Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21)
In the first century, the community of Israel was occupied by Rome who exerted economic and political oppression upon them. Before Rome it was Greece and before Greece it was Persia. Additionally, much of the land was owned by foreigners who controlled large estates. Local farmers were asked to rent lands and were treated unfairly. Would there be no end to their enslavement?
If you had asked the Jews at that time what was the thing they desired most of all, unanimously the resounding reply would have been, ‘freedom from the oppression of Rome’. After all, what could be worse than the oppression of Rome? What more could they fear than what they were experiencing? God, however, saw things differently.
In reality, oppression from Rome was not the most lethal enemy they faced. There was another enemy that many had no inkling of; one that resided in each son and daughter of Israel. It was sin!
Without realising it, Israel, and all mankind, had an enemy that not only enslaved the body, but also the mind, the will and the emotions. Sin enslaves the whole person.
God knew this and, instead of just freeing his people from Rome, his desire was to free all mankind from sin. This was a much bigger and wider mission than the Jews imagined.
When Jesus graced the shores of earth, he proclaimed that man’s need was deliverance from sin.
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)
In his book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, Kenneth E. Bailey observes:
“In a situation of oppression, it takes enormous courage to tell the oppressed community that all are sinners and all must repent.”
But that is exactly what Jesus did. That same message of a great salvation from sin has rung out all down the ages. It has sounded clearly to you and me, where we are in this 21st Century.
How we thank God, that the mission of Jesus was not salvation from an earthly oppressor but from the greatest enemy we will ever face… sin.
Reader, if you haven’t yet accepted the offer of this great salvation yet, do it now. You will never regret it.
Pauline Ann Anderson
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
In his biography, “Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur”, Bishop Frank Houghton, quotes an incident from Amy’s life, told in her own words. Amy recalls, “On this day many years ago, I went away alone to a cave in a mountain called Arima. I had feelings of fear about the future…….and he (the devil) painted pictures of loneliness-I can see them still. And I turned to my God in a kind of desperation and said, “Lord, what can I do?””
Graciously, God spoke to her and said, “None of them that trust in me shall be desolate.” And God faithfully fulfilled His promise to her.
Another person who found himself assaulted by the taunts of the devil was Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73. Finding his mind overwhelmed with doubts, he writes:
But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. (Psalms 73:2-3)
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Like Amy Carmichael, Asaph took his dilemma to God.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. (Psalms 73:17)
Many Christians will be able to identify with this kind of mind assault. Some are overcome with anxiety, fear or sorrow as assaults intensify. Some are overcome with discouragement. However, it is helpful to remember what Jesus told us about the devil; he is a murderer, a liar, a thief and a robber. (John 8:14 and John 10:1).
Like Amy Carmichael and Asaph, we too will face situations where we feel afraid or desperate, or confused. Let us follow the example of the missionary and the psalmist and quickly seek the face of God because:
...then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
In the New Testament, we read two stories that involve water, a boat, and a man called Peter.
The first of these is in Luke’s gospel. A fisherman was coming to shore after a night of fruitless toil. The fish just hadn’t been in the mood for being caught and Peter, no doubt, wasn’t in the mood for staying out of bed much longer than he had to either. However, a man called Jesus walked up to him and said:
“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” (Luke 5:4)
Imagine what could have been going through Peter’s mind. This man, Jesus, was a rabbi, not a fisherman. It was broad day light, the time when fish dive deep below the surface away from sunlight. If the fish can’t be caught at night, they certainly aren’t going to be caught during the day. However, in spite of seeming impossible circumstances, Peter sets out again to fish rather than go to bed and he subsequently witnesses an outstanding demonstration of the miracle working power of Jesus.
Some time later we come across Peter again in a boat on the same lake battling a fierce storm along with his friends.
“About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:25-29.
Once again, a miracle takes place that Peter is never likely to forget for the rest of his days.
As well as water, a boat and Peter being common to both these accounts, another element is present that demonstrates something of great significance. Quite simply, it’s ‘trust’.
In both these accounts, in order for Jesus to display his miraculous powers, a man had to trust Him in circumstances that seemed impossible. Peter demonstrated his trust on each occasion with an action. He did what Jesus had said.
There are many times in the life of a Christian where God allows seemingly impossible situations to cross our paths; some are outward, others affect us inwardly. He wants to display His power and His person to us, but often we miss this revelation because we choose to follow our own will rather than His.
What will be your decision, the next time Christ faces you with an opportunity to trust?
‘To trust God in the light is nothing, to trust Him in the dark... that is faith.
C H Spurgeon
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