Christianity 201

May 11, 2019

Out of His Pain, We Are Counted Righteous

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NIV.Zech.3:3-4 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.  The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

This is our third time with Melody who writes at In Pleasant Places for six years. As we explained previsouly, her blog started from correspondence she was sharing with a friend; see more at her story. To read today’s article at her blog, click the header below.

Anguish and Joy – Isaiah 53:11

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”

Isaiah 53:11

This is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. Capturing so powerfully Jesus’ perspective of His sacrifice on the cross. I’m sure I have written on it before, but its impact on me is renewed each time I read it, reflecting on the love of our Savior and the love of God the Father to send Jesus for our salvation, knowing all it would require.

As Isaiah 53:5 says, Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, our offenses against the law established by the sovereign God of the universe. He was crushed for our iniquities, our immoral and wicked behavior. Jesus took the chastisement, the punishment due for the choices we made, to bring us peace with God. And with His stripes – a picture that brings me to the severe lashes on His back from His scourging – we are healed, every crevice of our heart, to the very depths of our soul.

Jesus endured all of this. Sorrow upon sorrow, abandoned by those closest to Him, mocked and scorned by crowds. Unimaginable physical pain. The darkness and heavy weight of all sin, laid on this One who is light. An agonizing break in relationship as Jesus took our place on the cross as forsaken, willingly taking the wrath of Holy God for us and experiencing for the first time in all eternity a separation from God the Father.

But out of this, through the anguish of His soul – the soul of the beautiful, perfect, infinite and holy Son and Word of God – He sees and is satisfied.

Because through this knowledge of grief and pain, Jesus makes many to be regarded as righteous. All who believe in Him, who previously had no hope of righteousness because unrighteousness filled our souls. Jesus fully and successfully bore our iniquities, that we would bear them no longer and be set free from sin. He is satisfied because He can silence our accuser, remove our filthy rags stained with our sin, and personally adorn us with pure vestments (Zechariah 3:1-4).

Ever our intercessor and good shepherd. Caring for each of His own and not losing one of them (John 10:28).

Ensuring, through the perfect fullness of His sacrifice, that no condemnation or accusation can touch us, because we are His. Sealed with His Spirit who lives and works within us, whose presence is revealed and affirmed by the evident renewal of our minds and hearts as we become more and more like Christ, day by day, until we stand blameless before the throne of His glory as He presents us to Himself with great joy. To the praise of His glorious grace.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died
– more than that, who was raised –
who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Romans 8:33-34

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Jude 24-25

April 23, 2019

A Willing Sacrifice

Paula Maillet has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005, and we first introduced her here six months ago. Her pieces are shorter so I’ve posted two Easter-themed articles below.

The Deliberateness Of The Crucifixion Of Jesus 

“Then Jesus said to them,
‘All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night,
for it is written: “I will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
Matthew 26:31-32

What is notable in the story of Jesus’s crucifixion is that he was in control of it from start to finish. He knew in advance every detail of the story before it happened. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would be condemned to die, and THAT – by human beings that he himself had brought into the world! He knew that the disciples would be scattered. When Satan had previously made attempts to do away with him, he would disappear into the crowd. He would not die until the determined time, and that was totally under his control.

“Therefore my Father loves me,
because I lay down my life that I may take it again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself.
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
John 10:17-18

Pope Francis said that Jesus’s life ended in failure, “the failure of the Cross.” What heresy! ON THE CONTRARY -the Cross is the very foundation of the faith. His “failure” opened to us entry into heaven. His “failure” provides us eternal life.Through his “failure” alone is there forgiveness of sins. No, there is no failure in the atonement made by Christ for us, rather it is the single most triumphant accomplishment of God on behalf of lost mankind. From start to finish -he was in control of every detail.

The story of the Cross is the pre-planned work of God and Jesus did it deliberately.

The Cross of Jesus Christ was not a failure, it was the greatest act of love ever performed, through which God has provided salvation to mankind.

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

The Irony Of It – The Humility Of Jesus Christ

“And when they had come to the place called Calvary,
there they crucified him”
Luke 23:33

One of the most profound elements in this story is the irony. Jesus Christ ALLOWED himself to be tortured and crucified. He did not resist:

“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.”
Isaiah 53:7

The men who crucified him were dependent on God for their next breath. Imagine it! This is the Son of God who created the universe:

“For by him all things were created
that are in heaven and that are on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.
All things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS CONSIST.”
Colossians 1:16

He created and sustains the universe, yet he allowed men which he had made -to torture and crucify him. Oh the irony! Oh the condescension!

“He came to die on a cross of wood,
who made the hill on which it stood.”

In this the love of God is shown, because he condescended to do this FOR US. On that Cross, he received in himself the judgment upon all our sin. He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves because we are sinners, but he was not. The following is the most awesome clip I have ever seen. It’s short, take the time to see it. Then forward it, share it with others. It could change a person’s destiny.

In Christ All Things Consist

March 29, 2018

Can a Dead Messiah Be the Real Messiah?

by Clarke Dixon

We may be surprised to discover that not everyone was wondering if Jesus could be the Messiah as he went around teaching and working miracles. When Jesus asks the disciples who people think he is, notice what does not make the list:

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:27-30 (NLT emphasis added)

Why did “Messiah” not make the list of who people thought Jesus might be? Jesus was not fitting their expectations for a Messiah. Jesus was going around teaching and doing amazing love focused things. But he was not building an army. A Messiah was expected to prepare for and lead a revolution, a rebellion against Rome, not a revolution of the heart.

Expectations also come into play during the week before Jesus’ execution. The week begins with Jesus clearly and loudly declaring that he is the Messiah by the way he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. And Jesus could not be more clear before the high priest:

61 Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62 (NLT)

The high priest, of course, does not agree that Jesus could be the Messiah, and neither do the crowds shouting “crucify him” at the instigation of the religious leaders (Mark 15:9-14). The people are expecting a revolution and some kind of shock and awe from the Messiah. Wasn’t that what the Old Testament promises were pointing to? Shouldn’t the Messiah be like Moses and the splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the enemy armies? Never mind destroying the enemy, standing before them was a seemingly weak and pitiful man in the custody of the enemy. Then he was executed. The suffering and death of Jesus seemed to be a contradiction of the what the Messiah was expected to be about.

Who was right? Jesus, or the religious leaders and crowd?

When looking at expectations, we should recognize that Jesus himself, on several occasions, tells clearly and also insinuates that he is to suffer and die. (See 8:31, 9:30-32; 10:32-34; 12:1-12; 14:8; 14:17-25; 14:27-31). At his arrest, Jesus makes an important observation about this suffering and death:

48 Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.” Mark 14:48-49 (NLT emphasis added)

As we read about the death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, we begin to see how much a suffering Messiah is intricately connected with the Old Testament. There are quite a number of references and allusions which help us make the connection between the death of Jesus and the promises of the Old Testament Scriptures:

  1. In Mark 15:24 there is an allusion to Psalm 22:18: “they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
  2. In verse 26 the inscription “King of the Jews”points us to the prophecies of a coming king.
  3. Bible scholars teach that verse 33 and the darkness coming over the land points us to “the Day of the Lord” spoken of in Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9; and Zephaniah 1:15.
  4. In verse 34 Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1.
  5. In verse 38, immediately following the last breath of Jesus which is the most significant moment in Mark up to this point, the curtain of the temple tears from top to bottom. This is symbolic of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a New Covenant and a new way of relating to God.
  6. In verse 42, the mention of the Day of Preparation reminds us that all this is happening on a significant Jewish holiday, the Passover. We can think of the words “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). A just and holy God must bring judgement against sin. However, Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. The whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament therefore points to the Messiah.

All this goes to show that the suffering and death of Jesus is not a contradiction of the Old Testament promises, but part of the fulfillment of them.

Following Easter the disciples were very certain that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that the Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to him as Lord and Saviour. How were they so sure? And how can we be sure? One simple reason: Jesus rose from the dead. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, they would most likely have admitted that the religious leaders and the crowds were correct. Instead, they were willing to die for what they knew to be true. While we do not have time to unpack it all here, from a historical perspective there are good reasons for us today to believe Jesus rose from the dead. We do not just hope it is true despite the evidence. We can have hope, knowing that it is true based on the evidence.

Further, Jesus reinforced to the disciples following his resurrection how he is the fulfillment of the OT promises:

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 (NLT emphasis added)

No doubt Isaiah 53 would have been a part of that, and I encourage you to read it.

Who was right? Jesus, who said he was the Messiah? Or the high priest, religious leaders, and crowd shouting for his execution? Could a suffering and dead Messiah be the real Messiah? Here is our answer: only a suffering, dead, and risen Messiah could be the real Messiah.


All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (24 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

December 6, 2016

Giving Your Testimony Isn’t Sharing Your Faith

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This blog post was recommended and comes from ThinkApologetics.com: Responding to Critics, Seekers and Doubters. The author is Eric Chabot. There’s much to see at this site, so click the title, read the article there and then take some time to look around.

“But Can’t I Just Share My Testimony?”

Over the years I have had plenty of Christians ask me about how to go about sharing their faith with others. They always ask whether they should just go ahead and share their personal testimony. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life. Thus, they think their beliefs correspond to reality because they do make a difference. In other words, “Christianity works because it is true!”There is nothing wrong with this. But allow me to offer a few suggestions:

Pragmatism has been one of the most prominent philosophies within American culture over the first quarter of the twentieth century. John Dewey was at the forefront of pragmatism within the educational system. For the pragmatist, an idea is said to be true if it “works” or brings desired results. Pragmatism is not as interested if the idea is objectively true, but simply if an idea leads to expedient or practical results.

In sharing the gospel Christians often resort to sharing a personal testimony. God can and does use our testimony in a powerful way. In other words, by sharing our testimony, we want to show that faith in Jesus works; He is responsible for transforming the human heart. While it is true that Jesus changes lives, let me ask a relevant question: Have you ever tried to share your faith with someone and heard a response such as, “I do not see my need to believe in Jesus. I am happy the way I am.” These type of responses are becoming more common in our culture. Let us look into the Scriptures to see how both Peter and Paul shared the gospel:

“Peter said, Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, I saw the Lord always in my presence; for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your holy one to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: the Lord said to my Lord, “sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Therefore let all the houses of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah-this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We see in this text that the primary apologetic methodology that Peter discusses is Jesus’ death and resurrection” (Acts Ch 2: 22-38).

Paul said, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:1-17).

Just as Peter, Paul also appealed to Jesus’ death and resurrection as the foundation of the gospel.

As we observe how the gospel was presented by Peter and Paul, do they ever suggest that Jesus is just one of the many options that changes lives? After all, if people simply want to believe in something that makes them happy, a lie can work, but its effectiveness does not make it true; it is still false, even if the result is beneficial.

What we can learn from Peter’s sermon in Acts Ch 2: 22-38 and Paul’s creed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-17 is an issue of objective truth. We should explain to our friends and acquaintances that the reason we believe the gospel transforms lives is because the gospel is true. In other words, just because our faith “works” for us and has changed our life is not what makes the gospel true. Rather, the gospel is first and foremost true; this is the reason why Jesus brings radical transformation in our character and actions. Just as Peter and Paul, we should try to appeal to an objective case for the gospel and then rely on our testimony to strengthen our case.

In sharing our testimony, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of pragmatism. Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland adds some valuable insight into this issue:

“Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.” (1)

Finally, as James Warner Wallace says:

If evidential verifiability is truly a Christian distinctive, shouldn’t it cause us to live differently than the adherents of other religious systems? Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be the one group who knows why their beliefs are true and the one group who is most willing to defend what they we believe? Shouldn’t we be the one group most interested in making the case for our metaphysical beliefs? Why then, are we often uninterested in the evidence? It’s time for us to allow the distinctly evidential nature of Christianity result in distinctly evidential believers. The nature of Christianity, rooted in the Resurrection, allows us the chance to investigate and defend its claims. As Christians, we ought to be uniquely thoughtful, reasonable and evidential in our beliefs, because verifiability is a Christian distinctive.

To read his article called Verifiability Is A Christian Distinctive- see here. 

September 10, 2016

God is not the Author of Hurt and Pain

Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Justin Petrick Ministries. Although he doesn’t seem to be writing frequently at present, there are some great articles there on file. As always, don’t read the posts here, click the title below to read at the author’s website or blog.

God Doesn’t Author Hurt and Pain

I do not know about you, but it can be easy for me to attribute hurtful and painful past experiences to the hand of God. Why do you think that is? Why do we blame God for our hurts and pains? Why is it easy for us to derive a perverted sense of peace when something happens to us that causes us hurt and pain, by saying that God is the author of it or even that He has ‘allowed’ it?

When we look back at God’s original design, the Garden of Eden, it is perfection. The Garden of Eden, also the place of perfect relationship with God, was not only a garden of perfect provision, but physical, emotional, and mental stability, or peace. Why would we think that God deviated from this plan of His or reverted to a plan B, when man chose to sin rather than to stay in perfect communion with Him?

I don’t think He did. And being that God’s original design was perfection, I do not believe that God orchestrates pain and hurt for us to experience or to grow and mature us. There is a drastic difference in our hurts and pains turning out for our good or God using hurts and pains to grow and mature us (Romans 8:28) compared to believing He is the author of hurts and pains. Let us look at this Biblically:

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Harm is emotional, mental, or physical distress, so to speak. God would never put you into a position to harm you mentally, physically, or emotionally. It is not His original plan of perfect love, nor is it in His perfect, loving nature for He is a God of love (1 John 4:8).

raThe Hebrew word for ‘harm’ in Jeremiah 29:11, is ‘ra`’ (רַע), and means “bad, malignant, unpleasant, displeasing, worse than, sad, unhappy, hurtful, wicked, misery, calamity, distress, adversity, injury, wrong, etc.”.  To many of us, these characteristics fit experiences that we believe God orchestrated or allowed to happen.

But what is interesting, is that this word “harm” comes from the root word ‘ra`a`’ (רָעַע), which means “evil”. And we know in James 1:13 that God will not test or tempt us with evil, or with ‘ra`’ (רַע) (experiences characterized as bad, malignant, unpleasant, displeasing, worse than, sad, unhappy, hurtful, wicked, misery, calamity, distress, adversity, injury, wrong, etc.).

Evil is the absence of a loving God, it is the absence of love; a void of love. Being that God is love (1 John 4:8), evil is the absence of God or His presence, ability, character, or nature. Evil is the absence of His plan. There is no hurt and pain in God’s love nor in His plan for you. It is not in His nature. He is not the author of evil. He is the restorer. He is the rescuer, the shelter, the rock. He builds up what has been broken down. He takes our hurt and pain and turns it into wholeness and victory, confidence, wisdom, and knowledge.

The things in our life that bring us hurt and pain are characterized by the plan of Satan, not God:

John 10:10 (NIV): The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Satan comes to steal health, marriages, families, jobs, security, stability, etc. He wants you to doubt God, doubt the power and design of His love for you and your life. He wants to steal the Truth and the Life, the Word, from your heart. In fact, he wants to speak lies into you about God’s nature, His very heart.

Another reason we know God does not orchestrate hurts and pains, is because He is moved by our hurts and pains, or infirmities.

Hebrews 4:15 (KJV): For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

God is moved by how you feel. When you feel hurt, manipulated, lied to, cheated on, let down, bailed on, forgotten, etc., it moves the heart of God! He feels your pain!

In fact, God is so moved by our iniquities that it is what killed the body of Jesus. Jesus died of a broken heart. One of the greatest verses that gives us physiological, medical insight into the death of Jesus is John 19:34:

John 19:34 (KJV): “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”

When you think about someone being stabbed, one would expect to only see blood come out similar to a deep cut, just more of it.  John obviously thought it was important to mention that not only blood flowed from when the solider speared Jesus, but water as well.  And he was correct.  This small piece of information is very important.

We know that when blood sits, the red blood cells naturally separate from the plasma, which looks like water or is the watery part of your blood, giving the appearance of blood and water flowing as John stated. So, where was this blood and water able to sit? The heart, which is what the solider punctured when he speared Jesus.

There is a membrane that surrounds the heart called the pericaridal sac.  When a heart ruptures, blood leaks from the heart and fills the pericardial sac and while it sits, blood will separate from the plasma.  Jesus did not die of asphyxiation, but of a broken heart when He took the sins and sickness of the entire world on Him (John 1:29).

Isaiah 53:4 (KJV): Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

This is how much Jesus loves you, to willingly take on so much sin and pain that it literally broke His heart.  This is why He is moved by the feelings of your infirmities. He bore what you are going through today when He was crucified on the cross. This is the nature and love of Jesus Christ.  He has literally sacrificed His body and heart that we might have life with Him for eternity.

This is the magnitude of His love, and it blows my mind when I really think about it, about how much pain and agony is in the world that was placed in Him, all for the simple reason of Him justifying us through this selfless act of love, that we might be conquerors over everything that caused Him to die of a broken heart.  This is how much He loves YOU.

God is not the one that orchestrates pain and hurt. He is the one that gives you the ability to overcome hurts and pains so that you may live life in His fullness and joy (Psalm 16:11).

 

August 13, 2016

The Cross as Christianity’s Icon

Yesterday, we discovered an apologetics site we weren’t aware of… and we’re always interested in apologetics. After reading several posts, we decided to use this one to feature Answering Skeptics, but as always, you’re encouraged to click the link below and read this at source. The author goes by the user name, Saint of Christ. This certainly will make you think.

cross at Grace ChurchThe Cross Does NOT Represent Christianity

22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is ACCURSED of God) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. – Deuteronomy 21:22-23

When you ask people, what does the cross represents? Immediately they’ll tell you, Christianity. But the truth is; the cross represents curse, not Christianity. Blessing, not curse, represents Christianity (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 3:9).

When Jesus was crucified, He wasn’t crucified for Christians because Christians are those who are born of God, without past (2 Corinthians 5:17); born of His sinless Word (1 Peter 1:23; John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:9); He was crucified for the world sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Christianity was born at His resurrection, not His crucifixion. He was crucified for all sinners to pay the price for their sins. So it is wrong to suggest that the cross represents Christianity. It represents the world of sin (curse). Without the resurrection, Christianity wouldn’t exist.

Our theme verse says that he who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God. In other words, the tree [i.e. Cross] represents curse; it’s a symbol of curse. Indeed, everyone, except Jesus, who was crucified, was criminal. Jesus, who was willing to be our sin sacrifice, became curse for us. He was accursed of God on that Cross; that’s why the Holy Spirit left Him (Matthew 27:46). Paul reaffirmed this when he said, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree(Galatians 3:13). Jesus became sin itself on that cross, For he hath made him TO BE SIN for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.(2 Corinthians 5:21). As Christians, we are not worshiping or serving the Jesus who was hanged on the cross; but the risen Christ.

So what represents Christianity? You may want to ask. The answer is, you. You are the epistle of Christ if you’re born again (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). You are the symbol of Christianity. That’s why He calls you the light of the world just like He is (Matthew 5:14, 16; Philippians 2:15).

The Church needs to grasp this truth and repent. Acts 17:30 says, And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”. Some even use the cross sign to pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; even though, nowhere does the Bible ever suggest that we should pray this way. Jesus said, “to baptize”; not to pray, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). He told us to pray “to” the Father, “in” His name (John 15:16; 16:26-27); “through” the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 15:16).

Just because this has been practiced for ages doesn’t make it right. So repent. Proverbs 9:9 says, Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. So be wise.


At the same blog: Who Made Paul an Apostle? Some people would argue that Paul was self-appointed. This article shows otherwise.

Interestingly enough, there’s also a lengthy article attributed to Kenneth Hagin (a prosperity preacher, I presume) which refutes the idea that Jesus was poor. I have to admit that knowing the writer’s identity and intention somewhat biased my reading of this, but there is no disputing some of the evidence presented.

July 28, 2015

The Prayer Jesus Prayers Before He Rests

Today we pay a return visit to Gordon Rumford Ministries. I pored over several excellent devotions before choosing this one. Click the title below to read at source and then take a few minutes to look around at some of the other items available there.

Into Your HandsA Good Night’s Rest

“Into your hands I commit my spirit” Psalm 31:5 (NIV)

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We are told very little about the upbringing of Jesus. The Gospels are very silent except for one incident in Jesus’ life when He was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50). However, there was a custom among the mothers of Jesus’ day that we do know about. When a Jewish mother put her young children to bed it was the custom for them to teach their children certain prayers.

In particular one prayer the mothers taught was to have the child recite Psalm 31:5. There is little doubt that Mary taught her remarkable son Jesus to say this prayer. So this is one thing about our Lord’s childhood of which we may be reasonably certain. Jesus likely prayed this prayer each night at least during His formative years. Perhaps He prayed it every night as an adult as well, we simply do not know.

However, we most certainly know that in His darkest time, when He hung on the cross to pay for His people’s sins, He uttered this prayer. It is the last of the seven things He said while on the cross.

During the first three hours on the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of the people gathered around the cross. Now that the physical alternatives were exhausted, the people turned to verbal abuse from about 9 am to noon. Then for the next three hours from noon to 3 pm, a darkness hung over the land and Jesus was forsaken by the Father in order to save sinners from eternal destruction.

The first three words of Jesus from the cross addressed the needs of others. The last four spoken in quick succession gave expression to His own needs. Jesus always saw to the needs of others before attending to His own concerns.

Having now gone through the trauma of being forsaken by God, He can once again address God as Father just as He taught us to do. And, when He is about to dismiss His spirit and die, He says the last of the seven words from the cross. The last thing Jesus said was, (Luke 23:46 NIV)

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit”

This prayer of Jesus is a remarkable one for us to pray as we endure suffering in our lives.

Jesus, as we have said, had just endured to worst the people could inflict. Now, as He is about sleep the sleep of death He prays this prayer perhaps for the last time.

The lesson for us is that we need to become children of God in order that we may pray this inspired prayer in our times of trouble. In fact, becoming a child of God is, in one sense, committing ourselves to the Lord for Him to save us.

We pray to God and dare to address Him as “Father”. Then we place ourselves into His hands. Putting ourselves into God’s hands means that we come under His control. We submit to Him in everything. What we commit to the Lord is our spirit, our eternal being, our essential selves.

My great desire is that everyone who reads this devotional would pray this simple prayer. Fancy words or prayers written by others are not needed. We can simply take this verse of the Bible and use it as the one to bring salvation to ourselves.

If we are suffering and asking God for help in our situation, then this prayer would be a wonderful way to end the time of prayer. Will you submit to what God has for you as long as He will receive your spirit? Will you call out to Him and use the tender word “Father”?

Do so today. He is waiting to hear from you.


Image: Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise ID

April 3, 2015

At The Cross

TOL squareToday’s article is presented jointly with Thinking Out Loud, part of our blog network, which looks at topical issues and Christian current events 7-days-a-week.

Gal 6:14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.

This morning I attended two very different Good Friday services in two different towns.  As I left the first one, and walked toward my car, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What is my takeaway for having been here?” Also, “What does the cross mean to me, personally?”

Really, I have no words. A song came to mind from Matt Redman, I Will Offer Up My Life, and the line

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed by this thankful heart.

As I thought about it later, the song is strongly oriented to Easter even though the title points to a personal response of sacrifice to God.

You deserve my every breath, for You’ve paid the great cost
Giving up your life to death, even death on the cross
You took all my shame away, there defeated my sin
Open up the gates of heaven and have beckoned me in

The cross does demand a response however, and for Redman, the songwriter, that response is defined in the first verse,

I will offer up my life in spirit and truth
Pouring out the oil of love, as my worship to you
In surrender I must give my every part
Lord, receive this sacrifice of a broken heart

At the second service we looked at the verse in Galatians (above) and also this passage:

NIV I John 4:8b …God is love. 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 speaker said that while “the holiness of God demanded that there be a punishment for sin, the love of God demanded that there be a way of salvation.” The sermon title was, “There Had to be a Cross.”  That reminded me of another song by another British songwriter, Graham Kendrick, Here is Love. The speaker said the cross is the intersection of our sin and God’s love; you could also God’s requirement for justice meeting his loving mercy.

Grace and love like mighty rivers
Born incessant from above
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love

My prayer today is that you also would find something new in the Good Friday/Easter narrative, and would make a personal response.

Here’s the song that follows the one above from Graham Kendrick.

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

 

October 20, 2013

Full Commitment

Entrusting My Life To God

Today’s thoughts were prepared exclusively with resources available at BibleGateway.com

As Jesus is hanging on the cross he breathes out what is the last of what is commonly referred to as “Seven Last Words of Christ.”

Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last. (NIV)

The Message renders this as “Father, I place my life in your hands!” while the CEB has “Father, into your hands I entrust my life!”

This represents Jesus statement of absolute surrender to the Father’s will. The request, “Let this cup pass from me;” appears unanswered.

Several times in the last few days, I prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” as I faced a number of concerns. The wording represents the best of the hope and trust we desire to place in the Father’s hands; but being human, we tend to hold on to our anxieties and fears; whereas Jesus’ statement of surrender seems so full and complete.

So what about that earlier prayer of Jesus?

The Reformation Study Bible states:

Jesus is horrified at the prospect of enduring His Father’s wrath. Jesus had to face death knowing that His Father would not be with Him, but against Him in wrath of judgment.

and notes that the ‘cup’ here is a reference to an earlier verse:

In the Old Testament the “cup” normally signifies the outpouring of God’s wrath (Ps. 75:8; Is. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15, 16). That the disciples would drink this cup means they would experience suffering, but note that Jesus calls it “my cup.” Because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for His own, believers do not drink the wrath they deserve. In and through Christ’s suffering they have already undergone judgment. They are now justified in Christ and heirs of His glory (Rom. 8:17). Yet their privilege is to be identified with Christ in His sufferings (1 Pet. 2:21).

Matthew Henry looks closer at the cup imagery:

He calls his sufferings a cup; not a river, not a sea, but a cup, which we shall soon see the bottom of. When we are under troubles, we should make the best, the least, of them, and not aggravate them. His sufferings might be called a cup, because allotted him, as at feasts a cup was set to every mess. He begs that this cup might pass from him, that is, that he might avoid the sufferings now at hand; or, at least, that they might be shortened. This intimates no more than that he was really and truly Man, and as a Man he could not but be averse to pain and suffering. This is the first and simple act of man’s will—to start back from that which is sensibly grievous to us, and to desire the prevention and removal of it. The law of self-preservation is impressed upon the innocent nature of man, and rules there till overruled by some other law; therefore Christ admitted and expressed a reluctance to suffer, to show that he was taken from among men (Heb. 5:1), was touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15), and tempted as we are; yet without sin.

Note, A prayer of faith against an affliction, may very well consist with the patience of hope under affliction. When David had said, I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it; his very next words were, Remove thy stroke away from me, Ps. 39:9, 10. But observe the proviso; If it be possible. If God may be glorified, man saved, and the ends of his undertaking answered, without his drinking of this bitter cup, he desires to be excused; otherwise not. What we cannot do with the securing of our great end, we must reckon to be in effect impossible; Christ did so. Id possumus quod jure possumus—We can do that which we can do lawfully. We can do nothing, not only we may do nothing, against the truth.

This is important to understand in light of what follows. In the KJV, the request is followed by the clause that begins “Nevertheless…”

His entire submission to, and acquiescence in, the will of God; Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Not that the human will of Christ was adverse or averse to the divine will; it was only, in its first act, diverse from it; to which, in the second act of the will, which compares and chooses, he freely submits himself.

Note,

  1. Our Lord Jesus, though he had a quick sense of the extreme bitterness of the sufferings he was to undergo, yet was freely willing to submit to them for our redemption and salvation, and offered himself, and gave himself, for us.
  2. The reason of Christ’s submission to his sufferings, was, his Father’s will; as thou wilt, Matt. 26:39. He grounds his own willingness upon the Father’s will, and resolves the matter wholly into that; therefore he did what he did, and did it with delight, because it was the will of God, Ps. 40:8. This he had often referred to, as that which put him upon, and carried him through, his whole undertaking; This is the Father’s will, John 6:39, 40. This he sought (John 5:30); it was his meat and drink to do it, John 4:34.
  3. In conformity to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitter cup which God puts into our hands, be it ever so bitter; though nature struggle, grace must submit. We then are disposed as Christ was, when our wills are in every thing melted into the will of God, though ever so displeasing to flesh and blood; The will of the Lord be done, Acts 21:14.

The Message renders this passage as:

“My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want? (emphasis added)

This prayer is not part of the “Seven Last Words…” though perhaps it ought to be considered along with those words spoken from the cross.  Because when we add it, we see that Jesus begins with

  • “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (NLT)

and ends with

  • “Father, I put my life in your hands!” (ERV)

May 4, 2013

The Inscription on the Cross

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Again today another new blog to introduce you to, this one is called Who?Jesus written by Brennan McMahon.  I found the story of the blog interesting:

Started off as a daily devotional blog, turned out to be a full-blown research and “Christianity rules and God is amazing” website. I take people on a word journey where they learn awesome, often overlooked hints in the Bible that point to the sheer brilliance and unerring truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We chose the most recent post, the Hebrew title of which is also below! You’re encouraged to read it at source.


ישו מנצרת מלך היהודים
IESUS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM
“Jesus of Nazareth the King of Jews” or “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”
That Latin phrase, written on the board above Jesus’ head on the cross, is where we get “INRI” that then gets written on random jewelry, pictures, etc. Yea, it’s pretty cool. 
It was also written up there in Greek…
ΟΥΤΟΣ ΕΣΤΙΝ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ
Now, check this out. The same was also written in Hebrew…
ישו מנצרת, מלך היהודים
“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”
…the Hebrew symbols read…
Yeshua Ha’Netzeret V‘mlech Ha’Yehudim
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” – John 19:17-30
Keep in mind, Pontius Pilate probably didn’t realize his off-hand phrase about Jesus would reveal anything in Hebrew. So, why did the Pharisees (the chief priests) want to change what he had written? I’ll tell ya. It’s because the Hebrew phrase translated into words whose first letters were none other than Y-H-V-H.  The “I AM!” The very name of God! They freaked out. Coincidence? Doubt it. They just realized they messed up big time and probably double-timed it to smear Jesus’ name some more.
“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ’I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD,the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Exodus 3:13-15
I don’t know where in time the the “W” replaced the “V” because there is no “W” in the traditional Hebrew language. Yahweh is the transliteration of the proper name YHWH which comes from spelling “I AM WHO I AM” in Hebrew. (You can see where vowels got tossed into “YHWH” to be able to pronounce it. It is also sometimes referred to as “Jehovah.”)
Recorded as written above Christ’s head from each of the Gospels…
King of the Jews
No one knows for certain the exact words written up there due to different fragments of this phrase in the four Gospels. An educated guess as to the addition of the words “this is” and “the” could be that they are English qualifying terms, perhaps not necessary in other languages for this instance. John 19:19 seems to be the one to keep an eye on.
The differences in the Gospels do not make the Bible inconsistent four times, but rather gives us a puzzle, when pieced together, no matter the language most likely reads:  ”Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Brennan McMahon

April 6, 2012

Filled With The Spirit

Christ was not deserted in death and his body was never destroyed. ‘Christ is the man Jesus, whom God raised up—a fact of which all of us are eye-witnesses!’ He has been raised to the right hand of God; he has received from the Father and poured out upon us the promised Holy Spirit—that is what you now see and hear!

~Acts. 2:31-33, J. B. Phillips translation

This verse was one that I learned in a slightly different form from The Living Bible, in fact, it hung as part of poster on the walls of my bedroom:

The Father gave the authority to the Son to send the Holy Spirit, with the results you are seeing and hearing today.

I believe that’s more or less verbatim, as I don’t think anyone has The Living Bible text online.

Christ’s death and resurrection brought about a change in the relationship between The Holy Spirit and man.

  • In the first covenant, God’s Spirit occasionally rested on certain individuals, such as the prophets
  • In the time of Christ, the disciples experienced Emmanuel, God with us. The Spirit indwelt Jesus who in turn was physically present among mankind in ways unknown since the Garden of Eden, but limited by whatever physical location Jesus was present at any single time.
  • After the resurrection, God’s Spirit lived inside those who granted Him full authority, or Lordship over their lives.

Christ came to fulfill a sacrificial mandate, but also to usher us into a time when His Spirit would live through us; where instead of being centered on a single person (and therefore a single place) the Spirit of God would be present in people throughout the entire earth. Though omnipresent in both old covenant and new covenant times, the embodiment of His presence after Acts 2 was much more widespread.

Raised to new life, God pours out His Spirit on all those who believe and follow. 

That’s the progression…

…But we’re not there yet.

This is still Good Friday.  In between incarnation and ascension, we have the suffering and death of Jesus, we hear him cry out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” 

But even in that anguish, is there hope?  Is there a hint of what is to come?  Just as Christ, in his life, foreshadows his death, does he in his death foreshadow his resurrection?

Today, I want to refer you to a somewhat longer  piece by Al Hsu from InterVaristy Press, posted at Christianity Today.  It’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time, in fact I read it out loud to my family.  It takes about 20 minutes to do it that way, so your reading time should be shorter.

But I promise you will never look at one particular cry from the cross the same way. I strongly encourage you to invest the time this reading takes.

Read all six screens of He’s Calling for Elijah: Why We Still Mishear Jesus (click here).

March 23, 2011

“He Sweat Drops of Blood” – Temptation

Elsie Montgomery is a Canadian, blogging daily since 2006 at Practical Faith.  She also teaches people how to write Bible study materials and devotionals. (She became an instant ‘add’ to our blogroll at right!)  This post is actually from today where it appeared under the title, Resisting Temptation.

In my efforts to lose a few pounds, decisions are necessary. I’ve heard of “mouth-hunger” vs. genuine hunger and a real need to eat. Some call “mouth-hunger” an emotional hunger. Food is comforting and tastes good. The body does not need any more, but the mouth (and emotions) crave that comfort and pleasure.

This morning, I had enough to eat and felt full, but my eyes caught the dinner rolls in the pantry. These happen to be particularly tasty and I wanted one. It was a bit of a battle to walk away, but I did, and within a few minutes the temptation was gone.

The Bible has lots to say about temptation. Its source is not what is going on outside of us (like the dinner rolls) but what is happening on the inside.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13–15)

Dinner rolls or anything else would have no appeal if I didn’t want something. My desires are the problem; the food I don’t need is merely the bait. Like a fish seeing a worm on a hook, I have a choice to make. If I keep making the wrong choices, I could sinfully overindulge. In the case of food, that would lead to obesity and even death.

Of course I am supposed to resist temptation. Sometimes I don’t. It seems like the desire is too strong, but how silly my wanting an extra dinner roll or a big piece of chocolate cake is compared to the sin that Jesus resisted.

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3–4)

Jesus first endured sin committed against Him. Human hostility toward Him was selfish and hateful (and still is). Unlike us when people hurt us, He did not retaliate. He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Second, He resisted the sin of disobeying His Father who sent Him to earth to redeem sinners. This required that He bear our penalty for sin by dying on a cross. Not only was that a terribly painful physical death, His emotional and spiritual agony can scarcely be imagined.

In Gethsemane before it happened, Jesus prayed. He was fighting the temptation to say, “No thanks” rather than bear the guilt and awful weight of every sin ever committed by every person whoever lived. He knew what was coming, but again, He resisted.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

As He sweat blood, Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) He was more willing to do as God wanted rather than take care of His own comfort and give in to the temptation to walk away and leave us to our fate.

*****

Jesus, I’ve read that extreme stress can cause a person to sweat blood. I try to imagine the seriousness of straining against temptation to the point of this happening. My own resistance to something as minor as overeating pales to ridiculousness compared to what You endured in Gethsemane.  What makes my struggle even sillier is that I am doing this mostly for my own good while Your resistance to sin was never about Yourself. You said ‘No’ to the temptations for our sake, for all sinners, for every person whoever lived, for me. At the very least Your sacrifice and Your steadfast resistance to sin ought to motivate greater resolve in me to do the same, not just in the pantry but in every area of my life.

~Elsie Montgomery