John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:8-12 (NLT)8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people,9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed?10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Jesus said that no one could come to God except through Him. After Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension back to heaven Peter emphasized the fact that salvation comes only through Jesus. Based on these statements it’s absolutely clear that Jesus is the only way that a person can become saved. Let me add here that salvation is a gift and the giver always sets the rules.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Having said this we know that there are some references in the Old Testament, before Jesus took on human form and came to the earth, of people who appear to have been saved, or are in the presence of God.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (NLT) Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
Genesis 5:23-24 (NLT)23 Enoch lived 365 years,24 walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.
2 Kings 2:11 (NLT) As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.
We can also assume from what was written about their lives that others who we know died were righteous in God’s sight and were saved. They include but certainly are not limited by; Adam, Eve, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David,Rahab, Ruth, all the prophets, John the Baptist, and those named and unnamed in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith”.
My question is how were all the people saved because Jesus the sacrifice of Jesus had not happened? In a post that I will publish in a few days I point out that Nowhere in the bible is there any statement that an unsaved person gets a lost soul who has died can have a second chance. So a decision for salvation must take place before a person dies. That was as true before Jesus’ crucifixion as after it.
The People Who Died Before Christ Was Crucified Were Saved The Same Way That We Are, By Faith
We get a glimpse of how salvation was possible before Jesus’ time on earth from what Paul said about Abraham.
Romans 4:1-3, 9-2 (NLT)1 Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God?2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way.3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 9 Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith.10 But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!11 Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith.12 And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Here’s what I have learned through the review of others who have addressed this subject.
The basis of salvation has always been the death of Christ. Without that event no one would ever be saved. Christ’s death paid the penalty of all sins, past, present, and future including those sins that people committed before His crucifixion.
The people of the Old Testament time looked forward to the coming Messiah. They trusted God according to the knowledge that they had. In other words, even though they didn't know about Jesus, they still trusted in God and were also justified by faith.
The requirement for salvation has always been faith. The object of one's faith for salvation has always been God.
Genesis 15:6 (NLT)6 And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Psalm 2:12 (NLT)12 Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
he Old Testament sacrificial system did not take away sin, but it did point to a day when Jesus would shed His blood for the human race.
Hebrews 10:8-10 (NLT)8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses).9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect.10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
What changed over time is the content of a believer's faith. God's requirement of what must be believed is based on the amount of revelation He has given mankind up to that time. This is called progressive revelation. Adam believed the promise God gave in Genesis.
Genesis 3:15, 20-21 (NLT)15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 20 Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.21 And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.
I already showed that Abraham believed God according to the promises he gave him. Although there was no scripture, as for as we know prior to Moses, mankind was responsible for what God had revealed.
What about the people alive in Christ’s day who died before the cross and resurrection?
Near the end of His ministry;
Matthew 16:21-23 (NLT)21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Peter and the other disciples did not know the full truth, yet they were saved because they believed that God would take care of their sin problem. They didn't exactly know how He would accomplish that, any more than Adam, Abraham, Moses, or David knew how, but they believed God.
Today, we have more revelation than the people living before the resurrection of Christ; we know the full picture.
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NLT)1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.
Our salvation is still based on the death of Christ, our faith is still the requirement for salvation, and the object of our faith is still God. Today, for us, the content of our faith is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose the third day.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
That’s true for us today after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and it was true before those events.
If you haven’t made the decision that will insure that you will you will spend eternity with God you can do it today. Here’s the formula;
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Here’s how you do that;
Pray this prayer in all sincerity (only you and God know if you’re really sincere);
“Dear God, I am a sinner and need forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ shed His precious blood and died for my sin. I am willing to turn from sin. I now invite Christ to come into my heart and life as my personal Savior.”
If you have just prayed this prayer, in all sincerity, call, text, email, Tweet, change your Facebook status and tell somebody, leave me a comment here or send me an email with this Link. Then find a bible believing church and start to fellowship with other believers. Welcome to the family of God.
Matthew 28:2 (NLT) 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it.
This is one of those questions that make you go Hmmmmm. Read this adaptation from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. I read it today and it makes perfect sense to me, and gives me a very logical response for the skeptic.
Why Did an Angel Roll Away the Stone?
The angels frequently attended our Lord Jesus: at His birth, in His temptation, in His agony. But upon the cross we find no angel attending him. When His Father forsook Him, the angels withdrew from Him, but now that He is resuming the glory he had before the foundation of the world, the angels of God worship him.
The angel came, rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Our Lord Jesus could have rolled back the stone Himself by His own power, but He chose to have it done by an angel to signify that having undertaken to make satisfaction for our sin, He did not break prison, but had a fair and legal discharge, obtained from heaven. He did not break prison, but an officer was sent on purpose to roll away the stone and open the prison door, which would never have been done if He had not made a full satisfaction.
But being delivered for our offences, He was raised again for our justification. He died to pay our debt, and rose again to gain our acquittal. The stone of our sins was rolled to the door of the grave of our Lord Jesus (and we find the rolling of a great stone to signify the contracting of guilt - 1 Samuel 14:33), but to demonstrate that divine justice was satisfied, an angel was commissioned to roll back the stone. The angel did not raise Him from the dead, any more than those that took away the stone from Lazarus's grave raised him, but by this he intimated the consent of Heaven to Christ's release, and the joy of Heaven in it.
The enemies of Christ had sealed the stone, since this was their hour, but all the powers of death and darkness are under the control of the God of light and life. An angel from heaven has power to break the seal and roll away the stone, though ever so great. Thus, the captives of the mighty are taken away.
The angel's sitting upon the stone, after he had rolled it away, is very observable and shows a secure triumph over all the obstructions of Christ's resurrection. There he sat, defying all the powers of hell to roll the stone to the grave again. The angel sat as a guard to the grave, having frightened away the enemies' guard; he sat, expecting the women, and ready to give them an account of Jesus's resurrection.
Adapted from Matthew 1:1 Henry's commentary on the Whole Bible.
This beautiful poem really blessed me in my quiet time this morning. It is from my YouVersion Lenten Reading Plan, 2018 Lent Daily Devotional provided by Tearfund*
Luke 23:44-46 NIV It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
On Friday my hope died.
The sky wept itself dark
the ground broke apart
and all creation cried
for the bloodied innocence
hammered into a tree.
There were whispers
of a torn curtain
but they didn’t reach my ears
or mend my mangled heart
or stem the bitter tears
as we took
On Saturday we grieved,
hiding from the troops
whom we’d once believed
would be overthrown
by the carpenter’s boy,
who had preached
and fed and healed
and was now dead.
But then on Sunday –
the devastating beauty
of that Sunday –
when time and space
were blown out of shape
and angels wrapped in electric grace
rolled the impossible away.
He is not here
for glory had risen
our failings were forgiven
and the rules of time and space
as an empty tomb declared:
Love is alive.
Gideon Heugh, Tearfund
*The following is from the Tearfund website:
Tearfund is a Christian charity called to follow Jesus wherever the need is greatest.
In 2006, we set an ambitious target: we launched a ten-year vision to see 50 million people lifted out of material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.
A decade on, the statistics are striking. In ten years, we have touched the lives of more than 45 million people – the equivalent of almost the population of Spain. We reached more than 32 million people through our community development work and more than 13 million through our response to disasters.
Contributing hugely to this success is the fact that we have envisioned and mobilised more than 154,000 local churches, inspiring our Christian family to be catalysts for change.
We have spoken up with many poor communities, and acted on their behalf, and seen more than 300 policies influenced and changed as a result. We pray that our joint advocacy will bring a rich harvest in reducing poverty further over the next decade.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND HOW YOU CAN HELP VISIT THE TEARFUND WEBSITE https://www.tearfund.org
Who Is Jesus is an entire category of posts on this blog. Those posts, to this point, have been my and others thoughts of who Jesus is based on the truth of scriptures. The following is from the first post that I published in the Who Is Jesus blog category.
The Bible attributes many different names and titles to Jesus. All of the 200 or so names and titles give us insight into His character and Who He really is. I’m not going to attempt to list them all here but I do want you give you those that I believe are some of the more important ones related to His work on earth on our behalf.
Author and Perfecter of our Faith
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Bread of Life
John 6:35, 48 (NKJV) And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 48 I am the bread of life.
John 15:15 (HCSB) I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 10:11, 14-15 (HCSB)11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.
Hebrews 2:17 (HCSB) Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
1 Timothy 2:5 (HCSB) For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human,
Hebrews 8:6 (HCSB) But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (HCSB)1 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.3 They all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.
John 15:1-5 (HCSB)1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
The Faithful Witness
Jesus came reveal the character and ways of His Father . The miracles He performed proved that He is the Son of God.
John 14:9 (HCSB) Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
First Born From the Dead
Colossians 1:18 (HCSB) He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
Jesus raises men to power and He is the one who removes them. This is what Jesus told Pilate who was the representative of Rome the most powerful empire in the world at that time.
John 19:11 (HCSB) “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”
John 1:1 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All these names and titles describe the person who also claimed that he was the only way to heaven and eternal life.
John 14:6 (HCSB) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Did Jesus Claim to be the Only Way to Heaven?
Charles Stanley (Scripture references mine)
One of the best ways to understand someone is to find out what he thinks about himself. Jesus said many, many things about who He was -- He said that He is the Son of god,, that He and the Father are one,, and that the Father is the One who sent Him.
Matthew 16:16-17 (HCSB)Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! ” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.
John 10:30 (HCSB) The Father and I are one.”
John 5:37 (HCSB) The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have not heard His voice at any time, and you haven’t seen His form.
He also announced that He did not come to be served, but to serve and that He came to give His life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28 (HCSB) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”
He came as a substitute payment in behalf of humanity. He agreed with His accusers when they called Him "King of the Jews." His "I am" statements from the book of John reveal that He claimed to be the Good Shepherd who loves the sheep, the Bread of Life who can prevent hunger, and the True Vine who abides in us as we abide in Him.
(John 10:11 HCSB) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 6:48 (*HCSB)I am the bread of life.
“John 15:1 (HCSB)I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.
Jesus also said He was the Door to Heaven
John 10:9 (HCSB) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.
In John 14:6, He expanded on that thought: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." That statement has caused many people to back away, thinking, What a bigoted, egotistical statement! How narrow-minded to think that the only way to Heaven is through the person of Jesus Christ. And yet, this man called Jesus is exactly who He says He is. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He's the way, the truth, and the very life itself. Because, you see, in order for us to have eternal life, we must receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.
Now, if you believe all the other things Jesus said, but decide He can't be the only way to Heaven, then you are saying He told partial truths or lies. You can't have it both ways. Either Jesus is who He says He is, or He is not. So you cannot say, "Jesus is a good man, a wonderful teacher, an effective preacher, a great healer, philosopher, and humanitarian, BUT..." Whenever your belief in Christ's validity has caveats, you make Him a liar. When it comes to all that He said about Himself, either He is a counterfeit and a fraud, or He is exactly who He says He is--the eternal Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, and the One who will someday judge each one of us.
Excerpted from "What Difference Does It Make Who Jesus is?" by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).
Last year I published the post “Jesus Is God”. In it I wrote that there are 200 or so names and titles that give us insight into Jesus’ character. I said that we Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised by God. The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah is God.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ASV)5 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness.
Isaiah 9:6 (ASV)6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus Said That He Is God
I know that many people say that Jesus never claimed to be God. It’s true that scripture never records Jesus as saying the specific words “I Am God”, but that doesn’t mean the He didn’t proclaim Himself to be God.
John 10:25-30 (HCSB)25 “I did tell you and you don’t believe,” Jesus answered them. “The works that I do in My Father’s name testify about Me.26 But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep.27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.30 The Father and I are one.” (Bold mine)
When Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence. (the word one is not masculine—one person—but neuter, oneness of being).- The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
The Jewish leaders knew exactly what He was saying. He was saying that He is equal to God. Matter of fact, He was saying that He IS God. They knew that’s what He was claiming to be and they intended to kill Him for it.
John 10:31-33 (HCSB)31 Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him.32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?”33 “We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”
The Apostle John said that nothing came into being apart from “the Word of God” (Jesus) which means that Jesus was not created and if He was not created He must be the Creator.
Was Jesus Created?
In John 1:1 the writer states plainly that “the Word was God.” In verse three he provides backup support for this claim. John writes, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
John says the same thing in two different ways for emphasis and clarity: Everything that ever came into being owes its existence to the Word, Who caused it all to happen. If the Word caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created. Jesus is the uncreated Creator, God.
Those who deny the deity of Christ offer this rebuttal, though. "Wait a minute, Greg. You didn’t read the verse carefully. You missed something in the text. Notice the phrase ‘apart from Him.’ The apostle excludes Jesus from the count. If you said, ‘Apart from Billy, the whole family is going to Disneyland’ you wouldn’t mean that Billy wasn’t part of the family, just that he wasn’t included in the count. Every member of the family is going to Disneyland with the exception of Billy. In the same way, every created thing was created by Jesus with the exception of Jesus Himself. Jehovah created Jesus first, then Jesus created everything else. Jesus is not God.”
Note that this rebuttal turns on the ability to replace “apart from Him” with the phrase “with the exception of Jesus.” Allegedly they’re synonymous. Okay, let’s try the replacement and see what happens. The verse then looks like this: “With the exception of Jesus, nothing came into being that has come into being.”
If your brow is furrowed trying to figure this out, I’m not surprised. The reconstructed phrase is nearly nonsense. Strictly speaking, it means that Jesus is the only created thing that exists. Read it again and see for yourself. Obviously, the phrase “apart from Jesus” can’t mean “with the exception of Jesus.” These phrases are not synonymous.
“Apart from Him” means something entirely different. It means “apart from His agency.” It’s the same as saying, “Apart from me you’ll never get to Disneyland. I’ve got the car.” Apart from Jesus’ agency nothing came into being that has come into being. Why? Because Jesus is the Creator. He is God. That makes perfect sense in the context.
Taken from “Never Read a Bible Verse” by Greg Koukl (used by permission).
This year 2018, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and Valentine's Day fall on the same day. That doesn't happen often. This last time was in 1945. The day that we show our love in a tangible way is the same day that we can focus on God’s love for us through the gift of His Son Jesus. What a great day to celebrate God's love.
I'm a cast member of a musical production, “His Only Begotten Son” that has been described as a Cantata on steroids because in addition to music and narration it includes actors, singers, and dancers. There is a scene, in it that takes place at Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. After the Jews demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus, Pilate tells Jesus what awaits Him in crucifixion. As Pilate describes each detail, first the Narrator and then the crowd respond “for us” but when Pilate says to Jesus “and on that cross”, the spectators (the cast) at the trial, turn, point to the audience and say to them “for you” as Pilot says to Jesus “you will die". This is in a nutshell was Jesus’ mission the reason He took on flesh and came to the earth. He came to sacrifice His life for you and for me. There is not greater love.
John 15:13 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
This is Love — He Did This Just For You
by Max Lucado, from He Chose the Nails
Oh, the things we do to give gifts to those we love.
But we don’t mind, do we? We would do it all again. Fact is, we do it all again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every so often we find ourselves in foreign territory. Grownups are in toy stores. Dads are in teen stores. Wives are in the hunting department, and husbands are in the purse department.
Not only do we enter unusual places, we do unusual things. We assemble bicycles at midnight. We hide the new tires with mag wheels under the stairs. One fellow I heard about rented a movie theater so he and his wife could see their wedding pictures on their anniversary.
And we’d do it all again. Having pressed the grapes of service, we drink life’s sweetest wine — the wine of giving. We are at our best when we are giving. In fact, we are most like God when we are giving.
Have you ever wondered why God gives so much? We could exist on far less. He could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. But He didn’t.
He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue. And if you love to see geese as they gather, chances are you’ll see that too.
Did He have to make the squirrel’s tail furry? Was He obliged to make the birds sing? And the funny way that chickens scurry or the majesty of thunder when it rings?
Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Could it be He loves to see that look upon your face?
If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would He? If we — speckled with foibles and greed — love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us? Jesus asked,
If you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them? — Matthew 7:11 TLB
God’s gifts shed light on God’s heart, God’s good and generous heart. Jesus’ brother James tells us:
Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of Heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. — James 1:17 MSG
Every gift reveals God’s love… but no gift reveals His love more than the gifts of the Cross.
They came, not wrapped in paper, but in passion. Not placed around a tree, but a Cross. And not covered with ribbons, but sprinkled with blood.
The gifts of the Cross.
Much has been said about the gift of the Cross itself, but what of the other gifts? What of the nails, the crown of thorns? The garments taken by the soldiers? The garments given for the burial? Have you taken time to open these gifts?
He didn’t have to give them, you know. The only act, the only required act for our salvation was the shedding of blood, yet He did much more. So much more. Search the scene of the cross, and what do you find?
A wine-soaked sponge. A sign. Two crosses beside Christ. Divine gifts intended to stir that moment, that split second when your face will brighten, your eyes will widen, and God will hear you whisper, “You did this for me?”
The diadem of pain
which sliced your gentle face,
three spikes piercing flesh and wood
to hold you in your place.
The need for blood I understand.
Your sacrifice I embrace.
But the bitter sponge, the cutting spear,
the spit upon your face?
Did it have to be a Cross?
Did not a kinder death exist
than six hours hanging between life and death,
all spurred by a betrayer’s kiss?
“Oh, Father,” you pose,
heart-stilled at what could be,
“I’m sorry to ask, but I long to know,
did You do this for me?”
Dare we pray such a prayer? Dare we think such thoughts? Could it be that the hill of the Cross is rich with God’s gifts? Let’s examine them, shall we? Let’s unwrap these gifts of grace as if — or perhaps, indeed — for the first time. And as you touch them — as you feel the timber of the Cross and trace the braid of the crown and finger the point of the spike — pause and listen. Perchance you will hear Him whisper:
“I did it just for you.”
Excerpted with permission from He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
For your copy of He Chose the Nails click on any link or the image at below.
Minister Brenda Pachot, one of the Pastor's at my church, preached a sermon recently titled “Our Primary Duty”. Her two principle texts were;
Matthew 28:19-20 NIV Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
The message in the sermon was that ALL Christians are COMMANDED to go out and “preach” the gospel and, to not be ashamed or afraid to “preach” it. With that command comes a Mandate, a Mission, a Message, and Method. We often shirk our duty because we are either ill equipped or afraid that we will offend so, we water down the message with our opinions, making it ineffective, and often inaccurate resulting in many rejecting or not understanding the good news of the gospel, which is salvation through Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the gospel is Jesus who said that if we lift Him up He is the one that will draw others to Himself. That makes it crystal clear that what matters is Jesus and not our opinion of Him or of the gospel.
Lift Christ up
By Dr. Jack Graham of Powerpoint Ministries
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
There are many today who suggest that the church would be better off if we watered down the message of the Gospel for the sake of our witness.
These people say things like, "You're too hard on people. Don't be so dogmatic regarding Christ's teaching. You're going to run people off."
Well, you know what? The very opposite is true. You and I have been given clear instruction and teaching in the Scripture on how we should behave and how we are to perpetuate Christ's teachings in the world.
So what is our message and how do we present it to a hostile world?
Part of the message that we carry as Christ-followers states unapologetically that there is a right and wrong when it comes to cultural, ethical, and moral issues. It's clearly written in God's Word. And we've been given a message of hope and transformation that the world desperately needs to hear and to embrace.
So when you engage those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to yours, be respectful. But remember who you represent. We aren't here to champion our own opinion, but to lift up Christ and his Truth!
Treasure and defend the hope and love that Christ has deposited within you! Never deny your faith but be faithful to lift up Christ Jesus! And when you do, he will draw men to himself!
WE AREN'T HERE TO CHAMPION OUR OWN OPINION,
BUT TO LIFT UP CHRIST AND HIS TRUTH!
For more from PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham, please visit www.jackgraham.org
Share the Gospel? What Gospel?
Dr. Ray Pritchard
Here in a short form is our message: Jesus Christ has come into the world—fully God and fully man. He perfectly obeyed God's law and perfectly fulfilled God's will. He died in our place and as our substitute, paying for our sins. He rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven. He will one day return to the earth to establish his kingdom. In the meantime we are commissioned to preach the gospel to all people everywhere.
To say it this way means that the gospel doesn't center in our feelings or our sentimental notions. The gospel is rooted in time and space, in the facts of history, in the Incarnation, in the truth of what God did when he sent his Son to the earth.
God did this out of love and pity for us. He knew there was no hope unless he took the initiative to save us. Salvation begins with the admission that there is nothing good in us, nothing in us that can contribute to our salvation, that we are utterly helpless and unable to save ourselves, and that salvation must come from outside of us. We confess that we need the help that only Jesus can supply.
God offers salvation on one simple and single condition—a wholehearted faith in Jesus Christ, trusting him alone as Lord and Savior, resting upon him for complete salvation, renouncing all self-trust, admitting our sinfulness, confessing our need, and crying out to Jesus to save us from our sins.
Those who trust in Jesus Christ and him alone are saved forever. They are forgiven of all their sins, born again, brought into God's family, declared righteous while they were still sinners, their sins are placed on Christ and his righteousness is imputed to them, and they receive a new nature that enables them to walk in a brand-new direction. They are given eternal life and guaranteed they will go to heaven when they die. This is what John 3:16 means when it says that "God so loved the world." This is the Good News Jesus told us to preach "to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
Excerpted from "What is the Gospel and Why Does It Matter?" from Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).
Counselors often have their clients write letters. Letters to people who have hurt them, letters to people they have hurt, letters asking others for help, letters to themselves. Letters allow us to say things we find difficult to say to someone else in person.
Here’s what : Anne-Marie Alger (Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Supervisor, MA, MBACP), a counsellor/psychotherapist says about writing letters.
“Writing a letter encourages you to stand back from trauma, creating perspective and providing you with an opportunity to analyse what has occurred. It can help to harness and process strong emotions. Aspects that have not been dealt with you either independently or in the therapy session can be brought into conscious awareness to explore your personal schema (your way of thinking about things) and explore the feelings, in order to develop alternatives to your story.
It should contain all your emotions, your needs, your demands and your condemnations towards the person or object as the letter forms an internal dialogue. You can be explicit, truthful and express whatever you want to say in a raw, naturalistic and crude form. Written from past, present or future, letters are often written as a way of seeking closure, saying goodbye, or searching for acceptance...
Ultimately, writing gives you a voice, particularly if you find it difficult to put your experience into words, it can become a medium for someone who is reluctant to open up face-to-face. It also ensures that you have been accurately heard, providing you with the freedom to define your own experience, uninterrupted, and at your own pace. A letter written, but not sent, not seen by anyone else, is yours. Just yours. All yours." - From Writing a letter as part of your therapy
Many times when we are going through a time of struggle it’s hard for us to put our feelings and emotions into words. Yes I know that when we don’t know what to say the Holy Spirit speaks for us
Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
But there’s something about our own words that allows us to get “unstuck” so that we can move on in our relationship with others and with God.
Jesus I Need You ,from Zondervan Publishing is a devotional that uses prayers written as letters to Jesus. These letters are examples of another way that we can communicate with our Savior. Just as He speaks to us in different ways depending on what’s going on in our lives, letters to Him will help us express emotions and feelings that we are reluctant to express in spoken words or thought.
The following are the Editor’s Note and two sample devotions. They blessed me and I know that they and, the entire devotional will bless you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going through a time of heartache or a season of joy, a time of questioning or a time of deep gratitude, the prayers in this devotional will be “right-on-time”. Jesus I Need You would be a perfect gift for yourself or to anyone seeking daily conversation with Jesus.
To get a copy of it it click on this LINK or the image of the book at the end of this post.
Jesus, I Need Your Grace
From Jesus I Need You
Editor's Note: Have you written a love letter to Jesus? Or cried out a prayer for help? Do you have conversations with Him regularly? This new devotional, Jesus, I Need You, is a collection of prayers to Jesus, written as letters, that will inspire you to have unwavering faith in any circumstance, in every season. Each letter is followed by a short devotional and encouraging message. We pray that this inspires you to write your own letter to Jesus this week - He longs to hear from you!
That Difficult Person
Dear Jesus, I need Your help. Someone is making my life difficult. I have tried to be kind and patient — You know I have, Lord. But there have been times when I’ve lost my temper — You know that too. I’ve said unkind things and thought even worse things.
Our relationship needs healing; it needs You.
Jesus, show me what to do. I pray for You to step in and make this right. Teach me, Lord. How would You handle this person? Please take away these feelings of anger and hurt and replace them with grace and love.
“Seventy times seven”: That’s what You said to Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive the one who sinned against him. Am I capable of forgiving that many times? Oh, but how many times have You forgiven me?
Soften my heart, Lord, and help me forgive as You have forgiven me.
If anyone can mend this relationship, Jesus, it is You. Guide my every word and every action with Your perfect love. I need You, Jesus. We need You.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. — Romans 12:18
At some point in your life, you’ll encounter a difficult person — someone who, no matter what you do, makes your life miserable. When you run into such a person, call on Jesus. He understands and will know just how to help. As you think about that difficult person, ask yourself if you’ve contributed to the strain. Are there things for which you need to seek forgiveness? Come up with at least one thing you can do to bless that person’s life — and then do it.
Dear Jesus, Sometimes it’s really hard to love people, especially when You ask me to love those who hate You and do evil things. I know You love them, but I struggle to follow Your example. Please show me how can I hate the evil while still loving those who hate You.
Jesus, when You were beaten, mocked, and crucified, You could have rained down wrath from Heaven, but You didn’t. Instead, You asked God to forgive Your enemies because they didn’t know what they were doing. That is pure love. Fill me with that kind of love.
Jesus, You are always in my heart, guiding me and leading me to be more like You. And for that reason, I must pray for those who hate You and do evil things. I don’t love what they do, Lord — but I want them to know You. Please, Lord Jesus, open their eyes to see You and their hearts to accept You. They need You so much... and so, Lord, do I.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — Matthew 5:43-44
Love doesn’t mean that you accept acts of hatred and evil, but love does require that you pray for those most in need of salvation. Consider Paul. He didn’t begin life as a disciple of Christ; in fact, there was a time when Paul — then known as Saul — hated Christ. Read Acts 9:1-19 to discover how he changed. How might you be an Ananias to a Saul in your life?
Excerpted with permission from Jesus, I Need You, copyright Zondervan.
Jesus was called a lot of names. All he did was love and help people, yet he had his share of bullies and critics. Many of the religious leaders of the day were jealous of his success and afraid he would upset the status quo. They wanted to discredit him in the eyes of the public, so they said all sorts of crazy things about him. They whispered that he was an illegitimate child. They accused him of being demon-possessed. They denounced him to the Roman authorities as a rioter, a threat to public peace.
Jesus didn’t deserve the hate, but it turns out one of their nicknames for him was true. They called him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. In their minds, that was one of the greatest indictments imaginable. Jesus hung out with bad people, therefore he must be bad too. In their minds, to be a friend of sinners was incredibly shameful.
Luke 7:34 (NLT)34 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
But for Jesus, the title Friend of Sinners was a sign of success, not a source of shame. I can imagine him smiling the first time he heard the phrase. “Friend of sinners? I’ll take that as a compliment.” Why? Because it was the very definition of his mission.
Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Think about what Jesus’ nickname means for you, for your friends, and for humanity today. What kind of God labels himself a friend of sinners? I could believe “judge of sinners”; I could even believe “Savior of sinners.” But friend? Really? . . .
John 15:15 (NLT)15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
Friendship is far more important to God than we often realize.
Isaiah 41:8 (NLT)8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend,
James 2:23 (NLT)23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.
Exodus 33:11 (NLT)11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
We tend to think that God puts top priority on performance, purity, and perfection, and we assume relationship is the eventual reward for those things. In other words, the more like Jesus we become, the closer our relationship with him will be. Actually, it works the other way around. The closer we get to Jesus, the more like him we become. Relationship comes first; changes comes later. . . .
God cares about everyone, regardless of where they are on their journey: spiritually mature or seeker, devout or in doubt, religious or simply curious. All of us need him, and all of us can find him. Whether you consider yourself a saint or a sinner, Jesus wants to be your friend.
Excerpted from YouVerson Friend of Sinners Reading Plan provided by Rich Wilkerson Jr. and Harper Collins. The plan is from the book Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection
Impute : to lay the responsibility or blame for often falsely or unjustly
Substitute : to put (a person or thing) in the place of another
When Jesus came to the earth to accomplish His mission to die for mankind’s sin He put the "tion" (action) to the verbs impute and substitute.
On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe. Did you get that? God treated Him as if He committed, personally, every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though the fact is He committed none of them. That’s the great doctrine of substitution. And that’s the first side of imputation. God imputed our sins to Him. He was guilty of none of them. God treated Him as if He committed all of them. And He just unloaded His fury for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him in the history of the world. He unloaded all His fury against all their sins on Christ.
To borrow the language of Leviticus 16, Jesus became the “scapegoat.” The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it.
Leviticus 16:7-10 (NLT)7 Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle.8 He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel.9 Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD.
10 The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.
Romans 5:12-19 (NLT)12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of ighteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “When Jesus came into the world why did He have to live all those years?” If I was planning the plan of redemption I’d have had Him come down on Friday, die, rise on Sunday and go back to Heaven Monday. Why 30 years? Why 30 silent years?
Jesus lived a full life was that He might live a complete life fully righteous. That He might live a complete life absolutely without sin, absolutely perfect, so that that perfect life could be credited to your account. That’s the backside of imputation. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life. That’s the Gospel.
John 10:11 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
Galatians 3:13 (NLT) 13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
1 Peter 2:22-25 (NLT) 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
Taken from "How to Escape the Fires of Hell" by Discover the Book Ministries (used by permission).
The result of the Imputation and Substitution of Jesus is Justification!
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.