Why he came…

Isaiah 53 has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It so clearly describes the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and the purpose for it.

When God came to earth he didn’t come as a great and powerful conquerer (as some were hoping for). He came as a simple baby and lived life as a simple man right alongside all of the “regular” people. Yet every person he met was changed to the core. People who saw him face-to-face made the decision to spend their life either following him or denying him. No one that encountered him remained ambivalent.

And in the end, they all watched him carry his cross to Calvary, be beaten and die as a common criminal even though he did no wrong.

Sadly some of them then, and still many to this day, missed the point. They fail to see that it was so they could live that he died. That ultimately his victory was not about defeating one specific empire but about defeating death and sin for all time. That eventually what they did with Jesus would determine which side of eternity they would come out on.

Ultimately it comes down to this. Follow Jesus, experience eternity with God. Deny Jesus, experience eternity in hell, separated from God. It really is a life or death choice and there’s no middle ground. If any other way was sufficient, then why would Jesus have had to die?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10)

Isaiah 53 —

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

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Palm Sunday … Victory Parade

It’s March and March Madness is in full effect. Whole communities will be celebrating with their teams as each victory brings them closer to the ultimate prize. No doubt there will be victory parades in the streets as ecstatic fans welcome the players home. And those closest to the players will be proudly alongside them basking in the glory of the moment.

When I read the story of Palm Sunday, I can picture a victory parade like none other. I can see Jesus riding into town on a colt. The people welcoming him in excitement as their king. And the disciples walking proudly beside him, glowing with joy as Jesus finally made his Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. I can hear the cheers of the crowd shouting, “Hosanna!” – drowning out the protests of the Pharisees. The people were so excited to welcome their King, but they were so misguided about who he really was.

I can also picture Jesus as he saw the victory parade and wept. He knew they were not ready for the truth. It wasn’t time for him to reign here on earth. Not yet. First he had to finish what he came to accomplish. First he had to pay the ultimate price for their sins. A price they could never pay on their own. First he had to suffer and die.

But Jesus also knew that although “Good Friday” was coming soon, Resurrection Sunday was not far behind. And that Victory parade would last for eternity!

Don’t die in your unbelief – TODAY is the day of Salvation!

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the death of the Reverend Billy Graham had impacted me.  How the thought of his glorious homecoming after a life of faithfully sharing the gospel was a reminder that we all need to be following his lead.  Today I read that the famous scientist and self-proclaimed atheist Stephen Hawking died.  And this served as another reminder of the importance of sharing the gospel from a completely different perspective.

It is possible that in the waning hours of his life, Mr. Hawking acknowledged that there is a God and that the only way he could have an eternal relationship with him was to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.  But if he stubbornly held to his espoused views until he breathed his last breath then he was immediately met with the horrible truth that he refused to acknowledge before he died.  There is a God and he is now separated from him for all of eternity in anguish and torment.

Jesus tells a story about a man who ended up in this very situation.  (Luke 16)  Many believe it is not just a parable but an actual story since it is the only time Jesus uses a name – but regardless, it illustrates the scary truth of hell and eternal separation from God.  The man in the story lived his life without acknowledging the truth and when he died he ended up in torment and agony in the fires of Hades. He begged for someone to come from heaven and provide just a little bit of water to relieve him but was told that there was a chasm between heaven and hell that no one could cross over. Realizing that he would never have relief and suddenly being terrified that those he had left behind would follow him to hell, he begged for someone to at least go from heaven to his loved ones to warn them. But no one would go because the truth is that if they did not listen to the Word of God revealed through Scripture and proclaimed by the many faithful witnesses, then nothing would convince them.

This is a terrifying thought!  One that should create an insatiable sense of urgency in us to tell people the truth!  That there is a God!  That he loves them and wants to spend eternity with them! That their sin has separated them from him and there is nothing they can do to make themselves good enough. But – God made a way!  He sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for their sins.  The only thing they need to do is grab onto that truth and accept that it is Jesus alone that can usher them into heaven.

Don’t miss the chance!  Don’t ever let it be too late!  TODAY is the day of Salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Spring of eternal life

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

We have some close family friends that live up on the top of a small mountain overlooking Lake Superior.  It’s an amazing place! Gorgeous views and an abundance of privacy.  And one of the things about their property that has always amazed me is that they have a constant supply of spring water that pushes up from under the ground then trickles down the hill to a naturally formed pool of water.  The water is ice cold and crystal clear and enhances the beauty of its surroundings.  This is what I picture in my mind when I read these words of Jesus’ to the woman at the well.

I decided to do a little research on how a natural spring is formed and I discovered a couple of concepts that I think apply so well to the Christian life.  The forming of a spring happens when water seeps into the subsurface materials of the earth causing it to become saturated with water until it eventually overflows onto the land surface.  Seeping.  Saturating.  Overflowing.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the work of the Holy Spirit begins seeping into our life.  As we spend time in the Word of God and in fellowship with other Christians our lives begin to change as the work of the Holy Spirit saturates our souls.  And as we grow more and more like Christ we are overflow with the love and grace that God has given us.

A spring of water is God’s way to provide water to drink.  And the Salvation of Christ is his way to provide eternal life.  The study notes in my bible say, “Jesus was speaking of vigorous, abundant life.”  I am eternally grateful that Jesus has saved me!

 

 

Sneaky little deceptions

So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us. I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. – 1 John 2:24-26

As more and more new deceptions creep into the church, my prayer for my kids is that they will know what they believe and that they will not let any new ideas lead them astray.  The devil is crafty and he doesn’t come at us with obvious lies.  He knows that he has to wrap his deception up in pretty packaging that has appeal.  Lies that don’t seem so bad on the surface, but once they’ve got a foothold the outgrowth is just bigger and bigger deception.

After all, what’s the harm in preaching from the pulpits some feel good, self-help sermons based on books by respected Christian authors? — There are plenty of seminars out there where we can go to hear inspirational speakers.  Pastors are our shepherds and we need them to be equipping us with the Word of God! It will be far too easy for false doctrines to slip in if the Word of God is not the focus of the message. It is the Bible that should be preached from the pulpits!

Preach the word…with great patience and careful instruction. – 2 Timothy 4:2

And what’s wrong with yoga in church or “Destiny Reading cards” that give people hope for their future? Aren’t we just trying to “christianize” the things that the world is in to? — But these things are rooted in the worship of other gods. The Bible clearly warns us that we must never mix darkness in with light. Why would want to in any way resemble practices of other religions and cults?

Do not bow down before their gods or worship the or follow their practices. – Exodus 23:24

And of course there can’t be anything wrong with telling everyone that God would never send them to hell as long as they are nice people, right? — That is the scariest lie of all!  It is like telling someone that the cancer they have is just a “little cancer” and they don’t need to do anything to treat it. This is the lie that will lead to a whole bunch of “good people” ending up in hell because they did not see their need for Jesus!  The most important message we can ever share with the world is the Gospel message:

1 – You are a sinner and your sin has separated you from God.  There is nothing you can do on your own to absolve yourself.  In fact, the Bible says that your good deeds are like filthy rags to God. (Isaiah 64:6)

2 – God knew all along that you would need someone to pay the price for your sins.  And Jesus’ blood is the only acceptable payment for your sin debt. Jesus did not die for his own sins (because he was sinless). He was pierced for our sins. (Isaiah 53:5)

3 – Once you realize that you need a Savior and cry out to Jesus, he will come into your life and God will no longer see you as a lost sinner but as a redeemed child. (John 1:12)

Beware!! Don’t let yourself fall for any new ideas that twist the truth of the Word of God in anyway.  Don’t allow even the tiniest seed of falsehood to take root in your life.  Ask God to give you discernment and test the spirits. (1 John 4:1)

You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 9:6