Friday, April 11, 2014

Signs of the Times. . .In the Christian Life

By Rick Blumenberg / @rickblumenberg
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem astride a donkey that Sunday before his death and resurrection, he entered a city filled with the Passover crowds. This was soon after he raised Lazarus, and the story was known in the city because Jews from Jerusalem were present when Lazarus came out of the tomb.
When you put all the parts together, the huge Passover crowds, the lengthy Roman oppression and the long-held faith in a coming deliverer—God's Messiah, and add the raising of Lazarus you have all the ingredients for a mob.
Jesus knew the mob would be there and he would have no opportunity to speak to the crowd and tell them his real intentions, so he spoke to them with a sign. He Painted a Picture with His Actions
Zechariah prophesied of the Messiah, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, he deliberately gave a sign he was the long-awaited Messiah. The donkey meant He would be a King of Peace. Some wanted a Messianic Warrior to battle Rome. Were this Jesus’ intentions he would ride into town on a stallion war horse, but Jesus rode a donkey and although His voice could not be heard, this sign is recognizable yet today.
He did not come to war against Rome, or to set up an earthly political kingdom. He came to be the King of Peace and to establish a rule of love in the hearts of His people!
There Are Times When Actions Speak Louder Than Words!
Symbols are forceful impressions. Jesus spoke of the “signs of the times”.  This triumphant ride into Jerusalem was a sign of the times.  Never before had Jesus claimed to be the Messiah in this unique way and never since. No one before and no one since has had the right to ride into any city in the world and through this symbolic action call himself the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God.
Jesus knew our need for signs of important life events. As on Palm Sunday, he gave symbols to guide us. These symbols, or ordinances, are the Signs of the times in the Christian's life.
The first Sign of the times in a Christian's life is a testimony that a radical change has come. This change really makes a difference! It changes the outlook, the ambitions, the habits, and the desires. It changes the person so dramatically it is best described as being born all over again. The change is so great we become new people.
This is not turning over a new leaf.  It happens only when we confess our sin, repent, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. At his call, we die to selfishness and come alive to Christ—like a grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, but gives birth to a head of many grains. The first sign of the times in the Christian life is
Baptism—the Sign of a Radical Change
It says the old selfishness is dead and gives evidence to a new kind of life in Christ. Going into the baptism water represents death to sin and burial of the old life. Coming out of the water shows we are raised to new life in Christ.  The sin is left symbolically behind, because it no longer has power over us because the old life of sin has already been left behind in our salvation. But the change must be real for the symbol to be meaningful!
If Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem that day without actually being the Messiah, he would have faded from the pages of history as an obscure and unremembered fool. The symbolic act during the triumphant ride into Jerusalem has meaning today, because,
Jesus is who He claimed to be, the King of Peace, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
In the same way, the symbolic act of Baptism is meaningless and empty unless it is evidence of a real change from the selfishness of sin--to the righteousness of Christ!
Another sign in the Christian's Life is
Communion, or the Lord's Supper— The Sign of Fellowship
The world is no place to face alone.  We need the presence of a living God and we need the fellowship, love, and concern of a caring family to lift us when we are discouraged, to share joy in our happiness, and our sorrow in tragedy. We need to know we are loved by the Father and by the family regardless of our worthiness or unworthiness.
In Communion, we symbolize communion with God and fellowship with the Saints.  Jesus said,
“as often as you do it, do it in remembrance of me."
The bread of Communion symbolizes the mutilated body of the Lord Jesus destroyed by our sin. The cup represents the blood of the Lord Jesus shed because of our sin. We must be careful, however, that the Lord's Supper does not become a memorial service for a dead Jesus.
Remember not only his persecution, bleeding, and dying— but especially remember his resurrection, and eternal Presence in the world, in the lives of individual saints, and in the Church.
Communion however, like Baptism, is only symbolic, with meaning only if we actually are in communion with God and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ and in the world. Through the Lord's Supper, or Communion, we sit at the Lord's Table—a sign of fellowship with Him and with Christians around the globe.
The third sign in the Christian Life is
Foot-washing— The Sign of Christian Service
Jesus said he came "not to be ministered to, but to minister". If we do the Lord's work, we too, must serve. In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus broke every law of custom and tradition.  Foot-washing was common with the dirt roads and daily walks, but it was done personally, or by a servant, never by a free-man, and certainly not by a Rabbi or teacher. By Jewish custom, Jesus could not ask his disciples to wash his feet—yet, He washed theirs!  And he said, "If I your Lord and master have washed your feet, you then, ought to wash one another's feet." (John 13:14)
In the Church of God, where I am a minister, we practice foot-washing as an ordinance because of what Jesus did and said. But in this too, the power of the symbol is in what it represents. The foot-washing symbol is meaningless if we are not willing in everyday life to do the most menial tasks for those in need.
When we try to live the Christian life and not make Christ Lord of our lives, it doesn't make sense. Christianity is Jesus Christ— alive, redeeming His people, living in His people, working and serving through His people. In the same way, if these three symbolic acts, baptism, communion, and foot-washing, have meaning they must symbolize real life experiences of repentance to God and forgiveness of sin, communion with God and with the saints, and service for God by serving those in need.
These are the signs of the times in the Christian Life. Just as Palm Sunday is the sign of the true Messiah, Jesus! Just so baptism is the sign of a radical change, communion is the sign of an inclusive fellowship, and foot-washing is the sign of Servant Leadership.
I’m Rick Blumenberg and that’s My View from Tanner Creek.

    

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