Monday, June 29, 2020

The Great Burden Bearer

Psalm 55

Run away and leave all your problems behind.  Just leave, not looking back, and never having to think of those worries again.  Escape from those people who are harassing and bothering you.  Have you ever wished that you could do that?  Just soar away like a bird, away from everything that is grievous in your life.  King David wished for that, but it was not possible for him.  It’s not really possible for us, either.  In our psalm this week, we visit David again, with the many trials and tribulations he went through, and we’ll see what is the best way to deal with them.

This psalm is a prayer by King David, who was being unjustly harassed, and who has been betrayed by a close friend.  Here we read of faithless men, but also of a faithful God whom we can trust.  When the burden of the treachery of a close friend gets too heavy, we can turn to God, just as David did.  King David possibly wrote this lament during the days of his son Absalom’s rebellion.  It was at this time that one of David’s closest friends, Ahithophel, betrayed him, and went over to Absalom’s side.  He had been a trusted friend and advisor to David, and then he became traitor, and became an advisor to Absalom during his coup.  (Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s betrayal can be read in II Samuel, chapters 15 through 17.)

It is very heart-wrenching when a close friend, one you loved and felt you could trust, turns against you.  That can be one of the deepest kinds of hurt possible.  Nothing hurts more than the undeserved wounds from one you thought was a friend.  They should be sticking by you, but instead they betray you.  The Lord Jesus also felt such betrayal.  Verses 12-14 also describe Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Judas wasn’t just an ordinary disciple, but he had been chosen to be one of Jesus’ 12 apostles.  Then he turned and betrayed Him (Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25).

This psalm runs the spectrum and whole range of emotions.  King David was very honest with God.  He was angry.  He wanted God to bring vengeance on his enemies (vs. 9, 15, 23).  David had been betrayed by someone he had counted as a friend (vs. 13-14).   Now he wanted to run away and escape from everything (vs. 6-7).  Just be like a bird, and fly away and be at peace somewhere far from these troubles.  Wouldn’t we all like to do that when our troubles are about to swallow us up!  David knew he couldn’t do that, though, and nor can we.  So instead, David chose to run to God, rather than running from his problems.  He came to God in prayer multiple times a day (vs. 17).  David, Daniel, and Peter each followed the pattern of pausing to pray to God at morning, noon, and in the evening, as we see here (Daniel 6:10; Acts 10:9-10).

Throughout David’s life, he learned that he could put all of his burdens on God, and He would carry them for him (vs. 22).  He had learned that God was the Great Burden Bearer.  God’s shoulders are wide enough to carry our burdens. He is sovereign over the universe, so He is certainly capable of working out our problems, and meeting our needs.  God doesn’t forget our needs.  He is able and willing to take our burdens.  When we give them to God, they are His and no longer ours.  We can be in peace.

As God’s children, we can turn our worries over to Him.  He has everything perfectly under control, even when we feel it is not, and it seems like our life is crumbling to pieces.  As David urges in verse 22, turn your worries over to God.  He is never too weary or too tired to pay attention to us. God will support us if we release our problems to Him.  He is in control of every aspect of our lives.  God is a safe resting place, so give your confusion, pain, and expectations to Him.

As the Scriptures say over and over again, we need to lay all of our burdens at Jesus’ feet, believing He is good, loving, and in control.  He can handle any difficulty and pain, even when it seems overwhelming.  Don’t try and handle it ourselves.  Worry ends where faith begins.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Sin Is Still Sin

Isaiah 5:18-25

Our Scripture passage today is from a message that the prophet Isaiah brought from the Lord to the people of Judah.  In it he speaks strong words from Yahweh against the people for the way they are living, how they have turned the clear-cut ways of the Lord upside down, and are going about their lives any way they wish, rather than following His ways.  Let’s take a look, and we will see that in many ways Isaiah’s words can apply to today, as well as then.

Isaiah opens our passage with describing how many people are parading their sins openly (vs. 18).  It is as if they are pulling a load of their sins with a rope upon a cart, dragging them around openly for everyone to see.  We see that today, as well.  For many there is no more shame for what they are doing.  What in the days of our childhood might have been done in secret, and spoken of shamefully, is now done in the open for everyone to see, and no one seems to mind.  Openly parading one’s mistress around town, openly laughing at how they cheated this or that company, getting away with huge amounts of money, and many other sins proclaimed for all to see and seemingly admire.  What the Word of God calls sin is openly broadcast on TV sitcoms with a laugh track going in the background.

Isaiah notes the taunts of the unbelievers as they say “Where is the judgment of God?” (vs. 19).  They dare to ridicule Him as they sin.  That is the same today, too.  Even some people who make a claim to be Christian might say that God doesn’t judge sin anymore.  They say that He is only a God of love, never of judgment, and that believers should never speak out against sin anymore.

As Isaiah continues his message from the Lord, he points out that there has been a reversal of the morality in society, a confusion of all moral distinctions (vs. 20).  People are calling good what is really bad and evil, and they are putting down as undesirable what is really good.  If we are honest and look around the world today, we can see this happening in many areas.  What is good and wholesome is called old-fashioned and square.  People who live good, righteous lives are openly mocked, while what is sinful is smiled upon.

When God calls something sin, then it is sin, whether society likes it or not.  When the Bible says it is evil, it is evil, no matter how many “religious” authorities say otherwise.  God is the final authority, not man.  We can try to dress it up, make it pretty, pour all kinds of sugar on it, but it is still sin if God says it is.

Isaiah saw a lot of arrogance against God and righteousness (vs. 21).  That behavior is accelerating today, as well.  There is certainly no fear of openly blaspheming on TV or in the movies.  Isaiah also calls out the corrupt judges and government officials for their sins, as they willingly pass judgment for a bribe (vs. 23).  This goes on today, more than we would like to admit.  Again, the belief that good is evil and evil is good prevails.

Just as in Isaiah’s day, the world today does not think that God sees any of this, if they even bother to give Him any thought at all.  God will not sit idly by forever (vs. 24-25).  The arrogance of people’s sins, and their blatant twisting around of right and wrong will be judged by Him.  Just as a fire will quickly ignite and burn up brush and tinder, so the Lord will come down upon them.  Just as when a tree or a plant has a rotten root, and the leaves and blossom wilt away and die, so the people will perish and not flourish.  People will suffer when they reject God’s laws and His Word.  His anger has been aroused.

Are we dragging around a cartload of sins that we refuse to give up?  The people in Isaiah’s day learned the hard way.  Without God and His Word as our guide and compass, we are headed for a breakdown, and much suffering.  God’s hand is stretched out still.  Will it be a hand of love and forgiveness if we come to Him in repentance, or will it be a hand of judgment as we mockingly go about in our sins?

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Warning From Jesus

Matthew 10:16-33

It’s always good to be warned ahead of time of what’s coming ahead.  When we’re driving, often we’ll see signs that warn of a rough road for the next several miles.  That’s good to know in case we want to take another route.  When checking out vacation spots, it’s good to be warned ahead of time what to expect at a certain destination.  Is it a place for the strong and hearty outdoor camper, or a place with nice hotels and room service?  Most people appreciate the long-term weather forecast if they are planning outdoor activities.  Will it rain on the day of the backyard barbecue?  We like to be warned ahead of time of many things, so we can be prepared.  In our Scripture passage from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples what will be coming ahead for them.  He is preparing them, and us, for the type of treatment to expect from the enemies of the Gospel, so we will not be taken by surprise when it happens.

As our passage opens, Jesus is talking to His disciples, and giving them a warning.  Sometimes Christians believe that once they are saved, everything will go smoothly for the rest of their lives.  Some false teachers, especially those aligned with the “prosperity gospel”, promote this teaching.  However, that is not what Jesus is teaching us here.  He is warning us ahead of time that persecutions are coming for the believer.

We are called to be on high alert with people who wish to deter us from keeping our focus on serving God (vs. 16-18).  We must be careful from being led into schemes of the devil and those who would harm us.  Jesus warns us to be wise and alert.  A serpent is always alert and aware of his surroundings.  Jesus wants us to be alert like a serpent, but not harmful like them.  We are to be peaceful and harmless to others, just like a dove.  Jesus instructs us to not be naive and ignorant in our attitude with the enemies of God, but sensible and prudent.  We are not to be gullible pawns, but also not deceitful with others.  Use God’s wisdom and keep our hearts and minds on guard against the temptations and tricks of the devil.

Living for God will bring persecution (vs. 17-18).  Sometimes it may be from godless governments. At times it may be from our employers or our neighbors.  We may find persecution from members of our own family or friends, and even from those who make a claim of following God.  Just having a strong faith will not shield us from persecution, or even death, as the martyrs can testify (vs. 21-22).  Following Jesus will not necessarily make relationships better.  Often it can become a source of contention.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give us the words and guide our speech for how to answer those who oppose us (vs. 19-20).  We don’t need to be anxious or worried about that, but we should be prepared.

If we are followers of Jesus, and have a consistent Christ-like walk and behavior, we must expect to experience, not only God’s blessings, but also persecution and rejection.  Our testimony will be scrutinized and criticized.  People will not act more peacefully towards us the more Christ-like we are.  Since they referred to Jesus as Satan, how would you expect they will act towards us? (vs. 25).  Good is sometimes labeled evil.  If Jesus, who is perfect, was called evil, His followers should expect similar accusations.  The more we act like Jesus, the more hated we will be by His enemies.  A true Christian will not be the world’s favorite, nor should we expect to receive it’s applause.

As Jesus gives us these warnings of what persecutions we may face, He also tells us that God is most assuredly watching over us, and cares for us.  God is aware of everything, even the sparrows.  We are more valuable to Him than the sparrows, as He sent His Son to die for us (vs. 29-31).  God cares about each of us individually, even numbering our hairs.  We are important to Him.  We need never fear threats or trials.  Our enemies can only take our physical life.  They cannot take away our eternal life with Jesus, nor our rewards (vs. 28).

As believers, we are called to be witnesses for God.  We must be willing, ready, and not ashamed to let the world know (vs. 32-33).  Don’t be ashamed to acknowledge that you belong to Jesus, and are His follower.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Inheritance From Adam And Jesus

Romans 5:15-19

Often when a new baby is born into a family, friends and relatives will start to observe and see if the little one has any of the looks or characteristics from their mother or father, or either side of the family.  Will she have her father’s blue eyes and wavy brown hair?  Will he have his mother’s dimples?  In addition to physical characteristics, children often inherit other traits, such as athletic ability, love of reading, or musical talent.  Unfortunately, there are negative traits that one can inherit, such as their father’s quick temper or their mother’s bitterness.  DNA can pass on a tendency for diabetes, heart problems, or other diseases.  In our passage from Romans today, we will see some things that we have inherited from our first father, and what we can receive from our Heavenly Father, as well.

Every human is a physical descendant of Adam.  Just as we have received some physical characteristics and traits from our parents, we have received something passed down to us from Adam, and that is sin and its results.  We all reap the results of Adam’s first sin in the Garden of Eden.  We all inherit his guilt, his sinful nature, tendency to sin, and God’s punishment for sin, which is eternal death.  All men bear the guilt of sin, and are therefore subject to death because they are Adam’s descendants.

That is rather sorry news to hear.  However, that does not need to be the final sentence we receive.  The good news is that when someone accepts Jesus as their Savior, they can receive forgiveness instead of judgment.  They can trade their sins for His righteousness.  They can now become a part of God’s family, and inherit everything from Him.

Adam committed one offense.  He ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and now all are guilty.  Today, we all commit many sins and offenses.  Jesus bore the punishment for our many offenses, and His one act of obedience to God, His one act of redemption, brings salvation to many who receive it (vs. 16).  Jesus’ one act of obedience and redemption is immeasurably greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation.  Adam brought universal sin and death. Jesus brought salvation to whoever receives it (vs. 17).  For those who have received Christ, they have received the gift of eternal life.  They can be victorious over sins’s power over death, and have His power and protection throughout life and into eternity.

We see in these verses of Scripture several contrasts.  We see that Adam’s sin caused all of mankind, his descendants, to inherit both physical death and eternal death.  Jesus’ gift of grace, bringing eternal life, will go to all who accept it.  Adam’s sin brought judgment and condemnation to all.  Jesus’ act of obedience brings justification to those who believe.  Adam’s disobedience brought a reign of death to earth.  Jesus’ obedience brings life.

Paul, the human author of the Book of Romans, was a very learned and intelligent man.  He had been schooled by the greatest minds of the day, particularly by Gamaliel, the great Jewish teacher of Paul’s day.  Paul believed Adam to have been a real person, not a mythological character.  So many today imply that Adam was just an early Hebrew myth, however Paul did not.   The Word of God speaks of Adam as a real human being.

In closing, choosing to pay for something that we can have at no cost doesn’t seem to make much sense.  Why pay for a sandwich if you can have one that is just as good for free?  If someone gifts you with something free, why would you pay for it?  Some people believe that a product they pay for is superior to anything that is free.  This is why some have trouble with the free gift of salvation.  They want to do something to earn it.  However, no one could ever afford to pay for salvation.  Jesus paid for our salvation with His Precious Blood, setting us free from the bondage of sin that we have through Adam.  There is nothing we can or need to do for that.  Any who receive Jesus and His gift, will have salvation from sin.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Attacked For Your Faith

Psalm 69:1-18

Today we are visiting the life of King David, known as the sweet psalmist of Israel, again as we look into another of his psalms.  As we read throughout the books of I and II Samuel, David had many enemies.  Before he was king, David spent many years fleeing for his life from King Saul.  After he became king, he had to fight enemies from foreign nations, in addition to threats to his throne from both the descendants of Saul and his own son Absalom.  Those who David felt he should have been able to trust he couldn’t, including, as we shall see, those of his own family.

Nobody enjoys suffering or when others turn on us.  It’s especially hurtful when we’ve done nothing to warrant that treatment.  It’s even more painful when those who turn against us were once our friends, and especially so when they are family members.  David had to deal with one of his son’s, Absalom, attempting to take the throne from him.  However, this psalm was written during a time of desperation much earlier in David’s reign.

Though the Scriptures don’t specifically say, there are several hints that David’s childhood family was not a loving or gracious one to him.  When the prophet Samuel came to visit his father Jesse, and requested that all of Jesse’s sons come to the sacrifice, Jesse didn’t bother to call David in from the fields with the sheep (I Samuel 16:1-13).  It was like he was considered a no-account.  His brothers mocked him right before his battle with Goliath (I Samuel 17:28-29).  Later, in one of the psalms he wrote, David attested that he had felt that both of his parents had forsaken him (Psalm 27:10).  However, David did not let that turn him away from following and loving the Lord.  His faith and trust in Him remained strong.

As a matter of fact, it was David’s strong commitment to the Lord that seems to have been what caused the problems and attacks he was facing in this psalm.  People hated him because he had wanted the country to be faithful and true to Yahweh (vs. 9).  This verse was one which later in Scripture was applied to Jesus (John 2:17, Romans 15:3).

Have there been times when family or friends turned against you because of your stand for the Lord Jesus?  Maybe your family rejected you when you accepted Jesus as your Savior, or they mocked you for reading and  believing in the Bible.  Perhaps some friends stopped wanting to be around you anymore after you became a Christian.  This happened to David when he wished, as king, to take a stand for Yahweh (vs. 8).  We may have to suffer, sometimes even severely, for our devotion to God.  We can look forward with joy to the day when He will destroy evil and injustice.

Throughout this psalm, and many others as well, we read that David was scoffed at, mocked, insulted, humiliated, and gossiped about.  This was very hard on him.  David cried to God until he was physically exhausted, with a parched throat, and blurred vision from crying (vs. 3).  However, he still continued to pray and turn to God.  He did not let that unfair and ill-treatment turn him away from the Lord.  It is during these times, when others reject us, that we need to turn to God the most.

David was concerned, though, that he, through his behavior, not be a hindrance or an obstacle to others (vs. 5-6).  He felt that the desperation of his situation could lead to being a stumbling block to the faith of other believers.  David knew that if his own faith and trust in God was wavering, he might say something that could cause others to lose what faith they might have.  He also knew that any slip into sin would definitely be a stumbling block to others.  Though David had several occasions when he did fall into sin, like we all do, he did sincerely seek to live for the Lord.

People are always watching believers.  We should always be careful to see that we are representing the Lord God well at all times.  Just as David prayed and desired, we need to make sure that our life and behavior is not a stumbling block to others, or will lead them into temptation.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Jeremiah's Unpopular Message

Jeremiah 20:7-13

Whenever someone has been given a work assignment or a job to do, they naturally want it to be successful.  They want their work to be well-received by others.  However, sometimes that is not what happens.  As hard as one works at their assignment, sometimes it is not accepted by others.  In our Scripture passage today we will see how that was the case with God’s prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a prophet, and preached God’s Word during the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, right prior to, and during the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the people going into captivity in Babylon.  The Lord God gave Jeremiah a very difficult task and ministry, one which was destined to make him an unpopular preacher with the people.  For centuries the people of Judah and Israel had been unfaithful to Yahweh, turning in worship to the false gods of the surrounding nations.  That was a heinous sin in His eyes, including if they mixed the worship of Yahweh with the false, pagan gods.  Over the years, Yahweh sent His prophets and preachers to the people, beseeching and warning them to turn from their pagan idols and their sinful ways, and return to Him.  Occasionally the people would heed the message, and for a few years they faithfully followed God, but within a short while they were back to worshipping false gods.  This is where we find the prophet Jeremiah.

Yahweh had warned the people through His prophets, over and over again, that if they refused to follow His Word, there would be consequences, there would be punishment.  The message that God gave Jeremiah to tell the people was one of judgement, particularly since because of their sins, the nation would go into captivity.  Naturally, this was not a popular message.  No one wants to hear that their sins will bring consequences if they don’t repent.  The false prophets all brought cheerful and positive messages to the people, messages telling them that God loves them no matter what they do, there will be no judgement, no such thing as sin, etc.  As a result, Jeremiah suffered because he spoke God’s message in truth.  He was reviled, he was beaten, and was frequently imprisoned where he was given little to eat. He was once even cast into a well filled with slimy muck.

What would you do if that was the response you received when given this assignment from the Lord?  Many people might decide to change their message, and join in with the false prophets giving the positive message.  Others might just decide to shut up and stop their preaching.  For a little while that is what Jeremiah decided to do.  He was greatly discouraged and went through a lot of inner turmoil.  He thought that maybe he had been deceived, and perhaps had the message wrong, since he was treated so poorly (vs. 7-8).  So Jeremiah decided to just quit and stop preaching (vs. 9).

However, this was not something that Jeremiah could do for long.  When he withheld preaching for a while, God’s Word became like a fire in his bones until he felt he had to preach, no matter what the results.  God had warned Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry of all that he would face, of all of the persecution and ill-treatment (Jeremiah 1:17-19).   Just as he was told to by God, Jeremiah stood upright and strengthened himself for the task God had given him to do.

God promised Jeremiah He would be with him through all of his troubles.  He promised him He would deliver him (vs. 11).  God has promised that He will be with us, as well, when we are doing a difficult or unpopular task for Him (Matthew 28:19-20; Hebrews 13:5-6).  We do not need to fear going out and telling the world about Jesus, and doing the work that He has given us.  That work may not be popular or well-received, and sometimes people may be downright hostile to us.  Just like with Jeremiah, though, if the Lord tells us to do it, we cannot keep quiet.  However bleak the circumstances are, we can trust in God’s abiding presence with us, just as Jeremiah knew.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Harvest Is Ready

Matthew 9:35-38

Anyone who has ever had a vegetable garden or some fruit trees knows that the vegetables and fruit need to be picked at just the right moment.  If the gardener is lazy or too busy with other things, and the crop is not picked at the right time, the produce is lost and wasted.  There is often just a short window of ripeness to get the fruits and vegetables at their best.  If one picks them too early the crop is not good, and if it’s too late the crop has rotted.  In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we read Jesus’ words of a ripe harvest, and the need for workers to bring that harvest in.

As our passage opens, Jesus has been going around from village to village preaching and teaching the people, and healing the sick (vs. 35).  The gospel message that He and His disciples preached was that the promised and long-awaited Messiah had come.  Jesus’ healing miracles were a sign that His teaching was true.  These people were spiritually lost.  For ages they had wandered away from the true worship of the Lord God, just like lost and wandering sheep (vs. 36).  Jesus felt compassion on these lost people and sought to bring them back to God.  He is the Good Shepherd.

Several times in the Old Testament, God speaks of His people of being like wandering sheep, sheep that are lost without a shepherd.  Verse 36 is reminiscent of Numbers 27:16-17, where Moses prayed to the Lord to set someone over the people to guide them so that they would not be like sheep without a shepherd.  The prophet Ezekiel also preached of the condition of people who do not have good spiritual shepherds, and how, without a proper shepherd, they would wander away to become victims of predators (Ezekiel 34:5-6).

As Jesus looked out over the crowds of people, He turned to His disciples and told them that the harvest was plentiful (vs 37-38).  These people were ready to hear the Gospel message of salvation, to turn from their sins, and return to God.  They were a ripe harvest, but God needed people to go forth and tell them His message.  He needed workers.  As Paul stated in his letter to the Romans, people need to hear the Gospel, but they can’t hear unless the message is preached, and the preachers need to be sent (Romans 10:14-15).

This is one of the greatest missionary passages in the New Testament.  The world is a great spiritual harvest of souls, all of who are in need of hearing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  As He states here, God needs laborers to gather this harvest into the storehouse of heaven.  The Lord will prepare His harvest by ripening lost hearts into hearts that are ready to accept Jesus as Savior, and bring forth fruits of righteousness.  Are we prepared to harvest these souls?  Are we ready to help people with their burdens, and share the hope of Jesus?  There are so many people today who are at a point in their life where they are ready to hear about Jesus.  Don’t walk away from those who are receptive to the Good News of Jesus.

Jesus asks us to pray to the Father that He would send laborers for this harvest (vs. 38).  Believer’s prayers participate in the fulfillment of God’s plans.  Our prayers are important, and this is something important and dear to God - the salvation of souls.

Why do we hesitate and delay in telling others the message of salvation through Jesus?  The fields are ripe now.  The harvest is ready now.  We need to stop thinking that there is no hurry, that we can wait for a more opportune time.  As I mentioned at the start, if we wait too long to pick the crop, the vegetables will spoil on the vine.  If we wait to tell someone about Jesus, they may die and end up spending eternity in hell.  There is no better time than now.  The world needs to hear the Good News of Jesus today!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

God's Love For Sinners

Romans 5:6-11

Is there anyone that you would willingly give your life for if the need ever arose?  We would hope that such a time would never come, but if the circumstances came about, many people would be willing to sacrifice their life for their spouse, their children, or some very dear and close friend.  How about giving your life for the most upstanding person in your neighborhood, the tireless doctor, the self-sacrificing teacher, the elderly and godly person who cares so much for their neighbors?  Not too many of us would be willing, no matter how good these people are.  Now picture one more scene - picture the worst possible, most vile criminal who is being led out to be executed.  A crowd has gathered, and then the most upstanding, good, and godly person in the city steps forward and volunteers to take the place of the criminal, to be executed in their place!  We might think that would never happen.  As we read today’s passage from the Book of Romans, we see that it did happen, and we were that condemned criminal.

Who would ever be willing to die for some dirty, rotten sinner?  We can’t imagine any person doing that, yet that is what the Son of God did for us (vs. 6).  We are condemned sinners, having broken God’s holy laws, and the punishment is eternal separation from God.  We are reprobates and spiritually dead, and can do nothing to help ourselves.  There is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  We are weak and helpless, just like the criminal condemned to death.

As unregenerate sinners we are unlovable, and no one would willingly take our place.  However, God’s love for us is not based on how lovable we are, but is based on His character.  God’s supreme act of love came when we were at our most unlovely.  Jesus stepped forward from the throne room of heaven and said that He loved us so much that He would willingly take our place, and pay the ultimate price for our sins and redemption (vs. 8).

God sent Jesus to die for us, not because we were good enough, but because He loved us.  He loved us even before we turned to Him.  God didn’t wait for us to apologize or recognize Him.  He loved us so completely that He sent Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners.  None of us deserve God’s care and protection, but thankfully deserving isn’t the basis for His love.  God’s nature is love, which He demonstrated through Jesus’ death, while we were still sinners.  Jesus did not die merely for our benefit.  He died in our place.  He didn’t die only for the “good” people, He died for everyone, including the worst of sinners.

Do you ever feel like nobody could possibly care about you or love you?  Maybe you feel like you are so unimportant and without any value.  God didn’t choose to love us because we are lovely.  He loved us, and then we became lovely to Him.  Our value comes from His inherent value.  We are so important to God, so loved and valuable to Him, that He gave the best that He had, His Son Jesus Christ, for us.

By taking our place and dying for us, Jesus not only spared us from an eternity in hell, His death also brought reconciliation between us and God (vs 11).  One might expect that a condemned criminal who was released from prison would be estranged from society, from other people, especially the ones he had most hurt.  Yet through Jesus and His death, He brought about a reconciliation between us and God.  There is no longer any enmity between us and the Lord.  We are no longer enemies with God.

Do you know that Jesus died for you?  Have you realized that your sins make you God’s enemy, and the penalty is His eternal wrath?  Jesus paid that penalty, your penalty, with His own Blood on the cross.  If you accept that, and call upon Him to be your personal Savior, then you will be reconciled to God, and have His joy, both now and in eternity.  Don’t wait another day to be reconciled to God!

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Gates Into God's Presence

Psalm 100

Imagine that you were privileged to be granted an audience to meet with one of the most highest ranking people in the world, perhaps the Queen, or someone else at that exclusive level.  First you probably would plan what you would wear, spending some time to make sure you had just the right outfit, and your hair was done just right.  Equally important is making sure that you conduct yourself correctly, acting in an appropriate way.  No cracking silly jokes or making obtuse comments.  Though most of us will never have that opportunity, as believers we have an even more glorious invitation, and that is to come into the heavenly royal courts of the mighty God of the universe.  Our psalm reading for this week, Psalm 100, is just such an invitation.  In addition to being an invitation for us, the psalm also gives us instructions of how we should present ourselves before the Lord.

The first instruction our psalm gives us for how we should present ourselves before the Lord is that we should give a shout of gladness to the Lord (vs. 1).   Many of us have seen parades given in honor of a hero or a winning sports team, either in person or on TV.  Everyone is shouting out their praise with joy, with no restraint.  This is how the Lord wants us to be when we come before Him, joyfully shouting His praise.

We are to enter His presence with singing (vs. 2).  Maybe you feel that you cannot sing well.  However, our Scripture doesn’t say to sing only if you have a trained voice.  It tells us to come before His presence with singing.  We are to sing praises to the Lord for being our Creator and Shepherd (vs. 3), for His goodness, His mercy, and His truth (vs. 5).

We are to come to God in worship, with thanksgiving in our hearts (vs. 4).  Praising Him is the first step towards entering the presence of God.  We need to be doing that every moment of every day.  If we want to see God’s glory, thanksgiving is the door that will lead us into His throne room.  Our psalmist tells us that to pass through the gates into God’s kingdom, we must have thanksgiving in our hearts.  To enter into the royal courts of the Heavenly King, we must come with praise.   God is worthy of our worship.  Come into His presence with joy.  Don’t just go through the motions.  He should be praised and trusted by believers because He is holy, good, and perfect.

God is our Creator, and the Creator of all we have.  He made all, and provides us with what we need.  For that we can sing and praise Him.  God is also our Shepherd, and we are His sheep.  He is our Father, and we are His children if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior.  Believers are part of God’s family, His sons and daughters.  They belong, body and soul, to the one true God and Savior.  We can “know” and be assured of this truth (vs. 3).  Yahweh is the one and only true God.

God is the source and perfect example of all goodness (vs. 5).  He is absolutely perfect and holy.  He is the standard of all righteousness.  All God does is just and right.  He cannot change.  He is good, even when we are not.  Every breath comes from God.  He watches over and provides for all of our needs.  Because of this, we should cultivate a grateful heart.  One of the signs of the last days will be ingratitude (II Timothy 3:1-5).  Are we grateful to Him for answering our prayers?  The Lord is all-knowing and all-powerful. We should be praising Him for being faithful and trustworthy.  God’s children need to recognize that His Name is higher than any other name.  As our psalm tells us, we need to give thanks and bless His Name.  God is the ultimate expression of love itself.

This short psalm is often used in many churches as a call to worship.  It has also been used as the inspiration for many hymns.  As we read through this song in our Bible, let us remember that the gates into God’s presence are still open, inviting us to come and worship.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Bowl Of Stew

Genesis 25:29-34

Did you ever, perhaps as a child, make a trade and end up feeling cheated?  You traded something nice of yours, and ended up getting something that you found out later was a piece of junk.  We still do that today, especially with our spiritual life.  Today, as we look into this passage from the Book of Genesis, we will see someone who traded one of the most important things in his life to satisfy a momentary passing physical desire.

Esau and Jacob were twin brothers, but the two couldn’t have been more different in personality and interests if they had tried.  Esau was the oldest of the two, and was a real rugged man, loving the outdoors and hunting.  Jacob, on the other hand, was just the opposite.  He stayed around the house more, and had more quieter interests.  As the eldest, Esau would inherit the birthright.  In Jewish culture, the birthright was given to the eldest son, and entitled the eldest to a double portion of the family’s inheritance.  The eldest son with the birthright would become the family’s leader, the patriarch, who was also the family’s spiritual leader.

As our passage begins, Esau had been out hunting all day, and came back home exhausted and very hungry.  In the meantime Jacob had been cooking some food, a pot of red lentil stew.  Jacob was probably a good cook, and the smell of his food filled the air.  Esau, tired and hungry, asked for a bowl.  Though they were brothers, there was no love between the two, and Jacob wasn’t going to give his food away for nothing, so he asked for the birthright.  Unbelievably, Esau said yes, as he felt the birthright was of no value if he died right then of hunger!

Who would exchange their birthright for a bowl of food?  Esau was not truly on the verge of death! Obviously he thought nothing of what his inheritance truly meant.  He was godless, as he considered filling his stomach more important than the spiritual promises of God to the family through his grandfather Abraham.  Esau had complete disregard for the spiritual blessings that would have come his way.  He traded the lasting benefits of his birthright for the immediate pleasure of food.  Esau acted on impulse without considering the long-range consequences.  Immediate pleasure often loses sight of the future.

A wise person evaluates choices by looking ahead to see what negative consequences could follow a course of action.  The principle of sowing and reaping cannot be reversed (Galatians 6:7-8).  We need to carefully consider what we are “planting” in our life.  Are we planting a life based on worldly pleasures and satisfying the flesh, or are we planting to benefit our spiritual life?  The harvest will come, and we will reap what we have sown, and more than we have sown.  Esau learned this the hard way, with devastating results.

We are often tempted to put God to one side, and to choose something else.  So often we exchange God’s promises of something much better for cheap, short-lived pleasures.  Is there anything of real and eternal value that we are willing to trade for something of lesser worth?  Do we pursue wealth and career at the expense of family?  Are there other activities we want to spend time pursuing that takes time away from God and His Word?  Our wrong decisions can rob us of God’s blessings.

It is also important not to make quick, spur of the moment decisions, especially in critical matters.  That can lead to making very unwise decisions.  It’s important not to exaggerate our condition, either.  Esau was not starving to death.  He never considered the consequences of his actions.  Esau reacted to the need of the moment, without realizing what he was giving up to meet that need.

Are we willing to trade something of eternal value for something of no more worth than a bowl of stew?  Don’t sacrifice your future for momentary pleasure!

Friday, June 12, 2020

No One Is A Pariah To God

Matthew 9:9-13

Is there anyone in your community who is looked down upon by most of the people?  Perhaps they have cheated a number of people, or hurt their wife and children, or done any number of things that make them an outcast.  Maybe they held a job that people scorned.  Would they feel welcomed in your church or neighborhood Bible study?  In today’s Scripture reading we will read of a man that many of the “good” people in town would have scorned, and his calling by Jesus.

In the time of Jesus, there was one group of people who were scorned and hated more than any other, and those were the tax collectors.  Good and righteous people looked down on prostitutes, but one could ignore them, walking haughtily by.  No one liked the Roman soldiers either.  They were the foreign oppressors.  However the tax collectors were the most despised people in society.  They were Jewish people, their own countrymen, who were hired by the occupying Roman government to collect taxes for Rome.  For that they were considered to be traitors.  The tax collectors often would extort more money than was due for taxes, and would pocket what extra they could get.  Thus they were often thieves, in addition to being traitors.

No good, religious Jew would have anything to do with tax collectors.  Yet as we read in our passage, Jesus specifically called a man named Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of His chosen disciples (vs. 9).  In addition to doing that, He shocked and scandalized the Pharisees by going to their homes and eating with them (vs. 10-11).  Jesus often did this, and the Pharisees lost no time in pointing out this breach of approved conduct.  They said that if He was truly a religious man and teacher, He would never associate with such sinners.

The Pharisees were more concerned with their own appearance of holiness than with helping people.  They would rather criticize than encourage.  They wanted to look respectable rather than help a sinner come to God.  God loves everyone, including the sinful and hurting, and He wants them all to come to Him.  The Pharisees focused on outward rituals, neglecting the inward, eternal, and moral teachings of God’s Word (vs. 13).  They were harsh, judgmental, self-righteous, and scornful of others.

When someone is self-righteous, thinking they are morally superior, feeling they never sin, and that they are always right, they are not in a position to get saved.  We have to first acknowledge that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves.  The Pharisees thought they were well, religiously pure and whole.  Sinners know they are not.  Salvation can’t come to someone who is self-righteous until they admit that before God they are a sinner.

God’s message can change any life.  Jesus found and changed the life of Matthew.  In gratitude and thankfulness, he wanted to share Jesus’ message with his other friends, most of whom would have been fellow tax collectors and sinners.  Matthew invited Jesus to dinner, for Him to share God’s love with his friends, and for them to come to salvation just as he had.

When Matthew left his tax collector job, there was no turning back.  This was a very lucrative career that he was giving up.  He would never be able to get that job back.  Many of the disciples who were fishermen could always return to that if they so chose to, but no so with Matthew.  He gave up all to follow Jesus.

Do we follow God with a similar abandon?  Do we similarly obey and leave all behind, or do we cling to our things?  We need to let go of those things that would keep us from following Christ.  We also need to let go of any self-righteousness we may harbor in our hearts and welcome everyone who has turned to Jesus, no matter what their background may have been, into God’s family as our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Where Is Our Faith Placed?

Romans 4:13-18

What do you trust in to get you through life?  If we took a poll, we would find that many people would say their family or their friends.  Some might say, especially if they had various health concerns, that they place a lot of trust in their doctors or the medical field.  Some people trust in their investments and bank savings.  Many trust in their religious faith.  In our Scripture passage today, we see how important it is to be trusting in the right thing.  Putting trust in the wrong thing can bring bad results.

Where we place our trust, or in whom, is important.  Faith in something worthless or unreliable does us no good.  If we are trusting in investments, as we all have seen, the financial markets can come crashing down, and the investments become worthless.  Most doctors are fine, but often they reach the point where there is nothing more they can do for you.  Friends and family can turn their back on you, and faith in a false god or belief will leave you with nothing.  Many well-meaning people, seeking to follow God, are putting their faith and trust in various religious rituals, rules, and regulations to get them to heaven.  Is that a good place for our trust?  Let’s see what the Book of Romans from the Bible has to say.

Paul begins by talking of the great Old Testament Patriarch Abraham.  As we read throughout the Book of Genesis, Abraham had great faith and trust in God.  Scripture says that he believed in God, trusted in Him, and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  Abraham’s righteousness didn’t come because he did anything.  It wasn’t because of the ritual of circumcision that the Jewish people held so important, as that came some years later.  It wasn’t because Abraham kept the Old Testament Law.  That came through Moses, several centuries later.  It was because Abraham believed and had faith that God counted him righteous (vs. 13).

Salvation does not come through keeping of the Old Testament Law, or in any set of religious regulations (vs. 13-15).  God’s promise to Abraham was given 430 years before the Old Testament Law was given to Moses.   Our faith must be placed in Jesus Christ, not in any religious activity or ritual that we follow.  God called Abraham righteous, not because he followed the Jewish ritual of circumcision, not because he kept the Law of Moses.  God called Abraham righteous because he believed and had faith in Him.

Who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham?  Those who believe, or those who practice works and rituals to get them to heaven?  Only those who through faith have accepted Jesus as Savior are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, whether they are of Jewish descent or Gentile (vs. 16).  Abraham pleased God through his faith alone, not through any religious rituals.  We are saved by faith alone, plus nothing.  Not faith plus good works, or faith plus a ritual.  We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ, trusting Him to forgive all of our sins.

God promised Abraham that the entire world would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).   This promise would be fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  Biologically Abraham was the ancestor of the Jewish people.  Spiritually, though, he became the father of all who put their trust in Jesus, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Before, Gentiles were considered by Jews as outcast, spiritually dead, having no claim to God.  But in verse 17 we read that God brings life to those dead, and calls into existence things that weren’t.  He made spiritual life available to all, making those who were once thought as nothing into His children.

God calls into being things that were not.  He speaks, and things that didn’t exist suddenly do.  God, through His Word, speaks into existence His will for our life.  What God says changes things, and causes things to happen.  He is the one who has power to determine our destiny.  We need to line up our will with God’s will.  When we do, He empowers us to accomplish what He wills for our lives.

Monday, June 8, 2020

God's Warning Against Hypocrites

Psalm 50:7-15

Over the years one complaint that many people have against the church, and the reason they give for not wanting to attend, has been that too many of the people who go to church are hypocrites.  The people who attend will gather and sing all the songs, put their money in the offering, sit there piously and say the prayers and responses, but none of it really means anything to them.  When they leave the church, they are no different in their behavior than anyone else.  God’s Word, the Bible, has something to say about hypocrites, as well.  In our psalm for this week, a portion of Psalm 50, we can get an idea of what the Lord thinks.

Our passage opens with God speaking, testifying against His people (vs. 7).  He wants them to listen up to what He has to say against them.  First, He does not fault them for being negligent in offering their appropriate sacrifices on the days and at the times they are supposed to (vs. 8).  They are very good at being sure to follow that religious ordinance.  The people were very good at adhering to the letter of the law.  They brought their offerings and sacrifices, they kept their holy days, they tithed everything they had.  The people ate the correct foods, even using the correct plates, and wore the correct clothes made out of the correct materials.  The people were careful to avoid being around the “wrong people”.  Outwardly they seemed fine, but where was their heart in relation to God?

Jesus spoke directly about this when He pointed out that the Pharisees were meticulous in keeping every tiny item of the law, yet their hearts were far from God, and true worship of Him (Mark 7:1-13; Matthew 23:23-26).  How about us today?  Do we participate in religious activities, give our tithes and offerings, and attend church services out of habit or conformity, rather than out of heartfelt love and obedience?  God wants righteousness from His people, not just empty rituals.

As a matter of fact, God doesn’t even want our mere rituals, if that’s all it is to us, something we go through without any real thought or devotion (vs. 9-13).  Unlike the pagan deities, God does not need anything from us.  He created everything, and all of creation belongs to Him.  God doesn’t get hungry and need to eat, or else He will get faint or light-headed.  He doesn’t need us to feed Him or to clothe Him.  God doesn’t get tired and need to rest.  He also doesn’t need to listen to us recite a bunch of empty words to Him.  How often do we recite the same prayers every day or every week at church, sing the same songs, yet our mind is a million miles away, thinking about a dozen other thoughts?

God judges people who treat Him lightly.  He finds no pleasure in superficially religious people who bring their sacrifices, but are only going through the motions.  They do not honor Him with true praise or thanksgiving.  That is what God really wants - genuine thanksgiving and trust.

This portion of Psalm 50 is a warning to avoid hypocrisy and legalism before God.  True worship does not consist in mere sacrifices of animals.  Nor does it consist in merely keeping church attendance and following the rituals of your particular denomination.  True worship is the sacrifice of thanksgiving and faithfulness (vs. 14-15).  That is the sacrifice that always pleases God.  When we bring that to the Lord, He promises to help and to strengthen us.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Faithful Or Unfaithful

Hosea 5:15-6:6

This week’s Old Testament reading from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, comes from the prophet Hosea.  Hosea lived during the 8th century BC, and his ministry was primarily to the Northern Kingdom.  His home life was not a happy one, as his wife Gomer was repeatedly unfaithful to him.  The Lord spoke through Hosea’s messages, using his wife’s adulteries as a picture to show the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel to God, with their repeated worship of the false gods of the neighboring countries.  Let’s take a look at this portion of Scripture from the prophet Hosea, and see what we can learn for our lives today.

Throughout Scripture the Lord compares a believer’s relationship to Him as like a marriage, and He wants His people to be faithful to Him.  Worshipping other gods instead of Yahweh, or even in addition to Him is spiritual adultery, and is strongly condemned.  God wants us to be faithful to Him.  It hurts Him to see us wander away.  However, when we do, God will discipline us.  He doesn’t enjoy afflicting us (vs. 15).  When we don’t pay attention to His Word, God allows afflictions in order to get our attention, and try to direct us back to Him.  Afflictions may be the only warning we will pay attention to.

As chapter 6 of the Book of Hosea opens, the prophet is speaking the words of the people of Israel (vs. 1-3).  They talk of returning to the Lord.  However, for most of the people, this does not represent genuine repentance.  They did not truly turn from their idols, nor repent of their sin and honestly change.  They were only interested in Yahweh for the material blessings.  How many people could this be said of today?  How many people make a profession of faith in God, only with the hopes that He will then send them riches.  This is the basis of many of the preachers of the “prosperity gospel”.

In verses 4-6 the prophet Hosea now speaks as the voice of God.  God knew that for most of the people, their worship of Him was just lip service and meaningless sacrifices.  Their worship was not true and heartfelt, or with genuine repentance.  The people’s profession of faith and loyalty to God, like the mist and dew, evaporated easily, and had no substance (vs. 4).  They had the outward appearance of faith, but they were not truly committed.  These people would soon turn back to their wicked ways.  Their faithfulness and loyalty to Yahweh was fleeting and superficial.  God does not like half-hearted commitment (Revelation 3:15-16).  He wants our whole heart.

Just as in the days of the prophets, God continues to send His messengers, but it is often to no avail.  As the Lord states in verse 6, He does not want our half-hearted religious rituals.  We aren’t impressing God with any special religious activities that we go through, if our hearts aren’t right with Him.  Our religious activity is only helpful if the people performing them carry them out with an attitude of love and obedience to God.  Otherwise, these rituals are an empty mockery to Him.  God wants our hearts to be filled with love and be on fire for Him.

Reading through the whole book of Hosea, we see how heartbroken he was over his unfaithful wife, Gomer.  We see how many times he sought her out in love, to bring her back to himself and their children.  Even when Gomer had gotten herself into a real mess, and was going to be sold as a slave, Hosea went and paid the price to redeem her back, despite the laughter of those who saw all this.  In a similar way God is heartbroken over His faithless people.  Let us return to the Lord in true love and faithfulness.  As another of the prophets of old tell us, let us seek the Lord while He may be found, and forsake our wicked ways (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Friday, June 5, 2020

Where Have We Built Our Foundation?

Matthew 7:21-27

Among the more heart-wrenching sights to see is when you watch a nice house come crashing down, often off of the side of a hill, or near the edge of a cliff.  I’ve seen news footage of this happening to beautiful homes in California, usually after heavy rains.  These homes were built on the sides of large hills, usually so the owner can have breathtaking views every day from his windows and patio deck.  Sometimes the houses were built along a coastal cliff, again so the owner can have a beautiful view of the ocean.  Alas, though, the house came crashing down, usually because it was built on unstable ground.  The developer had lured the unsuspecting homeowner into building his luxury home in this spot with the beautiful view, not paying attention to the fact that the ground was not stable.  After storms, the house came crashing down and all was lost.  As we shall read in our Scripture today from the Gospel of Matthew, a sure foundation is important.

In our passage for today, Jesus has two messages He wants us to learn.  The first is that just because someone calls themselves something, doesn’t necessarily mean they are.  Someone can say they have a real talent or ability in this or that, but really know very little about it.  Here in verses 21-23 Jesus tells us that not everyone who says they are a Christian is genuinely saved.  Jesus tells us that there will be some who will stand before Him one day, proudly professing all the good things they did, supposedly in His Name, but who had failed to genuinely accept Him as their Savior.  This group will even include some pastors and various church workers who were never truly saved.

Not everyone who talks about God and spiritual things belongs to God’s kingdom.  Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk.  What we do cannot be separated from what we believe.  The faith that says, but does not do is really unbelief.  Works do not save us, but true faith will not fail to produce the fruit of good works (James 1:22-25, James 2:26).   One who is truly saved is one that does the will of God, living in obedience to the will of God as the normal course of his life.  Only our relationship with Christ, accepting Him as Savior, and our obedience to Him will matter.  Faith in Christ is what counts on Judgment Day.

Jesus then proceeds to give the account of two houses that were built, one built upon rock, the other built upon sand (vs. 24-27).  Storms came, and only one house remained standing, because of it’s firm foundation.  The foundation that Jesus is talking about requires paying attention to, and listening to His words, and then doing what He says. If we only listen, but do not take action, we’ve accomplished nothing.  Jesus’ words are to be the foundation for our lives.

Hearing the Word of God alone will not change a life, and is not enough.  One must hear and do what Jesus said.  Putting His words into practice will help us to withstand the storms.  Those who ignore and neglect His words have their foundation on sand.  The Apostle Paul echoes this teaching in I Corinthians 3:11.  It is important to lay a proper foundation, one in Christ, the Rock, not in the shifting sands of false religions and philosophies.  Only a spiritual life built on the foundation of obedience to God’s Word stands.  One of repentance, salvation by faith, and trusting in Jesus’ grace alone.

It is not a watered-down, “everyone is in” Gospel that Jesus proclaimed here. If we give that message, not a soul will be saved.  Those who do proclaim that type of message will one day stand before Jesus and hear Him say “Depart from me.  I never knew you.”  His way is straight and narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).  There are many who appear to be walking the narrow way, but have never accepted Jesus as Savior.  Build on the Rock - be a hearing, responding disciple, not a phony, superficial one.  Obedience and faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation that will weather the storm.  The storm will come!  Be sure your foundation is sure!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Sinner Saved By Grace

Romans 3:21-28

Do you feel that there are some people who have done such terrible things that they could never go to heaven when they die?  Perhaps some terrible serial killer, child abuser, or a brutal dictator.  We look at their life and the crimes they committed, and feel that no, God can never accept them.  Or maybe you feel that, even though you might not fall into any of those categories, you still feel that you’ll never make it to heaven after some of the things you’ve done.  Perhaps you are on the other side of that coin, and feel that you’ve been a pretty good character throughout life. Your checklist is marked off in all the right categories - church activities, all the right community organizations, school boards, check, check, check.  You’re a good upstanding citizen and church member, certainly there’s a nice spot in heaven for you.  Let’s take a look at what God has to say in our Scripture passage today from the Book of Romans.

As we read through this passage, we can see right away that God will accept all who believe (vs. 22).  God will accept anybody, literally anybody, who comes to faith in His Son Jesus Christ as their Savior.  This righteousness that God is giving out has nothing to do with whether a person has done all sorts of good deeds, or even kept the Old Testament Law.  It all depends on Jesus.  God will give His righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, and it is available to everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.  This is God’s mercy for us.

We all need our sins taken care of because they separate us from God, who is perfect and right.  God made His Son, who never sinned, the offering for our sins, so that we would be made right with Him (II Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus makes us righteous, and puts us in a right relationship with God.  It is His Blood that is the only true and permanent offering for sin that is acceptable with God, not any good deeds that we do, nor any Old Testament sacrifices that could be offered.  It is with Jesus’ Blood that we can have assurance of our salvation.  It doesn’t come by human logic.  It is a matter of faith.  Do we believe God, or do we not?  Believe God’s Word, and not our own thinking (I John 5:13).  The gift of a personal relationship with God is imparted to those who trust Christ.

No one can claim they have never done wrong, that they are pure and innocent (vs. 23).  We may look good to others, but we can never attain God’s standard of righteousness.  Everyone has sinned.  All sin makes us sinners.  All sin cuts us off from a holy God.  It leads to death because it disqualifies us from living with God.  However, the good news is that through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, God has redeemed us.  He will forgive us if we come to Him in faith.

Christ’s death satisfies the Father’s righteous demands (vs. 25-26).  It becomes appropriated (becomes ours) only when we put our faith and trust in Him.  Jesus died in our place, for our sins.  God declared Jesus’ death to be the appropriate, designated sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus Christ stands in our place, having paid the penalty of death for our sin.  He completely satisfied God’s demands, bringing pardon, deliverance, and freedom to all who believe.

In verse 24 we read the word “justified”, a form of the word “justification”.  Justified means being declared righteous.  It signifies the believer’s spiritual legal standing before God.  For those who have accepted Jesus as Savior, they are justified, which is accomplished by God’s grace, His unmerited favor.  We are declared “not guilty”.  All charges have been removed from the record.  When God forgives our sin, our record is wiped clean.  From God’s perspective, it is as though we had never sinned.  It was Jesus’ death which paid for this.  The sinner is released on the basis that Jesus paid the price.

In closing, I would say to all who read this - Trust Christ to take away your sins.  Put your confidence in Him to forgive your sins, and to make you right with God.  He will then empower you to live the way He taught us.  Jesus Christ is the only valid One in which all mankind must place their faith in order to live with God for eternity.  Jesus purchased our salvation and a place in heaven for us, and the price was His Blood.