Jesus is the Greater Savior

“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again, “I will put my trust in him.”

And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:5-18

We live in a world fascinated by saviors. Every summer the masses cram into cinemas with bubbly drinks and buttery fingers to watch the next Marvel or DC hero duke out good versus evil. Yet no superhero or man in human history can touch Jesus’ feat.

Jesus was the founding member of the Universe Club. He was there. He spoke the universe into existence. He was not only the founder of creation, he was also the founder of salvation for all mankind (v.10). Wow. The always existing God stepped into time and skin to sacrifice himself for man’s greatest need: the curse of sin (vs.7-8).

What did you do to deserve such a heroic salvation? Not a thing. For a moment, think about all that Christ did for you. He became a man “becoming a little lower than the angels” by taking on human flesh like yours (vs.9, 14). He took your place on the cross. He tasted your death and curse. He restored your relationship to God. He led the way to your salvation through his suffering (v.10). He became your brother and sanctifier (vs.11-13). Ultimately, he succeeded where you failed (v.15, 17-18). And that’s a very good thing for if he didn’t save you nothing you do could save yourself.

Compared to Jesus all comic book characters or nonfictional heroes are piddly and have imperfections. Jesus is the perfect real-life Savior who he deeply cares for the downtrodden, distressed, and destitute (vs.5-6). No other Savior can fulfill the promise that Jesus can by becoming the curse for sin. He is truly heroic. That makes him your great Savior and worthy of your trust.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What makes Jesus the founder of our salvation?
  • How is our salvation made perfect through the suffering of Christ?
  • Why was it necessary for Jesus to come to earth to become your Savior?
  • How can Jesus free you from the fear of death? Or help you when tempted?
  • How does this passage funnel glory to Jesus the great Savior?
  • How can you make yourself lesser and Jesus greater? (Mt. 18:1-6; 23:11-12)
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Jesus Gives Greater Salvation

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” – Hebrews 2:1-4

Have you ever been on a road that had a sign that read, “Warning! Falling Rocks Next 8 Kilometers?” You know that sign is there because at one time someone felt the carnage of a falling rock.

Attention! These verse tell the first of five warnings mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews. This particular warning is for those who intellectually know Jesus saves, but are spiritually uncommitted to him. These people are in grave danger of drifting away from what they know (cf. Mt. 7:21-23). In the end the Rock will fall as be their Judge rather than their Savior (10:26-27).

The cure for spiritual drift is to acknowledge the warning sign and heeds its good news. Step towards Jesus, not away from him. Hear what Jesus has already declared (v.3b), hear what his followers have attested (v.3c), regard the marvelous signs and wonders Jesus has done (v.4a), and witness the work and gifts of the Holy Spirit (v.4b). When you consider each of those categories, how could you drift from what you know or consider any other promise of salvation is so great?

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What things cause us to meander from what we know will truly save? (Mt. 13:18ff)
  • What does it mean to neglect (vs. reject) such a great salvation? (Mt. 22:5)
  • What are the dangers of neglecting salvation? How is Jesus both Judge and Savior?
  • What makes salvation through Jesus so great?
  • How can you protect yourself from drifting?

I am the door

Jesus is worth beholding  He is like no other man.  He is utterly unique.  He’s fascinating.  He causes us to wonder and be amazed.  He said things that were both endearing and disturbing.  He made audacious claims.  Jesus isn’t like a presidential candidate that you can pick and choose what you like or don’t like about him. No other man made the claims he did and lived up to them.  If I made his same claims you would laugh and say that I am a liar and lunatic.

In John’s Gospel Jesus makes many I AM statements.  He said, “I am the Living Water,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “I am the resurrection.”  Today we will look at Jesus’ claim in John 10, “I am the Door.”

What did Jesus mean when he said he was the Door?  Why was that so important to the crowd he was speaking to?  Why is that an important for you and me today?

To get the thrust of what Jesus is saying you need to start in John 8.  There Jesus is talking with two groups of Jews. On one side there are Jews who believe and follow Jesus Christ, and on the other side are Jews who don’t believe and don’t follow Jesus Christ.  Jesus says to the Jews who do follow him in John 8:31, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This didn’t settle well with the other Jews who didn’t follow Jesus. They look at Jesus and say, “What do you mean the truth will set us free? We’re not held captive to anyone. We’re not in bondage to anyone. We’re Jews. We’re God’s chosen. Our Father is Abraham.” What Jesus says next is more even unsettling in John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love me… You are of your father the devil…”  Jesus didn’t go the route of making friends, but he did influence people.

In John 9, there is a man born blind who had become a beggar.  Jesus gives him sight.  And the beggar who once followed the Pharisees, now becomes a believer in Jesus.  The Pharisees are ticked.  Jesus took one of theirs.  They reacted by throwing the beggar out—culturally skinned him alive (ouch!)—and showed their hatred for Jesus by intending to kill him.  So in John 10, Jesus continues to talk to the same crowd—his disciples, the Pharisees, the blind beggar, and the two groups of Jews.  He tells them (and us) to behold something truly life-altering that gives insight into who he really is and who they really are.

Jesus is the doorkeeper and he offers you his protection (vs.1-2).

“Truly, truly (new, fresh word. “listen up” “behold this), I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

Jesus tells a story, a figure of speech. He paints a backdrop.  In the story there is a sheepfold and a door.  Also, there are characters.  There are thieves and robbers.  There is a gatekeeper.  There are sheep.  You could say the door is a character too.  Let’s look more intently at the scene, which may be unfamiliar to us, but was quite familiar to Jesus’ audience.

What is the fold?  Ancient Near East villages had an animal corral or pen in or near the village. The sheep would be out grazing in the fields during the day, then at night the shepherd would lead them into a walled fold where they would be watched and safe and protected together.

sheep gates

In Jesus’ story, the sheepfold is his audience—Israel.  They knew this.  God often called Israel his sheep.  It wasn’t derogatory like you think.  Sure sheep are stupid, but being called a sheep was endearing because God cared for them, he chose them for himself, and he valued them above all other nations.

The sheepfold wasn’t just Israel, but later in John 10:16, Jesus says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”  Here Jesus identifies himself as the one Shepherd.  But another fold?  Who’s that?  It’s the Gentiles, it’s other nations of the world, it’s Jew and Gentile (cf. Ezek. 34:11ff).  The fold is whatever holds temporarily the sheep that belong to God: Jew or Gentile.

What is the door?  It is where things go in or out.  The door allows sheep in or out.  As verse 2 says the shepherd enters, “by the door.”  The shepherd is allowed to come in the door.  He alone has the privilege, right, authority, and ownership to open the door and let the sheep in or out.  Often the door wasn’t a door or gate, but the shepherd would lay down there.  So the shepherd was both shepherd and also door.  He is a character and a backdrop in the scene.  His duty is to care for the sheep during the day when they are out in fields and protect the sheep at night in the fold from thieves and robbers.

Who are the thieves and robbers who climb in by another way?  You get the idea they are enemies of the sheep.  They have no authority, no rights, and no ownership.  Their aim is to fleece the sheep for their wool or fillet the sheep for their meat taking the valuable stuff and leave the sheep for dead. 

There Jesus stands, looking into the eyes of the Pharisees. The blind beggar is there, the disciples are there, other Jews are there.  We are there.  And we get the idea who the thieves and robbers are.  It’s the Pharisees.  They are the one who climbing in the fold by another way.  Their way was religion.  Pharisees prided themselves as the gatekeepers of Judaism and gatekeepers of righteousness.  Yet they were fleecing their own and filleting their souls, robbing them of knowing the true God.  Jesus nails them.  He calls them what they are.  But remember later these Pharisees are the ones who falsely nail Jesus.

False shepherds are everywhere.  They disguise themselves as friends, helpers, even pastors or spiritual leaders.  Yet their goal isn’t to help you, it is to use you, then dispose of you.  In our day, their message may be different, but the effect is the same. Today, false shepherds tell you, “Sin is no big deal—what is a “sin,” anyway?  There’s no judgment coming, and it really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely.”  The message is easier to accept and less demanding, perhaps, but still just as deadly to those who follow it.

False shepherds entice you–like the serpent in the Garden–to climb in by another way.  They entice you to want whats behind the door rather than the door itself.  Like Monty Hall, the longtime host of Let’s Make a Deal, “PICK A DOOR ANY DOOR.”  Life’s a Choose Your Own Adventure novel because our culture values choice.  It is about what you do and what you choose.  As in Jesus’ story the choice is religion.  Religion is a common door.  Religion says, “Do this good, but don’t do that bad and your in.”  Another door is success, achievement, pleasure, knowledge, what makes sense, or what helps you sleep at night.  For others the door is finishing school, getting that degree, establishing a career, enjoying retirement, or having a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, 2.7 children, house with a two car garage.  While most of these doors are good and start well, they are not THE Door—the life-giving door. 

Jesus helps us see that are only two types doors.  1) Door leading to life or 2) door leading to death.  The door leading to death offers many promises: good life, hope, pleasure, knowledge, understanding, it speaks to a want.  There is the expectation that if you walk through that door you will have it all, yet in the end it is a faux-door.  It’s a door that leads to another door, which leads to another door, that leads to a trapdoor, which leads to a backdoor, that leads to destruction.  As sheep we are prone to wander, keeping our head to the ground, wolf bait.

Jesus is very clear about who he is and what he offers.  Jesus is the door and he offers you his protection. Jesus is no Pedro Sanchez.  In the movie Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon promises that if you “Vote for Pedro. He offers you his protection.”  Jesus isn’t just protection from a bully trying to steal your lunch money. He is your protection from thieves and robber who intend to fleece and fillet your soul.  Follow Jesus and you go in the unpopular door (not enticing, limits choice, a doorstopper).  Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  (Mt. 7:13-14)  Jesus is the only life-giving, forever protecting door, and few think they need it.

Just as their are two types of doors there are also two types of sheep: 1) There are sheep cared for by Christ or 2) There are sheep wandering in sin and unprotected darkness.  You are one or the other.  Sheep need help.  Jesus is your help.  He is the Door.  He is the only way to protection and salvation.  God—the gatekeeper—has given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth.  In His frame are grace, truth, mercy, forgiveness, hope, protection, provision, righteousness, and so much more.  His frame is solid and sturdy and sure.  What is your door: life or death?  What kind of sheep are you?

Jesus is the door and his sheep know his voice (vs.3-6).

“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

This is a beautiful picture.  Sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  Sheep know their shepherd’s voice because they hear it all the time.  It’s familiar.  Also, the shepherd knows each of his sheep.  They are familiar to him.  He knows each by name.  And that’s not hard to understand.  We name animals.  You don’t have a dog without a name.  You probably don’t even have a goldfish without a name.  Sheep have names too.  It might be “Gimpy,” “Lamb Chops,” “Shawn,” or “Blacky.”  The shepherd always knew his own sheep because he examined them every day and he spent the whole waking day with them.  He knew every mark on every one of them.  He knew them from top to bottom, back to front.

If a common Jewish shepherd knew his sheep, how much more does the Good Shepherd also knows His sheep? He knows their name.  Their names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life since before the foundation of the world.  He knows who they are.  Isn’t that a beautiful and comforting thought?  The true Shepherd came to call his people out of Judaism, to call Gentiles out of the folds of false religion from every corner of the world.  He knows who they are.  He calls them by name.  They know His voice, and He leads them out.  He goes before them.

The story that Jesus tells here is so profound.  It starts as a simple story about sheep, but the more dig in and the deeper you go, the more profoundly theological the story becomes.  It’s pretty serious theology—Divine sovereignty, irresistible grace, effectual calling, eternal security—this is all theological.  The good Shepherd has already chosen His sheep.  He knows who they are.  He alone possesses the authority to come into Judaism and into the nations of the world to find His sheep.  He knows them.  He calls them by name.  They recognize His voice.  He leads them out.  They follow Him.  They will not follow a stranger.  Without him we are left to wander in darkness.  Without him they struggle to believe.  Without him they resist repentance.  Only Jesus can gives the sheep faith to believe, ears to hear, and will to follow. 

Jesus is the door and his sheep know his voice. Sheep have selective hearing.  Do you know his voice?  Do you listen for it and recognize it among the thieves in our noisy culture?  Jesus is the only way out.  He is THE door.  Through the door you have freedom and protection while you graze in the field of this world or culture.  He promises to be with you.  Guide you.  Protect you.  Comfort you.  Even when you are among thieves and wolves and faux-sheep.  You will know his voice.  How?  By being with Him.  By becoming familiar with his words.

Interesting, the crowd did not understand what Jesus was saying, so he explains it again.  The second time he makes it especially clear what the story is about. 

Jesus is the door to life and invites you to good pasture (vs.7-10).

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”

The pasture is the place of rest.  A place of plenty.  A place of abundance.  The pasture is the Word.  And Jesus is the Word in the flesh (John 1:14). Jesus is the good pasture.  In him, we are satisfied and full and safe and most alive.  As Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your Word was found and that’s what became my food.”  As the Spirit gives life to the Word, we follow the Word.  We delight in the Word and love to graze in the pasture. Jesus is the the door to life and invites us to good pasture.

green pasture

So Jesus is the Shepherd and the Shepherd is the door.  He feeds us and sustains us with green pastures through our whole spiritual life.  Jesus said, “I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly (over the top).”  That’s why David in Psalm 23 tells us that “He makes [us] to lie down in green pastures, he leads [us] beside the still waters…though [we] walk through the valley…[we] will fear no evil. For You [the Shepherd] are with [us].”  Wherever in the world you or, whatever marketplace you mingle, He is with you (Mt.28:19-20).

So to sum it up, the Messiah comes, the Savior comes, the Shepherd comes, He comes to the fold of Judaism and the fold of the Gentile world.  He comes to your turf.  His sheep know Him.  He knows them.  He knows their name.  He enters the door because He has full authority and right to do so.  Only he opens the door.  He brings out his sheep.  They follow.  They know His voice. They go through Him, He alone being the door.  They roam the world and enjoy his provision and protection.  He leads them to the good pasture.  This is salvation.  This is your story.  Or this can be your story.  It’s God’s story.

Drawing from the Past: In the 10th plague of Egypt, God said he would execute all the male firstborns except for those with doorposts marked with Lambs blood (Ex. 12:21-28).  After the Passover, Israel was able to journey to the good pasture of the Promised Land.

Applying to the Present: Jesus is our Passover Lamb.  As John the Baptist pronounced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  He sacrificed himself for the other sheep.  So that by his blood so you and I could be free from the power of sin and the wrath of God.

Looking towards the Future: Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door.” (Rev. 3:20)  One day you will stand at the glorious gates, but Jesus will be the most glorious gate (Rev.21:22-27).  The Lamb who was slain. He alone invites you to good pasture of Paradise.

Beholding the I AM is all about the Person of Jesus.  There are two Doors:  Life or Death.  Which door do you enter by? Do you want what is behind the door or do you want the Door?  There are two Sheep: Cared for or Consumed by.  Which characterizes you? There are two Shepherds: True or False.  Which shepherd’s voice do you hear?  Which are you most like? May our words and deeds look like our Shepherd.  May we invite others to know the Door too.  Are you going into the fields among the other flocks telling others about the Door and unashamedly warning them that they is no other way?

Prayer: Thank You, Father for calling us your sheep.  Thank you for sending us the Good Shepherd, the true shepherd.  Thank you for calling us and inviting us to enter by the Door and find good pasture in him.  Thank you that you offer us protection from sin.  Give us ears to hear Your voice.  To listen well.   To follow whole heartedly, even when it is hard and noisy.  Even when other voices and doors call for my attention.  Oh, to delight in the Word and You alone.  In Jesus name, Amen.

born to forgive

Sunday at church I heard a great message about forgiveness from a familiar passage (Luke 7:36-50).  However, I fall in the trap of hearing a lot about forgiveness, but practicing it superficially.

Jesus was born to forgive.  His life teaches us three things about about forgiveness: 1)  It takes compassion , 2) It is costly, 3) It involves continuity.

One of the most celebrated encounters Jesus has in the Gospels is when a sinful woman washes His feet with her tears and her hair. Those around Jesus were shocked that He would allow Himself to be so intimate with someone so sinful.

People would expect Jesus to shun the woman who washed his feet at dinner because of her past; the Pharisees were shocked that Jesus would let himself be touched by her, but Jesus accepted what she brought to him with love. Not only did He accept her, he defended her. Jesus forgave her, fully aware of what her sin was, and Jesus honored her sacrifice and the enormity of what she brought to him. She didn’t even need to speak during the entire story – she needed no defense. It was not because of her arguments that Jesus bestowed His forgiveness.

We need to recognize our need for forgiveness before we can accept it. However, it is not because of our effort that we receive it – it is freely given. And when something is that freely given, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We often put ourselves into the position of the Pharisees. Who would the people be today that we would shun? Whose sins would we say cannot be forgiven? How might Jesus be asking us to both extend and receive forgiveness?

God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion

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With a flash like lightning, God intersects with Saul (and his entourage). “Now as [Saul] journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.” (v.3) It was an unexpected encounter. It is interesting, unlike many Christians, Paul never links his conversion to a long process of God convicting or frustrating him of sin or stories scaring him out of hell. All those things may have happened in the instant he fell to the ground.

As Saul lay there on the ground, what did God say to him? First, He says in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul.” (v.4a) God singled out Saul by name. Fifteen times in Scripture names are repeated (i.e. God>Abraham, God>Moses, God>Samuel, David>Absalom, Elijah>God, Jesus>Martha, Jesus>Jerusalem, Jesus>God), which was used to gain attention or warning. Second, God says, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (v.4b) Notice He doesn’t say, “Why are you persecuting My people? Why are you such a bull?What’s wrong with you?” We discover in verse 5, the voice of God identifies Himself as Jesus. And Jesus clarifies that the persecution Saul is inflicting is ultimately against Him (v.5). In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you persecute My people, you persecute Me.” Those words bring such comfort to those suffering persecution for His name sake.

Notice how Saul responds to Jesus. He’s not passive nor is he defensive (v.5). He knows the voice is the Sovereign One of heaven. I can image Saul is as white as a bleached sheet and under the tremendous conviction of all his crimes. Yet in that moment, God’s grace is sufficient for Saul. It is also sufficient for your weakness too.

When I consider Saul’s conversion, it gives me courage to speak about the name of Jesus with friends and family. Their salvation might not happen immediately, but it might happen suddenly. Like My Grandpa Dale. He was a generous and kind man, he didn’t have many enemies (and he worked for the IRS). I’d share the gospel openly with him, since I was a teenager. He would listen intently, but normally respond saying, “Justin, that’s good, but I am happy being Catholic.”

A few years ago, Gramps called me at the church. In his quirky way he’d say, “Hey Huttshead. You’re a counselor, right? I have two questions for you: First, what do you think about me and my girlfriend living together? Second, could you tell me again how you think one gets to heaven?” His questions caught me by surprise. I answered his first question, letting him know I would rather see them marry, but that dearly I loved him. We spent the majority of conversation going to the Word, the source for the answers to his second question. Gramps, thanked me for the chat. He didn’t convert that day, but seeds were sown. Later, I found out that he had just been diagnosed with a malignant cancer that would soon take his life. Questions about his eternal destiny were his present reality.

A week later, I received another call from Gramps at the church. He started off by say, “Hey Pastor Hutts. I have two things I’d like to share with you. First, I have asked my girlfriend to marry me. Second, after talking to a pastor in town I have given my life to Jesus Christ.” Gramps went into hospice care a few months later. I leaned over the edge of his bed, he looked into my eyes—with tears in his—and said confidently, “I look forward to seeing my Savior.”

Gramps conversion was sudden and unexpected, as it might be with your neighbors, loved ones, or enemies. When you consider Saul’s sudden conversion how does it call you to persevere and be patience? How does it encourage you as you think about those who hard to love or hard to the gospel? As we will see (next week), Saul’s conversion is meant give you encouragement.

Coming Soon…

Part 1: God’s grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone (last week).

Part 2: God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion (today).

Part 3: God’s grace uses people as his instruments (next week).

Part 4: God’s grace on display in my childhood (in 2-weeks).

Theology of Redemption from the book of Revelation

This article was written by my friend Jeremy Oliver. Jeremy is an Assistant Pastor at Battle Ground Bible Church since August 2011. Previously he taught Bible and ran the Spiritual Life at a Christian academy in Phoenix, Arizona, where he also served in the biblical counseling program and led a small group at Harvest Bible Chapel North Phoenix. After earning a BA in History from Indiana University and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies concentrated in History from Valparaiso University, he completed a Masters of Divinity from Faith Bible Seminary in 2010. He and his wife, Jen, have been happily married since November 2006. They have a beautiful boy named, Charlie.

One of the great questions that loom in the mind of individuals is, “How can a loving and all-powerful God allow evil in the world?”  If God is so concerned for humanity and even died to redeem it, how is it that evil exists in the world?  Grant Osborne notes that Revelation serves as a theodicy of God, continuing in the line other biblical literature which “refers to the justification of God in two directions: the seeming triumph of the wicked and the suffering of the innocent.”[1]  Revelation continues in this tradition, prophesying of the culminating redemption of creation and the defeat of evil.  It is in this horrid picture of judgment upon the world that ultimate redemption is found for those who hold fast to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  In the final vision (Revelation 21:9-22:9) God has defeated the forces of evil and His redemptive work is completed.  It is in the context of Revelation that the answer to the problem of evil is finally answered and God responds to so many who have echoed the cry of those slain on behalf of God, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). In this section, the theme of redemption will be traced through the book of Revelation.

In the prologue of this book, John admonishes the reader to hold fast to Christ because the events flowing out of these visions are imminent and the consummation of redemption is ‘near’.   Beale notes, “The main goal of the argument of John’s Revelation is to exhort God’s people to remain faithful to the calling of following the Lamb’s paradoxical example and not to compromise, in order that they may inherit final salvation.”[2]  Following this admonition is John’s vision of the risen Christ as he views the church in the world.  This vision contains seven letters to contemporary churches of John’s day from Jesus (1:5), who has provided redemption “from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father” (1:5).

After the initial greeting to these churches, Jesus observes their activities, bringing attention to their strengths and weaknesses.  Yet within these letters there are promises of final redemption for those who repent and hold fast to Jesus Christ (2:7, 11, 17, 28; 3:5, 11-12, 21).  Repentance is crucial to the people of God in Revelation and it is stubborn refusal to repent that precedes the judgments of God.  Osborne notes, “It is clear that the judgments of the trumpets and bowls are not just the over-reaction of a vindictive God who wreaks vengeance on all his enemies but a last call to repentance while there is still time.”[3]  Jesus is calling them to repent and stand, which in turn is setting the stage for what one should stand firm for, namely, the consummation of redemption at the end of human history as we know it.  The return of Christ is certain and imminent; they will be affected by it, whether it occurs in their lifetime or in the distant future.

Upon the close of these seven letters John is brought to heaven for a vision of the coming judgment (4:1-11:19).  In transition to the impending judgment by God comes a glorious scene of the risen Jesus Christ as one who is worthy to bring that judgment (5:3-5).  In Christ’s death and resurrection, he is the redeemer who alone is worthy to judge the sinfulness that has permeated the world.  Beale notes, “God and Christ are glorified because Christ’s resurrection demonstrates that they are sovereign over creation to judge and to redeem.”[4]

Chapters 4 and 5 are central to the book of Revelation as they show the sovereign hand of the God, the only one worthy to bring both judgment upon sin and the fulfillment of redemption.  What a horrible scene of mass destruction; yet God is worthy in his holiness to bring such judgment.  In his holiness he is praised by those who follow him because they know that such destruction is part of his plan of redemption for those who follow him.  The second vision ends with this sobering reminder of this contrast of judgment and reward, all at the hand of God,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (11:17-18, ESV).

The next stage in this progress of redemption is battle between God and Satan.  It is Satan who is ultimately behind this rebellion against God and who battles greatly against God’s people on the earth (12:17), knowing that his time is limited (12:12).  In his battle against God’s people, Satan calls the Beast and the False Prophet to cause men to reject God (13:4, 14) and brutally hunt and massacre the people of God in the world (13:7, 15).  But even in the midst of this ghastly scene, there is hope for those who choose God over this rebellious onslaught (13:7-10).  In this is the hope of that final destruction of evil by God and the consummation of redemption.

In response to this great atrocity God does not idly allow evil to continue unrestrained.  He is patient with humanity, warning them of the coming judgment (14:6-13) before his final and horrific judgments and the millennium in which he will rule upon the earth (15:5-18:24).  Here God continues his process of defeating evil and progressing towards the pinnacle of redemption.  Again God is praised for his just and sovereign dealings with evil and rebellion (19:1-2) and calls his people to himself where they will commune with him, in contrast to the destruction of those who are conquered with the Beast and the Prophet.

After this thousand year reign the ultimate defeat of evil comes as Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire and all those who followed this rebellion with him.  It is here that evil is ultimately defeated and God wholly brings redemption to the world and all those who follow him (21:1-22:5).

The overarching theme of this consummation of redemption is marked by the new heaven and earth (21:1).  There are three specific elements of this redemption that will be examined further: Jerusalem, the Temple, and the people of God.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a place of great significance throughout Israel’s history and is, as Isaiah noted, “Yahweh’s holy hill, the place where he lives (4:5; 8:18; 10:12; 12:5-6; 14:32; 24:23; 30:19; 31:9)”.[5]  This city was established under the reign of David as the capital of Israel; it is here in the Tabernacle and eventually in the Temple that Yahweh dwelt.  Sadly, sinful Israel mistook this presence of Yahweh for unconditional protection, which was shattered with the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and the unimaginable scene of the removal of Yahweh’s presence from Jerusalem’s Temple in Ezekiel (8:1-3).  It was because of sin that Jerusalem never attained the status intended for it as the city of the Great King (Psalm 48:2).

Jerusalem, which was intended to be a place of great worship of Yahweh, became a place which “kills the prophets” (Luke 13:33) and would eventually murder the one who came to redeem it, Jesus Christ.  This city lost its status as the dwelling place of God and instead received condemnation from the Savior (Luke 19:41-44).

It is in Revelation 21-22 that Yahweh redeems Jerusalem from its sinful past so that it lives up to its potential as the city of the Great King (Psalm 48:2).  The description that John gives is fantastic, recording a place of immense glory and the dwelling place of the glorious One.

The Temple

The Temple was the center of Jewish worship of Yahweh.  After the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Yahweh was not able to dwell directly with his people due to their sinfulness and his holiness.  Yet, desiring a relationship with his people he had the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, construct the Tabernacle as a place of worship in which this was possible.  Even this interaction between God and man did not compare to the harmonious relationship in the Garden, as sacrifices had to be offered continually and the people were removed from direct presence of God in his dwelling place, the Holy of Holies.  Once the permanent settlement of the Temple was constructed, this same basic structure remained in place for Jewish worship.  It was in the holy city of Jerusalem that the Temple was erected and viewed as being protected because it was the dwelling place of God.  However, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587 B.C., all of Israel was distraught and confused.  McKelvey notes, “This meant nothing less than the loss of God’s presence (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4-5; 11:23).”[6]  The Temple was restored under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, but this did not last either.

As history progressed, Jesus Christ came upon the scene making Messianic promises of worship that would not take place at the Temple (John 4:21-24).  Jesus would later cleanse the Temple and reject the people who rejected him and, as McKelvey notes,

“The consequences of Jesus’ rejection and death for the Temple of Jerusalem are nowhere more in evidence than in Mark’s statement that at the moment Jesus died the veil of the Temple was torn apart (15:38)…the meaning is not in doubt; the death of Jesus stands for the removal of the Temple of Jerusalem and its replacement by a new means of forgiveness…”[7]

Later in the New Testament Paul would describe the believer as “God’s Temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).  No longer did the believer have to offer sacrifices to Yahweh as a means of blood manipulation; rather, through the death of Jesus Christ, sin was atoned for and a new era of communion with Yahweh was brought forth.  The nullification of Temple worship became even more apparent with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.  However, believers are still sinful beings and do not yet know the promise of ultimate fulfillment of dwelling with Jesus.  In Revelation 21-22 the realization of this is seen in the structure of the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:22 gives the key to the Temple in the New Jerusalem, “and I saw no Temple in the city, for its Temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (ESV).  What an amazing picture in which communion with God is fully realized, without the need of sacrifices or the veil of the Holy of Holies. It is here in the New Jerusalem that God and humanity will dwell together as was intended in the Garden of Genesis 2.

The People of God

Lastly, the people of God are fully redeemed as well.  Since the Fall of Adam and Eve humanity has lived under the effects of the sinful nature.  In the atoning work of Jesus Christ, redemption was made possible, yet the indwelling of sin still existed.  Revelation echoes this great truth in victory songs, recalling imagery of redemption throughout human history.  Hubbard notes,

“The Lamb is worthy of praise because its shed blood ransomed `believers from all nations (5:8-9).  The language appears to compare Christ to the Paschal lamb whose blood delivered the Israelite firstborn (Exod. 12; Mark 14:12-25, par.; cf. John 1:29) and to the lamb (i.e., the Suffering Servant) whose atoning death purchases believers from eternal death.”[8]

In Revelation 21-22 redemption is fully realized as this communion occurs between humanity and God.  Revelation 21:3 gives such a vivid picture of this ultimate goal of Yahweh’s sovereign plan of redemption, “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” (ESV).  What a glorious picture of the hope which all believers should long for.  Ladd notes, “This feature – the fact that God will be God to his people – is the central element of God’s covenant with his people throughout the entire course of redemptive history…Now, at last, this covenant promise finds its perfect fulfillment in the new earth of the Age to Come.”[9]  Finally, it is this hope that is the motivation for John’s benediction (Revelation 22:6-21).


[1] Grant R. Osborne, “Theodicy in the Apocalypse,” Trinity Journal 141:1 (Spring 1993), 64.

[2] G.K. Beale, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 356.

[3] Osborne, “Theodicy in the Apocalypse”, 69.

[4]Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 173.

[5] P.W.L. Walker, “Jerusalem”, in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 589.

[6]  R.J. McKelvey, “Temple” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 807.

[7] Ibid, 808.

[8]  R.L. Hubbard, Jr., “Redemption” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 720.

[9]  George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974; revised edition, Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 682.

challenges to conversion

Conversion is the child produced by the marriage of faith and repentance (43).

In order to fully appreciate the necessity of conversion, we need to understand the depth of man’s sinfulness and the nature of the human heart to live in rebellion against God’s authority and to resist or replace His demand for singular worship.

Challenges to conversion:

1. Willful independence. This is in fact a definition for sin (Is.43:7; 53:6; Gen.2:7-25; 3:8-24). “Sin is first and foremost a rejection of the supremacy of God and His lordship over our lives” (Thomas Schreiner) “Sin is a deification of self and dethronement of God.” (Charles Horne) Sin is self-worship.

2. Selfish cruelty. Man is more inhumane that wild animals because we are about self-exultation although made in the image of God. (i.e. The Brothers Karamazov; Gen.9:6; Js.3:9)

3. Total Depravity. Our autonomous heart is rooted in our depravity (i.e. continually under the influence of sin).

4. Spiritual unresponsiveness. Without Christ we have total inability to save ourselves and left to ourselves sin will rule us to the grave (Rom.5:6; 3:11; Eph.2:1-3; 1 Cor.2:14). Regeneration is the supernatural imparting of spiritual life to the sinners hear by the Holy Spirit alone. (Eph.2:1; Rom.3:10-18; 5:6; Col.2:13)

Adapted from Chapter 3 of Counsel One Another by Paul Tautges

IMMANUEL: Jesus be incarnate in me

This week I swept my wife away for a romantic getaway in the woods of Milton, Ontario. We left our daughter in the delightful care of her grandparents. We ate dinner at a beautiful bistro, talked until twilight, and slept in a cozy B&B. My most favorite memory of out time together was snuggling close and enjoying one another’s presence. There is safety, comfort and love in the presence of the one you love.

So it is with God—our Heavenly Maker. There is comfort and security in His presence. Throughout Scripture the theme of God’s presence with His people is a thread that weaves through the pages of Scripture [138 X’s, through people and promises].

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:22–23 [Read Matthew 1:18-25]

Does anything fill you with awe or wonder in those verses? The Incarnation is the noblest idea of any world religion. God did not watch human despair from the safety of heaven. He clothed Himself in humanity. He ceased watching the human war and became a soldier. Oh, the things that God experienced in becoming a man:

  • the blistering summer sun,
  • the shivering rains of winter,
  • the hunger and thirst when He fasted after His baptism,
  • the rejection of those who walked away in unbelief,
  • the sorrow when His earthly father died,
  • the pain of Peter denials,
  • the betrayal by His friend Judas,
  • the disappearance of all friends at His arrest in Gethsemane,
  • the horror of naked judgment with no one to speak on His behalf,
  • the empathy of a mother’s tears when she stood at the cross,
  • the torture of crucifixion although innocent and guiltless,
  • the agony of death,
  • the loneliness of being forsaken by everyone.

All these things—when compiled together-spell Immanuel. These things are what the God of all mercy took upon Himself.

But why did He do it? It’s because these sorts of things form the fabric of all of our living. We cannot live without scrapes and pains, without heartache and sadness, without mosquito bites and cancer. Immanuel was God saying, “You shall not bear such pain alone.” God became flesh to redeem. Jesus stepped onto His created soil stained with sin and became the living sacrifice taking upon Himself the scorching wrath of God to save you and me.

Let Jesus be incarnate in your life, and then maybe when you have stooped to serve the desperate and dying, you will hear them say the word Immanuel. When Christ becomes incarnate in your life, you will hear those you serve saying to you, “I cannot help but believe in Christ. I have seen Him in your life.”

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Corinthians 2:1—5]

How does Immanuel give comfort/security when you receive bad news? Have a hard workweek? Deal with daily stress? In what ways can you counsel friends or family around you with the promise of Immanuel?

Lord, be incarnate in me. Make me an instrument of Your incarnation. Live in me until my life is so submerged in Yours that I am invisible. Wherever I go, whatever I do, may I hear those around me breathe the word Immanuel, suggesting that I am nothing and You are everything.

undeserved

What is grace?

Grace is not unconditional acceptance, but it is undeserved. That is a very difficult balance to strike! God’s grace comes to us without prerequisites, finding us as we are. God;s grace does not come to the “deserving” (there is no such person), and it does not discriminate. Rather, initially it comes to us freely. But once it enters into our lives, God’s grace demands changes; it holds us accountable. Why? Grace demands our holiness and growth for our sake as well as for God’s glory. Grace intercepts destructive behavior, protects us from the ravages of sin, sanctifies us so we can be “holy and happy,” two inseparable qualities.

In summary, grace is undeserved caring that intercepts destructive behavior. It is not unconditional acceptance, nor is it a legalism that says, “Shape up or I will stop loving you.” Rather, it says, “Your sin cannot separate you from me,” and then, in addition, says, “I won’t let your sin destroy you.” Grace comes to the unlovely person, but refuses to let him remain ugly.

Timothy Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ. 1997. 226-227.

from sofa to service

I love being a spectator. Some might consider me a professional spectator. In the fall there is nothing better than being a spectator in a football stadium cheering on your favorite team. Do you spectate? Maybe you’re a spectator of a good movie or concert, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Whether it is a bleacher or sofa, spectators are good sitters. Spectators feed off others doing the work and paying good money to have a seat with the best view.

Sad, but true, the Christian life can be a spectator sport. Instead of sofas or stadiums, the church pew can be your seat of choice. It is far too easy to sit comfortably cheering or booing on the 11-people serving on Sunday. All the while never engaging yourselves in the ministry or doing your part to serve the church. Where are you at today? Are you sitting in the grandstands cheering from a distance? Are you standing on the sideline benched and bored? Are you retired from the game because you are no longer motivated to workout your salvation with fear and trembling? Or are you on the field running the race, fighting the good fight, eager for encouragement to keep pressing on?

In Acts 9, Paul miraculous comes to Christ on the road to Damascus. After he gets his sight back he immediately enrolls to serve for the sake of Christ [cf. Acts 9:18-20]. According to Paul, serving Christ was the greatest thing since sliced kosher beef. He worked his entire life to gain merit badges from God, but Christ gave him an entirely different motivation to work. As a recipient of God’s grace, he made it his mission to be a conduit of God’s grace. You might call him a missionary—a man on a mission. I think Paul always kept his car packed ready to go to the next place eager to share the good news that radically broke into his life.  In fact, if you are believer you are an immediate missionary for Jesus Christ. Here are 3 truths that will move you from the sofa into His service or from the mundane to your mission:

1. NEVER DO MINISTRY ALONE [Acts 15:36-16:5]

On Paul’s first journey, he and Barnabus were sent out from Antioch [Acts 13]. Many Gentiles bowed their knee to Christ through their ministry. On the brink of the second missionary journey, Paul had a good plan, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” [Acts 15:36ff] Barnabus was cool with the plan, but he wanted to bring along John Mark too. Paul did not like the idea, since Mark bailed on them midway through their first journey [13:13]. Barnabus—the encourager—wanted to give his friend a second shot. It started a conflict so sharp the friends to parted ways.

So who was right? Most side with Paul since he’s the apostle, however, the Bible is silent not taking sides. It is interesting that you never hear about Barnabus again. On the other hand, later Paul would ask that Mark be brought to him because he was “useful to him for ministry” [2 Timothy 4:11]. And this Mark is the same Mark that eventually wrote the gospel of Mark. Bottom line is—we don’t know—who was right, but God did use their conflict for His purposes. They are both right and both wrong. I find it encouraging that even though Paul and Barnabus had their issues they were still willing to serve. They didn’t hang up their shoes—giving up. This shows you the attractiveness of message over the messengers. The church might be messy, but it is still the beautiful Bride of Christ.

If you serve in the church you are wise to remind yourself, first, work hard to fight for unity whenever possible. Paul says in a letter to a church, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:1-3, cf. Colossians 3:12-17] Do you think your pastors, deacons, sound techs, worship leader, nursery workers, AWANA helpers, and Sunday School teachers are aware of this need for unity? People problems can come up frequently when serving the Lord together, but whenever possible strive for unity.

The number one reason why people leave a church or the mission field is because of conflict with a person or personality. As Sarah and I go to North Africa, pray for our team. Pray for an ethos of grace that seeks to resolve conflict biblically and quickly. I could not imagine doing ministry alone. That was my favorite part of ministry at BGBC, serving along side deacons, youth leaders, and teams of people who sought unity in community.

Second, serving together is far better than serving solo. Do you notice that Paul usually serves on a team? Rarely do you see him going solo, even in prison. I have heard many of reasons why people do not like to minister with others, like, “Our personalities just don’t jive,” “I’ve had too many bail and leave me with the bag,” or “I really work better by myself.” It is exceedingly selfish to serve God alone. What might be more selfish is not even engaging in ministry. Doing ministry with others might cause friction or factions, but that is no reason not to do ministry with one another. You might think you are more effective by yourself, but the Christians faith was not meant for Lone Rangers it is to be lived in community. My church has a core value that states, “We are devoted to making every member a minister.”  It takes a church to raise a Christian.

Third, serving with others closely mimics Jesus’ model of discipleship. Jesus’ idea of discipleship trains people on the job. Most people learn best by doing, which runs contrary to our culture that says you learn best by hearing. Serving with others makes ministry transitions easier. Who will take over after Sunday School or small group when you leave? Are you grooming your replacement in the food pantry or youth group? Have you asked God to give you a Timothy [or Tabitha, 9:36-43] to train [2 Timothy 2:2]? Doing ministry alone can be dangerous. It can leave a vacuum after you’re gone. It is also dangerous because it is easy to cheat and lie about your service because no eyes are watching you. Serving with others keeps you honest. Follow the model of Jesus and His disciples: never serve alone.

Need an example? Look at how Paul picks out young Timothy [vs.1-5]. Paul needs help so he grabs Tim and gets him ready to serve.[1] Paul grows to love Timothy so much that he often refers to him as his, “true child in the faith.” [1 Timothy 1:2] and, “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me.” [Philippians 2:19-23] These are the kinds of relationships that make doing ministry together worth it.

2. NEVER ARE YOU CALLED BY GOD TO DO WHAT YOU ARE NOT ALREADY DOING [Acts 16:6-10]

The time has now arrived for Paul’s second ministry road trip. With the car packed and ready to go Paul and Timothy ventured out towards Asia [Turkey], but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to go. In fact, God says “NO!” to four cities in Asia, but He does say, “YES!” giving them permission to go to Troas [Troy], which ultimately leads them to Philippi [Macedonia; Europe]. Paul’s plan was to go where he had already preached before [15:36], but God had plans to send him to preach to the unreached people West of Jerusalem.

While in Troas, God gives Paul a vision. In the vision, a man urges him to come to Macedonia to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the passage of Scripture we dub, ‘The Macedonian Call.’ It is a well-known passage that missionaries often use to validate the country they believe God has called them to evangelize. You must be very careful to label a calling to a place or a project. You will hear people say, “I’m called to the poor. I’m call to Pakistan. I’m not called to kids! I am certainly not called to be an evangelist.” Nobody would dare to argue with the calling of God on your life. But there are two problems with this. First, it ignores the fact that missions is the primary purpose of the church; and if you’re called to be a part of the church, then you’re also called to missions. You can’t be an employee of Taco Bell without selling tacos, and you can’t be a part of the church without doing missions. It’s that simple.

Second, it often misunderstands the idea of God’s calling upon one’s life. The Bible describes vocational calling to ministry as a function of the local church, not as the autonomous decision of the individual. If you are serving a place or project before you are serving a Person you got to ask yourself, who’s mission are you on? Paul is sent out from his local church to preach the gospel of Christ as an ambassador of His church. Paul’s call is fairly general. Paul’s calling to go to Macedonia never interferes with his original and overarching calling, which was Paul was to serve Christ and suffer for His namesake [cf. Acts 9:15-16]. Paul is not so much called to a place as he is called to preach the gospel in that place. Macedonia is a really big place. So the first place they decide to go is the strategic port city, Philippi.

Paul isn’t called to something new, He is called to do what he’s been doing all along—preach the gospel. Now God is simply directing his servant to do just that in a new place. Like Paul, your primary calling is to serve Christ, which will also be followed by suffering. Suffering always precedes glory. And suffering paves the way for Christ and His church.[2]

There are thousands of unreached people groups around the world and there are thousands of spiritually profitable projects needing willing servants. If you are unsure what to do or where to go: Research an unreached people group [JoshuaProject.net]. Adopt one [globalroar.org]. Give or go. Pray for people of peace around you [Matthew 10; Luke 10]. If there are none, continue on to the next place. Some soils are not ready to receive the Word of God. The point is: the kingdom of God is near, so get off your sofa callused rear!

3. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE RADICAL REWARDS OF SACRIFICIAL SERVICE [Acts 16:11-15]

Again, Paul and Timothy [and Luke] hop into the station wagon and head over to Philippi. It must have been a long trip—too much pork rinds and licorice. Once they reached their destination they decide to rest a few days. I imagine they scoped the place out before going gangbusters on the good news. They could not find a local synagogue [usually the first place to meet God-fearers], which means there were less than 10 Jewish men [minimum needed to start a synagogue].  In non-Jewish places Jews would gather in obscure places because Macedonians saw them as a cult. So they went outside the gate to find worshipers. They found a women’s prayer gathering on the Sabbath Day down by the river. There they met Lydia.

Lydia, owned an upper-class clothing shop in an upper-class kind of town. Like Martha Stewart or Oprah, Lydia’s an ancient independent and businesswoman women. She sold of purple fabric, which is the color most royals would wear. Lydia reminds me of a woman I met while in South Africa. Gerda, a middle-aged single woman, sold tie-dyed fabric. I met her while buying a gift for my mother. She knew I was from out of town and asked, “Where are you from?” I said, “The United States.” With curiosity she asked, “What are you doing here?” “I am hear to share Christ with your community, see His church grow and find people interested in knowing more about Him and His Word.” To my surprise she opened her home and the next week I started a small group Bible study that later became the seed to a new church.

Lydia becomes the first European convert and opens her home the church for the first church in Philippi. She is an immediate missionary. And she is a single gal with a clothing shop. God uses single females [i.e. Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Elizabeth Elliott, Rachel Saint]. Today 20-25% of the missionaries are single women, and this does not count the 40% that are mom’s or wives. Women married to Jesus and His mission are so needed. You never know when you might meet the next Lydia. You might be the next Lydia!

In the church, we value male spiritual leadership because the Bible empowers men to this position. This does not mean women do not have a purpose in the church and global ministry. The church and Bible have a favorable view of women.[3] In fact, true Christianity has the most favorable view of women among all the religions of the world [cf. Proverbs 31]. God clearly gives distinct roles to men and women, but they are equal in value because both men and women are created in His image [Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28]. Both sexes are marked by their Makers image.

What God is interested in most is what kind of woman you are—a woman of Christlike character. Young or old, God is looking for godly gals. Some of the greatest servants I know are older women who barely venture from their home, but pray earnestly and encourage rigorously the church.

Let’s look for a moment at her turning point. First, she comes to Christ because someone told her the gospel. Faith comes by hearing. Someone must speak the gospel. The point of speaking the gospel is to give something to see. Paul was not some irresistible orator, but his God is a relentless heart pursuer. Second, the Lord is the key actor in the story, not us. You have a significant role in speaking the gospel, but it is the Lord who does the decisive work. He “opens the heart” of Lydia. This is a beautiful picture of God’s salvation. This means He takes out the hard heart of stone, and puts in the heart of flesh [Ezekiel 36:26]; He says with sovereign authority, “Let there be light,” and “shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Third, she pays attention to the truth. The effect of the Lord’s opening her heart is a true hearing of the gospel. She was “granted repentance” [2 Timothy 2:25] and faith [Philippians 1:29].

Without question or complaint Paul and Timothy follow Christ’s course direction to Philippi. God leads them to a businesswoman praying to God and He opens her heart. They continue to minister and meet another girl, but she’s quiet messed up. She’s a demonized slave girl who was being exploited for her fortune-telling skills [16:16-24]. Jesus shines light into her darkness. And now there was no hiding the fact that God is at work in Philippi. Her owners get ticked because their hope of making money left with her evil spirit. So they had Paul and Timothy beaten and thrown in jail. They took a dull or dreary situation chained up in the damp dark cell and had a worship service [25-33]. What follows next is as Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there was a “whole lotta shaking going on!” God orchestrates an earthquake and all the prisoners are set free. The jailor, now out of a job, comes to Christ amidst the rubble. Ironically, the jailor is freed from the bondage of his sin.

All this, in Acts 16, is here to show you that God rewards those who sacrificially serve for His namesake. The reward is the salvation of lost souls and the planting of the first church in Europe. In its inaugural membership: a businesswoman and her household; a messed up slave-girl; and a suicidal city employee—a jailer and his household. That’s the church in Philippi that God built. And He is still building churches today and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. In Christ, you are the beautiful Bride of Christ!

With that I encourage you to never do ministry alone, know you are never called by God to do what you are not already doing, and never underestimate the rewards of sacrificial service. Know that your ministry matters in eternity. Those kids in AWANA or Sunday School, the men and women in your Bible Study or small group, those neighbors in your neighborhood, those students in your class or bus, and those you work with at the office are looking to you to show them through your words and deeds the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the reward of sacrificial service. The motivation of Paul’s service was not guilt, but the grace of God he was given on the Damascus road [cf. 1 Timothy 1:12ff]. The only lasting motivation you will have to get off the sofa and into the service of Christ is meditating on the glorious grace in Jesus Christ.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]


[1] He encourages Timothy to get circumcised, not because he would be a more fit to serve. The Jerusalem Council settles this debate [cf. Acts 15:1-35].Timothy’s mother was Jewish and he would be ministering to Jews. He was giving up his rights to reach the Jews [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].

[2] Cf. Romans 12:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4; Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 12:1-13

[3] Luke shares the stories of many women in the Book of Acts. Women like Lydia were particularly prominent in Paul’s missionary efforts in this portion of Acts—the women of Thessalonica (17:4) and of Berea (17:12), Damaris in Athens (17:34), and Priscilla in Corinth (18:2). Priscilla and Lydia took an active role in the ministry of their churches. For an excellent treatment of Lydia, see R. Ryan, “Lydia, a Dealer in Purple Goods,” TBT 22 (1984): 285–89.

from fanatic to follower

Fanatics aren’t hard to find. Each weekend around the country fanatics pack stadiums proudly displaying the colors and logos of their favorite team and passionately cheer and shout for hits, sacks and complete annihilations. Football fanatics have been known to wear pirate eye patches, pig snouts, and large wedges of cheese. Honestly, I do not see anything wrong with the cheesehead!

Political systems have also produced more than one fanatic. Have you heard of Usama Bin Laden, Idi Amin, Gaddafi, Mugabe, and Kim Jong Il? These are household names. Historically you have certainly learned about Adolf Hilter, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Leopold II, and Nero who burned Christians as lighting for his courtyards.

Religious fanatics aren’t hard to find either. Thousands of Muslims pilgrimage yearly to Mecca, Hindu’s worship a pantheon of more than 300 million deities, Buddhist bow to an icon of bald man with a big belly, some religious radicals commit suicide in car bombings to gain merit in the afterlife, and on TV you seen “Christian” evangelists sporting big hair and big bank accounts.

Another religious fanatic that you may be aware of lived shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was a member of an elite religious group that wielded considerable political power in his region. His name was Saul of Tarsus.[1] His studied in Jerusalem under the Jewish scholar Gamaliel. He slavishly devoted himself to the Old Testament laws along with hundreds of other laws the Pharisees concocted [Galatians 1:13-14]. He assumed he was pleasing God as a religious fanatic.

STORY OF AN ENEMY OF CHRIST [Acts 9:1-2]

The one thing that Saul saw as a threat to his rigorous religious system of Judaism was this newfound faith called followers of the Way. Jews were converting in droves becoming followers of the Way of Christ. These followers realized “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which men must be saved” [Acts 4:12], but the name of Jesus. In zealous response Saul attacked Jesus-followers seeking to be a one-man roadblock to the Way.

After he just stood by and watch the stoning of Stephen[2] it is said that Saul “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” [Acts 8:3] Then in Acts 9:1–2, Paul was not just bullying Christians, he was “breathing threats.” It is as though persecution was the air he breathed. Paul was breathing threats and murder against Christians, and took his persecution 150 miles north of Jerusalem to Damascus and planned to bring Christians back for punishment.

While Saul travel down the road to Damascus, God is taking Saul down the road towards transformation. The conversion of Saul is the conversion of a stanch opponent of Christianity. Today I will look at the story of Paul’s conversion to Christ. I want you to see God’s purpose in converting Paul was to give you hope for yourself and for the people you want to see converted.

SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED CONVERSION [Acts 9:3-9]

Saul is the last person on earth you would expect to convert to Christ. He was not open to considerations or interested in learning about the Way. He was closed and convinced Christ’s claims were blasphemous. His heart was hard and dead in his trespasses and sins. He is the kind of guy you wish would go away or that God would somehow smite. Do you know some Saul’s? How often do you pray for their salvation rather than their destruction?

“Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.” [Acts 9:3] The whole event came out of the blue, like a surprise party or hidden camera show. Paul’s first encounter with Christ was unexpected. Paul never links his conversion to any long process of God convicting him of sin or of frustrating him or of stories scaring him with death and hell. All those things may have happened in an instant as he fell to the ground. But there was no long process preparing the soil of his heart. The conversion was sudden and utterly unexpected.

When I consider Saul’s conversion it gives me courage that my prayers and efforts to see my friends and family saved might not happen immediately, but it might happen suddenly. It reminds me of my gramps conversion. I had been sharing my faith openly with him since I came to Christ as a teenager. I had many talks with him about my faith in Christ. He would listen, but normally respond by saying, “No thanks Justin, that is good for you, but I am happy being Catholic.”

I never gave up praying or sharing. Sometimes I would be frustrated when I would not see any progress or signs God was preparing his soul. Until about 3-years ago, just after he found out that he had a malignant form of cancer. I received a call at the church and he said, “Justin. Counselor. I have two questions for you: First, what do you think about my girlfriend and I living together? Second, how do I know Christ is Savior?” His questions caught me by surprise. I answer his first question, letting him know I would rather see them marry but encouraged him of my love. Then we spent the majority of time talking about his second question. He did not make a decision that day.

A week later I received another call at the church from gramps. He started off by say, “Justin. Pastor. I have two things to share with you. First, I have asked my girlfriend to marry me. Second, I have given my life to Jesus Christ.” A few months later on his deathbed he looked me in the eyes—with tears in his—and said confidently, “I look forward to seeing my Savior.” Gramps conversion was sudden and unexpected, like Saul’s. Keep praying and sharing the love of Christ because He is Truth and the Truth will set free.

SOVEREIGN GRACE ON DISPLAY [Acts 9:10-20]

Saul’s conversion was a miraculous display of God’s sovereign grace. Jesus as commander-in-chief of the universe took over that day on the Damascus road. There is no doubt that only Christ could change a soul like Saul’s. How is grace of God on display in Saul’s salvation?

First, God causes a light to flash from heaven with blinding brightness. Saul is left blind for three days—until Ananias prayed and laid hands on him [v.17]. God blinded him and God gave him sight again. This was a powerful sign to Saul of his actual spiritual darkness. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever followers Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12] The Pharisees doubted and questioned His bold statement of authority, but just a few moments later He gave them a divine object lesson healing a man born blind [cf. John 9:1-41].

Second, Jesus is seen as totally authoritative when He speaks to Saul and gives him an unquestionable command. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [vs.5b–6] Jesus does not bargain, debate or give Saul a choice in the matter. Jesus means to have Saul in His service and there is no question that He will succeed.

Third, Jesus chose Paul long before Paul chose Jesus. “Before I was born God set me apart and called me by His grace to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” [cf. Galatians 1:15]. Jesus speaks to Ananias as if He knows Saul will go along with what he says. Naturally Ananias is afraid to go pray for Paul, but Jesus says to him in a vision, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;[3] I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” [vs.15-16] Ironically, Saul the persecutor will face persecution in his future ministry. Christ is calling Saul to salvation and a ministry filled with suffering.

Fourth, He uses reluctant Ananias as His ambassador. God gives him a vision to share the gospel with someone he really is not comfortable. He’s heard of Saul’s bad reputation, and knows he could be walking into a prison sentence. I can hear Ananias asking, “What about that sweat old lady across the street who always makes my favorite cookies? Or the kid next-door who is really lost but faithfully comes to our weekly AWANA outreach?” Jesus used Ananias, but the glory for his salvation goes to Jesus.

I can relate to Ananias. I can be timid at times, I’ve been known to ignore God’s tug to tell others about Him. One of the simplest, but effective ways I’ve been able to remedy this in my life to pray for/with the often ignored people around me [i.e. sales clerk, bank teller, mailman, waiter]. Surprisingly they all respond favorably and God’s grace is on display.

SAUL’S CONVERSION IS FOR YOUR SAKE [1 Timothy 1:12-17]

God had you in view when He chose Saul and saved him by His sovereign grace. Later Paul reflects with his young pastoral student Timothy, “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost [chief, first place]. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Timothy 1:12-17]

If you believed on Jesus for eternal life—or if you may yet believe on Him for eternal life—Paul’s conversion is for your sake. How does his conversion attest to this?

First, even a religious fanatic can be an enemy of God. Before Christ you were an enemy of God [Romans 5:10]. Paul’s life as a fanatical Pharisee was a long, long trial to Jesus. Jesus asked, “Why do you persecute me?” In other words, “Your life of unbelief and rebellion is a persecution of Me!” Paul had been set apart for God since before he was born. Therefore all his life was one long abuse of God, and one long rejection and mockery of Jesus who loved him. That is why Paul says his conversion is a grand demonstration of Jesus’ longsuffering.

Second, no one is too severe a sinner to be withheld forgiveness of his or her sin. You might have lied, cheated, murdered someone with your words, or blasphemed God to His face. You can be forgiven! Saul’s salvation was for your sake to show you the patience of Christ. Lest you lose heart and think He could not really save you. Lest you think He is quick to anger. Lest you think you have gone too far away. Lest you think your dearest one cannot be converted—suddenly, unexpectedly, by the sovereign grace of Jesus.

Third, God uses the blood of his believers to build his church. The stoning of Stephen was no mistake. It led Saul down the Damascus road, down the road towards transformation, paved the way through severe suffering so the seed of the church and the saving message of Christ could reach you and me. A few months ago, I met a gathering of MBB believers in North Africa who suffered immense persecution, public humiliation, loss of jobs, and separation from family all for the sake of coming to Christ. Their perseverance has led to the birth of a vibrant church among an unreached people group.

It is okay to be a fanatic as long as you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. By definition a fanatic is a person filled with obsessive enthusiasm and single-minded zeal. This kind of passion is necessary as a follower of Christ since the Way is not easy. Jesus does promise forgiveness, but He also promises a rocky road filled with temptation and suffering. Are you ready to walk down the road of Golgotha bearing your cross, dying to self and living for Christ?


[1] Saul is the Hebrew name for Paul.

[2] Stephen was the first recorded martyr of Christianity [Acts 7:54-8:3].

[3] Paul did get to carry Christ’s name to King Aggripa [Acts 25:13ff] and Caesar [25:1-12]

a case for penal substitution

The cross work of Christ is not just a payment for the wages of sin, but it is man’s means for cleansing from and victory over sin and death. In essence, that is the doctrine of penal substitution. The doctrine of penal substitution is one of the glorious truth’s of the Bible.

First, the doctrine of penal substitution is biblical.

From beginning to end penal substitution is central to the message of the Bible [cf. Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 1:4; 17:11; Isaiah 53:5-6; Hebrews 9:22]. The truth that Jesus Christ satisfied the justice of God and took upon Himself the wrath due sin.

Second, penal substitution is necessary for real forgiveness.

God cannot waive the wrath due sin. It is out of line with His character to do so. He cannot sweep sin under the rug. Justice demands a consequence. Sin robs the bank of God’s justice [Psalm 97:2; Proverbs 17:15]. The only remedy is to seek forgiveness, but forgiveness always has a cost. Injustice must be made right. For my sin the cost was the death of Jesus Christ. My cost is that without Christ I cannot escape death. He made up what I owed. I sinned, but Jesus suffered for it so I would not have to suffer the hellish consequences of my sin.

Third, the fame of God’s name is at stake.

An injustice against God unpunished with would make the nature untrue. If it were not true He would be a liar. His name would be tarnished. In my place condemned Jesus hung pun the cross to demonstrate the justice of God. Therefore my response is to put faith in my Merciful Justifier Jesus Christ [Romans 3:25-26].

Fourth, God cannot be untrue to His Word.

God has said that the the soul that sins must die [Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:20]. Since He declared it, it is decreed. Therefore, from the beginning of man’s sin God has provided a sacrifice. For Adam God sacrificed an animal to cloth his shame. For Cain and Abe;, God honored the righteous sacrifice. For Abraham God provided a substitute sacrifice in the place of his son [Genesis 22]. For the sins of Israel God atoned through the blood of animals. For my sin and yours God sent the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to the cross as my sins sacrifice.

Glory to God for the gift of penal substitution. May it humble us to the core and motivate us to serve Him for life.

God will provide

I love stories of people who finish the race with fortitude. Who doesn’t gain inspiration from stories that beat the odds? I think of Team Hoyt [father with his paraplegic son] who completed the iron man, or Kerri Strug who finish the Olympics hurt on the hurdles, or Lance Armstrong who won seven Tour De France bike races after battling cancer, or King George VI who fought through the fear of speaking to become a voice comforter during WWII, or Temple Grandin who persevered through autism to become a leading advocate for autism and the cattle industry. Each of these people fought with grit to the finish.

Abraham also had an incredible journey of faith to the finish. Throughout Abraham’s struggle of faith God provided in miraculous ways. Today we will see three specific ways God provided: 1) God provides a son, 2) God provides a sacrifice, and 3) God provides land. Each of these provisions was for promises given by God when he called Abraham [Genesis 12:1-3]. God says what He means, and means what He says. When He promises something, He means to fulfill those promises exactly as He promised, but not always exactly as we think He would do it.

God provides a SON [Genesis 21:1-7]

After 25 years of waiting and wondering God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. Abraham finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, which means laughter—fitting for a boy born to an old granny [90 years old] and triple-digit pappy [100 years old]. Sarah laughed at Isaac’s birth, but this time in joyous worship for the grace of God, which brought her a son.[1] God miraculously provides Isaac, the promised seed. It is good to rejoice in God’s faithfulness to His promises by giving Abraham a son. God would echo this miracle 2000 years later, when the seed of Isaac was fulfilled in the promised seed born through a virgin girl in a small town named Bethlehem [cf. Matthew 1 & Luke 3].

How have you rejoiced in His faithfulness? This week, I rejoiced with my wife remembering how God had blessed her over the past 10 years. God has been faithful to provide for her in some miraculous and mysterious ways. To God be all the glory!

God provides a SACRIFICE [Genesis 22:1-19]

Soon after God provides Abraham with a son, God in climatic twist calls him to a final test of faith. Before I proceed, it is important to remember that God tests your faith so that it might grow, and Satan tempts you to sin in an attempt to destroy your faith. God never tempts [cf. James 1:13ff]; He only tests. Even when you blow the test God uses it to grow your faith. Abraham’s marathon journey of faith leads him to this last grueling mile and God will ask Abraham to sprint to the finish. God asks father Abraham to build an altar and sacrifice his one and only son.

I’ve got one child. She’s a baby girl. I thank God for her. If I just had one child, that child would be the center of my universe, and as a father, my whole life would be about protecting that child because that would be my only child. When God says, sacrifice this child “whom you love” it shows that Abraham has a deep affection for his boy. They went camping, they worked the field, they played ball, and they did devotions together. I could not imagine how difficult this would have been for Abraham.

Without any deliberation or doubt Abraham awakes early in the morning, responds in faith, takes a 50-mile 3-day donkey ride, cuts wood for the altar [for this is no ordinary camping trip], binds up Isaac on the altar, and raises his knife to kill his son. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think Abraham had seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive.

Now Isaac was no baby. He was probably between the ages of 15-35. He could have easily wrestled his 115-135 year old weak-boned dad to the ground. However, as Abraham’s son, he willingly submits himself to God’s plan too. He trusts his dad. I could image that Isaac had a terrified look on his face saying. “Dad, you want me to lay down on the altar? You want me to die here today?” “Yes, son, that’s what the Lord is saying.” “Okay. I trust you, dad.” Isaac willingly lies down on the altar, but God intervenes by providing an animal sacrifice for the burnt offering. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ.

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both laughed at. One for being born, and the later for claiming to be king.
  • Isaac and Jesus both lay down as a burnt offering for sin [i.e. substitutionary atonement, 2 Corinthians 5:21].
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally [1 Corinthians 15].
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

God provides the lamb for a burnt offering so that Isaac may live. Likewise, God provides the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ—as the sin offering so that those who believe in Him may live forever [cf. John 1:29; Mark 10:45]. God is faithful to provide the sacrifice for our redemption.

God provides SOIL [Genesis 23:1-20]

Remember, Abraham was a pagan living in Iraq who worked as a nomad. Now he is living many miles from his childhood home on the doorstep of the land God has promised him. He is old and his wife has just passed. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham owned in the Promised Land. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land, but it took Joshua to finally bring the people across the river Jordan [21:43-34]. As the Hebrew people longed for their promised homeland [Hebrews 11:9-14] so followers of Christ long for their eternal homeland with Him [John 14:3; 2 Peter 3:13].

In conclusion, it is a worthwhile endeavor to think back on all the times God has provided. It is encouraging to journal or write a thank you letter to God for all that He has done. As I think back, he has provided in so many miraculous ways: He provided the means through jobs and mysterious donors to pay off my college education, He has provided friends who have given me timely and wise counsel from high school until now, He provided a beautiful and godly wife who has taught me much about God through the way she lives, and He has provided me with a gracious and generous church that has reinvigorated my passion for Christ and His Body. None of these provisions compare to those that the last leg of Abraham’s journey remind me of—God has provided me a Son who was the sacrifice for my sin and through faith in Him I have an eternal home with Him. God has provided far above what I could ever think or ask! It is enough to motivate me to fight the good fight of faith to the finish.


[1] Cf. Genesis 17:15ff, this was unlike Sarah’s previous laughter of unbelief that mocked the promises of God.

why did Jesus die?

Jesus lived to die. Jesus was a man on a mission. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took on flesh so that He would become the complete and perfect God-man. His death is incredibly important.

Without the death of Christ man cannot live (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17) Christ died to save lost and sinful me. Christ died to save sinful man from their hopeless state (Romans 3:21-26). In other words, Christ died in my place to satisfy the wrath of God on me in order to declare me innocent even through I was guilty (justification), He died to buy me off the slave market of sin (redemption), He died to make me friend even when I was an enemy (reconciliation), and He died so the Father would see me through the righteousness of Christ. Christ paid the penalty that He did not owe so that I might be freed from a penalty that I owed but could not pay.

Without the death of Christ He would not have glorified His Father (Luke 22:41-42; John 6:38; 17:1-5). Jesus was obedient to His father and did what He was commanded to do—be the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial promises and became our suffering servant (Isaiah 53). The death on the cross is what God wanted and the cross was the means by which Jesus glorified His father. Jesus Christ glorified God the Father in both His life and in His death.

Jesus lived to die. Without His death I could not live, forever. Without His death i could not glorify the Father. But Jesus did die, therefore I have eternal hope of glory. Thanks be to God.

For more, check out this video by Thabiti Anyabwile: