Happy Easter!

he_is_risenPicture a mean bunch of guys, big rocks in their hands, hate on their faces, kicking up dust in the ancient Judean sun.

“For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God!”

With these amazing words in John 10, the Jews gave their reason for trying once again to stone Jesus.

Not yet ready to die, and certainly not by stoning, Jesus escaped Judea and crossed the Jordan River to where John the Baptist had once baptized repentant Israelites, probably Perea.  He stayed there for a while, and many believed in Him there.

When word came to Jesus that his beloved friend Lazarus was deathly sick, He didn’t cross the Jordan back to Bethany near Jerusalem to visit his friend on his death bed.  No one could blame Him for staying .  After all, hadn’t the Jews repeatedly tried to seize and stone Him?  So the disciples didn’t blame Him, and they weren’t surprised that He stayed in Perea.  It only made sense.  Lazarus would have to rely on the comfort of His immediate family, Mary and Martha.

But the disciples were surprised a couple of days later, when Jesus said, “Let us go to Judea again.”  What?!

They said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are you going there again?”

And He told them He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Do you think they believed Him?  I don’t.  I think Thomas spoke for all the disciples when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”  They thought this was it.  The end.  Crazy, but hey, He’s the Lord.  We will follow Him and we will die with Him if necessary.

But they didn’t die that day.  They went to Bethany, and Jesus spoke the words that thrill our hearts, as believers in Him:

“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.  HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE MAY DIE, HE SHALL LIVE.  AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE…”

And he raised Lazarus from the dead.

And later He died on the Cross.  They finally got Him.  They finally put an end to the One whom they said blasphemed because He said He was God.  And the brave disciples who went to Bethany with Him, willing to die, cowered behind a closed door, mourning the loss of their Rabbi, and their dreams.

We appreciate His death now.  We know that it paid for our sins.  We cringe at the horror of the Innocent One being beaten and scourged and crucified and separated from His Father as He took the fury of the Wrath of God on Himself.  We appreciate it.  But we don’t exactly celebrate it.

What we celebrate is that on the third day, He rose from the dead.  He authenticated that He is Who He said He was.  He is the Anointed One, God the Son, the Christ, the Messiah!  And He is alive!  And we say Hallelujah!  He is risen!

Even as a historical event, it’s noteworthy.  But He did it for a purpose.  He was “raised for our justification”.  He was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, that we might live.  He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  And in some mysterious way, when He died on the Cross, we died with Him, and when He was raised, we were raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.

We were made alive spiritually, with the promise that we will be raised physically as well, on that Great Gettin’ Up Morning!  We became New Creations!  Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new!  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

And all because He died for our sins.  He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ!

He Is Risen!

It Is Finished

nail_scarred_handsby Michele Rayburn

We have died once to the penalty of sin, and so we have peace with God. (“I have been crucified with Christ…”)

We are able to die daily to the power of sin because we stand in grace. (“… it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”)

And someday when we are present with the Lord, we will be free from the presence of sin. (“…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who died for me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20)

Jesus died once for our sins, and shed His blood for us, so that we can rest completely in His finished work on the cross.

Sometimes we as Christians live as if it isn’t “finished”. We live as if our sins are not forgiven, past, present and future. And we find ourselves trying to earn God’s favor each day.

But we stand in grace, in a permanent state of forgiveness, precisely because “It is finished.”

The Romans 7 Man

Romans7I’ve long thought that the “Romans 7 man” refers to a born-again Christian under the new covenant.

In fact, I believe that if one doesn’t grasp this Romans 7 dynamic of conflict which goes on in all of us believers, they will have one of two tendencies:

1. Pride, because they think they are following the law well enough to earn God’s love and favor, or

2. Despair, because they don’t understand what’s happening within themselves.

Anyway, here are some excellent persuasive reasons to understand that those Romans 7 passages refer to a new covenant believer:

http://feedingonchrist.com/john-pipers-10-reasons-romans-714-25-christians-experience/

The Object of Saving Faith

pilgrims_progressI’ve been fascinated for many years by the very simple-sounding Scripture which says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” — Acts 16:31

So simple.  So pristine. So devoid of works, sacraments, trappings of any kind.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

(This presumes, of course, that it’s the true Jesus Christ — the One who is God who came to Earth as a man, and died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead. If you don’t know who this Jesus Christ is, I recommend you read the Gospel of John from the Bible.)

What’s the point?

The point is that it is Jesus Christ himself, as Lord and Savior, that is the object of saving faith.

I like this little article that makes that point through explaining some things from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/04/07/at-what-point-in-pilgrims-progress-does-christian-get-saved/

Where Do You Get Your Acceptance?

acceptanceHonest folks will admit they have a desire for acceptance. Call it a “need” for acceptance if you want.

1. If you rely on acceptance by other people to meet that need, you will have roller coaster ups and downs, because people are imperfect.

Because they are imperfect, they will sometimes accept you only conditionally, and since you are also imperfect, that means sometimes they won’t accept you.

2. If you, like many, rely on acceptance from say, your dog, you will resent people for not being as accepting as your dog. When others say, “The more I’m around people, the more I appreciate my dog”, you will say, “Yes!”, and your resentment of people will sap your joy.

3. But if you rely on God for your acceptance, believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, believing that He died on the cross for your sins, and resting in His forgiveness, you have the potential for your need of acceptance being met.

God accepts you completely in Jesus Christ. He never changes, He never waivers, He never accepts you “conditionally”, He will never not love you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Once you are His, as a believer in Jesus Christ, His acceptance of you is not based on your performance, so you are set free from earning your acceptance, like you might be prone to do with other people.

4. The more you understand and bask in His unconditional acceptance of you, the more you no longer rely on the acceptance of other people, and therefore are free to love them unconditionally, even when they’re not as nice as your dog.

5. The more you understand that His acceptance of you is not dependent on your performance, ironically you love Him more and desire to know and do His will. Who doesn’t want to serve one who so accepts us?

And double-irony, we end up thinking less about ourselves (and our acceptance) and think more about Him — like a child resting in the arms of an accepting parent, gazing into the face of of that loving parent, and loving them back.

Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”