Tag Archives: the cross

June 21; That’s Harsh

2 Kings 9:1-11:3; 2 Chronicles 22:7-12

Jehu obeyed God, as hard as it might have been. Every person in Ahab’s family from the oldest to the youngest was executed. All the priests of Baal were also killed. These were enemies of God, and they had to be eliminated. Sin had to be removed at all cost.

It’s tempting to think God through Jehu is too harsh, the penalty for being related to Ahab too severe. But that’s because we don’t understand how much God hates sin, no matter how small or how innocent we think the sin may be.

God abhors sin. God cannot exist where sin is; not in a nation, or a heart. Until we see sin through God’s eyes we will allow God’s enemy to live.

I’m certainly not talking about killing people. Jesus died so sin can be eliminated through His own blood, so no one ever has to die for sin ever again. But in order to receive the forgiveness Jesus bought there on the cross, we have to make that choice and accept it.

We have to put sin to death in our own lives, sever relationships if necessary, turn off the TV and computers, put down that glass or that bag of chips, forgive…

Hear God say to us that He is deathly serious about sin in all shapes and sizes. Hear Him say He will not tolerate your sin or mine. Hear Him as He shows us in His Word how He views sin, and how He deals with sin. His own Son died, took the penalty for every sin we’ve ever committed. God is that serious about sin.

It is harsh. You might think it’s too harsh. But you aren’t God. And the truth of the matter is, that harsh penalty was paid by Jesus on your behalf. I pray you accept it, embrace Him, and look at sin through His eyes.

June 11; A Look In The Mirror

I Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 10:1-9, 11:1-4, 13-17

Sometimes I read accounts like the one in today’s Scripture and I find myself shaking my head. The audacity of some to openly defy God, the in-your-face rejection of Him, astounds me. Jeroboam heard God’s Word, saw evidence that God was true, then turned around and did exactly what God had condemned.

This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall, and to its destruction from the face of the earth. (I Kings 13:34)

We can obviously make a connection to our own government. We can also see examples of this in the modern church. But, as always when I look into God’s Word, it’s like looking into a mirror. And sometimes I just don’t like what I see looking back at me. It hurts when God puts a finger on my heart.

I’d like to share what He is saying to me today. Number one, He has put His rules and expectations in writing. He has given clear instructions for living. He has proven Himself to be true over and over. I can make no mistake about it, God is holy and demands to be obeyed. Period.

Secondly, God hates sin. God punishes every sin. God cannot exist in harmony with sin. He makes it clear that our choice is either sin or Him. It can never be sin AND Him.

I know these things. Yet there have been times when I, and probably when you, have chosen sin over holiness, have neglected to do what He asks of me, and times when I knowingly, with an in-your-face attitude, have defied Him.

Like the foolish prophet, there have been times when someone who claims to have heard from God, says something that sounds right. Something inside of me questions whether or not it is truly Scriptural. But this someone says he’s a spokesman for God, and who am I to question that, right?

This morning as I look into the mirror of Scripture I am reminded that the only Truth is that which is written in the pages of the Bible. Anything, or anyone who adds to or contradicts what God inspired men to write down is straight from Satan.

And, if I believe that Scripture is true, I’d better be doing what it says. Because the Bible paints a holy, fearsome, powerful God who punishes every sin with death. It also clearly paints a picture of the cross. This harsh judge who has the power to condemn all of us, came to live with us in a human body, suffered and died on the cross, condemned Himself to the death we all deserve.

And He stands with open arms to receive any and all of us who go to Him.

Today, as I look in the mirror of Scripture I see a sinner saved by grace. I see a woman who was lost, now standing there wearing the holiness of the Savior. I see a woman who chooses Jesus.

April 19; He Has Done It

Psalms 13, 17, 22, 54; I Samuel 24

My one year chronological Bible had me reading Psalm 22 today. Today is Good Friday. Today is the day we remember and celebrate the cross. Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover, and that would be today. Of course April 19 is not always Good Friday. But it is today in 2019. And reading Psalm 22 on this Good Friday touched me deeply.

Psalm 22 is not just another psalm. It describes, in amazing detail exactly what we celebrate today. It starts out like this:

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Those are the very words Jesus spoke from the cross hundreds of years after David wrote them down. Now, some might say it’s no big deal that Jesus quoted Scripture from the cross. He quoted Scripture all the time.

But in verse 8 David tells us things that would be said about and to Jesus. Do you think Jesus’ enemies were quoting Scripture when they mocked him? They were trying to disprove His claims to be the Son of God. I doubt they’d pick a verse to quote that might support His claim.

And don’t even try to tell me the Romans studied Psalm 22, then crucified Jesus accordingly. Read verses 16-18. The piercings, the intact bones, the gambling at the foot of the cross. Those things happened just like God said through David. It is truly amazing. Crucification wasn’t even a thing when David wrote this psalm.

What we celebrate on Good Friday isn’t just a story about a nice guy being killed for something he didn’t do. It’s not a tragedy concocted in someone’s imagination. A real person named Jesus was nailed to a cross. He suffered a painful death. And all the time He was – and is – God. Holy. Blameless. Guiltless. Willing.

I hope you’ll take time to read Psalm 22, then turn over and read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucification today. He did that for you. And when your sin debt was paid, he said, “It is finished.” Paid in full.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus gift of forgiveness, what better time to do that than on Good Friday – the day we remember and celebrate the cross? He has done it.

For you.

 

February 5; It’s In The Blood

Exodus 10-12

To those who don’t understand, Christianity might seem a little bizarre. I mean, there is so much emphasis on blood. In the Old Testament, you read about gallons and gallons of it being spilt for sacrifices. Christians talk about washing in blood, applying blood. We even sing songs about blood. To an outsider, that might sound strange.

But for those of us who do understand, we make no apology. That blood we sing about is precious, and life-giving. We’re not talking about rubbing the red gooey stuff over our bodies for any reason. We are talking about blood that was shed 2,000 years ago. We are remembering what that blood bought for us.

As I was reading these chapters this morning, a hymn we used to sing in my youth was running through my head. It was written in the 19th century by John Foote, “When I See The Blood I will pass, I will pass over you.”  So I got out my hymnal, and had my own private worship service as I sang:

“What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

“Lay aside your garments that are stained with sin, and be washed in the blood of the Lamb.”

“Would you be free from your burden of sin? There’s power in the blood!”

“Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”

“My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!. Saved by the blood of the crucified One.”

Yes, we Christians are obsessed with blood – but not just any blood. In the Old Testament it was the blood of a lamb that protected the Jews from death. It was the blood of lambs, goats, ox, and birds that satisfied the sin debt for a time.

But since God came to earth as a man, and shed His own blood once and for all, we celebrate the blood of Jesus. Because when that blood is applied to my life, when it covers my sins, I am free! I am forgiven! I can stand before a Holy God without fear!

Hebrews 9:22 reminds us that without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be forgiven. That’s why Jesus died. So you and I can be forgiven.

If you have a minute, get out a hymnal, or Google some of the great hymns of our faith and consider Jesus’ blood. Read all five verses of William Cowper’s “There is a Fountain.” And the five verses of “Hallelujah! What a Savior,” by Philip P. Bliss.

Isaac Watts wrote “At the Cross,” and “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.” He understood what Jesus’ shed blood means to us.

Jesus shed His blood for you because He loves you, and wants you to know Him. His love sent Him to the cross so you can be forgiven.

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Amen.

 

January 9; Is There A Target On My Back?

Job: 15-19

Job brings up a hard truth about God that we often try to ignore. We can talk all day about God’s love, His grace, His forgiveness, kindness, acceptance. But we don’t like to even think about His wrath.

Now, to be perfectly clear, chapter 1 tells us Job’s suffering is not a direct result of sin. God is not punishing him. In fact, Job is an upright citizen. God even calls him “righteous.” Yet awful things are happening to Job.

In chapter 16, Job says he feels like God has placed a target on his back. Job feels God’s anger as though God were ripping him to shreds with gnashing teeth. Job says he’s tried to bind his wounds himself, he’s cried endless tears. But Job realizes his helplessness to combat God and win.

It’s easy to say Job didn’t deserve this. But here is what God impressed on me: if Job, descried by God Himself as a “righteous man,” has no defense against God, I’m in serious trouble.

Paul, in Romans 3:23 tells me everybody has sinned. Romans 3:10 actually quotes some Old Testament verses that tell me there isn’t a righteous man or woman anywhere. Not even one.

(I have no problem hearing God call Job “righteous,” then reading more than one Scripture that says no one is righteous. Job never lived like he was sinless. He continued to offer sacrifices for his sins and for those of his children. “Righteous” described Job because he had dealt with his sin.)

Scripture repeats these words, or words like them: Every sin is punished. Every sin deserves death. Every. Sin.

That’s why I think we should probably remove the word “deserve” from our vocabulary when talking about circumstances of life. We are all sinners, and God hates sin. Hates it. It’s hard to hear, but God considers sinners his enemies. (Romans 5:10; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4; I Samuel 12:14; and others)

Being sinners, we “deserve” God’s wrath. And, friend, you can’t handle God’s wrath.

As I look at the theme of worship in the book of Job, I am blown away that this man who is so lost, so grieved and alone, still looks to God. He begs God for an audience, not to give God a piece of his mind, but to present his case before God. Job longs for an advocate from heaven. Listen to this:

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend. (17:19-21)

Read that again and let God speak to your heart. Hear Job’s confidence that there is Someone who is on his side, someone who pleads with God on his behalf like a man pleads for his friend. And Job had never even heard the name of Jesus. My soul is overwhelmed at the beauty of this truth. I love it so much.

Here’s something about God’s wrath: It’s real. And it’s frightening. It’s harsh and relentless. And we are absolutely, totally powerless against it.

But Jesus!

Jesus took God’s wrath directed at you and me. He faced God’s fierce anger – AND IT KILLED HIM.

But He didn’t stay dead! He defeated the last enemy – death. Now, by His grace, I can stand before God – not an enemy – but as His precious child. Not because of my own righteousness (which is non-existent) but because I’m wearing Jesus’ righteousness through the blood He shed on the cross.

God is no longer my enemy. He’s my Father. He calls me His friend!

Please understand that unless you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, you are an enemy of God. You can try to bandage your own wounds, you can try to stand before Him in your own strength. But you don’t have any hope of winning that battle. No hope.

I don’t know what the circumstances of your life are like right now. But I know if you are blessed, you don’t deserve it. If you are suffering, you deserve much worse. You might feel like there is a target on your back, and you might be right.

But read again what Job said in the quote above. And know there is Someone in heaven who would love to be your advocate. Someone who would love to cover that target on your back with His own blood. Someone who wants to turn you from being an enemy of God, to being His most precious child.

 

Romans 1-5; Just-As-If…

Paul spends a lot of time talking about sin and condemnation, faith and justification. When you read his letters you can’t help but see that we are all sinners condemned to an awful eternity separated from God. And you can’t help but see that Jesus went to the cross, while we were still sinners, and took our punishment on Himself so none of us ever has to be separated from Him.

But Paul also makes it clear that, although Jesus died for the sins of every man and woman who ever lived, not every man and woman will enjoy the fruits of His sacrifice. Only those who receive it by faith will be justified. No amount of rule-following, or kind deeds can do what Jesus did on that cross.

What does it mean to be justified by faith? I’ve heard it explained that when we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us, so that we can stand before Him, “Just-as-if I never sinned.”

Can you imagine? I have no fear of standing before a Holy, Holy, Holy God because He will only see purity, guiltlessness, holiness in me. I can hardly imagine.

But as I sit here today and consider this precious truth, I am overcome. Because, you see, I am a sinner. There is nothing pure or holy about me, and I’m certainly not guiltless.

It occurs to me that on that day, when I stand before the throne, God is not going to look at me as if I never sinned, so much as He is going to look at me wearing Jesus’ righteousness because HE never sinned. God won’t see me as something I’m not (holy, pure). He’s going to see my Savior’s blood that covered my sins. Every one of them.

I’m not going to stand there and look God in the eye sinless. But I am going to stand there before Him, gaze into those piercing and Holy eyes, forgiven!

 

Luke 22-24; In The Garden

Every time I read the Gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion I find myself loving Jesus even more. This Man willingly died for me, a sinner. My God who has every reason to hate me, loves me and gave Himself for me.

For me.

But I will tell you I get a little sad when some people talk about the events surrounding the cross. Especially when they talk about Jesus’ prayer in the garden. I get a little offended at what they say about my Lord. I know I’ve shared this before, but it’s on my heart again.

First let me ask you this: How would you describe Jesus’ character? His mission? His passion? Is there anything in Jesus’ character that would suggest He was tentative about why He was here?

Some people cut the garden prayer out and lay it along side of everything they know about Jesus. I just can’t do that. Jesus was fully God and fully human. There is nowhere in Scripture that even hints that that balance ever changed. So when people say that during this garden prayer, Jesus’ humanness was taking over, I totally disagree. Point to a verse that supports that idea. You won’t find one. We’re so accustomed to hearing that Jesus was praying that the “cup” of the cross would be removed, we actually believe it.

Yes, it was Jesus the man who knelt there in anguish. But it was also God kneeling there, preparing to die for me. Jesus prayed to the Father, “Let this cup pass from me.” But, friend, He didn’t need God’s permission not to go to the cross. God could have gotten up off His knees and ascended into heaven at any point.

But this God/Man felt pain. He was tired to the point of death. It could have ended right there. But Jesus didn’t come to die in a garden. Yes, He prayed that this cup be removed. I believe it was. God the Father sent an angel to minister to God the Son to strengthen Him to do what He’d come to do, by removing the “cup” of anguish and physical torment Jesus was experiencing at that time. It was that “cup” that could have prevented Jesus from going to the cross. And that God/Man didn’t get up off His knees begrudgingly. He didn’t “suck it up” and walk toward His death because He HAD to.

If Jesus had second thoughts about going to the cross He could have answered the liars who accused Him in court. He didn’t. He could have called 10,000 angels to rescue Him. He didn’t. I know with all my heart that Jesus wanted to go to the cross. I believe He always wanted to go to the cross. And nothing was going to stop Him. Not exhaustion. Not pain. Not humiliation. Not betrayal. And I believe that prayer in the garden was answered so He could.

When I read about the crucifixion and the events surrounding it, I see my Savior who – for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, discounted the shame. He was willing to suffer great pain and humiliation for me. He was willing.

I know I’m not going to change many minds concerning this. That’s ok. It’s not a matter of heaven or hell. Just know that when we gather around the communion table tomorrow and remember what Jesus did, I’m going to remember His willing sacrifice, His unwavering determination to pay for my sins. I’m going to thank Him for that garden prayer that highlights His passion to do the unthinkable, die a very painful death for a worm like me.

Every time I read about the crucifixion I love Jesus even more.