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Posts tagged ‘gospel’

Jesus I AM 2

78. Christian Disciple and Jesus’ I AM statements 2

The prophet Isaiah writing in Isaiah 5v1-7

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

We have already seen that Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate and the shepherd – all the things the nation of Israel was to be but failed to do so. This passage in Isaiah starts out as a love song between God and His chosen people, Israel. Israel was to be a vineyard, and despite all the love God had given tending to her, she had only produced bitter, sour fruit. This bitter sour fruit is described in Isaiah 5v8-25. Therefore, God will abandon her. So if this vineyard is abandoned, will God raise a new vineyard? What of the other of Jesus’ “I AM” statements.

 

Our next one is

 

John 11v25: Jesus said to her, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

 

This exclamation by Jesus is highlight of this passage of Scripture. Lazarus has died (John 11v15) and will be raised back to life again (John 11v43-44). Why does Jesus say that He is the resurrection and the life? He is the giver of life itself. He gives eternal life to all who will believe in him. Resurrection and life are inextricably tied together. Resurrection and life harmonize each other because resurrection precedes life and the new life of a Christian disciple is the result of resurrection. Remember Jesus mission was to go to his death on the cross and be resurrected three days later. Not a resurrection like that of Lazarus, who would later physically die again. No, Jesus’ resurrection as we will look at in a later study is one where death is ultimately conquered and Jesus has a glorious new body. Those who choose to be Christian Disciples by faith in the risen Christ, only have new life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross. That is why Jesus can exclaim with authority “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11v25). Moreover, this resurrected life is not just for the future but it is also for the present, and only through the risen Jesus Christ.

 

John 14v6: Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 

When Jesus issued this statement, the stress of the sentence automatically falls on the words “the way”. This is because Jesus is answering a question posed by Thomas (John 14v5). Jesus Christ has exposed the barrier of sin and death, which prevents a person from entering God’s presence. He explodes this same barrier when a person entrusts in Him for their eternal salvation. He is as he claims in Matthew 7v14 “the road that leads to life”. Not only is He the way, but He is also the truth and the life. All of God’s truth is embodied in Jesus Christ who as both fully God and fully human was also the ever-living God. Nobody can claim access to God the Father, except through Jesus Himself. Other religions and other so-called paths to God may contain some element of truth about God, but there is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ. He is the means of access to God for all people of all cultures and all backgrounds. Jesus welcomes all, so that in His singular exclusive claims is an inclusive embrace of all. As Jesus goes on to say in John 14v7, because we know Him we also know God the Father.

 

John 15v1: “I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was to be a vine or vineyard (Isaiah 5v1-7, Ezekiel 15v1-6). Juxtaposed against Israel’s failure to be a vine, Jesus states that he is the true vine. Jesus was the reality, whereas Israel was the symbol. As the purpose of a vine is to produce fruit, the focal point is on what it takes to produce fruit (John 15v2). As Christian Disciples, we are to bear fruit by remaining close to Jesus, as He is the vine and we are the branches. And why is the Christian Disciple to bear fruit? As a means of bringing glory to God the Father (John 15v8) and thereby proving their Discipleship. As part of the ultimate mission of Jesus to glorify God the Father (John 12v28, John 17v4), it is imperative that Jesus’ disciples be fruit-bearers. This means that all Christian Disciple are to be His witnesses and therefore a commitment to mission and evangelisation is necessary. That is why the Christian Disciple prays in the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6v10)

So there are the seven “I AM” statements. As well as equating Himself as God with the “I AM”, Jesus is also promoting his exclusivity as the only Saviour. He does not say I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life. Nor does He say I am a resurrection and a life. He does not say I am a door to life, just as He does not say I am a shepherd, a door, a light or a bread of life. No – Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the one great shepherd and the only door to life. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only true bread of life. As His disciples currently in the Western world, we get shouted at and criticized for holding such exclusive views. But if Jesus was not God and He was only one path to God, would Jesus have needed to go through the agony of the cross, as payment for the sins of the world? Of course he wouldn’t have needed to. That He did shows that He is the only path and only means of access to God. It is only through the resurrected Jesus that salvation can be assured and then only by a childlike faith and not by any other means. That is why we should not capitulate to current trends to unite all religions, which says that all paths lead to God. Jesus Christ Himself as we have seen has said that He and He alone is the way to God and salvation is only through His work on the cross for all those who trust and believe in Him.

For more to think about please do read John 15v1-27. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

 

Q1. How is my inward relationship with Jesus reflected and shown to those who do not know Him?

Q2. How do I as a Christian Disciple, stay close to Jesus as my Master and my King?

Q3. Is there any correlation between Jesus’ exclusive claims and why the world hates His disciples?

As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partakes(at) googlemail.com. Thank you.

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Jesus Four Portraits

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Jesus in the Four Gospels

In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

What the Gospels are!

Firstly they are called Gospels, because they gave substance to the Gospel or Good News as described by Paul in Romans 1v16 (The Message): “this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!”

We know Jesus Christ during his time on earth wrote nothing yet the stories about him were preserved and passed on by Christian teachers and evangelists. For the first thirty years or so, these stories were possibly collated and stored together. That would explain the similarity in the four accounts of Jesus’ life. They are not an exhaustive biographical detail of all that Jesus did. Similarly they are also not diaries reflecting a daily account of Jesus’ life. Rather they are selective accounts of His life, and were probably factual illustrations used by His disciples when preaching about Him. Therefore they would represent the theology of the disciples, as each story about is Jesus is told. That is why they are trustworthy accounts as well as rooting Jesus’ life in first century Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.

The first three of our Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are what are called the synoptic Gospels. This is based on their great similarity and possibly use of a common source. Mark is probably the first Gospel as it is shorter in length than Matthew or Luke and it would appear that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a guide and elaborated where required. Mark wrote none of the great discourses of Matthew, such as the Sermon on the Mount nor does Mark show the great parables that Luke recorded, such as the Good Samaritan. Surely if Mark had used either the accounts of Matthew or Luke, he would have used those two examples! Matthew is closer in similarity to Mark than Luke. Luke does share large portions of Mark and quite often verbatim, and with a greater use of the Greek language.

John on the other hand, while still telling about Jesus’ ministry, has a vastly different story content. Whereas in the synoptic Gospels Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God frequently, in the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about Himself much more often, as in the seven I AM statements. For this reason, John was probably written later than the synoptic Gospels.

Four Different Portraits

Mark

Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord, coming in fulfilment of the Old Testament. Jesus offers His credentials, gathers His disciples, offers the Kingdom of God and its message. Jesus’ teaching is seen in short parables, which hide the truth from those hardened against Him, yet prepares and instructs those responsive to Him. Overall Jesus calls those who follow him to serve others and to deny themselves by taking up their own cross, just as He took. Early tradition states that Mark’s Gospel had a connection with the Apostle Peter, and was therefore written to preserve some of Peter’s memories before his death.

Mark 8v34 – “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Mark 10v45 –
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Luke

Luke 1v3-4 –Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 19v10 –For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Luke presents Jesus as the God-Man, as a saviour for the entire world, writing primarily to Gentiles. He does this from a broad vantage point that is compatible with the fact that he is a Greek. Luke traces the incarnation, Christ’s introduction, ministry, rejection, subsequent teaching in view of His rejection, the cross, resurrection and ascension. Even though a Gentile, Luke emphasizes the kingdom program with Israel’s place in the kingdom. This Gospel is not complete in itself, but is rather the first for two parts, with the Book of Acts being the second section. Both are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1v1-4 & Acts 1v1). The author is probably the Luke as identified by Paul as a doctor, and was one of Paul’s travelling companions (Colossians 4v14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4v11). The style and language use is that of a native Greek speaker.

Matthew

Matthew 16v16 – Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 28v18 –Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. “

Matthew wrote primarily to Jews who knew the Old Testament. He wrote to present Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. He also records Israel’s attitude towards Him as Messiah. Throughout this Gospel, Matthew gives us the genealogy, presentation, and the authentification of Jesus as the Christ Messiah. Matthew then shows the nation of Israel’s opposition to and rejection of Jesus as the Christ followed by Jesus’ rejection of Israel due to her unbelief. He then records the death and resurrection of Christ. He concludes with Christ commissioning the disciples. Throughout this Gospel is a well ordered and balanced account

John

John 1v9 & 12: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world… Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

John 20v31 – These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John presents the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that mankind would believe in Him as the Son of God, Messiah, and Saviour of the world. His selective argument portrays Christ as the God-Man. John records miracles and messages that affirm the deity and humanity of Christ. John builds his record around the public ministry of Christ, the private ministry, the cross, and the resurrection.

For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Read Mark 8v34 and Mark 10v45. How strongly am I encouraged to carry my own cross, knowing that Jesus carried His cross?

Q2. Read Luke 1v34 and Luke 19v10. If Jesus gave up everything to seek me, what more can I give, in order to help spread the good news of Him?

Q3. Read Matthew 16v16 and Matthew 28v18. If Jesus is still alive and has authority, how is that a help to me as I live a life worthy of His name?

Q4. Read John 1v9-12 and John 20v31. As a Christian Disciple and therefore a child of God, how is Jesus working and changing me?

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Romans 1 – God of Salvation

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A God of Salvation

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Please do open your bibles to the book of Romans and chapter 1.

Reading firstly from Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed-a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

And now from Romans 3:21-24

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Introduction

Paul in this letter is writing to Roman believers a synopsis of his beliefs, and to church leaders in Jerusalem where he would have to make an adequate explanation of himself. The language and concepts shared in these passages are that the Gospel of God is that salvation is for all who believe; righteousness of God; universality of both salvation and judgment; and that salvation and righteousness are available through faith. The adversative “But” in Romans 3:21 heralds the solution, but the text in between these verses highlights humanity’s unrighteousness and need of God’s righteousness.

1. The Problem

All have sinned” (Romans.3:23). Our inherent sinful nature of unrighteousness comes to all mankind from the first rebellion against God by Adam. To be with God eternally we need to be declared righteous, for unrighteousness cannot enter the holy and righteous presence of God. So for humanity, created in God’s image (Genesis.1:26) to re-enter God’s presence, each person needs to be declared righteous and thereby justified. Justification is the transformation from a condemned criminal to that of an heir awaiting a majestic legacy. If God doesn’t punish unrighteousness, then God would have to destroy not only us, but also Himself. Holiness is an absolute attribute of God, which requires the punishment of any impurity or unrighteousness (that is sin), and if unrighteousness remained unpunished, God would cease to be God and we would cease to be human. Ergo, since the first rebellion God has had a Gospel plan to restore righteousness to man.

2. Initial Questions

2a. What is the Gospel plan?

The Gospel is one, which Paul is separated to according to his own words in Romans.1:1. Paul announces it is the power of God for the salvation of all in Romans 1:16. The Gospel is the good news that God has provided the means for rebellious humanity to be rescued from His wrath and judgment. The Gospel is a two-fold message: it is deliverance from the final judgment resulting from God’s anger against sin and a crediting of righteousness upon sinful man. Not only will humanity be saved, but has been saved. This Gospel creates faith (Romans.1:16-17); brings life (Romans.1:16) and judgment (Romans.2:16)

2b. What is wrath?

When we think of wrath, it is usually of an uncontrollable rage or temper tantrum. God’s wrath does not portray the human weaknesses of vindictiveness, or an uncontrolled pique. We can dismiss such ideas, since due to His forbearance, God’s anger and judgment has been smouldering since the first rebellion of Adam and Eve. God’s wrath invokes justice (Romans.2:5).

2c. What is righteousness?

There are three meanings to this key phrase of Paul’s: “righteousness of God”. Firstly, righteousness is an immutable characteristic of God, in that whether it is a righteousness that judges or a righteousness that saves, it is still God’s righteousness. Secondly, that His righteousness demands God actively keeps the promises He has made. Thirdly, that His righteousness makes us righteous. So, who needs this righteousness?

3. God’s Judgment

When we describe God’s judgment, similarly there are three aspects to it, all of which give a total and clear picture. For God’s judgment to only have one or two of these characteristics, would mean it was not the judgment of a holy God. God’s judgment is inescapable, righteous and impartial.

 

3a. Inescapable

We are inherently self-righteously hypercritical of others. Paul tells us that this makes us hypocritical and we have no right to stand in condemnation over people, as what is common in all humanity is a universal sinfulness or separation from God (Romans.2:1). We set unachievable high standards for others and yet remarkably low standard for ourselves.

 

3b. Righteous

God will judge according to what each person has done (Romans.2:6). While we may be justified and declared righteous by faith, we will be judged based on the works we do, to earn rewards. Our faith is to be supported by good works (Galatians.5:6; James.2:18). Paul here shows two destinies. Eternal life, glory, honour, peace and immortality for those who enduringly desire to perform good works (Romans.2:7,10). Juxtaposed to this are the self-indulgent and disobedient who shall incur God’s indignation, wrath and righteous judgment (Romans.2:8-9).

 

3c. Impartial

God shows no favouritism (Romans.2:11), so whether Jew or Gentile, both can be saved and be declared righteous. God is eternally just and righteous. It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair.

4. All have sinned and need God’s righteousness

4a. The Gentile is in need

Gentiles, non-Jews, require this righteousness of God. Unrighteousness is universally endemic as all humankind has rebelled, “fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans.3:23) which has been passed down since the original sin in Genesis. Whilst God has given the Jew the Law, how has God revealed Himself to the Gentile? He has revealed Himself and His invisible attributes, fully to all humanity through their individual conscience (Romans.1:19) and His creation (Romans.1:20).

In Christ, God has now revealed Himself fully in visible form (Colossians.1:15-17) so that humanity has even less of an excuse not to worship God, follow Him and be obedient to Him. Whether it is through ignorance they did not glorify Him (Romans.1:21); through foolish wisdom (Romans.1:22) or self-indulgence (Romans.1:25); God allowed man free will and gave them over to their desires (Romans.1:26, 28). This is viewed in non-heterosexual practices (Romans.1:26-27) being viewed as an abasement and denial of God. It is noticeable also through idolatrous attitudes and actions. Humanity began as creations’ pinnacle but ended up beneath creation when man started worshipping creation instead of the Creator (Romans.1:23).

Gentiles are without excuse (Romans.1:20) and their actions decree their eternal destiny. Having suppressed God, God thereby debased man’s mind to all kinds of wickedness (Romans.1:28) so that humankinds temporal pleasure may be appeased, and of which, are still in evidence today.

4b. The Jew is in need

Jews had the Law and boasted in it (Romans.2:23). However, possession of the Law was of no consequence to God and Paul claims it is practicing the Law, which matters. Their religion was an external action but not an internal attitude. Jesus’ regular denunciation of the Pharisees reflects this. Adultery, robbery and idolatry (Romans.2:21) were perfectly possible for a Jew to commit secretly according to the Sermon on the Mount.

Instead of being God’s light to the nations, Jews were dishonouring God (Romans.2:24; Isaiah.52:5). Packer in his book “Knowing God” reflects: “The Law cannot save us, for its only effect is to stimulate sin and shows us how far short we fall from God’s righteousness.”

If not the Law, then surely through circumcision a Jew will be declared righteous! After all, the circumcision is the mark of God’s covenant with Israel (Genesis.17).

Again, Paul says no. Circumcision avails nothing if the Law is not kept (Romans.2:25). An uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law is more acceptable to God than a circumcised Jew who breaks the Law. A Jew is one who inwardly experiences God, not one who exhibits external worship alone (Romans.2:28-29).

Paul continues. All humanity has rebelled against God, both Jew and Gentile. Paul cites Old Testament verses to back his claims that all men are unrighteous before God’s wrath (Romans.3:10-18). There are no excuses. Just like the excuses we come up for when caught speeding in our cars.

5. Salvation for all

5a. Revealed for all who believe by faith

All people are under God’s wrath and are therefore condemned. This wrath, Carson writes is brough forth by universal human wickedness”. We are in need both of rescue and to be justified before God. Paul, continuing with the adversative “But now” (Romans.3:21), explains that God has also provided us with a righteousness that is available immediately so that we may be saved from His wrath. The Law as we have seen condemns any who do not keep it. Yet combined with the Prophets, the Law bears witness to this righteousness. How do we achieve this justification? Faith, succinctly described by JI Packer in “Knowing God”, reminds us, “is a self-abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus.” By exhibiting faith in Jesus, as it is due to him, we have been declared righteous and have a legal status of being justified, if we choose it. Can we earn it? We have seen how both Gentile and Jew have failed in trying to achieve salvation (Romans.3:23). Nevertheless, we need to believe in order to receive the righteousness we have asked for. This grace (Romans.3:24) declares believers “righteous at the beginning of their course, not at the end of it”. This gift, which is free, enables believers to be justified through the act of redemption (Romans.3:24).

 

5b. God’s Wrath Propitiated through Redemption.

Redemption implies ransom. It is the purchase of a slave, simply to set that slave free. It involves a ransom payment. God’s grace pays God’s justice on our behalf so that righteousness can be declared. God’s grace is the origin of our justification. This redemption, results from God the Father presenting Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to appease His wrath. Our redemption involved the death of Jesus as our payment. God’s righteous wrath now averted and appeased through this act of propitiation, means we are therefore liberated as a demonstration of His righteousness (Romans.3:25-26). All humanity are slaves or prisoners to sin (Romans.3:9), and it is from this slavery the Gospel declares we have been delivered. The full consequences of this redemption will not be experienced until we have overcome and persevered to gain our eternal inheritance (Romans.8:23-25).

 

Conclusion

Is there any difference today? People are still blasé and ignorant of God, having suppressed the truth. People still declare that the existance of God cannot be proven by rational science and advanced knowledge. People are still both hypercritical of others and therefore hypocrites. It is to this world, we are to apply our theology. This gospel of salvation, which justifies us in order to declare us righteous, thus sparing us from God’s condemnatory wrath, is the one we are to use to spread the good news, that God’s righteousness is free by faith, to all who humble themselves, admit their guilt and ‘lost-ness’ and ask God for forgiveness.

For those who would already call themselves a Christian, you are to tell others about this salvation and you are to serve Him, where ever you are and where ever you go! Jesus is the one you are following and its on His terms alone that you are His disciple. If you view Him as a superhero, somebody who you call upon only when you need something or even as your boyfriend, then beware: Jesus will not be mocked – He wants all aspects of your life to be submitted to Him!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who defied Hitler, wrote these words “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.” Want to be intimate with Jesus Christ? Worship him alone and exhibit your faith to all you come into contact with! Too often Christians and churches side with the rights of the powerful and elite, while forgetting the poor, oppressed and marginalised. Too often Christians and churches neglect to feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed and help the poor. There are enough Christians and churches in the UK to make significant positive change to their local communities. Too often Christians sit around on their backsides discussing good theology while in that same community people die of loneliness & neglect.

You say you have faith in Jesus Christ and are dedicated to Him! Good! Then show it and this community will be transformed to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ! Go tell somebody this good news of Jesus Christ. Won’t you go tell somebody this very day, this week, this message of salvation? Salvation, as a free gift and available to all who ask, because nobody can earn it or buy it. The price has already been paid – by Jesus Christ alone on a Roman cross two thousand years ago. If you ever hear people say Dave Roberts has died, tell them that is false. Tell them Dave Roberts is now more alive than ever before.

For those who would not yet call themselves Christian, you need to bow your knee before Almighty God. If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now. You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead. It is a partnership between God and yourself. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God. You don’t need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him.

As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him. God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life. His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow. Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus. Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, “to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and has put His mark within you through His Spirit. Come and talk to one of us after our final hymn! Lets pray.

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Four Portraits of Jesus Christ

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Jesus in the Four Gospels

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In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

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Harmony of the Nativity

Harmony of the Gospel accounts

telling the birth of Jesus Christ

Pre-existence of Christ – John 1:1-18 – Natalie
Gabriel visits Mary – Luke 1:26-38 – James
Mary visits Elizabeth – Luke 1:39-56 – Bryony
Angel visits Joseph – Matthew 1:19-24 – Amber
Birth of Jesus Christ – Luke 2:1-7 – Milly
Shepherds visit Jesus – Luke 2:8-20 – Toby
Magi visit Jesus – Matthew 2:1-12 – Sharona

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The Christmas Gift – John 3:16

John 3:16 – The Christmas Gift

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes In Him should not perish but have everlasting life… John 3:16

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Come – Matthew 14v22-33

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Matthew 14v22-33 – Come!

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Telling the same story in his Gospel account, John records the reason why Jesus retreated to spend some time alone and why the disciples were sent into the boat. This reason is that the crowd wanted to crown Jesus as a physical king. Jesus didn’t want this to happen and so withdrew with the disciples went back into the boat. This experience of the disciples in the storm can be an encouragement to us when we go through the storms of life. We all go through storms and troubles. When we find ourselves in these storms, we can rest on 4 assurances about Jesus if we are Christians and following Him.

By faith – He is praying for us

This entire scene is a dramatic picture of the church and the Lord today. God’s people are on the sea, in the midst of a storm. Yet Jesus Christ is in heaven, making intercessions for us – (Romans 8v34). He saw the disciples and knew their troubles (Mk 6v48), just as He knows our troubles and needs now. He feels the burdens and cares we have and knows what we are going through (Hebrews 4v14-16). Jesus was praying for the disciples that their faith would not fail. If you knew Jesus was in the next room, praying for you, would it not give you new courage to endure any troubles you have and follow Him? Of course you would. He is in heaven now, praying for you and me – in our needs, our fears and He is in control.

By faith – He will come to us

Often we feel Jesus has deserted us as we are going through hard times. In the Psalms, David often complained that God was far away and unconcerned. Yet he knew God would ultimately rescue him. Even the apostle Paul got into a situation so difficult he felt “burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” 2 Corinthians 1v8

Jesus always comes to us in the storms. He may not come in the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him most. He waited until the ship was as far away from land as possible, in the darkest hours of the night, so that all human hope was gone. He was testing the disciples’ faith.

Why did Jesus walk on water? To show the disciples that the very thing they feared was merely a walkway for him to come to them.

Why did they not recognize him? They did not recognize him, because they were not looking for Him. Had they been waiting and watching in faith, they would have recognized him immediately. Instead they jumped to conclusions that it was a ‘ghost’. Fear and faith, living together causes doubt, and doubt is double mindedness that blinds our eyes to the Lord.

By faith – He will help us to grow

This was the whole purpose of the storm, to help the disciples grow in their faith. After all, Jesus would one day leave them, and they would face many storms in their ministry. They had to learn to trust Him even though he would not be there with them, and even though it looked like He didn’t care.

Now here comes out bit about Peter. He gets a bit of a raw deal a lot of the time, and is generally criticised for sinking. Lets honour him though for demonstrating his faith – he did walk on water remember. He dared to be different. Anybody can sit in a boat and watch, but not our Peter. He went for it. Why did he sink? Because fear arose, he looked at the stormy weather instead of at Jesus. Jesus asked him after rescuing him, “Why are you in 2 minds? Did I not say, look to me? We must also give peter credit for asking Jesus to save him and perhaps this is what he was thinking of when he later wrote in his letter “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers”. This all helped Peter to grow in the knowledge of the Lord

By faith, He will see us through

Jesus said come, Peter went with him and together they walked to the ship. This must have encouraged the other disciples as well as Peter. When they saw the power of Jesus, they worshipped him. So whatever temporal troubles we have, Jesus will see us through to the end, for His praise and glory.

By faith, Jesus is praying for us. By faith, Jesus will come to us. By faith, Jesus will help us grow in spiritual maturity. By faith, Jesus will see us through difficult times. Conclusion

If you are a Christian already, continue to focus on Him. He cares for you, just as he did for those disciples in the boat. By faith, Jesus is praying for us. By faith, Jesus will come to us. By faith, Jesus will help us grow in spiritual maturity. By faith, Jesus will see us through difficult times.

If you don’t already have faith in Jesus, please consider Him. If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now. You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead. It is a partnership between God and yourself. In other words, it is a dynamic relationship and not a dormant religion. The act of deciding to change course in mid-life, is what is called conversion, or deciding to be a Christian. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God. You don’t need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him. How do you develop this relationship? Sin, or what alienates you from God, controls your rebellion against Him in your attitudes and your activities. God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life. His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow. Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus. Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, “to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

If you want to become a Christian, right now, then please say this prayer after me…

God, I know that I am separated from you. I am truly sorry for all the things I have done against you. Please forgive me as you have promised to do. I acknowledge that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for the things I have done wrong. I now believe in Him and invite Jesus to be my personal Lord and Saviour, so that I can live with Him forever. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer or a prayer like it, and would now call yourself a Christian, welcome into the family. Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and He has put His mark within you through His Spirit. (Ephesians 1:1-13). Please do leave a comment or email me so we can help you with your next steps.

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