Monthly Archives: March 2019

Jesus Christ Is The Atonement For Sin

Atonement is the forgiving or pardoning of sin in general, and original sin in particular,
through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, enabling the reconciliation
between God
and his creation. … Recapitulation theory, which says that Christ succeeded where Adam
failed.
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1 John 2:2

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

1 Peter 2:24

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

 

Atonement For Sin

From: The Bible Project

There is a chance that when you enter Leviticus and start reading about animal sacrifice, you’ll want to shut down. This is so foreign to the life experience of modern Westerners; most people simply don’t have categories for what’s happening here. We want to help with that, though at the end of the day it’s still going to feel weird. Our modern notions about animal sacrifice come from all sorts of places, most of which are not biblical at all. These range from pagan practices in the temples of ancient Greece all the way to modern day examples, such as the recently suspended Gadhimai festival in Southern Nepal. Many of us have inherited a story about animal sacrifice, and it goes something like this:

The gods are angry with me and are going to kill me. But, maybe if I kill this animal and make sure the gods get their pound of flesh, they’ll be appeased and happy, and just maybe, they won’t kill me or send a plague on my family. Sure it’s barbaric, but so are the gods.

If you’ve ever read (or just heard of) any of the Greek classics by Homer, such as The Iliad, or The Odyssey, or maybe the more ancient Mesopotamians works like the Epic of Gilgamesh, you’ll recognize this storyline. The problem is, when we come to read about animal sacrifice in the Bible, we unfortunately assume that the same gods are at work. Much of popular Christian belief has simply imported this pagan storyline, reminiscent of the Greek and Babylonian cultural texts referenced above, into Leviticus and the stories about Jesus’ death on the cross. The result is a tragic irony. What the Bible is portraying as an expression of God’s love gets twisted into something dark. Our version goes like this:

God is holy and perfect. You are not. Therefore, God is angry at you, hates you even, and so he has to kill you. But, because he’s merciful, he’ll let you bring this animal to him and will have the animal killed instead of you.

When Jesus gets Dragged In

Thankfully, Jesus came to be the one who gets killed by God instead of me. Jesus rescues us from God, and so now we can go forever to the happy place after we die and not the bad place.

Is this story recognizable to you? If so, you’re not alone. The main problem with this story, to be a bit snarky, is the Bible. More specifically, the problem is that this story has enough biblical language in it that it can pass for what the Bible actual says about animal sacrifice and Jesus’ death. However, when you step back, and allow Leviticus and the New Testament to speak for themselves, you can recognize this story as an imposter.

These misconceptions about God’s character most often originate in Leviticus and then go on to fundamentally twist our understanding of God in the rest of the Old Testament. This misunderstanding has a domino effect—it distorts what we believe about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the New Testament. Over the next two weeks, our blog will focus on atonement, sacrifice, Jesus, and how it is deeply revealing about God’s good nature in all of it.

Sin

In Leviticus, human sin is an act that vandalizes, infects, and defiles God’s good world. This idea is rooted in the depiction of human rebellion found in Genesis 3-11

. Sin results in fractured relationships that lead to power struggles, that then lead to violence

and widespread, systemic evil. All of this has a corrosive, or defiling, effect, not only on the
wrongdoer, but the entire community. Remember, Leviticus comes right after the tabernacle is
finished, where God is going to come dwell in the center of the Israelite community. So, Israel’s
sin doesn’t just defile the camp, it even defiles the sacred space itself. It makes God want to
leave, just like vandalism all over the front of your house and heaps of trash in your living room
would make you want to leave.

 

The temple is the throne of God within the world, the place where heaven and earth meet. Israel’s rebellion isn’t simply about breaking a rule. It’s about humans introducing corruption, pain, and death into God’s world, and they might as well be bringing that nastiness right into the dwelling place of God. If Israel’s God leaves the temple space, then the entire nation will suffer the consequences of living in a land without God. We already know this story from Genesis 3-11

, when humanity had to leave God’s presence in Eden. It led to Babylon, and ultimately to Egypt.

Last week’s blog was an exploration of Pharaoh and what happens when humans hijack God’s
good world and redefine good and evil on their own. God’s justice is the only appropriate
response to this kind of rebellious vandalism.

 

But God does not want to see his people (Israel) go down the same road and suffer the same consequences. God knows full-well that the Israelites are corrupt humans like the rest of the human family. This is why he made a promise to Abraham that he would restore divine blessing to the nations through these people (remember Genesis 12

). So, by his own word, God has obligated himself to not destroy Israel when they sin against him.This brings us to God’s alternative way of dealing with Israel’s sin and rebellion. It’s a symbolic ritual that takes up an existing practice among Israel’s neighbors (animal sacrifice) and transforms its meaning. Welcome to the biblical symbol of animal sacrifice!

 

What Is Sacrifice?

By: Linda J. Gilden, CBN ministries

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“Hey, Rose. What does sacrifice mean?”

I looked in the rear view mirror. How did the conversation with my granddaughters move so quickly from counting cows in the pasture to defining sacrifice?

“Where did you hear that word, Baylor?”

“Choir. We were singing a song yesterday and it said that word.”

“We hear the word ‘sacrifice’ at church a lot. We read it in the Bible, too. The Bible tells us Jesus was a sacrifice for us because God loves us so much.”

Four-year-old Baylor scrunched her nose. “But I don’t know what that means.”

“OK. What if you and Sissie made cookies. You took some to the neighbors then came home for a tea party. You both ate one cookie and one was left on the plate. Both of you wanted the cookie.”

“We could just split it in half.” Baylor put her hand under her chin. “But I think I would want the whole thing.”

“You looked over at your sister. You knew she really wanted that cookie, too. And you love Sissie so much. So your love for Sissie makes you say, ‘Sissie, I know you want that cookie. I love you so much I’m going to let you have it.’ That is what is called a sacrifice. You gave away something you really wanted because you loved Sissie so much.”

“Oh, so I sacrificed the cookie.”

“That’s right. There are many different types of sacrifices. But if we can understand the simple ones, it will be easier to understand the harder ones.”

Even adults struggle with sacrifice—to give something up that you really love for someone else’s benefit. If you are a student of the Bible, you know that during those times, sacrifice was a way of life.

In Genesis 22:1-2 God instructs Abraham:

“Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
 (NIV)

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Abraham had loved God for a long time and trusted Him. He took Isaac up to the mountain intending to carry out God’s instruction. We know the end of the story. God provided a sacrificial ram and spared Isaac. But Abraham proved his total love for God and willingness to sacrifice even the son for whom he had waited years.

Later in the Old Testament, we learn Jephthah, the Gileadite, made a promise to God as he advanced against the Ammonites.

“If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Judges 11:30-31 (NIV)

When he returned home, Jephthah’s daughter, his only child, came dancing from the house to greet her father. Jephthah was beside himself with grief but stayed true to his vow. Even though it meant the sacrifice of his daughter, Jephthah kept his word.
 (Judges 11:34-40)

Other sacrifices appear throughout the Bible, but, of course, we know best God’s sacrifice of Jesus. God loves us so much that He sacrificed His Son. One of the first verses we memorize as children is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
 (NIV)

God was willing to sacrifice His Son for us. His only Son. For us. Is there something in your life He is asking you to give to Him today? Why are you waiting?

God Gives Us Strength

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God Gives Strength

Scripture on Strength – Isaiah 40:28-31 –

This post about strength in God is an updated post that originally occurred in February, 2008. In light of current events in our country, I’m re-posting this in hope that the content might help you.

During such tumultuous times as we are in today in the United States – with the economy and the government shutdown – we are looking for strength and resolve. Life can be a challenge, but in times where our nation is in an upheaval, the stressors can be especially difficult to handle.

Maybe you don’t know how to apply the new Health Care law to your life. Perhaps you’ve made plans to visit a national park and now find that it’s closed for business. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer and you’ve just entered into retirement. Could be that you’re making a major transition in your life.

Are you weak? Stressed? Battling depression? Do you need more energy to run this race of life that you’re in? Is your strength depleted? God can help. Fortunately, our Creator gives us many scriptures that relate to how we can have strength in God. A verse about strength that is very familiar to many people is below.

“He (God) gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength“ Isaiah 40:28-31

That’s one of this weeks scripture about strength. What a reassuring message! Life can make us weary and challenging… it can deplete us from the strength we need to get out of bed and do the things we are required to do. Yes, we can work out by lifting weights and taking our fitness walk. Those activities can provide us a level of fitness that enable our bodies to function physically, yet we also need additional inner strength to be able to function well. Since our mind, body and spirit are interconnected, how we feel spiritually or emotionally can effect or physical energy level. That’s where God can help.

A meaningful and personal relationship with God can give us inner energy and strength that can sustain us. Engaging in spiritual exercises like prayer, reading the Bible and abiding in God’s presence can help us tap into special power that only God can provide. When we are alone with God… when we “wait” on him, we are able to receive his strength. When we believe and trust what we read in scripture and in how God works, our hope is bolstered. This strong belief and hope, grounded in scripture, can give us strength. It’s the same strength that the Psalmist writes about in Psalm 138:3 when he says “As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.”

There is another key biblical principle to consider regarding strength. In his writings, Paul reminds us how we can be strong when we are weak. This might seem like an oxymoron but because it’s biblical, it’s true. When we are dependent upon God, when we surrender to him, when we rely on him and ask Jesus to live his life through us, we’re actually living by his power and strength. You see, if we try to be strong in our own might, we don’t give God the opportunity to use his strength as he lives through us.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

So, I’ll ask the questions again – Are you weak? Is your strength depleted? Do you need more energy and power to run your race?  Curl up on a couch or your recliner or drop to your knees and spend some one-on-one time with God. open up your Bible and read some of the scriptures about on the lists I’ve provided below. Get to know Him better and see if He doesn’t bring you more inner strength.

The Safety Zone

From: getmorestrength.org

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” Proverbs 18:10

The first church I pastored was in Springfield, Ohio. Our home was situated near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base—directly in the flight path of landing B-52 bombers that were coming home after circling the globe in our nation’s defense. Needless to say, these low-flying nuclear warehouses made a horrible racket as they flew overhead. They were so low that I hoped they avoided leaving tire tracks on our roof.

But the biggest problem with their booming approach was the trauma they caused in the hearts of our young children playing in the backyard. Happily engrossed in their own little world, the growing sound of trouble in the distance and the shadow of the massive planes as they skimmed the treetops traumatized our kids with fear. They instinctively knew what to do. They ran into the house to look for their mom or dad!  My legs still have the embedded marks of their fingerprints from clinging to me till the danger passed.

Every time I read this wonderful verse in Proverbs, I think about our children and the B52s. Like a kid frightened in his backyard, we are often anxious and sometimes terrified by the circumstances that come our way. Maybe it’s a health scare—a suspicious biopsy or the worried look on the doctor’s face. Sometimes it’s the threat we feel from family and friends who challenge and mock the beliefs we hold dear. The loss of a job, the betrayal of a trusted friend, the anxiety of not being able to cope as a single parent—all of these have a way of making us feel overwhelmed. Fearful and lonely, we need a refuge, a place to run.

Proverbs 18:10 is the MapQuest for our souls. It tells us to run to the name of the Lord. As the text says, His name is a strong tower and those who run to it are safe. So what’s so safe about His name?

His name is Provider—His grace is sufficient for every circumstance (2 Corinthians 12:9) and His wisdom is given in spades (James 1:5).

His name is the All-knowing and Almighty—nothing has escaped His notice, nor is anything beyond the scope of His power (Psalm 57:1-5).

His name is Good—regardless of what He permits to come into our lives, He will bring good from even the darkest situations (Romans 8:28).

His name is Father and Friend—the One who gave His Son to make you His child and to guarantee you a world to come where fear and anxiety are forever replaced by peace and joy (John 14:1-6).

So run to Him! There is no safe place without Him. And comfort in the time of stress is elusive apart from Him.

I guess this is why faith is so childlike. My children knew exactly where to turn when fear struck. They ran to the safety of their father’s love. May you and I be wise enough—and childlike enough—to do the same.

 

A Prayer We Need to Pray

From: Keepbelieving.com

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

We come at last to the prayer of Paul for the Thessalonians. The context is crucial because the prayer flows directly from the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and from the command to stand firm. First, we must remember that God is the source of all power. He alone can help us in the time of trouble. All the resources of heaven are at our disposal. Second, remember what God has already done for us.

He loved us—that’s in the past when he gave us his Son.
He encouraged us—that’s in the present through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
He gives us hope—that’s in the future when we will share in his glory.

He has solved every problem by taking care of our past, our present and our future.

In light of all that, pray for two things:

Pray for an encouraged heart.
Pray for a stable heart.

When we are encouraged, we will face the trials of life with hope. “Cheerfulness ought to be the atmosphere you breathe, and if you believe that God loves you, you cannot but be happy” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon). When your heart is stabilized, you won’t be swayed back and forth by circumstances and emotional mood swings. The latest headlines won’t throw you for a loop one way or the other. The stable heart is fixed on the Lord and is not swaying to and fro. The mark of the stable heart is consistency. You are the same because Christ is the same no matter what happens around you.

The mark of the stable heart is consistency.

And the result of the prayer is wonderful. You are able to do every good work and to say every good word the Lord wants you to do and to say. Your life and your lips act in perfect harmony with the Lord.

Here’s the passage in a nutshell:

Since God has chosen you for salvation, stand fast amid all the trials of life, knowing that God will encourage you and make you strong on the inside so that your life will be filled with good words and good deeds.

It’s all there and it all flows together—doctrine, command, prayer. Here’s another way of looking at it:

You are greatly loved—Stand fast!
You were chosen by God—Stand fast!
You were called to salvation—Stand fast!
You believed the gospel—Stand fast!
You will one day share in Christ’s glory—Stand fast!
You have received God’s comfort—Stand fast!
You have good hope by grace—Stand fast!
You were established in every word and deed—Stand fast!

In a recent sermon John Piper said, “The universe exists so that we may live in a way that demonstrates that Jesus is more precious than life.” That truth does not answer all our questions, but it does provide the framework for an answer that will prove true and strong in the worst moments of life. When tragedy strikes, when life caves in, when your plans are dashed on the jagged rocks of reality, when you find yourself in a place you never wanted to be, that’s when you discover what you really believe. As long as things are going good, you don’t really know what you believe. It’s all theoretical. You discover your theology at midnight. Anyone can sing “Shout to the Lord” when life is good, you’ve got money in the bank, your marriage is strong, your kids are doing well, you’re happy in your job, you love your church, and all is right with the world. If with Paul and Silas you can sing praise to God at midnight in jail, then what you’ve got is real.

You discover your theology at midnight.

Not only will you discover what you believe in times of trouble, that’s also when the world discovers what you believe.

Either God is enough or he isn’t.
Either Jesus is more precious than life or he isn’t.

But the truth comes out, always. And in those moments, when you rest your weary soul on the God of the universe, when you cry out to Jesus and discover that he really is there after all, then you discover he was there all along, everything he said turns out to be true, and the people who watch you know that you really believe what you say you believe. And having seen the difference that Jesus makes in the worst moments of life, that’s when they want what you have.

Lord, you are so good. Your mercies endure forever. To you, O Lord, be all the honor, glory and praise in our good times and in our bad times. When we see clearly and when the way forward is confusing, in our doubts and through our tears, in our happy moments and when life tumbles, be glorified in us.

We thank you that you know what you are doing, and you are doing it. We are glad about that because many times we are clueless. We rest our weary souls on you, the Rock of Our Salvation. Give us confidence to believe that the God who started a good work in us will bring it to completion, and even today is bringing it to completion. So help us to stand fast, never moved, trusting in you, now and forevermore, until the day comes when we see Jesus face to face. Amen.

Jesus Died In Our Place

 
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The Real Message Behind The Release Of Barabbas

From: Devotions. com

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“Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.” (Matthew 27:15-18)

Imagine the look on Barabbas’ face when he learned that he, and not Jesus, would be set free.

It was customary on a major holiday for the Roman governor to set a prisoner free. But Pilate’s decision to set free a criminal like Barabbas was an opportunity for God to make a point!

Jesus and Barabbas were both facing execution for vastly different reasons. Barabbas was despised by those in Roman rule while Jesus was despised by those in Jewish rule. Barabbas, however, was the leader of a riot that resulted in murder. Jesus, while deemed a rebel by those of Jewish authority, was guilty of nothing.

The Bible is clear that Pilate, the Roman governor in whose hands Jesus’ fate rest, believed Jesus was innocent. “Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’” But the crowd saw it very differently. “They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ Then the governor said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’” (Matthew 27:22-23)

What Pilate likely thought was a stroke of political genius backfired on him. If he gave the Jews an option between the worst of the lot and someone who had committed no crimes, Jesus would likely be set free. But the crowd that day saw it very differently, which prompted Pilate to say, “‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:24-26)

As far as we know, Barabbas was the first to be set free from Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The story reminds us that no one is too far removed from God’s saving grace. No matter what sin we may have committed, God’s forgiveness is available.

Charles Wesley wrote a great hymn, Oh For A Thousand Tongues To Sing. Two of the verses remind us that God’s mercy and grace can set us free.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.

See all your sins on Jesus laid;
The Lamb of God was slain;
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

The story of Barabbas was not in the Bible just to contrast sin against righteousness. God has a far greater point to make. We are all sinners in His eyes – just as guilty as Barabbas. And only through the blood of Jesus can we be set free. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

 

Barabbas and Me

David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
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Year after year, as Christians walk through the Passion week with Jesus, our hearts are knit to him. He is our greatest hero, at the climax of his greatest feat. As we relive the story with him, we pull for him, and against his enemies.

We feel varying levels of disdain for Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him, the chief priests who despise him, Herod who mocks him, the people who call for his crucifixion, Pilate who appeases the mob and washes his hands, and Barabbas who is guilty but gets to go free.

But wait. Barabbas — the guilty who goes free? Barabbas — the sinner released to new life while the death he deserves is paid by an Innocent Substitute?

Take careful note of where Luke is leading us in his carefully crafted narrative.

Jesus, the Innocent

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Three times in Luke 23:15–22, Pilate declares Jesus’ innocence.

  • First, in verse 15, he says, “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.”
  • Second, in verse 20, Luke tell us, “Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus…”
  • Then, in verse 22, Luke says, “A third time [Pilate] said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death.’”

Three times in this short span of eight verses, Luke, through Pilate, points us to Jesus’ innocence. Jesus has done nothing deserving death. Pilate cannot find in Jesus any guilt deserving death. Our hero is innocent.

And it’s not only in these eight verses. Throughout chapter 23, Luke seems at pains to draw our attention to Jesus’ innocence. We might even call it the major theme of his version of the story.

At the beginning of the chapter, in verse 4, Pilate had already said, “I find no guilt in this man.” Then verses 14–15 reflect back on what has already happened. Not only had Pilate previously declared Jesus innocent (verse 4), but also Herod had. So Pilate says in verses 14–15: “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.”

Then later in the chapter, the theme of Jesus’ innocence will be echoed again, by both the thief on the cross and by the centurion. The thief on the cross will say to the other thief in verse 41, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And the centurion will say at Jesus’ death in verse 47: “Certainly this man was innocent!”

Why would Luke make so much of Jesus’ innocence? Why at least six clear declarations of Jesus’ innocence in this chapter? Why so carefully tell us that Pilate initially found no guilt in Jesus, then neither did Herod, then Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence three more times, and then not only the thief on the cross but also the centurion recognized this innocence? Luke is taking us somewhere.

Barabbas, the Guilty

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Just after Pilate has said, “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him,” Luke tells us in verses 18–19, “But they all cried out together, ‘Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas’—a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder.”

It is Barabbas who is the guilty, says Luke, “a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder.” Barabbas is the same man called “a notorious prisoner” in Matthew 27:16, and Mark 15:7 tells us that Barabbas was “among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection.”

Murder and rebellion. Rebellion is the precise thing the leaders and the people are charging Jesus with when they say he is “misleading the people” (verse 14) and “saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (verse 2). And murder is an offense that makes it clear that Barabbas not only deserves to be in prison, but he deserves death. Genesis 9:6 taught, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Barabbas is no mere offender in rehab, but a murderer on Death Row.

Luke then reiterates for us Barabbas’s guilt in verse 25. Notice the restatement of Barabbas’s guilt when he says, “[Pilate] released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder . . . .” In other words, remember Barabbas’s sin. He’s guilty as charged.

One way we could summarize Barabbas’s plight would be to say that he is guilty of rebellion deserving death. In contrast with Jesus, who Pilate says in verse 22 has “no guilt deserving death,” Barabbas is the guilty who deserves to die.

A Horrific and Holy Substitution

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Not only is Jesus the innocent, but Barabbas is the guilty. Jesus is innocent and has done nothing deserving death. Barabbas is the rebel prisoner, carrying with him guilt deserving death.

But here’s where Luke means for us to not only identify with Jesus, our Savior, but also to identify in some sense with Barabbas who so embodies our plight as rebels deserving death and our need for saving. Verse 25: “[Pilate] released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.”

Jesus the innocent is delivered over to the punishment of death; while the guilty, deserving of death, is released and thus given new life.

Note Luke’s emphasis in the word “release” that appears five times in the story:

  • In verse 16, Pilate first declares that he intends to release Jesus.
  • But in verse 17, the people respond, “Away with [Jesus], and release to us Barabbas.”
  • Then in verse 20, Pilate again expresses his intention to release Jesus.
  • Then a third time, in verse 22, Pilate says he plans to release Jesus.
  • But finally in verse 25, Luke tells us that Pilate “released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.”

And so the people are pleased to exchange Jesus, the innocent, for Barabbas, the guilty.

The First Substitution of the Cross

 

As we’ve seen through the stressing of Jesus’ innocence and Barabbas’s guilt, Luke is leading us sinners, in his careful telling of the story, to identify in this significant way with Barabbas. As Jesus’ condemnation leads to the release of a multitude of spiritual captives from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, so also his death sentence leads to the release of the physical captive Barabbas. It’s a foretaste of the grace that will be unleashed at the cross.

Jesus is manifestly innocent. Barabbas is clearly guilty—just as we also are clearly guilty before God. Rebels deserving death. Romans 3:23 says it’s not a few of us, or even many of us, but all of us who “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.”

So as Pilate releases Barabbas the guilty, and delivers over to death Jesus the innocent, we have here a picture of our own release effected by the cross through faith. In Barabbas we have a glimpse of our guilt deserving death, and a preview of the arresting grace of Jesus and his embrace of the cross through which we are set free.

Here as Jesus is delivered to death, and Barabbas is released to new life, we have the first substitution of the cross. The innocent Jesus is condemned as a sinner, while the guilty sinner is released as if innocent.

I Am Barabbas

 

So Luke, it appears, means for us to identify both with Jesus and Barabbas. Jesus in that by identifying with him, through being united with him by faith, his death is our death. His condemning of sin is our condemning of sin. And Barabbas in that we are sinners, criminals who have broken God’s law, guilty as charged, deserving death for our rebellion against our creator and the ruler of the universe. And Jesus, through the grace of giving himself for us at the cross, takes our place and we are released.

As we more greatly understand the depths of our sin, we see with Luke, “I am Barabbas.” I am the one so clearly guilty and deserving of condemnation but set free because of the willing substitution of the Son of God in my place. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick,” Jesus says in Mark 2:17. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Tried Before Pilate

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Jesus Before Pilate

By: Freddy Fritz

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Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the religious authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He was taken to the high priest’s house where Peter denied knowing him three times before the rooster crowed. Then Jesus was subjected to a religious trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin where he was found “guilty” of blasphemy. But since it was not lawful for the Jews to put anyone to death (John 18:31), they sent Jesus to Pilate for a civil trial.

Kent Hughes summarizes what happened next, “A political trial under secular Roman authority and law was necessary. Thus came the most infamous trial in history, a weird, twisted thing that began before Pilate, the careerist Roman politician, then detoured to the tetrarch Herod, the half-Jew puppet ruler, and finally returned to Pilate where the awful judgment was rendered.”

Let’s read about Jesus before Pilate in Luke 23:1-12:

1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” 5 But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. (Luke 23:1-12)

Introduction

On Friday, April 15, 2016 a judge vacated the murder conviction of 76-year-old Jack McCullough. A prosecutor says McCullough was wrongly convicted in the 1957 killing of an Illinois schoolgirl. This means that one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history has officially gone cold again.

McCullough was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago. In a review of documents last year, a prosecutor found evidence that supported the former policeman’s long-held alibi that he was 40 miles away in Rockford at the time of Maria’s disappearance.

The Illinois judicial system worked well to free an innocent man who had been wrongly convicted of a crime.

Jesus was innocent of any crime. He had never ever done anything wrong in his entire life. And yet, the Jewish authorities wanted Jesus sentenced to death. But, because they were not able to impose the death penalty on anyone, they had to get the Romans to convict Jesus of a capital offense, and thereby get him sentenced to death.

 

Jesus Before Pilate

From: All about Jesus Christ

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QUESTION: Jesus before Pilate – Did He get a fair trial? 

ANSWER: 

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair, because the trials responsible for hailing Him before the Governor were models of vindictive injustice. That old court-intriguer Annas intended to execute on Christ the sentence his son-in-law Caiphas had pronounced (John 11:49-505318:12-13). Jesus met those absurdities with stony silence, broken only when put under oath by Caiphas (Matthew 26:62-64).

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair because the Governor not only didn’t allow defense witnesses to speak, but didn’t immediately dismiss the proceedings when the Jewish leaders refused to offer evidence to support the death sentence they demanded (John 18:28-31). This forced them into the specious charge that Jesus subverted Israel, opposed taxes to Caesar and claimed to be Christ (Luke 23:2). 

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair because, after personally interrogating Jesus, Pilate decided he posed no threat to Rome and declared Him innocent. Again, Jesus showed His contempt for the charges against Him by a silence that astonished the Governor (Luke 23:3-4Mark 15:3-5.) This was all very remarkable since Pilate hated Jewish kings, yet concluded that Jesus was a king, but pronounced Him innocent of the charges preferred! Still, after making that decision, and after having Jesus returned from examination by Herod Antipas an innocent man (Luke 23:7-15), Pilate determined to punish the Lord, then let him go. 

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair because Pilate’s fear of the Jews led him to seek a scapegoat for their hatred (Matthew 27:15-18). Since he had already declared Jesus innocent, Pilate needed only to be faithful to his office and responsibility. But he had made his way in politics by giving everyone something, and no one everything, and felt that would satisfy this crisis. As it happened, his ruse to get Barabbas put in Christ’s place backfired. A most fateful interruption occurred when his wife’s appeal on Christ’s behalf (Matthew 27:19) stole the initiative from Pilate and gave it back to the leaders (Matthew 27:20). When they demanded Barabbas, Pilate again tried to escape their fury by actually beating Christ. That satisfied his sense of justice and hoped it would placate their fierce hate. With that kind of mentality in place, who could ever hope to be justly tried? 

Having dealt with mob violence, Pilate could have ordered his soldiers to slaughter any number of the Jews to restore order. He had previously committed such outrages in Jerusalem (Luke 13:1). He had reason on this occasion, but refused. Why? Because cowardice always acts irrationally. It resorts to violence when reason would achieve its goals, and to reason when only force will. 

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair because Pilate washed his hands to cleanse what he knew was an unforgivable breach of justice in his court (Matthew 27:24). If he had controlled his own court, with the troops available to him, and the authority of Caesar behind him, he wouldn’t have had to resort to such self-justifying behavior. 

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn’t be fair because the Governor took the safe way out by having a sign printed and nailed to Christ’s cross: “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). True; it revealed his real feelings, though expressed inappropriately at the wrong time. He believed the words; no doubt. He came to that conclusion during those fateful hours with Jesus; no doubt. But Pilate lacked the courage to say it when it would have proved him a real man; and declared it when its publication proved him a miserable politician. He let the Jewish menace to his relationship with Caesar (John 19:12), force his abdication of the authority Caesar granted him; then publicly re-asserted it once the threat passed. When you have built your life around accommodation in everyday events, it’s nearly impossible to suddenly find one’s integrity in a crisis. 

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus Christ

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SERMON: OUR LORD’S BETRAYAL AND ARREST (LUKE 22:47-53)

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Introduction

Jesus and the disciples have left the upper room and have traveled the short distance to the Mount of Olives.  Last week we learned the importance of prayer as Jesus prayed in advance in order to remain perfectly in His Father’s will.  His great need was to be completely in God’s will and in full agreement with it.

We also learned that while Jesus prayed in sorrow even to the point of death, the disciples slept in their sorrow.  Twice they were entreated by the Lord to pray so that they would not fall into temptation.  He prayed and they slept and we’ll see the difference that Jesus’ prayer made.

In our passage today and from here on out in Luke, we’re going to bring in a lot from the other Gospels so that we get a fuller account of the events leading to and surrounding our Lord’s crucifixion.

Primary Claim

Jesus Christ dominated His betrayer and those who arrested Him, willingly submitting to the Father’s will.

Human Condition

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One great need we have is to understand and trust that our Lord is always in complete control of every situation.  Do you believe this morning that God is in complete control of everything?

So often when we are pressed by our circumstances we react in fear and unbelief.  We worry or get anxious because way down deep, we think that our future depends on us.  Way down deep we think we’re in charge and that if things are going to get better, I’m going to need to act.

The best way to handle trials and struggles is to remember God is sovereign and in control and we are not.

This text is rich with theological truth.  What I’d like us to see today is the power and control God has even in this dark trial.  Jesus is fully aware of everything about to happen and fully in charge.  He is letting them arrest Him.

I pray today, when we run into events that cause us to move toward anxiety, we will remember this passage.  No one takes Jesus’ life but He is laying it down freely for His people.

Please hear God’s Word for Grace Community Church today…

Luke 22:47-53

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” [1]

1. Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Jesus had just stood up from His time of very intense prayer.  After being comforted and strengthened by the angel that appeared, He was ready.  He was ready to face what was already headed His way.  Right down the path a little ways, Judas was leading the mob.  No time to pray now…our Lord had already prayed and was ready to face this challenging and brutal night.

Luke tells us that the man who was leading the mob was Judas.  Again, Judas is seen as one of the twelve.  This was no stranger who was about to betray our Lord but one who had been with them, one of the twelve.

Judas was about to do the most hideous act that human depravity could do.  He had already overridden his conscience and it was seared.  He desired payment for his three wasted years.  He wanted compensated for following Jesus.  His hopes of Jesus taking the throne as King and ruling over everyone had been dashed.  Judas was trying to get whatever he could and for thirty pieces of silver he sold his soul to Satan.  In fact, Satan had entered into Judas now and was doing what he wanted.  Judas was a hypocrite and a traitor before Satan ever entered him.  The devil was just moving things along.

Judas was feeling confident at that moment.  He had at least 600 men armed for battle with weapons, and torches.   We get this number from the fact that John’s Gospel tells us that Judas was leading a Roman cohort.

John 18:

Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. [2]

John explains that it was Judas who not only was betraying Him, but he was the one who organized the expedition to go and arrest Jesus.  This was no small task.  To arrange a Roman cohort, 600 men, the Pharisees, the Elders, and others took some doing.  Some scholars estimate the number could have been up around 1000 people.

As soon as the mob arrived with Judas in front, Jesus already knowing what was going to happen…

John 18:

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”[3]

 

Jesus not only knew what was going to happen but He knew exactly how it would happen.

His question to Judas is not simply asking him how he was to betray Him but was wanting Judas and the others to see the utter absurdity of how Judas was going to do this evil act.   He would identify Jesus to the others with a kiss.  Rather than pointing and saying, there He is, he would walk up to Jesus, look Him in the eye and embrace Him and kiss Him on the cheek.  Judas would wrap his arms around Jesus even holding Him until the Romans could arrest and bind His hands.

A kiss was appropriate to show respect to a rabbi or a teacher.  So Judas, the hypocrite that he was, says Rabbi! and kisses Him.

Just a side note here, it was not Jesus who was on trial.  When Jesus said, Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”  This was Judas’ one last opportunity to repent.  One last chance to see just how far the sin of the love of money had taken him.  It was really Judas who was on trial.  Even though there were 600+ men there armed for battle Jesus was calm, cool, and collected.  He was interrogating them.

There is also another big detail that John adds to his account.  I think it is this detail that fires Peter up to fight.

John 18:

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. [4]

Jesus is not afraid of this multitude that is coming at Him with weapons and torches.  They are afraid of Him.   With two little words, the multitude, including Judas, fell to the ground.

I Am…the words Jesus spoke to Moses at the burning bush, the place where God told Moses to remove his sandals because he was now on holy ground.  Moses fell forward and worshipped but these enemies of God fell back in fear.  They were driven to the ground by the sheer power of God’s Words.  Jesus never struck them but simply spoke and their feet fell out from under them.

Jesus did this to show that He was more than Jesus of Nazareth and that He was in charge not them.  They could only arrest Jesus if He permitted them to do so.  He wasn’t passive in these events He was active.  He was a willing Sacrifice for sin.  He would offer Himself as a willing sacrifice.  No one would take His life from Him.  This multitude was at the mercy of Jesus.

I pray this morning that your confidence in Christ increases as you see just how powerful the Words of Christ are.  I amego emie.  I am that I am.  I am the first and the last.  I am the way the truth and the life.  I am the door, the gate, the way.  I am the Son of God who could call down 7 legions of angels and destroy everyone.  I am the One who created the cosmos and could call down 7 billion galaxies to crush you and all your evildoers.  Jesus is the great King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

No one came to deliver Jesus because it was through the events of this night and those the next morning, He would deliver us.

2.  No more of this!”

49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

It hadn’t been but an hour or two that Jesus had told His disciples that from now on they would need to make provisions for themselves and be prudent.  Take a moneybag and extra sandals and Jesus told them, if they don’t have a sword to sell what is necessary to get one.

In the upper room were at least two swords…

Luke 22:

38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” [5]

Our Lord’s words in the upper room as with His teaching in other places was misunderstood.  He never meant that the Kingdom of God would move forward with violence and war.  What He meant was that there may be times when the disciples will need to be wise and protect themselves.  So, Peter in his boldness draws his sword.  Probably this was one of the swords in the upper room.

Peter is really not as bold as we might think at first.  Jesus had just cause 1000 men with weapons to hit the ground with a word.  Peter is probably thinking He’ll say I Am again.  So, he draws his sword and swings it.  Peter intends on cutting the head off of the guy closest to him…

John 18:

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” [6]

Peter swings away…remember, Peter is a much better fisherman than a soldier.  He’s swinging to cut off the head of Malchus but he ducked and Peter cut off his ear.

Luke 22:

51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

Our Lord is in authority.  He stops the disciples from fighting and even heals the servant immediately.

He heals without any faith on the part of the servant.  Jesus out of thin air touches the servant and he has a new ear.  I know that sounds very simple but that is what Luke reports.

The Gospel is a message of healing and of loving your enemies.  Jesus’ response is very typical of His message.  He would later tell His accusers that His Kingdom is not of this world, if it had been of this world, His followers would fight.

The disciples still don’t fully understand His teaching.  War is not the way the Gospel advances.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Enemies are reconciled by the message of the cross.

We’re about to see that now, for a moment, evil is allowed to rule.

3.  This is your hour

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” [7]

I want us to see something together that is further proof that Jesus is in control and that everyone involved is working on God’s time schedule.

He says that they had come out against Him with weapons and plenty of manpower.  He also notes that He was with them day after day in and around the Temple and they did nothing.  In other words, if Jesus would have been a lawbreaker and guilty of some crime they could have arrested Him at any time but they didn’t.  This shows that their claims are unfounded.  They are saying that Jesus is guilty of insurrection.   If this were the case why didn’t they arrest Him on any of the occasions when He was walking through the city unarmed.

It takes a cohort of 600 Roman soldiers, the chief priest, servants, elders, and the Pharisees to make an arrest that they could have made at any time with a few people.  Something divine is happening.  Something supernatural is in the making.

This arrest is unjustified and a sham from a human standpoint.

Then Jesus explains why it’s happening now and not before…

But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

This is you hour of brief success.  This is the moment Jesus has been waiting for.  For a very short few hours evil will be permitted to have success.

The plan of God was coming to pass exactly as He had planned.  The evil schemes of man were carrying out the plan of God.  Jesus desires to be arrested.

Primary Claim

Jesus Christ dominated His betrayer and those who arrested Him, willingly submitting to the Father’s will.

Because Jesus is in control even of His own death proves that He gave His life.  No one took it.  Evil did not overpower Jesus.  He was in control of every event.  All He had to do was speak a word and it would have stopped.

I pray we see the love Christ has for His people.  He desired to accomplish His Father’s will for God’s glory and for our good.  His death was the way God would receive the most glory and we would receive the most benefit.

Something else we should notice, God also regulated evil.  It only lasted as long as God permitted it to last.  Jesus calls it…

But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

Always remember that evil will only have short success when it accomplishes God’s plan.  God regulates and limits it.

When we enter into trials they will only last as long as God decrees them to last.  He is in charge.  So, we do not need to fear the future.  It is in God’s hands.  He is good and He loves us.

Jesus endured the hour of evil’s success so that we experience the benefits of salvation.

Never loose sight of the fact that Jesus is King and He alone controls the universe.

Are you thankful this morning that we serve the Great I AM?

 

Seek Christ and Salvation

(Pictures of People seeking God and the Truth of Christ our Savior. Just like Nicodemus.)  
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John 3

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Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

 

A Little Faith At Night

From: Paultripp.com

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I want you to consider a principle: faith makes you a canvas upon which the Redeemer can paint the beauty of his grace.

What do you think this principle means? And how does it apply to the situations, locations, and relationships of your everyday life?

Take a moment to meditate on these questions, and when you’re ready, grab a Bible and read John 3:1-21.

THE BACKGROUND

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In most of the gospel narratives, the Pharisees are identified as a group of people, but in John 3, we’re introduced to a specific Pharisee by name – Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was a member of the ruling legal council, the Sanhedrin, which was essentially the Supreme Court of the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin was virulently opposed to Jesus and his messianic claims, and they repeatedly tried to trap him with questions and publicly expose him as a fraud.

In the ultimate miscarriage of justice, the Sanhedrin arrested Jesus, put him on mock trial, convicted him of blasphemy, and then turned him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified.

With that being the case, it makes sense that Nicodemus, being a member of that Sanhedrin, would approach Jesus under the cover of nightfall. This meeting was incredibly risky – who knows what would have happened to Nicodemus had his colleagues learned that one of their own was so convinced that Jesus was from God that he sought him out to have questions his answered.

It makes sense that Nicodemus was afraid, but he had little seeds of faith planted in his heart. As they began to sprout, these seeds of faith caused Nicodemus to take that life-changing walk at night to meet the Messiah. The conversation that followed would result in the most memorable words ever spoken.

A LITTLE FAITH

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Isn’t it comforting to know that Christ doesn’t require us to possess a big and bold faith? Rather, in forgiving and understanding grace, he accepts us as we are, with miniscule, weak, doubt-filled faith.

He never mocks our wobbly knees and shaky hands. He never turns his back on us when fear mixes with faith in our hearts. The story of Nicodemus proves that Jesus doesn’t ask us to march towards him in the broad daylight. No, he joyfully receives us when we sneak towards him under the cover of darkness!

Our Lord is just that tender, just that patient, just that kind. He knows that the mysteries of redemption confound and confuse us. He recognizes that the truths he reveals about himself are counter-intuitive to us. He understands that the things he calls us to do are intimidating for us.

With compassion and empathy, he graciously invites us to come as we are, and he promises that when we do, he won’t turn us away.

THE FAMOUS CONVERSATION

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As you read John 3, it’s striking to note that Jesus does not question Nicodemus’ timing, motive, or manner. He doesn’t rebuke him for coming under the cover of night. He receives him without judgment and is immediately willing to answer his questions.

It’s also important to note that while Nicodemus’ opening question is about the true identity of Jesus, Jesus responds by confronting Nicodemus with the eternally crucial issue of the moment. In grace, Jesus cared more about the spiritual state of this man than he did about defending his personal messianic claims.

In the moments that follow, Christ unpacks for this fearful and wobbly faith-filled member of the Sanhedrin the mysteries of new birth and the essentiality of his impending sacrifice. There’s laser focus to this conversation, because the Redeemer is talking to a man in desperate need of redemption.

You can tell from Nicodemus’ responses that Jesus has taken his mind to places that it has never gone before! Jesus is revealing to the heart of this man what only God can make known to us.

This is an important concept to grasp: it takes divine grace for us to understand the mysteries of, and our need for, divine grace. You and I don’t run to, or rest in, divine grace because we have faith. No, we have faith because we’ve been met by divine grace.

Nicodemus has been drawn to Jesus by divine grace. He’s hearing the words of Jesus because of divine grace. He’ll embrace what he has heard because of divine grace.

The whole narrative of John 3 is not driven by the resolve of Nicodemus, but by the power and glory of rescuing, revealing, forgiving, accepting, and transforming divine grace!

A CHOSEN CANVAS

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I want to return to the principle we considered at the start of this story: faith makes you a canvas upon which the Redeemer can paint the beauty of his grace.

Nicodemus had no idea of what was happening through him in this moment of history. He had been chosen to be with Jesus on that life-changing night, not just because he needed to personally receive the truth-revealing, heart-changing grace of God, but also because he had been chosen to be an instrument of that grace in the lives of an untold company of believers down through the ages.

Nicodemus was completely unaware, but he had been chosen to be the canvas on which Jesus would paint one of the best-known portraits in all of Scripture of his redeeming grace!

Under the cover of darkness on that world-changing night, Nicodemus was more than just a seeker of truth and a recipient grace. Because he was those things, he became a canvas as well. And on the canvas of Nicodemus’ heart, propelled by little sprouting and fearful seeds of faith, Jesus would paint the glorious colors of his work of redemption.

With the skill of a divine artist, Christ took his brush and painted, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

What a stunning portrait of the entire narrative of redemption!

Conclusion:

It’s tempting for us to praise Nicodemus as the hero of this story, and in some ways, he should serve as a model for us. He risked his reputation (and potentially much more), coming fearfully to the Messiah in possession of only little sprouting seeds of faith. In doing so, he became the canvas for one of the best-known portraits of New Testament redemption.

But, as is the point with every story of faith from Scripture, God is the true hero. He is so generous and glorious in his grace that he does with those who seek him things that are way greater than anything they could ever ask or imagine.

Nicodemus came under the cover of darkness, yet his name – and more importantly, the words that he heard – shine as a bright light down through the generations by all who believe.

Isn’t it amazing what God can do with a little faith at night?

 

The Faithfulness Of God

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Faithfulness of God- God’s promises

From: allaboutgod.org

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God is so faithful that anyone who seeks Him can find Him. Faith is a gift, but even a gift must be opened to be enjoyed. As we implement our faith, we begin to realize more and more about God’s faithfulness to us.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:9 – “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 – “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

In 1 John 1:9 we are told, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” With absoluteness we can have the confidence that God will forgive us. Without His ability to do so, He would not be God. He is the only true God (John 17:3) and the gods of no other religion promises this. Since He has made this promise, and we know He cannot break His word, we know that it would be contrary to His nature and that He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). Our God is a faithful God and there is no other that can do all He can and has done.

 

The Faithfulness of God

From: first15.org

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Numbers 23:19 describes a foundational aspect of God’s character, his faithfulness. Scripture says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” As believers, we need a revelation of God’s faithfulness. Being able to fully trust God is the beginning of living an abundant life. If you don’t fully believe that God is faithful to lead you into the best possible life you could live, then you won’t seek out his will, trust him with your possessions, or be able to fully enjoy his presence.

God’s word promises us in Numbers 23:19 that God is perfectly faithful, steadfast, and true. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:28 promises, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Your God is wholly faithful to you. No matter what you do, he will be there for you. His faithfulness isn’t dependent upon your works. All he requires is a willing heart to bring about the incredible fruit of the Spirit in your life.

You aren’t meant to live life apart from the knowledge of God’s faithfulness. You aren’t meant to live with the weight of doing life on your own. Man may fail you, but your God will not. Family and friends may not be there when you need them, but your God will always be there for you.

Where do you feel on your own? In what ways do you need a fresh revelation of God’s faithfulness? He promises to be true to you. He promises to see you through any situation you find yourself in. Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Faithfulness is foundational to the very character of God. God’s steadfast love for you is more sure than the very ground you walk on.

So respond to God’s faithfulness today. Let his promises steady the parts of your life that feel unsure. As you step outside today, take time to look at the world around you. Think about the things you’ve put your trust in. And remember, God promises that his faithfulness will outlast anything your eyes can see. May your affections for him be stirred today. May you respond to his faithfulness with your own. And may you experience the love and joy of a Father who loves you perfectly and completely.

 

Prayer

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1. Meditate on God’s promise to be faithful to you.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

2. Now reflect on your own life. Where in your life do you feel unsure? What situations seem to toss your emotions around like a boat in the middle of a storm? Where do you need a firmer foundation today?

3. Ask the Spirit for a revelation of God’s faithfulness in those areas. Ask God to help you trust in his promise of faithfulness. Ask him how he plans on bringing peace to those areas that are disturbing you today. Listen to him as he speaks.

Go

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Not only does God promise you his faithfulness, but he will actually reveal to you how he is working in your life. You can ask him for his plans, and he will show you! You can ask him how he feels about you and your life, and he will tell you! Within his promise of faithfulness is the promise of his voice. You will hear him speak today if you open your heart, listen to the Spirit and be alert for God to speak through whatever avenue he chooses. Your heavenly Father loves you. Spend your day establishing the foundation of his faithfulness in your own life. And experience a life lived in the abundance of God’s assurance and peace.

 

God Helps You To Help Others

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When You Feel Like Giving Up

(pictures of God helping others)

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“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? — the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.” Psalm 18:31-32 (ESV)

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The alarm would sound any minute. It was time. Time to open my eyes, sit up and face another day. I started the inner pep talk immediately. Maybe today will be different. Things can’t get any worse. Well, maybe they can. No, God’s got this. I had this conversation in my head before my feet ever hit the floor.

Circumstances overwhelmed me and had begun to take a toll on my body as well. I knew God was with me; I’d known that since I was a child. But the perfect life had taken a wild detour, and I found myself in a very imperfect world.

The unexpected journey through divorce and losing my mom to cancer had been tough enough. Now looking ahead, my daughter’s label of “terminal disease” seemed bigger than God.

In my desperation, I didn’t just pray: I cried to the Lord. I needed more than another sermon illustration. More than a checklist of do’s and don’ts. I really needed to know that God was not just near, but that He would get me through this. But how?

My habit of reading the Psalms kicked in, and I fumbled to one of my favorites where today’s key verse can be found: “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? — the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”

As I meditated on the verses, the phrase “who equipped me with strength” captured my attention. I found myself begging: Lord, I need the kind of strength only You can give. I need this equipping process, Jesus. Will You please help me?

I dangled my feet over the side of the bed and continued reading. The Psalmist reflected: “You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip” (Psalm 18:36, ESV).

The Holy Spirit prompted me through this reflection. That’s it! That’s what I need to remember! When I feel like giving up, I don’t have to comprehend the entire journey. I only need enough strength to take one more step.

I can take comfort in the fact that God’s plan is always bigger and better than mine.

Echoing the words of the psalmist, I whispered to God that the battle felt enormously overwhelming. I asked Him to equip me with strength only He can give (Psalm 18:39a).

Finally, I moved my dangling feet from the bedside and placed them solidly on the ground, knowing His power would carry me through whatever came my way that day.

Have you felt like giving up lately? Does the thought of seeing yourself on top of the mountain ahead seem too far-fetched to imagine? Let’s stop thinking about the vastness of the journey. Let’s recognize that when things seem out of control, God is always in control. He is with us, and giving us the strength to take one more step.

When You Need a Helping Hand

 

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“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Luke 1:39-40 (NIV)

 

God is the world’s greatest matchmaker. I’m not talking about the kind of romantic matches made online, but rather about connections made between women in need and those who can help.

As I grew older in years and in my faith, God consistently placed women in my path who modeled all kinds of things I needed to know. My mom taught me about keeping a home that’s peaceful and full of love. In my teen years, a young woman named Layne showed me what it looked like to cultivate a pure heart.

Later, Deborah lived out being a loving wife even though she never knew I was watching. Macon taught me about mothering small children, and Mona was an example of how to use my words wisely.

Each woman had something to share with me that I needed in order to grow.

Christmas is approaching, and in Luke 1, one of our familiar Christmas passages, God gives us a beautiful picture of what it looks like when He gives the gift of friendship to help us in difficult situations. He joins together a young woman, Mary, with an older woman, Elizabeth, and encourages both of them in the linking. If we’ll zoom in a little, there are some important lessons for us.

1. Mary sought out a woman to help her.

When I slowed my reading of today’s key verses, they left me with lots of questions. Why did Mary need to pack up and leave home to go see Elizabeth? Where was her mother? Her friends?

No matter the answers, one fact is clear. Mary needed a woman with whom she could connect. In fact, Scripture tells us she hurried there!

We live in a lonely culture where 60% of women say they’re lonely and 20% say they’re lonely all the time. Mary gives us an example to follow when we fall into the loneliness pit. She didn’t sit at home and wish someone were there. She didn’t “vague-book” something on social media to manipulate someone to reach out. She packed up and went to spend face-to-face time with Elizabeth.

Mary was blessed with a close connection because of her initiation.

2. Elizabeth chose to connect, rather than to compete.

When we think through the circumstances, Elizabeth could have gotten her feelings hurt. After all, Mary made an unannounced visit

and she was carrying the Messiah, the hope of the whole world, in her womb.

Because she was already married and her husband was a priest, Elizabeth held a superior social ranking. Elizabeth could have compared herself to Mary and felt resentment. She could have thought, “Who is she to be carrying the Messiah instead of me?” Instead, she instantly poured out blessing and affirmation to her cousin Mary, a young, pregnant girl trembling with the implications of her amazing assignment.

3. Joy was the result of their connection.

The remaining description of Mary and Elizabeth’s interaction in Luke 1 is a more beautiful scene than I can even imagine. It’s filled with loud declarations of blessing, Spirit-filled babies leaping with joy, and a song so exquisite that it’s nicknamed “The Magnificat.”

The outcome of these women’s connection was great joy. Not only were they happy in the moment, but they were forever enriched by the match that God had made between the two of them. God calls us to connect so we can matureMary was supported, and Elizabeth had a chance to share her maturity and support. That same joy can be in store for you and me!

We All Need Help

(People helping others)

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