January 2016


Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  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.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

John tells us that there are many miracles performed by Jesus which were not recorded in the gospel. He had specially chosen 7 for us to read. He did that so that we can believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ and we can have life through his name.

So far we have taken a look at these miracles 

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1, Part 2)
2. Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s son (Part 3, Part 4)
3. Jesus Healing By The Pool Of Bethesda (Part 5, Part 6)
4. Jesus feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 Fishes (Part 7 , Part 8)
5. Jesus Walking on Water (Part 9, Part 10)
6. Jesus Healing A Blind Man (Part 11, Part 12)

We have finally reached the seventh miracle. That is the miracle that we are most probably most familiar with

The Raising Of Lazarus

https://i1.wp.com/www.crestinortodox.ro/admin/_files/newsannounce/betania-lazar-16.jpg
           The Traditional Site Of Lazarus’s Tomb

Now when He had said these things,
  He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus,
  come forth!”” – John (Jn 11:43)

Jn 11:38-45 Records of Lazarus being dead and buried. During that time Jesus told the people to open the entrance to the tomb. Martha his sister told the Lord

“Lord, by this time there is a stench,
  for he has been dead four days.”- Martha (Jn 11:39)

Yet Jesus cried out with a loud voice “Lazarus come forth!” and Lazarus came out from the tomb and he was raised from the dead. There were many who were present, and many believed Jesus upon seeing this miracle. For no man had the power and the authority to raised the dead. For only God is the master of life. It is God who gave life to human being and it is only God who could resurrect the dead. Today as we read this miracle, are we willing to believe that Jesus is truly God?

Worshipping the Lord Of Life

Man ought to worship the God who created life, for he is the reason why we could live and enjoy our existence. That is why we need to be thankful to the God who had given us life. While we should be thankful for our parents for giving birth to us, but they are not the master of life and they did not create life. For only God has the power to create and Jesus is non other than the Lord of life the only true God.

Jesus performed this miracle on Lazarus who was dead for 4 days, he does it to tell us that he is indeed the Lord of life and he is the one that created life. He said it with his own words

“I am the resurrection and the life.
  He who believes in Me, though he
  may die, he shall live.  And whoever
  lives and believes in Me shall never die.
  Do you believe this?”- Jesus (Jn 11:25-26)

Today he tells us the same, but are we willing to believe him? One day Jesus will come and judge the world, and those who are dead will resurrect. At that time those who believe in him and have their sin forgiven, will be able to enter heaven and enjoy eternal life.

Jesus came to tell us that he had the power to raise the dead and grant eternal life. Those words are true and it is only though Jesus one can receive the forgiveness of sin and to enter heaven. Those who believe in him will be raised and will enjoy eternal life.

Jesus had used his authority to prove this by commanding Lazarus to be raised to life. This is an intentional miracle with a purpose to testify that he is indeed the Lord of life.

The Intentional Actions From Jesus

At the very beginning of Lazarus illness , his sisters sent men to Jesus asking him to come heal their brother. But Jesus did not go immediately but he just  said

“This sickness is not unto death,
  but for the glory of God, that the
  Son of God may be glorified
  through it.”- Jesus (Jn 11:4)

On the surface it seems to say that the sickness would not  kill Lazarus and he would not die from it. But the truth is, Jesus already knew that Lazarus will die of it.  This can be seen in his conversation with his disciples

(Extracted from Jn 11:11-15)

Jesus      : Our friend Lazarus sleeps, 
                   but I go that I may wake 
                   him up.

Disciples : Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.

Jesus        : 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.

So was Jesus lying when he said that the sickness is not onto death? It appears as if he had shot himself on the foot by  saying it earlier. It is even more ironic to claim that Lazarus was sleeping and he needs to be woken up. It looks as though Jesus was unable to differentiate between the living and the dead.

But when Jesus says that Lazarus is sleeping, he already knew that he will die. When he said that he needs to go wake him up, he is saying that he wanted to wake Lazarus from the dead. He will  perform this miracle as if he is waking someone who is asleep.

He deliberately choose to perform this miracle  for the sake of the disciples. He wanted Lazarus to die for four days before he raises him out from the dead. He wanted to do it so that they will believe that he is the Lord of Life and the resurrection.

Death Comes To All And After That Judgement

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote a book titled “Sickness onto death” and from that book he claims that man is stricken with a illness onto death, and that is why many despair. For they know that whatever they do will lead to eventual death.

But here we read of Jesus coming  with a good news saying “This illness is not onto death, though you may die, I have the power to raise you up from death. Those who believe in me will live forever”

So we ought to believe in the words of Jesus and know that he will save us from judgement. We need to believe that he had the power to raise us up from the death and bring us to the kingdom of heaven. This is the greatest grace God had given to man kind

Indeed, all man must die and after death comes judgement (Heb 9:28) but those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead into eternal life. But sadly not everyone is willing to accept this.

Conclusion So Far

We know that Jesus performed this miracle by intentionally delaying himself. He wanted Lazarus to be dead for more than 4 days. This is because the Jews during the time of Christ have a superstitious belief saying that when a man dies, his spirit will hover around the body in the tomb for at least 3 days.  They think that the soul will depart from the person and after that it would start to smell. 

Jesus performed this miracles so that all of us who read of it today can believe of his power with assurance.

John recorded this miracle to tell us that Jesus is indeed the Lord of Life. Therefore we need to seize this opportunity to believe in him.

Introduction

The first week of 2016 had passed. Let us resolved to make our faith our priorities. Let us ask God to bless and watch over our resolutions and our family. We all hope for a new beginning in this new year. Many of us would repaint our houses and wear new clothes for the new year.

We all hope to renew our living environment. But as we renew our surrounding let us learn to renew our spiritual life as well. I would like to share 3 areas that need to be renewed.

Pt 1: Renewal In Spiritual Knowledge

Paul reminds us

“Do not lie to one another, since
  you have put off the old man with
  his deeds, and have put on the new
  man who is renewed in knowledge
  according to the image of Him who
  created him,” – Paul (Col 3:9-10)

Here it tells us to be renewed in spiritual knowledge, to put on a new nature. The new man is renewed in knowledge and  it in the image of his creator. That is why we must put off our old nature and its practice. ‘’

We all have experience taking showers.  We put off our dirty clothes, clean our body and put on a new set of clothing. It makes us refreshed and comfortable after a bath. We will not put on our dirty clothing after our bath. We will choose to put on new clothes and remain fresh.

In the same way, we must learn to put away our old self in our pursuit of faith.  The old nature that Paul is referring to is our desires of the flesh. They are the evil thoughts and evil passion within us. That is why Paul tells us to put these members on earth to death. He said

“Therefore put to death your members
  which are on the earth: fornication,
  uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and
  covetousness, which is idolatry.” – Paul (Col 3:5)

At our baptism, our old man(Rom 6:1-10)  was crucified and our life is now hidden in Christ and in God. That is why we must curb our desires. Paul tells us to put it to death, to treat it as if it is dead. A person who is dead cannot feel anything nor does he knows anything. We need to cut off these natures that corrupt our spiritual life.

To Remove Sin (Leaven)  In Our Lives

That is why Paul continues to tell us 

“But now you yourselves are to put off
  all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
  filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie
  to one another, since you have put off the
  old man with his deeds "- Paul (Col 3:8-9)

Paul had told us to remove these things that are filthy and prevent us from achieving perfection in faith. If we could remove them, we could put on this new nature in Christ. Indeed, at our baptism, our sin are forgiven. Whoever who is baptised in the name of Jesus had their sins forgiven and we are all born anew after that. But this does not guarantee that our hearts will remain clean and sinless until we die.

That is why Paul said in Titus 3:5

“not by works of righteousness which
  we have done, but according to His
  mercy He saved us, through the washing
  of regeneration and renewing of the
  Holy Spirit, “ – Paul (Tit 3:5)

Besides the washing of Regeneration (Baptism). We need the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew us in our spiritual life. After we receive the words of God through hearing his words. We need to let it change our lives, then we will be a true Christian.

If we want to be a true follower of Christ, we need to put away our old nature and its practices. That is why Paul says “put off the old man with his deeds”

The Jews keep the feast of the unleavened bread. During that time, they will remove all leaven from their house. The leaven of the old testament is often described as sin in the new testament. When we are baptised, our sins are washed away and forgiven. But as we continue in life we commit sin once again

To Change Our Habits

Often, we allow sin to become a habit in our life. Likewise, we have cultivated many habits, the young children like to use their mobile device all the time. As a South East Asian, we love spicy food and we would eat everything with Chilli.

Once I have an Indonesian friend who went with me to a Ramen store. He ordered a Ramen that comes with a spicy sauce. The sauce is called, “The Volcano Sauce” it is so hot that I have the problem eating it with noodles.  But yet that friend of mine can finish the entire plate of sauce.

It is surprising that the same sauce will taste different to different individuals.

Indeed, our habits and taste had always been a part of our life. But if our habits damage our health, we would make adjustments in our life and our health. Even if we love food that are spicy,  we will choose to eat less of it.

These same principles apply to our life of faith. We want to pursue holiness, but our habits make us commit mistakes after mistakes. That is why we need to be renewed in the knowledge of the Lord. We need to move in the right direction and to align our goals towards it.

We may appear healthy and we do not feel sick, but we go for medical check up on the regular basis. If the doctor tells us to change our habits we would change it for our health sake. In the same way, whenever we listen to the word of God. and it tells us the direction and areas we need to change in life. We should change.

This is what Paul means by being renewed in knowledge. This is something that requires us to put in our effort. We need to work hard to take up the image of our creator. It is an image of true righteousness and holiness. It can receive the truth.

“But you have not so learned Christ,
  if indeed you have heard Him and
  have been taught by Him, as the truth
  is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning
  your former conduct, the old man which
  grows corrupt according to the deceitful
  lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of
  your mind, and that you put on the new
  man which was created according to God,
  in true righteousness and holiness.”- Paul (Eph 4:20-24)

If we want to learn Christ, we must be heard and be taught by him. We need to know the truth that is in Jesus. Verse 22 remind us to put off our old nature, that is to change ourselves. This is important for if you have learnt the truth but did not change we will still be our old man.

We need to establish a good habit in faith, we need to start by learning about Jesus. We need to change our way of life and move out of our comfort zone. For we all have many bad habits, they are the result from our own laziness. As the result, we are the same day after day, year after year.

Let us strive to make improvement in our life. Let us renew our spirit and establish new habits. One of the first habits we need to cultivate is to attend service regularly. If we want to know Christ we have to continually strive and learn to know Christ. We need to come for service in order to renew this knowledge.

Pt 2: Renewal In Our Inner Nature

Paul once said.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.
  Even though our outward man is
  perishing, yet the inward man
  is being renewed day by day.”  – Paul (2 Cor 4:16)

Why would we lose heart? Sometimes we lose heart because we saw our body perishing day after day. We also encounter affliction and pressures in life. Sometimes we encounter difficulties as well. These difficulties prevent us from achieving our goal to enter the kingdom of heaven.

There are many things that worry us in life. They rob us of our heart to pursue God. That is why Paul tell us not to lose heart, for all these pain and suffering cannot outweigh the glory that God had prepared for us in heaven.

We often allow the things on earth to pull our faith down. We only notice the dark clouds that hang above us., we are unable to see the sun that is beyond the dark clouds. Those who had taken a flight will experience this. There will be times before take off we may encounter a storm or heavy rain.

As the plane takes off, it will rise and enter the clouds. The plane will vibrate and shake in the process but as soon as the plane rise above the crowds, we will be able to see the sun. Indeed, below the clouds, there are bad weather, storm and rain. But beyond the cloud, it is blue and beautiful.

God will not make the sun disappear just because of the black clouds above us.  The sun will always be there, let us not focus on the dark clouds only. Let us look further and behold the sun God had prepared.

I remember once I was learning driving back at home in Singapore. During the practical class, we are often taught to look far when driving at high speed. If we lower our head, we may not be able to see the dangers before us. At the same time, we would miss the beautiful sceneries around us.

The same applies in life, we need to develop the habit of looking up. If we do not lift our eyes to look upon God in heaven. We will find it hard to be joyful, we will always focus on our suffering and our problem. But if we have the faith to look upon God, we will find him ahead of us and watching over us.

That is why we need to renew our inner nature daily. That will prevent our spiritual life from withering away. Then we can continue our journey of faith with a joyful heart.

How Do We Renew Our Inner Nature.  

Paul once said.

“knowing that He who raised up the
  Lord Jesus will also raise us up with
  Jesus, and will present us with you.” – Paul (2 Cor 4:14)

The first thing we need to know is that our Lord who had called Christ to rise again will make us rise again as well. He will bring us into his presence so that we can be renewed daily. That is why Christians have the hope of Eternal life, it is a promise from God.  It is something we need to remember,

Just as Paul also writes 

“For we know that if our earthly house,
  this tent, is destroyed, we have a building
  from God, a house not made with hands,
  eternal in the heavens.” –Paul (2 Cor 5:1)

Paul says that if our earthly tent is destroyed. We will receive a building from God. This is something a Christian ought to remember. We need to tell ourselves that our lives on earth are just like living in a tent. It is temporary and it is not as comfortable as a house.

I remember that when I was 11 I went camping with my school mates. We need to pitch our own tent and we have to sleep in the open. It was fun and it is a novel feeling. Everyone looked forward to the camping trip. But those who have camped before know that it’s hard to sleep well in the tent.  There was one night where there was a major rainstorm, the teachers are worried that we would fall sick. So we have to sleep in the hall on the last night. While we are sleeping there are many mosquitoes that disturb our rest.  They are able to bite us even when we use insect repellent.

But as we lived in the tents, we know that one day we will return home. In the same way, our life on earth is like living in a tent. We would eventually return to our heavenly home where it is more comfortable. That is why we need to renew ourselves with this living hope.

As we live another year let us be one step closer to that living hope. For our life of faith is just like a race. There are a starting point and an ending line. When we depart from the starting point, we are one step closer to the finishing line. Unless we are running on the spot then there will be no progress.

That is why we need to progress in faith, we need to have this hope of enteral life in our heart. Especially when we remember the kingdom of heaven where God had prepared for us. Even though our body is perishing daily. Let us remember that we are one step closer to the kingdom of heaven. Then we will walk with more strength and with more energy. We need to be renewed in our life of faith.

 

Pt 3: Renewal Of Our Mind

Paul once mentioned in the book to the Romans

“And do not be conformed to this world,
  but be transformed by the renewing of
  your mind, that you may prove what is
  that good and acceptable and perfect
  will of God.” – Paul (Rom 12:2)

Here it talks about a renewal of the mind. This is important for the world around us is constantly changing. It usually does not change for the better. The more it changes the more unstable it becomes. Many things that were old in the past are now becoming trends once again. There is nothing new under the sun.

Whenever we read the papers, we often read of news that saddens us, we heard of wars, terrorist states, economy crisis, the falling oil prices. We read of companies folding, retrenchment looming. It is hard for us to remain at peace when we think about this news.

So how can we renew our minds? how can we be at peace? Most importantly how should a Christian look at this issues?

We need to know that no matter how difficult the situation on the world become. God is in control of everything on earth. He is the one that ensure the rise of fall of kingdoms and nations. The bible records of rulers and kings who were in the plan of God

“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
  And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
  I will send him against an ungodly nation,
  And against the people of My wrath
  I will give him charge,
  To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
  And to tread them down like the
  mire of the streets.” – YHWH (Is 10:5-6)

“I have made the earth, the man
  and the beast that are on the ground,
  by My great power and by My
  outstretched arm, and have given
  it to whom it seemed proper to Me.

  And now I have given all these lands
  into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the
  king of Babylon, My servant; and the
  beasts of the field I have also given him
  to serve him. So all nations shall serve
  him and his son and his son’s son, until
  the time of his land comes; and then
  many nations and great kings shall make
  him serve them.

  And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom
  which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar
  the king of Babylon, and which will not
  put its neck under the yoke of the king of
  Babylon, that nation I will punish with the
  sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until
  I have consumed them by his hand. “ – YHWH (Jer 27:5-8)

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
  To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
  To subdue nations before him
  And loose the armor of kings,
  To open before him the double doors,
  So that the gates will not be shut:

  ‘I will go before you
  And make the crooked places straight;
  I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
  And cut the bars of iron.
  I will give you the treasures of darkness
  And hidden riches of secret places,
  That you may know that I, the Lord,
  Who call you by your name,
  Am the God of Israel.
  For Jacob My servant’s sake,
  And Israel My elect,
  I have even called you by your name;
  I have named you, though you have
  not known Me.

  I have raised him up in righteousness,
  And I will direct all his ways;
  He shall build My city
  And let My exiles go free,
  Not for price nor reward,” – YHWH (Is 45:1-4,13)

Can we see that the rulers of the world are all ruling under the watchful eyes of God?  The world, as chaotic as it is now is still under the control of God. That is why we must know the will of God. We must not allow the things in the world to affect our relationship with Good.

That is why a renewal of mind is to know the will of God. Not to allow the trends in the world to affect our faith. For human being are always changing. Let us make sure that our change is bringing us to the right direction and not drawing us away from God.

Concluding Thoughts

In this entry we studied 3 types of renewal we ought to have. We need to renew ourselves in the knowledge of Christ. That require us to put off our old man and put on our new man. It requires us to renew ourselves and to stop sinning.  It tells us to put on new habits and to listen to the words of God.

Secondly, we talk about renewal in our inner heart. It tells us to look beyond the troubles around us and to look upon God. IT require us to constantly remind ourselves that we have a home in heaven. It can give us the strength to continue in this heavenly journey.

Finally, we talk about renewal in the mind. We need to remember that God is in control of the events in the world. We need to keep our mind focus on the will of God and to head to the right direction and draw near to God.

In this new year, let us draw closer to God and strive to renew ourselves in these 3 areas. For God had prepared the kingdom of God and is there waiting for us. May we all be blessed in this new year.