Sunday, 31 December 2017

All Things New. ~ Ganeida

For Christians Hanukkah is about celebrating God's Light in a dark world. This is not, naturally, how our Jewish friends celebrate it.  For them it is primarily about the Maccabees stand @ Modein  & the re-dedication of the Temple, the miracle of the oil, & preserving a pure Jewish culture amongst pagans but these things are only the beginning. For us it is about so much more, for everything in scripture points to Christ & this is true of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication & the Festival of Lights. Just the name alone reminds us of James 1:17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. [NASB]

We have mentioned already that white light is a combination of all the other colours that can only be seen when light is refracted.  This is what happens to cause a rainbow.  Thus the hanukkiah lights break God's promises into their component parts but the reality is that God & His promises are one.  The covenant is the  outworking of a single promise: that man should be redeemed from the fall & restored to his former relationship with God.

I am combining the last 3 covenants because in a sense they belong together because they are the promises of the New & better covenant. [Hebrews 8:6]

The 6th covenant is the covenant of Redemption. 

Matthew 26:18  we read Jesus words ~“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’”

Jesus celebrated the Passover.  It must have had deep significance for Him as He prepared to become our sacrificial lamb.

Now we have celebrated the Passover & understand there is prophetic revelation in this festival also.  From the wrapping of the Afikomen to the seder cups, Passover reveals to us the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember there is the cup of sanctification for we are sanctified through the blood of Jesus; there is the cup of salvation ~ His blood poured out for the salvation of many [Matthew 26:28]; There is the cup of redemption ~ redemption from God's wrath; & there is the cup of the Kingdom.

When we celebrate communion we celebrate the cup of redemption:

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.
At this point everything in History changes. It is the most dramatic event in history for it sets us free from the domination of sin.  It changes our whole destiny for 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 

There are 2 facets to our redemption.  The 1st is the obvious one: we are set free from sin's power over us. John 8:36 tells us So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. If we are set free from something we are also set free for something. Once we are truly set free we are free to love & serve God as He desires to be loved & served, not out of obligation but  because we are the new creation & he has put a new heart in us, for Ezekiel 36:26 promises us: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart

The Holy Spirit is so important to a believer.  Without Him we do not have the New Heart & we do not have that tender, responsive heart that enables us to put down our flesh & operate out of the new heart.  Oh, we can try.  People do all the time.  Every New Year's they make resolutions that they never keep.  Only the Spirit of God has the power to overcome our flesh & allow us to walk in the Spirit as sons of God!  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again.  The old wineskin will not hold the new wine.  This is why you see so many Christians struggling with the sins of the flesh.  They have not been born again. They have believed unto salvation ~ & stopped right there. That is a terrible pity. Not only do they miss out on so much God wishes to bless them with, they stunt their own growth & the growth of the Kingdom of God.  

Consider your church, for example.  How many attend services each week?  Now, how many new believers do you see each week? Each month? Each year? Francis Chan, speaking of his own church, confessed that around 1 000 believers attended services yet they only saw 100 people saved in a year.  He considered this a terrible failure.  He is right.  You would sack employees who were so terribly inefficient! We were not called out of Darkness & given the Holy Spirit so we could skulk in our church buildings week after week!  No!  The Holy Spirit was given that we might be witnesses for Christ. [Acts 1:8] And here's the thing~ You can't do that in your own strength.  You quite simply can't.  Oh, words might come out, but without the Power of the Holy Spirit there is no life, no power to convict & bring change. What's more, all sorts of things will hold you back from sharing Christ: fear of what to say. Fear of what people will think.  Fear of rejection ~ but if you truly believe John 3:16 & you are born again you will have God's own heart to reach the lost & dying of this world.

Which brings me to the 7th covenant; the covenant of Peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. [Isaiah 9:6] In John 14:27 He says: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." I have said it over & over but it is worth saying again; the peace Jesus speaks of is not an absence of conflict.  Rather it is the calm in the midst of the storm, the Jewish idea of Shalom~ wholeness of body, mind & spirit for in Christ all the promises are Yes &  Amen. [2 Corinthians 1:20]

Indeed Jesus foretold that in this world we would have thlipsis [John 16:33] ~ pressure, affliction, distress of mind, trials & distressing circumstances but we were to take courage for He had overcome the world. What's more You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. [1 John 4:4]  What's more He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us & that alone should give us great confidence & great peace. 

When it comes to witnessing Luke 12:11/12 says "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Matthew 10:20 put the same idea this way"For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." Luke 21:15 goes so far as to say: for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

Now I am aware that these verses are referring specifically to a legal defence but I do believe they have a wider application if we know how to listen to the Holy Spirit & I will give you an example from our time in the Park preaching the gospel to everyone on this island.  

Those who know me in *Real Life*, know I am not the bold aggressive sort. In fact I'm quite timid, so preaching in the open where not everyone cares to hear the gospel was more than a little intimidating & I was often quite anxious beforehand. As I like preaching & am not nervous about public speaking, this was something new for me. Sometimes I used notes but not all the time & this particular day I felt led to *freelance*.  

It was a very bright, glarey day & I had dark sunglasses on when I stood to speak.  I always open with prayer so I left my sunnies on.  And I left them on when I was finished praying so I could gather my thoughts in private but I hadn't opened my eyes.  As I waited the Holy Spirit began to scroll the message down my mind ~ exactly as if I was watching a movie & @ exactly the right pace for my speaking voice.  All I had to do was speak what I could see in front of my eyes. Never before nor since have I preached an entire message with my eyes shut!  If I opened them, the message disappeared, so I kept them firmly shut & simply preached exactly as I was shown! So you see, we can have peace, even if we find witnessing difficult, because the Holy Spirit will give us exactly what to say when we need it.

Finally we have the Covenant of the Kingdom.  On earth as it is in heaven.  There will be a new kingdom, & we look forward to that. Meanwhile part of our job here on earth, as ambassadors of Christ, is to exercise kingdom authority in the here & now. As Jesus explained to the pharisees: nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." [Luke 17:21] The KJV puts it  behold, the kingdom of God is within you

Entos, within.  Understand, the kingdom is only within you if Christ is within you. Christ can only be within you because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit.

...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14:17] There is an atmosphere of the kingdom, a kingdom reality that only the truly born again experience.  It is not something that comes & goes.  It has nothing to do with how you feel. It is not dependant upon your circumstances for it is rooted in Christ Himself.

This is what the covenant buys us. So as we light the covenant candles we remember.  From Adam to Revelation, Christ with us. Christ within.  Christ without.  Christ all about. For in Christ all things are made new. Shalom.

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