Good Friday and Three Truths the Cross Enforces

When the Apostle Peter discovered that Jesus would experience humiliation and suffering, he exploded, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Then, Jesus’ offered a devastating rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block” (16:22-23). Jesus reminded him and us that the son of man came to give His life.

This notion parts company with all other religions. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Psalm 22:1 in debunking the notion of a crucified God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “This final utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for Jesus after his death by his disciples.  No real messiah could suffer such a death.  It is an impossible article of belief which detracts from God’s sovereignty and absolute otherness.”

Jesus is defeated and destroyed… destroyed by his enemies.  This was a sign of weakness and a sign of judgment from a common sense perspective, but it wasn’t God’s perspective.

Something happened to his disciples that overcame their common sense. It “changed the cross from a proof of defeat into a badge of honor, a bottomless source of joy and peace and a comfort for absolutely anything” (Timothy Keller).

As we prepare for Good Friday, it is wise to reflect upon these wise words from John Stott and his book The Cross of Christ: “The cross enforces three truths” (page 83).

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross…. If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our sin, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed….

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension…. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by a love like that….

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He `purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Absolutely nothing!”

A Prayer of Confession based upon Luke 12:13-21

Audio Version: A Prayer of Confession based on Luke 12:13-21

Generous Father, 

How prone we are to cry ‘foul’ where we have experienced a perceived injustice or personal slight. Yet You are a God of perfect justice who reconciles us to Yourself through an act of inconceivable injustice against Your perfectly innocent Son… Jesus.

We find it hard to resist the lie that life consists in the abundance of possessions. We are conditioned to believe that bigger is better.  An insatiable desire for security and social status breeds greed in our hearts. We tend to become consumed with ourselves and overlook the needs of others. Frequently, we plan for the future with no regard for You and Your will. 

We beseech Your forgiveness for our sins and offer our thanks that You are a Father who promises to meet the needs of Your children. Banish from our hearts a fretful, unbelieving tendency, and give us a new resolve to trust You and find our security in who we are rather than in what we have. AMEN.

Great Sin…Deep Despair…The Power of Jesus

The greatest sin and the deepest despair together cannot baffle the power of Jesus.” These words were spoken by a woman who for a season of her life lived in a suburb of hell… a place of spiritual darkness, rife with all manner of disease, horrendous oppression and death, and all instigated by the one who came and continues to come to kill, steal and destroy.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, saved the lives of over 800 Jews by hiding them from the Nazi occupiers in Holland during World War II.  She endured her imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp of the Nazis. Her father, brother, sister, and nephew didn’t survive.

My Dilemma and God’s Delight

According to Isaiah 40, what’s our dilemma?  There’s a huge problem.  You and I cannot fulfill our destiny. The problem is mentioned twice in vv. 1-2 of chapter 40…SIN

Most try to deny this problem and appeal to the goodness of man. Scripture writers reveal that the path to freedom and to fulfilling our destiny is to acknowledge the problem.  You have fallen short of our destiny…  Romans 3:23 –…All have sinned and fallen short of what?  Of the glory of God.  We have missed the mark of God’s glory.  In fact, sin makes us think that we can steal part of God’s glory for ourselves. We’ve  exchanged our glory for idols (Ps. 106:20; Jeremiah 2:11; Romans 1:23-25).

The group Destiny’s Child in its Arts Against Aids Benefit concert speaks of our perplexing situation.  “What’s going on in a world filled with pain.  Where’s the love for which we pray.  What’s going on? When our children can’t play.  Homeless can’t eat.  There’s got to be a better way.  What’s going on?  When we politically blind…Can’t see the signs of endangered times.  What’s going on?”

We live in a world that has missed the mark.  Our affections have been weakened and are misplaced.  C.S. Lewis said:  “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” The key then, is to be most pleased by that which is most worthy: the infinite, glorious God.

You cannot see and experience God’s glory without being consumed.  Remember the prayer of Moses in Exodus 33.  “Now show me your glory.” 19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.  22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”

None can see his glory to their comfort but those who stand upon this rock, and take shelter in it.”

What’s God’s delight?  To speak and bring comfort to the hearts of his people.  To resolve our dilemma and bring comfort to us by revealing to us His glory (vv.1-2).

This message of comfort begins with the amazing news that we will fulfill our destiny of seeing and experiencing God’s glory since our fundamental problem of sin has effectively been dealt a fatal blow.

Seeing and experiencing the glory of the Lord does not mean that we are consumed.  In this passage, it means ONE THING:  God delights to forgive our sin and deliver us from its ENSLAVING power.

That last phrase, “double for all her sins,” does not mean that God has punished the nation twice what their sins required. This is a reference to an Eastern custom. If a man owed a debt he could not pay, his creditor would write the amount of the debt on a paper and nail it to the front door of the man’s house so that everyone passing would see that here was a man who had not paid his debts. But if someone paid the debt for him, then the creditor would double the paper over and nail it to the door as a testimony that the debt had been fully paid. This beautiful picture therefore is the announcement to us that in the death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus, our debt has been fully paid.

To you this wondrous word of forgiveness and reconciliation is directed. All that is needed is to confess your sinfulness and believe that God himself has borne your sins in Jesus the Messiah. “Your iniquity is pardoned, you have received from the Lord ‘the doubling’ for all your sins.”

Here is the NT reference for this idea. Colossians 2:13-14 — …He forgave us all our sins, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it where?  To the cross.

If you want to learn more on how to connect to Christ, I would invite you to pray for the very first time the prayer that Moses prayed in Exodus 33:18: Then Moses said, “… show me your glory.”  I would urge you to obtain a New Testament and read through the gospel of John. It is a wonderful encouragement to know what the future holds and to know the One who will come again to consummate it all and we will marvel at Him with all of His worshipers.

When God Pursues the Frustrated – A Sermon from Luke 5:1-11

Listen to a MP3 of this sermon

According to Luke 5:1-11, when God pursues the frustrated, four things occur…
Intro: Have you ever been hopelessly unproductive and unsuccessful at something? How frustrated did you get when all of your resources failed?
US: Some of you have gotten extremely frustrated playing the dating game or maybe not playing the dating game.
For others of you attempting to have children has proven stressful. For others having children has proven challenging.
Career/lost of a job… Some of you have had to stand up for your convictions and it has cost you.

The Story: Simon is frustrated, tired, and weary. A night of fishing has proven very unfruitful. He’s caught absolutely nothing. In the morning, Jesus finds Peter washing his nets. He tells him to launch the boat and let down the nets. Oh great… a rabbi telling a professional fisherman how to fish. Peter initially objects, but finally concedes. Let’s look at what happens when God pursues a frustrated fisherman…
I.  When God pursues the frustrated, He convinces us of His power. He is able to do in seconds what Peter was not able to accomplish all night!
The miraculous catch of fish produces in Peter a contrite spirit as he marvels at the power of Jesus. The catch is so amazing that the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking. In other words, the point is: this is an utterly unprecedented catch of fish in a location that seemed hopelessly unproductive the night before. And it was caught at the powerful and authoritative word of Jesus.
Isaiah vision of God’s glory and greatness (Isaiah 6:1-8). Endure…
Paul’s vision of the risen, glorified Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
John’s vision of the exalted, risen Christ (Revelation 1:9-20).
These men received glimpses of the power of Jesus Christ.
This power is in the Word of Christ (drawing people to faith… drawing fish into a net). Romans 10:17 – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. At your word I will let down the nets (v.5). The call of Jesus for these men to follow him.
(This leads us to a profound awareness of our own sinfulness).

II.    He convicts us of our sin and unworthiness.

How does Peter respond to the miraculous catch of fish?
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter sinks to his knees in awe before this mysterious figure: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In other words: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinner. If you only knew to whom you were speaking! My spirit is dull and my heart is weary. Depart from me!”

Ask the Lord to give you a growing awareness of His presence as well as keener sense of the depth of your need of His pardon.
I departed and turned my face away from my own begotten son so that I would never depart from you. What does Jesus say to Peter and to all his disciples at the end: “Surely, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

How is it that Jesus would not depart from Peter? One day Jesus would die for Peter’s sins of betrayal, pride, ambition, and idolatry (Mark 10:45).
(Thankfully, our sin does not disqualify us for service. The same power that prompts Peter to fall at Jesus’ knees in contrition and humble worship now lifts him into God’s service. It is interesting in this story that Jesus gets into the boat to call Peter out of the boat!)

III. He commissions us to serve Him and participate fully in Jesus’ ministry.
What does Jesus ask Peter to do? What is He asking us to do? Catch men, women and boys and girls for Him.

In verse 10b “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Fishing for men…Gathering from among the nations a people for His name. Gathering those who are trusting in Christ alone for salvation.
Fishing and shepherding are two enduring metaphors and images of Christian ministry. Catching men who will be empowered to catch others (Acts 11:19-26).

Catching men for Christ is an endeavor that the church has struggled with in the past. In the early church, God used persecution to disperse the Christians throughout the Middle East for gospel expansion. Sometimes God brings adversity into the lives of his people so that they might live to prove that Jesus is more precious to them than even their physical lives.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Ask the Lord to show you one person that you can pray for and befriend in order to share Christ with them. Charles Spurgeon: “Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah’s death be joyful at every remembrance of him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to his cause.”
IV.  He causes us to value Him above all else.
Peter and James and John respond with hearts overflowing with the value of knowing Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” The text notes that Peter and his companions “forsook all and followed Him” (5:11).

This is what it means to follow Jesus: he is more valuable to us than everything. I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

Ask the Lord to show you what it is that you value more than Jesus. Is He more valuable to you than your money? Your spouse? Your children? Your career? Prestige? Pleasure? For sure there is something that we must bring and lay down at the feet of Jesus.

What do you need to leave behind to follow the Lord more fully? The woman at the well. Broken cisterns that can hold no water… fountain of living water.

For one year I rode the ministry pine. I was sitting on the bench begging the Lord to put me back into the game. Our fourth child had just been born. One opportunity after another passed without an open door.  Out of this wilderness God brought me to a position that was perfectly tailored for me. It was three fruitful years of service at Intown Community Church.
The Lord doesn’t always bring our frustration to an end after one year, but if you have something in your life that you wish weren’t there that has caused you a measure of frustration, I can guarantee you this: The Lord is pursuing you in order to show you four things: How great is his power, how great is your need of His pardon, how vital it is to adopt His purpose, and how vital it is to value him above all else.

When Sin Looks Normal and Righteousness Seems Strange

When we abandon friendship with God to become a friend of the world, sin looks normal and righteousness seems strange (James 4:4).

David Wells defines worldliness like this: “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange.  It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal” (Losing our Virtue, 4).

It is normal today to value tolerance. It seems strange to say that there is one path to God… that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6).

It appears tragically normal today for married folk to break their sacred vows. Having a different sexual orientation seems like finding your true self. But, one man, one women, together in a lifelong union of marriage seems strange and entirely old-fashioned!

To desire to grow rich and lay up treasures upon the earth is valued and affirmed. But Psalm 52:7 reminds us of a man who “made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches!” It seems strange and pushy to tell those who have wealth to be generous and ready to share so that they might store up treasure in heaven.

It is normal to fawn over the rich and court their friendship while being callously indifferent to the plight of the poor (James 2:1-4). Critical, slanderous and filthy talk is normal (3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:9). Cursing people made in the image of God seems like sticking up for your rights. Returning a blessing seems like losing your mind and something a wimp would do. Dissensions and quarreling is normal. Seeking the heavenly wisdom that promotes peace seems strange and unattractive. (3:13-4:3).

Who’s friend are you becoming? The world or God’s?