Friday, March 29, 2013

Today is the day

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8
Today is Good Friday.  This is the day that Christ actually died on the cross.  Every year I think about that on this day.  I try to envision and imagine how he was treated and what he went through.  I cannot bear to think about it.  Then at 3:00 pm, which is about the time they believe that he actually died,  I concentrate on that being the exact time that Jesus died – for me.  To me, this is the holiest of all days.  .  This day is symbolic of all we believe as Christians, the premise on which our foundation is built.  This is the day that He literally laid down His life for us. 
He had been up all night, tortured and beaten, exhausted.  Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the authorities (perhaps after midnight, early Friday morning)  He was put on trial and the crowds shouted “crucify him!!”  He had to carry his cross all the way to the hill where he was crucified.  Then He was crucified and had to hang there for three hours before he finally died, all the while being taunted and ridiculed.  He was thirsty and given vinegar to drink.  I cannot fathom the suffering and pain He endured during those three miserable hours.  What was He thinking?  What was going through His mind as He hung there?  I know that I would be seriously rethinking this commitment I had made. But Jesus did not change his mind in the midst of his suffering.  He didn’t “quit”.  He fulfilled the scriptures so that we could have eternal life. 

So, 'What happened on Good Friday?' The goodness of Jesus's love and sacrifice at Calvary is immense, permanent and priceless. It is inseparably connected to his life on earth before that, and to his Resurrection. What happened is part of a longer story that involves all humanity and the chosen people in particular, and it is part of a more-than-human setting that involves Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  When Jesus died, the sacrifices were all finished, because all fulfilled in Him. 

The Earth Trembled And The Veil Was Torn
In the temple a veil, a very thick, woven curtain, separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple.  When Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, that heavy curtain was torn from top to bottom. It was not ripped from bottom to top, as though a man were ripping it. Instead, it was ripped from top to bottom, because God was ripping it.  God was saying, “You no longer are on the outside. You can come in. My Son has made a way for you.”

Also at this moment, the whole earth shook. Many ancient prophets became alive again. Many people saw them.  The way that Jesus behaved in court and on the cross, was humble.  When the Roman officer there saw this, and the other events, he said, ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God.’

I encourage you to really think about the day and what it means this year.  Don’t let it go without a thought.  Consider what He did for you.  Consider what Good Friday and Easter mean for all of us. 

Join us at North Side Baptist Church tonight at 6:30 for our Good Friday Lord’s Supper service.  We also will have four Easter services, Saturday @ 6:30 pm and Sunday @ 8:00,9:30, and 11:00.

Scripture to Claim:
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.  Matthew 27:51

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Three Nails | The Nails of HOPE & FAITH

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

Today we are going to continue to look at the three nails that held Jesus to the cross:

1.    The Nail of HOPE His Hope in the Resurrection Brought and Held Him to the Cross.
Hope Defined: a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment; to expect with confidence;  Hope is the wellspring from which we draw the courage to act against all reason and logic.  Hope is the trust in God which turns away from itself and the world, which waits patiently for God's gift, and which, when he has given it, does not consider it to be a possession of one's own disposal but is confidently assured that God also will maintain what He has bestowed.  The only way Christ could say what He said to the thief was if hope was in His heart. Again, the only way that the thief would realize the promise was that the nail of hope would hold Him to that cross.  Is your hope in Christ?  Do you live with the hope that Christ died with?  Hope brings peace and courage to those who would claim His cross as payment for their sin.

2.    The Nail of FAITH - His Faith in the Father's Plan Brought and Held Him to the Cross.  After all Christ had done, He still had to have faith that God would reward His sacrifice.  The cross was an act of love and an act of mercy on our behalf; but it was an act of faith for the man Jesus of Nazareth.  The amazing thing about these words is that they show us that Jesus was in control of the timing of His death.   The nails pierced His hands and feet; He was beaten to the point of being almost unrecognizable; yet He died only when He decided to yield up His spirit.  In his account of the crucifixion, John says Jesus "gave up His spirit."  This was an active, not a passive act. The significance of this wording is that it shows that Jesus was in control of the timing of His death.  He did not die because His body could take no more punishment or because of blood loss. He died because He decided it was time to die.  His work was accomplished and there was no reason for Him to linger. And so he gave up His spirit and returned to His Father.

Jesus cry of “Tetelestai!”
After being given a drink of vinegar mixed with gall on his request he quieted for a while. Then arching his body to secure one last breath he cried out, "Tetelestai! It is Finished!"  It was not a shout of defeat, but a glorious cry of victory. Like a master craftsman finishing his work or an artist his life masterpiece.  All around the cross grew silent.  Lifting his eyes heavenward he said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” His body hung limp from the nails. The women wailed in grief.

Christ was fully conscious that only His death could satisfy the law of God, bear away our sins, and bring us unto the Heavenly Father. Therefore, though men scoffed at Him and accused Him of lying and hypocrisy, He stayed on the cross, bound by love, hope and faith, to the tree.  It was for my sin that He stayed there in the deepest expression of love the world could ever know. There is but one way open to the fair-minded person who realizes that his sins nailed Jesus to the cross, and that is to receive Jesus as Savior.  No one took Jesus' life from Him. He did not lose it, He gave it. He died that you might live. You cannot live without Him.

Scripture to Claim:
“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30) 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Three Nails | The Nail of LOVE

And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. "HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'  Matthew 27:39-43

The scripture tells us in Matthew 27:39-43 that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the chief priests, scribes, elders and even passersby mocked him.  They teased him.  They challenged him to save himself, believing there was no physical way that a man who was nailed to a cross could save himself if he wanted to.  After all, he was nailed to that cross.  In the irony behind the irony that the mockers intended, they spoke the truth they themselves did not see. The man who can’t save himself—saves others  But those who know who Jesus is are fully aware that nails and soldiers cannot stand in the way of The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace...of Emmanuel.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus could not save himself, not because of any physical constraint, but because of a moral imperative. He came to do his Father’s will, and he would not be deflected from it.  It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners. He really could not save himself.  Today and tomorrow we will concentrate on the three nails that held Jesus to the cross.  The first of the three nails that held Jesus to the cross was love.

The Nail of LOVE - His Love for Us Brought and Held Him to the Cross.  

His Love was unusual - It is an ordinary, everyday thing for us to love those who love us, but Jesus loved those who hated Him. "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.  Jesus commanded that we love our enemies and, even on the cross, forgave.  That is what makes the love of Christ unusual. He loved His enemies, and this love bound Him to the cross. 

His love was unending - The love of Jesus never fails. It continued to the cross-beyond the cross, and abounds unto us today. His love bound Him to the cruel tree. 

His love was unselfish  - There is nothing in a material way that we can give to God that He does not already have. The Son of God condescended to die for us, and His unselfish love bound Him to the cross of Calvary.  It always seems like a foolish thing to beg people to receive Jesus, when the giving must be all on His side. All we can do is surrender ourselves.  It is a rare and beautiful thing to see people give and love when nothing can be given to them in return.  When Jesus died upon the cross, bound by the divine love for poor, lost sinful mankind, His love was unselfish.

LOVE in one word is CROSS
When you suffer for others you know what love is, and you know automatically who God is and what God is. God is love.  The Cross and Love are two words but with the same meaning: to give your life, and in doing so to discover the true meaning of yourself and reason of your existence.  As the Cross of Jesus was the supreme proof of His love for us, our cross too, should be the finest proof of our love for Him.

Scripture to Claim:
“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him ... But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."  Luke 23:33-34

The Last Words of Jesus Christ

"…And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."  Hebrews 10:10 ESV

As He hung on the cross, Jesus made seven final statements.  These phrases are held dear by followers of Christ because they offer a glimpse into the depth of his suffering He went through just so we can have eternal life.  These seven last words of Jesus are presented here in chronological order.

1) Jesus Speaks to the Father -"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (NIV) Luke 23:34

In the midst of his excruciating suffering, the heart of Jesus was focused on others rather than himself. Here we see the nature of his love—unconditional and divine.  Also, the whole reason He was on the cross was based on forgiveness.  He is dying so we can be forgiven for your sins so why wouldn’t his first word from the cross be one of forgiveness?

2) Jesus Speaks to the Criminal on the Cross -"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (NIV) Luke 23:43

One of the criminals who was crucified with Christ, had recognized who Jesus was and expressed faith in him as Savior. Here we see grace poured out through faith, as Jesus assured the dying man of his forgiveness and eternal salvation.  Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Yet the text of Luke gives us no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus, or even a believer in him in any well-developed sense. He might have felt sorry for his sins, but he did not obviously repent. Rather, the criminal’s cry to be remembered seems more like a desperate, last-gasp effort.
Though we should make every effort to have right theology, and though we should live our lives each day as disciples of Jesus, in the end, our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. “Jesus, remember me,” we cry. And Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says to us, “You will be with me in paradise.” We are welcome there not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus.

3) Jesus Speaks to Mary and John -
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." (NIV) John 19:26-27

Jesus, looking down from the cross, was still filled with the concerns of a son for the earthly needs of his mother. None of his brothers were there to care for her, so he gave this task to the Apostle John. Here we clearly see Christ's humanity.  This statement brings about a clear sense of reality.  We are reminded that Jesus is human, that he was once a little boy and a baby in his mother’s arms.  It also brings up the horror that Mary must have felt at watching her child crucified. 

4) Jesus Cries Out to the Father
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (NKJV) Matthew 27:46 (also Mark 15:34)

In the darkest hours of his suffering, Jesus cried out the opening words of Psalm 22. And although much has been suggested regarding the meaning of this phrase, it was quite apparent the agony Christ felt as he expressed separation from God. Here we see the Father turning away from the Son as Jesus bore the full weight of our sin.  Jesus is expressing the heaviness that He feels in His heart at this time.  He was feeling the full separation of God from Him as He took on the sin of the world.  He had entered into the Hell that is separation from God.  

5) Jesus is Thirsty
Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures he said, "I am thirsty." (NLT) John 19:28

Jesus refused the initial drink of vinegar, gall and myrrh (Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23) offered to alleviate his suffering. But here, several hours later, we see Jesus fulfilling the messianic prophecy found in Psalm 69:20-21: Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity;  if only one would turn and comfort me.  But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst. 

6) It is Finished
... he said, "It is finished!" (NLT) John 19:30

Jesus knew he was suffering the crucifixion for a purpose. Earlier he had said in John 10:18 of his life, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (NIV) These three words were packed with meaning, for what was finished here was not only Christ's earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete. The Scriptures had been fulfilled.

Because Jesus finished his work of salvation, you and I don’t need to add to it. In fact, we can’t. He accomplished what we never could, taking our sin upon himself and giving us his life in return. Jesus finished that for which he had been sent, and we are the beneficiaries of his unique effort. Because of what he finished, you and I are never “finished.” We have hope for this life and for the next. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One day what God has begun in us will also be finished, by his grace. Until that day, we live in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!”

7) Jesus' Last Words
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (NIV) Luke 23:46

Here Jesus closes with the words of Psalm 31:5, speaking to the Father. We see his complete trust in the Father. Jesus entered death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God's hands.

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