More than Forgiven

The Psalmist prayed for mercy and forgiveness, but God in Christ has given all that and much more. We are more than forgiven.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Selected Verses

 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!  Psalm 79:8-9

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. The writer does not look for excuses, nor does he make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13-25).  He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

Think about it

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-17). Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.

Two Truths in Focus

Two truths must be kept clearly in focus at all times if we are to not lose sight of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Do you know what these are?

Today’s Reading

Job 23-25; Acts 10:24-48

Selected Verses

How then can man be in the right before God?  How can he who is born of woman be pure?  Job 25:4

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 10:42-43

Reflections

Bildad sees some things very clearly. God is holy, and man is sinful. But he misses the mercy and grace of God, so he asks, “How then can man be in the right before God?” This pessimistic view is not common in western society today. We are apt to hear more words extolling the greatness of humankind. “How enlightened we are! How noble are our works! God? Who’s that?” We pray to whomever, but only in times of extreme desperation. Then we revert to faith in ourselves and “confidence in confidence alone,” as Julie Andrews sang in “The Sound of Music.” (Although to be fair, I suspect that the real Maria Von Trapp would have sung “I have confidence in God.”)

Peter’s message to Cornelius and his company shows this accurate understanding of the holiness of God and the promise of forgiveness through faith in Christ. Cornelius had been a devout man, but devout men are depraved like all others, corrupted by sin in every part. He sought God and God provided for the centurion to hear the gospel from Peter himself. Not only that, but God sent His Holy Spirit on that group as they listened to the Apostle. Peter was getting the picture. God had sent him to preach to Gentiles. They believed. God sent the Holy Spirit upon them, and Peter immediately baptized them. The Gentiles were being saved. Jesus did die for the world.

Think about it

An accurate understanding of the gospel will keep in focus both the holiness of God that will result in Jesus’ judging the living and the dead, and the grace of God which manifests itself in Christ’s redemption of all who believe in Him.

Be sure you keep a clear vision of the holiness of God and the grace of God. By so doing, you will not lose sight of both the need of humanity and the power of the gospel for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew and to the Gentile. Remember: Jesus is both Judge and Redeemer.

The Spirit of God: the Water of Life

Biblical genealogy shows us that even kings do not leave much of a legacy. Jesus calls us to something more than temporal significance.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 1-2; John 7:32-53

Selected Verses

These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel: Bela the son of Beor, the name of his city being Dinhabah.  Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. 1 Chronicles 1:43-44

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  John 7:37-39

Reflections

In our reading today, we find a long list of those who lived, ruled, and died.  Some, like the kings of Edom, ruled for a time, but they died and someone stepped up to rule in their place.  One after another, they ruled, died, and were replaced.  You might wonder, “Is this all there is to life?”  You and I may be less significant in our time than these Edomite kings were in theirs.  Will we leave anything for future generations?  Will our life really have long term significance?

Jesus called His disciples to come to Him, to believe in Him, to receive the Spirit, and to know the living water that flows out of the believer’s heart.  He has been promising eternal life for those who eat His flesh and drink His blood.  He calls us not to live and die and be forgotten, but to live, believe, and live forever.

Think about it

The history leading up to Christ’s coming is important because it shows the need for something more than ruling for a time in this world.  It points to the fallen state of man and the need for a savior.  My fellow believer, do not think your life is of no lasting importance.  You have God’s Spirit, the living water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).  Rejoice in His mercy and goodness to you.  No wonder the officers who failed in their attempt to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!”

Two Kings; Two Offerings

Today we read about two kings in Jerusalem.  Both made offerings for sin.  But one offered animals and the other offered Himself.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 6-7; Luke 23:27-38

Selected Verses

Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord. I Kings 7:51

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” Luke 23:38

Reflections

Solomon spared no expense in building and furnishing the temple of God in Jerusalem. As you read the details of the construction, the quality of the materials, and the description of the workmanship, you have to marvel at the care that was taken. The building was not for common use nor for a common person. It was to be for the God of glory and majesty. It was to be the permanent site of the sacrifices offered to Him and the home of the Ark of the Covenant where God would meet the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

The dedication of the completed temple was undoubtedly the finest hour in the golden age of the United Kingdom of Israel. So it comes as a jolt to turn to Luke and read about the crucifixion of the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. It also occurred in Jerusalem, not far from the second temple (Solomon’s temple was burned during the Babylonian captivity 2 Kings 25:9).

The sinfulness of mankind and the mercy of God stand here side by side in stark contrast. On that most awful day, the crowd gawked at Jesus. The rulers scoffed at Him. The soldiers mocked Him.  Meanwhile, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Above His head, they hung a sign, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Solomon and his temple had not failed. That building met all expectations. But it wasn’t enough.   The offerings in the temples pointed to the true Offering that would be made not by a king but of the King, Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, the perfect offering for sin.

Think about it

If you are a believer, your King offered Himself that day in your place. Be amazed.

His Kingdom is Forever

No king and no kingdom have lasted for long.  But we now know the identity of the King whose reign will last forever. Do you know Him?

Today’s Reading

I Samuel 30-31; Luke 17:20-37

Selected Verses

Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together.  I Samuel 31:6

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed,  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:20-21

Reflections

The king is dead! Long live the king!  The cry goes out from the subjects who are either grieved or relieved depending on the nature of the king’s reign.  It happened in Israel on the day of Saul’s death.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had a miserable reign thanks to his own foolishness.  He failed to obey God,  to trust God, and to recognize his sin.  He never sought forgiveness.  God’s Spirit departed from him.  He became paranoid and obsessively chased David around for years trying to kill him. His reign wreaked with his foolish decisions and dissolved in defeat and shame.

What are we to make of this?  The then-new kingdom that had started out with some optimism and hope that Israel would be stable and successful ended in failure.  A better king was desperately needed if a better realm was to be established.  A kingdom will never be better than its king.

God raised up a new king and a new dynasty under David as we shall see in II Samuel.   The kingdom of God would come with the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ of the line of David.  That is the true and final kingdom, but it would not come immediately during Jesus’ earthly ministry which ended in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Think about it

We still await the culmination of the kingdom.  But we already know the identity of the King.  We know that He is the perfect Son of God.  We know much about His kingdom.  His rule will be perfect.  The people of His realm have been forgiven and will be made perfect when that kingdom comes in its fullness.  His kingdom will be eternal.

Let us live for that day, announcing the true King Jesus Christ.  His Kingdom is forever!

Why we flee light for the darkness

Why do we run from the only Source of all that is true, good, and beautiful?  The answer is sin makes us love darkness. But In Christ there is hope.

Today’s reading

Judges 8-9; Luke 8:22-56

Selected Verses

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.  And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal. Judges 9:56-57

Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.   Luke 8:37

Reflections

Fallen mankind, darkened by sin, flees from the light of God and from that which brings peace.  Today we find two examples of this principle: the reaction to the healing of the demoniac man and the case of Abimelech and the people of Shechem.

The people of Shechem chose Abimelech, the violent, renegade illegitimate son of their former judge, Gideon, over one of his other seventy sons, like Jotham who showed considerable wisdom and leadership skills.  In the end Abimelech brought destruction on himself and all who supported him.  The logical path of peace and an orderly transition of power from the late Gideon to Jotham did not appeal to the society.

Jesus, in a dramatic encounter, delivered a man possessed by innumerable demons.  His symptoms included a lifestyle of homelessness, nakedness, and violent behavior.  They guarded him in chains, but even that was ineffective.  Jesus healed the man so completely that when people saw him, clothed and sane, they were frightened.

Why did the people react with fear to the healing of this pathetic man?  They saw that Jesus had power over demons.  They saw a herd of pigs drown.  A human being previously held in bondage to Satan found peace and sanity. But they did not find joy and expectancy of more good things to come.  Instead, they asked Jesus to leave them.  Sin-darkened minds prefer the dark to the light, chaos and violence to order and peace.

Think about it

Beware of loving darkness rather than light.  John wrote, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:20-21).   Apart from the grace of God, we flee from the light straight into the darkness and the arms of the enemy. Walk, by God’s grace, in the light (I John 1:7).

God’s Intervention in Human History

God works in dramatic ways and in mundane ways to accomplish His purposes for His people.  Watch for evidence of His presence in your life today.

Today’s reading

Joshua 9-10; Luke 3

Selected Verses

And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.  Joshua 10:42

And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.  Luke 3:6

Reflections

In today’s reading in Joshua, God was at work defeating the enemies of Israel.  Certainly, the twelve tribes saw the salvation of God from those who had defiled the land with pagan worship.  God blessed them with much victory using even hailstones and a suspended sunset to accomplish His purposes.

Luke quotes from Isaiah in introducing the ministry of John the Baptist.  John was preparing the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Isaiah described one who cried in the wilderness, calling the people to prepare the way of the Lord.  That prophecy was fulfilled as John literally preached in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Crowds came to John and sought baptism.  He did not soft pedal his message, but warned them of the wrath to come and the need to make changes in their lives that reflected true repentance.  Two groups were specifically mentioned: the tax collectors and the soldiers.  John’s ministry was blessed by God so much that people thought perhaps he was the Christ, but later he clarified that Jesus was the One whose worth was far above his own and that Jesus would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  Isaiah’s words came true that all flesh would see the salvation of God.

Think about it

God intervenes in human history for the salvation of His people whether through dramatic or mundane means.  Whether we see signs of miraculous intervention or not, He has promised to save those who come to Him through Christ.  None of our enemies can stand before Him.  He overcomes the sinful hearts of tax collectors and soldiers.  He destroys the unrepentant, but saves His own.  Look for His presence as you pray and walk with Him today.

 

The Father’s Delight in the Son’s Death

Does it cause God anguish when He punishes evil?  Is it possible He felt delight as  He poured out wrath on His own Son?  The answer may surprise you.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 28; Mark 15:27-47

Selected Verses

And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Deuteronomy 28:63

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-39

Reflections

Moses described the seemingly endless ways Israel would suffer if they disobeyed God’s law, if they were not careful to obey it all, and if they did not “serve the Lord [their] God with joyfulness and gladness of heart” (Deut. 28:47).  Their suffering would be through loss of crops, famine, mental anguish of all kinds, national humiliation, family breakdown, and (shudder) cannibalism.

Israel did fail to obey God.  Israel did suffer the consequences predicted.  But the ultimate suffering came not upon the nation but upon the Messiah, God’s own Son Jesus Christ. He bore the full weight of God’s wrath for His people.  Jesus suffered for their sin.  God the Father willed that His Son should bear this.  It is accurate, although shocking, to say that God the Father delighted to bring ruin upon His Son thus vindicating His holiness and just wrath.

Think about it

So fully did Jesus’ death satisfy the wrath of God that the temple curtain separating the people from the Holy of Holies, wherein was the mercy seat, was torn in two.  In Christ God made the way for all His people to come into His presence and to receive mercy.

What a great salvation Jesus’ death purchased for us!  How delighted was God to open a way for His people to come into His presence!  Let these truths grip you afresh today.

Redeemed to Be His Friends

 In Jesus Christ there is true freedom to be His servant.  Yet not only His servant but His friend.  He redeems us to be His friends.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 24-25; Mark 1:23-45

Selected Verses

For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 25:55

And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:38,39

Reflections

Provision was made in the law for those who had fallen on hard times and had to sell themselves as servants.  The Israelites were God’s people.  They belonged to Him and could not belong to anyone else, at least not permanently.  The law encouraged people to pay a ransom for their enslaved relatives.  If there was no one to do this, servants were to be freed automatically at the year of jubilee.

So too, Jesus went throughout Galilee preaching and casting out demons, redeeming people not from physical slavery but from spiritual bondage to Satan and sin.  The people heard of Jesus’ power.  Crowds sought Him.  The demands on His time increased.  What did He do? He went out before daybreak to pray.  His disciples found Him and told Him how the crowds were looking for Him.  But Jesus had other plans.  He and the disciples moved on to the other towns in Galilee.

In reading this passage in Mark’s gospel, it seems clear that Jesus lived  purposefully each day without anxiety or confusion.  He was not controlled by the many needs around Him.  Instead, through prayer He sought the Father’s guidance for His day.

Jesus Christ’s redemption of lost souls was pictured in the redemption of Old Testament slaves.  Just as the latter needed someone to free them from physical slavery, so the former did and do need Someone to free them from spiritual bondage.

Think about it

Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).  Our Savior proclaims freedom from sin to all who repent and believe.  Trust in Him and be free. In Him there is true freedom to be His servant, but not only His servant but His friend.  He redeems us to be His friends.

Depth of Sin; Pervasiveness of Corruption

The sin and corruption in apparently godly people can shock us. How can we regular people escape? The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the answer.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:55-75

Selected Verses

This is the law for any case of leprous disease: for an itch, for leprous disease in a garment or in a house, and for a swelling or an eruption or a spot,  to show when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the law for leprous disease.  Leviticus 14:54-57

Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed.  And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.  Matthew 26:74-75

Reflections

Sin, disease, and death permeate everything in the world from human beings to houses and clothing.

One of the saddest stories in the entire Bible is the story of Peter’s denial.  Over-confident Peter had declared his allegiance to Jesus Christ only a few hours earlier. Now in the courtyard of the high priest we find him calling down curses on himself, swearing to his own destruction that he does not even know Him.   What corruption lies in the human heart!  This is a deplorable action but one of which I could also be guilty.

In the reading in Leviticus we learn that disease can infest a home endangering the inhabitants.  The priest had detailed instructions about how to diagnose the severity of the problem.  In some happy cases cleansing was successful, an offering was made, and the property could be re-inhabited.  This was not always the case; sometimes nothing short of demolition of the property would suffice.  Again, we see the pervasive effects of the fall which brought disease and death.

Think about it

No self-help book can fix the human condition.  Ten easy steps will not lead to the perfection of character.  Only at the cross of Christ can we find deliverance, forgiveness, and cleansing.  That is where our sins were paid for at the cost of the only sinless man’s life.  Peter needed that cross.  So do we.

Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of heaven where sin is eradicated and all suffering and disease is banished forever.  Lord, may your kingdom come soon in all its fullness.

I am ready for it.  Are you?