Tag Archives: the cross

The Charges Against You (Matthew 27, Mark 14)

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and couldn’t get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, I finally gave up, turned on the light, and finished a Christian fiction novel I had begun reading a couple days ago.

The main character, who had given her life to the Lord about three-quarters into the story, had been drugged and sabotaged by her conniving assistant. When the truth came out, the assistant, flanked by two police officers, stood before the main character. The guilty assistant was facing prison time for her crimes.

“Do you want to press charges?” one of the officers asked.

Then, because she realized how much God had forgiven her, the main character looked at her assistant and felt sorry for her. “No,’ she replied. “I won’t be pressing charges.”

Sounds very Christian.

Until you read the Scriptures I read this morning.

Sometimes we are led to believe that when we ask Jesus to forgive us, He simply erases the ledger. He doesn’t press charges. But that is not true. Those sins you confess don’t just go away. Each one comes with a death sentence, and saying, “My bad,” doesn’t make them disappear, no matter how sincere you are.

There is a price your sins and mine demand. It’s an awful, painful, serious price to pay. And a Holy, Just God demands payment.

Jesus paid.

He heard every lie, every insult. He felt every fist, every thorn, every lash, every nail. His blood poured out of His body like yours or mine would have flowed. He died a very painful death. His death was our death sentence.

Jesus didn’t go through all of that to simply let you off the hook. He endured that pain to pay for your sins and mine. Every sin. The debt ledger wasn’t erased. It was paid in full.

If you confess your sin you will be forgiven. But the charges against you have been made, and you have been found guilty. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting the fact that He paid your death sentence. He took on Himself the punishment you deserve.

I pray you have received what Jesus died to give you, the forgiveness of your sin. But never think what He did was merely dropping the charges. It cost Him much more than that.

The Full Extent Of His Love (John 13)

I love what John said about Jesus in verse one of this chapter:

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The full extent of His love.

Have you experienced that love for yourself? We read what that looked like in the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ last days on earth in a human body.

He shared that last supper with His disciples where He asked them (and us) to remember Him every time we eat the bread and drink the cup which together represent His suffering. He washed his disciples’ feet and told them (and us) to serve each other in the same way. He said words of comfort, knowing they (and we) would face hardships because of Him. He prayed for them (and us), and promised He would come back for them (and us).

Then we watch as He is arrested, beaten, lied about, ridiculed, tortured, and then nailed to a cross. He was betrayed and abandoned by people closest to Him. He died a painful death, when the truth is He went through all of it willingly. He could have stopped it. But His love wouldn’t let Him.

What is the extent of His love? Read John 13-21 and experience it for yourself. Jesus’ love of you caused Him to feel real pain, both physical and emotional. His love of you allowed those soldiers to beat Him mercilessly. His love of you let them drive those nails into His hands and feet. And finally, His love of you kept Him on the cross until your sin debt, the death penalty that is yours, was paid in full.

I would say the extent of God’s love for each of us is limitless. If you are a believer you understand what that means, and I imagine you are rejoicing in the privilege of experiencing that love for yourself. If you don’t know Him, I pray you will take the time to read these chapters today, knowing that everything in there was said and done for your benefit. Jesus did all of that for you.

Oh what wondrous love is this!

How Long Has It Been? (Matthew 26, Mark 14)

I believe Peter loved Jesus, that he was convinced Jesus was the Messiah. I believe Peter meant it from the depths of his soul when he said he’d rather die than ever deny Jesus. But as much as Peter loved Jesus and was determined to follow Him to the bitter end, Peter failed. He denied he even knew Jesus not once, but three times.

Then, when faced with his sin, Peter broke down and wept. Something tells me he didn’t just shed a few tears here. I think the word “wept” means the damn broke.

How long has it been since you were that broken over sin in your own life? You’re a believer. You committed your life to God, promised to love and obey Him – and you meant it.

But a temptation presents itself and you end up sinning anyway, in thought or deed. Oh, you probably whisper an apology, “Please forgive me, Jesus,” and you know He will. That’s the beauty of our Savior. He is gracious and merciful, and faithful to forgive.

But are we truly aware that our sin is a denial of Jesus every bit as much as what Peter did? Can we look Jesus in the eye and still believe our sin is no big deal just because we convince ourselves our sin is not as bad as some? We can read this portion of Scripture and point a finger at Peter. Can God be pointing a finger at us?

Your sin – and mine – is personal to Jesus who endured the agony of the cross to forgive it. Yes, that sin you are thinking about right now ought to drive you to your knees in uncontrolled grief. That sin that drove a nail into the precious hands of Jesus. That sin that denies your relationship with Jesus.

Just because we are assured that God forgives our sins shouldn’t blind us from the seriousness of them, or what it cost Jesus to even offer forgiveness. And every sin should grieve us for what we do to our Savior. It’s a slap in His face, a denial, a choice to place that sin above Him.

How long has it been since you wept over sin in your life? I’m asking myself the same thing, and I’m not thrilled with my answer.

Chosen Or Not? (Matthew 22)

Does God choose to save some people, and choose to not save others? Matthew 22:14 says that is clearly the case. Like it or not, God in His Sovereignty clearly accepts some people and not others.

BUT… do not take this verse and expect it to stand on its own. Read the first 13 verses of this chapter, too.

The invitation to the king’s banquet went out to everyone. Some people rejected it on their own. Others dropped what they were doing and accepted the invitation. But one who accepted the invitation was rejected by the king.

Why was this man rejected? Had he received the invitation by mistake? Was the invitation never meant to be extended to him because the king didn’t have him on the guest list? No! The man was rejected because he had come to the banquet on his own terms, not wearing the clothing provided by the king.

The man wasn’t rejected because the king didn’t want him there. The man was rejected because he himself had rejected the king’s provision.

Here’s God’s plan of salvation: Jesus died to pay the death penalty for every sinner who has ever lived. Forgiveness and eternity is extended to ANYONE who accepts it. Jesus died once AND FOR ALL. And God chooses to save anyone who comes to Him on His terms.

Also in God’s sovereign plan is the invitation. Scripture tells us God is drawing all men to Himself. He came to seek and to save that which was lost – and we are all lost because all have sinned. He continually reveals Himself to the world through nature and the Gospel so that no one has an excuse when on that day, every person will give an account for their response to God’s grace.

God doesn’t write anyone off until they stand before Him wearing their filthy rags instead of His own righteousness through the blood of Jesus. Many are called. But only the few who accept His invitation according to His demands are chosen.

That means you! If you have never gone to God on His terms, through His Son Jesus, by repenting of sin and accepting forgiveness through His blood, God has chosen to reject you. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. That’s God’s sovereign plan. He’s very clear about that.

But rest assured… if you come to Him today and accept what Jesus died to give you, you will stand before the King of kings wearing the proper attire, the righteousness of Jesus!

I’m praying for you.

A Moment of Weakness? Or Something Else. (John 12)

The next time you are tempted to think, or when you hear someone say Jesus, in His human form, exhibited human weakness when, in the garden He prayed to the Father to take “this cup” from Him, I want you to remember verses 27-28:

Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour?” No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

There is no other Scripture that backs up the idea that Jesus experienced a moment of weakness there in the garden. There are verses, however, that tell us that Jesus was determined to go to the cross.

Isaiah 50:7 Because the Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. (this entire chapter speaks to the suffering Messiah. I’m not taking this verse out of context. The Messiah was determined to pay for your sins and mine, even knowing what He would have to endure to accomplish that.)

John 10:17-18 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (Jesus never had to ask His Father to give Him permission to avoid the cross. Jesus had that authority given to Him from the start)

Luke tells us that Jesus, the night He would be arrested, was in anguish, sweating like drops of blood. Couldn’t it be that Satan was giving it his last best shot? Could it be that evil wanted Jesus dead before He could reach the cross? Could it be that “this cup” referred to that moment?

I believe that is so, because God answered His prayer at that moment. God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus there in the garden. Jesus asked for help to get to the cross, not for an excuse not to go. And God answered His prayer by sending an angel.

When Jesus prayed for Himself as recorded in John 17, He said:

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

He’s speaking as though the cross was a done deal. Not sure avoiding the cross at the last minute would have glorified the Father.

If you can show me other verses that speak to Jesus being anything but determined to go to the cross, please share them. But if you can’t, understand that you insult my Savior when you tell me He had even a moment of weakness, that He, minutes before completing His own plan to save you and me, got cold feet.

I can tell you without hesitation that Jesus, from the very beginning, planned and was determined to go to the cross to save you. There in the garden He was 100% human and 100% God. His godship was not diminished or overpowered by His humanity. (again, if I am wrong according to Scripture, please point me to those verses).

Let me ask you, why do you want to hold on to believing Jesus was pleading with His Father to get out of going to the cross? Why do you want to believe that He reluctantly said, “But I’ll do what You want, even if it’s not my will?” Why not rather believe that prayer was, “If you want me to die here in the garden, Dad, I’ll understand. I’d rather complete the mission and go to the cross. It’s up to you. Not my will, but your’s be done.”

When I think that God, Holy, Holy, Holy, all-powerful, the King of kings and Lord of lords wanted to die for someone like me, I can only fall to my face. When Scripture tells me He could have backed out at any time, that He could have just beamed Himself back to heaven, but chose to go through that anguish for me, how can I not love Him?

Believe Jesus was praying for a way out of going to cross if you want. I just happen to believe you are missing a precious truth if you do.

COVID19 on the Cross (Isaiah 49-53)

Isaiah clearly says in 53:5, “by his wounds, we are healed.” I watched a YouTube video of a popular preacher who insisted that Christians should not be struggling with physical illnesses because Jesus nailed our diseases to the cross. He quoted a partial verse (Isaiah 53:5b) to support his opinion.

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah is a beautiful picture of Jesus, so accurate in every way, and Isaiah is speaking in the past tense – which is thrilling to me! Our Savior was despised, rejected, beat up and pierced. Why? Because of my sin and yours. God laid on Jesus the inequity of us all. (vs 6)

If you don’t read anything else today, I hope you’ll take time to read Isaiah 53 and fall in love with Jesus all over again. But also notice the emphasis, the “why” Jesus did what He did. I challenge you to find any reference to physical illness, unless you distort verse 5b like some do.

The whole sentence says it was our transgressions, our iniquities, the punishment we deserved for sin was upon Him, and by those wounds incurred from the beatings and the nails piercing His flesh, we are healed from those transgressions, iniquities, and free from the punishment our sins deserve.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to make you happy or physically immune from sickness. You aren’t cured from COVID19 at the cross. But you are cured from the disease of sin there. Sin no longer has any power over you when you kneel at the cross.

I hate to tell you this but you might get COVID19. You might get cancer, or dementia, or you might break a leg, or lose your eyesight. That has nothing to do with the grace of God that forgives sin when we confess our sin. The cross was and is about sin.

I’m not going to ask you if you have any COVID symptoms. I will ask you if you have any symptoms of sin. I won’t ask if you have been healed from cancer or a virus or a booboo. I will ask you if you have been healed from sin by accepting what Jesus did for you on the cross. I won’t ask you what you know about COVID. I will ask you if you know the Savior that Isaiah so beautifully described in this chapter.

Jesus died with your sins on His shoulders. I pray you’ve met Him at the cross, and allowed His grace to flow over you, healing you from the disease of sin.

Blameless and Innocent (Psalm 19)

My mom wrote, “for 1991” in the margin of her Bible, next to these verses she’d underlined:

…Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)

Mom lived these verses about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. But it wasn’t so much the verses she’d underlined that stood out to me. I’ve sat here for a while considering the words she chose not to underline in verse 13. Those words are what speak to me today:

Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

I do not claim to know why my mother didn’t underline this phrase, so I won’t pretend to speak for her. I knew Mom as a humble, less-than-confident servant of the Lord she loved. Did she feel unworthy to even suggest that she could be blameless or innocent, even if God had declared she was that and more through the blood of His Son? I don’t know. I only know she didn’t underline that phrase in 1991.

It occurs to me that it’s fairly easy to recognize someone struggling with pride. They tend to brag, they draw attention to themselves, they are critical of others in order to show themselves superior.

It’s not as easy to recognize someone struggling with guilt, regret, or feeling undeserving of God’s grace. They tend to serve God quietly, maybe self-sacrificially, and avoid recognition or praise But they struggle in the depths of their souls, often with a smile on their faces.

Let me share two things God has laid on my heart concerning this. 1) If you feel unworthy of God’s grace, you are right. You don’t deserve it. You are a sinner and what you deserve is hell. That is true for all of us. In fact, grace wouldn’t be grace if we deserved it.

But do not misunderstand, Jesus died for you and me while we were sinners. You do not deserve His forgiveness, but He deserves for you to accept it anyway. He willingly paid what you couldn’t pay. And being blameless and innocent is His gift for you if you would just receive it. We need to stop trying to feel worthy, and instead rejoice in the reality of God’s grace to we who are anything but worthy.

2) Because if we don’t, if we continue allowing ourselves to feel shame or guilt, or if we allow our unworthiness define us, we run the risk of having a works-based faith. We want to feel like we deserve God’s grace so we teach Sunday School, we visit people in hospitals, we fix food for shut-ins, we read our Bibles every day, we don’t drink or smoke or gossip. And we think that somehow living like that will make God love us more, or forgive us more, or maybe it’ll just help us feel good about ourselves.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that nothing – nothing- we do can make God love us more. He died once for you. It is finished, He said. You can’t earn what has already been bought.

Again, I don’t know why Mom didn’t underline this part of verse 13. But if you are struggling with guilt for sins already forgiven, or if you find it hard to accept what Jesus freely offers, understand those thoughts and feelings don’t come from God. They are the arrows of the enemy.

My prayer is that you will rejoice in the cross today, allow God to cover those sins He died for, accept His grace without hesitation. And with boldness, live your life as one who has been declared blameless and innocent.

Because through Jesus’ blood that is exactly what you are.

 

Savior or Executioner (Judges 3-5)

Sisera was running from his enemies, the children of Israel. Jael gave him shelter, AND guarded the door. Sisera was thirsty and asked for water. Jael went one better, and gave him milk. I can only imagine how that sweet liquid felt to Sisera as it hit his tongue. Sisera was weary. Jael provided him with a warm bed.

Yet with all the kindness Sisera received at the hands of this Jewish woman, Sisera remained an enemy of God. He did not repent. And the one who had lavished him with grace and mercy became his executioner.

We must not take God’s grace and mercy for granted. The sun rose today on everyone. There is oxygen to breathe in every corner of the world. Working limbs, hearing ears, love and laughter are enjoyed by the vast majority. And to top it off, Jesus died for the sins of every individual. For God so loved the world!

Yet some who are enjoying the grace and mercy that is ours at the hand of a very patient and loving God, will one day meet Him as their executioner. Some who accept His blessings in this lifetime will die His enemy unless they accept what is their’s through the blood of Jesus.

Yes, God is a loving God. He is slow to anger. He is actively working in the hearts of people everywhere to come to Him, to love and obey Him, to repent of sin and know Him.

But one day we will look into those eyes and see our Savior, or our Executioner. There is no third option.

December 30; What Not To Wear

Revelation 15-18

So often we can become impatient for God to give our enemies what we think they deserve. But as I read John’s vision in the book of Revelation, I realize God is not out to avenge our enemies. But He will certainly deal with His.

His final judgment will be unimaginably awful for anyone who rejected Him during their lifetime on Earth. It is a truly frightening account of their future.

Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments. (16:7)

God isn’t going to arbitrarily torture someone just because He didn’t like them, or because of the color of their hair. But a painful existence is ahead for anyone who has ignored God’s wooing, His hand of correction, His conviction over sin, His constant attempts at winning the world. His judgments are true and just.

Jesus says, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (16:7)

So let me ask us this: What are we wearing? What clothes are we hanging onto? Good deeds? Charity? Church attendance? Morality? Good luck with that.

Those are exactly the things NOT to wear. When those filthy rags disintegrate, and they will, you’ll be standing there as naked as the day you were born.

For me, I want to be awake, wearing the righteousness Jesus bought for me on the cross. I want to keep that robe close to me because it is the only ticket into heaven anyone has.

I want that for you, too.

 

December 24; Faith in Action

Hebrews 10:19-12:29

Do you know what I noticed about the people listed in Chapter 11, the “Hall of Faith?” Each one put their faith in God, but none of them sat on that faith. It wasn’t enough to simply believe. They all did something as a result of their faith.

They warned, went, obeyed, blessed, spoke, refused, left, passed through the Red Sea…. All of these people were commended for their faith yet none of them actually saw the One in whom they’d placed their faith. None of them knew the Messiah Jesus whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow. But that didn’t stop them from having faith in Him anyway.

Everybody has faith of some kind. I have loved ones who have faith their belief there is no God won’t usher them into hell. Some people have faith in false gods, in religion, in goodness and kindness, in the stars, or in themselves. We all have faith that what we believe is true.

The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (12:2)

So who has authored your faith? I pray you will place your faith in the author of creation, in life itself, in love, and in eternity. I pray you’ll place your faith in the One who went to the cross for the joy of forgiving your sins.

Then, with the saints listed in Chapter 11, let’s do something with that faith. Let’s warn, and go, and obey, and bless… because the truth of the matter is, people need to know there is only One who is worthy of our faith.