Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dear Pilgrim, are you struggling with condemnation?

Dear Pilgrim, are you struggling with condemnation? Are voices whispering to you that you are no good, leaving you in despair? Are you feeling crushed in your spirit?

O Pilgrim, how I understand! But come, take my hand, let us walk together awhile. There is somewhere we need to go that maybe you haven’t been to lately. Come, into this garden. Breathe in the fragrance of the garden, Pilgrim. Take a deep breath. Isn’t it peaceful and quiet in here?

Come, over here, dear Pilgrim. See the rock….and the tomb hewn from the rock, the tomb where Jesus was laid. See the stone, removed from the entrance. See the strips of linen lying there, and the burial cloth that had been around His head folded up by itself, separate from the linen. See the tomb – empty. It is empty, dear Pilgrim! For He is not here – He has risen!  For God exerted His mighty strength in Christ and raised Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19)! God has raised this Jesus to life!

We are not far from where you beheld the Lamb of God as He died upon the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, paying the wages of death for your sin. But how easily we forget to walk to the empty tomb to see the victory that has been won! This is the place the enemy will want to keep you from coming, he will do all he can to distract you from coming here, walking around, spending time reflecting on all this means – for this is the place of our Lord’s great victory!

For the truth of this glorious gospel message into which we have been brought by the blood of the Lamb does not end with the blessed news that our sins and iniquities have been forgiven. O Pilgrim, let your eyes behold the revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of new life! The revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of the power of the Spirit! The revelation of the empty tomb which speaks of the victory that He has won!

For if we have been baptised into Christ, we have been baptised into His death. Our whole old self was crucified with Him! Not only were we baptised into the death of Christ – we were buried with Him. Our whole old self is crucified, dead and buried. It no longer has power over us! We no longer identify with it! It is defeated!  We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life! A new life, Pilgrim! No longer a life of slavery to sin, a life of captivity, a life without hope, a life that was no life for it led to death. No matter how many times the enemy tries to whisper to you that you have no hope, that you cannot escape the clutches of sin, that you are guilty, the truth is that now that we have died we have been set free from sin (Romans 6:7)! Yes, Pilgrim, we do daily still wrestle with sin, we daily have to fight against sin, but it is no longer our master! For we have been set free from the power of sin! Set free from the guilt of sin! Set free from the penalty of sin! Set free from the slavery of sin! It was for freedom that Christ has set us free! O Pilgrim, rejoice that your chains are gone! Gone! No longer a slave – a son! A child of God!

Pilgrim, as we stand here in the garden, listen for a moment. Listen. It is so peaceful here, isn’t it? The birds are singing their praises to their Creator, but otherwise all is quiet. It was quiet on those days when Jesus lay here in the tomb. Maybe some thought it was the quiet despair of defeat. It may have looked like defeat, as the Creator bowed His head and breathed His last. It may have looked like defeat, as His lifeless body lay in the tomb for three days. It may have looked like defeat, as all was silent. But His final words, “It is finished!” continued to ring with the glorious sounds of triumph and victory as they resounded through the heavens, as they made the powers and authorities shudder in fear. And then, in the fullness of time, the Voice of the Lord spoke, and shook the earth. The Voice of the Lord thundered, and there was a violent earthquake, the Son of God was raised to life – for it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. The power of the Spirit raised Him to life! Victory! But not His victory alone! For thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)! We have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms! We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Pilgrim, listen again. Listen. What do you hear? There is only one word to describe it – peace. Peace, dear Pilgrim! For this empty tomb – the victory He has won, the victory He gives to us – this means we have peace with God! What were the very first words He uttered to His disciples after He arose? “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). Who is the one who condemns? Not God! For Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Interceding, Pilgrim, not condemning! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1). You are free, free from the law of sin and death, free to put to death the misdeeds of the body, free to be led by the Spirit of God, free to overcome the world!

Pilgrim, never forget the empty tomb. The enemy will do all he can to keep you from standing here and taking in all that it means, for it is here that it is clear for all to see that he is defeated. Resist him, and he will flee! And may the truth of the empty tomb be forever engraved on your heart.