Christianity 201

September 30, 2015

Paid in Full

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Allan Connor is a retired missionary who has also authored two books and produces a series of devotional studies under the title Trail Mix. Allan is part of Clarke Dixon’s church; Clarke returns next week.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 26:36-29 and Luke 22:39-44

tetelastaiPaid In Full

Jesus and his eleven disciples emerged from a house in Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley to the east and entered a garden on the thickly wooded slopes of a long limestone ridge named the Mount of Olives. This walled enclosure was called “Gethsemane” from the Aramaic word meaning “oil press.” It was about to become a place of great crushing.

The Master took three of his intimate friends and moved off a short distance from the rest. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he confided in them. “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther he knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel came to his help, strengthening him. But he prayed more earnestly, in great anguish, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

What is happening here? Why this convulsive struggle? What is the cup? Jesus knew he would soon die on a cross but even death by crucifixion could not create such torment of soul. Here is the strong and mighty Son of God in an astonishing state of overwhelming agony!

Jesus, the sinless Savior, is about to die on the cross, taking on himself the world’s sin, breaking his oneness with the Father, facing the blackness of hell, drinking the cup of God’s wrath. “And his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Christ is being crushed beyond endurance in Gethsemane’s press; he will drink the cup until not a drop remains.

Next morning Roman soldiers fasten him to a crude wooden cross, the fiendish instrument of torture used by the Romans to punish and execute slaves and the worst type of criminals. At noon darkness descends over the land for three hours. Then Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone runs to get him a drink. Then his last words, “It is finished.” He bows his head and gives up his Spirit.

“It is finished.” Three English words are used here to translate a single Greek word, “tetelastai,” a word written across tax receipts of the time that meant, “Paid in Full.” Through his shed blood Jesus has become the supreme sacrifice required to pay our debt completely, to grant us full and complete salvation.

If Christ was willing to endure the horror of Gethsemane, the physical pain of crucifixion and the unthinkable separation from the Father as he bore my sin on the cross, there is a message here that I must breathe into my soul: God is the great Lover. As such he has an urgent need to be loved in return; that need requires our response.

John the apostle, one of the three disciples Jesus drew aside in the garden, put it this way: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, TM).

So I take my stand: I will endeavor, with the help of his Holy Spirit, to love the Lord with all my heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). For that is his desire.

July 10, 2015

Christ Pouring Out His Love on the Cross

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God Proved His Love - Billy Graham

The days and hours leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus are so rich in meaning. There is the drama itself of the story. There are the many, many prophecies being fulfilled. There are the numerous parallels to Passover. There is the theological underpinning of atonement.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of these and to miss the simplicity of one additional element: There is Jesus, pouring out his love. I was reminded of that reading this article by Cecil, a pastor in New York State, who blogs at L-Squared: Life and Leadership. (You might want to copy/paste this and email it to someone you know.) Click the title below to read this at source.

From “Good” To Great

There on the hilltop once called Golgotha but now forever redeemed as Calvary, hung a perfect, blameless man who was God. There, let us zoom our focus in on that person, Jesus, who was being sacrificed instead of you or me. He was paying the wages of our sins, which was death. With that payment, we received our salvation, freedom, healing, and life here on earth and for eternity in heaven.

When we see Jesus on the cross, we must see mercy, wrath, justice, forgiveness, commitment, obedience, courage, power, humility, faith, hope, and the greatest of all, LOVE.

LOVE THAT BEARS ALL

His love for you covers a multitude of sins. His love is like a roof on a home. It covers me as a refuge to run to and find shelter.

LOVE THAT BELIEVES ALL

His love for you believes there is greatness inside you. His love for you believes for the best in you. His love for you gives you the benefit of the doubt.

LOVE THAT HOPES ALL

His love for you goes a few steps beyond just believing, its called hoping the best for you. God believing in you solely has you in His focus. By hoping, God takes into account the crazy, hopeless situations staring you in the face. In the middle of pain, troubles, temptations, hopelessness, His love for you hopes beyond your realities. He can see the silver lining on that cloud in your life. Jesus has a positive and forward outlook for your life.

LOVE THAT ENDURES ALL

His love for you is unending, unfailing, and unrelenting. His love for you perseveres. He endured the cross because His joy was to see you restored to Him.

In Hebrews 12:2, we read,

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

Let me encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Have a stare-down if you’d like with Him. (I promise, He will probably will make you blink or even tear up first.)

He started a good work on that “Good Friday”. He’s not done with that work in your life even until this moment. His goal and desire is for greatness in your life, for your life, and through your life. Allow me to lead you or just point you to the cross and introduce you to Jesus.

Only He, with the greatest love of all, can take you FROM GOOD TO GREAT!

January 4, 2015

Contrasts of the Cross

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 5:2 NLT

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
2 Cor. 5:14 NASB

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
 2 Cor: 5:21 NET

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
 John 15:13 NIV

 

I tried to find this online or some other information about it, but was unsuccessful. My beloved wife agreed to type this out manually. The copy we have attributes it to T. G. Low. As you study this, you might think of some key scriptures that come to mind beyond the four we’ve started with above.

Contrasts of the Cross

Contrasts of the Cross

We see the son of God, who created all things, hanging between the heaven and the earth which he created;

We see a man who loved the whole world, but was hated by his own people;

We see the light of the world, but he is dying in total darkness;

We see the Messiah, or the Christ, the anointed of God, wearing a crown of thorns;

We see the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords as a common criminal;

We see the healer of the sick the lame, the deaf and the blind suffering Himself in deepest agony;

We see the one who is served by millions of angels dying all alone;

We see the one who saved others with infinite power now weak in his own body;

We see the only person who lived without sin hanging between two thieves;

We see hands and feet that only brought blessing nailed to an old rugged cross;

We see He who set men free as a prisoner himself;

We see the king of the Jews treated by the Romans as a slave;

We see the innocent, holy, blameless lamb of God shedding His own blood to fulfill the will and purpose of God;

We see God, very God in Jesus Christ, crucified for his own creation;

We see the One who ordered the total universe dying amid great confusion near Jerusalem;

In the cross God sees life, but we see death;

In the cross God sees the healing of the nations but we see great suffering;

With human eyes we see the greatest tragedy of all time, but God in the cross sees the greatest victory that has taken place in heaven or on earth.

T. G. Low

April 24, 2014

So What is Our Response to the Easter Story?

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John 14 (The Voice)

Philip: Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.

Jesus (to Philip): I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father? 10 Don’t you believe Me when I say I abide in the Father and the Father dwells in Me? I’m not making this up as I go along. The Father has given Me these truths that I have been speaking to you, and He empowers all My actions. 11 Accept these truths: I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. If you have trouble believing based on My words, believe because of the things I have done. 12 I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father. 13 Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son.

Everyone we meet, and we ourselves, needs to respond to the story that crossed our path last week: The Passion Week narrative.  I love the way this song asks the question — it’s one of the most powerful songs I’ve come across — and I was surprised to discover the song has never been featured here.  This appeared many years ago at Thinking Out Loud…

As any worship leader will tell you, Easter offers us music which best captures the essence of our faith; best captures the essence of the gospel. All worship should be ‘Christo-centric,’ but at this time of year the intensity of our worship seems so much focused.

One of my personal favorite pieces this time of year is not a congregational song, but a performance piece called “How Could You Say ‘No?'” written by Mickey Cates and performed by Julie Miller. When my wife had a soundtrack for this, we were repeatedly asked to do it each year at the church we were attending; later on we did it with live music.

christoncross

The song asks the question: How can you see what Christ did for us on the cross and then just walk away, knowing it was your sin that put him there; knowing that he did this for you?

Take the next four minutes just to focus on this song and all that it means.

Thorns on His head, spear in His side
Yet it was a heartache that made Him cry
He gave His life so you would understand
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

If Christ Himself were standing here
Face full of glory and eyes full tears
And he held out His arms and His nail-printed hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Jesus is here with His arms open wide
You can see with your heart
If you’ll stop looking with your eyes
He’s left it up to you, He’s done all He can
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Could you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Thorns on His head, your life is in His hands
Is there any way you could say no to this Man?

Oh, is there any way you could say no to this Man?

April 18, 2014

Thoughts for Good Friday

Isaiah 53

The Voice (VOICE)

53 Indeed, who would ever believe it?
    Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?[a]
    Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?[b]
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,
    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.
Yet it was our suffering he carried,
    our pain[c] and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected him,
    that God was the reason he hurt so badly.
But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
    Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
    The injuries he suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
    scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer,
    the sins of us all.

And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence.
    Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
    he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away.
    From this generation, who was there to complain?
Who was there to cry “Foul”?
    He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living,
Smacked and struck, not on his account,
    because of how my people (my people!)
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong.
    They snuffed out his life.[d]
And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced
    in borrowed space (among the rich),
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed.[e]

It is hard to understand why God would crush His innocent Servant. But it is in His suffering for sin that God deals decisively with sin and its harmful effects.

10 Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along,
    to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God.
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing,
    this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged.
For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish.
11 As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul,
    God’s servant will see light and be content
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,
    “My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away.
12 Because he exposed his very self—
    laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death—
And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best.
    I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value,
Because he took on himself the sin of many
    and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.”

  1. 53:1 Romans 10:16
  2. 53:1 John 12:38
  3. 53:4 Matthew 8:17
  4. 53:7–8 Acts 8:33
  5. 53:9 1 Peter 2:22

 


Here also is a potpourri of thoughts from http://www.dailychristianquote.com Don’t rush through these, pause over them to grasp what the writers were discovering…


Good Friday is the mirror held up by Jesus so that we can see ourselves in all our stark reality, and then it turns us to that cross and to his eyes and we hear these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s us! And so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We see in that cross a love so amazing so divine that it loves us even when we turn away from it, or spurn it, or crucify it. There is no faith in Jesus without understanding that on the cross we see into the heart of God and find it filled with mercy for the sinner whoever he or she may be.

~ Robert G. Trache


Christ died. He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – His PEACE!

~ Matthew Henry


God led Jesus to a cross, not a crown, and yet that cross ultimately proved to be the gateway to freedom and forgiveness for every sinner in the world. God also asks us as Jesus’ followers to carry a cross. Paradoxically, in carrying that cross, we find liberty and joy and fulfillment.

~ Bill Hybels


Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men’s sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ. –

~ Watchman Nee (Note found under his pillow, in prison, at his death)


As out of Jesus’ affliction came a new sense of God’s love and a new basis for love between men, so out of our affliction we may grasp the splendor of God’s love and how to love one another. Thus the consummation of the two commandments was on Golgotha; and the Cross is, at once, their image and their fulfillment.

~ Malcolm Muggeridge


The Christian community is a community of the cross, for it has been brought into being by the cross, and the focus of its worship is the Lamb once slain, now glorified. So the community of the cross is a community of celebration, a eucharistic community, ceaselessly offering to God through Christ the sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving. The Christian life is an unending festival. And the festival we keep, now that our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us, is a joyful celebration of his sacrifice, together with a spiritual feasting upon it.

~ John R. W. Stott


This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over.

~ Catherine of Siena


And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
~ How Great Thou Art

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
~ And Can It Be

 

April 6, 2014

Devotions from the Hymnbook

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  (I John 1:7 NLT)

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

How much worse punishment do you think is deserved by the person who walks all over God’s Son, who acts as if the blood of the covenant that made us holy is just ordinary blood, and who insults the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29 CEB)

As someone who has been responsible for helping to introduce modern worship at two different churches, I am very supportive of what many of today’s worship leaders and modern hymn-writers are doing, and believe very strongly in the “theology of ‘New Song'” as expressed in Isaiah 42:10 and other scriptures.  However, I’m also very appreciative of the richness in many of the old hymns.

The challenge with many of the hymns however is that they were written at a time when the style dictated following a certain format. Many started with a strong thought, but were evangelistic in nature, imploring and pleading with the hearer in successive verses to cross the line of faith before it is too late.  For that reason, some of the first verses of many of these hymns are worth remembering, but successive verses seem out of date, and also don’t conform to the nature of what we now call ‘vertical worship,’ that is songs directed directly to God.

Still, this morning I got to thinking about many of those first verses, especially in songs that could have application either to a communion service or Good Friday. These lines may be foreign to you, or familiar, but I hope they resonate with you.  If you’re under a certain age, I hope you’ll stick with this today.

He The Pearly Gates Will Open

Most of these songs focus intensely on the saving work of Christ on the cross. Many mention the blood of Jesus. Today, some preachers shy away from talking about the blood of Christ and people are uncomfortable singing “Are you washed in the blood.” There are very few contemporary books being written about the blood of Jesus.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
Deep and mighty, pure sublime;
Coming from the heart of Jesus
Just the same through tests of time

He the pearly will gates will enter
So that I may enter in
For he purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
All my sins He then forgave
I will sing His praise forever
For His blood; His power to save.

My Savior First of All

This song takes an end-of-life perspective and also introduces the idea that in the age to come, Jesus will still be recognizable by the nail scars in his hands. Certainly when he appeared to Thomas — in what we describe as a ‘glorified body’ — Thomas was invited to see the scars in his side and his hands.

When my life work is ended
And I cross the swelling tide
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see
I shall my redeemer when I reach the other side
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

I shall know Him, I shall know Him
As redeemed by His side I shall stand
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

Glory to His Name

This is a rousing song that expresses thankfulness and praise for salvation. It’s a song of personal testimony that ends, “I am so wondrously saved from sin…”

Down at the cross where my Savior died
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried
There to my heart was the blood applied
Glory to His name

Once for All

This song has a strong basis in the book of Romans and is more doctrinal or theological, looking at our position in Christ. The chorus is more evangelistic than what we’re including here — it’s an invitation song, though a bit up-tempo — but two of the verses showcase the writing.

Free from the law, oh happy condition
Jesus has bled and there is remission
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall
Grace has redeemed us, once for all

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation
Jesus provides a perfect salvation
“Come unto me,” Oh hear His sweet call
Come and He saves us, once for all

Yes I Know

This one is actually the third verse of a more obscure piece that was revived a few years ago by the Gaither Gospel Series, a series of DVDs and CDs that provided a nostalgic return to hymns and gospel songs for an older generation. (See video below.)

In temptation He is near thee,
Holds the pow’rs of hell at bay;
Guides you to the path of safety,
Gives you grace for every day.

And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean,
And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.

In a few days we’ll return to this theme and look at a single hymn that chronicles the final hours of Jesus leading up to the cross.

Read more scripture verses relating to the blood of Jesus.

July 21, 2013

Where is the Lamb?

In a devotional post from the blog Biblical Studies, the author notes that in addition to being a study on substitutionary atonement, the story of Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of Isaac initiates the question Isaac asks — “Where is the lamb?” — that then reverberates throughout the rest of scripture.  This was originally published under the title Genesis 22.

In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. God is not endorsing child sacrifice among men, He is foretelling His Child sacrifice for men. Abraham is obedient to God, not willing to keep anything from God, even his beloved son. This was a test for Abraham and a testimony to the world. On the way to the altar, Isaac asks his dad, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” In response, Abraham prophesied, “”My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together” (Genesis 22:7-8).

When they arrive at the place of sacrifice, Abraham prepares to offer Isaac to the Lord, but before Abraham could sacrifice Isaac, God stops him. We read in Genesis 22:10-12, “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”” Before they leave the mountain top where Abraham was to offer Isaac, Abraham again prophesies the coming of the Lamb of God in Genesis 22:14, “And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”” About 2,000 years later, upon that very same mountain just outside of Jerusalem, God offered His only Son, the Lamb of God, as a sin offering to reconcile fallen man to the Holy Living God Almighty.

Where was the lamb? That question had been asked by all the faithful, from Isaac to Moses to David to Isaiah, all the way to the time of John the Baptist when he declares in John 1:29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” For hundreds of years, on a daily basis the priests of Israel continued to echo Isaac’s cry, “Where is the lamb?” Of all the lambs sacrificed in Israel’s worship of God, none was as important to Israel as was the Passover lamb. Through this special lamb, God’s people were saved from the death angel and delivered from Egyptian bondage.

In Exodus 12:3 we read, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.” It was through the killing of this lamb, the eating of its flesh, and the faithful application of its blood that salvation and deliverance were provided to Israel.

In the Passover, God gave to His people a beautiful, symbolic portrait of the eternal truth of salvation through the blood of God’s supreme Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ! Thousands of years later, multitudes have yet to encounter Christ, and still echo the cry, “Where is the Lamb?”

Behold the Lamb! But wait! We can hear another voice crying in the wilderness, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ … The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” (John 1:29,35,36).

“John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”” (John 1:29). “The next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”” (John 1:35-36).

John the Baptist was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). He warned the world to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The Apostles “went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12), and Jesus declared, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). God Almighty has given this testimony to a fallen world, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, repent of your sins and accept the Lord your God who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

Read more at the same blog: Here’s a study from later on in Genesis (chatper 41) on the life of Joseph.

April 4, 2013

He Endured The Cross

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Hebrews 12:1a-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Brooksyne Weber noted at Daily Encouragement, “…the many things Jesus gave up or endured on His earthly journey that would conclude at the cross…” (This is paraphrased, click the link to read the original at the bottom of their page.)

  • He gave up His glory in heaven.
  • He gave up His royal privileges.
  • He was subjected to Satan’s temptuous ways.
  • His incorruptible body was subjected to physical death.
  • He was numbered with transgressors while the guilty was freed.
  • He was abandoned by those closest to Him.
  • He chose silence when false accusations were hurled at Him.
  • He was subjected to betrayal and physical cruelty by those He came to save.
  • He sought us out even when we were indifferent to all He has done for us.
  • He bore all our sin to satisfy what the law demanded.

This reminded me of the words of a popular Christmas (!) song Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary

Many Gospel Music artists — and Elvis Presley — recorded the song, If That Isn’t Love which echoes this idea:

He left the splendor of heaven
Knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha
There to lay down His life for me

And if that isn’t love
Then the ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the little sparrows can’t fly
Yeah if that isn’t love
Then heaven’s a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love

Even in death He remembered
The thief hanging by His side
Then he spoke of love and compassion
And He took him to paradise

And if that isn’t love…

More recently, we have the song The Servant King which is also sung at both Christmas and Easter.  We’ve covered that song and included a video here at C201.

Hopefully today’s devotional thoughts from Christian song lyrics has guided you to consider the breadth and width of the sacrifice we remembered at Easter.

March 28, 2013

Playing With Time

As some of you read this, it’s already Good Friday. This particular blog is set up to post articles between 5:00 and 6:00 PM EST (New York time) but with readers all over the world, I realize that many readers are already “in” a particular day when this gets seen.

But in many respects, we’re all guilty of a greater measure of playing with time when it comes to Good Friday. The reason is simple. We already know how the story ends. It’s entirely impossible for us to approach Good Friday not knowing that Resurrection Sunday is just around the corner. We don’t have to read ahead because we’ve previously read the whole story.

But it wasn’t like that on that overcast day at the foot of the cross. In play-script form, The Voice Bible reads:

John 19:29-30 The Voice

29 A jar of sour wine had been left there, so they took a hyssop branch with a sponge soaked in the vinegar and put it to His mouth. 30 When Jesus drank, He spoke:

Jesus: It is finished!

In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.

It’s so easy to miss what those standing around the cross at that moment must have felt.

The second way we play with time — going backwards instead —  is in the way we’re able to trace back all the prophecies Jesus gave concerning himself. The disciples are dejected and grieving His death, and we read this in the 21st century and we want to scream at the pages, “Look, go back to page ___ and read what he says about how The Messiah must suffer and die! It’s all there!”

You get a sense of this in Luke 24; and again, we’re going to defer to The Voice translation:

Luke 24 – The Voice

13 Picture this:

That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 14 As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. 15 While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up to them and begins walking with them, 16 but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.

Jesus: 17 You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation. What are you talking about as you walk along this road?

They stop walking and just stand there, looking sad. 18 One of them—Cleopas is his name—speaks up.

Cleopas: You must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about what’s been going on over the last few days.

Jesus: 19 What are you talking about?

Two Disciples: It’s all about the man named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet who did amazing miracles and preached powerful messages in the sight of God and everyone around. 20 Our chief priests and authorities handed Him over to be executed—crucified, in fact.

21 We had been hoping that He was the One—you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God’s promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning—the third day after the execution— 22 some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, 23 but they didn’t see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something—a vision of heavenly messengers—and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. 24 Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn’t see Jesus.

Jesus: 25 Come on, men! Why are you being so foolish? Why are your hearts so sluggish when it comes to believing what the prophets have been saying all along? 26 Didn’t it have to be this way? Didn’t the Anointed One have to experience these sufferings in order to come into His glory?

Clearly, Jesus’ later teachings about his impending sufferings weren’t registering. Or perhaps it was a case of serious denial. Verse 21 is translated more commonly in a form like “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (NIV)  The verse captures most accurately the sadness felt by those two followers.

If you continue reading The Voice, you find at this point an embedded commentary suggesting the writer Luke is doing his own version of playing with time; using this story a set up for something he knows is coming just a little bit past the point where this chapter resolves itself and this book ends: The Book of Acts. Acts is this gospel’s sequel. The commentators seem to feel that Luke is preparing his audience for something which, while it does not in any way diminish the resurrection — which is after all, the centerpiece of the entire Bible — is going to astound them, namely the birth of The Church.

However, it’s Good Friday, and as we place ourselves back in that particular part of the story through this Holy Day and its various church gatherings, we can’t help but know what happens next.  So with a glimpse into Easter Sunday, let’s see how The Voice ends Luke 24:

27 Then He begins with Moses and continues, prophet by prophet, explaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how they were talking about the very things that had happened to Jesus.

28 About this time, they are nearing their destination. Jesus keeps walking ahead as if He has no plans to stop there, 29 but they convince Him to join them.

Two Disciples: Please, be our guest. It’s getting late, and soon it will be too dark to walk.

So He accompanies them to their home. 30 When they sit down at the table for dinner, He takes the bread in His hands, He gives thanks for it, and then He breaks it and hands it to them. 31 At that instant, two things happen simultaneously: their eyes are suddenly opened so they recognize Him, and He instantly vanishes—just disappears before their eyes.

Two Disciples (to each other): 32 Amazing! Weren’t our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? Didn’t you feel it all coming clear as He explained the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures?

33 So they get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem—all seven miles—where they find the eleven gathered together—the eleven plus a number of others.

March 24, 2013

The Power of the Cross

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ~ Billy Graham


All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them. –E. M Bounds


The Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin. ~ Watchman Nee


Today Jesus Christ is being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere example. He is that, but he is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God. –Oswald Chambers


The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales. ~ John Stott

As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to include this worship song by Stuart Townend which can be part of your Holy Week service or used as a communion song throughout the year. If you can’t play the video in your region, take some time to read the lyrics.

Col 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 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.

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath-
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought,
Every evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the victory cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the power of the cross:
Son of God-slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Two other songs also posted here fit well with this theme and have been posted here previously:

Quotes: Tentmaker, Christian Quotes

January 4, 2013

Communion

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Communion

Today’s thoughts are from Nicole Vaughn at Proven Path Ministries. As always, you’re encouraged to click through to read at source, where a music video also awaits you.

I sat at the table. Pete took a sip of his wine. There was no plate and no cup in front of me. “I wanted to introduce you to someone,” he said to me. “She and I are having Communion. The Lord’s Supper. The Table. The Passover meal.”“I’ll take it with you.”

“No,” he said, “For you, Communion is tiny, tasteless wafers and a little plastic cup full of grape juice. Someone reads a few verses, you swallow the bread, you throw down the juice, and you think to yourself, Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You put the cup in the pew holder, and you’re done. Later someone comes by and cleans up the leftovers.”

“What do you think ‘Communion’ was like at first, Matt?

I shrugged. “I’ve never thought about it, I guess.”

“That first year after he died, do you think we threw back our cups, took five minutes to say thanks, and then moved on?”

He made a good point. I could spend more time than that reminiscing about a good meal. “Probably not.”

“We knew him, Matt. He changed our lives. Our thankfulness wasn’t some theological construct. It was deep and true and unstoppable.”

~ excerpts from Imaginary Jesus, a 2010 book by Mike Mikalatos (out of print)

I am not sure about you but I have to sadly admit that I have noticed that many see Communion Sunday as skip day… “Oh yeh, we can leave after Sunday School, it’s just Communion today”

Perhaps you are one of those.

How much more special would communion be if instead of waiting on a piece of cracker and a taste of grape juice,while sitting nicely in our pews, we instead chose to sit around a table… with bread and maybe even wine… and we truly spent that time focusing on what our Savior did for us.

Would you really have to worry about drunkenness if when you looked at that wine what you saw was Jesus blood shed for you, for your sins?
Would you really over-indulge in the bread (or the wine) if when you looked at it you truly saw our Savior’s body broken for you, for your transgressions?

Therefore whoever eats the bread
or drinks the cup of the Lord
in an unworthy manner,
shall be guilty of the body
and the blood of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:27

  • What if instead of a Sunday potluck fellowship, when the church gathered together to partake in a meal it was simply the Passover meal, the bread and the wine?
  • What if we gathered together and we simply remembered Him?
  • What if we sat and talked about the day we met Him?
  • What if we shared about how He had changed our lives?
  • What if we shared how He has walked with us and carried us since we met Him?
  • What if we purposely went into a joint Passover meal with a fellow church filled with a people of completely different background and ethnicity than ours and we united in Christ?
  • What if Communion Sunday was not “church skip day”?
  • What if instead of uniting to pick-it the abortion clinics, or uniting to fight legislation, or uniting to demand prayer in school, or what ever other political agenda we have at the moment, we united for the sake of simply remembering Him?

What if we had a Call to Remember and every church in our community, our county, our state, our nation, the nations… what if we called all our individual local congregations to come together at the same day at the same hour for Communion, to simply remember Him.

  • Nothing else.
  • No political agenda.
  • No pity party stories.
  • No martyr talk.
  • Nothing but a call to remember Jesus and to proclaim Him, His life, His death, His resurrection.
  • All and only about Him
How seriously do you take Communion?

Is it just something you do or does the weight of it sink deep into your soul and lift your heart and eyes to His beautiful sacrifice for your ugly and deceitful heart?

Is it a time for you to search the tray for the biggest cracker and the most full tiny cup while you whisper until you see everyone take their bite and drink their little cup and see your own cue, so you stop chatting with your neighbor long enough to absentmindedly pop in the cracker and throw back the juice and then complain about how dry those crackers were and you need some more drink to wash it down?


After this,
Jesus, knowing that all things
had already been accomplished,
to fulfill the Scripture, said,
“I am thirsty.”
John 19:28 

Maybe some make a joke of Communion so that they don’t really have to think about it…

Maybe some make Communion “skip day” so that they don’t have to remember and don’t have to examine…

I can ask all these questions because I have been there.

I know.

I have walked into the door and seen the table and thought “man, if I had known this was today we would have went on home… or just stayed home.”

I’ve been there so busy whispering to my neighbor that I have paid no attention to the reading of the Scripture, and I certainly was not examining myself, and I definitely was not remembering Him…

I was doing a formality, a religious duty, pass the tray grab the cracker, get the cup… 1-2-3 eat… 1-2-3 drink, let’s sing and go get some real food.

That’s never, ever, again the way I want to take Communion.

How about you?

Have you ever thought about that first Passover after the ascension of our Lord?

Is there any way it could look and feel like the miniscule communion cracker and miniature communion cup that we purchase in bulk at our local christian supply store in order to make it as quick and easy as possible?

November 27, 2012

Why Couldn’t God Simply ‘Declare’ Our Sins Forgiven?

In the spirit of this blog’s official tag line — Digging a Little Deeper — we go to a question I hadn’t considered before. Why couldn’t God in his grace simply make a declaration of forgiveness without involving the cross? Will G. wrote the following nearly a year ago from Melbourne, Australia at Weblog of a Christian Philosophy Student under the title Why can’t God just forgive sin?

People sometimes ask: why can’t God just forgive sin? Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for us?

My answer to this would be that there are two kinds of forgiveness, one of which is a lot more ‘powerful’ than the other, and God needed to use this second, more powerful kind of forgiveness. Moreover, giving this kind of forgiveness required Jesus to die on the cross.

How so?

Imagine a thief who keeps stealing some guy’s stuff – let’s say John’s stuff. John is so nice that whenever the thief steals from him, he forgives the thief. But the thief never changes his behaviour. John can forgive the thief all he wants, but it doesn’t stop the thieve from stealing. Forgiving the thief doesn’t make the thief a better person.

John’s kind of forgiveness could be called the first kind.

The story shows that John’s kind of forgiveness doesn’t do that much. John’s forgiveness won’t make the thief stop stealing, it will only prevent John from seeking justice and might also relieve some emotional tension from his anger. John’s kind of forgiveness won’t change the thief’s behaviour.

If God’s forgiveness is like John’s forgiveness then God’s forgiveness won’t change people’s behaviour. If God’s forgiveness is like John’s forgiveness then we’ll act in heaven the way we do on earth. This could lead to heaven having such things as people really disliking one another, splits between different groups, cliques, and so on. Not really a great picture of heaven.

The Christian idea is that to solve humanity’s problems, God needed a more powerful ‘second’ kind of forgiveness – one that changes behaviour. That’s the kind of forgiveness you need to really deal with humanity’s issues.

See Col 2:13:

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.”

The Bible says that when God forgave us He managed to change our behaviour as part of the forgiveness. Our sinful nature was ‘cut away’ by God’s forgiveness, although we will still fight against it until Jesus comes (Gal 5:17).

Imagine John forgiving the thief with such ‘power’ (somehow) that the thief decided never to steal again! That would be similar to the second kind of forgiveness.

So how does it work?

The Bible says that the mechanism for God’s more powerful kind of forgiveness must involve Jesus dying for us (Matt 26:39). I’m not too clear on the details of how it works, but I suspect it involves some kind of exchange between sinners and Jesus. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed”, in Romans 6:6, “our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ”, and in Gal 2:20, “It is no longer [my old sinful self] that lives, but Christ lives in me”.

September 10, 2012

The Wonder of the Cross

Today for the first time, a worship song repeat.  But first, a poem:

The Ironies of the Cross

 o

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him
Raucous laughter in a barracks room
Hail the king they sneered while spitting on him
Brutal beatings on this day of doom
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme
Jesus reigning from a bloody cross

o

Awful weakness marks the battered god-man
Far too broken now to heist the beam
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree
God’s own temple’s down he has been destroyed
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod
But the temple rises in god’s wise ploy
Our great temple is the Son of God

o

Here’s the one who said he cares for others
One who said he came to save the lost
How can we believe he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross
Let him save himself, let him come down now
Savage jeering at the king’s disgrace
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the king of grace

o

Draped in darkness utterly rejected
Crying why have you forsaken me
Jesus bore God’s wroth alone dejected
Wept the bitterest tears instead of me
And the mockers cried he has lost his trust
He is defeated by hypocrisy
But with faith’s resolve Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me

o

The preceding poem is a transcript made from a recording of an excellent D.A. Carson sermon called the Ironies of the Cross. (from a D.A. Carson sermon archivesourced at a 2007 post at Homeward Bound.

And now the song, from Robin Mark, The Wonder of Your Cross

Learn more about the song from its first appearance here one year ago.

August 26, 2012

All My Sin Had Brought a Price To Pay

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This is one of the songs we posted as part of our YouTube project, collecting “lost songs” that haven’t heretofore been posted at the popular site by anyone else.  The annotation reads,

…This is an amazing song by the otherwise heavy metal Christian band, Scarlet Red.

As they brought him up the roadside
Many people came to see
The one who taught us all to trust in God
They wondered as they saw his misery…

Blood ran down from off his fingers
Where he wiped his bloody eyes
As they threw him down and drove those nails
I heard the painful sounds that Jesus cried

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

I cried as I walked home that evening
Couldn’t see how it could be
If God is fair and just to all mankind
Father God how do you look at me?

As I walked I thought about Him
His words were ringing in my ears
Could it be that this was God Himself
Come to bear the sins of all my years.

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

It wasn’t long before I saw the painful truth before my eyes
All my sin had brought a price to pay
And I knew it was for me that Jesus died.

And I said, ‘I know why my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And then You’ve let Him die
I know why, I know why’
I know why, I know why’

November 4, 2011

From the Depths of Sin to the Joy of Forgiveness

There are times I truly believe that those of us who “grew up in church” or attended since were “minus nine months old” actually miss out on the fullness of forgiveness.  Unless we’ve wandered off into the depths of depravity and then returned, we forget that our testimony of what we were saved from has equal merit to those who have a testimony of what they were saved out of.

And we worship corporately, unaware of  how the lyrics of the same song, or the words of the same sermon are being processed by our fellow worshipers.  It is so easy to sit in church and sing worship songs because we understand intellectually the concepts of grace, mercy, atonement, forgiveness, etc., and yet forget the context in which other people might be sitting a few rows away from us, hearing those same words sung but taking an entirely different mental picture away from what we’re singing.

Unless someone takes the contrast and puts it right in our faces.  This video by Reformed Praise founder David L. Ward tries to present the contrasting worlds that some might be experiencing when hearing some of the songs we use in worship; and perhaps, because there isn’t necessarily a ‘scale’ of sins, it applies to the rest of us more than we care to admit…

There is no sin that I have done
That has such height and breadth
It can’t be washed in Jesus’ blood
Or covered by His death.
There is no spot that still remains,
No cause to hide my face,
For He has stooped to wash me clean
And covered me with grace.

There is no wrath that I will know,
No wormwood and no gall;
For though such wounds and grief I earned
My Savior bore them all.
There is no work that I must add
To stand before His throne.
I only plead His life and death
Sufficient on their own.

There is no love that I desire
But Jesus’ warm embrace.
While now I know His love by faith
I long to see His face.
There is no song that I will sing,
No melody but this,
That my Beloved, He is mine,
For He has made me His.

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