He Will Never Do It Again

graphic displaying Jesus and Simon the Cyrene carrying cross up hill with a red 'no' circle overlay on top of picture

Many years ago, I heard a song that said, “If He had to do it all again, He’d do it all again.” The song’s overall message tells how great the love of Jesus is. It is true that He loved us so much that, even though there was nothing in us to deserve it, He came to Earth to take away our sins and give us a new life by dying on the cross for us. This song implied (with no expectation of it actually happening) that Jesus’ love for us is so great that He would willingly come and die on the cross again to redeem us. But, in reality, though this never can or will happen. Jesus became fully man when He came to Earth to die for us.

No man can die more than once, including Him. It is therefore impossible for Jesus to return again to die again to redeem us from the curse of sin and death.

When Jesus was on the cross, He made a statement in His final hours that completed God’s plan for the salvation and victory for everyone in the world, past, present and future, who will believe Him. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up [His spirit]” (John 19:30 emphasis added). He fulfilled all of God’s requirements found in the Old Testament. Throughout His time here on Earth, He satisfied every expectation His Father deemed necessary, in order to re-establish the relationship with Him that man lost due to sin.

Before all that God’s Son accomplished on the cross, sin could be covered only temporarily by the sacrifice of an animal in our place. Therefore, people had to continually go before a priest, who would take the item a person brought to be sacrificed and present it before God on his behalf. There was no real means for someone to go freely before God by himself. A priest and a physical sacrifice had to go before him.

Now Jesus’ finished work on the cross enables us to freely come before God through Jesus as our Great High Priest.

He fulfilled the role of the priest, and He also gave His life as the final and ultimate sacrifice. There is no longer a need for us to offer up an animal, as was previously required.

This is the reason that it is impossible for Jesus “to do it all again.” What He did for us on the cross was final. If He had “to do it all again,” it would mean that the first time was incomplete. It also suggests that when He declared “it is finished,” everything was not accomplished after all, and therefore Jesus made a mistake. To carry this train of thought out even further, for Jesus to be in error would mean that His heavenly Father is wrong as well, since Jesus is always fully obedient to what His Father tells Him. This would contradict the nature and existence of God therefore, resulting in total chaos!

When Jesus came in person to this world to provide the way of deliverance from the curse of sin and death, it was once and for all.

The love of God and His Son for man is so immense, perfect, and infinite that there is no need whatsoever for a ‘repeat performance.’ On the contrary, we need to accept His finished work at the cross as our own, based solely on the first and only time He did it. Jesus is coming back to this Earth again. This time, though, it will not be for another attempt at redeeming man, but rather in judgment for those who have rejected His initial offer of salvation and deliverance, when He died on the cross on their behalf to free them from the power of sin. Everything man needed to come to God was completely provided for then. There is no point in standing around waiting to see if Jesus will ‘do it all again.’ We need to yield our heart to Him now, based on what He has already done on our behalf, while we still can!

If you want more information on how to accept this finished work Jesus made possible during His time here on the Earth for yourself and receive external life, please click here.

 

[Graphic credit (without red slash and circle): raphael/Pixabay]

God Delights in Us

photo looking up at five different people as they are looking down and smiling

As a child of God, many of us have a tendency to look at our self in a critical way. As a result, we bring on feelings of discouragement, because we often feel that we don’t match up physically or spiritually with other believers around us. We tend to think of the growth process that the Lord is bringing us through as a necessary evil we have to endure, in order to reach the pleasurable results which He has promised us.

Yet God sees us differently. He does not focus on our past or even our present condition. Instead, His focus is on the end result. Like an artist, He views us in the finished form that He already has in mind. When a sculptor selects a section of stone, he already has a mental picture of what it will look like when his work is completed. The rough sections that initially stick out are not a concern to him, because mentally he has either removed them or shaped them to perfection.

“He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). The writer of this Psalm was in the midst of both his enemies and the king of Israel, who was in close pursuit—all of them out to destroy him. But he knew to call on the Lord and not to continue on in his own strength. In turn, “He delivered me…” Why? “…because He delighted in me.”

And, like the sculptor, God sees the whole piece. He is not concerned or bothered by the means for shaping it; He is looking at the end result, in which He finds delight. On the other hand, we, as the one being sculpted, struggle with the process He is bringing us through. We focus on the painful discomfort of the chiseling, grinding, and overall shaping of our life by our Divine Sculptor. We try to resist His attempts to improve our form spiritually. But all of these efforts of ours only serve to delay the development of the final product.

Remind yourself that God does not look at us with disdain and contempt. He also does not consider one of His children more beautiful than another. Our part in all of this is to cooperate and let Him make us into the being that He envisions. We are not to accept the view others have of us, or of our sinful past, that the devil loves to remind us of. Instead, we are to look upon Jesus.

God receives pleasure when we put Him first in our life. He doesn’t find delight in what we wear (or don’t wear), how intelligent we are, whether we have red, blond, or black hair, what our age is, or how successful we have become in this world. His delight is in us, His children. We may have our ups and downs spiritually and physically—in spite of all of our many anomalies and discrepancies, His delight is still in us!

The Lord does not want us looking back at our past and all of our sinful ways, nor focusing on our current condition. His desire is for us to look forward to His Son and His finished work on the cross. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry here on the Earth, God said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Our lives need to be filled with the One in whom He is well pleased.

The next time we are taunted for the way we look, or accused by the enemy about something in the past, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to walk away feeling down, discouraged, or depressed. When the pressures and struggles around us lead us to despair, let us look up to God. He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He is the very One who led us into these difficult situations, to shape us into that in which He delights. The psalmist did not say that God delighted in the birds of the air or the animals of the field. He also did not tell us that He delighted in our education or our prosperity. He said “…He delighted in me”—and He delights in us as well.

[Image credit: rawpixel.com/Pexels]

Jesus Never Lost His Composure

Photo of two identical men seated on couch in argument with one man's hands in the air

If we analyze the life of Jesus Christ, the one thing which is most evident out of all of His characteristics is that He never lost His composure. No matter what situation or circumstance He encountered, He was always untroubled and composed. Even when the religious leaders threatened His life, He was able to either walk right through their midst or slip away unnoticed.

Jesus was tempted (tested) by the devil in the wilderness, but He never rose up in anger or commanded him to flee. He merely responded to each attempt with a passage in context from God’s word. He knew just what to say at any given moment.

A storm arose while He and His disciples were at sea, yet Jesus never grew anxious or panicked. There was absolutely no fear in Him. In fact, during the peak of the storm, “…He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24). He had such peace in the situation that He had no need to be awake.

Then “…when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way” (Matthew 8:28). But He was not fazed by them at all. Instead, He cast the devils out into a nearby herd of swine, maintaining full control of the situation.

Later Jesus healed a man with a withered up hand. The religious leaders became angry because He did it on the Sabbath. They took God’s commandment given over a thousand years earlier—to honor the Sabbath, keep it holy, and do no work on that day—to such an extreme that even healing was not permitted. Yet in their ‘holy’ zeal, they were hypocrites, because they permitted livestock to be rescued out of a pit on the Sabbath without penalty. As a result of Jesus’ actions, “… the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12:14). But this did not bother Him. “…when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (v. 15).

Once Jesus and His disciples were in a desert area ministering to the people. The day grew late and no food was available anywhere nearby. He did not worry, but He could have let Himself become overly concerned and begun to make arrangements for getting food. On the contrary, He took a handful of bread and fish, blessed it, and gave it to His disciples to distribute.

He was fully confident that the thousands present would have enough to be satisfied, with plenty left over.

Even though Jesus always kept His composure, He was not a soft-spoken, passive, non-confrontational person. Once “…Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12, 13). Yet He still maintained control of Himself and the situation. After all, this was His house and their ungodly actions were desecrating it. Afterward, “…the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them” (Matthew 21:14). He never demonstrated any bitterness or hatred. His anger was a righteous anger and nothing greater.

More than once the religious leaders tried to trap Him. One case involved paying tribute (taxes). They asked Jesus, “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). And once again, Jesus did not lose His composure. “…Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? Shew Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:18-21). He effectually shut them up and exposed their foolishness with little more than raising His voice.

At one point, the religious leaders grew so disgusted and upset with Jesus and the truth He proclaimed that they tried to kill Him on the spot. “…they took up stones to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59). He still did not lose His composure and let Himself get out of control.

Even when Jesus was tried and hung on the cross for crimes not committed, He never angrily defended Himself. He did not try to fight physically for His innocence. While He hung on the cross in extreme pain, He cried out, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). He could have called out to His Father to send destruction upon the guilty and to get Him off of the cross.

So how did He manage to do all this without ever yielding to the devil, or just giving up? It was all due to His relationship with His Heavenly Father. He declared, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus continually sought and communicated with Him, never allowing their fellowship to become strained or broken. Whenever He had the opportunity, Jesus would go before His Father in prayer, sometimes all night long.

Through this unity, Jesus knew just what to say and where to go at any given moment. He never worried or doubted. He had no concern about others taking His life.

“Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come” (John 7:30 emphasis added). Jesus had to fulfill all of His Father’s requirements first. He was subject to His Father’s will and none other. His Father knew what was best for Him, and anyone else who would believe in Him.

Therefore, if Jesus, the very Son of God, had to continually go before His Father in prayer as a human being, how much more so should we, as children of God, do the same? God provided His Son in the flesh for us as our perfect example. He wants us to follow His Son’s example and be in close fellowship with Him. When we grow fearful and doubt Him, we have slipped out of that fellowship. We will always lose control of a situation when our relationship with Him is strained or broken. The only way that we can have a close bond with our Heavenly Father and maintain a level of calmness in any situation is to do like His Son and spend quality time in prayer and communication with Him. We need to continually place His interests for us above our own. Jesus never lost His composure, and neither should we.

 

[Image credit: Marcello eM/Freeimages]

How To Be Great

graphic image of large man with right hand leaning on head of smaller man

For most of us on this Earth, being very popular, highly esteemed, and regarded as worthy to be above others is our fondest innate desire. Many highly educated and well-respected individuals have taught various ways to accomplish this (for a fee), along with a multitude of other vain conditions. Every year, billions of dollars are spent to try to make ourselves appear great and glorious.

Yet true greatness will never be accomplished by any human method or philosophy.

The greatest minds of philosophers, psychiatrists, scientists, etc., are not capable, even collectively, of producing a solution that will effectively elevate the status of respect for all of us in life. Some leaders of various countries have gone so far as to use brute force to make their citizens treat them as great leaders, and yet, in the final analysis, they don’t achieve true success.

But God desires for us to go contrary to man’s way of thinking. In Genesis 3:19, He shows us just how ‘great’ He actually considers us to be: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (emphasis added). God does have high regard for us as being created in His image, but in our current, sinful state, He can only treat us like what we really are—nothing more than dust.

There isn’t anything we can possibly do on our own that will make us great in the eyes of God.  

We might just shrug this off, thinking that we are not out solely to please God; we just desire to be ‘somebody’ in this world. But how can this be achieved in a world where the standard of superiority is always fluid? The very thing considered great and outstanding in one part of the world might be insulting in another. At one point in time, as a small example, a woman had to have a pale complexion to be considered beautiful, yet, later on, this attitude changed to thinking that a woman of great beauty should be as highly tanned as a bronze pillar! Some are regarded lofty and ideal individuals if they are accomplished orators, while others are held in high esteem for their silence and reserved nature. And consider this as well: how can we achieve superiority when everyone else is trying to be superior also?

That is why we need to look beyond this mortal, sinful world. God never intended for each of us to act like we are great or superior to another.

This is one reason why He sent His Son to Earth to provide a way and an example for us to follow. Throughout His time here on Earth, Jesus demonstrated how man’s expectations for greatness are inappropriate.

Jesus did not come to Earth the first time to be considered great or to be worshipped—He came here to serve. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). He came to put into practice what had been declared in His Word. Who can live by what someone says if that person is unwilling to follow his own teaching? Not until after Jesus had humbled Himself as a servant did “God also…highly [exalt] Him, and [give] Him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

Consider this short list of occasions where God’s Son humbled Himself to the level of not just a lowly servant, but even a despised outcast as well.

  • He was born in the manner of a common person, not like a child of royalty.
  • His first bed was a feeding trough, not a plush cradle in a magnificent palace.
  • He was led into the capital on a donkey—a lowly means of transport for a king.
  • He was considered to be out of His mind, to the point that His own family wanted to have Him put away.
  • He was accused of crimes He had not committed, then crucified in place of a murderer.
  • He was hated and ultimately killed by secular and religious leaders.
  • He ended up in the most degraded position of any human being in history.

Jesus never displayed an attitude of self-pity. He didn’t hang His head low, always walking around looking glum. He never regretted or resented coming to this planet in the role of a servant.

He trusted in His Father, who knew what was best for Him in every situation and circumstance that He would encounter. He looked forward to whatever God had prepared for Him next. He knew God’s way would always be the best way.

Is it possible for us to be great, therefore, if not in this present frail and short life, but for eternity? It can only happen if we are first willing to humble ourselves to the position of a servant. Jesus said, “…but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For [which] is greater, he that sitteth at meat [reclines at a table], or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26-27 emphasis added).

The Apostle Paul laid out the method God wants us to follow: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 emphasis added).

On the path to true greatness, our only perfect example is Jesus.

 

[Image (modified) source:Geralt/Pixabay)

The Next Move Is Ours

 

In every board game, such as checkers or chess, the first player makes a move and then another move always has to be made, alternating back and forth until the game ends. Whether you go first or second, your opponent will always have to move one of his pieces to another space after you make your move.

While the work Jesus does is not a game, He does expect the same kind of action from us. In many areas during His time of ministry here on Earth He made the first move. Then He expected man to make the next move after Him.

Let’s look at a few examples. We find the narrative of the death of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus was informed by Mary that her brother Lazarus was sick to the point of death. Jesus could have just said the word and healed him, like He had done on many other occasions. But this time, He chose to wait until after Lazarus died before He traveled to Bethany where he once lived.

When Jesus finally did arrive, Lazarus had already been dead and buried in a cave for four days. At this point nobody believed there was any hope for him. But that did not matter to Jesus, for “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). When He reached the opening of the cave that had been sealed with a large rock, Jesus told those present to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39). He made the first effort in regard to raising Lazarus from the dead; now they were to make the next move.

Jesus could have moved the rock Himself, but He wanted to see how much they really wanted Him to work in this predicament.

If they were not willing to take the simple step of removing the barrier to the cave, then why should He continue? “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid” (John 11:41). After a brief prayer to His Heavenly Father, “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” (John 11:43-44a). Then “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b). It would not have been difficult for Him to go one step further and free Lazarus from his burial cloth right then, but that was not the focus here. Jesus expected the next move to be made by them.

Another example is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. “…behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him” (Luke 8:41-42). Common sense says that Jesus should have ordered the crowd to turn aside, rushed over to the ruler’s house, and healed his daughter while she was still just sick. But Jesus does not follow human common sense; He is only obedient to what His Father desires. Therefore, He allowed Himself to be delayed. When He finally arrived at the ruler’s residence, the man’s daughter was dead.

This time, Jesus did not tell anyone to physically do something. He expected them to: “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).

The next move was in their hands. Jairus needed to believe that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. In verses fifty-four and fifty-five, at least one of those present followed through and trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness. “And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat.”

Look at one more example found in the fifth chapter of John. In Jerusalem, there was a pool of water that was stirred up periodically by an angel. Whoever entered in during this time would be healed of his infirmity. One man present had been afflicted with a disease for at least thirty-eight years, yet he had not been able to enter into the water in time to be delivered from his condition.

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6-7).

Obviously, the man wanted to be healed; he was just at a loss as to how to do it. But Jesus came along and made the first move: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

At this point, the man could have replied, “But sir, I have been trying to walk for some thirty-eight years now and nothing has happened. Could you just pick me up and place me in the pool when it is stirred again?” Yet, in the next verse, the afflicted man believed in the words of Jesus and he made the next move. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…”

Time and time again, we find that God will move first, and then hand it over to us to trust in Him and make the subsequent step. He leaves us with the choice to either obey His request in order to have our victory and deliverance by faith, or to stand still in doubt and unbelief, missing out on the blessing He has in store for us.

The bones of Lazarus might still be sealed in a cave, a synagogue ruler’s young girl would never have seen her thirteenth birthday, and a man might have died next to a pool of healing water if those present had not obeyed the Lord’s command.

Jesus isn’t going to make all of the moves for us. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He will often leave a portion for us to do, in order to try our faith in Him. Whenever the Lord moves first in our life, we need to remember—the next move is ours.

 

[Image credits:channah/Freeimages;Devanath/Pixabay]

Connecting to the Right Outlet

Rockwell is a pretty smart guy, except when it comes to non-technical things. Sure, he knows that a car can’t run without gas or oil, and that refrigerators, microwave ovens, and light bulbs all need electricity to operate. But ask him how they function, and he will struggle to give an explanation.

This is why, one cold morning in early March, Rockwell could not get his electric space heater to operate. He plugged it into an outlet in the living room and turned it on. After ten minutes, nothing had happened. He removed the plug and inserted it into the socket underneath, but still no power or heat.

He picked up the heater, shook it vigorously several times and placed it back on the floor. There it sat with no lights, no noise, and certainly no warmth. 

With friends coming for lunch, he knew he had to do something to get the place warm. He went to the basement and brought up another heater—smaller but still adequate. He inserted its plug into the same receptacle, turned the unit on, and waited. It, too, just sat there—cold, dark, and quiet.

Rockwell decided that this was too technical for him to bother with at the moment. So he returned to fixing breakfast. Meanwhile, his neighbor stopped by for a brief visit.  He noticed right off that the house had almost no warmth, but he figured that Rockwell was already aware of this, so he kept silent and sat at the breakfast table. After they chatted a while, the temperature grew colder, and his neighbor could not remain quiet any longer. “Rocky, my boy, are you running absent-minded this morning, or did your heater give out on you?”

“Well, I plugged it in and tried all kinds of things to make it work. I even hooked up another one I got downstairs. I figured if I wait long enough, one might eventually turn on one way or another.”

His neighbor went over, checked both heaters, then the outlet.  Then he took a desk lamp, connected it to the same outlet, and got the same results: nothing. Finally he took one heater and plugged it into another electrical socket across the room. Voila! It came alive immediately and began to warm the room.

“Well, there’s your problem,” his neighbor remarked. “They were plugged into a dead outlet. For some reason, there was no power available there. They have to be connected to the right outlet if they are going to heat the room. All of your efforts earlier were useless.”

Now, how many of us today are living a cold life? Not a physical cold, where we need socks, sweaters, and heaters to get and stay warm, but spiritually, in our hearts. No matter what good method we try, we can’t seem to find the solution. We accepted Jesus Christ in our heart, yet we are still in a constant struggle to be free of some bondage in our life. Whether it is smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, immorality, lying, stealing, or a whole host of other sinful habits, we just cannot rid ourselves of their control.

So we turn to the medical world, psychology, self-help programs, religion, government assistance, pastors, churches, neighbors, and family members. We pray, go to church, read the Bible and consult other Christians, yet we still struggle with these problems. They frequently make us ashamed, depressed, confused, and overwhelmed.

We vow at the beginning of each day or week that we will not give in, but we still end up succumbing to the same sinful actions. 

As a Christian, why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we be free and victorious? Why do we have to be in this bondage? The answers lie in our understanding of Jesus Christ and the cross. By putting our faith in something else, we will always be under the control of sin. God does not want us to be in this state any more than we do, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled all of the requirements of His Father that we could never accomplish, and paid a debt that we are unable to repay. 

The problem is that, when we accepted His Son into our hearts and made Him Lord of our life, we did not totally yield to Him. Instead, we continued to fight these battles with sin (a spiritual problem) in our own strength and effort (a non-spiritual answer).

Look at this another way. We are attempting to remove the coldness (sin) from our heart by connecting to a dead outlet (the world and its hopeless solutions). But when we plug into a live outlet (Jesus Christ and His victory on the cross), we allow power (His Spirit) to flow freely in our life. He is now able to remove the control all of these sinful habits mentioned earlier have on us, and our heart begins to warm up.

But, as long as we keep trying to clean up our sins by our self, we remain connected to a dead outlet and receive no connection to the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The “law of the Spirit of life” refers to when we connect into the live outlet. By plugging into a dead outlet, we are walking after the flesh, meaning the ways of this sinful world, which will always be followed by “the law of sin and death,” or bondage. 

Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The only way to be free of the sin habit that perpetually plagues us is to accept the victory of the finished work of Jesus on the cross as our own victory. Stop plugging into a dead outlet of our own futile works, thereby cancelling out all Christ has done for us. Connect to the right outlet and we, as children of God, will find freedom from the control sin has had in our heart and life.

 

[Image credit:Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Would You Die For Your Enemies?

“…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The Lord was pointing here to His reconciling death, which both His friends and enemies alike needed very much. The idea here is that sometimes a need is so compelling that a man might choose to die for the ungodly and his enemies even over the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the godly and his friends. This kind of love was the kind that Jesus had for man—demonstrated by His voluntary death on man’s behalf—which is the greatest love that there is.

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).

Being now justified” means being pardoned, or accepted as His friends. When we were still His enemies, Jesus overcame everything that would keep us from being saved. So how much more reason we now have to expect Him to give us His protection, since we have become His friends. “By His blood” means by His death. Our value to God is in direct proportion to the value of the price of our redemption. We have been purchased and purified at the price of Jesus’ own shed blood, which makes us holy in God’s eyes. He will certainly keep His promise since we have been bought with such a very dear price.

“…if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus undertook this work while we were still His enemies. But it was by this very work that we were changed from His enemies into His friends. God laid its foundation while we were still opposed to and resisting Him. This revealed that God was determined on His part to perform it. And He has consequently made the solemn promise that it will be made perfect. “We were reconciled” means that we have been brought to an agreement in a state of friendship and union with God. We became His friend, laid aside our opposition, and welcomed Him as our friend. The great design of God’s salvation plan was to accomplish this very thing.

This means that obstacles existed before which had to be reconciled on both God’s side and our side. But His death removed them, on His part. And on our part, we were reconciled when we honored His Law which showed His hatred of sin and upheld His justice. A Christian is reconciled to God by overcoming man’s hatred of God and His Law, and by bringing man into submission to His rule. He is also reconciled when his former unwillingness to be reconciled is removed by bringing his heart under control—by changing and setting it apart unto God. Now man is able to become the friend of God. All of this was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son as an offering in our place. The two opposing sides have now been reunited!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

How perfect the love of Jesus is to us. He described the people He died for as “His friends.” And His object and purpose was displayed by “laying down My life for My friends.” But they were not His friends originally. They were enemies and hated God—all at the very same time that His Son laid down His life for them in order to reconcile them to God!

By ‘friends,’ Jesus did not mean those who love Him, but those whom He loves. These ‘friends’ Jesus died for are the same people Paul referred to by the opposite name—he said Jesus died for His ‘enemies.’ They weren’t the kind who had behaved themselves like friends, or shown any love and affection to Him at all—they were the opposite. They were only called friends because He chose them to be His friends. And by dying for His ‘friends,’ Jesus reconciled the ones who were His enemies by His Spirit and grace, and made them His friends.

Therefore, this love of Jesus, shown in giving His life for His people, is greater than any example of love among men. A man might lay down his life for others who deserve it, or he might even be forced to do it. Some may die hoping for worldly applause and glory. But when Jesus laid His life down for His enemies, He had no evil or selfish views—He freely volunteered to do it at the highest ultimate cost to Himself. Jesus would never have had His friends if He had not died for His enemies. He shows the way we are to deal with those who are alienated and hostile to God—by pouring out His unselfish, self-sacrificing affection on them, which will conquer all in the end. The death of Christ has therefore become both the pattern for our life and the hope for our heart.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, His enemies rejoiced and triumphed over defeating Him. Yet the true, ultimate outcome of His humble and weak condition was to reconcile us to God.

And if He had the power to accomplish such a great work as reconciling us when He was humble and despised and dying, then how much more can we expect Him to be able to keep us safely in His care now that He’s the living, lifted up, triumphant Redeemer! If His powers which were weakened in dying were enough to reconcile us, how much more will His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer be enough to save and keep us! Judas “…betrayed Him…saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He…” (Mt 26:48). But Christ “kisses His enemies with the kisses of His mouth”, and makes them His friends—because He loves them! Now what He Himself said: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) is made clear. He willingly died for His enemies; will we willingly live as His friends?

This is a companion article to one written about Jesus dying for His friends. Please click here to read more.

 

[Image credits:(angry man) Rene Asmussenfoto/Freeimages; (angry woman) Cristina Matei/Freeimages; (cross) abcdz2000/Freeimages]

Where Is The Center Point of Our Faith?

A drawing of a plumb line attached to a small wall

Builders constructing a building make regular checks as they go to be sure that it does not lean in any direction. In spite of all the advanced technology available today, there is one ordinary, non-technical device still being used to make sure a structure being built is straight: the plumb line. This tool consists of just two simple components—a line, such as a string, a rope, or a strong, flexible wire, and the plumb—a small metal weight attached to the end of the line. When it is held at a specific position on a structure, it will show how far off center the building being constructed is, by revealing how straight the framework is in relation to the line itself. A plumb line left unhindered will always swing back to the center point in relation to where it is hung.

A photo of a gold pendulum swinging on a printed diagram

A pendulum also follows the same principle as a plumb line. It is essentially a weight attached to a string, a rod, or a flat decorative piece of metal that is connected to a pivot point. A pendulum may swing back and forth in many different directions, but when left to itself, it eventually slows down and comes to rest at the center point.

We can apply these examples to our walk with God. If a plumb line was held next to our spiritual position with God, how far off would we be in relation to His straight standard? Our center point must always be Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. If we lean in any direction toward anything other than Him, the faith we are ‘building’ will become off center. And, if left unchecked, it will eventually lean so far off center that our faith will collapse and fall. Therefore, our central focus has to remain on Jesus and nothing else.

In order to stay right in the center of what God has planned for us, we need to stop trusting in our own efforts and start trusting in His Son instead.

Now, the question for us is, where is the center point of our faith? Is it in Christ and His finished work on the cross, or in something else? It doesn’t matter what we do that is good, bad, or somewhere in between—if Jesus is not the focus, the center, of our life, then we will always be ‘off.’ Whenever we turn to anything other than Him, we are swinging away from the center point of true peace in our heart.

When we put our efforts into other areas, we are basically saying that His sacrifice was not enough, that we also have to do something ourselves to make our life right with God. The more we try, the more we move away from the plumb line, and lean the wrong way spiritually. We need to stop swinging back and forth, like the pendulum, away from our center point.

The Apostle Paul said, “But to him that worketh not [himself], but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Who is “Him that justifieth the ungodly”? Jesus.

By believing on Him and what He has done for us on the cross, our“faith is counted for righteousness.”

That’s it. We have no need for special programs and rituals, or counseling and treatment, or anything else. We just need to place our total trust in Him, keeping Him continually as the center point of our faith—not the world, not religion, not our own ideas, not anything else. Then we will be able to rest secure, trusting in the center point of our faith—our Lord Jesus.

 

[Image credits:(plumb line) Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain]; (pendulum) Manfred Antranias Zimmer/Pixabay]

Don’t Blame God For Your Problems

a graphic showing Adam and Eve behind bushes with a tree, snake, dark clouds and sun in background

After having moved furniture for their boss in a large old truck since five in the morning, the two young men were now exhausted. The one driving turns to the other and says, “Let’s finish this last delivery and quit for today. I’m beat!” His partner agrees without any hesitation. The driver starts up the truck and eases it into gear. The engine roars loudly with a lot of creaking and groaning; everything shudders, but nothing happens. He backs off of the accelerator, shakes his head, puts the old truck into reverse, and tries again. Still, the truck doesn’t move.

Tired and frustrated, the driver puts the transmission back into neutral and shuts the truck off. He slides out of the cab and manages to get up onto the front bumper.

“Man, I’m fed up with the junk our boss keeps giving us to haul with. Every time I try to go somewhere, this old thing acts up. If I had a mind to do something, I’d…”

He then interrupts himself with a series of loud clunks and opens the hood of the vehicle. After looking around the engine and then grumbling some more, he jumps back down to the ground.

Once again he gets into the cab and starts the engine. He tries several times to rock the vehicle by pushing the transmission into gear, accelerating, then quickly shifting into reverse and stepping on the accelerator again. Now thoroughly exasperated, the driver crawls up on the front of the truck, slams the hood down and starts jumping up and down on it. Yet nothing has changed and the truck is still in the same place as before.

Practically admitting defeat after an hour of trying, the man crawls back into the driver’s seat and slumps over the steering wheel. His partner glances over at him from the other side of the cab and mumbles, “Did you pull the chocks out from under the wheels?”

The driver, still resting over the steering wheel, opens his eyes without turning his head and replies, “What?”

Now with more of a weary drawl, his partner responds a little louder, “I said, Did you pull the chocks out from under the back wheels?” The driver bursts out of the vehicle and disappears around to the backside. After a somewhat muted scream, a large pair of wheel chocks goes flying over the front of the truck, followed by immense laughter from his helper still in the front seat.

While humorous in itself, this anecdote provides a good example of how we are often quick to blame someone else for a problem or oversight of our own creation.

In Genesis 3, we find the first instance of blame, and this time it involved God also. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:6, 7, 11-13).

In the same sense as the moving truck driver, Adam and Eve created a situation that they could not overcome as it stood. In their case, they disobeyed God by allowing themselves to be persuaded by the devil, via a serpent, and they ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then, following their own futile wisdom and efforts, Adam and Eve tried to correct or hide their sin (a spiritual concern) with fig leaves (a natural or non-spiritual solution).

When God confronted them, Adam resorted to blaming Him and Eve, while she blamed the serpent—yet neither one mentioned that that they were at fault.

We, as children of God, often fall into disobedience by doing the same thing.  Not only do we criticize Him, we are also determined to resolve the situation in our own strength, without even a thought of asking Him for assistance. Oftentimes we will practically knock ourselves out trying to correct the problem, when the source is, figuratively speaking, right under our nose. Of course, God is not going to rush in and take care of everything for us. He will patiently wait until we reach that place where we finally give up and call out to Him for forgiveness and help. Sadly, it usually takes most of our life before we finally reach that particular point and surrender to Him, if we ever do at all.

As our loving Heavenly Father, God will never put a problem before us that we cannot overcome. We are the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, create an insurmountable situation for ourselves. When the issues that arise in our circumstances get us down, let’s not fall into the ‘blaming God’ trap that the devil often sets before us. Instead of getting upset with God over the difficult situation at hand that we have created ourselves, why not seek Him in prayer first, and then allow Him to lead us to the solution.

 

[Image credit:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay]

Would You Die For Your Friend?

graphic of blue background with a silhouette of person kneeling at a cross

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This verse emphasizes that Jesus laid down His life for His friends. There is no better way to show a dear friend how much you care than to lay down your life on his or her behalf if it becomes necessary. And this is the kind of love Jesus has for us if we are His friends. He laid down His life for the ones He loved, and He wants us to be willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

God lives in all those who belong to Him. Others are thereby able to see God, because He is in us. They can recognize Him in us by His love shown forth to them through us. God approves of the kind of love that we transfer from ourself to our brothers and sisters in Him. He is looking for this kind of love which makes us forget ourself and pursue the good and well-being of others.

The love referred to here is the love of God in Christ—because Christ is love. And how do we know for certain that He loved us? He was willing to give up His life for us on the cross.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). And if we have the love of God in us like Jesus did, then we will be willing to die for one another if necessary to prove it is so. Therefore, the life of a believer should not be more important to him than the life of God’s own Son was to Him. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) emphasizes what the love of Jesus really is, and what our love should be.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another(John 13:34). Not long after He said this to His disciples, Jesus did lay down His life for them. This explains what He meant when He said “as I have loved you.” And those who believe in Christ should come up to this level of love also. When Christ came down from Heaven to Earth, He laid His royal majesty and glory aside. He loved man more than all of it—enough to give His very life for those who are so very dear to Him. This was the great love of Christ for His people, the very highest example of love among men.

The love Christ has for us He demonstrated in “laying down My life for My friends.” Jesus was referring to His atoning death which everyone needs, whether His enemies or His friends. It was His high purpose to display the greatest love there can be—the sacrifice of ourself for those we love. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). He confidently stated that the friendship kind of love He had was so strong, so intense, that He was willing to make this ultimate sacrifice for those He loved so dearly.

There are some people who would be willing to give time, or money, or position, etc. to benefit their friends. But the one element we all recognize as proof of love and friendship is when a friend is willing to deny himself on our behalf.

And the highest proof there can be of human love is when someone is willing to give up his or her life for the sake of a friend’s life. God gave the very highest proof possible to prove His love. Nothing could be more precious than the life of the One who is the Word of God, who was made flesh for our benefit. The most precious proof was the sacrifice Jesus made of His own life on behalf of His friends.

It was by Christ’s teaching that man received knowledge about God. But it was by His death on the cross that man was able to receive salvation. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to win our hearts and make us His true friends. He brought a spiritual principle and power to our nature to tie us to Him in devotion and thankfulness for all time. Jesus was saying that we should love our brothers and sisters in the Lord with love of the same kind and high degree that He manifested for us. For the good of our friends, we must be ready even to die. Christ is love, and if we love as He loved, then we must be willing even to die for each other—one of the greatest needs among God’s people today. Ask yourself today—how high is my love for others, compared to Christ’s love for me?

 

[Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay]