Posts Tagged ‘Cross

02
Dec
15

What We Deserve

Micah 1:1-7 (NIV)

The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

Hear, you peoples, all of you,
    listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you,
    the Lord from his holy temple.

Judgment Against Samaria and Jerusalem

Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place;
    he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
The mountains melt beneath him
    and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
    like water rushing down a slope.
All this is because of Jacob’s transgression,
    because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression?
    Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place?
    Is it not Jerusalem?

“Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble,
    a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour her stones into the valley
    and lay bare her foundations.
All her idols will be broken to pieces;
    all her temple gifts will be burned with fire;
    I will destroy all her images.
Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes,
    as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.”

Much of Israel’s history is one of the rejection of God’s covenant with His people.  He called them to be His people and with that wonderful privilege came stipulations.  These stipulations were spelled out in the Ten Commandments.  Israel did not keep the Commandments and therefore had to be punished.  Micah, prophesying about 700 years before the birth of Christ, told of God’s anger and punishment coming against His people who had turned to idolatry and temple prostitution (verse 7).  God was going to use pagan nations to punish His people.  The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would both be punished by God.  The Assyrians would attack the northern kingdom and the capitol city of Samaria and the Babylonians would conquer the southern kingdom and the capitol city of Jerusalem (verse 5).
God is portrayed as a mighty God who comes to bring just punishment on His people.  They had rejected not only His covenant, but they had rejected Him.  They worshiped other gods and turned His temple into a place of idol worship and prostitution.  The house of the Lord was now filled with false images and sexual immorality.  God’s heart was broken and He gave His people ample time to repent.  He called out to them through the prophets to turn away from sin and turn back to Him, yet they did not.  He had no choice but to punish them for their sin.
I have a son and I love him very much.  When he breaks the rules I have to punish him.  He gets grounded or, when he was younger, he was lightly spanked from time to time.  It was torturous for the both of us.  He didn’t like the spanking and I HATED it.  I don’t want to punish my son!  Yet I know that I cannot let him grow up to be a sociopath who thinks that there are no consequences for his wrong behavior.  I’m certain of this – God hated punishing His people.  So He sent Jesus.
Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve.  God said that He would no longer punish His people and pour out His wrath on us.  Jesus willingly came to Earth and willingly laid down His life to take our punishment.  He bore the brunt of God’s wrath as He hung on a Roman cross.  He was mocked and beaten.  He was spit upon and flogged.  He was crucified for you and me.  He suffered the consequences of our sins.  Now, there is no condemnation or wrath left for the people of God.  We have been set free from the consequences of our sins.  God still disciplines and lovingly corrects us when we sin as any loving Father would do.  But the wrath and punishment we deserve was poured out on His only Son.  All glory, honor, thanks and praise be to Jesus for His sacrifice.
 
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank You for taking my place on that cross.  I thank You for suffering in my place and bearing my shame and guilt.  Help me to live a life of gratitude for Your sacrifice.  Help me to live a life of love just like You did.  In Your name I ask these things, amen.
13
Oct
15

The Cross’ Power

…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

I love the Greek word for “power” in the New Testament.  It is the word dunamis.  It’s the word from which we get our word “dynamite”.  God’s mighty power is unleashed in the cross of Christ.  The world may look at Christians as though we are fools.  The world may look at Christianity and think that it is a crutch for the simple-minded.  Those who are dying in their sin may see the cross of Christ and the grace of God as foolish.  But to Christians, the cross is the dynamite God uses to blow up sin!

When we feel weak and powerless, we must remember that we have dynamite at our disposal!  The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that dwells in us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God that conquered sin and the grave is the power in us to overcome temptation and sin.  There is no power like God’s power!  The power of the cross can overcome ANY sin and can save ANY sinner who will accept God’s gracious offer of salvation through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Believe (Ephesians 2:8-9), repent (Acts 2:38), confess (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized (Acts 2:38)!  The dynamite of the cross of Christ will break the power of sin and the bonds of slavery to it.  The power of God will save you from sin and give you the promised inheritance of eternal life with Him!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

​PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the power of the cross of Jesus.  I cannot be saved by anything else other than Your grace applied to my faith in Him.  Today I claim the power of His cross to overcome the sins and struggles in my life.  Fill me with the power of the cross today.  Amen.

02
Oct
15

The Cure Is The Cross

My heart is broken today.  Yesterday, 10 people died and 7 others were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a small college in Oregon.  17 people were killed or injured in another senseless act of violence.  According to the New York Post the shooter asked people what their religion was.  If they responded that they were a Christian, he shot them in the head.  So many have weighed in on the shooting, including the President.  Facebook is filled with posts about the need for legislation to cure us of the violence.  We who live close to Chicago are inundated with news reports every night about multiple shootings and murders in the city.  The problem is that many want to treat the symptoms instead of treating the disease.
The symptoms of this disease are murder, assault, rage and violence.  These are horrible crimes that are committed everyday and in every corner of the world.  The disease is like a plague that runs rampant and infects the entire world.  We have no idea what we are capable of when it comes to this disease.  The disease is in our hearts.
We all have a heart disease called “sin.”  Romans 7 talks about the sinful nature of humanity.  Paul said that he knew the good he was supposed to do, but could not do it.  We live in this same, terrible contradiction.  I know what I should do, yet I am incapable of carrying it out on a regular basis.  There are moments when the disease does not flare up, but more often than not, the disease wreaks havoc on me and my loved ones.  My sin does not only affect me and my relationship with God.  My sin hurts others and left untreated, it leaves behind a swath of pain and hurt like the damage of a tornado.
We can try to legislate the disease out of existence, but what good are the laws we’ve passed?  I’ve heard it reported that the school in Oregon was a “gun-free” zone.  The disease of sin doesn’t care about laws.  Criminals don’t care about laws.  We’ve got laws against murder and assault, yet they still take place.  We can’t even obey a law as simple as a speed limit on the highway.  It doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands and say, “Oh well” and get rid of those laws.  Criminals must be punished for their crimes.
There is only one cure for this disease and it is the cross.  It is up to every sold-out, devoted follower of Jesus to hold up the cross and shine the light of Jesus into this dark world.  He is the answer!  He is the cure!  He is the only one who can cure us of our sin disease.  He alone can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.  He alone can wash us clean from our sins.  He alone can change us and remake us.  Without Him, we are capable of so much evil.  With Him, we are capable of so much good.  We cannot sit idly by and watch the world burn.  We must take the Gospel to the world and show them Jesus’ love.  For without His love, the disease will continue to spread and senseless tragedies will be repeated time and time again.
We have a job to do.  May God have mercy on us all.
13
Aug
15

Favoritism Divides

James 2:1-4 (NIV)
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
We’re all equal in God’s eyes.  In the church of Jesus Christ, every believer is on the same level.  In the church, we will find people of every socioeconomic status as well as gender, race and age.  Playing favorites based on these differences must not be tolerated.
For example, the opinions of those who are wealthy should not be more highly valued than the opinions of those who are not as high on the economic ladder.  Someone of a different race or ethnicity must not be shunned because of the color of his or her skin.  A woman must not be disregarded because of her gender nor a man given preference because of his gender.  Paul said in Galatians 3:28 (NIV):

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We are one in Christ!  Jesus died to remove the barriers that divide us.  He died to make us one in Him, just as He and the Father and the Spirit are one.
This does not mean that we can ignore our differences.   God made us different and unique.  We should celebrate our uniqueness and rely on one another’s strengths to accomplish our God-given mission to make disciples of all nations.  When we show favoritism to anyone, we deny the unifying power of the cross.  We create unnecessary hostility between classes, genders, races and generations.  Let us do away with favoritism that divides and instead, be united in Christ.
10
Jul
15

The Proof Of Our Faith

God is the Author of unity.  The Holy Spirit is not a Spirit of confusion, but of Truth.  There was both division and and confusion in the church at Galatia.  The church was divided over and confused about grace.  Did Gentile Christians need to obey the law and become like Jews (circumcised) before becoming Christians?  Did they need to submit to the law before finding grace?  Paul was adamant that they did not.  Grace is enough.  Grace is sufficient.
Someone was confusing and dividing the church at Galatia and Paul was tired of it.   Paul was so angry and frustrated that he took it to the extreme:

 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! – Galatians 5:12 (NIV)

They were doing so much damage to the church and to baby Christians that Paul wanted them to castrate themselves.  That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think?  But that is how angry Paul was that these “agitators” were confusing people.  They were adding an unnecessary burden to the Gentile believers.  They were trying to take away from the power of the cross by trying to add something to it.  The cross of Christ is powerful enough to take away our sins by itself!  Jesus doesn’t need our help when it comes to forgiving sins.  We must simply trust Him for salvation by believing in Him, repenting from our sins, confessing our faith and being baptized.  When we trust in Christ and in the power of His cross, we are set free from the bondage of rule following.  We still obey Jesus for all authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18-20).  Our obedience is done out of love for Christ, not for the purpose of being saved or staying saved.  Our obedience is the evidence that we love the One who first loved us.  It is the proof of our faith, not a substitute for it.
Galatians 5:7-12
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
15
May
15

How Far Would He Go?

This is a re-post from May of 2010.  Enjoy!

Last Monday, I was coming home from the hospital after my wife’s back surgery.  The surgery was successful and she was resting.  It was time to get home to my in-laws and my son.  Traffic was less than cooperative.  Rush hour in Chicago is frustrating and annoying.  The youth minister at our church had gone with me and we sat in traffic for what seemed like hours.  All of a sudden we noticed a balloon floating toward us.  It was a purple mylar balloon with the words “I Love You” written on it.  I have no idea where the balloon came from or to whom it belonged.  What struck me was the message and the first thing that came to mind was, “This is a love note from God!”  I know that it may sound silly, but I honestly felt like God was saying to my fellow motorists and me that He loves us.  Right there in the midst of rush hour, God was sending us a special message.

It got me thinking about how far God would go to tell us that He loves us.  The answer is clear from Scripture.  He went to the cross to not only tell us that He loves us, but to show us the depth of His love for us.  He loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son on a Roman cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  That is how much the Creator of the universe loves us.  That is the length to which He went to demonstrate His love for us.  It may have been just a lost balloon, but it meant so much to me to know that God was using someone’s loss to reassure me of His love and presence.

How have you heard God whisper, “I love you.” recently?  Was it at a time when you really needed to hear it?  What was going on and how did it help?

03
Apr
15

Whose Cross?

Today we are turning our attention to Matthew 27, which is the account of the last day of Jesus’ life.  Jesus was taken before the Roman governor, Pilate.  Judas, feeling an enormous amount of remorse, throws the money he received for betraying Jesus into the temple before hanging himself.  The Jewish leaders wouldn’t keep his money because it was against the Law to put it into the temple treasury!  But it’s not against the Law to trump up false accusations against an innocent Man?!?  They rile up the crowd to set free a known criminal named Barabbas instead of Jesus Christ.  Then they scream at the top of their lungs, “Crucify Him!” when asked what should be done to our Savior.  The soldiers take Jesus away.  They mock Him.  They beat Him.  They spit on Him.  They nearly kill Him before they execute Him.
In verse 32, we see that a man named Simon is forced to carry Jesus’ cross:

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Matthew 27:32 (NIV)

I was thinking about this verse this morning in light of another verse from Matthew’s Gospel:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

Notice what Jesus says about taking up the cross.  It’s not His cross that we must carry as Simon did.  We must take up our cross.  If we want to truly follow Jesus, we must be willing to carry our own crosses.  What does this mean?  It means that we must sacrifice everything for Jesus.
  • Our preferences – it’s not about what we want
  • Our comfort – the cross is not a comfortable place
  • Our sinful desires – to give up those things that hinder our relationship with God
  • Our very selves – the cross is a place of death

Jesus said that if we will take up our cross and die to ourselves, we will find life:

…whoever loses their life for me will find it. – Matthew 16:25b (NIV)

So do not merely dwell on the cross of Christ on this Good Friday.  Consider your own cross.  Consider what sacrifice Christ is calling you to make.  Think about what it means to truly follow Him as a fully-surrendered follower of Jesus.  Jesus is calling us to a cross, but it is not His cross.  He is calling us to our own.

Matthew 27

New International Version (NIV)

Judas Hangs Himself

27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas.17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.




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