When God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, it made a big difference. I was thrilled when I began to understand that God had needed to keep the big difference a secret until after Jesus ascended into heaven. Only then could it begin to be revealed to Paul and others “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God”. Where do we read about these things that had been hidden in God but are now revealed? Read the Church Epistles – Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians. Paul penned these. But where did he get the information? Paul declares, “By the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Talk about a “must read” section of the Bible! Please give “His Love Still Reaches Out” a sing-along listen, then let’s talk about the part of the Bible given in the months and years after Jesus said, “It is finished”. That’s the part of the Bible our song comes from.
“But” – what a word!
“But God” have been called “the greatest two words in the Bible”. For example, Ephesians says in times past we all “were dead in trespasses and sins … by nature the children of wrath …”
who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us … has quickened us together with Christ and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Nothing we could do could take us from death to life — BUT GOD! How powerful and loving for God to change us from our “old” dead selves to our “new” alive selves. That is a big change, resulting from a big God.
To make this change live bigger for you, try this experiment. It might take an hour, but it will be well worth it. Give the book of Judges a quick read. Then read Ephesians. Do you feel a difference between these? A different attitude? A different relationship between people and the Lord? A different amount of hope and optimism?
Both of these are God’s Word. Why the difference?
Jesus Christ made the difference. He brought a new kind of life. If the people in Judges could have had this life, then Jesus Christ would not have needed to suffer at Calvary, die, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.
If Jesus had not done all that, the book of Judges might be our story, too.
But Jesus (two more greatest words!) DID do all that, and now we have the book of Ephesians to help us write our story.
We can be so THANKFUL!
Three more Bible words
I’m thankful someone pointed out three words in the Bible that drip with irony. Read them and laugh, read and weep, read and say, “Been there, done that.”
We join Peter in Acts 10. We know by this time Peter is a born-again, spirit-filled Christian. He knew the Lord. The Lord and Peter had walked on water together.
But this record lets us know that even people who have walked on water with the Lord still need to be open to learning. I find that encouraging!
Peter is up on the rooftop patio praying when the Lord gives him a vision. He is shown “all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.” Peter hears a voice that says, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”
Kill and eat?!? Peter was raised in the Jewish religion, and knew better than eating anything he saw in that vision.
Then, the three amazing, ironic words:
“Not so, Lord …”
We’ve already looked at “but God” and “but Jesus”. Now we find a “but Peter”. Once again the Bible records one of our best big brothers in Christ laboring at learning how to walk with the Lord. Here Peter put “Lord” — one who rules over us in all things — in the same sentence as “not so”.
Peter’s answer to the Lord’s instruction was, “Not so, Lord.”
Jesus changed things for Peter. Jesus was still changing things for Peter. Peter had been schooled in the law. He was taught rules that had stood for centuries on how to live righteously. His religious training had been so important to him that even one he called “Lord” had to give the same instruction three times.
But Peter “got it” and “used it” later in Acts 10 as he had the privilege to teach Cornelius and company about Jesus, and see them get saved like Peter had. That was a big leap for Peter, but he made it. Read his account in Acts 11 and read 1 & 2 Peter. Peter made the leap toward knowing and living the BIG changes God wrought in Christ when He raised Jesus from the dead.
If it takes you and me a little while to embrace “Ephesians” when all we knew was “Judges”, so be it. It is time well spent. What could be more important in this life than to get born again — and start learning what our new life in Christ does — and does NOT — require of us?
It is interesting that Judges is twenty-one chapters long. Ephesians is only six chapters. I’ll use that difference in size to illustrate an idea. Jesus accomplished so much that the instructions to live righteously in Christ are briefer and brighter than all the instructions required to live righteously under the law. Life in Christ is so much brighter than life under the law. What glad tidings of good things Jesus brings!
We can be so THANKFUL!
His Love Still Reaches Out
This hymn may be new to you. It certainly was new to me. It was published in 1902 and appeared in just a small number of hymnals under the title “No Condemnation, No Separation”. I took the liberty of renaming it “His Love Still Reaches Out” — words repeated in the refrain, and a name which seems to be a better fit for such a happy song. I added the subtitle “Romans 8” because some ideas from that chapter show up in this song. This is a “Church Epistle” teaching song — a good companion as we soak up revelation the Lord gave Paul, and Paul wrote for the Church in books we call Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians. These Church Epistles work as a unit that serve the Body of Christ well as a door to understanding how we are now to live in Christ Jesus — and for understanding how other parts of the Bible fit in this new life — or were ended — because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection REALLY made a difference!
God bless you lots!
LYRICS: His Love Still Reaches Out
Text: Jennie Evelyn Hussey (1902)
Tune: J. Lincoln Hall
1 Who shall ever separate us from the wondrous love of Christ?
Neither persecution, famine, nor distress;
Principalities nor powers, neither angels from on high
E’er shall cause that love to weaken or grow less.
Neither height nor depth can sever from that love so strong and pure,
For He promised ne’er to leave us nor forsake;
So we’ll trust in Him forever, for the Word of God is sure
Till at last in his own likeness we awake.
There is now no condemnation; for He took our sins away,
And He nailed them to His cross on Calvary.
There can be no separation; for “He’s just the same today,”
And His love still reaches out to you and me.
2 Who is he that shall condemn us, when our Lord for us has died?
And He said, “I’ll not condemn you; sin no more.”
For the love of God is broader than all other love beside,
And our sins by Jesus’ blood are covered o’er.
He has promised to forget them, and remove them far away—
All the heavy load of guilt and sin and shame.
And our ransom has been purchased; freedom’s ours this very day,
Signed and sealed and given us in Jesus’ name.
3 Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ, our Lord?
Neither perils on the sea or on the land;
Not imprisonment nor fasting, nor the swift, relentless sword;
Never foe disturb, and never traitor stand.
When His enemies are conquered and the victory is won,
When the hosts of sin at last are put to flight,
We’ll be with our gathered loved ones at the setting of the sun,
In the land of everlasting love and light.
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