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Atonement

The crowds call for Jesus' crucifixion
Image source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, John records Jesus’ appearing before Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leaders urge Pilate to sentence Jesus to death. They tell the Roman ruler that he is no friend of Caesar if he doesn’t sentence Jesus to death.

But Pilate doesn’t think Jesus is guilty of anything, especially of Roman laws. He tells the Jewish leaders that if they want to crucify Jesus, they are free to do so. (John 19:6) True, the Jews could stone Jesus for breaking their laws, but they didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. Death by crucifixion was a Roman death sentence. Both the Jewish leaders and Pilate tried to avoid the responsibility for Jesus’ death. But when it came down to it, Pilate simply did what the Jewish leaders wanted him to do. He wanted peace from the Jews and it appears he feared a revolt if he didn’t grant a simple request to crucify a lone Jew.

In most portrayals of this pivotal scene, the same people who lauded Jesus’ arrival on Palm Sunday cry out for His crucifixion on the early hours of Good Friday Morning. But that isn’t how John describes the scene. The only people involved in demanding Jesus’ crucifixion are the Jewish leaders and the Temple servants. (John 19:6) It seems there were only a few people calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. But these popular Jewish leaders had very loud voices. John and the other Gospel writers are quick to point out that Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty and deserving of the death penalty.

Application

While the Jewish leaders demanded Jesus’ execution, Pilate defended Jesus’ innocence, but eventually gave in. Both the Jews and Pilate were responsible for Jesus’ death.

So am I. And so are you.

No, we didn’t flog His innocent flesh. No, we didn’t hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. But we are very much responsible for Jesus’ death. If we weren’t guilty of sin, His death wouldn’t have been necessary. But it was necessary because we are guilty.

Jesus’ payment for our sin was sufficient to fully absorb the wrath of God. No further accusation against us can stand because Jesus’ atonement bore all of our sin debt.

If you have turned from your sin and accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin debt, spend a few minutes today thanking Jesus for dying, that you might live. Thank Him for being the perfect example and the perfect sacrifice.

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Transformation from what you are

In today’s Bible reading, John says that our relationship with God doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How we live affects our relationship with God. And how we live with others affects our relationship with God.

Coming into a relationship with God is a free offer. There are no demands on us. We don’t have to (as if we could!) clean up before we come to Christ. God’s offer is to come as we are!

So we come as we are. But God doesn’t want us to stay as we are!

Application

God wants to transform us from the inside-out, in ways we can’t change ourselves — ways that run far deeper than mere behavior change. But behavior change is part of the change He wants to work into our lives. And behavior change demonstrates the deeper, inward change. One of those behavior changes is the way we relate to other people.

How do you feel about other people? Is there anyone who you do everything you can to avoid being around? It’s understandable to want to avoid someone who has mistreated you. But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about avoiding someone simply because of the way they look, the way they smell, the way they behave, where they live, their job (or their lack of a job), the language they speak, or the country they’re from. Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to spend eternity in heaven with? Anyone?

You are no more deserving of eternity in heaven than anyone else who ever walked on this planet. Anyone. Ever.

And no one is less deserving of spending eternity in heaven than you are. No one. We all come based on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice … alone.

If that’s true, why would you not want to tell someone — anyone — about the greatest news ever heard?

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exam

I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.

Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.” [1] The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”[2]

Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.

Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.

But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.

Application

I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.

I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!

Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.

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account reconciliation

Again, I’ll highlight what I have said before, that when you see a word or phrase repeated in close proximity in the Bible, it’s a signal of its importance. In today’s Bible reading, Paul uses reconcile five times in only three verses. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

The word reconcile is used in accounting. You may have reconciled your checkbook to make sure that your income and expenses come into agreement. Hmmm…. come into agreement. That’s what it means to be reconciled!

One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for dictionary) says this about reconciliation:

to reestablish proper friendly interpersonal relations after these have been disrupted or broken (the componential features of this series of meanings involve (1) disruption of friendly relations because of (2) presumed or real provocation, (3) overt behavior designed to remove hostility, and (4) restoration of original friendly relations)—‘to reconcile, to make things right with one another, reconciliation.’[1]

The fact that God reconciles people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18) demonstrates that the relationship was broken in the first place. And the relationship was broken by Adam and all of his descendants. Otherwise, Paul could speak of us reconciling ourselves with God.

But God is the one Who takes the initiative because we, as fallen creatures cannot. In fact, even if we could take the initiative, we would not. Yes, we are that fallen! We are that broken!

Until we can understand the gravity of our sinful condition, we can’t grasp the incredible goodness, grace, and mercy of God to reconcile us to Himself. Because God has reconciled His children to Himself through Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God and peace with each other! “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15, (CSB)

And we get to be a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation! He has made us His ambassadors to plead with our family, friends, and acquaintances, “Be reconciled to God!” What an amazing priviledge!

And what an amazing responsibility!

Application

Have you been reconciled to God? Have you recognized your infinite debt to God due to your own sin? He has done all that is necessary to restore you to Himself, if you will only accept His offer! Be reconciled to God!

If you have been reconciled to God, have you told your family, friends, and acquaintances about this glorious God Who has extended His grace to you, and to them?

Who can you tell today?

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 501. Print.

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Paul brings out a very important and highly applicable point in today’s Bible reading. I’ve already pointed out that the Corinthian church had many problems, including pride and narcissism.

They thought it was all about them. This worldview is man-centered or anthropocentric. If their ideas were correct, then what could they think when they go through hard times? If the universe revolves around me, what am I supposed to think when things don’t go my way? If it’s all about me, then what am I to think when other people disappoint me? What am I to think when I don’t get what I want?

If everything revolves around me then if things don’t go well, I will be angry. All the time. I will blame other people. I will even blame God. I mean, after all, isn’t He there to serve me?

Life doesn’t make sense to pride-ridden narcissists thinking anthropocentrically. But God has a better way. If everything is understood Theocentrically (God-centered), then everything makes sense. Even the things that don’t seem to!

If… God is all good. If… God is all-loving. If… God is all knowing. If… God is all-powerful, then everything has a purpose. Nothing happens by chance. God will work out everything to make His Name great. For any other being in the universe, this would be the height of egotism. But if God were not supremely interested in Himself, He must be supremely interested in something else, making Himself worship something other than Himself, making Himself an idolater. Go back and re-read that again if you need to.

Why did God create the universe? For Him. Why did God create mankind? For Him. Why did God plan the atonement before He created the world, and therefore before our first parents sinned? It wasn’t for us! It was for Him. Why did Jesus die on a cross. For Him. Why? Because God relentlessly pursues His people through a covenant relationship. He did all of these things because we couldn’t. And because if we could, we wouldn’t. We are fallen creatures. We are broken creatures. We, in our natural state, are enemies of God. So God pursued. Not because He needed us. God had an eternity past to enjoy Himself by Himself and the other Persons of the Trinity.

Application

Why did I spend over 350 words talking about man-centered vs. God-centered. Because our worldview matters. A lot! Look at the end of 2 Corinthians 4.

Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (CSB)

Paul reminds us that we should focus on what is not seen, not what is seen. As we focus on the unseen realm, all of life will begin to make sense. And the things that don’t make sense, make sense, if God is completely in control.

If this life is all there is,
then there is nothing better.
But Paul says that what we see
can’t hold a candle to the light of the
incomparable eternal weight of glory
(what we can’t see).

Mic Drop!

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