Aquaman: “You are the bridge between land and sea.”

Arthur: I’m no leader. I’m not a king. I do not work or play well with others, and I can’t let you die trying to turn me into something I’m not.

Mera: You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of different worlds. But that is exactly why you are worthy. You are the bridge between land and sea. I can see that now. The only question is, can you?

Arthur Cook aka Aquaman had major misgivings about whether he could be king of Atlantis. He felt like a fish out of water being neither fully human nor Atlantean. However, Mera saw that his unique background was the exact reason why he could unite these two worlds.

Unlike Arthur, Jesus knew he was the bridge between two worlds – heaven and earth. Jesus, the sinless God-man (isn’t that a cool idea for a new film?), was the only one worthy to come to earth and die on the cross for our sins. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, he formed the bridge from earth to heaven. By believing in Jesus Christ, we cross from death to life. Paul wrote:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Col 1:19-20

When we pass from this earthly realm, we transit to the heavenly realm. All because of Jesus, the God-man, who came to rescue us from our sins. Therefore, we have a message for the world: Jesus is the bridge to God. Jesus’ death provides reconciliation to God and we are his ambassadors of this glorious message. Again Paul writes with palpable excitement:

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

2 Cor 5:19-21

We have a message of reconciliation to tell the world. There is hope in Jesus Christ! In the recent Celebration of Hope event, this wonderful message of Jesus was shared through testimonies, songs and messages. Keep on appealing to people to come back to God. We are ambassadors sent by the King. While Arthur took his rightful place as king, Jesus is the King of Kings. He conquered sin, death and Satan. By believing in him, we receive the victorious life as we cross the bridge to eternal life.

A Change of Clothing

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Imagine that you are drenched in a thunderstorm and just made it back home. Your’re soaking wet and your clothes are covered in mud. What’s the first thing you’ll do? Would you sit on the sofa in your wet clothes? Would you change your clothes and then head out into the rain again? Of course not. You’ll take a nice warm bath and change into a set of dry clothes.

Though it sounds nonsensical that anyone would not change out of wet clothes before lying down on their bed, that’s what we do sometimes do spiritually. We stay in our sinful states instead of changing out. God has provided a clean set of clothes for us – Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14).

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, rebukes them for continuing to live in sin. They have no reason to live as the Gentiles do. He then suggest three actions to follow in order to live a holy life.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22-24

1. Put Off

Put off your Old Self. The Ephesians were still clothed in their sinful nature. Their old self was being corrupted by deceitful desires of the flesh. Paul advised them to remove the sinful nature as these desires were leading them to sin in anger and bitterness. It fractured the fabric of unity and love among the Christians. Is it possible to remove the old self? Yes! Because Jesus broke the power of sin over our lives, we are able to resist temptations and choose to obey God’s commands. Is there anything in your life that you need to put off? Maybe it’s alcoholism, gambling, lying, obscene language. You can put it off in Jesus’ name! Tell God you’re sorry. It will not be easy but God will provide you a way out (1 Cor 10:13).

2. Put In

After you have put off your old self and your sinful way of life, you need to put in new thoughts and attitudes. Otherwise you will be the same sinner clothed in new clothing. You’ll be a like a beggar who was dressed in royal robes but still living with a poverty mindset. After you remove your wet clothes, you have to take a bath to wash the dirty water away. This involves renewing your mind with the Word of God. That’s what repentance is – “a change of mind”. The Word of God reshapes the lens through which you understand life. Your priorities will become kingdom priorities. Your values will become kingdom values. Have you read and studied God’s word? Do you regularly practice what you have learnt? As you download God’s truth in your mind, the Spirit takes it and reconfigures your whole life system.

3. Put On

The final step is to put on the new self. What is this new self? Paul says that this new self or nature is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. We are all created to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Though we might try to do good deeds and live a good life, our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Only by believing in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection will we be clothed with Jesus’ righteousness. God placed the Holy Spirit within us so that we will be changed daily into His image. This can happen only when we recognise that God clothes us in Jesus’ righteousness. When we put off the wicked deeds, and put in God’s thoughts, then we can put on the new self. Have you accepted Jesus as your righteousness? Are you putting on Jesus daily by choosing to obey His word?

How to Prepare the Way for the Lord

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I wrote a previous post on the ministry lessons of John the Baptist. I would like to expand it by exploring what it means to prepare the way for the Lord. How can we point the way to Jesus and prepare people for Jesus’ second coming? We shall refer to Zechariah’s prophecy shortly after John’s birth.

And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.

Luke 1:76-79

1. How to Find Salvation

To prepare the way for the Lord is this: Tell people how to find salvation. That’s our key message. That’s our first priority. We are not to tell people how to find money, a life partner or a career. We need to tell people how to find salvation. Man’s greatest need is for a Saviour. Do you believe that? We do people an injustice when we talk about everything else except the Gospel!

2. Through Forgiveness of Sins

The text explains that salvation only comes “through forgiveness of sins”. The salvation plan is simple: Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead. Jesus shed his blood because without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22). In Old Testament times, pure animals were killed and sacrificed to forgive sins temporarily. But by believing in Jesus, our sins will be completely forgiven. That is the message we are to tell others to prepare the way for the Lord. He will be coming a second time to judge the world. Will people be ready for it?

3. Because of God’s Mercy

Why does God provide such a wonderful gift of salvation for us? Verse 78 says it is because of “God’s tender mercies.” Do you know the difference between grace and mercy? Grace is giving us something we don’t deserve. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve. I’ll tell you what we deserve: Death! All of us are rotten sinners who are on a one-way ticket to hell. We are on death-row with no way out.

But God’s mercy extends to us. He sent Jesus, who suffered and died in our place so that we may be pardoned from death. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says soc clearly:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

God made the way for us if we are willing to accept his free gift of salvation.

4. To Bring Light, Life and Peace

Verse 79 mentions two amazing effects of salvation: 1) God gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, 2) God guide us to the path of peace.

God not only brings us out of darkness and death, He guides us to peace. Salvation is not just a get-out-of-hell ticket. It’s about receiving God’s peace right now. We aren’t made to scrap through life but to live victoriously in Jesus Christ. Our lives are a testimony to others that Jesus has changed us inside out supernaturally. May we not only tell others that salvation is found in Jesus, but also speak with new lives in Jesus.

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!

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Shortly after Jesus’ ascension and the fiery flames of Pentecost descended, came a miraculous healing. It tells of Peter and John healing a man who was crippled from birth (Acts 3:1-10). Furthermore, this man was over 40-years-old, indicating that the healing was not due to any residing muscular strength. This man didn’t walk an inch for more than 40 years! After this miracle, Peter explained how the healing took place and our proper response to any healing.

1. The source of healing is not from human power or godliness (3:12). All power for healing comes from the Holy Spirit. I dislike healing services that market the healer’s face and name on a banner, as if he was responsible for the healing. No human has the ability to heal.  Pride in our spiritual gifts leads us down a steep and slippery slope. Neither is godliness, according to Peter. This is interesting point isn’t it? I’ve always thought that being super-godly will enable my prayers to be more efficacious. In some sense, it is true, but it could make us depend on our human effort to stay pure. We become ego-centric rather than God-centric. We need to separate the spiritual gifts from a person’s character. Just because someone is a gifted healer is no indication that his character is godly. But that’s no excuse for living a shoddy life.

2. It is by Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that heals (3:16). In contrast to depending on ourselves, healing can only come from Jesus’ name. Why is Jesus’ name so powerful? Peter explains that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, God glorified him (3:13-15). God raised Jesus to the highest place. Jesus’ name is the name above all names. When we pray for healing, we need to use Jesus’ name. It is not a magic formula like Abracadabra! Jesus is not a genie at your bidding. Jesus is a name that is infused with power and shakes up every molecule of the universe. Not only is his name responsible for healing, but faith also. Peter says that this faith comes through Jesus’ name. The Bible says, faith comes by hearing. I’m not sure if the crippled man expected to be healed but at the moment that Jesus’ name was spoken, faith entered the man’s spirit. He believed that Jesus could heal his crippled legs. And instantly, his muscles grew until he had strength to walk. We need to believe that Jesus still heals today. If we don’t believe we won’t even bother praying for healing.

How can we respond to healing? There are two possibilities.

1. Praise God. The man healed entered the temple praising God (3:8). The people watching also praised God (3:9-10). Thank God when you witness healing. Thank God when you are healed. It’s easy to walk away ungrateful just like nine lepers did to Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). We have to be grateful for his abundant grace. Notice that the crippled man entered the “temple courts” after his healing. After your healing, allow testimonies to be given to the congregation in church. Strengthen one another’s faith that God has displayed his mercy and grace. All healing must lead to praising God. No glory must go to the person who prayed for healing.

2. Repent and turn to God. Healing also can lead to salvation of others. Some onlookers didn’t believe in Jesus yet. Peter urged them to repent and turn to God so that their sins will be wiped out (3:19-20). When we turn to God, “times of refreshing” from the Lord are promised to us.  We must look beyond the miracle of healing to the giver, Jesus. Peter laid out very clearly that Jesus was crucified for our sins. He died a horrible cruel death in our place on the cross. By his stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

I could even argue that the greatest healing is our relationship with God. Jesus healed the rift that sin tore apart. We are all like the crippled man, crippled by our sins. We can’t walk. We can’t worship. We are helpless. Only Jesus can save us from our current predicament. If you have not trusted Jesus as your Saviour, would you accept his free gift of salvation to you?

 

The Christian Tourist (A Parable)

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Charlie died and went to heaven. When he reached the pearly gates, St. Peter was standing at the entrance with a large book. He said, “Please wait while I check your name Charlie.”

Charlie knew this was the book of life. He knew his name was inside. Peter frowned and shrugged. “I’m sorry your name is not inside.”

Charlie gasped in horror. “There must be a mistake. I have a church membership for the last forty years! I served on the board of elders and went on many mission trips.”

Peter rubbed his beard and flipped through the huge book again. He sighed. “Your name isn’t here. Are you a citizen of the kingdom of God?”

Now Charlie was furious. He stamped his foot angrily and said, “I demand to see your manager.”

“My manager?” Peter asked. “You mean King Jesus? Are you sure?”

“Yes. I pray to him everyday. He knows me.”

Peter whispered to an towering angel beside him and a few seconds later, the pearly gate opened. A bright light caused Charlie to cringe in fear and trembling. A glowing figure appeared and in a thunderous voice said, “You have been a tourist in my kingdom, not a citizen.”

Charlie was still cowering in  fear, his strength all gone in the awesome presence of Jesus. He mumbled softly, “A tourist?”

“A tourist looks only to be entertained. He does not want to leave his old country to become a citizen of my kingdom. He wants to enjoy my gifts but retain his life in the old country. Every Sunday you come to church, but the rest of the week, you forgot me.”

“The old country? What country?” Charlie asked, shading his eyes from the glory.

“You remain a citizen of the kingdom of hell. You were merely a tourist in my lands. Though you claim to know me, I never knew you. Take him away!” Jesus commanded the angels to bring him away where there was everlasting torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Trouble will not rise up a second time.”

Nahum 1:9
What do you plot against the LORD?  He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.

In the book of Nahum, God promises Israel to destroy their enemy. Israel’s brutal treatment by the Assyrians of Nineveh has not gone unnoticed. God will repay and wipe out Nineveh with a flood.

God assures them that the devastation is “complete” and “trouble will not rise up a second time.” I love that phrase – Trouble will not rise up a second time. Though the Assyrians troubled Israel the first time, there will not be a second time. Why? Because it will be completely destroyed. Not a remnant will be left to cause anymore problems.

How does this help us today? We as Christians have been enslaved by Satan and sin. After Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, we have been released from the devil’s grasp. The author of Hebrews declares:

Hebrews 2:14-15

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Jesus has destroyed the devil. This doesn’t mean that the devil is annihilated but that his hold over us is gone. There are two more effects: 1) We are no longer slaves to sin, 2) We need not fear death. Why not? Because Jesus intercedes for us as our great high priest. A few verses later, we read:

Hebrews 2:17

Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Propitiation is a technical term to mean that Jesus makes peace with God for us through his sacrifice. God’s wrath has been appeased because of what Jesus did and continues to do for us in heaven. As Israel has been delivered from the hands of Nineveh, believers have been delivered from the hands of the devil! The same promise remains as it did hundreds of centuries before: Trouble will not rise up a second time.

God has promised that the devil will not be able to cause problems for us a second time. In popular lingo, the devil ain’t got nothin’ on you! The only way that the devil can touch you is if you reject God’s protection and Jesus’ work. I believe that you are saved only if you choose to remain in Christ! Once you step out from God’s circle, you are fodder for the devil. Yet, if you remain in Christ’s atoning work and aim to live a godly life, trouble will not rise up as second time. What’s your decision today?

Jesus, Barabbas and You

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Luke 23:18-19
But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

The Jewish crowd a week ago was welcoming Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Now they were condeming Jesus to death by crucifixion.

Pilate, knowing their Passover customs, asked them if they would like to set Jesus free. The crowd got angrier and insisted on freeing Barabbas, a condemned criminal instead.

Luke 23:25
He (Pilate) released the man (Barabbas) who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Can you imagine that? The Jews freed a murderer and executed an innocent man. The contrast in character of these two men is so extreme, you’d think that they would make the right decision easily. I wonder how Barabbas felt, knowing that he was replaced on death row by a good man. Jesus took his place and was crucified on a cross between two thieves.

I’m not sure if Barabbas felt a certain relief of escaping death, or a thankfulness to Jesus. Maybe he was remorseful. We won’t ever know because the Bible is silent on that. How would you feel if you were Barabbas?

Do you know something? We are all like Barabbas.

We are all sinners, condemned to die. The Bible says that our sinful lives will lead us to die in hell for eternity. There is no escape, no hope. No amount of good works can save you.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But something wonderful took place 2000 years ago.

As Jesus took Barabbas’ place on the cross, Jesus took your place on the cross too. He died in your place (exchanged/substituted) so that you can live. He wants to give you eternal life. Jesus died on that cruel cross but on the third day, rose from the dead. He had conquered sin and death!

Do you believe that? That is the best news ever heard! God dying for wretched man like you and me. Why?

Brcause God loves you and wants you to be with him forever.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

All you need to do to receive eternal life is as simple as ABC.

Admit that you are a sinner and need forgiveness.
Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave to bring you to God.
Confess, through prayer, that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and commit to live for Him the rest of your life.

Plese pray this prayer to accept Jesus.

Dear Lord Jesus,
I know I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God, so help me to quit disobeying You and to start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life, and make yourself real to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Elements of Salvation: Person and Grace

In my previous post, I mentioned that salvation has 3 elements.

  1. Salvation is always by blood
  2. Salvation is always through a person
  3. Salvation is always by grace

I talked about salvation is always by blood. Now I shall cover the last two.

Salvation is always through a person.

Jonah 2:9

I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’

Salvation only comes from the Lord and no one else. It cannot come from:

  • Education
  • Church membership
  • Baptism
  • Good works
  • Keeping the law
  • Sincerity

As Jesus said clearly,

John 14:6

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Salvation is found only in Jesus. If there was any other way for man to be saved, Jesus would have died for nothing.

The third point about salvation is that:

Salvation is always by grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

In this verse, Paul contrasted grace and works. The opposite of grace is works. What is the difference? Grace is undeserved and free while works is deserved and a result of our self-effort.

Man always believes that he is capable of determining his destiny and able to save themselves. That religion is a crutch for the weak. Unfortunately, the Bible says otherwise. Man cannot reach God through his works. We are sinful and can do nothing good. God desires perfection from us. And perfection can only be found in Jesus’ work on the cross.

Jesus has finished the work. All we need is to believe in the finished work. That’s the only work you can do – believe. You say it sounds too good to be true! Indeed it is. That’s what grace is all about. Jesus became a man so that He could die for your sins. Not because we deserve to be saved but because He loves you and wants a relationship with you.

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

No other bargain in the world can compare to what God has offered us. Jesus offers to take away your sins so that you can receive His righteousness for free. Have you accepted this free gift?

Elements of Salvation: Blood

In God’s marvelous plan, salvation always includes 3 elements. They are:

  1. Salvation is always by blood
  2. Salvation is always through a person
  3. Salvation is always by grace

These three elements occurred throughout the Old and New Testament and still applies to us all today. In this post, I will cover the first element.

Salvation is always by blood.

Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

There are three aspects about the blood that forgives our sin.

  • Blood must be shed. That is why Jesus had to shed his blood on the cruel wooden cross. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Remember, in the very beginning, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden? They immediately hid and sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Fig leaves obviously was not enough to forgive them of their sin. Only the shedding of blood can. That is exactly why, God sought them out and clothed them in an animal’s skin. Have you ever wondered who got the animal skins? It is no coincidence that God Himself got His hands dirty by killing an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. Finally, God gave His own blood at Calvary so that we can be clothed in the Lamb’s righteousness.
  • Blood must be innocent. In the Old Testament law, only unblemished animals may be offered to God as a sin offering. You see, the unblemished animal represented sinless Jesus. Jesus was the only sinless man who ever lived. The unblemished Lamb of God was the only one able to take away the sins of the world. Jesus exchanged His innocence for our guilt so that we could be forgiven of our guilt to become innocent.
  • Blood must be applied. Just knowing that Jesus died for your sins is not enough. You have to apply His blood on your life to be saved. In the Old Testament account of the Passover, Moses instructed the Israelites to apply the blood of a lamb on the door posts of their house. By doing that, the Angel of Death would “pass over” their house when he saw the blood and would not kill their first-born. Those houses without the blood applied would get a visit by the Angel of Death. Likewise, the effect of the blood does not come until we apply it to our lives! We have to accept Jesus as our Saviour, trusting in His precious blood that can wash away our sins.

Go to Part 2 – Elements in Salvation: Person and Grace

The Divine Exchange – Derek Prince

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Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.


Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.

Jesus was wounded that we might be healed.

Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.

Jesus died our death that we might receive His life.

Jesus endured our poverty that we might share His abundance.

Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory.

Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

Jesus was made a curse that we might enter into the blessing.

Claim these precious promises and thank God for saving us wretched creatures! It was all because of His grace and not because of our goodness that He saved us.