He Does Great Things…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

As I read our verse this morning … I smiled inside and appreciated the reminder: He does great things beyond our understanding!  Indeed, “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counselor?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34) As the Prophet Isaiah shared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) We simply cannot know the intelligence or expressive power of our Creator!  All we can really do is marvel at Him … gaze into the heavens at His glory … or lie still in deep silence and listen to our own heartbeat! These sensory experiences weave a tapestry of reverence within our hearts for our Heavenly Father and for His Son … our Lord Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Cf. Colossians 15-17)

But I think the greatest thing our God has done beyond all understanding … at least from my point of view … is to show each one of us in no uncertain terms: “You are loved!” Like David, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand the love and compassion of God. Sometimes doubts arise within us as we consider our own being in the light of what is known of His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20)

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
All flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
The birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

But the Apostle John assures us: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1) Indeed, the love of God reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10; Psalm 108:4)

1 John 4:9-10

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Oh, I pray this morning that we will take hold of this truth and believe this truth!  God loves His people more than His own life! It’s incomprehensible to us because we are the created ones, but our Creator made us in His image because of His great love. Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.” (Psalm 86:13) “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 117:2) “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

A final thought for the Day!  May this passage also remind you of who you are in Christ and how greatly you are loved:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Yesterday and today, in Washington, D.C., there is a gathering … there is a call for the Body of Christ, the Church, to “RETURN” to the Lord our God!  The message is for repentance to fall upon every believer … for being too casual about sin … for being lukewarm in our hearts … for leaving our first love.  Indeed,  our concern should be about our own sins … the sin of apathy, the sin of hardness, the sin of injustice,  the sin of selfishness, the sin of pride, and yes, all the secret sins that lie within our hearts – yet exposed before God. As we point our fingers at the world around us, know that more fingers are directed at ourselves.  It reminds me of some familiar Scriptures that we know, but often fail to apply to our own hearts:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

1 “Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck (of sawdust) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

11 One thing God has spoken,   two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,   how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death;  hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?

As we think about these words of judgment, they fall upon an appointed day.  For today is Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Return!  It is the Sabbath that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  And in Hebrew, the word Shuvah is the root of the word teshuvah … which means “repentance”!  And that is the core concept of what today is about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly, a people united in fasting and prayer before God. The Scriptures read in the synagogues today are reprinted below for us:

Hosea 14

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in His shade; they will flourish like the grain; they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 What more has Ephraim to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

15 Blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 18 Then the Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people. 19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely He has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Calling Out Pride….

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (NIV)

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

I really like that Paul calls us out regarding our spiritual pride … our Pharisaic tendencies as Christians to boast in ourselves and our “perceived” self-righteousness.  The truth of the matter is that we need to remember: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities sweep us away like the wind.  (Cf. Isaiah 64:6) The ONLY true righteousness that we have or will over have is IMPUTED to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Romans 4:1-8; 23-25 (NKJV)

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted according to grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Cf. Psalm 32:1-2)

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it (righteousness) was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It (righteousness) shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Jesus is the One who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.  (Cf. Galatians 1:4) It is Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Curse is everyone who hangs on a tree (pole).” (Cf. Galatians 3:13) And it is Christ who rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. (Cf. Colossians 1:13) It is Jesus who delivers us from the coming wrath of God. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10) So, indeed, we should only boast in the Lord Jesus and Him alone!

So I pray that we will self-examine for pride in our hearts.  I pray that we will humble ourselves before God. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14)  As Paul exhorted, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Cf. Romans 12:3) And 1 Peter 5:5 encourages the same attitude: “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:34) Humbling ourselves before the Lord and one another will keep the tendencies of pride from entering our hearts.  And I think the best place to start is the realization that we cannot save or heal ourselves.  Only Jesus effectuate salvation for us.  He is the only atoning sacrifice the Father will accept to impute His righteousness to our account….

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven … whose sin is covered. Blessed is the one to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Ah, Sovereign Lord…

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

Sometimes when we are feeling powerless … when we feel the world is out of control … when we fall into despair or hopelessness; we need a reminder that God is in control.  The Prophet Jeremiah gives us a word of encouragement that our Heavenly Father is sovereign … He possesses supreme, ultimate authority, power, and dominion!  As Jeremiah notes, the Sovereign Lord … the Almighty God … is Creator of heaven and earth!  He created all things, and by His will they were created and have their being. (Cf. Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11) So there is nothing too difficult or impossible for Him!

If we truly believe God is sovereign, then why do we become anxious? Why do we fret or worry about the turbulent times in which we live? Jesus told us not to be anxious about our lives; rather, He challenged us to have faith in God … to believe Him … and to trust in His love. He taught us to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and then all of the things that He knows we need for life will be added to us. (Cf. Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 12:22-31) And it is that KINGDOM … established under the sovereignty of a loving Father that we are challenged to seek and enter. So, if we waiver to believe the One who created us in His own image and for His own glory, how will we ever come to trust that He will take care of us and our needs? And then another question comes to mind: Why would we ever impose “limits” on what Almighty God has promised to do or how He determines to exercise His sovereign will? Do we really think that we have that ability?  Yet, when we attempt to diminish the sovereignty of God over us; this act of human arrogance inhibits the exercise of faith as well as ability to receive the fullness of all that God has given us for life….

I’m going to express a thought here that might provide an explanation to this conundrum. My thought is that we tend to suppress the power of God in our lives because we continue to question or doubt the depth and sincerity of His covenant of love with us. And I surmise this doubt most likely stems from the knowledge of our own sinfulness … our lapses in holiness … our failures and imperfection. So we judge ourselves to be unworthy of God’s love, and this self-condemnation is fueled by our sense of guilt and shame because we have transgressed His covenant. So the Accuser, Satan, seizes the opportunity to oppress us because he wants to fully convince us that we are not worthy of God’s love … not worthy of His forgiveness … not worthy of His provision for our lives. And if we continue to listen to that voice, we will become anxious and fearful as we lose sight of God’s covenant of love with us. We attempt to hide our disobedience; to make our own covering for the guilt and shame; and then withdraw ourselves from the holy presence of God just as Adam and Eve did. (Cf. Genesis 3:1-11)

If this is a place where you or I should find ourselves, then I pray we would remember the TRUTH that the Sovereign Lord has declared in His Word. For Jesus told us that Satan is a liar! (Cf. John 8:44) So, here is the truth about God’s love we need to embrace: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:4-5) “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Indeed, we must hear and embrace the voice of truth in order to know that all things are possible with God…. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul, when praying for the church at Ephesus, shared this perspective for believers:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Indeed, it is imperative that we comprehend, along with all believers, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  It is necessary to know this love that surpasses knowledge … so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God … so that He may abide in us!  For when we are filled with all the fullness of God, His power is at work within us … enabling us to keep His commandments and to abide in His love. (Cf. John 15:10) I firmly believe that when we abide in the love of God through Christ, we will not question or doubt His love for us. Therefore, we will not be anxious about our lives or His desire to give us the Kingdom (Cf. Luke 12:32); rather, His love will strengthen us to accomplish even more than we could immeasurably ask or imagine. Yes, when God’s fullness … His power … is at work within us, we will be bold and courageous! We will not be anxious or doubt! We will not be timid or live in fear! Instead, we will advance the Kingdom of God – which is the purpose for which we were called to salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen….

Remember, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:6

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Dealing With Sin

Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

It appears that the Holy Spirit wants us to deal with the issue of sin within our relationships.  As the Apostle John admonishes us:

1 John 3:1-10 (NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the Law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

So in the context of this “post resurrection” understanding brought to us by John, let’s go back to the matter Jesus discusses with His disciples and followers while He was still with them:

Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV) – Dealing with Sin in the Church

15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out their offense when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that brother or sister16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Cf. Deuteronomy 19:1517 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a pagan or a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

An authentic encounter with Jesus Christ should produce a discernible change of heart within an individual.  It is not enough to simply know about Jesus; rather, a person must enter into an intimate relationship with Him … experience the new birth (born of God through His Spirit) … conceived in deep repentance and complete surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  John tells us that one who is born of God will not continue to sin because the Holy Spirit within them will bring conviction to their heart. This conviction will lead to confession of the sin. And as John instructed: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Likewise, we are called to have this same mindset of forgiveness with one another. (Cf. Colossians 3:13) Indeed, I think the Apostle James brings additional perspective on forgiveness when he enjoins us “to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another so that we may be healed.” (Cf. James 5:13-16) I think his message is that not only should we “release” the one who sins against us, but we should advocate in prayer for their “release” in heaven.  In other words, when we forgive someone, we should ask God to forgive them as well. It does not necessarily change the consequence(s) of their sin(s), but the intent is to release the debt owed for their offense just as God in Christ released you….

Jesus taught that when we pray to God, we should ask for and receive forgiveness for our sins (trespasses or debts) because we have forgiven those who have sinned or trespassed against us.  What we are asking for is the “release” of the debt we owe for our own conduct toward God. We plead for the blood of Jesus to atone for our sin. We ask for His grace to be extended to us. So it is “expected” that we have forgiven others with the same grace that we have asked of the Father for ourselves. Jesus noted: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Cf. Matthew 6:9-15) With this context in mind, I encourage you to revisit Matthew 18:18 again: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven.” Consider that if you or I withhold forgiveness from someone (bind it on earth); then it could be that our own prayers for forgiveness will be withheld from us (bound in heaven). It could be that we are guilty of the same sin(s) committed against us. Just a thought … in case you never committed the act of adultery but did so in your heart with a spirit of lust or covetousness.  Remember, Jesus has extended the threshold of sinfulness beyond physical deeds to include the malicious intentions of our hearts. For example, our tongues (our words) can wound the spirit or even murder the life of another person. If you have ever physically or emotionally bullied others, you have in essence murdered them in your heart….

Matthew 5:21-24 (NIV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder (Cf. Exodus 20:13) and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister without cause will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt or verbal abuse) is answerable to the council. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

More than our tithes and offerings … more than our gifts or sacrifices of praise … God is concerned with the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He observes how we demonstrate our love for other people.  Is our love sincere or just lip service?  Is our love for others manifested in our prayers? God knows in truth.  In Christ Jesus, the love of God embodied in the greatest act of forgiveness … the release of our own sin debt.  Likewise, it is our forgiveness of others that expresses our love for them. Oh, it may be difficult in our human nature to do so; but the precepts presented here in Scripture are too obvious for us to disregard or dismiss.  Forgiveness does not mean what someone else did to you was acceptable. It was wrong. It was painful.  It impacted, diminished, or desecrated your life in some way. What they did should NOT be tolerated; however, it can still be forgiven. You can still “release” them and pray for them … even if reconciliation with you is not possible. In doing so, you affirm God has been merciful to you….  Remember, God did not excuse our sins! What He did was release us from the judgment for them (death). In most cases, we all still suffer from the consequences of our sin. Perhaps this is why James encouraged us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another so that we may be healed of our brokenness….

Consider what Paul declared: “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” (Cf. Romans 5:9-10) I believe forgiveness is probably the most powerful demonstration of love ever conceived in the heart of God.  And if we are to love one another as He has loved us, then forgiveness of others must be within our hearts as well.  The riches of His kindness, longsuffering, and patience is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) Perhaps, if we too acted with kindness and forgiveness, the one who offended us might be granted repentance as well. (Cf. 2 Timothy 24-26) As the Apostle James pointed out: My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (Cf. James 5:19-20) And we should take to heart the lesson Jesus taught us:

Luke 6:27-37 (NIV)

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High God, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

When you love your enemies and do good to them, your reward will be great!  We were once enemies of God; and yet, for the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) We have been called in Christ Jesus to share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. (Cf. Romans 8:17) Peter affirmed this reward as well: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (Cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14) Yes, somehow we need to find it within us to be kind to those who sin against us.  To me, the greatest kindness we can extend is forgiveness.  We can release them to God for His judgment.  Perhaps they might respond to His kindness.

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, then feed him; if he is thirsty, then give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Cf. Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Well, I see that I have covered quite a bit of ground on the issue of forgiveness.  A final thought to share is that communication and interaction are essential for forgiveness and reconciliation to be realized.  We are expected to “confront” our offenders.  We should go to them in love … even when we should feel righteous anger toward them.  How we feel is important … but how they are separated from you and from God is the greater issue to be addressed.  When people sin against each other … we must realize that we sin against God.  There should be a deep sense of sorrow for the offense.  There should be a great desire to effectuate reconciliation. The impulse to seek revenge should be counterbalanced with a deeper desire to see repentance and restoration. And even though you act in a spirit of grace, there could be ambivalence or indifference on the part of the offender. Still, you and I should do what is best and just commit them to God.  And do not be offended or upset with God because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  His kindness once led you and I to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. So I believe that we should pray that God would do the same for those who offend us. For God is longsuffering toward us all – not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Law of the Spirit

Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, 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.

This verse is a great encouragement … and opens an entire chapter of Scripture focused on the immutable love of God for those who believe in the Lord Jesus.  Beginning with the word “therefore” to connect this affirmation of “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus, we should probably go back to Romans 7 to understand the “conclusion” Paul is bringing to the forefront.  It is Romans 7 where we find a detailed description of the spiritual conflict within us … the struggle to put our sinful nature to death.  Paul shares his insight on how the Law and its commandments work to reveal our sinful nature and to articulate how our sinful behavior and conduct manifest: 

Romans 7:7-13 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

In dealing with sin, we have to recognize that the Law and the Commandments were spoken by God through Moses to instruct His people … to impart light, wisdom, and knowledge to those He chose to be His people from all the peoples of the earth.  God said, “ Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Cf. Exodus 19:5-6) And, “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Cf. Leviticus 20:26) Indeed, the will of God has always been for His people to obey Him; and it is our obedience that should set us apart (sanctify us) from all other people:

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (NIV)

16 The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to Him, that you will keep His decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to Him. 18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands. 19 He has declared that He will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations He has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as He promised.

We need to get this historical understanding and perspective because Paul indicates there is “new covenant” of obedience that will not come through the Law and its commandments; rather, it will take a spiritual form brought forth through the death and resurrection of Christ. Through the wisdom given to him, Paul shares how the Old Covenant administrated through Moses worked to expose the depth of moral corruption within us by giving us the knowledge of it.  And the sacrificial system instituted under Moses was a constant reminder of the need for atonement through the physical death (shed blood) of a “substitute” for the person who sinned … who violated the Law of God.  Paul explains that the commandments let us know when we have transgressed the holiness God expects of us … and through sin we have entered into condemnation and death.  It is this picture of the Law and the condemnation it brings forth that has awakened Paul to the truth of the New Covenant through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I believe what Paul is articulating here is the internal struggle with the sinful nature we experience as humans. The conflict between our spirits and our flesh is ongoing; and we are in need of rescue from this spiritual war (the Law is spiritual).  Though in our spirits we desire to do what is right and good, we are unable to do so within our own power. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:6-8) Yes, it is Jesus Christ who has delivered us from the death brought through sin.  Jesus, the Son of God, became the eternal atonement through His physical death (shed blood) on the cross as our “substitute”. As the Apostle John affirmed: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17)

God declared you and I are forgiven if we believe in His Son and abide in Him. Though as transgressors we are worthy of the condemnation of death, God in His great love and mercy ordained that in Christ Jesus there would no longer be condemnation for our sin. The penalty required for sin has been paid. Restitution has been made on our behalf. But we need to be careful to observe that this liberty from the law of sin and death is for those who are IN Christ Jesus.  Forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration is afforded to those who believe and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Let’s return to the Apostle John on this matter:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Our human rebellion against God did not change with the introduction of the Law and commandments; rather, it only afforded the knowledge of our sinful human nature so that we would know what God desires of those He created in His image. “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:3-6) Thus, it is only by the grace of God that we are saved. He sent His Son, Jesus, to not only bring true light into the world but to save the world from the condemnation of sin and spiritual death. As Peter informs us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

So what is the application for us?  How do we live in obedience to the Law … and deal with our sinful human nature that draws us into rebellion against it?  Paul explains that we must live in the Spirit in order to accomplish the requirements of the Law.  And it is through believing in Jesus Christ that we receive His Spirit to abide in us forever.  For the Holy Spirit is the seal of our redemption … deposited as a guarantee of what God has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:4-5; Ephesians 1:13-15) And so we are called to be led by the Holy Spirit and to live in Him:

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We cannot change what the Law and commandments bring to our conscience; nor can we resolve the conflict produced in our flesh because of our sinful nature.  We have to see and understand that a spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution.  And the Spirit God gave us affords us power, love, and self-control. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive His Spirit to indwell us and conform us to His image.  For this is the will of God!  This is the fulfillment of His commandments.  This is the New Covenant we enter through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is why we believe the love God has for us!  The “Law of Love” is put into our minds and it is written on our hearts because He abides in us and we abide in Him. The intimate relationship that God desires with us is perfected in love. This is how we know Him!

1 John 4:7-16 (NKJV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

If we walk in the Spirit, we will walk in love. Through His indwelling Spirit, we will love one another as God through Christ Jesus has demonstrated His love for us. As Peter wrote: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (Cf. 1 Peter 4:8) Love keep no record of debts. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) This is why God will remember our sins no more. Our debt has been paid. We have been forgiven. We have been redeemed from the law of sin and death. There is now no condemnation! And this is why we praise and worship Jesus! Oh, how I pray these truths will encourage your heart to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19) And I pray we will love one another as He has loved us! (Cf. John 15:12) For love is how we will keep the Law of God so that our hearts will not condemn us:

1 John 3:11-24 (NIV)

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. 23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Ultimate Price…

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 ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Redemption…. We have heard that word.  We have used that word in our studies.  And here, Peter tells us that we were “redeemed” from an empty way of life through the “precious blood” of Christ … as a perfect, unblemished lamb slaughtered for sacrifice on the altar of a Roman cross.  Indeed, our redemption was “purchased” with something of far greater value than perishable silver or gold….

To redeem something has several meanings.  Let’s look at some of these from Merriam-Webster:

1.         To buy back or repurchase

2.         To get or win back

3.         To free from captivity by payment of ransom

4.         To release from blame or debt

5.         To free from the consequences of sin

6.         To change for the better

7.         To repair or restore something (i.e. a relationship)

8.         To remove the obligation of by payment

9.         To exchange for something of value

10.       To atone for; to remove guilt; or expiate

There are more, but I think you get the full sense of what redeem can and does mean.  And as I review this list, I think to myself: Every one of these definitions articulate what Jesus Christ accomplished through the cross on our behalf.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Paul explains that we were “sold as slaves to sin”. (Romans 7:14) The sinful human nature has held us captive … like prisoners of darkness.  But Christ Jesus redeemed us! He repurchased us from the slave owner of darkness! He released us from the consequences of our sins! He paid the price of death for our sins … and removed our personal, individual obligation of the required payment.  This how we need to understand redemption!

But there is more that Jesus accomplished!  His selfless sacrifice was done to brings us back to God … to change us for the better … to restore our broken relationship with the Father.  These are the outcomes of His atonement for our transgressions while held under the power of sin.  His sacrifice removed our guilt while fulfilling the judgment required for our rebellion.  And all this required a high price.  The value of our redemption was set higher than the value of all the gold and silver in the earth.  God decreed that the just punishment was death … and then took that punishment upon Himself as a demonstration of His passionate love for us.  How can we even understand what God has done … except that Jesus Christ fulfilled it before the eyes of His disciples and followers.  And His resurrection from the dead confirmed: “It is Finished!”  There is no more payment required! An eternal redemption was paid in full on our behalf….

The writer of the Book of Hebrews offers us some insight on this matter:

Hebrews 7:23-27 (NIV)

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore He is able to save completely (forever) those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.

Hebrews 9:11-14; 24-28 (NIV)

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

So I pray that we will spend some time mediating on this concept of redemption.  It is rooted in Jewish culture and theology; and it best articulates the message of the cross … explaining its necessity and affording a clear visual image of the infinite price exacted by God for our sin.  We need to see that the mission of the Messiah was to defeat the kingdom of darkness and to establish the kingdom of light.  And this is how Jesus fulfilled the purpose for which He was sent.  The kindness of God is seen in the redemption of the cross.  His kindness is intended to lead us to repentance.  Repentance will prepare us to reconciliation.  Reconciliation will bring us to resurrection.  Resurrection offers us restoration.  Restoration equips us for replication.  Replication will complete the love of God is us….

1 John 4:10-17 (NIV)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

So I hope each of us will internalize the unsurpassed value of our redemption … and how it should move us to the goal of replication.  And remember, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  He is interceding for us!  He is for us!  Indeed, Jesus wants us to grow in our faith and to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head! (Cf. Ephesians 4:15) It begins at the cross … the payment for our redemption. May God be forever praised … in the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Peter 1:13-25 (NIV)

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 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 ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

A Foolish Message?

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

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.

Our verse today is a wonderful message of hope and assurance.  Let’s look at the context and explore “the message of the cross”:

1 Corinthians 1:17-31 (NIV)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 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. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Paul is quoting Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 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 believe22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9:24)

I think it is important to note that in the preceding Verses 10-17, Paul is addressing what he describes as “divisions” within the church … specifically a matter over which church leader(s) people should follow.  Paul asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” His point was that there is only ONE leader or head of the church … and that is Christ Jesus.  For He is the one who was crucified on the cross for our sins.  Even more … Jesus was resurrected from the dead to demonstrate the power and authority He received from God the Father. To Paul, and for us, this is the only message worthy of preaching.  The Gospel is inseparable from the cross! In fact, the Gospel IS the message of the cross! So, what exactly is the message of the cross?

The message of the cross is light!

Think about it for a moment. What took place on the cross? Yes, suffering, agony, and excruciating pain. But what else did the torment of crucifixion entail? Absolute Humiliation! I think that aspect is one we tend to forget.  Indeed, one of the reasons that crucifixion was used by the Romans was to use its horrific humiliation to discourage others from engaging in criminal acts – especially those of treason or insurrection. Those who were crucified were stripped naked to increase their shame since these spectacles were conducted in full view of the public.  Yet, perhaps, the full exposure (the humiliation) is an aspect that we need to consider more when it comes to the message of the cross….

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The cross exposes the hideous nature of sin in full detail. It reveals the justice of God against all sin, transgression, iniquity, rebellion, and evil. And I believe the full humiliation that Christ Jesus suffered for our sin should not be taken for granted at all. Yes, stop for a moment, and take an honest look at the disgrace and humiliation our own words and behaviors have inflicted upon the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, look at the cross and you will see what sin has done to us and our world…. God, in His wisdom, leads us to the cross in order to expose the condition of the human heart … the inclination of the thoughts of our hearts … to reveal the depravity of sin … and to convict us of our offense against the holiness of God.

The message of the cross is love!

While the light of the cross shows the entire world what the darkness of sin has done, the cross is where God revealed His mercy and grace … and demonstrated His love for us:

John 3:16-17 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Romans 5:7-9 (NIV)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!

Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The message of the cross is forgiveness!

The death of Jesus on the cross was far more than just an event in history … it was ordained for the forgiveness of sins …  to purchase our redemption from the slavery or control of sin. Both the Apostles Peter and Paul preached this Gospel message to the early Church:

Acts 10:39-43 (NIV)

39 We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, 40 but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

Acts 13:32-39 (NIV)

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ (Psalm 2:7) 34 God raised Jesus from the dead so that He will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ (Isaiah 55:3) 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ (Psalm 16:10) 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Paul later affirmed, “ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” (Cf. Ephesians 7-8) And again, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-14) And the Apostle John wrote: “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (Cf. 1 John 2:2) No, we cannot escape the truth that the message of the cross is redemption … the forgiveness of our sins.

The message of the cross is reconciliation!

The forgiveness of our sins accomplished through the blood atonement, effectuated on the cross, cleansed us from all unrighteousness!  Through faith in Christ Jesus, God declares us reconciled and restored. Through the cross, Jesus brought us the assurance of peace with God. As Isaiah prophesied: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:4-5)

Colossians 1:19-23 (NIV)

19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Romans 5:10-11 (NIV)

10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

The message of reconciliation is probably one in need of great emphasis at this moment in history.  Every prodigal needs to be reminded that reconciliation with God was obtained through the cross.  Yes, the prodigal needs to know that peace with God is still afforded through the cross.  The offense of rebellion has been redeemed!  The attitude of indifference has been covered.  The time for restoration is Today!  The cross is where liberty from darkness awaits and where the power to live in righteousness is found! 

The message of the cross is liberty!

The cross ultimately brings us freedom from sin. The cross is where the sinful nature of our flesh is put to death before we are resurrected in our spirit to newness of life. Yes, the Old Rugged Cross is the emblem of suffering and shame; but I see its beams as the intersection of our bodies and our spirits – the crossroads from which the process of sanctification emerges. Indeed, God in His wisdom, requires us to confront our sinful nature at the cross! Why? Because the cross is HOW we are freed not only from the penalty of sin (death) also how we are freed from the power of sin (sanctification). The cross is where we are led by the wisdom of God to die to self … and to no longer be held captive by the sin that was crucified there….

Romans 6:1-14 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore 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. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

Therefore, 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 us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19-25 (NIV)

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The message of the cross is power!

Indeed, as Paul implied, the cross represents the power of God. The cross displays the sovereignty of God to determine how His salvation and sanctification will be accomplished. Although God allowed His Son to be humiliated and executed on the cross; His resurrection as the third day disarmed the powers and authorities (and the spiritual forces of darkness behind them)! Jesus overruled their plans because ALL authority in heaven and in earth has been given to Him. (Cf. Matthew 28:18, John 17:2) Through the cross, God has displayed to all creation that He alone has the power to forgive sin … and His Word declares that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness! (Cf. Hebrews 9:22) And we can see this message of power in the preaching of the Apostles:

Acts 26:15-18 (NIV)

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

Romans 1:15-17 (NIV)

15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,  just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4)

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (NIV)

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

1 Timothy 1:6-8 (NKJV)

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The message of the cross is triumph!

Through His death, Jesus has paid the penalty of sin – in full and once for all! And through His resurrection, Jesus imparts His Spirit to afford us continual power to triumph over sin … to give us victory in our trials and tribulations:

Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in Him by the cross.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (NIV)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note here that Paul quotes from the Prophets Isaiah and Hosea; and I want to share these particular passages for the richness they bring to Paul’s conclusion:

Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Hosea 13:14 (NIV)

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;  I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The message of the cross is hope!

Going back to the discourse Paul had before King Agrippa, we see that he proclaims the hope of the resurrection as it relates to the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is because the resurrection is true that we now have hope in all the promises of God….

Acts 26:4-8 (NIV)

“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

Romans 8:19-25 (NIV)

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

We have, I think, fully examined the message of the cross. And so I wonder, “Why is the message of the cross considered foolishness to anyone?” If a person is unable to “hear” the message about Christ Jesus, they will not come to faith. (Cf. Romans 10:17) Although we can see and understand the power of God demonstrated through the cross to bring us salvation, the fool has said in his/her heart, “There is no God.” (Cf. Psalm 14:1) And so I pray. I ask all of us to pray … that God would open the spiritual eyes and ears and hearts of prodigals and all those whom God is calling to respond to the message of the cross! Oh, how I pray, the veil of darkness will be removed from the eyes of their hearts … that the light of the cross will go forth and illuminate minds to receive and understand the Word of Truth … so that the kindness of God will lead them to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) I pray that we as believers will understand that our prayers are mission critical in this hour as never before! The message of the cross is the power of God to save! I pray we will live out its message as a testimony to those who consider it foolishness.  Oh may our lives bring conviction and desire to embrace the message of the cross…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church.  Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.

God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us!  The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:

Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated.  And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

A thought just came to mind.  There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is.  You can know what love is.  You can feel what love is.  I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you.  I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!”  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension….  The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:

1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father.  It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require?  A Response. Repentance. Reformation.  He says to us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)

We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation.  We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)

I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:

Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)

1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sinFor whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

So, I will close with this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Radiance of God

Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

I love our Verse of the Day … especially in the full context of the passage that opens the Book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV)

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact image of His nature, and He (Jesus) upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

If we continued into Verses 5-9, we would understand that the name Jesus inherited is SON.  God sent His Son … His ONLY begotten son … into the world to speak to us and to show us the Father.  And the Gospel of John affirms this postulation:

John 14:1-11 (NKJV)

1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

John 3:17-18 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to provide purification for sins, so that the world might be saved through Him. This is the only means of salvation: To believe in Jesus and the atoning power of His blood – which was shed on the cross!  Those who believe … who put their faith in Him will not be condemned. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But those who do not believe in Him remain under the condemnation of their sin.  Yes, this is how God the Father views sin! His holiness condemns it! “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 6:23) Note the contrast: Forgiveness versus death.  The outcome is predicated upon our faith … and the transformation that faith causes in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we are born of God. Yes, this is hard to explain to the unbeliever, but Scripture demonstrates it is true nonetheless.  As Paul observed:

1 Corinthians 2:12-14 (NKJV)

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

To believe in Jesus is to believe the Father who sent Him.  Indeed, this is the work of God … to produce faith within us.  When we resist Jesus … we are resisting the work of God to bring us to Himself … to purify us from sin … and reconcile us to fellowship with Him.

John 6:29-40 (NKJV)

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” 30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

We can only see Jesus through the eyes of faith!  And when we see Jesus … we see the Father. It is a straightforward message; yet those who physically saw Jesus in the early 1st Century still did not believe His Word … His Testimony.  This is hard to fathom, but Jesus gives us some insight on why this was the case: “All that the Father gives Me will come Me.” Jesus will expound on this matter further: 

John 6:43-48 (NKJV)

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34) Therefore everyone who hears and has learned from the Father comes to Me46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life48 I am the bread of life.

Here Jesus quotes what is known as the New Covenant.  We find it in writings of the Prophet Jeremiah and it has great theological significance when we understand it in the context of the crucifixion:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV)

31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Matthew 26:26-28 (NKJV)

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus IS the New Covenant!  Through His blood our iniquities have been forgiven and our sin is remembered no more.  We have been washed.  We have been made clean.  We are now clothed in white linen and acceptable to God the Father because we have been made holy unto God.  The New Covenant is the knowledge of God.  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (Cf. John 17:3) “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (Cf. 1 John 5:20)

Jesus was sent to give us understanding! “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own people, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Cf. John 1:10-13) Therefore,  let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Cf. Hebrews 12:2)

I pray we will bring all these things to remembrance on this Good Friday … on this day that the New Covenant was forged through the blood of the Son of God and confirmed by His resurrection on the third day as He promised.  May we continue to prepare our hearts for that Day!  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!