Christianity 201

June 10, 2018

Only One Sacrifice Could Effect a Momentous Achievement

Deborah (named after the prophetess) is a retired doctor now living in Swansea, Wales; a Christian for over 40 years, and an avid reader of the Bible. This is our first time featuring her writing here. To discover more, click the title below and then look around at some of the other articles.

Focus on Jesus: He is the ultimate sacrifice

“Fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1)

Hebrews 9:1-10:18

The worship of the old covenant took place in the Tabernacle (and, later, the Temple, which was constructed in a similar way) The sanctuary was divided into two rooms by a heavy curtain. In the outer room, the priests would perform certain duties (such as burning incense and tending the lamps); but they could not enter the inner room, where God was present. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was the high priest allowed to enter the Most Holy Place – provided he took with him the blood of sacrifice to sprinkle onto the lid of the Ark.

Thus the very nature of Tabernacle worship bore witness to its inadequacy. God was not really approachable; even while living symbolically in the midst of His people, He remained at a distance, and access to His presence was severely restricted. There was an impenetrable barrier between the first and second rooms that no amount of animal sacrifices could break down. This symbolized the real barrier between human beings and God – which was never a physical barrier in a building but an internal, spiritual barrier located in the conscience. And so it could not be removed by the physical rituals of the old covenant.

But the death of Jesus has changed everything!

“He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11,12)

What made the difference was the nature of the sacrifice that He offered and the location where He offered it. For He alone was able to enter God’s actual presence in heaven – not once a year, but once for all. And the death that He presented as atonement was not that of an animal but His own. Thus He paid the full redemption price for all God’s people – a price for which nothing in this world would have been sufficient (I Peter 1:18,19).

The animal sacrifices had to be endlessly repeated because they never actually achieved anything. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) But Jesus was a willing, rational and morally perfect Victim, and His sacrifice was accepted by God – which is why it will never need to be repeated (Hebrews 10:14). He had to die only once to save everyone!

Only one sacrifice could effect this momentous achievement – but now that it has been made, there is no need to repeat it or add to it. It is ‘the sacrifice to end all sacrifices’; the old system has been abolished at a stroke. The real, heavenly sanctuary has now been cleansed, signifying that God has forgotten our sins and that we shall be welcomed into His presence. We can neither be shamed by them now, nor condemned for them later! So while the repetition of the old covenant sacrifices was a reminder of sin’s continuing dominion (Hebrews 10:3), the repetition of the Lord’s Supper is for us a reminder of sin’s definitive removal.

All Bible quotations are from the NIV

October 28, 2016

The Cross: Death and Disfigurement

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Regular readers here are accustomed to devotions and studies beginning with the words, “Today we return to the blog of ______ …” and know we often catch up with writers we’ve used in the same month, but previous years. Sometimes it’s a rewarding rediscovery. I’m taking the liberty of running two posts, today and tomorrow, from BJ Richardson at The River Walk. Click the titles to see these at source; there is also a daily music video in the Respond section that you only see there. Also, click the “Merch” link to find out about owning copies of his studies in John’s gospel.

The Shame of the Cross

It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. (John 19:31-33)

Read: Hosea 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:1-25, Psalm 127:1-5, Proverbs 29:15-17

Relate: The greatest strength of a Roman crucifixion was as a deterrent. There were other forms of execution that were far more efficient. As horrendously painful as the cross was, there were other ways to exact pain just as well if not better. What made the cross such a favorite method was how public it was. When Spartacus lost in his rebellion, six thousand rebel slaves were crucified along the Appian Way between Rome and Capua. This was the most highly trafficked part of the busiest road in Italy if not the entire world. They were sending a very public message: “Don’t try this ever again.” Part of what made it such a great message was how grotesque it would look. I have mentioned earlier how crucifixion would kill someone, but I did not point out there what the cross did to its victim’s arms. Because of the stretching and the unnatural placement of the weight, eventually the shoulders would be pulled out of joint. Then later the elbows. A victim who has managed to live well into the second day would have unnatural looking arms that were more than six inches longer than they had been just three days earlier.

The problem was, this deterrent would not have been much of a deterrent of those three men were still on their crosses once Jews started pouring into the city by the thousands. For the religious Jew, seeing those men still hanging on the cross would simply stir up anger and hatred for the Roman occupiers who deliberately flouted Jewish law and custom that demanded no criminal could remain hanging overnight. (Deut 21:23) If Rome allowed those crosses to stay where they were, they would very soon be needing a whole lot more crosses. Pilate wasn’t so much caving to those Jewish leaders demands as he was pragmatically avoiding a mistake he had already made before in not taking the local religious customs seriously.

React: Honestly, this fact about the arms was not something I knew much about. I came across the information when fact checking what I thought I knew about leg breaking. I had heard about the shoulders sometimes being pulled out of joint but the how and the gruesome details behind it are new information to me. I have done my best to keep it fairly pg rated above but what I was reading made me want to cringe, and vomit, and cry all at once. It brought home in one more way exactly what is referred to with phrases like “the shame of the cross” (Heb 12:2) and “in humiliation His justice was taken away” (Acts 8:33). No one can fully know all that He suffered on the cross but every time I think I have a grip at least on the concept of what it must have been like, it just gets worse.

My only right reaction to this is to cry out, “God I am so sorry.” Every time my mind comes back to this cross, I cannot escape the horror of the truth that it was my sin that held Him there. It was for my rebellion against Him that He suffered the fate of traitors. It brings home once again the truth that no sin is small and His grace, while free, is most certainly not cheap.

Respond:

Dear God,
I am so thankful for the cross. Even as I am revolted by it, that only causes my gratitude to be deeper and richer. There is no measure to the depth of Your love or the riches of Your grace. Thank You. Thank You. A thousand times thank You for taking on Yourself the punishment that should have been mine.
Amen

 

June 14, 2015

The Day That The Lord Has Made

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This is post # 1900 at Christianity 201.


 

One of my earliest memories of singing choruses (as opposed to hymns) was the highly repetitious “This is the Day.” I think much of its popularity had to do with the fact that we didn’t need printed or projected lyrics in order to sing it; but somewhere in the process we may have missed out on a lot of its context.

We tended to sing it on Sunday, which first left me believing that it was a song about our day of worship. But then I broadened out that thought to understand that every day is a gift from God. As you’ll see below however, there is a lot more going on in Psalm 118. To read this at source from the website aBible, click the title below:

Psalm 118:24 – God Made This Day; Let’s Rejoice In It

 Psa 118:24 (NIV) This is the day the LORD has made; let us
rejoice and be glad in it.

This is the last of the “Hallel” or “praise” psalms (Ps.
113-118), which were sung at the Passover. This was probably the hymn sung
by Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room before they departed
for the Mount of Olives (see Matt. 26:30). [New Bible Companion]

Psalms 113-118 are sung yearly by devout Jews at the celebration
of Passover, the first two ( 113-114) before and the last four
(115-118) after the Passover meal. Thus it is possible that Psalm 113 was
one of the last songs our Lord sang before His crucifixion (Mark
14:26). [Your Daily Walk SB]

This psalm of jubilant thanksgiving was sung by worshipers in
procession to the Temple. It contains an acclamation of praise (vv. 1-4),
an acknowledgment of past distress, petition, and deliverance by
God (vv. 5-21), and an anticipation of the future day when the
Foundation Stone will bring salvation (vv. 22-29). [Ryrie SB]

Look back to see ahead. Turn to yesterday to see tomorrow.
It’s almost a paradox. But it’s true. When Israel looked back
each Passover season at the redemption won for them from Egypt, they
were in fact looking ahead, and viewing the ministry of the Messiah.
What will His coming mean? A shout of praise, that “His love
endures forever” (vv. 2-4). Freedom found by taking refuge in the LORD
(vv. 5-9). A fresh awareness of our desperate need, relieved by the
fact that the LORD “has become my salvation” (vv. 10-14). Shouts of
joy punctuating the realization that “I will not die but live” (vv.
15-18). Endless praise, as we enter the gates of heaven to give God
thanks for our salvation (vv. 19-21). And in it all, the exaltation of
Jesus who, rejected by the builders, became the cornerstone of God’s
plan of salvation (vv. 22-23).

Then comes the stunning realization that “this is the day that
the LORD has made”–a day that spills over into eternity; a
never-ending day throughout which we will give God thanks, exalting Him for
He is “my God” and because “He is good; His love endures forever.”
Today when you and I turn to look back, we see our tomorrow in
the cross of Jesus, our Passover sacrifice. In the shadow of Calvary
we sense the dawn of the day that the LORD has ordained for you and
me. When we turn again after looking back at the cross, and look
ahead, we can see just beyond the horizon of tomorrow the return of
Christ.

What will that return mean? How clearly this majestic psalm
tells us. For you and for me, Christ’s return will mean freedom,
shouts of joy, and endless days of praise. [The 365-Day Devotional
Commentary]

When you look back to the cross, look intently until you see
tomorrow. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary]

Saying this verse to ourselves each morning can be a great way
to remember the practice of living one day at a time. How valuable
to remind ourselves that God made this day, with all its blessings
and opportunities, and gave it to us. We can thank him for it and
enter the day with anticipation. [Life Recovery Devotional SB]

God’s ways are not the same as our ways. What people may cast
aside as unfit for use, God uses to do awe-inspiring work. This can be
true for us, too. We may feel that our life has been ruined beyond
repair. We probably think that we will never be used by God for anything
significant. God often uses the most unlikely people to work his greatest
miracles, proving to the world that God is at work. As willing vessels of
God’s power, we can be transformed to make an impact on others that
goes far beyond our wildest dreams. All we have to do is entrust our
life to God. [Life Recovery SB]

We have the assurance that in the storms of life today, Jesus
Himself will be standing just outside the door waiting to be invited in.
He is waiting to share a meal with us, waiting to share our
sorrows, to renew our courage, to come in and talk intimately.
We are not alone. We never shall be. He has to be there; all we
need do is open the door to Him. What is your need today? Do you need
comfort in your personal trials? Christ is waiting. Do you need
forgiveness for your sins? He is knocking. Do you need to make a new
commitment to serve God with your life? Whatever your spiritual need, right
now Christ is knocking at the door of your heart. He is Lord of the
universe, and He wants to be Lord of your life as well. (Stern Warning by
Billy Graham) [Inspirational SB]

Click here to read the full Psalm.

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

 

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.

December 9, 2013

Swimming Against the Current

Oswald ChambersI’m always amazed at the number of people who have never heard of what is probably the most enduring devotional resource, My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Many years ago a bookseller named James Reiman undertook to rewrite the entire book in more modern language, so that the type of sentence construction employed all those years ago wouldn’t be a barrier to people getting to the depth and riches of the material.

Two years ago we ran a few Oswald Chambers Quotations, and you can read a short biography of him here, and also at Wikipedia. It’s worth noting that Chambers never “wrote” My Utmost, rather, after his death his wife, who was a stenographer, transcribed notes from his talks.

The sample devotionals below are from the website utmost.org and are the readings for yesterday and today. Click the calendar page on the site for the permanent links to each.  In titling today’s thoughts, I was thinking in terms not of the evil in the world, but in the world’s definition of goodness which can trip us up at a more subtle level.

 

The Opposition of the Natural

Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires Galatians 5:24

The natural life itself is not sinful. But we must abandon sin, having nothing to do with it in any way whatsoever. Sin belongs to hell and to the devil. I, as a child of God, belong to heaven and to God. It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence, and my self-will. This is where the battle has to be fought. The things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best. Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle.

Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil, and wrong, but we do debate over what is good. It is the good that opposes the best. The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ. “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh . . . .” The cost to your natural life is not just one or two things, but everything. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself. . .” (Matthew 16:24). That is, he must deny his right to himself, and he must realize who Jesus Christ is before he will bring himself to do it. Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.

The natural life is not spiritual, and it can be made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us. There is no high or easy road. Each of us has the means to accomplish it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of sacrificing, and thereby performing His will.

The Impartial Power of God

By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified Hebrews 10:14

We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the result of our personal realization of the atonement by the Cross of Christ, which He has provided for us. “. . . Christ Jesus . . . became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Once we realize that Christ has become all this for us, the limitless joy of God begins in us. And wherever the joy of God is not present, the death sentence is still in effect.

No matter who or what we are, God restores us to right standing with Himself only by means of the death of Jesus Christ. God does this, not because Jesus pleads with Him to do so but because He died. It cannot be earned, just accepted. All the pleading for salvation which deliberately ignores the Cross of Christ is useless. It is knocking at a door other than the one which Jesus has already opened. We protest by saying, “But I don’t want to come that way. It is too humiliating to be received as a sinner.” God’s response, through Peter, is, “. . . there is no other name . . . by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). What at first appears to be heartlessness on God’s part is actually the true expression of His heart. There is unlimited entrance His way. “In Him we have redemption through His blood . . .” (Ephesians 1:7). To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of Him.

God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement by the Cross of Christ is the propitiation God uses to make unholy people holy.

 

May 12, 2013

Jesus as Both Substitute and Example

Balance in doctrine is so important.  This is from the blog Radical and is written by David Burnette.  Click through to read more by him and other featured writers.  NOTE: This is part one of a two part (so far) series. Click here to read part one, and here to read part two.

I must admit that hearing someone go on and on about imitating Jesus can make me, well, a little concerned.

I’m concerned that the person sees the life of Jesus only as an example to be followed. Concerned that the once-for-all work of Christ on the cross is being downplayed. Concerned that I’m being called to imitate Someone who calmed a storm with a word and spoke the world into existence. And, at the bottom of it all, I’m concerned that a form of works-righteousness is being brought in through the backdoor.

But my concerns, while sometimes valid, aren’t always justified.

Regardless of the fact that preaching and teaching about Jesus is sometimes merely moralistic, and though some people like to trumpet Jesus as our example because they (sadly) find the idea of Christ absorbing God’s wrath on the cross to be cruel or beneath God’s loving character, looking to Jesus as our example is a biblical concept. After all, the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Of course, not every aspect of Christ’s suffering can or should be imitated; for instance, we aren’t sinless, so our death won’t atone for sin. Nevertheless, we are called upon and enabled by God to imitate the One who was faithful until death.

We could look to many places in Scripture to see this truth, but 1 Peter is especially clear on this theme of imitating Jesus. Peter points us to both the finished work of Christ and the perfect example of Christ.

In 1 Peter, the example set by Christ is primarily in the context of suffering and submission. To be clear, the call to imitate Jesus in the midst of our suffering doesn’t downplay the absolutely necessary and foundational role of Christ’s substitutionary death for our salvation. Without the cross, we could never persevere through suffering, no matter how much we reflected on Jesus’ perfect example. Yet, Scripture is not shy about telling us to imitate Jesus. Consider three different texts from 1 Peter that speak to this point:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (2:21)

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”  (3:17-18)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (4:1)

In the follow-up post, we’ll consider how the theme of imitating Jesus fits with His sin-bearing, substitutionary death. We’ll see that following Christ’s example in suffering requires being redeemed by His “precious blood” (1:19). Even still, we need to be reminded to fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfect pattern for trusting God through our own difficulties (Heb 12:1-4).

As we read 1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament, not least the Gospels, we ought to have an eye out for how Jesus responded to suffering. His prayer in Gethsemane is a great place to start: Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, knowing that this meant drinking the cup of God’s wrath (Matt 26:36-42). This was an utterly crucial step in the accomplishment of our salvation, but it was also a disposition of trust to be imitated by future disciples. Such an example gives us wisdom as we seek to obey the following exhortation in 1 Peter 4:19:

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Unlike Jesus, we don’t have to face the prospect of God’s judgment against sin; however, we are called on to persevere through the trials that God sends for our eternal good (1 Pet 1:6-7). Jesus’ obedience to and unflinching trust in His Heavenly Father is an example we are called to imitate. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, the cross makes that imitation possible.

Continue reading part two here.

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

February 23, 2012

E. Stanley Jones Quotes

Don’t know him?  Let’s start at Wikipedia:

Eli Stanley Jones (1884–1973) was a 20th century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian. He is remembered chiefly for his interreligious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become friends with leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress party. He spent much time with Mahatma Gandhi, and the Nehru family. Gandhi challenged Jones and, through Jones’ writing, the thousands of Western missionaries working there during the last decades of the British Raj, to include greater respect for the mindset and strengths of the Indian character in their work.

This effort to contextualize Christianity for India was the subject of his seminal work, The Christ of the Indian Road, which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide after its publication in 1925.

He is sometimes considered the “Billy Graham of India”.

continue reading the Wikipedia entry here


“When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ”


“God, to redeem us at the deepest portion of our nature – the urge to love and be loved – must reveal His nature in an incredible and impossible way. He must reveal it at a cross.”


“We are personalities in the making, limited, and grappling with things too high for us. Obviously we, at very best, will make many mistakes, but these mistakes need not be sins.”


“Some have said that the power of a Redeemer would depend upon two things: first, upon the richness of the self that was given; and second, upon the depths of the giving. Friend and foe alike are agreed on the question of the character of Jesus Christ.”


“At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”


“A Rattlesnake, if Cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.”


“If the Holy Spirit can take over the subconscious with our consent and cooperation, then we have almighty Power working at the basis of our lives, then we can do anything we ought to do, go anywhere we ought to go, and be anything we ought to be.”


“Many live in dread of what is coming. Why should we? The unknown puts adventure into life. … The unexpected around the corner gives a sense of anticipation and surprise. Thank God for the unknown future.”


“The opponent strikes you on your cheek, and you strike him on the heart by your amazing spiritual audacity in turning the other cheek. You wrest the offensive from him by refusing to take his weapons, by keeping your own, and by striking him in his conscience from a higher level. He hits you physically, and you hit him spiritually.”


Sources: Search QuotesGood Reads, Inspirational Stories, Finest Quotes, Quote Summit.

February 8, 2012

Ten Ways to Love


I wanted the above list to be the feature of today’s post here, but also wanted to share with you a short devotional that appeared post-Super Bowl at Daily Encouragement.  This both a reminder of God’s sovereignty and a reminder that even technology offers us ways to find a new analogy to explain aspects of the Christian life…


“The Victorious Outcome”

Note: Today’s illustration may not connect with non-football fans or international readers but has an important spiritual application.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8,9). “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

In America our national sports interest turns to football throughout the fall and winter culminating in the “Super Bowl” that many of us viewed this weekend. Most had a favorite team they were hoping to see win the game. If you’re that kind of fan did “your team” win?

Having lived for nearly eight years in New England I’m sure I have many very disappointed friends up that way! But I also expect to see several New York friends this week like Dominic, who attended the game and is very pleased at the outcome. Some are excited, others disappointed. That’s the nature of competitive sports: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Let me share a story today: Imagine that your team is in the Super Bowl but you have to work and can’t watch the game, so you record it intending to watch it later. But as you leave work someone spills the beans and informs you that your team won the game. You are thrilled to hear this but you still decide to watch the game even though you know the outcome. However you quickly find yourself stressing out as you watch the game play-by-play. You must mentally pause to remind yourself, “This is only a recording, my team wins!”

Spiritual application: Life is like that. As God’s redeemed children, on the basis of Scripture we know that we are on the winning side. May God give us grace not to stress out in the “play-by-play” of life, worrying about finances, health, world conditions, safety, loneliness, work, home, death, things people do to us, and all the other things that can cause worry. In placing our trust in Christ we are “obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.”

Ultimately this victory is assured on the basis of Christ’s finished work. We don’t have to wait to celebrate the victory; He wants us to enjoy victory right here and now. Peter, who had seen Jesus, wrote to second generation followers who had not seen Him but had a faith relationship like us: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Remember, Jesus came so that we “might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly”! (John 10:10)

Paul, who also came faith in Christ following the resurrection wrote: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  It’s a great truth for every one of us. This absolutely reliable source informs us, “We win!” Paul is writing to the Roman believers and here in chapter eight he comes to a crescendo in his thought.  The context of “all these things” includes just about all that can go wrong in life, most of which we have never experienced (Romans 8:35).

Every word is rich with meaning but let’s consider just the phrase “more than conquerors.” This actually translates a single Greek word “hupernikomen.” This word is linguistically known as a “hapax legomenon”, a term used for words that occur only once in a body of literature (in this case the New Testament). In fact it’s so rare that it’s possible that Paul devised it to express his thought.  Brooksyne tells me that I make up words as I preach so I can understand such a theory.

It is actually a combination of two more familiar words; “huper” from whence we get “hyper” and nikao from whence “Nike” gets its name. “Nikao” is often translated “overcome” and is found most frequently in Revelation. I like to compare translations and I suppose for this verse I’m most blessed by the rendering in the NASB which states “we overwhelmingly conquer.”  Now let that bless your soul today, fellow overcomer!

That is what we are, through Him who loves us, and today I urge you to drink deeply from the spiritual reservoir we have in Christ. Even in the midst of your present trial declare, “I am more than victorious through Him who loves me!”

Hide this truth deep in your heart.  Many struggle, but God’s eternal Word declares that what really matters has already been taken care of.  “We are (present tense) more than conquerors.” Is Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord today?  Ultimately this is the only thing that matters in winning the one thing in life that really does matter.

  Father, we recognize that we are overcomers because we are children of God.  The battles we conquer and the ultimate victory we attain in our lifetime is wholly because of the power of Christ at work in us. We are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us and gave His life for our sins.  Thank you for the inexhaustible supply of Your grace, power, and provision for our salvation and our steadfast walk with You in the ensuing battles of daily life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

July 11, 2011

The Wonder of Your Cross – Robin Mark

When I posted the song Lion of Judah here yesterday, I discovered that another Robin Mark song, The Wonder of Your Cross, is conspicuously absent from this blog.  So without waiting another day…

Sometimes we sing songs and never really consider the theology we are singing.  A line might not feel right, but we’ll sing it anyway without thinking.  There are often questions about the line

Were heaven’s praises silent in those hours of darkness?
Your Holy Spirit brooding ’round that empty throne…

Empty throne?  I thought God was always on the throne.  Here’s Robin’s response:

I used the word “empty” in the third verse to convey the absence of the Son from His rightful place.  (Heb. 1:3, Rev. 3:21, Ps. 110:1).  God was, is, and always will be on His heavenly throne, but it is part of the fantastic mystery of the cross that, for a time at Calvary, his Son was separated from the Father for our sakes.

I hope that helps.  Here are the references (NIV) Robin quoted:

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Rev 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Psalm 110:1 The LORD says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

July 8, 2011

What Has the Cross Accomplished?

Trevin Wax had this at Kingdom People recently. The story of St. John of Damascus is also interesting reading.

By nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low:
The sin of our first parents destroyed
Hell plundered,
Resurrection bestowed,
The power given us to despise the things of the world,
Even death itself,
The road back to the former blessedness made smooth,
The gates of paradise opened,
Our nature seated at the right hand of God,
And we made children and heirs of God.
By the cross all these things have been set aright…
It is a seal that the destroyer may not strike us,
A raising up of those who lie fallen,
A support for those who stand,
A staff for the infirm,
A crook for the shepherded,
A guide for the wandering,
A perfecting of the advanced,
Salvation for soul and body,
A deflector of all evils,
A cause for all goods,
A destruction of sin,
A plant of resurrection,
And a tree of eternal life.

– St. John of Damascus

April 23, 2011

The Scandal of the Cross: Look Who’s Getting In!

Part III of Setting our Faces Toward Jerusalem Series

A couple of years ago we were at Willow Creek at a time that they were getting ready to bring in a major country artist for a concert. It struck me that instead of promoting the benefits to be had for those adherents of the church who would be attending, they instead promoted the value of the artist’s reputation in terms of inviting unchurched neighbors, co-workers and family. “This is the best invite opportunity you’ll ever had,” was close to how Bill Hybels put it.

good-friday

In a way, Easter is like that. I don’t mean the actual Good Friday or Easter services at a local church, so much as the conversational opportunities it affords. You can talk about things during the next 48 hours that you simply might never get to the rest of the year, other than perhaps Christmas. This is a prime opportunity to talk about Jesus, the Cross, sin, death, forgiveness, atonement, resurrection — major themes of Christian doctrine and practice that just don’t come up in normal conversation. Provided you don’t introduce those topics artificially, you can still bring the discussion around to Easter fairly easily and then say what it means to you personally.

In considering writing this however, it occurred to me that voicing this suggestion is not unlike sitting in church and hearing a great sermon and then deciding that someone else that we know has to hear it; the idea that this time of year is a great opportunity for the benefit of somebody else. But this time of year comes around in the Christian calendar not so much for anyone else but for me. This is my time to sit and contemplate that it was my sin that led Christ to the cross to die in my place. This is why Jesus came; because we needed a savior.

The apostle Paul said that it was for this reason that Christ came into the world: to save sinners. And then he adds something like, ‘of which I am the worst.’ I, so undeserving, so unable to gain salvation by any of my own efforts, gets included in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary just by saying to God, “I want to be included among those who realize that this sacrifice was for me; I want to be among those covered by what happened that day on the cross.”

And look who else is getting in: The woman caught in the act of adultery; the thief on the cross; the prodigal son and his elder brother. Christ died to save sinners of which we all are the worst. We’re a bunch of misfits.

So this year, we need to be re-examining the story looking for things we’ve missed before; looking for things in a familiar story to touch us in a new way. Then, because of what Christ did, and because we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed by it, we look for opportunities to share this story with others at a time it is so much easier to do so, than at any other time of year.

And really, isn’t that just like the Gospel? Part one is “taste and see;” and part two is “go and tell.”

April 22, 2011

Why I Screamed out Loud at the Good Friday Service

In the little town east of Toronto, Canada where we find ourselves, seven of the local churches come together for a Good Friday service that has grown to the point where it’s now held in the ballroom of a local hotel, and even at that we have to split into two service times.  

I never miss this event.

It’s distracting however that we all come together.  The “Christian unity” theme tends to interfere. And it’s apparently rather difficult for worship leaders to choose pieces that stay tightly focused on the theme of Good Friday, especially when most of our best worship choruses are based on the resurrection we will celebrate on Sunday.

So although absolutely nobody heard me, as the soloist was singing his second song after the message, I put my head in my hands and internally screamed out loud:

God, what are we supposed to be thinking of today?

And that’s when it hit me:  Sin.   We’re supposed to be thinking about our sin.  Our propensity to sin.  Our sin condition.  Our individual sins.  The sin that necessitated the cross.  Yes, we should think about the price that was paid for our redemption, but we should also think in terms of how we must appear in contrast to a holy God; mindful of our sin nature. It was our sin and guilt that put Him there.   So says a line from the classic worship chorus “Our God Reigns” reproduced below. 

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him,
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness.
Our God Reigns!  Our God Reigns!

Our God reigns!   Our God reigns!…

He had no stately form, He had no majesty
That we should be drawn to Him.
He was despised and we took no account of Him.
Yet now He reigns, with the Most High.

Our God reigns!   Our God reigns!…

It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him.
It was our sin that brought Him down.
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came,
And on His shoulders He bore our shame.

Our God reigns!   Our God reigns!…

Meek as a lamb, that’s led out to the slaughterhouse,
Dumb as a sheep, before it’s shearer;
His life ran down upon the ground like pouring rain,
That we might be born-again!

 Our God reigns!   Our God reigns!…

Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty;
He is alive, He is alive!
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side;
And yes, we know, He is alive!

Our God reigns!   Our God reigns!

The message of the cross is God’s triumph over sin and death.   That’s my thought for today.  However, I couldn’t post the lyrics to Our God Reigns without posting the alternative set of lyrics from Isaiah which are also available.  The first verse of both versions is the same.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness
Our God reigns, our God reigns

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

You watchmen lift your voices joyfully as one
Shout for your King, your King
See eye to eye the Lord restoring Zion
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy
We are redeemed, redeemed
The Lord has saved and comforted His people
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God
Jesus is Lord, is Lord
Before the nations He has bared His holy arm
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

For more Easter-themed reading, check out Delivered From Death at Thinking Out Loud

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