Dear Friends,

I trust that you and your families, as well as us as a church will enjoy all the wonderful Truth of another Easter weekend. The privileges of contemporary life mean that we don’t always make the time to enjoy the good things of life. It was the Newport born poet, William Henry Davies (1871-1940) who wrote the words,

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

God has given us a pattern in life which means that one day in seven we can stop the legitimate and necessary demands of life in order to stand and stare (focus) on the essentials of life. Similarly the OT pattern of worship services demanded that at regular points during the year “you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Lev 23:8)

In this letter I want us to “stand and stare” at the work of that first ‘Easter’ weekend. Peter tells us in his first letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Pet 2:24-25)

Jesus is not named in this passage, but rather He is described as ‘the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’. Let’s stare at and consider the fact that another man, who was also God was prepared to give His life from start to finish for the sake of other people. Someone else has taken responsibility for the sin and shortcomings of our life.

In a recent copy of the Evangelical Magazine Roger Carswell made the point that when the badly beaten and horribly weakened Jesus stumbled under the weight of his cross, not one of His disciples whom He had taught and nurtured for 3 years rushed to His aid. Not one of 5000 fed used their renewed strength to help carry his cross. Not one of the many who had eyes opened, ears unstopped or legs strengthened helped him as he struggled under the injustice of human hatred. Jesus did not simply carry his cross, but he took responsibility and carried the punishment for the sins of all of His people.

The implications of this are beyond description. It means that no person who has ever asked Jesus to forgive their sins will ever need to face the responsibility of their sin before a holy and just God. It means that God has already punished someone else in our place and therefore can never demand further payment from the real culprit. The freedom of such truth is overwhelming and must surely draw from us great praise and thanks to God.

Peter also helps us to stare at the fact that although as human beings we are born with an inevitable compulsion to sin we can in fact know growing victory over that compulsion. Peter describes it as dying to sin. It is a battle that goes on in our lives, but God gives the desire to not sin as we once did.

What is even more wonderful is that He also gives us the desire and the power to ‘live to righteousness’. That does not mean that we are perfect or will ever be perfect this side of eternity, but what it does mean is that our desires and tendencies have been changed by God. We want to do those things that please God and the facts are that as God works in us we are able to actually do works of righteousness, that is things that are pleasing to God and are part of His good will and purpose for this world.

So this Easter let’s take and make time to stare at the glorious work of Christ on the cross, in the grave and in rising from death so that we might live to righteousness.

Your fellow ‘starer’,

Bernard Lewis April 2014

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