Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
I wanted to share this newsletter update with you from our partners at ECI (Evangelical Church of India). I hope it is an encouragement and a blessing.
Here is a brief video report on our efforts to begin a reforestation initiative in Haiti in remembrance of the estimated 250,000 people who lost their lives in the January 2010 earthquake.
JL shared this message at the national Youth Rally held near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 26th. The message is divided into two parts to meet Youtube’s time limitation’s.
Now we come to the final study in this Lenten Series. I trust that these forty days have enriched your spiritual life and drawn you closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. There is so much more that can be said regarding the most important event in human history. These 40 studies have been taken from my book, The Passionate Christ, where there is even more detail on His passion. Please see the information at the end of this study if you would like to order a copy.
Perhaps the greatest and most succinct summary of the Gospel is found in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In these beloved words from the lips of the Lord Jesus, the “whoever believes” opens the door of salvation to everyone – regardless of age, race, color, gender or station in life. It matters not whether one is Jew or Gentile…young or old…male or female…rich or poor…educated or uneducated. Salvation is open to anyone and everyone who “believes in Him.”
The moment God’s sovereign love and grace redeems and regenerates a person, they become a member of God’s “forever family.” They are a part of the church…the elect…the ecclesia…the people who have been sovereignly “called out” of the world by God. They are members of the “Fellowship of the Redeemed.”
God’s purpose for the cross was to purchase a people for Himself, “…a people belonging to God.” Peter reminded us of the unbelievable price God paid to purchase us.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:18-19)
It is incomprehensible to the human mind that God would pay this kind of purchase price for us! If we have an ounce of honesty in our hearts, we know we are unworthy of that! Because of our sin and rebellion, we are not worthy of the blood of animals – much less the “precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!”
It is glorious to know that He has called not just us, but people from all over the world. “…with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) I have had the joy of seeing many people become a part of God’s chosen race and royal priesthood – from Africa, India, China, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Haiti, the Bahamas, Burma, America, Europe, Central America. I have seen them delivered from paganism, animism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam. I have watched God liberate them from the ideologies of Communism, Marxism, Maoism, scientism, atheism, agnosticism, secularism, materialism and nihilism. As Christ has given them a totally new direction in life, He has brought them out to serve Him as His priests and priestesses.
As we saw in yesterday’s study, the Apostle John told us that Jesus “…loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” But He did that for a very specific purpose, so that He could make of us “…a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father…” (Revelation 1:5-6)
This verse reminds us of an important principle: “Purchase presupposes purpose.” In other words, no one purchases anything – especially something costly and valuable – unless he or she has a purpose in mind for it. The same is true about God. He did not purchase us from a life of sin, selfishness and self-seeking just so we could continue to “do our own thing.” No, He purchased us so that from that moment on we would “do God’s thing,” so that we would leave our petty kingdom behind and enter His glorious eternal kingdom. As members of His kingdom, we are to live as a “…priest to serve His God and Father.” We are “saved to serve.” We no longer “serve ourselves” but rather we serve our God and Father by serving others.
Or, to quote John further:
“You have made them to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they will reign on earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10; c.f. 7:9)
Talk about a high calling?! Talk about new self-worth and self-esteem?! This is it! A new vocation worth living for – and dying for! Paul exhorted us that “Whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) In other words, if you can’t do it for God’s glory, then don’t do it at all! It’s not worth the time, energy and effort if it is not for Christ. It has no eternal value. As the little rhyme reminds us, “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
When we do all for “the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12), our work will have spiritual purpose…a divine edge…an eternal perspective. And only then will it be challenging and fulfilling for us and a blessing to others. Regardless of your vocation or calling in life, Paul gave these words of instruction:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
When we Christians learn to apply this principle in our work, we will transform the marketplace for God’s glory and honor! Our business will be His business. Our purpose will be to accomplish His will. If you are an entrepreneur, the market place will be your ministry. If you are a nurse, homemaker, architect, electrician, politician, secretary, computer expert, doctor, lawyer – you name it – you will be His messenger of the Gospel, His servant. His purpose will become your purpose. His will will become your will. His kingdom will replace your kingdom. His passion will be your passion.
Can you begin to see yourself as a servant in your work or as a priest in your family? Don’t live any other way. To live other than, “…for the praise of His glory”, is to depreciate the cross and devaluate the blood that Christ shed for you. But, if you will live, love and serve Him for His honor and glory, then one day you will hear Him say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
Throughout this study, it has been my prayer that these thoughts and scriptures will help you have a greater passion for the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the Inscripturated Word, the Bible. I also pray that you will never be able to see a cross representing the death of Christ in the same way. From this time on, I hope that every silver, gold, brass or wooden cross will be blood stained in your spiritual eyes. May you live your life with a new passion for Christ, because of His great passion for you as demonstrated by the cross!
Because of His passion,
To order a copy of The Passionate Christ, please send a check for $15 made out to JL, Patt & Friends, Inc., and mail it to:
JL, Patt & Friends, inc.
P.O. Box 4066
Glen Raven NC 27215
All of God’s power that He has made available to us through the Holy Spirit flows from the cross. God never imparted any power to His people, then or now, apart from the full and finished work of Christ on the cross. While Christ’s incarnation began at His birth, His glorification started at the cross and was consummated at His resurrection and ascension. (John 12:23; 13:31)
Prior to His incarnation, Jesus had eternally preexisted in glory as the Second Member of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He came from glory and would return to glory – but only through the cross. That’s why He prayed to the Father, in His High Priestly prayer, the night before He was crucified:
“Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You…I have brought You glory on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began…Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:1-5; 24)
But it was through the infamy of the crucifixion and the ignominy of the cross that God’s power and glory were manifested! Sovereign grace transmuted man’s very worst into God’s very best! What looked like man’s victory was really his defeat. What appeared to be God’s defeat was in reality His victory over sin, death and the grave! The cross became the greatest symbol of God’s grace and His glory!
That’s why Paul came to see that he should “…glory in the cross” of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14) That which he previously saw as Christ’s shame he now saw as his gain. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul came to see the infamy of the cross as his own source of infinite grace.
Paul clearly understood, from personal experience and from years of ministry, that the cross of Christ represented the very wisdom of God and the power of God. It was for that reason that “preaching the cross” was his greatest passion and highest priority. Note these “power” passages from his pen to the saints living in Corinth:
- “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I Corinthians 1:17)
- “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)
- “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: A stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:22-25)
It is easy to see from these verses that Paul clearly understood that the “power of God” was in the finished work of Christ on the cross. These crucial verses prove that there are several “religious practices” that, while very important, are not the essence of the Christian witness. Let’s briefly look at them.
First, the essence of the Gospel is not in rituals like “water baptism”. While baptism is definitely an important part of the Christian life and a central part of the Great Commission, as we find in Matthew 28:19-20, Paul knew that it was not the source of power for the believer. I believe that a new believer identifies with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ through water baptism – as well as identifies with a local group of believers. But the power of God flows from the cross!
Secondly, the essence of the Gospel message is not in human reasoning manifested through “knowledge or wisdom.” Although Paul was certainly one of the most educated men of his day, he knew that apologetics, arguments or debates would never bring about salvation for any one. God’s way of salvation through the cross “made no sense” to the natural mind. It was a bunch of spiritual “foolishness” to the unregenerate mind of man. While scholars and thinkers of his day (and ours) scoffed at the message of the cross, Paul proclaimed it as the “wisdom of God”.
Thirdly, the essence of the Gospel message was not some special revelation that was manifested through “miracles, signs and wonders”. While the supernatural certainly had a validating role to play in Christ’s life and ministry (Hebrews 2:4), as well as in the life of the church (Mark 16:20), Christians were never to build their faith upon them.
It was the Jews who constantly asked Jesus to “prove Himself” by performing signs and wonders. (John 4:48) The Greeks wanted to “think their way to heaven.” But Paul preached that the only way to heaven was through the cross! It was not something that could be reasoned or proven by miraculous signs.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (I Corinthians 1:20-21, 25)
All of us – wise men, scholars, philosophers, Jews, Greeks, Gentiles – must bow humbly before the cross of Christ, which is the power and wisdom of God. It is because of the centrality of the cross that Paul boldly proclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles.” (Romans 1:16)
Sometime today, read Isaiah 53, slowly, prayerfully and thoughtfully. It contains the essence of the cross, written hundreds of years before it ever happened. This passage truly contains some of the most astounding words ever written by man!
Echoing the verses from Isaiah, the Apostle Peter summarized the blessings and benefits of Christ’s crucifixion – and our response to it.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:24-25)
Because He bore our sins in His body on the tree and by His wounds we have been healed, we are to live transformed lives. We are to die to sin and live for righteousness. That and that alone is the “power of the cross”.
One final note of clarification needs to be made here regarding the phrase, “…by His wounds you have been healed.” There are many who teach that this verse promises physical healing for all Christians. But the clear context is spiritual healing not physical healing. Remember Peter said that Christ “…bore our sins in His body on the tree”, not our sicknesses and suffering. [John also emphasized this when he wrote about Christ, “…who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5; c.f. Romans 3:25)]
The verb that Peter used for “healed” is in the past tense, meaning that “healed” is an accomplished fact, completed at a specific time in the past. I am not saying that there is no physical healing provided through Christ’s death on the cross. There is definitely physical healing provided by Christ’s sacrifice, but it is sovereignly bestowed, a gift if you will. However, it is a gift that is not given to everyone.
The promise God gives is clear, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) That is an absolute and unconditional promise for salvation – i.e., spiritual healing. There is no such verse that promises absolute and unconditional physical healing. I wish there were! We can claim it or positively confess it all we want, but nothing can manipulate God to perform healing by our command or our confession.
It is an inescapable fact for all of us that “…the outer man is wasting away.” (II Corinthians 4:16) All of us “…who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) It matters not whether we are believers or unbelievers…redeemed or unregenerate…saved or lost – we will all face sickness and suffering “unto death” in this life. Jesus’ atoning death did not save us from that.
However, His glorious physical resurrection as the “firstfruits” from death and the grave assure us that one day we will have a glorious resurrection body like His. (I Corinthians 15:22-27) Until then, we have the absolute assurance of our spiritual adoption through salvation on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. Our full and final “adoption as sons” will not take place until our physical resurrection, at which time the “redemption of our bodies” will take place. Then there will be absolute physical healing to go along with our absolute spiritual healing that took place at the moment of our salvation.
Until such time, God has the authority to sovereignly grant temporary physical healing on the basis of Christ’s death, in accordance with His perfect will. I use the word “temporary” purposefully because even when God grants physical healing, the person still dies from sickness, disease or by an accident. No one dies from nothing!
The “power of the cross” is absolute and universal when it comes to the spiritual healing or the regeneration of our spirits. But our total and eternal physical healing will come only at the “resurrection of the just.” Until that time, like Paul, let us remember the cross, focus on Jesus’ sacrifice and, “preach Christ crucified..the power of God and the wisdom of God”!! (I Corinthians 1:23-24)