A GOOD FRIDAY MESSAGE 

It’s midnight in Jamaica, and the clock has stopped at 12:00 am for quite a while; the ‘sun’ darkened  by years of murder most foul, rape,  and corruption in high places. And the culture highjacked by slackness in the dancehall by night, by  slackness at Carnival in the ‘ broad daylight….competing with Good Friday and Easter…..and in recent times,  the behaviour of some of our students and teachers in the classroom.
It’s midnight  also in America,  where truth is under siege, and international diplomacy, seemingly,   has been hijacked by bombs, threats of bombs,  and political intrigue. While locally, a plan to wipe out Obama’s legacy appears to be the ‘trump card’; regardless of how many who benefited get hurt in the rush to fulfill election promises. 
But the stygian like darkness enveloping this proverbial ‘ state of Denmark’, was not ‘ inaugurated ‘ with a ‘ trumpet call’.  For well we remember the culture of death pervading the American soul! With abortion on demand becoming an extension of birth control; and being ‘sanitized’ under the label of ‘ women’s rights’. And Christians who objected to same sex marriage  suffering religious persecution; in the land of the free and home of the brave!

And according to Martin Luther King Jr. in a meditation entitled ‘ He who turns Blackness into Dawn, the most inspiring word that the church may speak is that no midnight long remains……Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and honest. 
When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate…..even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfilment. 

In this context then, that first  Good Friday, over 2000 years ago, was the darkest spiritual midnight we thought mankind ever faced. But then the glorious Dawn of Easter revealed the Truth.
What really then is Truth about  Good Friday ? 

Watch this video when you have the time, to see and hear a very gifted preacher on this issue of Truth! A video sent to me today by one of my sons…married to my daughter….and which viewing inspired the second  part of these reflections.

The truth  about Good Friday  is not that Jesus came and died to rescue us from ‘ sabre rattling ‘ #DonaldTrump, as he drops  the, ” mother of all bombs”, in Afghanistan, threatens North Korea,  which apparently has  nuclear weapons, and ‘locks horns’ with Russia over Syria,  and Assad’s  use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Nor is it the truth  that Jesus came and died to rescue us from the immoral lyrics and videos #Shenseeamusic of VybesKartel #Adi. Or that from his  heir apparent #Alkaline ! 
And Jesus did not come to die and rescue us from murder in Hanover #Hanoverbleeding, and Trelawny and St. James, nor to provide  the new Commissioner of Police, Mr. Quallo, with #Divineintervention.

Nor did he come and die to rescue our women and children from abuse; whether in the home, the classroom, the community or in the Church. Or to be sentenced to a premature death in the womb!

For playing out in each of those worrying and current realities are consequences of Sin;  not the root cause. And The Truth  is a Person. Jesus Christ the Crucified One. A King who has authority over all mankind, revealed Himself, in humility,  fully on the Cross, and is full of compassion and mercy.   He then, God Incarnate, came because :
” We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all“….Isaiah 53:6….part of the OT reading for Good Friday at my Anglican Church.
And:
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God“…Romans. A problem for mankind which provoked the wrath of God, and  separated us from Him, ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

Truth then, is  that Jesus came to ransom us, pay the penalty for Sin, with His suffering and death on Calvary. Declared at the end of the three hours on the Cross …Tetelestai….It is finished. Like so done! For the Word of reveals that ‘ there is no forgiveness without the shedding of Blood’. And the Blood of rams and goats cannot atone for Sin.
  Then at Pentecost, after His Resurrection, sent the Promised Holy Spirit, so that those who believe in Christ, might become Holy. Live eternally! And in Christ, witness to God’s love and mercy to all nations.

Truth is then, that it is only in this context, Christ’s Victory over Sin, that we can fight against the many manifestations and consequences of Sin. Including  the use of chemicals weapons in Syria;  the reality the Taliban  in Afghanistan, ISIS in  Iraq,  nuclear weapons in North Korea, abduction, rape and murder of  girl children in St. James, Jamaica.

 We need to get this Truth, this theology  correct, and teach it in the schools without apology, and without delay; with an opt out proviso  for children of other religions.  Otherwise we will still be talking about changing values and attitudes after 2030; the target date for actualising our vision for a more peaceful and progressive Jamaica. 

As  I once read the profound comment that, ‘ you cannot have Christian values without Christianity’. ‘

Finally, in this context of suffering and death on Good Friday,  the truth is that, in a book which I read for Lent, and used to  post several messages on Facebook, these two quotes  from The  Cross of Christ by Rev John Stott are apropos:
From the Chapter ” Suffering and Glory”;

‘ The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Sensitive spirits – in Jamaica popular blogger, newspaper columnist, comedian, Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecturer and Gynaecologist Dr. Michael Abrahams  – ask if suffering  can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love…….
……God is at work  ( on the  Cross) revealing his glory in and through suffering…..What then is the relationship between Christ’s suffering and ours?  How does the Cross speak to us in our pain?

I want to suggest from Scripture six possible answers to those questions….
Patient Endurance
Mature Holiness 
Suffering Service……The place of suffering in service and of passion is hardly ever taught today. But the greatest single secret of evangelistic and missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die.

It may be a death to popularity  ( by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel)…..
The Hope of Glory
Faith and the book of Job
The Pain of God….I could never myself believe in God, if it were not the Cross…….I have turned to that lonely, twisted tortured figure on the Cross, nails through hands, and feet, back lacerated, limbs  wrenched, brown bleeding…..that is God for me! ….He entered into our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our suffering become more manageable in the light of His. 

So this Good Friday, truth is that Christ invites us to :
O come and mourn with me awhile;

O come ye to the Savior’s side; 

O come, together let us mourn;

Jesus our Lord is crucified…
the first verse of one of the hymns for Good Friday. And spend  quality time….far from the maddening crowd…contemplating the goodness and mercy of God. And then we can all celebrate the coming of the Dawn on Easter, the only effective plan that God has revealed to rescue anyone or nation, after having plumbed the depths of the midnight of Good Friday.
 For contrary to popular ‘ folklore’, promoted by Bill Clinton, ‘ it’s the economy stupid’, until along came ‘ Monica’, there is no Plan B.
Further, the truth is that ‘ coming events cast their shadows’, and thus I was led to post on Facebook this week, several messages, sharing additional details about The Truth; Christ and Him Crucified.

About Victory over Sin, Evil and Death….the ultimate midnight in the life of anyone. 

Facebook One 

AS WE JOURNEY TO GOOD FRIDAY, JOHN STOTT IN #ReadingagoodbookforLent looks at another feature of what happened on Calvary.

And this is how he introduced it;
” It is impossible to read the New Testament without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands out in relief against the rather jejeune religion that passes for Christianity today. There was no defeatism about the early Christians; they spoke rather of victory……Thanks be to God! He gives us the Victory…….In all these things …..we are more than conquerors…..they knew that they owed their victory to the Victory of Christ.
The Conquest of Evil : The Cross of Christ by Rev John Stott.

1. The conquest predicted…..in the Garden of Eden.

2. The conquest begun ….with the life of Jesus. That’s why Satan acting through Herod tried to kill him as a child…..and acting through Peter tried to distract him from going to the Cross.

3. The conquest achieved….And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them on the Cross….Colossians 2.

4. The conquest confirmed and announced.…The Resurrection of Christ.

5. The conquest extended...and so the church goes out on its mission…….in every true conversion there is a turning ‘ from the power of Satan to God’.

6. The conquest consummated…..we look forward to this at the Parousia. The Second Advent of Christ.

Facebook Two 
Entering into Christ’s  Victory.

1. Through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the law…..a surprise that God’s gift to his people, itself ‘ holy and righteous and good’ could become a tyrant that ” enslaved us”.  But that is exactly Paul’s teaching. ‘ Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed’…..the law condemns us and brings us under its ‘ curse’ or judgment. But Christ has redeemed us from the law’s curse by becoming a curse for us. It is in this sense that  ‘ Christ is the end of the law’, and we are no longer ‘ under it’.
It emphatically does not mean that there are now  no moral absolutes except love, as the advocates of the ‘ new morality’ taught in the 1960’s, or that we now have no obligation to obey God’s law……No,  since the tyranny of the law is its curse, it is from this that we are liberated  by Christ, so that we are not ‘under it’, anymore. The law no longer enslaved us by its condemnation.

To be continued #ReadingagoodbookforLent  

The Cross of Christ by Rev John Stott 

Now there is  no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit has set me free,  from the law of  sin and death……Romans 8:1-2…..actually a song.

Entering into Christ’s Victory. 
Facebook Three 

2.  Secondly, through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh.  What Paul  means by the flesh  ( sarx) is our fallen nature or unredeemed humanity, everything that we are by birth, inheritance and upbringing before Christ redeemed us. Because our ‘ flesh’ is our ‘ self’ in Adam, it’s characteristics is self-centeredness. Paul supplies a catalogue of some of its worst and ugliest outworkings, including sexual immorality, idolatry and occult practices  ( misdirected worship), hatred, jealousy, ……

Living this kind of life, we were ‘ enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures’. As Jesus himself said, ‘ everyone who sins is a slave to sin ‘. But the he immediately added : ‘ if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’. And freedom from our fallen nature and its selfishness comes through the cross: ‘ For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin‘. Christ by his Cross had won the Victory over the flesh as well as over the law.
To be continued: #ReadingagoodbookforLent  by Rev John Stott. The Cross of Christ.

If we understand the Theology it becomes easier to understand some of the things we see being played out  nightly on out television screens; and screaming at us in the morning headlines of the print media. As the practices of unredeemed humanity will always ‘ shock us’. And so too the acts of disobedient and unrepentant believers.
Facebook Four 
ENTERING INTO THE VICTORY OF CHRIST.  PARTS 3 & 4. THE CROSS OF CHRIST 

3. Through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the world. If the flesh is the foothold of the devil has within us, the world is the means through which he exerts pressure upon us from without. 

For the ‘ world’ in this context represents godless human society, whose hostility to the church is expressed now by open ridicule and persecution, now by subtle subversion, the infiltration of its values and standards…..’ love of the world and love for  the Father are incompatible- John.

…selfish desires, superficial judgements, and arrogant materialism…..Jesus says ‘ I have overcome the world….totally rejected it’s distorted values…through Jesus we can be overcomers too.

It is when we believe in Jesus that our values change…..No longer conform to the world’s values……but transformed by our renewed mind which grasps  and approves the will of God……through the cross that the world has been crucified to us and we to the world….

Rev John Stott #ReadingagoodbookforLent 

Answer to the suggestion that we ‘ need to change the culture in Jamaica ‘! Only when we believe in Christ….otherwise those who presume to change the culture are perhaps part of the big picture why the culture….of  death….exists.

Facebook Five

4. Through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of death.
The fear of death is practically universal…..But Christ is  able to set free even those who all their lives have been held ‘ in slavery by their fear of death’. ……by his own death he has destroyed ‘ him who holds the power of death – the devil ‘. Hebrews 2:14.
Jesus Christ has not only dethroned the devil but dealt with sin. …..by dealing with sin he  has

dealt with death.  For Sin is the ‘ sting’ of death’….Where O death is your victory….where O death is your sting!…..Thanks be to God, he gives us the Victory our Lord Jesus Christ.

Facebook Six

PRELUDE TO ENTERING  INTO CHRIST’S  VICTORY 
If God has placed all things under Christ’s feet, they must be under ours too, if we are in him……now that the strongman has been disarmed and bound,  the time  is ripe for us to raid his palace and plunder his goods…..
Not quite so simple….for though the devil has been defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat.

Although he has been overthrown, he has not yet been eliminated. In fact he continues to wield great power. This is the reason for the tension  we feel in both our Theology and our experience.

On the one hand we are …seated and reigning with Christ…with even the powers and principalities of evil placed by God his ( and therefore our) feet, on the other hand we are warned that these same spiritual forces have set themselves in opposition to us, so that we have no hope of standing against them unless we are strong in the Lord’s strength and clad in his armour.

Many choose one or the other of these positions, or oscillate instead unsteadily  between them. Some are triumphalists, who see only the Decisive victory of Christ  and overlook the apostolic warnings against tge powers of darkness. Others are defeatist, who see only the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the Victory over him which Christ has already won

The  tension is part of  the Christian dilemma between the ‘ already’, and the ‘ not yet’.

Already the kingdom of God has been inaugurated and is advancing; not yet has it been consummated.

#ReadingagoodbookforLent 

If we know the Theology then it becomes easier to understand world events…..Syria, North Korea, and the USA. And local issues too #TVJAllAngles    decriminalization of marijuana  and the effects on children….  #shinethelightonmurder
Facebook Seven

My ‘ song’ last night was : ” If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed “. John 8:36.  Then as I woke up this morning this came into my mind:
O hush the noise,  ye men of strife,

and hear the angels sing.
I wasn’t quite sure which song the second thought came from so I googled it and found it in my hymn book.
It came upon a midnight clear…….a Christmas hymn!

Then I read the John 8 verse,  in context, and these thoughts came to mind. Thoughts that have been emerging with conviction, as I posted this week about Christ’s Victory our evil.
1. That if we understand the theology, …who God is and how He reveals  Himself…. mysteries  surrounding  the joys and the sorrows of life become much clearer. Never fully so! But no longer completely mysterious and shocking.
2. The main purpose of the devil, according to the narrative in John 8, is to ‘ create noise’, and so distract us from ‘ hearing the angels sing’ …..hearing the Truth, who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, The Crucified One . For he is a liar, and the father of all liars. Think Carnival happening ‘ mysteriously ‘ around the The Most Important Truth telling Time in history, viz, Good Friday and Easter. And all the other ‘ noises’…..counter celebrations by the Jehovahs Witnesses, and the inevitable  questions about the timing and relevance and cultural influences on Easter. Or how Christmas, another Truth telling Time has been almost ‘ gobbled up’ by the merchants  and by those who want us ‘ to have a good time’. And clash at Sting!
3. All that I was led to write this week about The Conquest over Evil, and Entering into Christ’s Victory can be summed up by the words of one of the most profound messages in all of history.

” If the Son shall set you free, you are free indeed…..from the beguiling influence of #Adi and his #Shenseeamusic……from spending your youth ‘ digging out your handmiddle ‘, rolling a spliff and ‘ frying your youthful brain…..from being ‘ tempted to touch’ and impregnating,  or getting pregnant as teenagers, with all the attendant personal and societal challenges……from ‘ making promises ‘ you know you cannot fulfill, from Independence until now, and from setting up and maintaining garrisons, in pursuit of power……from being ‘ farrin’,   minded’, and seeing nothing good about your own country……from #theprosperitygospel which at the root, is one more ‘ noise’ trying to distract us from the Gospel of Christ Crucified…..from bleaching and ‘ the brazillians’, ……from becoming a ‘ shotta’ …..and from abusing women, in so many ways….from Netflix and the constant need to be ‘ entertained’…..from #duttyingupjamaica.
 For only then will we achieve our vision of making Jamaica a place to live, raise a family and do business! If we would only turn to The Living God in and through Christ and Him Crucified…..and be set free. To live. Eternally!

And so Jamaica, so Trump’s USA, so……

Facebook Eight.

Living under the cross: The community of  celebration…..The Cross of Christ by Rev John Stott 
There is no forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, except through the cross of Calvary.  ” Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins”. The religions of paganism scarcely knew the word  The great faiths of the world…….The great faiths of the Buddhist and the Mohamedan give no place either to the need or grace of reconciliation. 

The clearest proof of this is the simplest. It lies in the hymns of Christian worship.

A Buddhist temple never resounds with a cry of praise. Mohammedan worshippers never sing. Their prayers are, at the highest, prayers of submission and of request. They seldom reach the gladder note of Thanksgiving. They are never jubilant with the songs of the forgiven – W. M.  Clow.
By contrast, whenever Christian people come together it is impossible to stop them singing. The Christian community is a community of celebration.

#ReadingagoodbookforLent 

Preparing for Maunday Thursday 

The death of  Jesus not only gives us remission from our sins, it enables us to assimilate the very nature of Jesus until in every detail of our lives  we are like him – Oswald Chambers: The Complete Works #theologyopensdoors

Finally words from an old hymn provides a bookend to what is Truth  on this Good Friday. 
First verse and refrain.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged Cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame.

And I love that old Cross

Where the dearest and best 

For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Refrain 
So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross,

‘Til my trophies at I lay down; I will cling to that old rugged Cross, and someday exchange it for a crown…..

 

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