“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations… ‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
Joel 2:1-2, 12-13
What is Lent? When we think of Lent, we tend to think of giving up something (like chocolate or social media). But, I want to challenge us to look at Lent differently this year. The Lenten season is 40 days starting from Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. It is a time for reflection, repentance, and prayer.
So, what does that mean for you as we start Lent? What are you reflecting on? Repenting of? Praying for?
Joel writes in our passage today that the “day of the Lord is coming.” It will be a day of darkness and gloom because it is a day of judgment. And we should tremble out of fear because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Yet, God calls us to “return” to Him… to rend our hearts before Him. And the reason given is that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
Think about this for a moment… though we should be judged, God did not destroy us… even though it was within His right as a Holy God to do so. Instead, He showed us mercy and grace. He loved us by sending His Son to pay the debt of our sins. But, do we live out this grace in our lives?
It seems to me that most of our lives are spent on ourselves. We still live as if we are the King of our lives and not God. But, as we begin this Lenten season, we must start by “rending” our hearts. As Will Walker and Kendall Haug write in their book, Journey to the Cross, we must rend our hearts from “self-absorption and binding yourself (mind and devotion) to Jesus” because He has given us grace, mercy and steadfast love.
In the words of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
What are some areas of self-absorption that you need to tear yourself away from?
How can knowing that the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” help you to turn away from your self-absorption and turn to God?
"31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
We celebrated Ash Wednesday last night. And we have to remember that the main purpose of the Lenten season is for us to look to Christ, not ourselves. It is a time for us to reflect on what it means to be satisfied in Him as we recognize that He is the Savior that we need.
So, what does it mean to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Christ? What does that look like in your life?
We start by focusing on what He has done for us. Verse 31 – He suffered, He was rejected, He died, and He rose again. But, like Peter, we object to this when we think about what this means for our lives… if the Messiah suffered, what’s to prevent me from also suffering? For sure, we don’t want to suffer… we don’t want to be rejected… we don’t want to die/or feel like we’ve died… we don’t want to lose.
Perhaps we think like this because we have a different understanding of who we expect the Messiah to be. Perhaps we want a God that will answer all our prayers all the time – like a genie. Perhaps we want to not suffer at all and have all the things that our hearts desire. Perhaps, we think our lives are ours to do with whatever we choose to do. But, v.35 is opposite of that, isn’t it? “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
The question you have to ask yourself is this… is Jesus really worth the cost? Is following Jesus really worth the cost of your life?
But, think about what Jesus went through on the cross for you. Christ went to the cross, not to give you things… but to save you. He suffered separation from God so that you could be brought into a relationship with Him. He suffered and died on the cross in your place. He was rejected by the very people He came to save. But, in doing these things, Jesus brings us into God’s presence as adopted children of God. He would save us from our sins. We would be accepted by God. We would be given life in Him.
When you think about the worth of Jesus, it’s no comparison at all - He is indeed worth our everything. So, how does this shape the way you look at today? It leads to a humble heart – that God would love me that much and provide for me. It leads to a grateful heart – for the preciousness of the gift of grace. It leads to a heart that is at peace – it is indeed well with my soul. And it leads to a heart that seeks to please Him in response to His precious gift to us.
Think about your day. What are the things you run to for comfort/satisfaction?
How does Jesus going willingly to the cross for you help you to see your life differently?
"A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. "
I read somewhere that the season of Lent is like a wilderness journey - we are to go beyond our comfort zone and seek Christ. And the path for the Christian during Lent is the one that leads us toward Christ. And though our lives are like the grass that fades, we are told that the promises of God in Jesus Christ are forever.
But does this make an impact in your life this day? In the day-to-day struggle of life, does God’s word point you back to who He is and what He has done for you? Does it point you back to the cross of Jesus Christ and that He is good?
Yesterday’s devotional asked us to see if Christ was indeed worth your everything. And if that’s the case, what will you give up to know Christ better? Now, I’m not saying you have to give something up… but sometimes, only when we give something up do we see that that item had a control over us that prevented us from worshipping and serving the Lord.
But along that thinking, have you ever thought about adding something to your life during Lent? What can we add to our lives that will point us to the promises of God’s word for us? What will draw us near to Him and lead us to live our lives in a Christ-like way?
Here’s an excerpt from Journey to the Cross: “The point of giving things up is not to be reminded of how much we miss them, but rather to be awakened to how much we miss God and long for His life-giving Spirit. This means, of course, that Lent is not only about giving up things. It is also about adding things, God things… Don’t worry about whether or not your sacrifice is a good one. It’s not a contest. Just make your aim to know Christ more fully, and trust Him to lead you.”
If you gave up certain things (foods, social media, shopping, etc) for Lent, how is that helping you to seek Christ all the more?
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
We now come to the end of our first week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? Have you been keeping up with the devotionals? Have you given up or added something to your life? Are you looking to Christ?
One of the things that we all recognize sooner or later in the Christian journey is that it is hard. It’s really, really hard. We find it much easier to fall into temptation than to grow in faith. Perhaps, you already feel the strains of trying to be “holy” during this Lent season. But, don’t despair!
Look at what this passage says: in Christ, there is no condemnation! You have been set free from the law of sin and death. In other words, it’s not about how well you’ve tried to live the godly lifestyle… because it was bad regardless of what you thought. But, God sent His Son to fulfill the requirements of the law perfectly… the requirements you couldn’t keep at all. I think Jack Miller said it best, “You are worse than you think, but also far more loved by God than you ever imagined.” Jesus on the cross means that only the Son of God could save you from your sins… it was that bad… but that God would give His Son as a sacrifice shows us the love of God for us… it is that great!
This can’t help but free you from the burdens of trying to “perform” a holy life. Instead, it’s about repentance… it’s about running back to the cross where our Savior died to free you from your sins. And so, as the writer of Hebrews writes, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Let us deny ourselves and look to Jesus… and be mesmerized by His beauty and worth, His grace and mercy, His love and care for us… and may we be strengthened to run to Him.
What prevents you from fully committing to Christ?
How does your life change knowing that in Christ, there is now no condemnation?
Theme of Week: Repentance
"And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
I’ve always wondered about what I would’ve said if I was in the father’s position here. Would I have been able to cry out “help my unbelief?” And I wonder today… how many of us would be able to say that that is our prayer… to ask God for help with our unbelief.
Think about what’s going on here… the father of the boy has been suffering since childhood. For so long, hoping against hope, looking for anything that would help. And he hears of this Jesus. And he takes the boy and goes to see Jesus… and runs into the disciples of Jesus. And he asks for healing… and nothing happens. The disciples cannot cast out the demon.
And maybe we can’t relate to this father… maybe we think we are better than we actually are and don’t ask God to help us with our unbelief. But, each and every time that we take matters into our own hands… each time we make it about what we can do… it is unbelief to some degree isn’t it?
Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t ask for help (I’m that type…), why do you think that you can’t ask for help? Perhaps it’s because you feel others will view you as helpless. Or maybe you don’t want to be a burden to another person. Maybe in each of us, there is a deaf/mute spirit… one who’s afraid to speak the truth that we are helpless… one who’s afraid to hear that yes, we are that helpless.
But, in the end of this passage… we see a Savior… a Savior that we need. A Savior who provides the healing… who provides salvation and who enables us to pray… and cry out, “Lord, help me with my unbelief.”
Where do you see that you need help? Do you see that you need help?
If Jesus is indeed the healer of your soul… why not go to Him? Why not pray, “help me with my unbelief?”
"They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
In one of the prayers in The Worship Sourcebook, it says, “We confess that our blindness to your glory, O triune God, has resulted in shallow confession, tepid conviction, and only mild repentance.” I wonder if we’re just like the disciples here? We do not understand the impact of Jesus on the cross for us in our daily lives… not understanding who we are (as sinners who have been forgiven) and so, we look for our own glory instead. And when we seek for our glory, it leads to us thinking we’re not as bad… that we don’t need to repent that much.
Now, why is this such a problem? Notice what Jesus says to the disciples, who were arguing about who was the greatest, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” This is a sacrifice. And in order to place someone else as first, that means you have to give up something of yours… you have to give up you. But, without a repentant heart, a sacrifice for others will either be done out of guilt or grudgingly because you think you are better than the other person… that that person doesn’t deserve it.
The sad thing is that the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ words of “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” They didn’t understand that this was Jesus telling them that He was the greatest sacrifice for them. The First would become the last, so that the last could become first.
So, take a look at your life today… where do you find yourself seeking after yourself first? And what would it look like to respond to Jesus’ sacrifice for you and to start sacrificing for Him? For others?
I think that we start with repentance. Walker and Haug write in their book Journey to the Cross, “Repentance is a deep feeling of grief that causes us to return to God and to worship him above all else. The posture of repentance is to acknowledge our humanity before God, and to grieve our wayward hearts. But even in this low place, we do not hang our heads as those who cannot see past our failures. We lift our eyes to Jesus.”
Repent. Turn to Jesus. And may the grace of Christ encourage you to sacrifice of yourself for the sake of others.
What do you need to repent of today?
What would it look like for you to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others?
"John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
How do you react to this passage? This passage has always made me a little uncomfortable. It seems Jesus is asking for a little too much, no? If my hand causes me to sin, cut it off? Same with my foot? Or my eye?
Sometimes I (jokingly) wonder what heaven will look like… especially since everyone will be missing body parts, for who has never sinned, right? But then again… perhaps the problem for us growing up in the church is that we don’t think there’s anything to cut off. Or if we do, we think it’s just a little, tiny bit. Perhaps, we even justify it by saying that it’s not as bad as others’ vices/sins.
I wonder if we do this because we want to belong more to the world than to heaven. Perhaps we don’t want to seem different from the world… and following Christ fully looks to us like these people that Jesus describes - people who are missing an eye, or a foot or a hand in the world’s eyes. Following Christ seems like we are handicapping ourselves in the here and now.
But, the point of this passage isn’t to encourage mass physical mutilations. Jesus was stressing the importance of your soul… where will it end up, heaven or hell? What sin are you cutting out for the sake of your soul? And maybe you don’t want to… maybe, right now, you don’t even know what to cut off. But you know you’re supposed to repent. How can we repent when we don’t know what to repent of? Or maybe you know but don’t want to yet. Where does the motivation come to repent?
We remember the good news of the gospel - that we can never earn our salvation. But, Christ was cut in our stead for us to be made whole. Isaiah writes, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (53:5)
We pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)
We read God’s word – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
What pulls at you more right now, heaven or earth? Why?
How can the gospel lead you to repentance and back to Christ?
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:5-9
God is light. Notice, it doesn’t say God is THE light… (not a glowing figure). And there’s a reason why John calls God, light. Light has two purposes here = 1. intellectual truth 2. moral truth. It is intellectual b/c light is about making the truth known. Light brings out what is true in the darkness. For example: you are in a dark room and there’s something there and you don’t know what it is. But in the light, you see exactly what it is.
Light is also about moral truth = moral purity. V.6 “if we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Light discovers what is hidden in the dark… but our God is light. His nature is to reveal Himself to us (truth) and reveals us in all our sinfulness… in His light, nothing is hidden, we are exposed (EX: Adam/Eve – they were naked and ashamed).
The truth is, we cannot say that we are sinless… V.8: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But light isn’t just about seeing… it also encourages movement. V.7 talks about us walking in the light. Light enables sight so that the person is enabled to walk. It’s not just about seeing who God is, but doing (following, obeying, serving God). The misconception in the church is that people want fellowship with God on easy terms… but as one commentator says, “religion without morality is an illusion.” In other words, you can’t just talk the talk, but you have to walk the talk.
You have to ask yourself, “if I profess faith in Christ, am I walking in the light? When people see my life, is it lived in the truth of the gospel? Am I practicing a purity in my life?” If not… you have to ask yourself, what is preventing you from doing it?
I believe we don’t walk in the light much because we forget the next part of the passage. It’s one thing to say (v.9) “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” it’s another to live as if it is true. Can God truly forgive me of everything? Even when I sin again?
You see, God’s wrath is real. If you have a Holy God, a just God - that means that God’s wrath is a Holy antagonism to all evil. And we are all sinners (v.10). But, John is saying that God is (v.9) just, so the punishment must be paid… but He is also faithful (He will keep His promises – that He will give us an advocate).
What does the advocate do? Our Advocate does not plead with God that we are innocent… oh, no. That would imply that we are capable of saving ourselves from sin. But what He does is, He acknowledges our guilt… we are sinners (that’s what light does, right?). But, then He presents His work on the cross as the grounds of our acquittal. John Calvin writes, “Christ’s intercession is the continual application of His death to our salvation.”
And this becomes our motivation for how we live… only through His work. You can try hard not to sin (and you shouldn’t sin)… but you will fail, and when you fail, you have an advocate with the Father (2:1-2). As you lean upon the work of Christ, you are already practicing walking in the light… you are acknowledging that you are far from perfect… you need help. But by Christ’s work you are made acceptable to God.
We can then live for Him and practice the truth (no matter how hard) because He is faithful.
What does the light of the gospel reveal about who you are?
If Jesus has done the work on the cross, how does that encourage you to walk in the light?
"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity."
Yesterday, we talked about being in God’s light and that it reveals who we are. But, when we think about sin, what do we think of? Is it just about breaking God’s rules? Or is it more?
I think we have a misunderstanding of sin if we only view it as breaking rules. Yes, it is breaking God’s rules, but there’s more… Tim Keller writes, “Sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship with God.”
So, if this is the case, do you confess your sins before God? All of them? Or do you find that when you are confronted by the Holy Spirit or by your brothers/sisters in Christ about certain sin patterns in your life, do you try to justify it? Do you look for excuses? “It was a hard week this week.” Or, by saying, “it’s a complicated situation.” Or, do you think that compared to other people’s sins, yours isn’t that bad.
But, by trying to justify sin in our lives, aren’t we then lessening the impact of sin? We are treating it as not so bad. And if we are doing these things, then aren’t we trying to conceal it, like this passage says? And the passage states that we will not prosper… we fall into calamity.
And so you have to ask yourself, how can you confess your sins fully and truthfully?
I think it starts by remembering that God has already adopted us into His family through the work of Jesus on the cross. As a result, it leads to us remembering that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:39) It’s remembering, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Think about it, if there is now NO condemnation for us, then why are you afraid to confess before God? Let the truth of the gospel set you free. Confess your sins before God. Turn away from the sinful behavior in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
When do you find yourself justifying your sins before God and others? Why do you try to justify your sins?
What would it look like for you to live out the fact that there is now no condemnation in Jesus Christ? How does that lead you to true repentance?
"And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
We now come to the end of our second week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? Have you been keeping up with the devotionals?
We try to seek after this good God. And there are times when we do “good” things. We try to obey God’s word, we try to live a life that is holy, we try to grow in Christ-likeness. But, do we give up what we treasure above everything else for the sake of following Jesus?
For the rich young man, maybe the other commandments were easier to follow because that’s just who he was naturally… an “obedient” person. But, when confronted with losing his “treasure” – his possessions, he balks. So, is there something in your life that you just can’t give up for Christ? Maybe it is material possessions… maybe it’s pride… maybe it’s refusing to give up your moral high ground in judging others. Whatever it is, no matter how “good” it is, if it becomes your “ultimate” thing, it is sin.
And perhaps we just can’t give it up because it feels like we always have to give up something. But what can change our perspective?
First, we can’t change our hearts by ourselves… look at the impossibility of the situation that Jesus describes, that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” God must change our hearts. So, pray for God to change your heart… to see that Jesus is worth it.
Second, Jesus also promises us a “hundredfold” in this time. This isn’t just about eternity, but now. He gives us “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands” – In other words, He gives us the Church, the family in Christ. He gives us “eternal life.” (v.31) We even get persecutions…
But, our prayer is not just asking God to change our circumstances, but to see beyond to the glory of who our God is. He is the One who can do the impossible, who has given so richly of Himself to us who can’t ever earn it.
“Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Have you “left everything” to follow Christ? What do you still hold onto as your “treasure?” Why? What prevents you from letting go?
Spend some time today thanking God, for He has done what was impossible for you to do.
"And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
What does humility look like to you?
Philippians 2:6-8 talks about Jesus’ humility. Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
From the beginning of the incarnation, Jesus lived a humble life. Humble origins – being born in a manger to a poor family, sitting and eating with sinners and tax collectors, to suffering (“and they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him”), and to death on the cross.
You see: the wrath of God has to be satisfied. Perhaps, that language makes you uncomfortable… how can God, who is love, also be a God of wrath? It seems like a conundrum, but if you think about it, it is not.
God is just. And you want a just God… you want there to be fairness and right. And so, God can’t just say, “let bygones be bygones,” when it comes to sin. Sin must be dealt with because God is perfectly righteous and holy. Think about it, if something awful happened to you, caused by another person… and the judge said, let’s just forgive the other person… how would you feel? You’d be screaming for justice to be done… you would be questioning the unfairness of that judgment.
And so, God’s wrath must be satisfied… but instead of it falling on you, it fell on Jesus. And we can’t help but be humble when we see what it cost Jesus to go to the cross. He would suffer the injustice of being mocked and crucified when He was innocent. He would bear the shame of our sins. He would die the death we should have died.
This is what Jesus was looking ahead to when He said this to the disciples. Yet, He went to this willingly, obedient to the Father… for you.
Think about the humility of Christ… what it cost Him to go to the cross.
Where is the Holy Spirit working in your heart today to move you to humility?
"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The nerve of these two disciples… right? Could you imagine if you were the other disciples and heard that two of your friends asked Jesus to lift them up higher than any of you? The other disciples were “indignant.”
So, what makes you indignant? Walker and Hoag write in Journey to the Cross, “Everyone esteems the virtue of humility, but to step into the reality of our lives is to remember how contrary it is to our thinking… Ironically, we even hope to be recognized for our humility.” This is so true of me as well. Even on our best days, we want people to notice us, our accomplishments, our “goodness.”
But, Jesus offers us something different to consider. He says, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If Jesus came to serve and to give His life for us… who are we to think about ourselves first?
Now, why do we find humility so hard? Walker/Hoag write, “The desire to be lifted up is rooted in a lack of faith. We are worried about what others think because we are not convinced that God delights in us (Psalm 149:4). We are anxious because we do not believe God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:32). We vie for attention because we do not think God rewards what is done in secret (Matthew 6:6). We compare ourselves to others because we forget that Jesus is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).”
So true isn’t it? We look more to what we do not have than to what has been given to us in Christ… and that’s a sign of our lack of faith. But, what would it look like to grow in humility? To see that Jesus came to serve and die for us… and because of what He has done, we are a new creation that God delights in, that God provides for, that God rewards… that was given His righteousness.
So, let us begin this day with repentance… and ask the Holy Spirit to grow us in humility as we look to Jesus.
What does it mean to you that Christ came to serve and to give up His life as a ransom for you? Does it change your perspective on your life? Why/why not?
Where in your life can you live out grace – to serve others as your worship to Christ?
"And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way."
There’s a prayer in The Worship Sourcebook that says, “God of mercy, you sent Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost. We confess that we have strayed from you and turned aside from your way. We are misled by pride, for we see ourselves pure when we are stained and great when we are small. We have failed in love, neglected justice, and ignored your truth. Have mercy, O God, and forgive our sin. Return us to paths of righteousness through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.”
I wonder how many of us can relate to Bartimaeus? Or, how many of us can relate to the crowd that rebuked him? On the one hand, maybe some of us would say that we can relate to Bartimaeus in that we were spiritually blind and God has opened our eyes… but in practice, what does that look like? Unfortunately, I think for some of us, it looks a little bit like the crowd here… we can “see,” unlike Bartimaeus… and we tell the Bartimaeus’s of the world to “be silent,” so that we can follow Christ in peace. We look selfishly at just our walk in Christ with little to no regard for how others are doing in their walk. We don’t want to be bothered by others’ problems.
But, isn’t this just another form of pride? We value “me” more than the plight of another. Perhaps, we think that because we don’t have the same disability/suffering that another faces, that we are ok. But, then, aren’t we just justifying ourselves based on circumstances? Like the parable that Jesus told about the Pharisee in Luke 18, “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”
But, Bob Thune in The Gospel Centered Community writes, “The brashest expressions of pride are easy to spot: the athlete who boasts about her talent, the arrogant entrepreneur who flaunts his achievements, or the well-connected neighbor who name-drops in every conversation. Most of us are smart enough to avoid appearing prideful in these obvious ways. But that’s just the problem. We can avoid looking prideful without actually killing our pride.”
You see, pride is a huge issue for us. Pride is when we make it about us - why I deserve to be worshiped and not God. And Proverbs 8:13 states, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Pride is a sin against God. So, how can we repent of our pride and turn back to God?
We forget (we’ve forgotten) that we are the Bartimaeus’s of the world… blind to see the truth of the gospel unless the Holy Spirit shows us. For us, we need to be like Bartimaeus and cry out to our Lord for His mercy, for His help. He, who has gone to the cross and was broken to forgive you of your sins, is the only One who can cure our blindness to our pride, that we may repent, and follow Him.
Take a look at your life and ask yourself, where are you prideful? Do you avoid looking prideful without actually stamping it out of your life?
What would it look like for you to cry out to Jesus today, “have mercy on me!” How would this shape how you look at others in your life?
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
Will Walker and Kendal Haug write, “humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we ought to think, but simply thinking of ourselves less.” Verse 3 here tells us that we are to think with “sober judgment.” “Sober” means that we are in complete touch with reality… there is no distortion. And the basis for the sober judgment is “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
What does this mean? It’s not the amount of faith that you have… but Tim Keller says, it’s “the standard of measurement.” Basically, what Paul is saying is, “you’ve all been given saving faith in Jesus Christ crucified… and that is how you are to measure yourself” and not by how much faith you have in yourself. This is where our life of humility begins… the realization that Christ was crucified for you.
But, how do you make this real and practical in your life? How do we get to the point where we can present our bodies as a living sacrifice in response to the gospel? To use the spiritual gifts that God has given us for others? It’s by going back to having our hearts stirred by the mercies of God.
Tim Keller once said that if we lack a “passion or interest in being holy, it comes from a sheer lack of contemplation of the mercies of God toward us”… the only way we get back on track is to “begin a discipline of reflection and focus upon the mercies of God.” In other words, regardless of whether you feel like obeying God or not, we need to rekindle our hearts by the mercies of God. Notice, it’s “mercieS.” This means, it’s not just a general thought that God is merciful… but thinking of God’s merciful deeds in your life. How He has taken care of you… ultimately, how He has given you the cross.
Only then, do we find that it leads us to “spiritual worship” (v.1) … a giving of yourself completely b/c anything less than a complete/total sacrifice is irrational in light of God’s sacrifice to us through Jesus Christ. Thinking on the mercies of God in Jesus Christ humbles us to be able to worship the Lord through our service to Him and to others.
Do you view yourself with sober judgment that is based on the work of Christ for you?
What are the mercies of God in your life? Spend some time today thanking God for His tender mercies in your life.
"And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city."
Will Walker and Kendal Haug write, “If you come to God on your terms, expecting him to fit into your worldview and align with the way you think things ought to be, you are starting off on the wrong foot, and that will lead you down the wrong path.” The question for us is, have we been “starting off on the wrong foot?”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been puzzled by this passage. And the reason is that I have a preconceived notion of who I think the Christ is supposed to be… we all do. Sometimes, I think, “isn’t He the loving, gentle, kind, holding a baby lamb in His arms kind of guy?” And yet, here it seems that He is hangry (hungry + angry, for those that didn’t know). Jesus curses a fig tree because there was no fruit on it (even though it wasn’t in season)… in the very next passage, He overturns all the tables in the temple.
And my mind starts making up all sorts of excuses to try to excuse Jesus’ behavior… as if I were God’s press secretary. But, what does this passage really mean? If He is not to fit into the way we think things ought to be… we really have to ask why this passage is here.
If we look at this entire passage, there’s a theme here… the temple (and worship) has been corrupted. The people are conducting business in the temple… presumably around the Court of the Gentiles (the only place where non-Jews were allowed to enter and pray). And if God so loved the world and Jesus came to save all people… this was a serious issue. The temple, though it looked on the outside like it was healthy, was in fact not healthy at all.
Same with the fig tree (which represented Israel). It had leaves… it looked healthy and nice on the outside… but it bore no fruit. Both the fig tree and the temple cleansing are pointing to the fact that the outside does not matter… especially if the inside is not good. Jesus says in Matthew 23:25-26, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”
And the only way our “inside” can get cleaned is by Jesus, who has clothed us in His righteousness. This can’t help but create in us humility… for it is not by our own strength or goodness… but by His strength and goodness that we are made clean.
What are some areas of your life where the outside looks clean, but the motivations behind it are not clean?
What does it mean to you that Jesus has cleansed the inside by His work on the cross?
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
We now come to the end of our third week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? Have you been keeping up with the devotionals? This week, we’ve been talking mostly about what it means to be humble… and there’s no better passage than this to end this week with – Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.
Think about what’s going on here… Jesus takes on the role of the servant as He washes His disciples’ feet. The King washing His servants’ feet… and we respond sometimes like Peter, “why are you doing this??? Don’t wash my feet!” This points to our pride… we think we can take care of ourselves. But, if we could, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to come and die on the cross for us. The gospel shatters our thinking that we are good enough… we are not. Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” In other words, if I don’t “cleanse” you by taking your place on the cross, there’s no hope for you.
But, then Peter goes to the other extreme… “then wash everything!” This is also pride. If Jesus says that His washing of your feet is enough, why are you asking for more? Walker/Hoag write, “First, he (Peter) had a hard time receiving what Jesus wanted to do. Then, he had a hard time resting in what Jesus had done. Jesus assured him: ‘you are clean.’”
The Bible tells us that we could not wash ourselves, but Jesus washed us “white as snow.” And because He has washed us clean, we find rest in His finished work for us.
Which “Peter” are you today - the one that doesn’t accept His help or the one that can’t find rest in Him?
How can the finished work of Christ break you from your pride?
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:3-9
Why is there suffering in the world? This is a question that all Christians struggle through. And some brush it off by saying that God is good… which is true, yet it doesn’t address the issue of suffering that is very real. Others will only see the suffering as punishment by an angry God. But, what is the purpose of suffering for the Christian?
Sufferings, though they are painful, have a purpose for you as a child of God. Peter writes in v.7 “so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Sufferings are a test… but it’s not a test to see if you are worth it. No – because Christ is already your worth before God (v.3-5). But, it is a test to see the genuineness of your faith. John MacArthur calls it the “tested residue of faith.” It’s a confidence that is gained in passing the test – in persevering in the suffering.
Think about it this way: gold is very precious. Throughout history, gold has been sought after by many. People travelled far for it, died for it, killed for it, etc. And yet Peter writes that faith is even more precious. That it is so important that God chooses to refine it for you – like gold that is put in fire to burn away all its impurities, sufferings burn away your trust in other things that cannot satisfy you, fill you, or complete you… so that you can trust God.
It is the salvation of your souls that God has in mind… and He will do it… and He will refine it for His glory. And this leads us to a spiritual joy.
Maybe you know all this, but perhaps you don’t believe it. It’s just not real to you. But, that doesn’t mean that God’s truth is not true. How can you believe all this to be true – that it can impact your life? It comes down to trusting that God will do as He says. It is looking at your situation, whatever it may be, and nevertheless trusting in God’s sovereignty and God’s promises for you. And as the refining process takes place over time, you begin to feel more joy as God has kept you through it. V.5 “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
For the Christian, suffering not only forms you but gives you true joy. True joy is more than happiness from positive external events. Because if it’s just based on external events, there will be bad events too. But, John MacArthur writes, “salvation joy results from the deep-rooted confidence that one possesses eternal life from the living God through the crucified and risen Christ, which joy will be fully realized in the glory of heaven.” Even in the midst of suffering, God knows, God cares, God loves, and God is working in that suffering and through that suffering to refine you.
Not only that, but suffering is a sign of fellowship with the risen Lord. Think about it, Peter knew how Jesus had been put to grief – Christ suffered... a lot. But, because of Jesus’ suffering, you have joy. And so, suffering is not a sign that Christ has let us down but it is fellowship with the Lord.
The hope that you and I have is that if we are elect… then God’s power guards us until all is finished at the last day. That means that it’s not about how well you believe or how perfectly you believe or how well you do things… it’s about Christ’s work alone. Edmund Clowney writes, “Our deepest needs drive us to our deepest beliefs.” Our deepest need was to be saved from eternal damnation for our sins. In Jesus, we have God’s answer for that need. Christ is your living hope.
What is your understanding of suffering?
How does suffering challenge your faith? How does it encourage you that through Christ’s suffering, you gain God’s love?
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
The New Testament is quite clear that suffering is inevitable. But, how are we to view suffering? There has to be a meaning and purpose behind it, right? Even here in this verse, it states that you will have trials… but it is testing your faith… to produce steadfastness. Steadfastness then leads to you being “perfect.” Now, what does all this mean?
For the Christian, it is essential to respond rightly to trials, and the right response is “joyfully” b/c the trials are productive for the Christian. In fact, James encourages the church to “count it all joy.” What does he mean? What are the trials that we are talking about? It could be the inward temptations that we face (the indwelling sinfulness that abound in our lives) or it could be the outward situations in our lives (for the early church that James was writing to – it was poverty that arose out of persecution, persecution itself, and sickness).
But the question that comes up in this situation is why does God allow the righteous to suffer? Shouldn’t people who a loving, caring, wonderful God is taking care of be given only the blessings in life? Why the suffering? Why the trials?
James writes that the trials are meant to produce something within you… that you would lack in nothing. The trials are to produce steadfastness/perseverance. In other words, trials show you who you really are… How you handle trouble will reveal whether your faith is living or dead, genuine or an imitation, if it is growing or not.
Douglas Moo writes that the benefits of testing come only to believers who respond in the right way (joyfully, not complaining). Believers, by responding in joy are allowing endurance to do its intended work – to produce wholeness in character.
Why is this so important? And why should you even want it? Well, for one, it is proof that there is faith to begin with. If your life is becoming more and more Christ-like even through the suffering, then it is proof that you know Him. So, it gives you assurance.
Next, steadfastness leads to a life of holiness. As Matthew 5:48 says, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The word “perfect” here is the same word as in v.4. It’s a sense of completeness… that the work is done.
By perfection, I don’t mean it to be without failing or without blemish… but commentators describe it as wholeness. It’s a faith that shows spiritual maturity – it’s producing a oneness in Christ. R.V.G. Tasker writes: faith perfected basically means to have a deeper communion with God and a deeper trust in Jesus Christ – it’s qualities that produce a stable, godly, righteous character. God is at work in your life as you see how truly messed up you are and God’s grace continuing to work in your life.
Looking at your life, do you see that trials have helped you to grow in steadfastness?
What would it look like in your life to have “steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing?”
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time."
We are approaching the halfway point of Lent… and remember, Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and prayer. Lent also parallels Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness – the point being that it isn’t “to induce suffering, as if we could earn some kind of righteousness through self-denial. Our heart in Lent is simply to de-clutter our self-absorbed lives, making room to remember how our Lord suffered for us.” (Walker/Hoag)
So, what can we learn from this passage? First, notice that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness. By obeying God, Jesus was led to suffer hunger for 40 days. For what purpose? To show us Christ’s mission - to suffer on our behalf.
Now, when Jesus did not eat for 40 days and was hungry, the devil comes and starts to tempt Him… first with food, second with glory, and third with questioning who Jesus is? How does Jesus respond to all these temptations?
Through Scripture… through God’s word. If you think about it, Jesus thought more highly of God’s word than the food His body so desperately craved. Jesus was more interested with God’s plan/process than with the devil’s “get rich quick” scheme. Jesus was fully satisfied in knowing He was God’s Son rather than having to test it out.
How was Jesus able to persevere? He knew that God was infinitely better than anything that the devil could offer. Walker and Hoag write, “How often do we worship whatever promises to give us what we want now, without inconvenience or discomfort? But Jesus worships God alone, not because it is easier, but because it’s truer and far better.”
How can we know that God is truer and far better than anything else? Remember: Christ suffered for you on the cross… the ultimate pain of suffering from separation from God has been taken care of by Jesus. And not only that, but as Christ is glorified by God… so will you. 1 Peter 4:14 states that even in the suffering, even when insulted on behalf of Christ, you are “blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Brothers and sisters, God does not remove you from the storms in your lives… but God takes care of us. Even though we may not feel more at peace or more joyful during suffering… God does promise us His Spirit – the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our lives.
And with these fruit, we can begin to persevere in the fiery trials of our lives.
How important is God to your perspective on life?
What will it look like for you to live your life knowing that you are God’s child, that His will and process is better, and for you to hunger after God?
"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Think about what the psalmist must have been going through – that he would ask, “how long,” four times in this short psalm. And in the midst of our sufferings, we tend to question God’s love for us, God’s promises to us, and God’s faithfulness to His people.
The doubts here have “shaken” (v.4) David. He has sorrow in his heart… he is afraid of death. God seems so distant to David. And I wonder, have you ever felt this way? And perhaps we have… through a loved one passing away, through serious health concerns, through financial hardships, through relationship problems, etc.
Maybe we cried out like David does later in Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” But, have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus also cries out to God this line from Psalm 22? Walker/Hoag write, “Jesus suffered more than anyone has ever suffered. Even if we experienced the wrath of God against our sins, that would still not approach the degree of suffering that Jesus endured. He had never experienced sin or separation from God, yet he bore the entirety of his people’s sin on the cross. No one has ever suffered like Jesus suffered.”
And yet, we see Jesus staying on the cross. We see Jesus perfectly obedient even unto death. And so we have hope. God’s love for us is not based on our circumstances… but it is based on the work of Jesus on the cross for us. And so, suffering and despair for the Christian can lead us to dependence upon God. We see that there is suffering, but we see how God’s great and steadfast love was given to us in Jesus Christ. And so, our hearts can be like the psalmist here… we can rejoice in God’s salvation. We will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me in Jesus Christ.
Have you ever felt like God wasn’t there for you? But, what does it mean to you that Jesus suffered and stayed on the cross for you?
Here’s a prayer for us today (from The Valley of Vision): “Strengthen me against temptations. My heart is an unexhausted fountain of sin, flowing on in every pattern of behaviour. Thou hast disarmed me of the means in which I trusted, and I have no strength but in thee. Thou alone canst hold back my evil ways, but without thy grace to sustain me I fall. Keep me sensible of my weakness, and of my dependence upon thy strength. Let every trial teach me more of thy peace, more of thy love. Thy Holy Spirit is given to increase thy graces, and I cannot preserve or improve them unless he works continually in me. May he confirm my trust in thy promised help, and let me walk humbly in dependence upon thee, for Jesus’s sake.” Amen.
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
1 Peter 2:21-24
Christians are called to a life of suffering. But, it is not your fate. Think about it this way: Jesus is the King of Kings… nothing changes that… even though He suffered… even though “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” (v.22-23)
Now, if anyone is completely justified in complaining about unfair treatment, it’s Jesus. He was perfect… yet He was crucified. But, what does Peter say that Jesus did? He entrusted Himself to God, who judges justly. And the purpose was: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (v.24)
Now, because you have been “healed” of your sins, you have been adopted as children of God. You are not inferior to anyone! You have been called to a much higher calling than anything on earth. And so, suffering for the Christian is not the end result… it is a privilege that you are called to. Peter adds in 1 Peter 2:15 “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
Even in the suffering, we submit to Christ as Lord in our lives. We obey Him as we do good (as we submit to those who may put us down) and by doing this, we show others who our God is. It is us declaring that we have absolute confidence in a God who judges justly… who is our hope in the days to come… and that’s when we can begin to show honor to others.
Only when you realize what Christ gave up for you and suffered for you, can you begin to see that even the suffering is an act of God’s grace in your life. Through your response to unjust suffering, God still works… for your good (burning away the dross in your life to reveal the preciousness of your faith) and God works through you: for you to be a witness to others of who He is.
How does the cross challenge your view of suffering?
How does the work of Jesus on the cross move you beyond the suffering to service?
"To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
We now come to the end of our third week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? As we get closer and closer to Good Friday, how has the Lenten season been challenging you to look to Christ?
As I was writing this devotional, it dawned on me that there have been times this Lenten season, where I have looked back longingly at where I had been in my spiritual journey. You see, as I struggle with growing in Christ-likeness, especially when it concerns giving up my selfish desires and letting go of “my will”, I find myself thinking of when I was oblivious (or didn’t care) to this sin in my life. It was definitely more peaceful then than it is now. It’s harder now because I am aware that I have those sinful desires, but I still fall to those sinful desires, and want to stop but it is too powerful for me to beat on my own. And it feels like suffering.
I’m sure it’s not just me that thinks this way… the Israelites did it too (when they looked back at what they had in Egypt while in the wilderness), and I’m sure we all do it too. But, why do we look back when we suffer? I think we forget that suffering is actually a gift from God. Yeah, I know that sounds weird… and sometimes, you want to give this gift back and say, “no thank you, God.” But, it is a gift because through it, we become more aware of His presence in our lives. We become more aware of how much we need to depend on Him.
Look at this passage: both people want to look back (to bury their dead, to say farewell) instead of forward to the kingdom of God. And on the surface, it doesn’t seem like they are asking for much. But, it reveals an attitude that looks back at what they have rather than what is to come as a disciple of Christ. Perhaps there was a lack of commitment… a lack of faith, perhaps… because they didn’t know what was going to happen when they fully commit to Christ (especially since in the previous verse, Jesus told someone else that He had no place to lay His head). Maybe, for some of us, we know that the path for Christians is through suffering and we don’t want any of that. But, what if suffering was looked at as a gift? Perhaps, it would change our minds to fully commit to Christ.
Walker/Hoag write, “Ultimately, suffering is about learning to receive whatever God has placed in our hands as his goodness for us today. For Jesus, the journey to the cross was a gift. Gethsemane and Golgotha were gifts. They were not easy gifts to receive, which is why he had to say, “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36), and why he taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10), because if we are not looking for God’s kingdom come, we will always be looking back for our kingdom gone.”
When do you find yourself looking back at the past?
How can you move forward in faith, even in suffering?
With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
2 I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
3 When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
5 I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
Growing up in the church, it always felt like you always had to be “happy.” Or you were not to show any weakness either. Sadness was looked upon as a weak faith… “why are you sad, when you have God?”
But, if you read through the Scriptures, we see a different picture. We see people like Job, David, Jeremiah not just being sad, but lamenting. Jesus too. So, I think it would benefit us today to think together about what lament really is.
What does it mean to lament? It’s not about just crying or being sad. Lamenting is not about just venting your frustrations out. Lamenting is about casting your anxieties upon Him… it’s turning to God in trust. In fact, lament is a form of prayer… it’s worshiping God by trusting Him – His goodness, His faithfulness, His promises.
Walker/Hoag write, “anyone can complain; Christians can lament. They can talk to God about their condition and ask him to change things because they have a relationship with him. To lament is to be utterly honest with God because we trust him. Biblical lament affirms that suffering is real and spiritually significant, but not hopeless.”
If we put all the things that we’ve talked about these past 23 days together, it looks like this: we have fallen short of God’s glory, we need to repent (definitely from our lack of humility), and though we suffer and have cause to lament… ultimately, we cast our anxieties on Him. We do this because He has already done the hardest part… Jesus went to the cross and bore our sins and rose again.
If God was willing to save us when we were enemies, how much more will He still be with us, providing for us, taking care of us, and loving us, now that we are His children?
The psalmist has confidence to cry out to the Lord here in this passage because only God can save. Though his enemies are greater, God is even greater and can and does rescue His people. So, cry out to the Lord today.
What causes anxieties in your life right now? How do you respond to your anxieties?
What would it look like to lament before God? How is this different than mere complaining?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
Yesterday, we described lament as a prayer - a prayer where we cast our anxieties on God. And, if you want a classic lament, here you go, Psalm 22. I can’t even begin to imagine what David was going though when he wrote those first 2 verses… Why God? Why have you forsaken me? Why don’t you hear my cries?
But, I think the key word here is in v.3, “yet.” Though I don’t hear anything from you, YET you are holy. Yet, you are God. Where does David get his affirmation, even in the midst of lamenting? V.4 – our fathers trusted, and you delivered. God has never let them down. They cried and were rescued. They trusted and they were not put to shame. God has always kept His promises. God has always been faithful.
I read this in a devotional recently, “That history of salvation is so important for us to know and remember as New Testament Christians! God has never displayed unfaithfulness; He has never failed to keep his promises. When He seems silent, or absent, or uncaring, He is still working out His perfectly wise and loving plan to provide richest blessings for His children. Though many will mock or disdain or belittle us (vv6-8) for living by faith, in spite of the circumstances of life, God is still to be trusted as Rescuer (v8a), Deliverer (v8b), Creator (vv9-10), and Helper (v11).”
When we remember that Jesus Himself utters the beginning of this psalm, it puts our lives into the right perspective – I am deserving of wrath, but by God’s grace, Jesus became the “worm” that was trodden on the ground. Jesus was scorned and mocked. Jesus trusted in God… yet He was forsaken, so that we could be delivered from our sins… that we could be given His life.
What thoughts go through your head as you read this psalm? Have you ever felt abandoned by God?
What does it mean to you that Jesus was forsaken so that you could be delivered? How does that put your life into perspective today?
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
The Book of Lamentations is a series of five poems – that show the grief and pain of a person who weeps for his city. Though the city deserves punishment due to their sins, the prophet still weeps for the plight of his city.
Do you ever feel this way? For where you live? For the people in your neighborhood? For those around you that do not know Christ? Do you see the injustice in the world? Do you see the crime and the hurt, the evil and the sadness in this fallen world? And do you weep for them?
So, Christian, what are you to do about it? Since, we can’t even save ourselves. We are all deserving of God’s wrath… and He is perfectly justified to judge us. And yet, even in the midst of all this sin and judgment and destruction, the writer of Lamentations finds an even greater hope – the steadfast love of God: His mercies that are new every morning, His great faithfulness.
And though we may go through times where it seems that God isn’t near us, or isn’t listening to us… we can wait quietly for the Lord. And verses 31-33 give us hope to wait. God may discipline us, but He does not cast us out… He will have compassion on us. He does not afflict us or grieve us out of spite, but He is raising us up as His children.
So, what would it look like for us to wait patiently as God’s children? As children of this God, how can we be witnesses in this world through what we do? How can we be instruments used by God to show grace in this world?
We need to lift up our prayers for our “city” – those around us who are hurting and sometimes don’t even know it. Pray for the peace of Christ to fill us, as we wait quietly and patiently for Him… that we may be God’s instruments in the world, to share His peace with everyone.
Have you grown numb to the evil/hurt/pain in the world? Do you lament over it?
What are you going to do about it in Christ? How can you respond while waiting for the Lord?
The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim,
18 for Mount Zion which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it.
19 But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.
20 Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
Lamentations ends with the prophet asking God to remember them… to remember what had happened to His people – the suffering that happened: homes taken away, they’ve become orphans and widows, economic hardships, they fight for food, women are being raped, leaders have been removed, young men and boys struggle for a living, there is no joy anymore, and their city is in ruins.
Could you imagine seeing all of this as a prophet of God? He was serving God and at the same time also loved his people – a people who had fallen so far from God and were in ruin. Imagine the anguish in the prophet’s heart. And yet, Lamentations ends with the plea for God to restore them.
How can God restore them? How can God restore us – a people who’ve fallen so far from God? Look at the world… and the destructiveness of sin everywhere. And yet, this passage ultimately points us to the fact that our hope is only in the God who can restore. Walker/Haug write, “When Jesus stood in that awful gap between God and his people, the curtain of the temple was torn asunder. The presence and power of God was made available to all who would come in faith. Their mourning would be turned into laughing.”
Jesus was fully committed to God and obedient. And He loved His people who had fallen so far from God. And so, He goes to the cross. And because of the work of Jesus, we have hope that God has not “utterly rejected us” nor will He “remain exceedingly angry with us.” Instead, He offers grace.
Hebrews 10:19-22 states, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
What do you plea for? Is it just for you or is it for the plight of the world?
Let us pray – “O Lord, we confess our hands are not clean, our hearts are not pure. Forgive our capricious discipleship and keep our faith constant, O Lord. Lead us always to a deeper experience of your love. Enliven us by the familiar, but always new, story of shame and triumph, suffering and hope, that this Lenten journey reveals. Mold us to the ways of the Servant whose life we honor. In the name of Christ, our Lord, Amen.” (The Worship Sourcebook)
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God.
Michael Card, in a talk called Bringing Our Pain to God, states, “We’re afraid of other people’s pain. Like Job’s friends, we’re afraid when we don’t have answers. Job doesn’t get any answers for his sufferings, but he gets God.” Like we talked about earlier this week, we don’t really talk about pain/sorrow/suffering in the church.
But, wasn’t Jesus described as “a Man of Sorrows?” Perhaps we don’t talk about pain/sorrow/suffering because we want to avoid anything that makes the life of faith seem harder. We sort of live with an “ignorance is bliss” attitude towards sorrow. Eugene Peterson writes, “They want to avoid evidence that things are not right with the world as it is – without Jesus, without love, without faith, without sacrifice. It is a lot easier to keep the American faith if they don’t have to look into the face of suffering, if they don’t have to listen to our laments, if they don’t have to deal with our tears.”
Now, read this psalm again. Verse 3, “My tears have been my food day and night.” What a way to describe the depths of pain that the psalmist was going through. Think about the mockery – “where is your God?” The psalmist “pours out his soul.” The psalmist cries out to God… that he wants to seek after God how a deer pants for water… that God is the only One who can satisfy his deep need.
As a Christian, you have to realize that the world is fallen… there is pain and suffering because of the Fall. Walker/Haug write, “You need to enter the pain of the world around you because the Fall is your reality.” And if this is the case, surely we are not always ok… neither are those around us.
The problem is, if we don’t talk about the pain/suffering, we are just masking the reality of life. There is a problem… but there’s also a solution… and His name is Jesus.
Perhaps during this Lenten season, as we give up more of ourselves and look to Christ, maybe we can also take the time to ask ourselves what we complain about and turn those into prayers of lament. Remember, lamenting is about casting your anxieties upon Him… it’s turning to God in trust… trusting His goodness, His faithfulness, His promises.
The easiest way to live our lives is to assume that everyone is ok. But, what would it look like to see that we are all struggling because of the Fall?
How can you empathize with those around you today?
Does your soul thirst for God? Why not?
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
We now come to the end of our fourth week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? As we get closer and closer to Good Friday, how has the Lenten season been challenging you to look to Christ?
What a scary thought… to be cast away from God’s presence. And sometimes, it feels as if God has cast us away because of the struggles that we face. But at the same time, lament should lead us back to Jesus because He was God’s answer to all the laments of His people.
God would give His people a clean heart… and give us His Spirit. He would give us joy through saving us and calling us in. Now, how come we don’t see this? Think about the people who saw Jesus. They still rejected Him in spite of all the miracles and His teaching. Why? The Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, the people… and even the disciples wanted their version of the Messiah. They wanted the conquering king, they wanted the ruler, they wanted strength and power.
Yet, what we see is Jesus giving us Himself. He would go to the place of lament. He would cry out to the Father and be denied… the Father would take His presence away from Him... that through Jesus, we would be given the Holy Spirit to indwell within us.
And though we may go through times of suffering… though it lead us to cry out to God. We are secure in the knowledge that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Walker/Haug, “Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God.” Because of Jesus, be satisfied in the presence of God in your life this day.
Jesus suffered much on the cross. But, He did it for you. How does this shape the way you look at your current situation?
How can God’s presence be more satisfying to you today?
Theme of Week: Sacrifice
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Genesis 3:6-13, 21
We go back to the beginning today… with Adam and Eve’s sin before God. They sin, they disobey God… and the result is that their eyes were opened, “and they knew that they were naked.” Sin exposed them for all to see… and it was not good.
And Adam and Eve do what humanity has been doing ever since… they try to cover themselves up. Adam and Eve sew together some leaves to cover themselves. But, think about it: don’t we do the same? We use our achievements, our families, our children, our parents, our wealth, our looks to try to cover up the fact that we have fallen short… that before a Holy God, we fall way, way short. We are sinners.
But even here, after the Fall, God provides clues of what He will do out of His grace. Someone will become a substitute for sins. Here, in v.21, it is innocent animals that die so that God could fashion clothes for Adam and Eve. Think about it… innocent animals, that had nothing to do with Adam and Eve, die. Ultimately, Christ, the Maker, will die for the creature’s sin. Walker/Hoag put it this way, “Covering sin is costly, painful… bloody. Sin produces suffering and death, so the cost of covering sin involves suffering and death. It involves sacrifice.”
Remember, a while back, I shared about how God cannot just forgive sin because He is just. Because God is just, He gives us a substitute to take on the price of our sins. You see, God knew that sin had entered the world and clothes made from leaves wouldn’t be enough for Adam and Eve… and so He gives them something better. For us, the things we put up to cover ourselves is not enough to mask our sins… and so God gives us His Son: the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross happens so that we may be covered in Christ’s righteousness.
This is the hope for us today – that it’s not about how good I can make myself look, but that Christ makes me good.
Why do you feel the need to cover yourself up? What are some things you use to cover yourself up?
What does it mean to you that you are covered in Jesus’ righteousness? How does this change the way you look at your fallen-ness? How you look at God’s grace?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are talking about sacrifice this week. And so, the question is: why did God have to sacrifice Jesus? Couldn’t God just forgive sins and be done? No… because that’s not who God is.
If God is just, God can’t just forgive. If God is holy, He can’t turn a blind eye to the injustices that were done. Think about it: if someone crashed into your brand new car and refused to pay for fixing it, how would you feel? If you take them to court and the judge says, “look, they were just having a bad day, let’s give them a break” and dismissed the case, how would you feel? I bet you’d be screaming for justice to be done. No… justice is not free… redemption is not free… reconciliation is not free.
This passage talks about the fact that the wages of the sins in your life is death. Death is the punishment for sin. Sin is that serious. And yet, God gives eternal life through Jesus. There is redemption.
Redemption basically means that someone will pay to buy back something. Think about that for a moment… the price that was paid for your sins was the Son of God on the cross. To save you, to reconcile with you, to redeem you, God paid a price. Think about the injustice on Christ – who did nothing wrong, who obeyed the Father completely, who gave up everything… and was killed like a sinner, and for sinners, who didn’t deserve it. This is sacrifice… this is love.
Think about it this way: even in human relationships, there is a sacrifice that is made for reconciliation to happen. The person who did the wrong has to sacrifice their pride and say sorry. There is a giving up of something in order to continue the relationship. The person who was wronged also has to lay down their pain to forgive. There is a cost.
But God moves first in this relationship. He gives us His Son on the cross first. What is your response to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? Does the grace of God melt your stubborn and prideful heart to confession and repentance?
We received God’s grace and it is free to us because Jesus bore the price upon His body. The hope and comfort we have today is that the price has been paid already and it is complete… and it leads us to worship our Savior.
How do you respond to God’s grace in your life?
Spend some time today reflecting on what it means to come before God in repentance because Christ has already paid the wages of your sin
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
“Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Famous last words, right? How quickly Peter falls away from Christ. How fickle our faith, especially when facing times of struggle and suffering. And perhaps, this is why we sometimes have trouble with promises. Since we can’t keep our promises… we question whether God will keep His promise.
We all know this famous passage, the institution of the Lord’s Supper. We’ve heard the words, we know what it means. And yet, we go about life not really fulfilled or satisfied by it. Though Christ offers us a covenant, though Christ offers up His body as a sacrifice for us, there are times when we do not trust in God’s promises to us.
There’s a passage in the Old Testament (in Genesis 15) where God makes a covenant with Abram. And Abram is wondering how God will keep the promise for he had no child. And God tells Abram to take a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Abram is to cut them in half and to lay each half over against the other. Then, God puts Abram in a deep sleep and a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces.
In ancient times, this was used to mark a covenant. It was this: that whoever broke the covenant (failed to keep the promise) would suffer like the animals – to be cut in half. But, Abram never enters the rows of animals… only God does. God was not only making the covenant, He was also saying that He knows Abraham and his descendants would fail to keep it… but God would pay the price.
Christ would become torn apart from the Father. He would become the sacrifice to keep God’s promise to His people. And that is why we can trust God’s promises to be kept… not on our works, but on Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Our word is not secure at all… but God’s word is completely secure.
Are God’s promises hard for you to accept? Why or why not?
How does Jesus’ work on the cross reassure you of God’s presence in your life… that He is faithful?
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Some read this passage and think, “how can God be so cruel to ask this of Abraham?” And I won’t lie… this is a difficult passage to read as a parent. But, as always, there is more to this passage than the initial shock of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son.
Think about it this way: this “test” involved Abraham’s most precious son… who he waited a long time for. But, this child was also the one that God’s promise was to be fulfilled through. How can God promise to bless through Isaac and then have him sacrificed? But, the bigger question is this: are you willing to obey God even if it seems like God wasn’t going to honor His promise to you?
Look at Abraham’s faith. In v.5, he says that the boy and he will go and worship and come back… we will come back. In v.8, Abraham responds to Isaac’s query, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” The writer of Hebrews writes this, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
And so, God calls Abraham to the very edge of obedience… Isaac is bound, laid on the altar, he raised his knife… and it was just about to descend, when God calls him to stop. But, a sacrifice still happens… but it’s not Isaac, it’s a ram that God provides. God provides something else to take Isaac’s place. Ultimately, Isaac is spared because the true lamb of God would be sacrificed.
The area around Mount Moriah would become the Jerusalem area later on… where Christ would be given as a sacrifice for the world. Jesus would go up the hill (like Isaac), carrying the cross (like Isaac took up the wood for his sacrifice). Jesus allowed Himself to be bound to the cross (like Isaac who was laid on top of the altar) and remained silent (like Isaac). Jesus, like Isaac, looked up and saw His Father’s hand, poised to strike… but unlike Isaac, there would be no last minute substitution… for He was the sacrificial lamb.
If it’s difficult for parents to read this passage because of what Abraham was asked to do, think about what God was going through. Can you begin to understand God’s heart as He looked down at His beloved Son, in pain on the cross, crying out for help… and having to turn His face away?
God proves to us His love for us. We have a God who knows the pain of loss… and this God promises that He will be with us always. You can trust His promises because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Praise Him today!
What is your response to this great sacrifice?
What would it look like to give to God your everything?
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
What do you sacrifice? Why do you sacrifice?
When we “sacrifice” our time for others, or our resources for others, it can make us feel good about ourselves… it can even make us a little bit self-righteous. Perhaps, we even feel better about standing before God because of the sacrifices that we’ve made.
But, is that what God desires? King David writes this psalm after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah… and is rebuked by Nathan the prophet. And yet, listen to his words… “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.”
Think about it, how can his sacrifice atone for adultery? For murder? Think about it this way: if everything belongs to God already… is sacrificing something to God really a sacrifice? It’s His already, no? So you’re giving Him what He already owns… but it’s not even the full thing… it’s only partial… or 10% (makes you rethink offering, huh? It’s really stewardship and not sacrifice to give offering to God).
David’s sacrifice isn’t some object to give to God… it’s himself. Look at what David brings… it is a broken spirit… a broken and contrite heart. Like we talked about this past Sunday, it’s confession – acknowledging his wrongdoing before God.
Why do we not confess before God? Maybe we don’t want to admit our brokenness… maybe we don’t want to admit that there is something we cannot do. Perhaps we view confession as a chore to do before God.
But, confession is a saving grace. Confession glorifies God because it restores reality – that we are fallen and that God is the ultimate authority and we have sinned against Him. As someone I knew once said: “Confession restores the alternative reality we have constructed where we are King. Thus the only way to break free from this prison is daily confession.”
The blood of bulls and goats will never fully cleanse his sins… only God can cleanse sins completely (earlier in this psalm, verses 9-10). God gives us His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice to cleanse our sins. Find rest in His finished work for you. Be bold in confessing your sins before God.
Why do you make sacrifices? What do you hope to gain from your sacrifice?
What would it take for you to come to God with a broken and contrite heart?
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
We now come to the end of our fifth week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? As we get closer and closer to Good Friday (next week), how has the Lenten season been challenging you to look to Christ?
All week, we’ve been talking about sacrifice. And so, what does it look like to sacrifice yourself - to put to death selfish ambition, your will to be done, your desire to be in control of your life, your desire for comfort, etc?
Personal growth for the Christian is a sacrifice. Though we cannot atone for our sins (because Jesus already died for them), the fleshly desires cannot coexist with the Spirit that God has given us. And so, we must (in Jesus Christ) crucify “the flesh with its passions and desires.” Therefore, this is how we are to live: not according to our desires, but according to the will of God.
The problem is: “The norm in our culture is to sacrifice whatever we have to get what we want. The way of true sanctification is to sacrifice everything we want because of what we already have in Christ. This is the heart of Lent.” (Walker/Haug)
How can we do this? Paul writes in Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” You can’t on your own… but God defeated the sin in your life and He is the One who gives you life.
As we go into Holy Week, let us test our desires and habits to see if they are sins against God and we have just accepted them as norms in our lives. Or is it the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) slowly, but surely, growing in us.
What desires/habits in your life are preventing you from growing in Christ-likeness?
How can you still do those things knowing that Christ has crucified those things with Him on the cross?
What would it look like to sacrifice those things to Christ?
Theme of Week: Death
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
There is nothing as scary and finite as death. Perhaps that’s why Peter was adamant in his denial of Christ. Maybe Peter was afraid of all that he could possibly lose if he admitted to being a disciple of Jesus. Funny right? Earlier that night, Peter had emphatically stated, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
What if Jesus had decided that He wasn’t going to die? Why should He die for people who don’t deserve forgiveness and salvation? But, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) His death would bring life… it would give you life.
Walker/Haug write, “When the seed of God – Jesus – fell into the ground and died, he gave birth to our redemption and granted us newness of life in him… When you truly grasp the death of Jesus, when the truth and beauty of all that Jesus gave up for you sinks into your life, you will joyfully give up all you have and are to follow him.”
So, as one who trusts in the finished work of Jesus, what must you die to? It is the old self that must continue to die daily… our pride, our self-centeredness, our own justification… and we pick up our cross and follow Him.
If we fear losing everything… even our lives, what does it say about where you place your trust? It’s not on Him, who promises to be with you forever, but on something else. But, what would it look like to trust that as we die to ourselves, we get more of Christ – enjoying Him forever.
What are some areas of your life where you are unwilling to “die?”
How does the weight of what Jesus has done for you change your heart to give up everything and to trust His word?
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Walker/Haug write in their book, “Lent is hard because we do not want to die.” We forget, but Lent ultimately ends up at the cross. For close to six weeks now, we’ve been journeying towards the cross… that’s where everything has been building up to. But, how will we react on Good Friday?
For most of our lives, we act like the crowds here. We want “Barabbas,” and not Jesus. We want insurrection (just like Barabbas)… but our insurrection is against God. We want to be the king, we want control, we want our will to be done.
But, Lent reminds us that the true King was crucified so that the murderer, the insurrectionist, can go free. What’s even more amazing is that the murderer (us) is brought in as a Prince… adopted as a son. What craziness! And yet, we keep living lives as if we are still that murderer, that insurrectionist. We don’t realize that we are sons and daughters of the King.
Galatians 5:1 states, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We have been set free from sin and condemnation, yet we live as if we are still under sin’s control. But, remember, sin can’t be beaten by you… ever. But, Jesus beat sin on your behalf. And if He did this for you when you didn’t deserve it, now that you are family, will He not continue to keep you from sin?
So today, pray for help. Repent of your need to be king in your life… and turn all control to Him. God’s grace IS more powerful than the sin in your life. Believe Him. Trust Him. Live free!
Do you try to defeat sin on your own? Why?
What will it look like for you to trust in Jesus’ work on the cross… to live freely because of the cross? To not fear condemnation, but rejoicing that Jesus has set you free?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
We’ve been talking about death the past 2 days. But, I wonder how many of us feel comfortable talking about death. I think we feel uncomfortable with death because we view it as the end. It is the end of our time on earth. It is the end of our relationships with loved ones. And it is scary to think about.
But for the Christian, death is not the end. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are given eternal life in Jesus Christ. He has won the victory over death.
And so, what death confronts us with is where we place our treasure… where do we place our importance in this life? Is it on earth where “moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” or in heaven? Walker/Haug write, “A life well lived is one that treasures Christ above all. Meditating on the impending nature and finality of death is necessary because it helps us to examine what we are treasuring.” What are we treasuring now?
At the end of this passage, Jesus tells us that we can’t serve two masters… we can only serve one. Who do you serve? Is it Jesus – who gives you your identity as a child of God? Is it Jesus – who gives you your worth as precious in God’s eyes? Is He the treasure of greatest price in your life?
As we finish up this Lenten season, really ask yourself - do you believe what God has done for you? That though you have sinned and deserve God’s wrath, God so loved you and gave you His Son, who died on the cross in your place. And because of the work of Jesus, death no longer has claim on you… death is not the end... you are given eternal life as a citizen of heaven.
So, what are you treasuring this day?
Where do you put your “treasures?” Is it for earth or is it in heaven?
What would it mean for you to treasure Christ above all? Let’s begin today with repentance before God – repenting of treasuring other things instead of Jesus.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Today is Maundy Thursday. Interestingly, the word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, which means commandment.
This is the day, before Good Friday, when Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper together. And in the Gospel of John, Maundy Thursday is when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, says that one of them would betray Him (then Judas leaves), then Jesus give them this new commandment – to love one another.
Before the event of the cross, Jesus is reminding His disciples of what it means to love. If you look at the Gospel of John, from this point onwards to before the trial, Jesus mentions that loving Him means that you keep His commandments (5 times). In the same section, Jesus commands us to love one another as He has loved us (5 times). What is Jesus saying? Put both statements together and you get: our love for Jesus is expressed in how we love others.
How do you love others? Sometimes it’s easy… especially if the other person does everything to please you. Most times, however, it’s super hard because there’s no benefit to you. At the end of the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells Peter to feed/tend His lambs… what benefit is there to Peter? You feed a cat or dog, they come to you, they welcome you when you come home, and they wag their tails or purr. Lambs do none of that. There is no actual benefit. And yet, that’s the command… to love… even when it costs you everything and you gain nothing.
How can we possibly hope to obey this command? We remember first how much God loved us.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Christ gave up His life to give us new life. In order for us to love Christ (and love others), we must also die to ourselves (our selfish desires, our self-centeredness, etc). And we can only do so when we know that Christ has, is, and always will love us.
What about Christ’s love for you is not real to you today? Why?
How does seeing the cross as a symbol of God’s love for you challenge your selfishness, self-centeredness, idolatry?
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
On that first Good Friday, for the disciples, there was nothing good about that day. For them, it was the darkest of days.
Think about what had happened up to this point – On Palm Sunday, the crowds cheered Him. Five days later, they shouted, “crucify Him!” Those that followed Jesus, the ones who pledged their loyalty even unto death, ran for their lives. Those that stayed watched in horror as Jesus was mocked and spat on, beaten and whipped, went through a mockery of a trial, watched as Jesus dragged the cross to Golgotha, watched as the nails pounded into His flesh, while the crowd jeered and mocked Him.
On that first Good Friday, it seemed as if darkness had won. The King was crucified. The King was forsaken by the Father. Darkness covered the land. The temple was desecrated – the curtain of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple is ripped in two from top to bottom. The earth shook violently.
But, God did not desert His people on that day. Though we deserved God’s full wrath on our sins, we were spared when Jesus went to the cross on our behalf. The disciples couldn’t see what was coming on Easter morning… but we see it because Jesus stayed on the cross for us. And so, for us it is Good Friday.
Walker/Haug write, “The events of Good Friday are the ultimate paradox – at once atrocious and wonderful, scandalous and beautiful, the worst kind of hate and the best kind of love. On this day we were convicted and pardoned, condemned and freed, cursed and blessed.”
But, Good Friday is not the end… Easter is coming.
Think about what the disciples must have been thinking on this day… their ideas/hopes dashed, fear over what was going on.
Read and reflect on Isaiah 53:1-6, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
We are finally at the end of the Lent season. Congratulations! You made it… actually not quite yet. Easter is still coming… tomorrow will be a joyous celebration of what God has done for us. But, what about today as we wait?
In a ways, this reminds me of the “already, but not yet” tension of the Christian life. We are saved because Jesus came and died and rose again. Yet, we are waiting for our King to come again – to bring us home in His Kingdom… “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
We are waiting for that day to arrive… and we are to walk in faith in Christ. How can we? Think about it this way: God has done what He has promised up to this point… and so we know that He will fulfill all His future promises too. That is our security, that is our hope… God is faithful to the promises He has made to His people. So let us walk, not by sight or by feelings or by what we think… let us walk forward, trusting the One who is faithful.
And so, as we wait for the joy of Easter tomorrow, let us prepare our hearts… let us pray together: “Almighty God, in raising Jesus from the grave, you shattered the power of sin and death. We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear, bound by the ways that lead to death. We confess that we who died to sin still continue to sin. We confess that we have not bowed before Jesus or acknowledged his rule in our lives. We have gone along with the way of the world and failed to give him glory. Forgive us and raise us from sin, that we may be your faithful people, obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, who rules the world and is head of the church, his body. Amen.” (The Worship Sourcebook, 638)
God Bless You All!
* Special thanks to Will Walker and Kendal Haug for their inspiration through their book Journey to the Cross.
In response to Isaiah 58, we want our fasting to not just be about refraining in certain practices, but to also be generous and to “feast” in the practice of giving and serving. This year, we will be giving towards our partner ministry, the UNIQUE Learning Center - towards funding their summer camp for the kids.