Monday, 29 September 2014 15:10:00
My “following Jesus’ footsteps” series is nearly over and will include only two more posts—this week and next. Then I will begin a new series.
Jesus’ mode of death was predicted (Psalm 22) over a thousand years before crucifixion was invented by the Romans. It was a barbaric means of execution; excruciating and often taking days for the victim to die by suffocation. Its cruelty was meant to frighten the populace into submission and was most commonly used to punish rebels. But even before Jesus was nailed to the cross, He endured thirty-nine lashes by a Roman scourge or flagrum. The flagrum was usually made of three thongs containing pieces of metal or bone, and literally ripped out pieces of flesh with every strike. Often this type and number of lashes were enough to kill a man.
But scripture tells us that even more punishment was inflicted on Jesus as a crown of thorns was jammed into His head and sadistic guards beat Him about the face and pulled out his beard. Before that long walk down the Via Dolorosa Jesus was already horribly disfigured and bloody. How He carried the heavy wooden cross-beam across His shoulders is hard to imagine. With every bump or rut in the pavement, Jesus’ body was jarred, causing the wood to rub against His open wounds; all the while, His strength and energy draining from Him with every drop of blood lost.
Finally, Jesus reaches Golgotha, the “place of a skull”. Here He is totally stripped, His manhood exposed before being thrown to the ground and His arms stretched out. Then spikes—seven to nine inches long—were driven through small plaques of wood into His forearms. The plaques were meant to keep the nails from tearing through the flesh and the body pulling away from the cross. Even so, the weight of Jesus’ body will eventually cause the nails to rip through His forearms all the way to the wrists. Next, Jesus’ legs were bent and pulled to the side then spikes driven through other small wooden plaques and into the heels. This position makes it difficult to breathe and each breath is only obtained by the very painful upward push of the body. As Jesus gasps for breath, flies and salty sweat sting and irritate his wounds. And having lost a great deal of bodily fluids, Jesus is parched, causing His tongue to cleave to the roof of His mouth and making it difficult to swallow.
And then the real agony begins, as God the Father attributes to Jesus every sin you and I have ever or will ever commit. One by one our sins are place on Jesus as He takes on their shame and guilt and punishment. We are the rebels. But instead of paying the penalty for rebelling against God, Jesus, executed as a rebel by Rome, pays it for us. And when finally the last sin is paid, Jesus shouts, “It is finished.” That word “finished” is “teleho” in Greek and means “complete, execute, conclude, pay, discharge a debt.” It means every sin has been fully paid for.
When you realize the great price Jesus paid to save us from ourselves it is impossible to see any other way to God. If there was, if there was any other route man could take to be acceptable to God, why in the world would Jesus have ever gone through all of the above?
But we do have one part to play in all this. Universal Salvation is a myth. Yes, Jesus died for every sin committed by every person, but forgives comes only IF we accept what He did. It’s like a poor man having a large savings account. It’s doesn’t do him any good unless he actually makes a withdrawal.
In the end, can we ignore this great love Jesus showed us?
Until next time,
Monday, 17 February 2014 18:55:00
Mark 11:12-14 says Jesus was hungry and when he went up to the fig tree it had only leaves but no fruit because “the time of the figs was not yet” so Jesus cursed it. It didn’t seem reasonable to me that Jesus would do such a thing. It is true that Hosea 9:10 likens Israel’s forefathers to a “ripe fig tree” and I understand about the restoration of Israel, but I was sure there was something more to this though I didn’t know what. That is until I took a closer look. In fact, I had to go all the way back to Adam and Eve.
In Genesis 3:7 after Adam and Eve sinned they saw for the first time they were naked. The glory of God that clothed them had lifted and they could clearly see themselves as they were. Their remedy was to cover themselves with fig leaves.
Next we need to look at the Song of Solomon 2:8-13. It is a picture of the Shepherd (Jesus) coming for his beloved (His bride, the believers) and tells her to rise up and come away with Him. He describes the time of His coming. The “winter has past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth and ripens her green figs, and the vines are in blossom and give forth their fragrance.” Then He again tells His bride to arise and come away with Him.
If we go back to Mark 11 and put all these things together a picture emerges. First Jesus was hungry. That word “hungry” in Greek is peinao and means famished. He goes to the fig tree, and that word “fig” is suzao and means to live in union with, together. So what this is saying is that Jesus was hungry for his people, hungry to live in union with them, to have once again that precious and beautiful relationship He enjoyed with Adam and Eve, restored, but it wasn’t time. There was no fruit for Him to enjoy, only the same fig leaves that Adam and Eve used to cover up their sins and pretend their relationship with God was not broken. But like the Shepherd in the Song of Solomon, he so yearned for His beloved bride to come away with Him, to recognize the day of her visitation. But it was not to be. Not yet, anyway. First there had to be the battering of His body, the shedding of His blood, His death and resurrection, and then the fig tree could bring forth its fruit.
In Mark 11 when the disciples later saw the cursed tree all withered they point it out to Jesus, and Jesus returns with a curious statement. “Have faith in God.” Then He goes on to talk about moving mountains and praying and forgiveness. There is so much here. Too much to cover in one blog, but part of what Jesus was telling His disciples was that yes, the fig tree is dead, its leaves unsuitable to cover sin, but God had an answer. He had a remedy all worked out, the blood sacrifice of Jesus. But also He was saying that God always has an answer, a remedy. Even when our problems are as big as mountains, our faith in God’s ability can move them. And yes, in a broader sense, the nation of Israel would be restored to Him. They, too, as His beloved, would, as a nation, bring forth fruit for Him to enjoy. There would come a day when they would recognized their Good Shepherd, their Messiah.
I see in Mark 11:12-14 the broken heart of God as He hungers to love and fellowship with His people. That hunger is still here today. How He desires that none should perish! He is that beautiful Shepherd who says to each of us “come away with Me.” The fig tree bears fruit, the time in now.
Until next time,
Monday, 12 August 2013 12:49:00
Right after Jesus reveals that the secret of greatness is tied up with becoming child-like and a servant, He tells his disciples that anyone who receives these child-like believers also receives Him. And then this dire warning: and whoever causes one of these child-like believers to stumble and sin is in big trouble. In fact it would be “better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Then Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 18:7 (Amplified) “Woe to the world for such temptations to sin and influences to do wrong!” and “woe to the person on whose account or by whom the temptation comes!”
This is pretty serious stuff. From it we understand that there will be a day of reckoning; that all those influencers who peddle evil and smut and perversion (we need not look any further than the entertainment industry), and entice to do evil, will be held accountable and have to answer for it, and it’s not going to be pretty. But we are accountable, too. Our actions, the way we live our lives, the things we say, can also cause people to stumble and we need to take it seriously.
Jesus said it would be better to cut off our hand or foot or pluck out our eye if they cause us to transgress rather than to be thrown into “everlasting fire.” Yes, there is an “everlasting fire,” and it’s called hell. And what Jesus was advocating was not to literally cut off our body parts, but to remove ourselves from sinful situations and stop participating in sin. The Bible tells us that hell was created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Sadly, there will be many others residing there, and that fact breaks the heart of God for He wishes that none should perish.
For our part we have to stop winking at sin, stop pretending that the things that go on around us doesn’t matter, when in fact they are polluting the whole world. And in our own lives we need to call our sin what it is, “sin.” We have to stop acting like what we do doesn’t matter. It does. Will this make us stand out like sore thumbs? Be chided? Ridiculed? Shunned? Maybe. Probably. But now that’s the thing that doesn’t matter.
Until next time,
Monday, 03 December 2012 13:20:00
We next see Jesus encountering a leper in Matthew 8:1-3. And since I already blogged about this over a year ago, I’ll just repost it now.
In Biblical times leprosy was a dreaded disease. It affected skin and nerves, flesh and bones. A leper could have oozing sores and gross disfigurements, especially in the face and hands and feet. Lepers were shunned, driven from society, forced to live outside the community, and denied human contact with non-lepers. And you can well imagine how they smelled! And when they encountered anyone while walking down a road, they had to cry out “unclean, unclean!” That’s why when a leper approached Jesus in Matthew 8:2 and said, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” Jesus’ reaction was so astonishing. The first thing he did was touch him! Then He said, “I will; be thou clean.”
Oh, how much this tells us about Jesus! About His heart. His kindness. His love. His mercy. He could just as easily have healed the leper with a word. Only a few verses later in Matthew 8:5 He does just that for a centurion’s servant.
Since the Bible is full of types and shadows it’s easy to see that leprosy symbolizes sin. We are all spiritual lepers, and Jesus wants to make us clean, too. And He’s not afraid to put His finger into our puss-filled sores. He’s not afraid to touch the dirty, the defiled places within us. He’s not afraid to look upon our poor spiritual deformity. In fact, He delights in it, delights in healing us, delights in making us what He always envisioned us to be. The wonderful thing is this: God sees us for what we really are, but loves us anyway. And He loves us not because we’re good, but because He is good.
We might as well settle this once and for all. We’ve all sinned and fallen short. We all need a Savior. Could there be anyone more wonderful or tenderhearted than Jesus? We need not fear committing everything to Him. And when we do, He will begin to make those ugly wretched places in us, beautiful.
The question is, do we have the courage to let Him?
Until next week,
Monday, 07 May 2012 12:11:00
Every sin first begins in the mind. One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to have us believe every thought we have is our own when they are not. Some thoughts are actually planted by him in order to derail us—and they can run the gamut from the unkind to the perverse. But they don’t actually become our thoughts until we entertain them, examine them, mull them over, and finally embrace them. If this were not so, then God wouldn’t have told us in His word to cast “down imaginations and every high thing that exaleth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Nor would He have told us “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
If left unchecked our mind can take us down roads we don’t want to go. It could be as simple as telling us that when our head aches, it’s not a headache but a brain tumor; that when someone we know doesn’t say “hello” at the foodstore he/she is snubbing us rather than busy or preoccupied. It can tell us that we are any number of negative adjectives when we are actually made in the image and likeness of God. An unchecked mind can fester with thoughts of real or perceived injustices or injuries, stirring up feelings of envy, jealousy and hatred. It can steal our peace, make us feel unworthy, or fill us with fear or other destructive emotions as Satan tries to convince us that we are a loser, will never be or have anything, become poor or sick or friendless or . . . . You fill in the blank. And all are lies planted in our minds by the Father of Lies. There is no end to the negative power of an unchecked mind.
It’s interesting that science is finally catching up with the Bible and now tells us that negative emotions—often the product of faulty thinking—can make us sick, raising our blood pressure, affecting our heart, affecting, in fact, nearly every cell in our body. The Bible tells us that a “merry heart doeth good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:22. But our hearts can be merry only when our thinking is right.
Scripture tells us that as a man thinketh so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Our thoughts matter. And since that’s so, we need to renew our mind daily with God’s word which tells us not only that we are greatly love, that we are priests and kings, but that we are overcomers, as well. And then there’s this, one of my all-time favorites: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee (God)” Isaiah 26:3.
Make no mistake, it is a battle, but it’s a battle we can win if we fight with the proper weapons.
Until next week,
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 10:36:00
He had been breaking rules all his life. In little ways, at first, ways that seemed inconsequential because his friends were doing them, too: snatching candy bars from grocery stores, plagiarizing school work, driving 50 in a 20 mile zone. It was inevitable that as he grew so did his crimes: cheating on his taxes, slandering the man whose position he coveted in hopes of getting ahead, engaging in dishonest business practices, driving drunk, and finally, the hit and run that cost a woman her life. Now, standing before the judge for sentencing, he knew it had all caught up to him—this accumulated debt to society—and payment was due.
Most people in the courtroom thought the judge would be lenient since he had a reputation for being a kindly soul. But everyone gasped when they heard him pronounce the harshest penalty allowed by law. And they gasped again when another man, prominent and well known in the community for his goodness, stepped forward and declare, “I will pay the penalty for him. I will serve his sentence.” A final gasp was heard when the judge accepted the offer and declared the real criminal, “absolved”.
It’s hard to believe that something like this could ever happen. But it did, almost two thousand years ago when Jesus, the sinless Son of God, stepped forward and willingly took upon Himself our just punishment. Without exception, we have all broken the rules. We have all violated God’s laws. And just like those people in that fictional courtroom, many believe our Heavenly Judge will be lenient and that somehow they will escape their due punishment. But though our Heavenly Judge is loving, He is also just, and His sense of justice must be satisfied. Thus our violations carry a terrible punishment, eternal separation from God.
But oh, what a tremendous thing Jesus accomplished! And at such a great cost! Hanging on a cross in unspeakable agony and torment, He took upon Himself every single one of our sins. And just before he died, John 19:30 tells us Jesus cried out “It is finished.” That word “finished” in the Greek literally means to discharge a debt, to mark it “paid in full.”
If we accept Jesus’ sacrifice we are “absolved”, too, and our sin debt is marked “paid in full”. If we don’t, then we will be required to pay this debt, ourselves. The choice is totally ours.
Until Next Week,
Monday, 04 April 2011 11:25:00
I love this one. In John 4:5-42 Jesus is resting at Jacob’s well when a woman of Samaria comes to draw water. He immediately begins a conversation by asking her for a drink; rather shocking with you consider that she was a Samaritan, a member of a mongrel race considered unclean by Jews, and that she was a woman, a second class citizen in a male dominated society. Jewish men did not normally strike up conversations with women.
She acknowledges this prejudice by asking why He’s even talking to her. His response is amazing on so many levels. In essence He says, if you knew who you were talking to, you’d “ask of him and he would have given you living water.” He goes on to explain this living water was “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” He was declaring that He was the source of everlasting life, and here’s the kicker, He was declaring it to a fallen Samaritan women.
A few verses down we realize just how fallen. She’s had five husbands and the man she’s currently living with wasn’t even her husband. That’s probably why she came to the well around the 6th hour or noon, in the heat of the day, when no one else would be there, because she was probably even an outcast among her own people. But Jesus knew all this, and revealed His knowledge to her. And she was amazed. And so am I because even with this prior knowledge He doesn’t say, “boy, you really blew it. You’ve really made a mess of your life.” Rather He said, “if you’d asked, I’d have given.”
And that’s just what he says to us. No matter how much we’ve messed up our life, no matter how low on society’s totem poll we are, no matter how insignificant we feel, no matter how “unclean” our lives have become, God loves us, and says, “if you ask I will give you eternal life.” Wow!
Sometimes I don’t understand why God bothers with us. We are so flawed, so weak, so much like the “dog who returns to his own vomit” yet He’s there, saying to each of us, “ask me, and I’ll give you because I love you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.”
The end of the story is also wonderful. Jesus uses this woman, this fallen unclean Samaritan, to go and tell her community about Him and lead others to Him, thus showing there is a place for even the lowliest in God’s kingdom and in His plan.
Oh what a God we serve! What a loving, tender, good God! And it’s His very goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4b).
Until next week,
Monday, 22 November 2010 10:53:00
Recently I was talking to a friend about who shed the first drop of innocent blood in the Bible. Her answer: “Cain.” There was a time when I would have said the same thing. But since reading every scripture from Genesis to Matthew that mentioned blood, I know the real answer is “God”. Yes, God Himself shed the first drop of blood when He made coats of animal skins for Adam and Eve after the fall. That meant an innocent animal had to die in order to cover their sins.
From this we can see that right from the beginning God set up the blood standard, that “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Sin was not to be paid for by gold or silver; or compensated for by good works; or exonerated because of family ties, lineage, or status. That’s why in the Old Testament under the Law the priests slaughtered animals and sprinkled their blood over the altar to atone not only for individual sins but for the nation’s sins. “In fact, under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins” (Hebrews 9:22 Amplified Bible). Still . . . all this was but a foreshadowing of things to come; a foreshadowing of the perfect solution.
Enter Jesus, the Lamb who allowed Himself to be slaughtered for you and me. “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”(1 Peter 18-19)
I don’t know why it took me over thirty years to connect the dots, thirty years to move from a vague knowledge that Jesus came and died for the sins of the world to the absolute knowledge that He died for me; that all my good works were but filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6); and that the only standard that God acknowledges is the blood standard. And that God, not only instituted this standard but actually completely satisfied it Himself. Period. The end.
This Thanksgiving, if I had to name the one thing I am most grateful for, it would be the blood standard. Because of it, and because I have acknowledged and appropriated it for myself, I have peace with God. I am accepted. I am forgiven. I have a hope and a future that extends far beyond this earthy realm. I can’t think of anything more wonderful.
Until next week,
Monday, 08 March 2010 11:14:00
The Bible tells us that it is God who is our judge and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22) and that He will judge the ends of the earth (1Samuel 2:10b); that He’s the judge of all (Hebrews 12:23b). And get this, He’s going to judge the secrets of men (Romans 2:16). Ouch! And being a just judge God can’t be bribed; His arm can’t be twisted. And He’s no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Your wealth, position, reputation will not impress Him. He’s a judge who will call it like it is and punish sin to the fullest extent of the law.
There was a time when I didn’t take this seriously. Rather, I had an imaginary scoreboard erected in my mind that tallied up my “good deeds” and weighed them against my “bad” ones, and I just hoped that at the end of the day the balance would be in my favor and leave me in good standing with God.
What I forgot was that He is the lawgiver. He makes the rules. He says what’s right and wrong. He keeps the record His way. Not us. And what He says is this: If we break just one part of the law (it’s called sin), we’ve broken it all. And that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And what is this death? Nothing less than separation from God, in hell.
No one likes to talk about hell these days. It’s seems unsophisticated, narrow, intolerant. It’s even become fashionable for some Christians to say things like, “Oh, God won’t send anyone to hell, He’s too loving.” Still other Christians say, “there are many paths to God and all lead to heaven.” Really? Then why did Jesus talked about hell? And when He did, He left no doubt how terrible and real it is. In Mark 9:43-47 Jesus says it’s better to cut off (symbolically speaking) your hand or foot, or pluck out your eye if they cause you to sin rather than be sent to hell. He goes on to describe hell, calling it a “fire that never shall be quenched” where “worms dieth not.” He also tells us in Luke 12:5 that the One we should fear is the One who has power to cast us into hell.
So if God is a just judge and He can’t be bribed and He’s such a stickler on sin, what is a person to do? Well, Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I (God) have given it to you upon the alter to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” That’s why, in the Old Testament, the Israelites sacrificed spotless animals to atone for their sins. But in the New Testament we see that Jesus became a spotless lamb for us and was sacrificed for our sins; that He is our atonement. And all we have to do is accept Him and what He has already done. But the choice is ours. He won’t force Himself on anyone.
If you consider the terrible light in which God views sin, and the terrible price He paid so He can forgive us our sins and at the same time satisfy His requirements as Judge, can we call Him unjust if we don’t accept His prepaid free gift and He sends us to hell? Hardly!
Until next week,