American Pastor Saeed Abedini wrote the following Easter message from his hospital room while serving an eight year sentence for his Christian faith in Iran. Each of us could learn much from what Saeed says regarding dead faith. I know I did.
Crucifying the resurrected “self” with Christ and resurrects our death faith with Christ.
Happy Resurrection Day.
On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world. What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.
Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him. We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.
We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.
Jesus said to His Disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.
So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our death faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.
In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.
A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.
We will start with Christ.
Pastor Saeed Abedini
Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light
“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
In John 3 we meet a man named Nicodemus. We see him first coming to Jesus by night. In fact, this act alone defined his character throughout his life in Scripture. For example, John 7:50 states, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them…” and again in John 19:39, “and Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”
As Lazarus was known for the rest of his life by the act of grace Jesus bestowed on him by raising him from the dead (John 12:1, 9), so Nicodemus was known as the one who came to Jesus at night. Under the cover of darkness. In secret.
So who was this Nicodemus and what was his relationship with Jesus?
John 3:1 tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus was a common name in Jesus’ day and means “victor among the people or one who has won distinction among the people.”1 He was a Pharisee, a member of an elite religious party that strictly adhered to the letter of the Law and believed both the written and oral traditions were the same and of equal value. It also states that he was a “ruler of the Jews” which meant he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of Israel. Tradition held that the Sanhedrin was limited to 70 members much like our Senate is limited to 100. Thus, Nicodemus was one of the most important religious and, in the time of Jesus, political leaders in Israel.
To further emphasize Nicodemus’ position, Jesus called him “the” teacher of Israel and not “a” teacher (John 3:10) indicating that he was one of just a few who held such a lofty position in the eyes of the people. It would be like Billy Graham, once elected to the Senate, came to Jesus to ask Him a Biblical question as both a Senator and an evangelist.
When we examine the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus we see that, like most of us, Nicodemus saw life in only two dimensions, flat, limited, finite— while Jesus understood not only this life we can taste, touch and feel, but also the life to come. Nicodemus was dealing with the here and now, the black and white, the simple, observable, measurable, while Jesus was living in HD, full color, 1080p, surround-sound.
The exchange between a ruler of Jews and the Ruler of the Universe centered around salvation, regeneration, sacrifice, truth, love, the coming Kingdom, and the crucifixion of the Son of God. Jesus spoke of the things He knew:
“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:1).
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6).
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:13-15).
But to Nicodemus, these words where difficult to understand, yet alone, believe.
But believe he did.
At some point in time, and John does not tell us when, Nicodemus came to faith in Christ. How do we know this? We see our first glimpse in John 7:50 where Nicodemus offers a small defense of Jesus to his fellow members of the Sanhedrin who were demanding his death. He says, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” Needless to say, his words were not heeded and we have no record of Nicodemus saying more.
Then, after Jesus’ death, we see Nicodemus and a man named Joseph of Arimathea, coming and preparing Jesus’ body for burial. John 19:38-40 states:
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
And after this, there is nothing more said about Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the ruler of the Jews, who had risked everything to take care of the body of his dead master. Nothing. It is like his life after this event faded into obscurity. Did you ever wonder why?
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea appears in all four Gospels but only in the accounts of Jesus’ burial. He was rich (Matt. 27:57), a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), who had not agreed with its decision to condemn Jesus (Luke 23:51). Joseph was a good and righteous man (Luke 23:50), who was waiting for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). He was a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 27:57), although a secret one for fear of the Jews.2 Even though John usually presented “secret disciples of Jesus” in a negative light (John. 12:42-43), he, and the other Gospel writers, seem to commend Joseph’s actions in requesting from Pilate the body of Jesus to bury in his own tomb (Matt. 27:60).
After overcoming the crippling fear of losing his position and prestige as a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph emerged from the shadows into the light and publically proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus. At last, Joseph stood for the Lord.
And after the burial of Jesus, just like Nicodemus, he drifts off into obscurity never to be heard of again.
What happened to these two men? Did they follow Jesus and become part of the upper room 120 who were filled with Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1)? Or did they go back to their jobs and spend their lives debating with other members of the Sanhedrin about “what to do with these Christians?” (Acts 4:16) Logically it would seem their lives had to follow one of these two paths. Either they forsook all and followed the Lord seeking to bring others into His Kingdom or they would withdraw back into their prior lives hoping the story of Jesus would just go away. Maybe they wanted to become “secret disciples” once again even though their “secret” was out and known to all.
We don’t know what happened to these two men. The Scriptures are silent regarding them. If, however, they played a great part in the founding of the church at Jerusalem, like Peter and James, it seems Luke would have recorded that fact in the Acts of the Apostles. But he didn’t.
The sad part of their story is that they could possibly have become like us. Jesus begins His encounter with Nicodemus in John 3. But John 2 ends this way: “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). Seems that Jesus was warning about casual, non-committed followers or half-hearted disciples. A lukewarm church (Rev. 3:16).
Maybe they became just like us.
Think about it. We have experienced the resurrection of Jesus and the proof that we are now children of God and join-heirs with Him (Romans 8:16-17). We know He is the Lord and He has disarmed both Satan and death by defeating both and leaving an empty tomb as confirmation of His, and our, victory (1 Cor. 15:55-57). Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8) and made a public display of His triumph over them (Col. 2:15) and we, by virtue of divine regeneration through salvation, have become the recipient of that great gift of grace (Eph. 2:8).
Yes, we know all this is true and we know we are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6). But has that fact prompted us to a life of reckless abandon to Him? Have we forsaken all and followed Jesus? Has the resurrection of our Lord transformed our love and affection from a two dimensional life in this world into life everlasting with Him?
Paul says of our Lord in Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Did you get that? Jesus is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” That means He is willing and able to exceed what we have the faith to ask for or even imagine in our minds. He is, after all, God. And He lives in each of us.
This Easter, commit your life and thoughts and dreams to Him who can do far beyond what we can possibly imagine. Do not, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, fall back and fade into obscurity regarding the moving of God and remain satisfied with the trinkets and toys this world offers and neglect the “riches in heaven” prepared for you, the “abundant life” our Lord promised (John 10:10). Look around you and see the mission field God has place you in and begin today, on Easter, to faithfully serve Him who gave His life for you (Matt. 20:28).
And remember the words of William Carey:
“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
2. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (p. 366). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
Wonderful words from Oswald Chambers:
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same, other things do not appeal as they used to do:
Always distinguish between what you see Jesus to be, and what He has done for you. If you only know what He has done for you, you have not a big enough God; but if you have had a vision of Jesus as He is, experiences can come and go, you will endure, “as seeing Him Who is invisible.” The man blind from his birth did not know Who Jesus was until He appeared and revealed Himself to him. Jesus appears to those for whom he has done something; but we cannot dictate when He will come. Suddenly at any turn He may come—‘Now I see Him!’
Jesus must appear to your friend as well as to you; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. Severance takes place where one and not the other has seen Jesus. You cannot bring your friend unless God brings him. Have you seen Jesus? Then you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it unto the residue, neither believed they them.” You must tell, although they do not believe.
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are,
and the things which will take place after this.”
One of the key truths that explains almost everything pertaining to the Christian life today is found in the second and third chapters of the Revelation. Here our Lord Jesus writes seven letters to seven churches that are, on the surface, intriguing. But once you dig deeper into the meanings of these letters, they are breathtaking and prophetic. In fact, they chronicle all of church history from the days of the Apostles until now. They are a timeline of church history and, for us, present church life. And once we come to grips with that fact alone, the meaning and purpose of the life we live, or try to live, or claim to live, or don’t live in Christ today opens up and unfolds like a spring flower. Everything becomes clear and focused.
But, as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me step back and explain.
Seven Letters to Seven Churches
In Revelation 1:19 John is given a command by the risen Lord Jesus. He is told to, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Here we have the outline from Jesus Himself for the entire book of the Revelation.
First, John is told to write what he has seen— the seven lampstands, the seven stars, the sharp two-edged sword, the Lord Jesus in all His glory, for example. All this takes place in chapter 1.
Next, John is told to write “the things which are”— the current church situation, the seven letters to seven churches in what we would now call Asia Minor. He is to write what the Lord says to the churches at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7), Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11), Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17), Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29), Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13), and Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). When we look at these seven letters to these ancient churches with strange sounding names we often see them as something mystical, something confusing, and something that we don’t really need to bother ourselves about except maybe in a purely academic sense. But that would be a grave mistake on our part. These seven letters are anything but dry, academic and boring. As stated before, chapters 2 and 3 reveal to us all of church history, our history, from the Apostles to the coming rapture of the church. They show us why we do the things we do, good or bad, in the name of Christ. They show us why we worship the way we worship, why we “do” church the way we do, and why we live the way we live. These letters show what the Lord commends in His church and what about His church He abhors. And they also show us what about His church literally makes Him sick on His stomach. But I am getting ahead of myself again. We will talk more about that later.
Finally, John is told to write the “things that will take place after this.” He is to write about events that will take place in the future, the incredible events that make up chapter 4 to the end of the Revelation. These events speak of great tribulation, of two witnesses, of the throne of God and the scroll sealed with seven seals, it speaks of the Lamb as if slain, the woman and the dragon, the Whore of Babylon and much more.
As you can see, John is given the outline for the entire book of the Revelation and of human history. In fact, the Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing to those who read it. It begins with these words, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written in it; for the time is near.”1 Or, as Chuck Missler would say, “Read me, I’m special!”2
Tomorrow we will look at the seven letters in detail and show how they reveal to us past church history and, amazingly, our current church situation. These letters from the Lord to His church are as timely as any news blog and as prophetic as the book of Daniel or Ezekiel. In fact, you will learn more about yourself from these letters, especially the last one, than you would have thought possible. And finally, you will see how God views His church, and you and I, compared to how we view ourselves— and the difference will take your breath away and drive you to your knees.
Are you ready for an incredible journey? Then let’s begin.
1. Revelation 1:3
2. Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 271.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
I was recently the recipient of an inheritance. My first.
On Wednesday, May 23, 2012 my mother, Delores McCranie, passed away while vacationing at Myrtle Beach. We knew, for the last couple of years, that she was in declining health but her sudden death caught us all by surprise. She closed her eyes at the beach listening to the sounds of the waves, feeling the heat of the sun on her skin and the smell of salt in the ocean air and quietly passed into eternity leaving all her earthly possessions behind.
Over the next month or so her will was probated, her life insurance redeemed, her bank accounts closed, her final bills paid and her estate settled. And what was left became the inheritance my mother left to me and my brother.
Now don’t get me wrong, the inheritance I received from my mother’s estate was a great financial blessing. We paid off our mortgage, gave money to our children, remodeled our kitchen and became, for the first time in my 35 years of marriage, debt free.
But as wonderful as those blessings were, they are temporary at best. You see, what my mother left me I will someday leave to my children. When I close my eyes for the last time they will probate my will, pay my bills, close out my accounts and divvy among themselves what is left. That will be their inheritance. And when they die they will pass their inheritance on to their children and then on to their children’s children— and the cycle just goes on and on and on.
In our culture, we pass on to our children houses and money and toys. All the stuff we spend our life accumulating but never having the time to enjoy. And, if we consider ourselves good parents, we will strive to leave them more than our parents left us. Why? So our children can enjoy the life we were not able to and we can rest easy in our graves knowing we left them better off in the beginning of their lives than we were at the onset of ours.
But what an incredible short-sighted view of parental responsibility and the blessings of an inheritance.
All that my parents left me could only be used or spent in this life, the life of today, the temporary life of the here and now. But no inheritance was left regarding the real life, the life after death, the life that never ends, our eternal life with the Lord. All the trinkets and toys of this life will someday pass away and be left to another and we will enter the Kingdom empty handed having nothing to show from the lives that have gone on before us. This is not a true inheritance. It is simply the passing of wealth from one generation to another. There has to be more we can leave to our children that this.
Jesus spoke of these things when He said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 1
My desire is to leave you, my children and grandchildren, an inheritance that will last a lifetime and reap, not just temporary financial blessings, but eternal ones as well. My joy would be to be able to impart to you some of the wisdom I have gained from the many lessons I have learned walking with our Lord and to help you not make the same foolish mistakes I have made. After all, there is no need for us both to step on the same landmine. If it blew me up, then you would do well to walk in another direction.
Consider this book my inheritance to you— and to your children. And rest assured, you will also get all my stuff, the standard inheritance stuff, when I leave this body and have no more use of houses or money or toys. For you, it will be the best of both worlds.
As Solomon said, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”2 And I want, with all my being, to be that good man that leaves a lasting inheritance to each of you and to your children.
My prayer is that what He is able to accomplish through you will eclipse the small things He was able to accomplish through me.
So, let’s begin.
1. Matthew 6:19-21
2. Proverbs 13:22