Lets first read the following verses as we reflect on the Lord Jesus Christ and how he brought change in Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus by his death. Here we go:
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
Joseph of Arimathaea is not heard of in most part of the Gospels except just after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Who was this man and what did he have to with Jesus? Also what does Nicodemus have to do in all this?
From what we read in the Gospels (Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–53; and John 19:38–42) it’s known that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ. However he followed Jesus secretly as he feared the Jews. He was actually a part of the Sanhedrin which was the council of Jewish religious leaders who strived for Jesus’ crucifixion. However, the Gospel says that Joseph of Arimathaea did not give his consent but rather opposed their decision. That makes him a good man doesn’t it. Besides he was rich. God made him wealthy for a purpose that only few can ever receive from the Lord God. He took a personal risk of life and of reputation when he went to Pilate to receive the dead body of the One True Savior of the World who is none other than Jesus Christ. And by his wealth he could arrange for Jesus to be laid in a tomb (sepulchre). When Jesus was born he was born in manger as there was no place available for him. But at his death this one man from Arimathaea did all he could so that the Savior could be given some dignity after his death. Joseph of Arimathaea did not care for his life anymore as he knew he had to honor the Son of God the giver of eternal life more than anything.
Now to speak about Nicodemus. This man due to his short height had to first meet Jesus by climbing the sycamore tree. Though this man was a great sinner, Jesus came to dine in his house much to the dismay of the religious leaders. Yet Jesus led this man Nicodemus to repentance and salvation. In the due course of time, when Jesus died on the cross, Nicodemus did not flee nor abandon Jesus like most of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Very few men were brave enough to stand up for the Lord in public after the crucifixion. This man was one of them. He served the Lord well by bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes so that Jesus’ body could be wrapped in linen with these spices as per the Jewish burial custom.
Jesus at his death caused Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to manifest the courage and right action no matter what the circumstances for the sake of the Lord. If you were in place of these men at that would you have done the same for Jesus? It’s a hard question to be honest. But the simple answer would be your actual actions in such times. However there should be nothing keeping you from standing up for Jesus Christ no matter where and when, if you truly believe that he is the Son of God. Yet again, were only courage and good works what Jesus woke these to men to by his death? Not at all, because by his agonizing death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead he made available not just for them but for everyone who believe complete justification and salvation. You don’t earn your salvation by your good works but yes once you accept your salvation by your faith in Jesus and his Gospel then by your good works you can indeed give glory to God. The power of the Lord Jesus in his death and resurrection goes beyond inspiring courage and good deeds. For it has healing for sick, forgiveness for the sinner, deliverance from the darkness, friendship with God and life everlasting. Blessed are those who have not seen Jesus and yet believe. Amen.
A quote from an Evangelical preacher which in a way sums up how the preaching of the Word of God can go wrong:
Evangelicals, (including myself), have distorted the image of Jesus
FROM a Righteous, Reigning, Awesome King of Glory, to be feared, loved and obeyed.
Down to a Friendly Neighbor.
We have diluted the Gospel down to “Say a prayer and get your free ticket to Heaven.” We handed out tickets to heaven, like it was free candy, forgetting the words of Jesus “It is hard for a man to enter the Kingdom of God” and “narrow is the door…few there be that find it”
We have diluted down the image of Hell,
FROM a place of Miserable Agony, Torment, Wrath, Burning & Regret
Down to a much more digestible phrase, “Godless eternity” (which doesn’t seem to put fear in any unbeliever)
Never ever dilute the Gospel even if the person who is hearing might reject the true meaning of the Gospel. It’s your job preach the Word of God without altering it. Don’t worry about the so called “undue” fear mongering because certain things are actually good to fear; ” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10)”
At the time of World War Two, various churches in England such as the one in the Streatham district of London, would allow warnings on their notice boards about impending air raids. This saved a lot of people over there from the wickedness of the Nazi Luftwaffe (air force), as they took shelter when they followed the signs of the warnings. They knew the French had suffered thousands of human casualties because the Nazi air raids. As a result the preacher’s did what is right. Those churches didn’t have preacher’s fearful of ‘offending’ their flock of church goer’s. Because they were focused on defending the people. They knew the lives of their people mattered more than their being in a false sense of security. Obviously they didn’t sugarcoat their warnings either.
If they could issue warnings for physical things why can’t we issue warnings about spiritual dangers? Is not a temptation to adultery, very dangerous to the married person’s relationship with his or her spouse? Then should not a preacher warn the people about the evils of adultery? Is not drunk driving something to be preached against? Then should one ever get embarrassed about warning the people who need to hear about such things? No, need to be shy nor fearful at all. The below verses confirm this:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity,but you will have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 3:17-19)
Ezekiel would as per God’s will, speak the word of the God to the people of Israel as and when it came to him from the Lord. The above verses also show that the Lord God expected his prophet Ezekiel to warn the wicked one’s so that they could repent of their wrongdoings and escape the judgement of God. So, Ezekiel was into saving lives! If you warn other’s in the right context you can inspire them to truly repent and believe in the Gospel.
If any gospel does not warn people of the coming struggles, but only focuses on having a blessed life, this gospel has been cheapened. The recipients of this gospel message may not be ready for hard trials, and could fall away. (Robert Brownell)
Any preacher who is too scared to warn the people about challenges to their following the Gospel, is not doing prudent service to the congregation. This sort of behaviour is not acceptable to God! Such a preacher needs to get off his high horse of people pleasing and start acting like a real preacher.
Now is this an accusation against all preacher’s? Definitely a no. But there are certain gullible preacher’s who are doing big disservice to their own flock. These are the one’s who need to get their act together. The Holy Scriptures confirm that people will be so depraved that they will even get teacher’s to suit their own ways of life. Here we go:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into muss (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Do not be so crooked that you get you are influenced by the words and opinions of the people instead of honoring the Word of God. Do not be so cowardly that you only want to hear of blessings that you can receive but want to do nothing if any warning needs you do something right. Never become nor act like the type of depraved preacher or the depraved congregation mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
The fact that you could continue to read till here shows that you don’t have itching ears to listen to compromising teachers. Congratulations dear reader on this!
There’s a good number of people all across the world that mentally shut off if the preaching they hear is warnings instead of precious little anecdotes and fables. (The Gospel tells us to be child like but not childish!). One of their tactics to avoid warnings is to keep begging the unsuspecting preacher to make the sermon more simple. Now if the preacher doesn’t seem to see past their vile scheme he will simplify even an already simple sermon. Slowly they’ll ask him to simplify things more so that they understand the way of God in a kinder way. But in fact the kindness they want is that they want to stopped being told to stop committing certain sins and foolish things they often do. These blatantly ignore the fact that Jesus Christ himself warned people many times. They also avoid the fact that Book of Revelation is full of serious warnings about the future.
A bit about balance in preaching now. Only preaching warnings from the Gospel is not preaching everything it says. One needs to also speak about the love of God, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, works of charity and kindness in the life of the believer in Christ. One ought to preach about praying for each other. One needs to know that the church doesn’t stop at the local community level but instead all across the world the church exists. Also that the church is not the property of any particular set of people but rather it’s the body of Christ of whom Christ Jesus is the head.
Do preach the Gospel in its entirety. And also be willing to hear the Gospel in its entirety. Why only stop at the Gospel’s? Be of good faith and give honor to the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This way you’ll be surely pleasing to God.
Christ be with you!
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Never be afraid of people more than God. The Lord’s will is far greater than the opinions of people. Choose to be on the Lord’s side when you preach. And always preach the right thing. You are not here to impress people. Rather you are to here to give glory to God.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing (Psalm 100:2)
Do you serve the Lord with gladness? Do you feel that serving God is something that you need to do legalistically or freely?
Never get into a legalistic mode when serving God. Because your will power and disciple will get affected in the course of time. You are not a robot!
The Christian faith goes beyond religion because it concentrates not on rituals but on relation. Not any ordinary relation but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ his Son. So keep ritualistic attitudes outside and far away from your relationship with God.
It may be possible to show your gladness externally like smiling, singing when preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. But sometimes you can’t actually do this in instances of praying for a person who is suffering from cancer and is in pain. The point is that the expression of gladness must always be there in your inner being. You can be happy in your heart that Christ gives you salvation even in the midst of pain and suffering that you encounter either in yourself and others. Even Moses said in Exodus 15:2 that; The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Getting your mind right can dramatically affect your will power and discipline in doing the works of God. You will need to be very familiar with the word of God for this and put it to action.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7-10)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)
A sure sign of faith that is disciplined is that you do not empower the flesh nature but rather you focus on the desires of the Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17)
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)
We must encourage each other to hold on the to word of Christ. Never force anyone but rather do it in freedom and respect. We do not condone sin but we exhort each other to be holy for God.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:1-12)
Accept the discipline of God because he loves you. God loves you as his child. No good parent will like to see his child eat stale food. If a child still tries to eat stale food then the good parent will surely try to correct the child. This is because the parent is aware of what is beneficial to the child and what is not.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage (Psalm 94:12-14)
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)
Never mistake the correction (or chastisement) of God as punishment. Because if you were to be punished he would have done so already. Correction is so that you improve while punishment comes due to lack of repentance.
Correction may come in form of preaching, teaching and examples in real life. Most of the while the Lord God will speak through your conscience about whether you are making a wrong move or walking on the right path. Sometimes godly people will approach you and try to get you on the right track. Never get confused between false accusers and those who truly are trying to help. Check the facts for yourself with the Bible as your guide. Because skepticism is not a substitute for discernment.
The difference between correction and punishment must be clear to you. Otherwise you might simply be bitter over nothing. Suppose you are speeding in your car and your dad is in your car too and he yells at you to slow down, he is not punishing you. He is only correcting you. However, if he makes you stop because you refused to slow down and then bans you for a month from driving then that is punishment.
You are to remain disciplined even as you commend others to godliness. If you train people to be holy but yourself commit robbery, you are in danger of hell fire.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27)
You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2: 23-24)
Have your will power and discipline for the Lord God not out of compulsion but out a free and thankful heart. This way you will truly give glory to God through Jesus Christ his Son. God be with you!
One thing that our current generation of Christian lacks is having deep respect for our spiritual teachers. I consider those who teach us the principles of the Christian faith as spiritual teachers even if they do not claim any such status. Some of them rather use the term ‘workers in the Lord’s vineyard’ which is fine enough for me.
Back in the early centuries of Christianity it was difficult to gain access to teachers of the faith. This was because the Roman Empire heavily persecuted the preachers of the Gospel. Persecution by death to be precise! Yet time and again there arose teachers who risked their lives to help other Christians learn the teachings of our faith.
We have a lot to thank our Lord Jesus for the past teachers of the faith. Augustine of Hippo defended the Christian faith from pagan critics. Athanasius of Alexandria preached against the heresy of the Arians. St. Irenaeus gave canonical status to the gospels of Luke, Matthew, Mark and John which are now part of the Bible. Sometimes the teachers made Bible reading easier, for instance the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton who helped develop the concept of assigning the chapters and verses of the Bible for easier study.
Cut back to today’s world. Most of the teachings of our faith are available free on the internet and on TV as well. In some places you still get free Bibles and Christian literature without paying anything. Now some people equate ‘free’ with ‘low quality’. Yet these are the ones are among the first to complain if the teaching series is available by payment only. They have made their minds to blame a teacher of the faith if he gives out the teachings for free or at a cost. They will accuse such teachers of having hidden agendas. Double standards indeed!
People make fun of teachers who preach against silly divorces saying that these are still ‘stuck’ in the middle ages. But when these people themselves undergo a divorce they rush to these teachers to pray for ‘reconciliation’ with their spouses. And poor teacher simply forgives those who made fun of him and then helps the person facing the divorce issue. Now when the divorce is averted, what do such people do? They never apologize for making fun of the teacher but only keep hugging their reconciled spouse. Selfishness indeed when the only point of these people is their own happiness!
Then we have people who ridicule the preachers who remind us that Jesus gave us authority to cast out evils spirits. They will make jokes about such preachers though there are Bible verses to prove that we have authority to cast out demons. Then all of a sudden when their own kids get possessed and when medico-psychological help fails, they then sheepishly approach preachers who can exorcise. Again the preacher forgives them of their stupidity and simply goes on to help them out. Couldn’t have their read the Bible first before making fun of those who preach deliverance?
One of the people I hate the most are those who bully their preachers into preaching only what they want to hear. For instance, the people won’t put in donations if the preacher starts speaking about being a bright and responsible Christian at home, school and work. Yet if the preacher speaks loads of blessings without any responsibility then they will praise him to the clouds. Economic bullying in action, I’d say. While some people simply walk out on preachers who preach against wrong doing or having lack of faith in Jesus. They simply want to be validated about the state of sin they are living in. Surely such people will receive their reward from God for their disrespect.
One must always respect a teacher of the faith no matter how odd their methods seem. Even if you do not agree with them, you can speak politely to them. There’s always the Bible which you can reach for yourself to get the right idea on the Gospel topic that was preached to you. You still have your own choices to make because its your own soul that you are responsible for.
The grace of God can manifest in various forms. One such type is called enabling grace. It’s the grace that enables you do to achieve whatever good work God has called you to do in His holy will.
It is an axiom in theology that whenever a person is chosen by God for any position, he received not only the qualities, but also the special graces which enable him to fulfill the duties of that state with proper decorum. (This saying is attributed to St Bernadine of Siena)
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Though I’ve been aware of the existence of enabling grace in some way or other I didn’t actually start using this term until the past few hours. I’ve experienced the enabling grace of God in many ways. At a certain time of my life, I would get an opportunity to preach to people who would habitually end up in jail for petty crimes or even those who never went to prison but were dangerous. In those days I didn’t know how to deal with people who are extremely violent. I would just ask God to make me the person he wants to be and then I could preach bravely to them.
I’ve ended up ministering to people at sudden situations and placed without any special training for it. Once I myself was in need of prayers and had gone physically weak. However, yet when a diabolically influenced (not possessed) Christian teenage boy approached me for deliverance from his violent rage due to writing Satanic songs, I preached the Gospel and prayed with him for his deliverance. It was not a time that I expected nor was I mentally ready, yet the enabling grace of God helped me to let this teenager receive his deliverance in the name of Jesus.
The enabling grace of God is not for sin and definitely not for the proud. James 4:6 says that; But he gives more grace. Therefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Now enabling grace is not so that you open a cocaine business or steal from others. Don’t get me wrong but Jesus does not expect nor give grace to you for bad things in life. It’s given so that you glorify the Lord God. You can do this by helping the afflicted, feeding the poor, praying for the sick etc. It can also apply for doing your studies well, fulfilling your duties in marriage and church, doing good ethical business etc. Basically everything that is good which doesn’t go against the will of God.
The prophet Elijah exercised the enabling grace of God specific to his calling in the Lord God as a prophet who executed judgement on sinners due to lack of repentance. You can refer to Luke 4:25, 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:1 for this.
James 5:17-18 says that; Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
The enabling grace of God is not limited to stopping and causing rain. You can use it to bring healing to people. You can use it to encourage people. You can use it to be a blessing to your church and state.
Now to get the enabling grace of God firstly you need to understand that you can’t earn it. It is given freely to those who believe in God and are open to his holy will. Simply be open to the will of God. Be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life.
I would like to encourage you to desire the enabling grace of God by reminding you of how Peter healed the man lame from birth in the name of Jesus Christ. Let’s read Acts 3:1-10
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. 4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. 6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10 And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.
Prayer: In the name of Jesus the Son of the Living God, I ask for the enabling grace of God in my life. I renounce every sin, every habit and every though that keeps me away from the will of God in my life. The blood of Jesus cleanses me of all my sins. I close myself to the suggestions of the evil One and of the world. I open up to the will of God in my life. I’m sanctified by the word of God and receive my divine enabling in the name of Jesus. I say a firm yes to all the good works that the Lord God has ordained for me to carry out in my life. Amen.