I AM REDEEMED

1 Peter 1:18-19

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.

We have been redeemed! But not with physical, perishable things of monetary value such as silver or gold.  No. Peter proclaims, our redemption from a sinful nature (the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors) was purchased with something of far greater value … the highest possible value … the imperishable life of God! In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, God shed His own blood as the “purchase” price required for the payment of our sin debt.  That such an extreme price was necessary to redeem us indicates just how fatal sin of any form or magnitude should be view and understood. The only price acceptable (propitiation) was for God Himself to die on our behalf!  What greater price could there ever be? That is how God views sin….  That is how we should view sin….  As Paul explained:  

Romans 7:5-14 (NKJV)

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Perhaps Paul drew his inspiration and understanding in this regard from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:1-3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

We were sold under sin!  And through the commandments of God, we have discovered the exceedingly sinful nature of our beings.  Iniquity has been found in each one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And it is clear that God determined the price of redemption … the price to reclaim us from the death of sin … was exceedingly beyond the capacity of any human to afford.  It cost Jesus His life to pay the required price.  Yes, sin is that costly!  Jeff Bezos is worth over $100 Billion and that would represent the most microscopic Nano-fraction of what had to be paid.  Jesus asked: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We simply cannot underestimate or dismiss the fatal cost of sin over our lives.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Not only do we need to realize the infinite cost of our redemption … purchased by the Son of God … we need to understand that is was the mercy and grace of the Father that afforded this salvation to us.  This is the epitome of kindness displayed by a Holy God toward His unholy creatures.  Father God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Jesus. And His incomprehensible kindness toward us is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) This is the heart of the Gospel! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He died to redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.  And through His resurrection, we are raised together with Him into new lives! As Paul affirmed in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

Redemption … Salvation … Eternal Life.  These are gifts from God our Father.  We have received them through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ … who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5) May we never take His great love or grace for granted … and may we always strive for holiness in our lives as an act of worship for the redemption we have received.  As Paul admonished: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Foolish Cross?

1 Corinthians 1:18

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.

Paul tells us the message of the cross is considered foolishness to those who are perishing.  What is the “message of the cross”?  Why would it be considered foolishness? Well, let’s put this verse in its context and see if that will help us::

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (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.” (Cf. 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 believe. 22 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.

I think Paul is trying to drive home the point that it was incomprehensible to most Jews (and certainly to most non-Jews) that a Messiah … a Warrior King … a Savior and Deliverer sent by God to His people would have been mightier than to have suffered a torturous, humiliating death on a cross.  What kind of Messiah could Jesus have been to have suffered such a fate?  Why would anyone believe in such a weakling? Such thinking is foolishness … beyond irrational.  I think that mindset is what drove Paul (Saul) to persecute the “fanatical” Christians before He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  They were dangerous “lunatics” subverting Judaism and had to be stopped.  But the other aspect that drove the earliest believers to persist in their faith was the resurrection of Jesus.  Had He not been resurrected … this “foolishness” would have long since abated.  Indeed, if Jesus were not resurrected … then our faith would be in vain.  It would be foolish.  But we would still be in our sin as well….  (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

As Paul reasons, God ordained for His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Jesus had to die … to pay the wages of sin on our behalf. Redemption had a cost. There was a price for reconciliation.  While the cross “appeased” the justice requirement of a Holy God, it also demonstrated the incomprehensible love of God for us.  He paid the debt we owed for us!  Thus, in Christ Jesus, we see the wisdom of God because the resurrection demonstrates the power of God.  Those who reject the grace of God as foolishness will perish in their pride and arrogance.  But those who believe in Christ Jesus, the power and wisdom of God, received His gift of grace, salvation, and eternal life.  Again, the Prophet Isaiah comes to mind. The Jews should have known from their own Scriptures that the Messiah would suffer and die for their transgressions.  Their blindness became their foolishness….

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

To the world, the death of Jesus upon a cross is meaningless and foolish. A victorious, warrior King would not have let that happen … certainly not the Son of God.  But the wisdom of God required a demonstration of His wrath against sin and iniquity.  Sin is an affront to His holiness and to those created in His image.  Sin stains.  It mars.  It kills and destroys the souls of man.  And God loves us too much to allow such devastation and destruction to annihilate our souls.  He wrought His own salvation for us through His Son.  Through faith, we just need to trust Him … in His finished work on the cross … and receive His gracious offer of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  Faith in Christ Jesus is the game changer; and I can assure you He is the power and the wisdom of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Simple Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Here we have the “Story of Easter” (the Gospel message) in a very succinct format.  I love how Paul phrases his emphasis: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance.”  So what is the primary message of the Gospel?  Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  Jesus was buried. That means He had a physical body that was placed in a tomb. And Jesus was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  Paul repeats that these events happened according to the prophetic Scriptures.  This is of “first importance” for anyone to understand.  Jesus was sent by the Father.  His life and salvific ministry to us was not happenstance.  Jesus had told His disciples, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Cf. Luke 4:43) And on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (Cf. John 12:27)

So why is sharing the Gospel so important?  Well, for believers Paul states, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” Sharing the Gospel is important to faith building.  When believers were under trial and persecution, the truth of the Gospel was an important reminder of standing firm in the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.  The other reason is that we are called to share “what we have received as of first importance.” The eternal life we have received in Christ Jesus is worth talking about with others who do not know Him or placed their faith in Him…. There is a sense of urgency inherent in the Gospel message. Why the urgency? Because life is short.  As the Apostle James observed, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (Cf. James 4:14) We do not know what will happen tomorrow … or before our next breath for that matter. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28) Yes, our sin must be judged.  God is just! And since a person cannot call upon the name of the Lord and be saved after their death, that is why the Gospel is so important … so urgent.  Jesus came to bear the penalty of our sin through His death on the cross!  And as we noted last time:  

Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life….

Yes, the resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate at Easter is how we KNOW reconciliation with God the Father has occurred; and it is how we KNOW that salvation and eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  For there is no other name under heaven given among me by which we must be saved. (Cf. Acts 4:12) So I pray that each of us will take this reminder today of what is important and pass it along to others while there is still time to do so. There is a wonderful and powerful story to tell!  Let’s get the Word out so people can have an authentic encounter with Jesus … so lives can be changed by Him … so lives can be saved by Him!  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Cross of Self-Denial

Luke 9:23-24

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.

When I read this verse, all kinds of thoughts came to mind….  Do I deny myself?  Do I pick up a daily cross of selflessness or shame or suffering for the sake of Christ?  This is what it means to follow Jesus.  This is what giving your life for Him translates to in reality.  Jesus asserts whoever WANTS to be my disciple … my follower … MUST deny themselves.  So here is the challenge question for every believer: Do we truly, sincerely, honestly WANT to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ?

We I think any believer would answer, “Yes! I want to be His disciple.”  But I wonder how much we ever really examine ourselves in light of this “requirement”.  I say requirement because Jesus said “must”.  What must we deny in or of ourselves to be a sincere disciple?  What does the cross of self-denial actually look like on a daily basis? Denial in this context means to “refuse to give or grant (something desired) to (someone).  So self-denial means we refuse to grant indulgence in our own sinful desires as we pursue (follow) the righteous desires of Christ Jesus for our lives and for His glory. Thus, I believe the primary expectation is that we “die to sin” which is the very purpose for which Jesus bore the cross.  Paul wrote about the necessity of holiness in our lives:

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Disciples will die to themselves (their former natures).  As Paul reasoned, “And Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) And again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) If the CROSS represents death, then we must die daily to our former sinful nature and live worthy of the Lord in every facet of our lives. And the implication is that this transformation of our lives is not optional. It is the natural outcome of the rebirth we experience when we come to Jesus in faith and receive His life as our own…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Boasting in God

Romans 5:10

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!

After reading this verse, I had to read the whole chapter. How incredible to contemplate the immense depth of love God truly has for us! Here the Apostle Paul poses an important rhetorical question, but the theological implication is quite powerful for us!  Paul had just affirmed in Verse 8 how God demonstrates His own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  It was the helpless, powerless, condition of our sinful human nature … our rebellious inclination … that God redeemed through His Son.  And so Paul goes on to share the implications of this love for us in Verses 9-10. I will reprint the larger passage for you to see the context and to embrace the incredible mercy we have received from God:

Romans 5:6-11 (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. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 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 life11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I love Verse 11 where Paul goes on to assert: “Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This boasting Paul speaks of must be sincere praise and worship – filled with the overwhelming joy of this knowledge!  If you and I cannot feel excited about the mercies of God granted to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, I’m not sure what would excite our souls!  This is the true meaning of Easter!  We celebrate His resurrection because of what Jesus accomplished – reconciliation, forgiveness, fellowship, abiding love, and eternal life with Him.  I pray we will all raise a shout of Glory! Hallelujah! Amen! Yes, let us join Paul and “boast” in God for His indescribable gift! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/26/19

1 John 4:9

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.

I know we have covered this specific verse in the commentaries … probably numerous times.  I want to think that since it has been sent out today, there is an anointing on this Scripture that we need to grasp and embrace.  We read this verse.  We quote this verse.  But do we really KNOW this verse?  Do we really receive this love that surpasses all human understanding?  Can we?  God showed His love.  God demonstrated His love.  It is revealed and found in His Son, Christ Jesus!  But do we truly understand this?

Last night, during my prayer time, I became overwhelmed with the thoughts … the mental images … of His crucifixion.  A visage of blood trailing down sunken cheeks … a piercing crown of thorns penetrating His brow … jagged tears of flesh … whip-inflicted wounds … covered every inch of His back.  The magnitude of unconscionable, demonic-filled physical torture that Jesus endured was beyond my imagination. I was overcome. I began to weep in my spirit….

And then He spoke to me, “I endured this for you!” I was speechless.  I trembled.  In that moment, Jesus reminded me … that He knowingly and willingly went to this Roman cross of death. (Cf. John 10:11-18) God sacrificed His own life … His own blood … according to His own plan and purpose.  Jesus died to reconcile me to God the Father.  He paid the debt of sin for me.  I am redeemed.  I am purchased by His blood.  Not because I was good or worthy or merited His favor.  No, He died for me to show me the greatness of His love … to set me free from the ultimate cost of sin within the human heart.  He did that for me!  He did that for you!  Why?  So that we might truly live through Him! I am convinced there is no true life outside of life within Christ Jesus.  Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) We either believe Him at His word … or we arrogantly reject the sacrificial death He suffered to bring us eternal life. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” ~ Jesus (John 6:40) “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” ~ John (1 John 5:11)

This is a hard message.  This is hard to understand because it is not rational to the human mind.  I feel like Paul … when he expressed this message to the Corinthian Church:

1 Corinthians 2:1-3

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony (mystery) about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 

But this IS the message of this verse, and for that matter, all of the Holy Scriptures. The Son had to do this for us! It was required by God, and He sent Jesus into the world for this purpose.  At the appointed time in history … at the appointed place of birth … in the chosen nation of inheritance … for the appointed children of God. Our Savior Jesus was slain for us … for the forgiveness of our sins … ordained by God the Father before the foundation of the world.

Can I leave you with a passage of Scripture from the Prophet Isaiah?  I believe he can best orate what I am trying to share here and he foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah 700 years in advance! I just think God wants us to focus on this message – maybe as we prepare ourselves and our hearts for the season of Easter:

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. 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. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression (From arrest) and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation considered that He was cut off from the land of the living; that He was punished for the transgression of my people? He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

11 After He has suffered, He will see the light of life (see the fruit of His suffering) and will be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him a portion among the many, and He will divide the spoils with the numerous because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!