Volume 1, Number 22 – April 2022
How We Mark the Resurrection
Bryan Matthew Dockens
With Easter coming up, it is worth discussing that, as a church that rejects “the commandments of men” as “vain worship” (Matthew 15:9), refusing to “add to the word” (Deuteronomy 4:2), we do not celebrate the man-made holiday of Easter. Insomuch as Easter is regarded by many as the annual observance of Christ’s resurrection some may be led to wonder how we mark this glorious event. The answer is simple; we do it God’s way.
We mark the resurrection by preaching Christ’s gospel. The apostle Paul explained that the gospel he preached (1 Corinthians 15:1) has the ability to save (v.2), and that it consists of three essential facts: Christ’s death (v. 3), burial (v. 4), and resurrection (v. 4). So fundamental to the saving gospel is the resurrection of Jesus that preaching and faith are nullified without it (vs. 14, 17).
We mark the resurrection by believing it unto our own salvation. Inspiration sets forth faith in the resurrection as prerequisite to salvation. “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” (Romans 10:9).
We mark the resurrection by partaking of it through baptism. “Baptism,” Scripture dictates, “now saves us,” and that “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). It is written, “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” (Romans 6:4).
We mark the resurrection by righteous living in the hope of heaven. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). Based on sharing in Christ’s resurrection through burial in baptism (2:12), the saved are called on to “put to death” “the old man with his deeds” (3:5, 9), and, instead, “put on the new man” (10). The deeds of the old man include: fornication, uncleanness, evil desire, covetousness, anger, blasphemy, and filthy language (vs. 5, 8). The deeds of the new man include: mercy, kindness, love, humility, forgiveness, peace (12-15).
No Tears in Heaven, but Plenty on Earth
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” – Revelation 21:4.
There’s an old hymn titled “No Tears in Heaven” (Robert S. Arnold, 1935) that, no doubt, is based on this passage. In that hymn, we sing “There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness . . . No tears, in heaven fair, No tears up there, Sorrow and pain will all have flown; No tears in heaven will be known.” If you are like me, you have shed many tears over the course of your life. Whether tears of pain, sadness, anger, fear, or even happiness, crying is a natural human reaction. While looking forward to the hope of no tears in Heaven, it can be easy to forget that it is perfectly normal for us to shed tears while on earth.
David was no stranger to crying. Throughout the Psalms, we find David literally crying out to the Lord in prayer. Consider just a few examples (there are far too many to list them all here):
- Psalm 39:12 – “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears.”
- Psalm 18:6 – “In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.”
- Psalm 34:17-19 – “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
David also cried at the loss of his son, Absalom. It is recorded, “The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). David of, course, is far from the only person we see in the Bible shedding tears of sadness. In Luke 19:41, we see Jesus weeping as he entered Jerusalem before his trial and death, anticipating the destruction of the Temple. Then, of course, there is John 11:35. One of the most well-known verses in the Bible is also the shortest and, I would argue, most powerful verse in the Bible because it exemplifies how sorrow is something we all feel and that grief is a part of life – “Jesus wept.” Even though He knew that in mere moments He would raise Lazarus to life, Jesus still cried over the loss of His friend. Our lives on this Earth, though filled with joy and leisure, are also full of sorrow and pain. Jesus was no stranger to this sorrow.
Jesus knew the will of God the Father (John 1:1) and that Lazarus would be returned to life. He did not weep because He was uncertain of His ability to perform this miracle or because He feared Lazarus would stay dead. Jesus wept because He experienced and understood the same feelings as the people around Him. If Jesus isn’t immune to this feeling, we shouldn’t try convincing ourselves that we are above such displays of emotion either! Despite living a perfect life, standing before a tomb, Jesus cried. For us, Christ’s example should show that it is okay to grieve, to process strong emotions and terrible situations, and to shed tears.
Some Christians suppress their emotions, or mistakenly believe because there are verses which make statements such as, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4), that it is sinful, even wrong, and inappropriate for them to grieve. They fake joy in moments when they should feel upset. Some people do not allow themselves to grieve out of misplaced pride. Jesus being willing to cry demonstrates this misplaced pride is not appropriate. We all look forward to the day when we can walk that street of gold in Heaven (Revelation 21:21), a place of comfort where nothing can cause tears to roll down from our eyes. But, in the meantime, we should not forget that while we live on earth, it’s okay to cry.
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).
Habakkuk is unusual among the prophets in that he openly questioned the working of God. In Habakkuk 1, we find the prophet carrying a heavy burden having to watch his home land be overcome by iniquity and violence. Habakkuk, so distraught by what he witnessed, questioned God by asking, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save” (1:2). The prophet – having long observed the sins and iniquities of the people among whom he lived and being greatly distressed on account of them – frequently and desperately cried out to the Lord asking for Him to put a stop to the chaos, that the people might be brought to a sense of their sins and reform from them. However, Habakkuk concluded that his prayers were not heard. He would soon realize this was not the case at all.
God, in response to Habakkuk’s cries, proclaimed, “Look among the nations and watch – Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you” (1:5). God was going to raise up the Chaldeans and use them as tool for His judgment on the wickedness of Judah. But this decision confused Habakkuk because the Chaldeans were a wicked nation themselves – God even admitted as much by referring to them as “terrible and dreadful” (1:7). The prophet, having realized the irreverence of the people, appealed to God against the evil of his wicked countrymen. But the vengeance would be executed by those who were far worse. Why? Habakkuk asked God this same question – “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” (1:13).
To Habakkuk, God using the Chaldeans, a sinful and godless people, seemed to impugn His majesty. Habakkuk was confused. As result, in verses 12-17, Habakkuk fired question after question at God because he simply did not understand. Ultimately, although he was perplexed by God, initially thinking the Lord was not listening to his prayers at all, then not understanding the answer, Habakkuk provided a response that we all should take lessons from: “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected” (2:1). In other words, Habakkuk, though he did not fully understand God’s actions, was going to be patient, waiting and watching for God’s answer, then accept His correction. Habakkuk was willing to rest his soul on the promises God had given him.
When tossed and perplexed with doubts about the methods of God’s providence, we must beware of temptations to be impatient. When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by His word, His Spirit, and His providence. Then, we must be willing to accept correction if we misinterpret what the Lord says to our case. God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what He will say unto them.
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret – it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:7-9).
Warnings Against Greed and Covetousness
- 1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
- Luke 12:15 – “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
- Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
What is Truth?
Pilate came very close to making a great discovery. Jesus told Pilate that He had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. This prompted Pilate to ask the question: “What is truth?” (Jno. 18:38). Pilate asked the right question to the right person, yet his answer was standing right beside him! Instead of investigating further or believing based on the great works of Jesus, he only passed off the answer by concluding: “I find no guilt in Him.” Eventually, all of us find ourselves in Pilate’s situation, where we must decide about this One Who claims what no other can claim — that He is the Truth.
Throughout history many religious leaders have come and gone. Yet not one has claimed to be “the truth” and then proved it by rising from the dead! Many people down through the centuries of time have found Jesus’ life, His words, and His resurrection to be convincing evidence of His credibility. We must conclude that knowing the truth must begin with a relationship with Christ: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:32).
Have you found the answer to life’s most important question? “What is truth?” If not, consider Jesus’ statement in Jno. 14:6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
“What Do I Still Lack?”
In Matthew 19:16-23, we can read about the rich young ruler who sought Jesus and posed the question “What do I still lack?” (v. 20). This young ruler was seemingly a good moral man, for he had kept the commandments since his youth (v. 20), and he is certainly to be commended for that. How- ever, he should be commended even more extensively for realizing he was missing something that prevented him from obtaining eternal life. Although he was a good moral man, and although he recognized he was missing something, the young ruler did not accept nor respond accordingly to Christ’s answer: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 21-22).
If Christ told us today what we “still lack” that prevents us from obtaining eternal life, what might we say? More importantly, how might we respond? Would we accept Christ’s words and change accordingly, or would we respond the way rich young ruler did? Whatever it is we may be lacking, let us not go away sorrowful, but let us address it, today!
Volume 1, Number 23 – April 2022
Hiding from God
In Genesis 3, after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. The Bible tells us “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Although Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, the Lord called out to them, seeking his sheep who had gone astray. There is no way to hide from the presence of God – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13), yet Adam and Eve still tried to hide. Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony and alignment with God. He gave them dominion and authority over all of His creation. But now, they were nervous and timid. God said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam and Eve knew they lost something of great value. More than just becoming vulnerable, they damaged their relationship with God.
How do we respond when we sin against God? Do we hide, hoping He won’t notice? The wisest choice is to come out of our hiding place, confess our sin, and have our fellowship restored. Human nature has not changed since the days of Adam and Eve. People believe they can hide from God, not fully realizing He is present everywhere and sees all. No one can hide from God – “He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see?” (Psalm 94:9). Yet, Adam and Eve are not the only biblical examples of people attempting to hide from God. Consider some other Old Testament examples of people attempting to hide from God, and consider the applications we can make as we serve Him today.
No matter how hard David tried, no matter what measures he took, David could not hide his sins with Bathsheba from God. After laying with Bathsheba, a married woman, David, demonstrating how he was human just like the rest of us, went with his first instinct: he tried to cover up his sin and shift the blame to someone else.
First, after finding out Bathseba was pregnant, David called in Uriah, a faithful warrior and Bathsheba’s husband, from the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:6). After a few pleasantries and war stories, David told Uriah to go down to his house, assuming he would have marital relations with his wife while he was home, allowing Uriah to think the baby was his own, effectively covering up David’s affair. The one thing David didn’t consider in the plan was Uriah’s sense of honor and loyalty. He would not enjoy the pleasures of home while his fellow soldiers were camping in the battlefield (v.11). In fact, Uriah was so dedicated he “slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house” (v.9). David’s initial cover-up failed.
After the first failed attempt to cover up his sin, David then tried getting Uriah drunk in hopes of having the same outcome as before, but the man’s sense of duty and honor was strong enough to overcome David’s tactics (v.13).
Finally, David became desperate, and like most desperate people, he did something rash: “David wrote a letter to Joab . . . saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.’ So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men . . . and Uriah the Hittite died” (v.14-17). Although he did not know why the king ordered Uriah’s death, Joab obeyed David’s command. It appears the only way Joab could arrange for the death of a seasoned warrior such as Uriah was to use some unwise battle tactics, causing several good men to die with him. Cover-ups are often like that – a lot of innocent people get hurt while we are trying to hide our sins. With Uriah finally out of the equation, David could now make the cover-up complete. As a gesture of supposed nobility, the king took in Bathsheba, now a widow, and made her one of his wives (v.27). David thought the whole incident was behind him. All of his bases were covered, or so he thought. He only overlooked one detail: he could not hide his sins from God.
We often make the same mistake as David – we believe just because we can hide our sins from the world, we somehow can hide them from God. We should realize this is not possible because David himself later realized he could not hide his sins from God by acknowledging, “my sins are not hidden from [Him]” (Psalm 69:5). Instead of trying to hide our sins and essentially hide from God, we should hide ourselves in God, for He will preserve us from trouble and surround us with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).
The Lord told Jonah “go to Ninevah the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was commanded to preach against the wickedness of Nineveh, but he did not follow God’s commands. Instead, he attempted to flee “from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:2-3). When God said Nineveh was wicked, he wasn’t kidding. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the most powerful empire in the world in that day. The Assyrians had a reputation for cruelty that is hard for us to fathom. When their armies captured a city or a country, they would skin people alive, decapitate and mutilate them, rip out their tongues, and make a pyramid of human heads, piercing the chin with a rope and forcing prisoners to live in kennels like dogs.
Ancient records from Assyria boast of this kind of cruelty as a badge of courage and power. Jonah tried putting as much distance as he could between himself and Ninevah either due to fear or because he did not think Ninevah deserved God’s mercy. Jonah certainly underestimated the Lord. If he could find Tarshish, then so could the Lord!
The rest of Jonah 1 deals with how the Lord caused a storm to threaten the ship and Jonah eventually being engulfed by the fish. After the fish swallowed Jonah, he lived within it beneath the waves for three days. People cannot naturally survive such an ordeal. Some say this proves the story is fictitious, but Christians understand it only proves the power and mercy of God. Jonah’s ill-advised attempt to escape from God was doomed to fail. He soon realized God was with him everywhere he went. Even though God had every right to punish Jonah for his disobedience, He sought Jonah and heard his prayers (Jonah 2:2). Jonah’s example helps us realize we should not run from God’s commands. Instead, we should follow the advice found in Proverbs 18:10, which says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
What qualifies as Nineveh for us today? Nineveh is whatever pulls us out of our comfort zone. Nineveh is the place God calls us to where we don’t want to go. Nineveh is the people who have hurt us deeply and God says, “Go and give them my message.” Nineveh is whatever we dis- like that God loves deeply. What do we do when God says, “Go to Nineveh,” and we dislike those people? We have the responsibility to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). We cannot hide from God’s commands.
If we long to experience peace with God, we must run to Him and not away from Him. He is always there and wants to embrace us. Moses said, “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him, Who shelters him all the day long; And he shall dwell between His shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12). The choice is ours: we can run from God or we can run to Him.
Praying for Peace
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
1 Corinthians 14:33
This world is full of dangers. It is full of discomfort, full of suffering, full of heartbreaks, and full of situations that are going to take away our peace of mind and distract us of from our service to God. How do we guard against these anxieties and distractions?
The book of Philippians is a letter that frequently reminds us of the need to pray. Paul, in this letter, warns against various trials Christians will face in our journeys of faith and, as result of these trials, encourages the saints at Philippi, as well as us today, that the best course of action we can take to guard against the anxieties of the world is to pray.
While encouraging the Philippians to not become disheartened while ministering the gospel, Paul proclaimed, “Rejoice for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (1:18-19). When Paul stated these words, he was in a difficult position in life. He realized his time on earth was running out, but instead of growing discouraged by his mortality in the face of death, Paul knew that peace and joy from God would come and comfort him if the Philippians, his fellow saints, would simply pray for him.
Paul also said the following to the Philippians as a means for encouraging them to not deviate from continuing towards the goal of salvation, not being overtaken by the distractions of the world: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Thus, if we want true peace of mind and if we want to guard our hearts and minds against the temptations and all the discouragements this world offers, we must “in everything” go to God in prayer.
If we remain faithful to God and consistently pray and meditate on His Truths, then He will offer us His guard to shield us from temptation and thus lift all worries and anxieties (4:8-9). Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We have been given access to the very throne of God through prayer. Let us always use the power of prayer to guard our hearts and minds against all that the world will throw at us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Repaying a Debt that Cannot be Avoided
“He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors”
I’m sure you have seen it many times. People overcharge to credit cards and do not have the money to pay back what they owe. People often do the very same thing with sin! However, the major difference between our earthly debts and our debt to God is this – whereas we often can avoid repaying our debts on earth, God will require us to repay what we owe Him (2 Cor. 5:10). No one will be able to avoid paying back their debts.
Thankfully, God also has provided us a way to repay our debts, made possible through Christ, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). “Propitiation” means “satisfaction,” as in payment for a debt. Because God is holy, His anger and justice burn against sin. He has sworn that sin will be punished. There must be a satisfactory payment for sin. What is the payment?
Jesus alone could pay the penalty for sin. Only He could offer a sacrifice of sufficient value to atone for the way that we violate the absolute holiness of God. Jesus “appeared once for all . . . to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (Hebrews 9:26-28). Because the sacrifice of Jesus was acceptable and sufficient, God raised Him from the dead and returned Him to His rightful place in highest glory, the place He temporarily left to come to earth and pay the price for OUR sins on the cross (John 17:1-5). But if you have not accepted Jesus in saving faith through faith, confession, repentance, baptism, and obedience as the way to reach Heaven, you still owe the debt for your sins. Thus, you condemned to the most horrendous debtors’ prison – the lake of fire – for all of eternity (Rev. 20:10; 21:8; Matt. 25:41&46; 2 Thess. 1:9). Why not accept the only payment that can keep you out of the lake of fire? Tell Jesus right now that you accept His offer to pay your debt. Tell Him you are sorry for your sins, and ask Him to forgive you. Be baptized to remove the bondage and chains of debt that are sin. Please do it now. And if you have already done this, then ponder the last two verses of the hymn, “At The Cross:”
“Thus might I hide my blushing face while Calvary’s cross appears; dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt my eyes to tears. But drops of tears can never repay the debt of love I owe. Here, Lord, I give myself away; ‘Tis all that I can do”
(Isaac Watts, 1707)