The Author and Finisher of our Faith 2

Hebrews 12:1-3(NKJV) 1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Yesterday we began to look at this section of scripture. Jesus had to go through the crucifixion to unleash the power of the Resurrection. The crucifixion was the greatest trial that anyone could face. We face our own trials in daily life. If we could learn to walk through them the same way Jesus walked through the crucifixion, it is reasonable to believe that we would also release the power of the resurrection into our circumstances.

There are three things that Jesus did on the cross. I believe if we can apply those things to whatever we may be enduring, we will see a release of power that will raise us up and out of those circumstances. Let’s look at them today.

The first thing it says is, “for the joy that was set before him.” I believe one of the keys to overcoming trials with the power of the resurrection is to focus on the victory not the trial. When we are going through pressure situations it is difficult to look past what we are feeling. However if we do not, we will hinder our faith. Jesus was in the midst of the greatest pain imaginable, and yet he focused on the joy that would come. We must do the same.

There will be an end to the trial. We must believe that and meditate on that. Whatever promise we are standing on tells us that the trial will end. As I focus on the promise and God’s faithfulness the trial does not seem so bad. Paul made a statement in Romans 8 that applies.

Romans 8:18(NKJV) 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Paul is talking about the ultimate victory, heaven, but we see the principle applied. There is a joy coming to you. I do not know how long it will take you to overcome, but I know that the Word of God is true, therefore I know you will have victory in the end. Focus on that.

Second it says that Jesus, “endured the cross.” We are not an “endurance” based society any more. We want things quickly. Everything from food to communication must be instant. However life does not always cooperate in this. Some things do not happen right away. There are some things that are going to have to be endured. They are hard. They are unpleasant, but you cannot run away from them.

Some things are just the attack of the enemy. Sometimes God is leading us through something because he knows that we will need the experience in the future. Usually we are enduring something that we created ourselves by sin or bad decisions. The cause really does not matter. The solution is the same. We must realize that there is joy coming and we endure what must be endured.

If we run away from a trial we will almost always find that we are going to face it again later. If we do not end up facing the same trial later, we will usually find that we have missed something important by not seeing the situation through to the end. God will not let you be overcome.

1 Corinthians 10:13(NKJV) 13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The word “temptation” here can also mean test or trial. Whatever you face will not be more than you can endure. However you must endure it. Hold on to that promise and remember the joy to come. Your victory is inevitable.

Finally Jesus “despised the shame” of the cross. Many people mistake the need to endure with making the trial a badge of honor. “I’m just sufferin’ for Jesus.”, they might say. There are some things we have to go through, but that does not mean we have to like it. The bible tells us to resist the devil and he will then flee from us. (James 4:7) Remember, it is the joy set before you that you focus on. You are fighting for that. The trial is the way to get there.

How do we “despise the shame” of our situation? If it is a sin we need to overcome we need to recognize it for what it is. It is a sin. It is unclean and it is contaminating us. Period. If we see sin as anything else we will not “despise” it enough to get rid of it.

However if it is a trial we must recognize its source. It is the devil. Even if it is something God is leading us through the agent of the trial is the devil and God is leading us to victory over him. God’s purpose is the victory not the trial. If it is something we did that brought about the trial, the power behind the trial is still the devil. Do not get mad at your husband, wife, boss, pastor or God. They are not the problem. Do get mad at and resist the devil.

We need to get aggressive where the enemy is concerned. Take the shield of faith and put it between you and the problem. Take the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, and slash out at the enemy with it. Do not passively accept your circumstance as “just the way it is.” The will of God for me is what God says it is. It is what the bible says it is. I will not accept anything less.

Jesus endured the cross. He faced it head on. He was able to do so because he was focused on the joy that victory would produce. Through it all he would not accept that this was the end. He despised the shame of the cross and the one who brought that shame. He aggressively went after him in the three days between the cross and the resurrection. He won a great victory for all mankind, but that victory was for you and me.

This week apply those same principles to your circumstances and see what God will do. The victory may not come immediately, but it will come. You may have some emotions that are not pleasant for a while, but there is a joy coming. Remember that and you will win.

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The Author and Finisher of our Faith

Hebrews 12:1-3(NKJV) 1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Yesterday we saw that the resurrection is an ongoing source of power in our lives. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead works in us to cause us to walk in what Paul called “newness of life.” The power that raised him and can energize us is the Glory of God. (Rom 6:4)

The next question we need to ask is how do we access that power in our daily lives? Although that is a much large topic than I can cover here, I believe the scripture above can give us some direction. In these verses the writer of Hebrews is describing Jesus going through the crucifixion. If there had been no crucifixion, there would have been no resurrection. You might say that enduring the crucifixion released the power of the resurrection.

Here Jesus is called the “author and finisher of our faith”. This is a very descriptive term. The faith we walk in was defined by Jesus. He set the standard of how this faith works. As the finisher of that faith, he not only shows us how it works, but also proved that it does work. We must look to him if we are going to learn how to be successful in our faith walk.

Thankfully we do not have to go through a physical crucifixion. This section of scripture is specifically talking about overcoming the sins and weights that hold us down in life. Paul calls that “crucifying the flesh.” However crucifixion was the great trial of Jesus’ life. Looking towards that trial in the Garden of Gethsemane is what caused him to sweat drops of blood. In Gethsemane he cried out to God, asking to be released from having to go through it. There is no trial you or I will face that is worse than what Jesus faced.

If we can understand how he successfully faced such a trial, ending in the release of resurrection power we can learn how to do the same. If I can follow the example of Jesus during my times of “crucifixion” I will see the release of the power of resurrection. If that power can raise a man from death, it can surely meet my need.

Let’s look unto Jesus.

First of all we need to look at verse 1. There are a couple of things I want to point out. This verse says we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. Who are these witnesses? In chapter 11 of Hebrews we read about the great hall of fame of faith. This is a list of people who also endured many things but, by faith, gained great victories. It is these people who watch us in our trials today. There is no trial we face that one of them did not overcome.

It is one of the devil’s favorite tactics to make us think that no one has ever been through what we have been through. Even if we don’t think this way it is how we feel. The pressure seems so great that we cannot believe even God could get us through. However there is a great cloud of witness that have gone before us who have already won the same battle. Nothing is new to God.

The writer also points out that we must lay some things aside if we are going to successfully go through our “crucifixion” and release the power of resurrection into our circumstances. We must lay aside the sin that “so easily besets us.” What sin could that be? It is the one we like. You say, “I don’t like sin! I hate it.” Of course you do. You hate all sin accept the ones you like. The bible says there is pleasure in sin for a season. (Heb 11:25) Sin pleases the flesh and there are some that are more of temptation to you than others. We must be willing to lay them aside.

This sounds easy enough, however we all know that there are some things that we are so attached to that we will rationalize the fact that they are sin at all. We will make excuses and delay confronting the problem because we cannot imagine how we could do without it. We must be willing see those things as sin and lay them aside.

I think “lay aside” is an interesting choice of words. To me this does not mean we have to be perfect and never do them again. I think it means we must be willing to see them as sin and “lay aside” any justification for them. We may not be perfect in overcoming them, but if we see them for what they are we are taking the step of laying them aside as acceptable behavior. When we do that we are much more likely to stay away from that behavior.

We also must lay aside the “weight.” What is the difference between a sin and a weight. A sin is just wrong. It goes against some commandment or law of God. A weight may not be, in itself, sinful. It just holds us down. It keeps us from doing what we should do. As such it will make it impossible to endure our “crucifixions” and thereby make it impossible to release our resurrection power.

What are some weights? Do you really need me to tell you? We all know the things that hold us down. They are the things that take so much time and attention that we do not give the proper time and attention to the things of God. They can be anything from recreation to work. Anything that makes it difficult to apply the Word of God in our lives is a weight. Anything that keeps us from the house of God is a weight. Anything that makes it difficult for us to pray or worship is a weight.

These things are not sins. That is part of what makes them dangerous. However Jesus carried no weights to the cross. He took no sin into that battle but ours. We must follow his example. Does this mean you cannot overcome if you do not perfectly set aside weights and sins. No. It does mean that the degree you lay them aside will be the amount of resurrection power you see released. It also means that the less you lay them aside the more difficult it will be to successfully negotiate your “crucifixion.”

There is tremendous power available to us through the “crucifixion to resurrection” process. Jesus showed us the way. Let’s follow him to victory.

The Likeness of His Resurrection

Romans 6:4-5(NKJV)
4Therefore 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. 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

(It seems I forgot to hit the “Post” button yesterday.  My apologies.)

Yesterday we discussed the fact that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. As it is truly put forth in the bible, Christianity cannot exist if Jesus was not raised from the dead. We have accepted a “cultural” Christian religion that can exist with the resurrection as a myth only. The dynamic relationship that is biblical Christianity cannot.

In Romans, Paul gives us a glimpse of something that is essential to understanding the power of the resurrection in our lives. The resurrection as a historical fact happened once. The resurrection as a spiritual force is ongoing. One of the reasons water baptism is foundational to the Christian experience is that it identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We die, we are buried in the waters of baptism and we are raised out of the waters into the power of resurrection.

Baptism is an outward symbol of something that really happens to us in the spirit. Paul tells us that when we are united with Jesus in the likeness of his death, we must also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. What does this mean? How were we united in his death? His resurrection?

There is a biblical truth know as substitution and identification. I do not want to take the time to go into it in depth, but suffice it to say that it means two basic things. What Jesus did he did as a substitute for you and me. If I desire to take advantage of what he did I must identify with it by receiving it as done for me personally. Let us look again at Romans 10.

Romans 10:9-10(NKJV)
9that 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. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This is one of the clearest verses about what you must do to be saved, born again, in the bible. We use it all the time in our witnessing. Why? We use it because it tells the seeker that he must personally confess and personally believe. It is this personal identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that results in the very real spiritual change that occurs at the new birth. (2 Cor 5:17-21)

If this identification produces a change in our spirit what else does it do? In Romans 6 Paul says it enables us to walk in newness of life. We are raised up from our identification with the resurrection in the likeness of his resurrection. We have access to a new type of life. It is a life that is lived from the inside out. If we learn to access this life we can live in the likeness of, or like, his resurrected life.

What does this mean? In verse 6 Paul tells us that Christ was raised from the dead by the “Glory of God.” What is the glory of God. One definition is the power and presence of God in manifestation. What caused the body of Jesus to come alive again. In Col 2:15 Paul tells us that Jesus “disarmed powers and principalities and made an open show of them. Where did he do this? More important, by what power did he do it. All of this was done by a manifestation of the power and presence of God. First in Jesus combat with the “powers and principalities” and ultimately when that glory reanimated his physical body.

It is an interesting thing to think about the blood of Jesus. The human father determines the blood type of a baby. Jesus had no human father. His natural blood type was probably that of Mary, but he had other elements in his blood because he did have a Father. He carried the glory of God in his blood. That was the life that flowed through his veins.

However, when he died that blood flowed out of him to pay for our sins. What was in his veins when he was raised up? We know that he walked through closed doors and appeared out of nowhere. Yet we also know that he could be touched and even ate with his disciples after the resurrection. How is any of this possible.

The bible clearly teaches that Jesus is at the right hand of God today in the same body he walked out of that tomb with. What makes it so different that it can function in both heaven and earth. I believe the answer is in this truth, that Jesus was raised by the Glory of God. I believe the life in his resurrected body is that glory. I believe he no longer has blood feeding his cells and organs. I believe his veins are full of the same glory that raised him. We use the term “glorified body” to describe Jesus after the resurrection and the bodies we will someday receive. What else could that term mean.

What does all this mean to us today? Romans 8 makes it clear that our bodies are not yet fully redeemed. (Romans 8:23) However what about our spirit. What about the New Creation inside us. What power took our dead, separated from God spirit and made it alive? I believe it is the same glory that raised Jesus. Look at this verse.

2 Corinthians 4:6(NKJV)
6For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The same light that shone at creation is the same glory that raised Jesus. That light shone in our hearts when we identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When it did it caused us to come alive in the spirit. It gave us access to the same life that Jesus had after his resurrection. We can walk in that newness of life today.

Our bodies are not yet transformed by that life. They cannot be transformed until all those that God knows will come to him have been saved. The creation is cursed. To stay in the creation and preach to it, our natural bodies must stay cursed. However our spirits are filled with the same glory that raised Jesus from the dead. We can access that glory and bring it to bear in this natural world. That is our responsibility and that is our destiny.

Ask the Lord to help you walk in the likeness of the resurrection of Jesus. Not in some future dispensation. Not in a “new heavens and new earth.” Ask him to help you walk in it today. In this cursed and troubled world. Ask him to help you carry the life that raised Jesus from the dead to the world around you. That is our great commission.

Resurrection!

1 Corinthians 15:12-20(NLT)
12But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

(I have used the New Living Translation today because I think it makes the thoughts of Paul a little easier to identify with.)

Culturally, the western world has its roots in Christianity. There are those who say that parts of the western world are so “enlightened” that they are post Christian, or past any Christian influance. I have traveled quite a bit and what I have seen does not support that conclusion. Even if you accept it, however, that does not change the foundation upon which our cultures are built. That being the case, the story of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is woven into western culture.

This means that “Easter”, the celebration of the Resurrection, is still a major holiday in a large part of the world. For many this has become just another cultural holiday. There is an attempt to replace talk of the Resurrection of Jesus with “bunny’s and eggs.” These are holdovers from the pagan holiday that the celebration of the resurrection replaced in the early years of Christianity. However I find it very interesting that in this modern age, millions of people still hold to the belief in the simple fact that a man was physically raised from the dead two thousand years ago.

For us this is not a mythical story. It is not an allegory. It is the central fact, not only of our religious belief but of our view of history and the world. In the above scripture, Paul clearly states how important this is to bible believing Christians. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is a sham. We are all deceived and there is no heavenly home for us to look forward to. The resurrection is what makes Christianity work. It is just that simple.

We happen to celebrate this event in the spring. There is an inevitable tie in to the rebirth that takes place every year. However there is a difference between resurrection and what happens every spring. I live in the northeast of the United States. In the autumn of the year all of the leaves on our trees turn brightly colored. For a week or two it is spectacular in its beauty. Then the leaves fall from the trees, the grass stops growing and we begin a six month or so season of lifelessness in our vegetation.

About the second week of May all that changes. The grass begins to grow again in April, but the trees still look dead. In a while there are some buds on the trees. Some of the trees will get yellow and then green before the rest, but the bulk of the trees in our area show very little life until the middle of May. One day we will see a little bit of green on the black and grey branches. The next day a little more. Almost before our eyes, in just a day or two the whole landscape is transformed and our grey, black and brown world has become a vibrant, bright green. It is a wonderful time of year. Everything feels fresh and new. It is easy to make the connection to the resurrection.

However there is a major difference. The autumn, winter, spring cycle is a part of the natural order of things. The life never leaves those trees. It is always there, it is just dormant. The warm temperatures and rain wake up the dormant life and the result is the freshness of spring and the warmth of summer.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is completely different. This event was not a natural progression. It was a suspension of the most inviolate of all natural laws. Death is the end of all things. Death is not reversible. It is the ultimate finality and no one can escape it or overcome it. The life in the body of Jesus was not dormant and it was not asleep. There was no life at all. When he was taken down from the cross after the crucifixion he was dead. Completely dead! Dead dead!

Instead of a natural progression within the natural order, the resurrection of Jesus represents a suspension of the natural order. It is not a rebirth of life it is the removal death. It is the transformation of death into life. I am not even sure what that means exactly, but I know it is much more than the leaves returning to the trees in the spring.

To become a Christian, Romans 10:9 tells us we must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is central to true Christianity. When we believe that truth in our hearts and receive through the confession of our mouth the preeminent Lordship of Jesus, we become Christians. Not culturally, but by the same power that raised a dead man to life again. Romans 6 tells us that we become a partaker of the kind of life that raised Jesus from the dead. The bible calls it Eternal life. To be a Christian means that a part of me that was once dead has come alive again.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ changed the rules for those who believe in it. For those of us who believe in Jesus as the resurrected savior and receive him as the Lord of our lives, we can look at the resurrection and say, “If God can raise a man from the dead, than nothing is impossible!” There is no trial or challenge we face that cannot be overcome if God can raise someone from the dead. If necessary even the rules of nature are subject to our God. This is a powerful thought if you can grasp it. However none of this is automatic. We must receive it by faith.

Paul ends his statements by saying if there is no resurrection, then the Christian is the most pitiable person in the world. He believes a lie. His sins are not forgiven. His life of sanctification is worthless. He is simply following a nice philosophy, as good as but no better than many others. However I like verse 20. As you go through your day, meditate on that verse and rejoice in the fact that God did change the rules for us when he raised Jesus from the dead. Happy Resurrection!

“20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”

What’s so Good about Good Friday

John 3:16-17(NKJV)
16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

I have often wondered at the term “good Friday.” The use of ‘good” here is in the sense of holy, but it is still an interesting word to choose for the celebration of one of cruelest deaths ever inflicted on an innocent man.

As we follow the events of the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, there are so many things that are anything but good. He is betrayed by one of his disciples. He is captured like a common criminal. He is lead before a hypocritical council that falsely accuses him of things he did not commit. His disciples follow him but at a distance. The one who swore to die with him betrays him, not once but three times with curses no less.

Finally he is taken before the Roman authority in Jerusalem. Pontius Pilot finds out that Jesus is from Galilee and sends him to Hared to be judged. He suffers the indignity of being mocked in this evil kings thrown room and is sent back to Pilot.

After some examination and questioning of the Jewish authorities Pilot turns to Jesus. He asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus tells Pilot he is, but that his kingdom is not of this world. Pilot asks Jesus if he understands that he can let him go or have him crucified. To this Jesus does something that is inexplicable. He forgives Pilot, telling him that the power is not in his hands but God’s. The ones who sent Jesus to Pilot are the guilty ones.

The city is in an uproar. Pilot does not want to execute Jesus because he finds no guilt in him worthy of Crucifixion. He has him beaten and whipped hoping this will appease the Jews. He brings him before the crowd and cites the Passover custom of letting one prisoner go free to honor the holiday. He asks if they want Jesus, the one called king of the Jews or Barabbas, the rebel and murderer.

The people who only a few days before hailed him as King begin to shout the name of Barabbas. They reject Jesus at the urging of the Jewish leaders. They call out, “Let his blood be on our hands!” Jesus hears the words shouted over and over, “Crucify him. Crucify him.”

Though Pilot washes his hands of the blood of Jesus, he is afraid of the crowd. He does not have enough troops to control them. If he does not do as they wish there may be a riot and many will die. Not the least of which would be his career. He sends Jesus off to be crucified.

Jesus is cruelly treated by the soldiers. Nails are driven into his hands and feet. He is hung between two guilty thieves. He is mocked by his accusers. His mother and some of his followers look on in helpless horror as he hangs in agony before them.

During the course of the day he goes through various stages of suffering. He cries out to God asking why the Father has forsaken him. He is thirsty. He forgives those who have done this to him. In the end he commends his spirit to God.

Since they cannot leave their victims on the cross through the Passover, the Roman soldiers break the legs of the thieves so they will die more quickly. Coming to Jesus they see that he is dead already. They pierce his side with a spear to make sure. Blood and water flow from the where he is pierced. His heart has burst.

Finally his body is taken down and claimed by some of his followers. He is taken to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He is laid there with just a covering over him as it is sundown and they cannot, under Jewish law, prepare his body for burial until after the Passover. Finally “good Friday” is over.

You may wonder why I chose John 3:16-17 as my scripture for today. I chose it because that is what is good about this day. Too often we get so caught up in the affairs of this life that we forget the significance of what we celebrate today. We face real difficulties and they cause us real pain. We face challenges that we cannot get away from. We need God to move to help us.

All of that is true and real. God is concerned about all the things we are going through in life. However we need to occasionally put all of that aside and remember that we are Christians. We have an eternity with God ahead of us. We have this blessing because on a day we call “good” an innocent suffered unspeakably for our eternal guilt.

Whatever challenges or problems you are facing today, just for today, put them on the back burner. Think about what Jesus did for you and me. Think about the suffering he endured. He did it without complaint. He did it without regret.

Look at what Hebrews 12 says.

Hebrews 12:2(NKJV)
2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As I read this I see that Jesus was looking forward through the suffering to a time of Joy. What was the joy that he would feel after the suffering? It was the joy of knowing that we are now free to choose life because of what he did. I think, in light of that fact, even Jesus with all he suffered on that day would call this Friday “good.”

Religion Will Always Oppose the Plan of God

Luke 19:37-40(NKJV)
37Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ £ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

As I have studied the history of the church, one thing comes through very clearly over and over again. Religion and the plan of God for the current day never get along very well. We see that truth played out in the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The one group of people who should have understood who Jesus was complained about his support. That group is the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were called the doctors of the law. They were the most religiously correct group of their day. They had studied the Old Testament scriptures in minute detail. They knew every requirement and every law. They knew what sacrifice went with what sin. They knew the facts of Israel’s history as recorded in the bible. They had studied the prophets and debated their meaning over and over again.

The Pharisees were the elite of the religious establishment. Where the Sadducees were considered more secular in nature and did not even believe in the reality of the world of the spirit, the Pharisees were very proud that they held to the traditions of the patriarchs and believed in a supernatural God and a spiritual after life.

They were supposedly expecting the Messiah. They knew the prophecies better than anyone else. They believed that he would come and lead them to freedom from Roman bondage. However they had a preconceived idea of what he would look like. They also would never accept anything that would diminish their place in Hebrew society.

When this new contender, Jesus, appeared on the scene they could not ignore the miracles and signs he performed. The people seemed to flock to him. His message was one that could not be refuted even though they certainly tried. It was obvious that Jesus would not endorse them as the leaders of the faithful.

On the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem they are outraged at the reception he is getting. No one is crying out for the Pharisees. They are all proclaiming Jesus as a king. The Pharisees could not allow this poor prophet to challenge their position. They were the guardians of the religious faith of Israel. They were responsible to make sure Israel did not go astray. They were losing their place.

“Tell your followers that it is wrong to proclaim these things about you!”, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus. Jesus says something interesting. “If they don’t declare who I am the very rocks will.”.

All that the Pharisees stood for and were entrusted with protecting stood before them and they did not even recognize him. All of Israel’s existence was to bring about this day and the Pharisees can only think of their position and the influence they were losing. What a sad commentary.

I believe we are at the precipice of something wonderful in the church. I believe Jesus has a plan for our day that will surpass anything that has been seen in the world to date. We must be careful. Many of us have stood for the things of the spirit for years. We have cried out for the supernatural when others may have settled for religious routine. Still others have looked to worldly methods to build crowds and influence. We need to make sure we are not Pharisees.

For most of my Christian life I have heard prophetic words based in scriptures like Isaiah 43:19.

Isaiah 43:19(NKJV)
19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.

I have seen many things in my 57 years. I have seen good things in the church. I have yet to see anything that could be considered a “new thing.” We need to keep our hearts open to God so that when that “new thing” appears we will not be like the Pharisees who looked their destiny in the face and did not recognize him.

I do not believe we should just listen to the crowds. The crowds are usually wrong. However in the case of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the crowds were simply echoing the will of God. Jesus statement, “the rocks would cry out”, shows that what was happening before the Pharisees eyes could not be stopped because it was ordained of God.

Help us, Lord, to see with spiritual eyes. Help us to see what you are doing in our day. If it means we must change, help us change. If it means that we must give up some “religious” ideas, help us give them up. We pray with John the Baptist, let us decrees and Jesus increase in our world today. Help us to know what you are doing and we will follow you to the great victory you have for us today.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Luke 19:32-38(NKJV)
32So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” 34And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” 35Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. 36And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. 37Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ £ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

We call this story the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem. The designation does not come from a statement in the bible calling it that. Rather it comes from an understanding of the dominant culture of biblical times. Jesus lived in a world dominated by Rome. Understanding the Roman practice of giving a “triumph” to a successful commander will give us a clear picture of this, seemingly innocent, donkey ride through the streets of Jerusalem.

In Roman days the structure of the army was very different from today. We have a national army that is raised by the government, paid by the government and loyal to the government. The government then picks a commanding officer for that army. If the commander does not please the government he is replaced and the army must accept their new commanding officer. This was not the case in Rome.

The Roman government, whether republic or empire, would first choose a general. This man was not necessarily a good military leader. He might have no military experience at all. What he had to be was rich or connected to those who were. Why? Because the government did not give him an army to lead. It was his “honor” to raise his own army and then go fight the government’s battles.

The general would raise the money to pay thousands of recruits to serve in his legions. Part of the draw for military service was the promise that, in retirement, the soldiers would be given land. For most this was the only way they could ever obtain land. Land ownership in most ancient societies opened the door for all kinds of benefits.

Since the soldiers were dependent upon their general for their pay and their future, they were loyal to him first of all. They fought for their general. They fought for Rome as well, but their primary loyalty was to the general.

In order to protect itself from these mixed loyalties, Rome had a law. No general could march into the city at the head of his army. It was feared that if they did, the army would overthrow the government and install the general, to whom their true loyalty was owed, as the new leader. There was, however an exception to this law.

If a general won a great battle for Rome he could request a “triumph.” If the “triumph” was granted by the government, the general would be allowed to parade his victorious army through the city. The people would cheer and shout their approval for the general. As the general rode through the streets waving at the people and hearing their shouts of approval, there was always a slave who rode behind him, whispering in his ear, “You are only a man.”, over and over. When the parade was over the army had to leave the city immediately. These celebrations were called “Triumphs” or “Triumphal Entries” into the city.

That is exactly what we are seeing in this story from the new testament. Jesus is entering Jerusalem as a triumphant general coming from winning a great battle. He is not on a chariot, but on a donkey. He is not leading a natural army of soldiers, but a supernatural army of believers and, I believe, unseen angels. The crowd is cheering his great victory. They are proclaiming his greatness and even calling him a king.

There is one major difference. Jesus has not yet won the major victory for which this triumph is being held. In the natural he is being celebrated for what the people have heard about signs and wonders being performed in his name. However the real battle will be fought a week from this “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. He will defeat the one who holds mankind captive and set the world free to choose to follow the true God.

You see in the spirit the battle, although not yet fought, was already won. Jesus had already defeated the devil. It just needed to be played out on the stage of history. What a wonderful illustration of our own faith battles today.

We live in days when most of us are fighting battles in some area of life. It may be financial, emotional or physical. Families are under attack as never before. Our culture is trying to push aside the moral and integrity restraints of the bible. If we look only at the natural it can seem we are losing the battle both corporately and individually. However we are not.

In the spirit God has already won the war. Make no mistake. We are on the winning side. If you are facing a personal battle that looks impossible to win, take heart. We have a commander who marched into Jerusalem celebrating his victory before the battle began. In our battle for the soul of our nation and our society I believe that same commander is riding through our streets celebrating the glorious victory that he will inevitably win.

Are you facing a challenge today? If so, why not have your own “triumph?” Why not rejoice in the victory you have not yet seen? It is just as inevitable as the victory that Jesus was going to win over the devil. At the time of his entry into Jerusalem events were unfolding that would cause Jesus to undergo tremendous suffering. Yet he already knew the outcome.

We can know the outcome of our battles. We can read the “book” and find out how it ends for us. Hebrews 13:15 tells us to offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips giving thanks. What makes praise a sacrifice? It is a sacrifice when we offer a shout of victory when the battle has not yet been won. It is a sacrifice of praise when we have a triumph before we win the fight. That is the nature of true faith.

Take a moment and give a triumphant shout to God for the victory that is inevitable in your life if you trust in Jesus and believe the promises in his word.