Monthly Archives: April 2021

Children of the Covenants

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Christian is a citizen of a cosmic kingdom. Our citizenship is in heaven. While we currently live in the physical world, our true home is in a very different perfect world. Although we have numerous relationships in this world (family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, enemies, and general nuisances), many of those relationships are temporary. We are already in fellowship with those who have gone before us, the “righteous made perfect.” We will live eternally with them and with the Lord. Those “righteous made perfect” constitute a “great cloud of witnesses” who are already celebrating our spiritual victories and encouraging us to stand up when we falter.

The church is a covenant community, united under Jesus. That covenant is eternal. That covenant community received instruction from Jesus that is preserved in the Gospels. The covenant was sealed in His body and blood, given on the cross for our sins. Its promises were secured in Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Ancient Israel was part of a covenant people who received their instructions at Mount Sinai. On that mountain, God showed His power: fire, a loud voice. The message was clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The same God who had rescued the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea had destroyed the Egyptian army in the same sea. You cannot play games with God and hope to get away with it. “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am filled with fear and trembling’” (Hebrews 12:21).

On Calvary, Jesus forged the New Covenant, which showed another aspect of God’s power. Here, Jesus showed His mercy. Yes, God revealed His power that day: darkness covered the land, an earthquake occurred, and the veil of the temple was torn asunder (Matthew 27:45-54; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-47). Onlookers saw the power of God on full display. But, Jesus willingly surrendered His life. The One who created the universe subjected Himself to humanity’s ability to destroy life. Yet, at that moment, He conquered death. A preview of His power to conquer death was seen as several Old Testament saints rose from the tombs and appeared to people around Jerusalem. (Some readers are probably imagining a zombie apocalypse like “Dawn of the Dead,” but I doubt it was anything that morbid: Perhaps a little unnerving, though, especially if they appeared to people who had known them while they were alive.)

By faith in Him, we come to a spiritual Mount Zion, the “heavenly Jerusalem.” “You have come,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. We are not looking forward to our heavenly destiny. It is not something we hope for with uncertainty. Our destination is guaranteed in Christ, as certain as if we are living in it now. Yes, suffering surrounds us, but we can live in victory because the One who dwells in us is more powerful than the forces of hell and evil (1 John 4:4).

Today, those of us who follow Jesus are part of that righteous community. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, “the righteous made perfect.” One day, we will shed our mortal flesh and be fully united with them. This is our goal. Let us take comfort that God, in His power, has given us righteousness and mercy, which can guide our steps as we journey through life to the spiritual Mount Zion where we live forever in His presence, glory, and joy.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Righteousness and Hate Sin

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Hebrews 1:9, English Standard Version).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

When you hate something, do you want to keep it around? Do you wish you had the thing you hate?

I hate COVID-19. My wife and I had mild cases early into the pandemic. We also know people who endured serious cases of the disease. Some spent days or weeks in ICU. Some never made it out of the hospital. I hate this disease and want to see it become a thing of the past.

I also hate cancer. I watched my sister take her final breaths after battling lung cancer. Several years earlier, the same disease spread rapidly through my father’s body, robbing him of vitality. I have known many others who have had different kinds of cancer: Some survived, but too many did not. Others seem to gain victory over the disease only to see it rear its ugliness somewhere else in their bodies.

I will do what I can to avoid catching COVID-19. I will do what I can to prevent cancer. I will take all reasonable actions to avoid having these things in my life. I wish such diseases would just go to hell.

I suspect many of you who are reading this share my contempt for these diseases. You might want to add a few more to the list. In each case, I am sure you would do whatever you can to avoid the thing you hate. If you could eradicate it from the world, you would.

Scripture says Jesus loves righteousness and hates lawlessness, wickedness, and evil. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He did not come to play games. He did not come to snicker at sin or shrug it off as “not a big deal.” He hated sin more than He loved His earthly life. He was willing to die to destroy the works of Satan. He refused to give in to temptation for even a moment:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:13, New American Standard Bible).

Jesus knew temptation. He hated sin. He would not compromise with it for a moment.

What about those of us who call ourselves Christians and claim to follow Jesus? Do we hate sin the same way we hate disease or discomfort? Do we really want nothing to do with it? Do we want to avoid it like the plague that it is?

Or, do we obey God begrudgingly? “I’m not going to do that, because Jesus told me not too,” we say, while we think, “Oh, that was so much fun back in the day! I wish I could still do that!” Do you watch movies or television shows that glorify the sins you used to commit before you came to Christ? Do you laugh and joke about those old sins? Do you daydream about them?

Do we love righteousness and hate wickedness, or do we feign righteousness and crave just a little mischief?

Many of us have taken drastic action to avoid COVID-19 over the past 13 months. Some of my friends still refuse to go to diners or restaurants, even when strict safety precautions are followed. They never leave their house without a mask. They almost obsessively wash and sanitize their hands. They are willing to make what seem like extreme sacrifices to avoid the disease. I know other people who also take what seem like extreme sacrifices to avoid cancer or heart disease. They hate the disease enough to make health their all-consuming passion.

Are we ready to vaccinate ourselves against sin, lawlessness, wickedness, and immorality? Do we love God and His righteousness enough that we will pursue it with passion?

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly devoted unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Line Dividing Good and Evil

“But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all’” (Acts 3:12-16; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One of the great ironies of the Gospel is that Jesus, the Righteous One, was killed by religious people.

It was not harlots, tax collectors, murderers, drug addicts, sex offenders, or child abusers who led the cries urging Pontius Pilate to “Crucify Him!” It was the chief priests, the teachers of the Jewish Scriptures, and other religious leaders. The people who claimed to know and obey God called for the execution of the Son of God.

Jesus brought life and healing. Religious men brought death.

Jesus brought forgiveness and salvation. Religious men demanded condemnation.

Religious leaders of the people of God mocked Jesus while He died. It took a pagan “godless” centurion to declare, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

Religion, ritual, rules, tradition, and dogma do not guarantee righteousness. The men who demanded Jesus’ death were seeking God, but they sought Him on their terms, based on their finite understanding of God’s Word. When they encountered Jesus—the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature—they could not recognize Him.

It is easy for us to condemn the chief priests and Pharisees. However, is it possible that we can be more like them than we are willing to admit? Do we really hold to the righteousness of God, or do our own biases sometimes get in the way? Do we sincerely love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves? Or, do we find more entertaining things to lure us away from God? Do we find excuses why the other person might not count as our neighbor?

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).

Photo from imgur.

Perhaps most of us struggle with the same challenge. We start our day well. Maybe, like me, you find time to pray and read the Bible before starting your workday. Perhaps you find ways to serve God and His people in ministry, either through your church or other avenues. Maybe you spend most of your day “doing the right things.” At some point, though, temptation takes over and you live more like the devil than like a child of God. The line dividing good and evil had cut through your heart.

The great message of the resurrection is that Jesus lived a righteous life and then died for our forgiveness and salvation. Whatever evil exists in your heart and life, Jesus offers forgiveness and cleansing. He rose from the grave to conquer death, the ultimate evil.

Today, let us bring our entire hearts to Him—the good and bad, the righteous and unrighteous, the religious and profane—and welcome His cleansing power. He came to give us life and to shine His light and glory through us:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10).

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hallelujah! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia. (Book of Common Prayer)

Image via pixy.org. Published under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.

The above prayer, named “Christ our Passover” or “Pascha Nostrum,” is based on three New Testament passages (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Romans 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22). The Book of Common Prayer includes it as part of the morning Daily Office of prayer every day during Easter week. One can also pray it on any mornings between Easter and the Feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter; in 2021, it will be May 13). If you are interested in praying the Daily Office, you may familiarize yourself with it by following the daily prayers and readings at the website of the Mission of St. Clare.

Many Christians forget that the church calendar views Easter as an entire season. It begins on Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday in some churches) and ends seven weeks later on Pentecost. Easter is not just one day for bunnies, colored hard-boiled eggs, chocolate, new clothes, bonnets, etc. It is the fulcrum of our faith. The entire Christian life hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its assurance of our future resurrection. So, we can celebrate Easter every day. It does not matter whether it is April 4, May 2 (Eastern Orthodox Easter this year), December 25, or any other day. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Because He has risen, He has triumphed over death, and in Him, we can all be made alive forevermore.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

I would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the importance of Easter and Christ’s resurrection. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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