one commentator explains:


Jesus gives a promise to Martha. But rather than embracing it joyfully and expectantly, Martha looks at it as a theological principle. Do you ever do that? The Lord opens a promise to you in the Word about a situation, a relationship, or a financial struggle and you think, well, this probably doesn’t apply to this dispensation. This can’t really be true for me today. Come on, the Lord isn’t really going to bless, heal, restore, or help. There must be some other meaning theologically. It’s just too good to be true. But in so doing, you share the mind-set of Martha.[2]


There are some things God seeks to do that can’t be broken down into neat theological packages. There are some things God does that defy our understanding. That’s why they are called miracles.


25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”


Eighth, waiting doesn’t mean time is wasted. Jesus uses waiting to build our faith. (John 11:25-27). Waiting is an ingredient in building faith. Waiting puts us in a position where our faith is stretched, deepened, and broadened. Waiting reveals faith or exposes lack of faith. That’s what He did with Martha, Mary, His disciples and no doubt when Lazarus is resurrected his faith will be pretty strong too! Jesus uses waiting to build our faith and trust in Him and His ability to work; even when all seems lost. Waiting reveals faith, or exposes the absence of faith.


This is an incredible assertion by Jesus. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Jesus is claiming power over death! Death is the greatest enemy. Death is something every person must experience. And Jesus is claiming the solution to death (John 11:25).


Then Jesus asks Martha, “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus is preparing Martha’s heart. He is tilling the soil of her heart to bear faith fruit. He creates a situation where she has to make a decision about believing in Him. Faith is the product of choosing Jesus in decisive situations (John 11:26).


Martha’s response is the right one (as far as she was informed of what the ultimate plan of Jesus was): “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Notice Martha’s faith is in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” In faith she affirms Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. In faith she expresses her faith in Jesus (John 11:27).


Yes, I believe Jesus can do a miracle, but do I believe He is willing to do it for me? Now while Martha asserts her belief in who Jesus is, she may have been expressing a bit of doubt as to His willingness to do what He was saying He would do. We may belief in Jesus ability to do miracles, but we doubt His willingness to do them for us; in particular, “for me.” Jesus is able, and we will soon see in this passage He is willing to do what He said He would do with Lazarus.


The Bible says God is for us. God proves His love to us by sending His only Son Jesus to die for us (cf. Romans 8:31-32). We don’t question God’s ability. We do question His willingness. It’s true; God will never contradict the truth of His word. That He will never do. But we question whether or not God is interested and willing to work on our behalf. To that idea we need to remember, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God is able. God is willing. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). Or, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). We need to receive that and worship Him. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).


Judgment is getting what you deserve. We all deserve condemnation and eternal punishment (cf. Romans 1-3). Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Through faith in Jesus, Who has bore our sins in our place on the cross, we can be forgiven our sins (cf. Romans 4-8). Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace is God’s excuse to lavish blessing on the undeserving. He does that simply because He is gracious and loving. God loves us and wants to bless us. We miss out on a lot because we think God is out to get us. God isn’t against us. God is for us! We are products of God’s grace through and through (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:10). Therefore, God’s blessings aren’t contingent so much on us as they are on Him. We need only receive by faith.


28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”


An evidence of vital genuine faith in Jesus is not only vocal declaration, but it involves a heart for evangelization (John 11:28). The word “evangelism” means to bring good news. Martha brought the good news of Jesus’ arrival to her sister. While Martha and Mary had hoped Jesus would have come earlier to heal their brother, and while they were certainly disappointed their brother had died, news that Jesus was finally there was good news to them. The arrival of Jesus is always good news even if the outcome we had hoped for is not realized.


29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”


Another evidence of vital genuine faith is that when you hear Jesus has arrived on the scene you run to Him (John 11:29). Mary demonstrates her faith by running to Jesus. She didn’t understand all that was going on. She was grief stricken over the loss of her brother. But she still ran to Jesus. Nothing should prevent us from running to Jesus; not disappointment, grief, sorrow, or anything. When you run to Jesus no matter what, it demonstrates the genuineness of your faith.


33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”


Ninth, waiting in sorrow doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t sorrow with us (John 11:33-36). Mary ran to Jesus, fell at His feet and wept. She wept for what might have been. She wept for a seeming miscalculation on the part of the One she loved and trusted; Jesus. She wept for the loss of her brother. There’s something about the weeping of a grieving person. It is a deep, deep sorrow. Jesus was impacted by this weeping sorrow.


The word “groaned” (Greek enebrimesato from embrimaomai) interestingly means scold, to be angry, charge sternly, snort with anger, indignation, sigh with chagrin, or groan. Jesus didn’t snort with anger at those who wept. He wept with them. But I believe Jesus, the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior, snorted with a deep passionate anger at the death effects of sin and Satan. It’s as though Jesus snorts with deep passion and commitment to His mission. It’s as though he snorts in anger at the enemy of death. It’s as though He is overtaken with the purpose of His calling to defeat death. It’s His, “Ah, yes, this is why I came.”


And as Jesus is angry over the grief death causes, He is filled with a deep loving compassion for the sorrowing people; for Mary, for Martha, for His friend Lazarus. “Jesus wept.” The word “wept” (Greek dakryo) means to weep, to shed tears. Jesus wept when He saw others weep. Jesus weeps when we weep. Jesus takes no satisfaction in the physical and emotional pain experienced in life. He grieves with those who grieves and weeps with those who weep just as the Spirit inspired Paul to write (cf. Romans 12:15).


37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”


Tenth, waiting may make others critical of the plans of Jesus (John 11:37). The onlookers were well aware of Jesus’ reputation of being able to work miracles. They were critical though of Jesus apparent poor timing. Notice neither Martha nor Mary join in with these critics. They simply weep in the presence of Jesus. They simply submit to Jesus and His plan.


38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”


Eleventh, waiting is instrumental to Jesus increasing our faith (John 11:38-40). Martha was locked in to the physical realities. She perhaps wanted to prevent Jesus from attempting a seemingly impossible work, even if it did involve the resurrection of her brother. She also may have been concerned over the sanctity of her brother’s dead body and his tomb.


But Jesus strengthens Martha’s faith. How does He do that? He reminds her of His word. “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Jesus was willing to walk Martha through His plan. He was willing to increase her faith to do what she needed to do in order for Him to complete His plan. She needed to express her faith by giving approval to open the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus always works in a totally efficient way. He not only gets us through to the final destination and outcome of His plan, but He builds our faith in the process. Jesus moves us from grief to belief.


41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”


Twelfth, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus won’t do what He said He would do (John 11:41-45). Someone has said if Jesus had simply said, “Come forth!” that all the dead in the tombs there would have been resurrected. Jesus has the power over life and death. Notice how Jesus did this work:


1.      Jesus first prayed to the Father (11:41b).

2.      In His prayer He affirmed in faith that He knew the Father always heard Him (11:42a).

3.      His prayer was said aloud so that those in earshot would know and believe that this miraculous sign was by God in Christ (11:42b).

4.      Jesus performed this sign “that they may believe that You sent Me” (11:42c).

5.      Jesus cried out loudly, for all to hear, “Lazarus come forth!” (11:43). Jesus didn’t approach this casually or half-heartedly. Jesus did this miracle in public for all to see.

6.      And what Jesus commanded dead Lazarus did; he “came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with cloth” (11:44c).

7.      Finally, Jesus commanded “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).


Resurrection is preceded by waiting. Waiting is often involved in God’s working. Waiting is an efficient way for our faith to be built in the process of God’s working.

Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

This is always the case. An incredible undeniable miracle had been done by Jesus. Some chose to believe. Others chose to disbelieve. If people are open to the truth and gospel and genuinely interested in coming to God, God will make a way for that to happen. But if people are going to discount and reject Jesus no matter what, then God will allow them to do that as well. How will you respond to Jesus?


49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.


God isn’t limited as to who He can speak through. Caiaphas was a disreputable, dishonest, conniving and sinful leader. And yet God spoke truth through Him. One commentary states:


So wealthy did Annas, the high priest, become from the money-making schemes that surrounded the temple, to avoid a conflict of interest, he appointed his son-in-law, Caiaphas, to serve as high priest. From his office of high priest, Caiaphas spoke more profoundly than he could possibly have known when he said, “It’s prudent that one man dies in order that the whole nation might live.”


Little did Caiaphas know that what he said was inspired by the Spirit. This shows me something about our Lord. God can use anyone to speak His heart, to reveal His truth. Caiaphas was a loser, a charlatan, a fleecer. Yet the Spirit still inspired him at this moment to speak truth. Just as Caiaphas prophesied, one Man did indeed die—not only for the nation, but for the sins of all men. God can use a Caiaphas; God can use a donkey (Numbers 22), a neighbor, a professor, or any other voice He chooses to speak truth. Be wary of the mind-set that thinks if a person isn’t born-again, he cannot speak truth. God can use anyone.[3]



53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.

55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.


These are transitional verses to the next section of John’s gospel. We will now enter the final week of Jesus ministry leading up to the cross and culminating in His own resurrection. It’s estimated that for the week of Passover nearly two and a half million Jews crowded Jerusalem. Nearly 250,000 sheep were offered in sacrifice. Walking in the midst of all this commotion, walking in the midst of the bleating sheep was the Good Shepherd Jesus who was the Lamb of God come to remove the sins of the world (John 1:29).


The response of the religious leaders of Jesus day to this incredible miracle was to glance over its import and plot against the One who threatened their position. Similarly, today no amount of truth or undeniable fact gets in the way of those who are entrenched religiously or politically. There is in fact a great struggle in our world today between dead religion and living relational Spirit-filled ministry. There’s a great struggle in our day between those who have been indoctrinated and mesmerized by a global elite system suited for the rise of Antichrist, versus patriots of nations who seek to retain their independence and national sovereignty. There is a battle between darkness and light, between falsehood and truth. In this struggle, like in Jesus’ day, those entrenched in their dark positions refuse to yield to light, truth, or even the wake-up call of God’s Divine Providence. What are we to do in light of this predicament? We are to take the principles learned in John 11 and obediently and prayerfully wait until God’s further intervention to raise us up for His glory. We are to walk in the Spirit, rely on His guidance and empowerment, seek truth, live truth, and be God’s ambassadors of His light. Christian friend, pray, then actively wait and be raised. God bless you all. God bless us all with a heaven sent revival.


[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 533). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 537). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.