Posts Tagged With: Jesus

Because Freedom Comes When We Burn The IOU

 

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“What is it, Lord?”

There’s been this battle off and on over the years. Sometimes it seems gone, then it wells up, wild again, snagging my stability and dragging me down into the mire to wallow … then drown in my own self-pity. And it’s ugly.

You think I’m exaggerating? That’s how it feels, right? When something slide-tackles us we go from sure-footed faith to flat on our backs in one fell swoop.

It was this that I was hashing out with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His perspective, my sin, what the root was–you know, all that ugly heart stuff that has to be worked out.

His answer: Burn the IOU.

Oh … that.

Just the day before I had read Matthew 18. Here Jesus tells the story of the master who forgives his servant a massive debt, equal in today’s wages to about eight million dollars. That’s a big debt! So after this debtor has been forgiven this insane amount, he goes and finds someone who owes him a pittance (relative to the other debt it’d be equivalent to about thirteen-thousand dollars) and …

… seizing him, he began to choke him saying, “Pay what you owe.” (Matthew 18:28)

This picture is etched in my mind whenever I think about forgiveness. Whenever we hold a grudge against someone, it’s like we are seizing them and choking them, saying with our hearts and attitudes, “Pay what you owe!”

Whenever we hold on to unforgiveness, we are that man, seizing and choking those around us because we can’t just let it go.

Forgiveness burns the IOU.

Whatever it is that someone owes you, forgiveness takes their IOU and sets it on fire. Burns it. Destroys it. Lets the person go free.

But here’s the thing, sometimes we’re the ones who wrote the IOU.

What I mean is, sometimes that person doesn’t even know they are “indebted” to us. So often we have expectations of others, what they “should” give us, what we expect from them, what we want from them, and then when they inevitably fail us and don’t deliver the goods that we expected (love, acceptance, kindness) we write ourselves an IOU and clutch it, white-knuckled, holding onto that grimy, tattered IOU because we think they owe us that love, that acceptance, the kindness.

The picture isn’t pretty, is it? I don’t want to go through life clutching onto an old ratty, wadded up IOU, inwardly demanding that person pay me my due.

BURN THE IOU.

As long as I think that another person owes me acceptance and love, I’ll be miserably clutching that IOU.

But freedom comes when we burn it, release the debt, let that person free and we will find …

That we are free as well!

Jesus says some wild things about forgiveness, friends. We do well to take them to heart and consider any way we are clutching old IOUs. Chances are, we wrote them ourselves.

Jesus clutches no IOUs.He paid our debt with His blood when He said, “It is finished.” Paid in full.  More than eight-million dollars, a lifetime of debt, more than could ever be paid. He did this for us.

I don’t need to seize, choke, demand. I can forgive, let go …

And burn the IOU.

 

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“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15).

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Christmas Is For You Too

 

Christmas has become so complex, so chaotic, so confusing with all the stuff that the reality of the simplicity of the birth of Christ has been blended into the fantasy and lost its significance.

Christmas should be simple, not complex, but very simple. Christmas should be stripped of all of its trappings so that all that is left is the simplicity of God becoming man. That is the only element in the Christmas seasonal celebration that has in it any lasting power to effect life.

There’s no lasting value in any earthly gift or any earthly sentiment expressed. The tree always dies. There is no power in Santa Claus. There’s no power in lights, pretty wrappings or shiny bows.

But what is it about Christ that gives this hope? What is it about Christ that gives us joy in deep sadness? What is it about Christ that provides comfort in loneliness? What is it about Christ that gives peace in fear? One simple look at the birth of the Son of God should tell us the answer to that question.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” Matthew 1:21-23.

Luke 2:11 says He would “be born a Savior.” Mark 10:45 says the Son of Man has come to save. That is a glorious reality. The apostle Paul, writing in Ephesians 1:7, says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Now the implication here is that men are sinners and that sin is a damning reality from which man needs to be saved or delivered or rescued. And Jesus came into the world to save you from your sins.

In what sense?  To save you from the ultimate consequence of your sins, namely eternal damnation. To save you, as well, from even the present domination of your sin. But primarily and ultimately, He came to save you in the sense that He delivers you and He delivers me and He delivers all who believe in Him from the ultimate damnation that sin requires.

You see, He was a child born to provide forgiveness for sins. Israel’s great holy day is called the day of atonement. Annually, the ancient Jews celebrated that one day in which a great offering was given for all the sins of all the people through the previous year.

And on that day, according to Leviticus chapter 16, the high priests would select two sacrificial goats. One of those goats was killed, slaughtered, and His blood was splattered all over the altar as a sacrifice for sin. As a symbol of the need for death with regard to sin.

But the other animal was not killed. The high priest would go to the other goat and put His hands on that goat, symbolically transferring the sins of all the people onto that goat, and then that goat was taken into the wilderness so far away that it could never find its way back or be seen again. Symbolically, God ordained that simple and graphic ceremony to show that where there was a sacrifice for sins, there was a removal of sin so that they would never, ever be brought to attention again.

Now that goat that was slaughtered couldn’t really pay the price. It could only symbolize the one who could. And that goat that carried sin out into the wilderness symbolically couldn’t really carry away sin, but it symbolized the one who could. And it didn’t take two; it only took one, Jesus, who both gave the sacrifice for sin and carried our sins away.

In fact, the word “to forgive,” means “to send away, to dismiss.” It is used in legal terminology to refer to canceling a debt or granting a pardon. So through His death on the cross, Jesus took the sins of all of us on Himself and died our death as a blood sacrifice for our sins, and then carried them away an infinite distance from where they will never return again.

The Bible speaks of this.  In Psalm 103:12 it says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression from us.” How far is the east from the west? That’s infinite.

This was a child born to take away sin. To pay the price for our sin so we don’t have to pay that price. That is why Paul says, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. No judgment to us. Why? Because the judgment fell on Christ. He will save His people from their sins.

And He has done that. He paid the price. He died the death that we would have had to die and He carried our sins so far away even God will never again consider their existence. Just because of who He is, just for His own purpose, just for His own glory, He forgave all your sins.

What a blessed reality that Jesus Christ came into the world to forgive sin. That doesn’t mean that we don’t commit sin. We do. And that doesn’t mean that sin won’t have harmful effects in this life. Because it does. What it does mean is we will never pay the ultimate penalty for sin. It’s been paid. We will never die eternally. We will never spend a moment in hell. We will go from this life into heaven.

At Christmas when you see the Child, see who He is. Immanuel, God with us. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He was tired. He slept. He learned. He was glad. He was sad. He was angry. He was grieved. He was troubled. He was disappointed. He was tearful. He was overcome by the prospect of future events. He exercised faith. He read the Scripture. He prayed. He sighed with an aching heart. He felt everything. You say your life is in danger? His was always in danger. You say you’ve been mistreated and misjudged?  So was He.

And as you look at that little baby in the manger, that is the Christmas reality. What a child! Jesus, He saves His people from their sins. Immanuel, He is God with us. Sympathetic high priest. Able to understand and to aid us.

His name is not Jesus, Immanuel, King, Christ because He’s our example. His name is not Jesus, Immanuel, King, Christ because He’s our teacher. His name is not Jesus, Immanuel, King, Christ because He is our guide. His name is not Jesus, Immanuel, King, Christ because He’s our friend. He is all of that, but His name is Jesus because He saves us from our sins. His name is Immanuel because He is our sympathizing strengthener. He is God with us. His name is King because He’s our sovereign and the sovereign of the universe. And His name is Christ because He is the source of our life.

Listen, no matter what deprivation a man or a woman might experience, no matter how lonely your life might be, no matter how sad it might be, no matter how painful your situation, no matter how bleak the Christmas season, no matter what dungeon or prison cell you might find yourself in, no matter how strong your fears and how terrifying the prospects of the future to you might be, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can see through to the One who has forgiven all your sins.

And in that, there is fullness of joy. You do not need to fear that your difficulty is God’s way of making you offer full atonement for your own iniquity. Not so. You, no matter what goes wrong in this life, no matter what is not the way you would like it, no matter how much unfulfillment you face, know this… You have complete and perfect forgiveness for all your sins through Jesus Christ if you place your faith in him and you will never pay for your sins. Christ has done that.  Christ has done that!

And when you know all that, and when you believe all that, and when you confess all that, then you have seen through the trappings, through the simplicity of the birth of Christ. That will make your Christmas significant. Really significant. If you’ll do what Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fix your eyes on Jesus,” King Jesus, Christ Jesus, Immanuel, it ought to make it the greatest Christmas for you too.

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Because She Needed To Know

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Because Christmas is in a few days and I spent last week discussing the miracles surrounding John the Baptist and his purpose in life, I want to take time to share some thoughts on another important figure surrounding the anticipated Messiah, Mary. This is the longest post I’ve ever made, but please, stay with me. I do think it’ll be worth your time.

Luke begins his gospel record with the story of two conception miracles…two women who by all human standards could never have children. The first story is about Elizabeth. Because I spent all of my last post discussing Zacharias, Elizabeth, and the miracle of John the Baptist, I am going to assume you have already read it. But if not, you can read it HERE. The second narrative is about a girl, Mary, a virgin, 13 years of age or so who became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God creating life in her womb without a man involved at all.

They had both been chosen by God to be human instruments for the birth of two very, very unusual men…John the Baptist the greatest prophet who ever lived up until his time, and Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, Savior of the world.

We read the angel, Gabriel’s, announcement to Mary in Luke 1:26-33 and Mary’s response in verses 34-38. If you are not familiar with this story please take time to read it. This is the high point of redemptive history.

I am going to spend the remainder of this post in Luke 1:39-45.

“Now at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country to a city of Judah and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed be among women are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what has been spoken to her by the Lord.'”

Elizabeth lived in the hill country of Judah, which would be around Jerusalem in southern Israel. Mary lived in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, which is in northern Israel. They are separated by 75 or 80 miles. It would take her about three or four days to get there. Does it seem strange to you that an angel of the Lord brings such an announcement to Mary and the first thing she does is go visit Elizabeth? Why would she do that? 75 or 80 miles is a long way to travel. So I draw the conclusion that she definitely went with a purpose.

I, personally, think Mary went to see Elizabeth because she knew only Elizabeth would believe her. I mean, let’s try to put it in a normal context. Your 13-year-old daughter comes in and says, “I’m pregnant.” And you say, “What?” And she says, “An angel came to me and told me that I have been impregnated by God and I’m going to be the mother of the Savior of the world.”

Really?

It almost sounds like some kind of wild story that a teenager would make up. Frankly, there was only one woman on the earth who would believe Mary’s story. And it was Elizabeth. Only one place she could go and tell this tale. The text doesn’t say anything about what she may or may not have said to her family or to Joseph or anybody else. It just says she left to visit Elizabeth, the only person who would have any rational reason to believe that what she was saying was in fact true. Telling Elizabeth first made sense.

Then Elizabeth could be support for her when she told everybody else. Because Elizabeth was living, personal confirmation that God was doing conception miracles. You tell anybody else and they’re going to think Mary’s made up this preposterous story about Gabriel and being the mother of the Son of God. Nobody would believe that. But Elizabeth would believe it. And the parallels surrounding these two women’s conceptions were undeniable.

So, Mary and Elizabeth come together to provide support for Mary. But I believe there is also another reason, personal confirmation for Mary. It must have been a great moment for her when she was confirmed by the personal encounter with Elizabeth, that in fact God can do conception miracles. And what Gabriel said to Elizabeth came true, therefore what Gabriel said to Mary could be trusted. A tremendous confirmation.

She went in and a typical traditional greeting began to take place which would be hours of conversation. And my, they had a lot to talk about…an awful lot to talk about.

Then she told the wonderful story about the sequence of the conversation with Gabriel and went through the whole account as it had been recorded by Luke. The parallels would have been very wonderful for them to recount. And that was important to God so that there would be so many parallels it would be crystal clear that everything Mary heard sounded just like what Zacharias and Elizabeth heard. And since that which was promised to Elizabeth had come to pass, that which was promised to Mary would also come to pass. The patterns were identical.

Just seeing Elizabeth and understanding her condition as an old woman past child-bearing capacity, married to an old man in the same predicament would be the reality of the fact that God had done a miracle. And when you throw Gabriel into the mix and the conversation is almost identical, it’s a great confirmation.

So Mary goes to see Elizabeth for support and personal confirmation, but she also receives a physical confirmation. What was it?  Elizabeth tells us in verse 44, “As soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”

Now the movement of an unborn baby is not uncommon. Any woman who has ever been pregnant understands that as the child grows in your womb, you feel the movements stronger and stronger. In fact, this is one of the great pleasures of child bearing. It’s an exhilarating and wonderful thing because it’s the prospect of life that’s indicated by that.

But I don’t think that’s coincidental here. After all, that little fetus is a prophet… not only is he a prophet, but he’s the greatest prophet that ever lived. Not only that, that little prophet is John the Baptist and his responsibility is to prepare the way for whom? THE MESSIAH! I believe this is his first announcement. It’s a silent but physical prophecy.

After all, why would God’s Holy Spirit fill that tiny unborn baby unless God’s Holy Spirit wanted to achieve something supernatural through him?  That little fetus in the womb was filled with the Holy Spirit because it was going to do something important for the purposes of God in a supernatural way.

Now John the Baptist was really a true prophet. If he couldn’t speak, he leaped. And that’s all he could do. But he jumped with divinely inspired delight. His mother had to speak under the inspiration of God to interpret it. That was not just the normal course of things, that was a word from God through the physical realm.

God literally gave physical confirmation to Mary through the movement of that child interpreted by Elizabeth.

Mary needs to know. Now she has personal confirmation that God does conception miracles and that what Gabriel says is true, that through the testimony of Elizabeth. Now she has physical confirmation that God can work in the womb because she sees a reaction in the womb that is interpreted to her as the movement of God’s Holy Spirit upon that fetus to produce the delight that produces the movement.

You know, Mary is a wonderful example for us. She was blessed not just because she was chosen to bear the Messiah. She was blessed not just because of what God did to her but because of how she responded. She was blessed because she believed. I see Mary as someone who is a model of faith. She believed there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. And because she believed that, she pursued that, she went to see Elizabeth and she got all that confirmation.

Mary sets an example for us though, she shows us how believers should respond…when God speaks, you listen, you believe, you obey, then you burst forth, starting in verse 46, in worship. She’s a model believer. She heard, she believed, she obeyed, she worshiped. What else can we say? And blessed is anybody, whoever she be, or he be, who does that. She is a wonderful example. She heard the truth from God, she believed it, she obeyed it and she worshiped in response.

 

 

 

 

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My Husband Is Not My Everything

It was fifteen years ago today that I married my husband. And after fifteen years, I can honestly say that he does not complete me. He is not my better half. Nor is he my soul mate. He is not my everything.

It is true that he is a part of me. How could you spend fifteen years living under the same roof with someone and they not be a part of you? Of course he is! But he is not the completion of me.

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is unwise and actually unfair to put someone on such a pedestal that you have made them into your everything.  It is good to love. In fact, Jesus commands us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). But remember that His love is a pure, unselfish, sinless love. And how much did He love us? Enough to get beaten and tortured until He no longer looked human and then die a horrific death on the cross. And still, we are not His everything.

If we elevate someone to such a height that we believe they are our everything, we must question ourselves if we are making idols out of them. If there is anything that we put above God Himself, then we have created an idol. Be honest and take a look at your life. Where do you spend your time and your money? Because chances are, there you will find your heart also. I will admit that I struggle with not making idols out of my husband, my two sons, my family, friends, and even sometimes my cat. Times when I do this, I must repent. I also must ask forgiveness from them.

And I don’t want to be his everything either. I can only imagine how disappointed he would be if he held me up that high. I’m not perfect. Far from it! I want to be a source of his love and grace, not disappointment and frustration.

No one person can stand under the weight of being another person’s everything. That is a lot of pressure! No one should have to carry the weight of my love, glory, or reputation – my everything.

So, you may be wondering, if he does not complete me or is not my everything, then who is? I think you can tell it is not my children. So who? That is the place that belongs to God. As my Creator it is His job to complete me, not my husband’s. And even if the Lord should take my husband to his final home today, God will still complete me. He will still be sovereign. He is still ruling and in control. I can still trust and rest in that assurance. He has all the strength that I need. He will take care and provide for me.

Let’s take another look at the purest example we have, Christ. His eyes were always on God the Father, seeking to obey Him and live for Him in all things. This was shown clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Christ contemplated the road that His Father had asked Him to walk in order to complete His earthlyministry as Savior of the world .“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

God gives us countless blessings in this life, and they are to be enjoyed and appreciated. But they are all avenues by which we see His total provision for us and give us cause to praise Him, not substitutes as the recipients of our deepest affections. I love my husband dearly. I consider him a gift from the Lord. I will strive to honor him, serve him, and care for our children, but not before Christ. And he doesn’t want me to. Neither do our children. True, they do want my time and to be a source of my affection. But to be my everything…  Well, they’re relieved I when I treasure Christ instead of them, freeing them from being the center of my world. So, so very thankful for our Creator, Christ, and His perfectly obedient life!

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What About Joseph?

 

I have been reading through the gospels recently and noticed something I’ve failed to see before. Isn’t it strange that Jesus would be put on trial, beaten until he no longer looks human, and crucified and there is no record of Joseph, His earthly father, being present? The Scriptures speak of Mary being there (John 19:25-27) but never Joseph. This strikes me as very odd. What parent would not be there to defend, protect, care for, and grieve for their child? But after a search in the Scriptures, the last time I can find Joseph’s presence mentioned is when Jesus is twelve years old. Their family makes a trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. On the way back His parents realize that Jesus is not with them, they were traveling as a group with several families, and make the trek back to Jerusalem for Him. When they find Him, He is teaching in the temple (Luke 2:41-52). After this incident, Joseph is never mentioned again.  Does this seem strange to anyone else? All the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, speak of Mary being active throughout the Jesus’ adult life, but none speak of Joseph past this point.

We know that Joseph was a righteous man because…

  1. God chose him to be Jesus’ earthly father.
  2. When he found out Mary was pregnant he could have divorced her and he had planned to do so. But when the Lord told him not to, he obeyed (Matt 1:18-25).

We also know that Joseph was a protector because…

  1. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him of Herod’s plan to kill baby Jesus, immediately their small family fled to Egypt (Matt 2:13-15). They stayed in Egypt until after Herod died (Matt 2:19-21).
  2. When they were on their way back from Egypt, Joseph found out that Herod’s son had taken his father’s place. Joseph took his family to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, instead (Matt 2:22-23).

With all that said, I don’t believe that one could draw the conclusion that Joseph was a poor father or had possibly abandoned them. It appears that he was a wonderful and devoted father.

All this leads me to one conclusion…  Sometime after Jesus was twelve years old, but before He began His ministry, Joseph passed away. This means that for at least part of His life Jesus was raised in a single parent household. This also means He probably had many more responsibilities, including caring for His younger brothers and sisters.

If you have been raised for at least part of your life in a single parent home, as I was, this should be of great comfort to you. He truly understands the loneliness. He understands the tear you feel inside of you. He understands the desire for the other parent. All the times you want to see them, touch them, hear their voice, receive their instruction, but you can’t. He understands that kind of hurt and pain.

While Jesus Himself never had children, He did have younger brothers and sisters that He most definitely helped care for. And by the time Joseph would have passed, Jesus would have been old enough to have some fatherly instincts kick in. Imagine the huge responsibility He must have felt for them. He must have helped wipe tears away (remember they had lost their father too) and comfort them in the night. He probably helped clean up a few scraped knees and elbows and took care of them when they were sick. Maybe even walked them to school and home again. We know that Joseph was a carpenter, he taught Jesus, and Jesus probably taught his brothers what Joseph had taught Him. I do believe that Jesus understands what it is like to be a parent. I believe He understands that deep love, sense of protection, and self sacrifice that a parent has for their child.

If you have experienced a loss, Jesus experienced a deep loss too. We know that Jesus mourned because the Scriptures record Him weeping at the tomb of his good friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). But undoubtedly the loss of a father would be more severe than the loss of a friend, especially at a younger and tenderer age. Although it is true that Jesus must have had much more of a realization that either you or I ever will about where His loved one was or the unity that they would experience again, He still must have grieved. He had to have mourned. He must have had many sleepless nights. He must have hurt very much and not just for Himself, but for His mother, brothers, and sisters as well.

If you are a single parent, take heart, this is of great encouragement! He understands the daily struggles and challenges that you go through. He watched his own mother go through them too. Do you ever worry if your child is going to be okay with only one parent in the home? The greatest man of all times lived part of His life with only one parent. There is no better example of a man than Him. He is what we all want our children to imitate. Can we even begin to list all His great qualities? How about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22), just to name a few!

To me, this has changed part of my view of Christ. Somehow, he seems even more human, more realistic. And isn’t this just like the Father? If Jesus is our intercessor, He needs to understand all our needs and all our trials. This is why it is so important that Christ came as a man. So He understands our need for nourishment, our limitations with energy and the need for rest, and the daily trials we go through. We go through losses. We feel extreme pressure.  We struggle and face challenge daily. With removing Joseph from Jesus’ life, He was made more aware of more struggles that we face. He knew what it was like to lose someone you love very much. He knew what it was like to have parental love and to miss it too. He knew, from watching his own mother, what it was like to raise children as a single parent. Wow! I am never ceased to be amazed at the thoroughness of our Lord.

 

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Satan is Defeated, Christ Lives!

With Easter on our heels, I have been thinking a lot about all the different roles that many different people had to play for the brutal murder and sacrifice of Jesus to take place. And right now, the one I’m looking at the most is Satan, himself. Certainly he played a part. But what exactly was it?

I am convinced that there is good reason to believe that Satan knew that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, it would result in Satan’s final defeat.

Certainly there were many miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus. All were a fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies. And Satan was very aware of each of them. All of these events would have solidified to Satan that Jesus was, in fact, the coming Messiah.

After Jesus was baptized, He was lead into the wilderness by the Spirit for forty days to fast. He hadn’t eaten for forty days! Imagine how exhausted and weak He must have been and who shows up? Satan, of course. He waited until Jesus was tired and at His weakest, then he’d tempt Him and get Him to sin.

And Satan did his best!

Satan shows Him some rocks and says, “Hey, You’re a Big Deal. You’re powerful. And I know You’re hungry. So turn these stones into bread and eat. Show the world how powerful You are. I can help you do it.” (And yes, I’m paraphrasing here. Not the exact words of Satan. But you can read about this in Matthew 4:4-11).

What does Jesus do? He resists temptation by quoting Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You know that as hungry as Jesus was, that bread had to make His mouth water. Yet, He would not do it. Jesus had set His eyes on the cross.

Satan had failed.

What does Satan do next? He tries again. He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tells Him, “Hey, You’re the Son of God. Throw Yourself off of here and let the angels catch you. Show us that You’re in control of all these angels. Go ahead and flex Your muscles.” He even quotes Scripture (Psalms 91:11-12) to Him. (Just goes to show that Satan, too, has a great knowledge of the Scriptures).

Again, Jesus uses the best defense possible against temptation and quotes Scripture (Deut 6:16) back to Satan. (By the way, I do believe that Jesus is showing that although Satan has a great knowledge of the Scriptures, He is also showing us that Satan has twisted them to fit his agenda. This shows us that Satan has no love, respect, or regard for the truth they proclaim).

Satan has failed again.

Still, Satan is very persistent. He takes Jesus up on a very tall mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world. Satan says, “Look at all this. Isn’t it beautiful! I can give it to you. All you have to do is just sin one little time. It won’t be a big deal. Just once. All You have to do is fall down and worship me. That’s it. Then all these people can be shown just how powerful You are.”

We can debate about whether the kingdoms of the earth were really Satan’s or not to give. But Jesus again quotes Scripture (Deut 6:13) back to him saying, “Be gone Satan. For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”

And hey, guess what? The very next verse, Matthew 4:11, tells us that immediately Satan left Him and angels came and ministered to Him. Jesus told him to leave and Satan obeyed. Not only that, but God the Father also sent angels to take care of Him and see that all His needs were met.

Through all this, what I hear Satan saying is, “Don’t take the path of pain, sacrifice, and death. Use Your mighty power to escape all this nasty stuff. Take a life of ease. Show that You have a right to reign. Throw Your weight around. I can help you do it. You can reign on earth right now. Just whatever You do, DON’T go to the cross!”

Still, there’s another time that Satan tries to stop Him.

Jesus was talking with his disciples and foretelling them of His death. Peter took Him aside and said, “No way, Lord. I will never allow You to be killed like that.”

And does Jesus thank Peter for wanting to protect Him? Not at all! In fact, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (You can read all about this little exchange in Matt 16:22-23) Here, Jesus is not rebuking Peter, He is rebuking Satan.

But in Luke 22:3, we read that Satan enters Judas Iscariot in what would be the beginning of a horrible series of events that would ultimately result in Jesus being sacrificed on the cross. So, if I understand correctly, Satan is now leading Jesus to the cross. What happened? Why was Satan trying so hard to keep Jesus from the cross and now, he is leading Him to the cross?

Unfortunately the Scriptures do not tell us. This is my theory, and ONLY my theory…

I believe that Satan saw his efforts had failed. Jesus knew his destination was the cross and would not sway. “His face was set like flint to die” (Luke 9:51,53). There was no stopping Him. So if Jesus was going to be that stubborn, Satan was going to make it as ugly as possible. He would drag as many people into it as he could. It would be bloody and nasty. It would be a death by torture, betrayal, abandonment, denial, and rejection. He would go on trial and be unjustly convicted. A prisoner would be freed and it would be the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus. Satan would make it the most horrific murder ever.

And he succeeded. It was terrible, horrific, and completely heartbreaking. You can read all about His death in Matthew 26-27. But if you do, please finish the story. Read on through chapter 28. You can also read Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21 for a more complete story.

You see, if you read about His death but miss the resurrection, you have missed the whole story. Despite Satan’s best efforts, Jesus lived a perfect life. Even though He was tempted, He did not once sin. This is important because you and I sin multiple times every day. We cannot live a perfect life. We just aren’t capable of it. And the great news is that we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us. And while He was hanging on that cross, God poured out the wrath that we deserve on His Son. Jesus willingly and knowingly took on our sin and the punishment that you and I deserve.

And you want to know how powerful He is? Finish the story. Read on into those chapters. I encourage you! He didn’t stay in the grave. He conquered death, arose, stuck around here on earth for forty days before ascending into paradise to be with His Father once again. That is the gospel. That is the good news. That is what it is all about!

Do not take this lightly. It is no small thing. It is completely liberating. I do not have to worry about being ‘good enough’ because Jesus did it for me. No, this isn’t a license to sin. But by realizing what He did for me on the cross, it makes me love Him even more. That makes me want to sin less to please Him.

So what do we have to celebrate this Sunday? Much! Hope. Sacrifice.The gospel. Forgiveness. Love. The cross. Perfection for our imperfection. Satan is defeated and Christ lives! Amen and Amen!

 

Here is a link to my favorite resurrection hymn. I think you may enjoy it as well:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qlc0UIRkBk

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