But he is innocent!

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭‬‬

I have always had a really hard time watching shows or movies where someone is getting blamed for something they didn’t do. They are usually someone in high standing that have integrity and respect. But when they’re being blamed for a heinous crime, everyone turns their back on them and they lose everything.  I want to shout, “But he is innocent!” I want to fast forward to the part where the real bad guy gets caught. Then everyone finally figures out that the hero really is innocent and they are restored to the happy place they were in before the misdeed of justice occurred. I think most of us have a desire for fairness and justice to prevail. For the innocent party to be acquitted and the guilty party to be condemned. For truth to win out in the end. 

I know a true story about an innocent man that suffered immensely for things he did not do. He was a kind and loving man who held the highest of standing – the Son of the King. He lived humbly and spent his short life trying to show people the way to live, and to tell them the truth about the only thing that matters. He did everything by direct authority from the King, as he was the exact representation of the King. At first he had a lot of friends. People gathered around him wherever he went. Even celebrated his humble arrival into town in exuberant fashion. Of course, like there always are, there were some that were threatened by his humble leadership and his claim to the throne. They began to plot a way to get rid of him. Eventually they succeeded and he was brought before the leaders, accused of crimes he did not commit. Crimes that demanded death. 

Amazingly, he never tried to deflect the guilt he knew wasn’t his. He didn’t say a word on his own behalf. He was abandoned by his closest friends. He was scorned at and spit on. He was ridiculed and mocked.  He was brutally beaten until his blood spilled on the street. He was nailed by his hands and feet to a tree and hoisted up to die on display as his weeping mother looked on. And worse than all that even his Father, the King, looked away from him in disgust as his pure innocence was covered by the filth of guilt that didn’t belong to him. He died and he was buried. There seemed no hope of a happy ending. 

But the story didn’t end there! After three days he rose to life, returning home to his father. Restored to all the glory that belongs to him. The happy ending we all hope for. But wait – did they catch the bad guy?  Did they finally figure out who actually committed the crimes that this innocent man was condemned for? Did the guilty party finally pay? 

Well, I must confess. I am the guilty party. It was my filthy guilt that led to this man’s suffering and death. So where am I now? Am I imprisoned awaiting the punishment due for my crimes? Surely he pointed at me from his high place and said to the King. “There she is! She’s the guilty one whose crimes I died for! Sentence her to death and make sure she suffers like I did!”

Amazingly, that’s not what happened. Instead he looked at me as I trembled at the thought of my impending fate and said. “I have already paid the price for your guilt. I don’t want you to suffer what I suffered. If you will you trust in me, I will tell my Father to set aside your sentence.”

Through tears I proclaimed my gratitude, knowing that there was no one else I could trust in to die in my place. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he put his arm around me and said. “Now you are part of my family and nothing will ever come between us. I will always be by your side. And I have a place prepared especially for you in my palace that one day I will come and bring you to!”  

Hallelujah! The happy ending I don’t deserve is mine because of Jesus!

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”- ‭‭John‬ ‭14:1-3‬‬‬

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. – Hebrews‬ ‭9:27-28‬ ‭‬‬


Against All Hope … Faith!

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed… Without weakening in his faith… he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21)

This is the kind of faith that realizes that our current circumstances will not change the outcome that God has planned. Against all hope. Even when everything about what we’re currently experiencing says otherwise. Even when our current situation is not good – we must remember that our God is always good! We must not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. We must take our eyes off of our circumstances and lift them up to our God. We must remain fully persuaded that God has the power to do what he promises to do. We must remember that he works for the good in all things for those who love him. (Romans 8:28

The story of David is a great example of hanging in there when things get tough. When he was just a young shepherd boy, God said that one day he would be king of Israel. I wonder if David got ready to pack up his stuff right then and move into the palace to sit on the throne. But God did not place him on the throne right away. Certainly he could have, but for whatever reason he did not. It could have been because David had some growing to do. It could have been because Saul needed to realize some things. It could have been for any number of reasons. But David spent years waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Years of trials and fear. Years of clinging to God for his very life. Read the Psalms and you will see David crying out to God in both despair and rejoicing. And when the time determined by God finally came, David was king. 

The Bible is an endless source of guidance for our lives. God used so many people to be examples to us. To show us that he is faithful. To give us hope when we feel like things aren’t going the way we would like. Hebrews chapter eleven has been referred to as the “Hall of Faith” because it tells of so many people that believed God without seeing the evidence of what they hoped for. 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1)

Noah, despite never having seen a drop of water fall from the sky, built a boat to save his family. 

Abraham, too old to have a child; and Sarah, unable to conceive, believed that God would give them descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore. 

Joseph, despite being a foreigner with his family in the land of Egypt for generations, knew God would one day bring them to the Promised Land and he gave instructions for his bones to be carried out of Egypt with them. 

Moses, raised as an Egyptian prince, left the comforts of the palace to lead the people of God out of Egypt, looking forward to a greater reward than anything life as a prince could’ve offered him. 

The list of the heroes of the faith and what they accomplished with their eyes on God and not on their circumstances goes on and on. Through faith they:

…conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:33-38‬)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:13‬)

They knew God had an everlasting plan even though they did not yet know what it was. And even though we don’t know all of God’s plans for our lives, he has made known the most important one. Salvation through Christ alone. The ultimate faith is the faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. 

Against all hope is the realization that we can never be good enough to avoid God’s judgement on our own. But God has promised that Jesus’ blood covers our sin and makes us righteous before God. There is only One spotless Lamb of God that can take away the sins of the world. It is only by trusting in Jesus’ sacrificial death in our place that we can rest in the blessed assurance that we are saved! 

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews‬ ‭11:39-40‬)

I look forward to one day meeting all of the heroes who had faith in God’s eternal plan even though they had no idea what it was. 

Our Story Has Already Been Written

Have you ever stopped to consider that God’s purpose for us is already complete? Our story has already been written! God doesn’t say – “I am going to…”  He says – “I have…”

When God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, he said; “I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5). He did not say “I am going to make you a father of many nations.” The difference is far too important to miss. God was proclaiming that it was already a done deal!

It was because Abraham believed God and understood that God’s purpose was guaranteed that he stepped out in faith to follow God no matter what. Even when God asked him to sacrifice the very son through which the promise was to be fulfilled, he did not falter in faith or obedience. (Genesis 22) Although he had no idea what God was doing, he knew that the end result was not going to change. It is this faith that has been held up as an example for all future generations. It is this faith that God desires for us. God’s plan and purpose for our life is already accomplished! If we believe that, we should move forward every day in faith and obedience trusting God for the results. 

Imagine your journey through life as a road trip. You start off all by yourself with no idea where you’re going. You might try to follow road signs that you see along the way, but since you’re not exactly sure where any of those roads end up you just keep getting lost and ending up on unpaved roads that flatten your tires and scratch up your car. 

At some point along the way you meet someone who offers to travel with you and promises to get you safely to your destination. Not only that, He offers to cover the cost which you had finally realized you could never afford to pay and he even washes your car and puts air in your tires. Finally, a Savior you can depend on! (Jesus) He gives you an indispensable gift – a GPS with the destination already programmed in that will guide you step-by-step along the way. (The Holy Spirit) You agree to let Jesus drive and soon you are on the road to your destination. The road called “Faith and Obedience”. There are some pot holes to test your strength. Some hills to test your endurance. Some curves to test your faith. But at each trial Jesus reminds you that He will not leave you and that you’re still on the right road. 

Eventually you decide you want to drive again. Jesus allows you to. He won’t force you to surrender your journey to him. He moves over to the passenger seat, but he doesn’t leave you. You find that it is lot harder to navigate the road hazards when you’re driving. Suddenly you see a sign that says “short cut ahead” and you eagerly change lanes to take the exit. You feel kind of bad for deviating from the route that Jesus promised was the best one, so you drop him off before you take the turn. You’ve barely made the exit off of  Faith and Obedience Road when the GPS starts warning you to make a U-Turn. Over and over the warnings come until you finally decide to turn off the sound. Now you are free to make the journey on your own!

Before long, night fall comes and the road starts to get really bumpy.  The pot holes are bigger, the hills are steeper and the curves are sharper. Before long you’ve flattened a couple of tires and the power steering isn’t working making the treacherous road that much harder to navigate. And worst of all, you feel very alone. You look down at the GPS and see it is still working so you decide to turn up the volume. “Make a u-turn here.”  You listen and as soon as you turn around the GPS is once again providing you with step-by-step directions taking you back to the road you were on. All of the sudden you look up and see someone running towards you. It’s Jesus! He had been waiting for you to turn around! Immediately you stop the car and move over to the passenger seat. Things go much smoother when Jesus is driving. 

Eventually you find yourself back on the road to your destination. Your car is a little banged up and dirty, but Jesus promises that when you get there it will be fixed up like new. You may have learned the hard way, but now you know that Faith and Obedience Road is the only road for you. The next time you pass a “short cut ahead” sign, you decide to close your eyes and rest – and let Jesus keep driving! 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. – Psalm‬ ‭139:13-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Luck? No! – PURPOSE

Recently I saw a marquis at a local business that brightly proclaimed: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Really? That’s all there is? The random conversion of who you are with situational outside forces? … What if it’s more than that?  What if the “preparation” actually includes all the special ways God created you? Your skills and abilities. Your passions and desires. And what if the “opportunity” is more than some random external force?  What if it is a situation especially designed for you by your loving Creator?

How much more would it mean to know that you’re not just existing in a world of happenstance? God created you! He gave you specific abilities. He put a passion in your heart for specific things. Not just randomly – but because he has opportunities waiting for you that will allow his glory to be revealed. 

I think the marquis should more accurately read: “Purpose is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭‬‬

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‬‬

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. – ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭‬‬

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, – ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭‬‬