What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 48

48. Finale

empty cross2

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you. (1 Peter 1:18-20)

We have seen what God gave up for Lent—His One and Only Son. Hopefully you’ve seen up close and personal what He went through, and some of the things He had done. There is no need to ask why, because you have seen over and over the reason why…was you; He did it for you. And you see that even with the last five words of the above passage which began this Lenten study: “For the sake of you”.

I would like to think after considering all the things God went through, all the things He did, and all that He gave up, you would fall on your knees and repent, and become a follower of Christ. But I’m not that naive. Some will never be moved by the love and sacrifice of our Great God. For those who have been moved by the passion and compassion of our gracious God, what is your response?

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

And since Christ lives in you, and you live by faith…

Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NLT)

So what is your response? That you no longer live for yourself, rather you live for Christ.

This study started when many of you may have had an ashen cross drawn on your forehead. I pray that the power of the cross has moved from your head to your heart; and then…

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

AMEN.

We’re back with the Psalms later this week.  – SD

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 47 (Easter)

47. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective

Finish Race

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Perspective, perspective, perspective. Before we understand Christ’s perspective, we must understand ours. Fixing our eyes upon Jesus.

The Greek word for fixing is defined: to look away from other things and look only on one thing. There is an aspect of turning one’s back and to look away as part of the process.

There is a multitude of verses which speak to this exclusivity. It’s not just a simple matter of making Jesus first, with a panoply of other options, interests, needs, wants and preferences crowding in behind Him. Yes, He is in front, but there are all those distractions insinuating themselves behind Him; many seeking to supplant and usurp Him. And since we essentially have no will power, we need to clear the deck, turn away from all else and fix our eyes only on Jesus.

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. ( James 4:4)

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. ( John 15:19)

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)

Country Asphalt road in strong flare

The last two verses demand our attention in regard to our perspective. Jesus is not just a choice—not even a first choice. Nor is He our last choice. He is our only choice. He is our only master, our only God. There cannot be another. So when we fix our eyes upon Jesus, there are no distractions, no colorful backdrop, not even a context. There is only Jesus. And when He is all you see, then you will have the appropriate perspective for everything else.

Who for the joy set before Him.

Before we ponder the joy, we should consider what was set before Him, that which was the source of the joy. The Greek word for set before has an interesting application. It could be restated as lie before, which can refer to a dead body laying in state. Now I’m not sensing a whole lot of joy coming out of that particular app, but is speaks accurately to our condition. Without Christ, we are dead in our sins and trespasses. We are a corpse. He saw our condition, knew what was to be done, and did it. Thus He saw the joy for His obedience, and saw the joy for the glory it brought His Father, and He saw the joy in raising us from the dead.

Set before can also apply to an infant, which also speaks to our state after we have been saved by Him: we are—in the words of Peter—newborn babes (1 Pet 2:2;1 Cor 3:1).

There is also an exposed sense to the word; as a prize that is set before all who would see it. We should consider this exposure. When God looks upon us, there is nothing hidden. All our private thoughts, concealed attitudes, secret sins—and what ever else we would seek to disguise—all lay open and  bare to His omniscient gaze. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? It should, unless you have been hidden in Christ, so when God turns His omniscient gaze upon you, all He sees is Christ.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. ( Ephesians 5:6-13)

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. ( John 3:20-21)

So we’ve seen examples of what may have been set before Him; and since God the Son is omniscient, then surely there were more things which He saw set before Him. The defeat of sin, Satan, death and the grave. Accomplishing the work given to Him by His Father. We must not forget that He saw you and me specifically and individually. The was not a general redemption. He died and rose again for you. All the other things that were set before Him—and they are myriad—should pale in comparison, when you know the Holy Son of God, Jesus the Christ, died for you. You were on His heart and mind. You were set before Him.

There’s the joy. And if Christ could push through, look past all the yuck, there is the key for us to do the same.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ( Jas 1:2-4)

James tells us why we are going through trials, and the end result. But Jesus show us how. So we can consider it all joy when we look not to the trials, or the situation. Or even the results. We must look to Jesus. Again, not our first choice, nor our last choice, but our only choice.

Tomorrow a recap of What God Gave Up for Lent

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 46

46. Cursed and Redeemed

freeChrist redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us. There are only four occurrences of this particular Greek word. The three other passages are:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

So, we were redeemed from the curse of the Law to receive blessing and promise; we were redeemed unto adoption; we are to redeem our time; and we are redeem opportunities to witness to those around us. The Greek word for redeemed is exagorazo, which means to be bought out of the marketplace. When Christ redeems us, it is not simply a purchase or a ransom; rather, it is to purchase you and me for something (a blessing and promise, and being adopted); and when we redeem time—or an opportunity—we are being a good steward and a good witness.

But let’s stick to the context of the Greek her in this verse. Christ has obviously redeemed us from the marketplace of sin. We were slaves on the sales block—He bought us and made us sons and daughters.

But what about the marketplace from which we redeem time? What marketplace is that? Maybe it’s just the marketplace of life. We run through life at breakneck speeds, moving from one emergency to another. How often to we make time for the truly important things? Our Father knows we are busy—too busy.

That’s why He has given to us these two priorities:

  • The first is rather general, and therefore we need to rely on the wisdom He has given us: to redeem the things of life. And here’s where the Intentional Living verse comes in handy: Figure out what pleases Christ, then do it. There’s the answer for the Ephesians 5 passage; the answer to how we are to redeem our time.
  • The second is more specific. We are to redeem the opportunity to share Christ with others. Remember,  those who are lost are still slaves—as you once were—in the marketplace of sin, and you have an opportunity to show them how to be set free.

As Jesus Himself said: So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) Free to redeem our days, and free to proclaim Christ’s redemption to those who are lost.

What God Gave Up for Lent Day – 45 (Good Friday)

And divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take. (Mark 15:24)

casting lots

The last of the worldly possessions of Christ, and they conduct a raffle.

Lots. Something as simple as a game of chance. Rolling the dice. Who would win the robe of Christ. Once again we miss the point. We get distracted. Here is The One Who can give to us eternal life; and we’re playing games of chance. At the foot of the cross, they’re casting lots to see who’s going to win some stained and worn out garments; failing to recognize that we can be clothed in something that will last forever!

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:2-4)

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

Rolling dice—or casting lots—is not a wise thing to do when your eternal soul hangs in the balance. Do not place your eternal welfare into the hands of chance. Be intentional. Choose Christ.

I never knew until today the phrase, “My lot in life”, comes out of the practice of casting lots. Now there are examples of godly Jews and Christians practicing this, but the outcome was in the hands of the LORD.

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. ( Prov 16:33)

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” So the LORD said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.” So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king! (1 Sam 10:20-24)

So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)

The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. (Psalm 16:5) Another way to read this is: You hold my lot.

Now the problem with these guys casting lots at the foot of the cross is common with every false worshiper: it is a practice for which they have seen godly people perform, but for them, it provides the opportunity to cast off blame (e.g.- the decision was made by the gods). Now we all have our reasons, our justifications, and our excuses for what we do, and we can even claim ignorance at times, but none of these hollow rationalizations will stand before The One True God.

But back to the soldiers casting lots; it was actually the fulfillment of prophecy, as found in Psalm 22:18. They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.

The Greek word for casting has several definitions. Most are what you would expect—like the physical act of throwing something. But another translations has to do with lying sick or lying paralyzed. This is an appropriate description for those who are playing games at the foot of the cross. How many of us could come to Christ for healing, but we don’t even know that we are sick?

So what’s the outcome of this passage? One soldier won some raggedy, bloody clothes. Now I suppose they would have had great value in the indulgence market; but like indulgences, they are only a distraction. They all walked away from The One Who could clothe them with new life.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. ( Gal 3:27)

Don’t play games. Don’t walk away. Embrace The One Who can give you eternal life.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 44

44. Save Yourself

running away4And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” (Luke 23:35-37)

There is an interesting dichotomy here. Note who the Pharisees were addressing when they said: He saved others; let Him save Himself. Certainly they were speaking to one another, and the passers-by, and the  bystanders. Although their mocking was about Jesus, it was not directed at Him. We see them playing the crowd. I get the sense they were so over this. They had rendered their verdict in the Sanhedrin; manipulated Pilate to get the sentence they wanted; the sentence had been carried out, and now, “So die already”. They were working the crowd, trying to ensure these witnesses at the crucifixion would not be moved by what they heard, or Who they saw on the cross. But with these kinds of comments, they were able to keep their distance and position—the position of appearing to be above all this.

The soldiers also mocked Jesus, but they chose to talk to Him rather than talk about Him. They offered Him sour wine; then, they specifically addressed Him. Because of this difference, they are closer to discovering Who this Jesus was than the Pharisees were. Indeed the Pharisees et al, had all the evidence they needed, but there was no life, no faith within them. Thus, they chose not to look. But the soldiers, they watched—they mocked—but they watched. They were not distracted by the running diatribe of the religious rulers.

But I don’t want to necessarily exalt one above the other—both had committed atrocious and terrible acts. Both had said and done things that were detestable; and they both essentially said the same thing: Save Yourself.

Save Yourself. One presents the impossibility that He could be: The Christ of God, His Chosen One; the other puts forth: King of the Jews. Neither believed such titles or claims. And that is why they asked for spectacle rather than salvation. Even the unrepentant thief was a little closer to the truth: Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But there was no cry for mercy, no pleas for deliverance—they only wanted a show: Save Yourself. Now Christ saving Himself was never part of the plan, indeed it ran counter to it. It only seemed to them that Jesus needed saving. But explicit in their mockings to save Himself was His perceived guilt—of which He had none. Jesus didn’t need to be saved, just everyone around Him. Remember Lazarus?

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw* Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said*, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

They will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. Now I realize the Pharisees, the soldiers, and others in the crowd were asking Him to save Himself, which probably meant come down from the cross, bring in your army, etc., etc. But even if He did those things (which He would not) would they have believed? For the Romans it would have just been another King and another campaign, and for the Chief Priests and their associates, just another outsider to endure. Their religion had no room for Messiah, let alone the true Son of God.

One more thing. If Jesus had saved Himself, He wouldn’t have save you and me. There would have been no sacrifice, no atonement, nothing. In the words of the apostle Paul: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Graciously and wondrously we know Jesus remained on the cross. He chose to save you and me rather than save Himself.

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 43

spilled wine43. Wine & Myrrh

Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. (Mark 15:22)

Much of the crucifixion narrative is not recorded here in Mark. So to get the entire landscape of what went on, it is necessary to walk through all the Gospels. But here, just before Christ is nailed to the cross, they offer Him a drink of wine mixed with myrrh.

Apparently this concoction was used to dull the senses. But Christ chose not to drink this. He chose to be fully aware of all the sins of the world that were clinging to Him. He would be conscious of each and every sin ever committed by mankind. He would feel the pain and heartache of everyone of those sins.

Do you understand why it was necessary for the Son of God to die?  No one else could fathom the length, breadth and depth of these accumulated and concentrated sins; and no one else could identify them individually—the sins and the sinners. He knows your sins—each sin, every sin—so when He stood before His Father in heaven He could say: I died for his sins. I died for her sins. He died for your sin.

Now the question is: Are we fully conscious of our own sins? Or is there some sort of variation of the wine and myrrh that is a regular part of our diet? Is there something clouding your understanding Who Christ is?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 42

42. Whose Law?

Jesus and Pilate5

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”  (John 19:6)

Pilate knew the Jews wanted His death, now he knew how much: to crucify Him. Crucify is found only in the New Testament, and it was first used by Christ to prophecy the kind of death He would die. The next time the words appear was when the chief priests and crew cried out for His crucifixion.

As far as these court proceedings, Pilate had determined His rightful innocence and saw no reason for His death, at least under Roman law. This Gentile, although unable to stick to his conviction and ruling, did what the Jewish court could not. He pronounced Christ innocent. He did not see Jesus as a threat to his authority, nor to the authority of Rome. This was some sort of religious squabble within the Jewish community.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

Note: the charge had changed, the other shoe had dropped. We learn specifically in Luke that Christ was first accused by the Jews for sedition. And for that Pilate had made his ruling: not guilty. So then came their real reason, their real motivation for coming to Pilate. Christ had claimed to be the Son of God; and that was interpreted by the Jews as blasphemy. Not knowing if the accusation was true or not, Pilate opened himself up to be maneuvered into sentencing Christ the way the Jews wanted.

It was no longer about Roman law, it was about Jewish law—Jewish religious law. From a cultural perspective, Pilate would have no expertise from which to make such a ruling. But from a political perspective, He had to make a ruling. But the question here is: Why would he have to? It should have been irrelevant. One could easily make more room in the Roman Pantheon of god’s for this minor Hebrew God. But it was a much bigger deal for the Jews.

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:8-11)

Pilate’s fear grew. He was running out of options, and his commitment to do the right thing was overwhelmed by the commitment of the Jews to get rid of Christ once and for all.

The Greek word for fear is phobeos and has to do with getting out of Dodge—or rather, Jerusalem. Pilate wanted to flee, to fly away; but he could not.

His authority obviously held no sway over the convictions of the Jews—his not guilty sentence was ignored.

His political maneuvering obviously didn’t work either—the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus.

His wife’s warning didn’t work.

Nor did further political negotiations work.

As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

As we had seen earlier, Pilate was the one who had given Christ the title of “King of the Jews”. What he heard from the lips of Christ and His “otherworldly kingdom” posed little threat to Rome. The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, took this as a threat and forced it into a Roman context.

“If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar”. I find it interesting that this politico-religious body way outside the Roman culture should know just who is and who is not a friend to Caesar. But just the reference was enough to drag Pilate back to the Jew’s version of reality.

Everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar. The Jews would not let this rest. Pilate picked the name King of the Jews, and the Pharisees picked the fight; and they made sure this was a fight they would win.

Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:13-16)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 41

41. Check Your Hearing

Child listeningJesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

The question that must be asked: Do you hear His voice? If you do, then you are of the Truth. If not, then you are not of the Truth. And with Christ using the word everyone, this is a sweeping statement and stands as an insurmountable wall, which separates those who hear from those who do not; those who are of the truth from those who are of the lie.

We’ve seen the Greek word for everyone before; and it is most often translated as all. So one could just as easily say: All who are of the truth; and we find that the inclusive nature of Christ’s statement continues to stand.

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice, is a proclamation made by the Living Christ, the Son of God, that we must grapple with. He does not leave us any wiggle room. There’s no way you can say this declaration does not apply to you. You either hear, or you don’t hear.

Hear in Greek is not just the physical ability to audibly hear; it also has within its meanings understanding, perceiving, to consider, and to learn. But we cannot allow this to be merely a simple hearing test or an intellectual exercise. The proof of the hearing is in the doing:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. ( Matthew 7:21)

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21)

So what is it we hear? His voice. Do you understand, do you realize what an awesome blessing and privilege you’ve been given to hear His voice?

There is probably not a more beautiful sound than the voice of our Savior. And its beauty is two-fold: the actual sound of His voice, and what He is saying.

Think of the most beautiful song that you know. Is it beautiful because of the music? The one singing it? Or the words? Such is the voice of our Lord. The Person, the performance and the point, all come together to fill our need and satisfy our soul.

But when we hear Him now, in this place, before Pontius Pilate, I should think the sorrow in the song is overwhelming. Our hearts will be broken, to the point where it is almost too great to hear or bear. And yet in the midst of His sorrow, His suffering, His sacrifice, His separation, His torment, His torture, and being crushed by the sins of the world, He speaks to you.

There is a warning in Hebrews which appears over and over: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7) So the question is: when you heard His voice, did you also hear with your heart? Or did you harden your heart against it.

And finally, note the incredible work that has been accomplished in your life: Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25) Hearing and responding to the Truth has brought you from death to life. What else did Jesus say about the Truth? It will set you free!

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 40

40. God’s Truth

light reveals1Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Say correctly is just one word in the Greek. Most of the time it is translated as some form of say. But this is not speaking for the sake of being heard; rather it is an affirmation and exhortation; and one that is done aloud. It is not just a nodding of the head, nor is it words without a point. It is a declaration of your position. And what Pilate affirmed was that Christ was a king.

Jesus gives the reason why He was born. It is not to be King; rather it is to testify to the Truth. Boy if that isn’t counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, I don’t know what is. See the statement again: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” Even though being the King of kings is His birthright as the Son of God, it was not His purpose as the Son of Man, at least not yet. He is King, He shall be King, but why was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? To testify to the Truth.

For this I have been born. Literally, He became flesh, He was born of Mary. Metaphorically, the word for being born in the Jewish mindset has to do with converting. It also has to do with us becoming His sons through faith in Christ (i.e.—being born again).

For this I have come into the world. Come has to do with making an appearance; to be public. But it also has to do with arriving, and Jesus’ arrival was truly from heaven to earth. This is huge.

For those among us who are more driven and intentional, we can say that we were born for this or that. You were born to lead. You were born to be a musician. You were born to be a doctor. You were born to be a missionary. And on you could go. But, none of us can say for this we have come into the world. Our existence has solely been in this world. When we were conceived we were in this world. One day, for those who love Jesus, we will no longer be in this world. Indeed we can say this world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. But now, today, we have known nothing other than this world.

But Jesus has come outside this world. He came from Heaven to earth. He came from the perfect to the fallen. He stepped from eternity into time and space. He moved from creator to created; from Son of God to Son of Man; from ever-present and all-powerful to finite flesh and bones.

To testify to the truth. Testify could just as easily be translated as witness. And it is where we get our word martyr. We must not miss this. Christ died for the proclaiming this inconvenient (and absolute) truth.

The history behind the word truth is revealing (pun intended). In the Greek is has the prefix a- (which is negative, as it is in English) and the root word is lanthano which means to be hidden or escape notice. So with the negative prefix it then means not to be hidden and not to escape notice. Christ has come to reveal the hidden, and to ensure that it does not escape notice. Also more attributes are exposed in its use: it speaks to its objectivity, its certitude, and its universal application. Certainly a far cry from what truth has become in our culture.

That’s the danger of religion. It buries the truth in tradition and dilutes it so that it is no longer relevant, submerging it in ritual.

But it’s also the danger of the unregenerate life. Truth is merely a personal tool, to be used when convenient, but then to cast off for another, when what’s new fits one’s current worldview better. The world needs to have truth hidden and to escape its notice, because only then can personally manufactured truth stand.

How important is truth to God?

Christ has just spent the whole night in a mockery of a trial, where there was no truth offered, none was heard; and when they finally and only heard the Truth from Christ’s own lips, they called it blasphemy. And that’s how they were able to protect their turf—turning the Truth into blasphemy. Truth obviously wasn’t important to the Jews. But it was at one point, for being a false witness and providing false testimony was a big deal to God.

The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. ( Deuteronomy 19:18-21)

A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. ( Proverbs 21:28)

The Greek word for blasphemy is from two root words: blapto, and pheme. The former is to hurt, to harm, to injure, to stop, make lame and cripple. The latter is news, or fame, or a report. Isn’t our very misuse of truth by definition blasphemy? We may not be able to completely annihilate it, but we certainly can cripple and injure it. We can make it so disfigured that few will find any appeal in it.

And let us not forget this is why Christ  was born, why He had come into the world: to testify to the truth. If this was Christ’s purpose, than it was God the Father’s purpose as well.

This is one of the greatest battles we are in—the battle for Truth. Without truth, there is no commonality, there can be no consensus, nor is there a point of reference. Is there any doubt why we are so fractured, isolated, and defensive. If all we have is our own personal point of view, our own manufactured truth, then a great deal of our time is spent defending and reconstructing. So what happens when we avoid the truth?

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ( Romans 1:25)

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Father, may your Truth break through in my life. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 39

39. An Interesting Question

Jesus and Pilate2

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  (John 18:33)

I wonder how Jesus felt having to be dragged into the Praetorium? Unlike the Pharisees, it probably didn’t even enter His mind. So battered and manhandled was He. And He knew more was coming. Could He feel the sins of the world gathering together to crush Him? Or was He thinking: Uh, no, no guys. I can’t go in there. I’ll become unclean! The magnitude of Him becoming the sacrifice for our sin precluded such thinking; and coming up with an excuse like the Pharisees would have never entered His mind.

Anyway, Jesus is summoned into the Praetorium, a place where no self-respecting Pharisee would be caught. But wasn’t that the hallmark of Christ’s life? Going where no self-righteous legalistic person would ever go? Hanging out with and consorting with tax collectors and sinners? But I ask: If Christ did not go into such places, how would the prisoners be set free? He did not need to be summoned; He would have willingly walked in, because that is where He found you and me!

It’s an interesting question, Are You the King of the Jews?  Only two people have used this term: King of the Jews; Pilate and one of the Magi. It’s a title and a question that spans the human lifetime of Christ, from birth to death.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ( Matt 2:1-3)

We find more than merely earnest seekers asking the question of Herod. These Magi had traveled hundreds of miles, following a star based on prophecies left behind by Daniel and Jewish elders generations earlier, and they were the ones ordained to be at the right place and the right time, asking the right question.

It’s interesting to note this name is used only by foreigners. Have we become so ingrown and myopic that we need to be reminded from the outside just Who this Jesus is?

king of the jews

Father, whatever it takes, may I know the One and Only, True Son of God. The king of the Jews, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and the King of my life. And knowing Him, may I serve my King with the all the love and obedience I can give. Amen.