Saturday, March 30, 2024

Who Will Roll Away The Stone?

Mark 16:1-8

Have you ever felt like the walls of your life are just closing in on you?  Problems on this side, worries on that side, add in several fears.  You are just surrounded with trouble.  Today as we look into Scripture for Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, we will look at three women, whose day started like that, but ended so much better.

As our passage from the Gospel of Mark opens, we read of three women who had been followers of the Lord Jesus throughout His ministry, heading to the tomb of the Savior.  Late in the afternoon of Friday, the dead body of Jesus had been removed from the cross, and laid in a nearby garden grave which was lovingly donated by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:59-60).  Now that the Sabbath was over, the women wanted to perform the ritual anointing of the dead.  It was dawn, and the sun was just coming up over the horizon.  This had been a very difficult, stressful, and horrific past several days for them, along with the disciples and their other friends.  Jesus was dead, crucified like a common criminal.  Due to His sudden arrest and execution, they had not been prepared with everything necessary for His burial and anointing, and then they could not do anything over the Sabbath.  Now was the first time they were able to perform this loving ritual.

As they approached the tomb the women realized a seemingly huge problem.  How would they get into the tomb?  There was a massive stone in front of the entrance.  Scholars have estimated that this stone could easily have weighed over 3,000 pounds, way too heavy for three women to easily move.  And these women were probably not comfortable asking the Roman guards that the Jewish leaders had stationed around the tomb for any help.  “Who will roll away the stone?”  This was a big worry.  They couldn’t handle it, and they had no solution.  What were they going to do?

However, when they arrived, they saw that this problem of theirs was already taken care of.  The stone had been rolled away! (vs. 4).  Like many of our worries, God had already taken care of it for them!  He had provided a solution to their problem, and also a gift beyond all hope!  In the tomb the women met someone who looked like a young man, but who was actually an angel.  He gave them a message for the disciples, and especially Peter, that Jesus had risen (vs. 5-7).  The women were afraid, and quickly left, telling no one.  However, as we read in the other Gospels, any reluctance to tell the disciples was quickly dispelled, and they did indeed tell them (Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:9).  Will we be silent with the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection?  Or will we use the empty tomb and the proclamation of His resurrection as a starting point to take the message of the Gospel to everyone without fear?

The angel specifically said for them to be sure and tell Peter.  As I spoke about in my previous devotional, Peter had denied, with curses, knowing Jesus three times, and felt broken because of that.  Yet in spite of Peter’s denial, Jesus had not disowned or deserted him.  He wanted Peter to know that He had risen and come back, just as He said, and that He had forgiven him.  Peter was included, not cast out!  When we stumble and fall, no matter how grievously, if we confess and repent, the Lord will forgive us, as well.

There are some further thoughts to take note of from the Gospel account of the Resurrection.  Even the Jewish leaders did not deny the reality of the empty tomb.  They just concocted a story, a lie, that the disciples had stolen His Body (Matthew 28:11-15).  However, neither the disciples, nor these women, could have overpowered a unit of Roman soldiers that the Jewish leaders had demanded to be stationed there.  Another thought, the angels did not roll away the stone so Jesus could get out.  They did it so that others could get in and see for themselves that Jesus had, indeed, risen from the dead, just as He said!

In closing, there is no invitation by the angels to stay at the tomb.  The invitation is to go and follow where Jesus is leading (vs. 7).  We are to follow the risen Savior.  And remember, no burden is too heavy for God to carry, and no stone too large for God to move.  We never need to worry about who will roll away our stones!

Friday, March 29, 2024

When The Rooster Crowed

Luke 22:54-62

As we look back over our life so far, many of us can pick out one, or maybe more times when we did something that we are terribly ashamed of, times when we were a big disappointment to ourselves and others.  If we could go back and change things, do it differently this time, we would.  Sadly, we can’t.  Thinking back, we hang our heads in shame, and maybe even cry.  Our Scripture today, as we close out Holy Week, tells the account of a very sad event from the Gospels, and that is when the Apostle Peter, the leader of the Twelve, did something that he vowed he never would do, and that was to deny the Lord Jesus three times.  Let’s take a look at that sad time.

Prior to the events in our Scripture, Jesus had been in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples.  It was now the middle of the night, and Judas came with some soldiers and Temple guards and betrayed Jesus.  He was arrested and led away.  The other disciples all fled, and Jesus was led to the High Priest’s house where He was interrogated.  This is where our Scripture begins.  Peter truly loved the Lord Jesus, and after the guards left with the Lord in chains and shackles, he followed at a distance (vs. 54).  Not too closely, as he was still quite afraid, so he stayed back, but he did follow.  When we follow Jesus at a distance, though, we are much more apt to get into trouble, which Peter found out.

Peter saw Jesus being taken into the High Priest’s house, and decided to stay in the courtyard in order to find out what would happen.  In Biblical times a person’s courtyard or patio was not as private as one today might be.  Anyone could come in, sit, rest, etc. and go on their way.  That night there were a group of people there, some servants, some of the guards, and others.  Peter thought he could casually join them and no one would notice (vs. 55).  However, that wasn’t the case.  One of the servant girls noticed him, and recalled having seen him with Jesus before (vs. 56-57).  Possibly earlier in the week she had seen and heard Jesus teaching, and remembered seeing Peter with Him.  Peter got scared.  With some guards right there, and this woman being a part of the household of the High Priest, he could possibly get arrested himself!  Peter feared for his own safety, and quickly told her she was wrong.  He didn’t know Jesus.

A short while later another person in the courtyard said the same thing, that they recalled Peter being part of Jesus’ group.  Peter even more emphatically denied it.  Then someone spoke up and said Peter was part of Jesus’ group because he had the Galilean accent (vs. 58-60).   A third time Peter, in great fear, denied knowing Jesus.  Matthew even records that Peter cursed and swore that he didn’t know the Savior (Matthew 26:74).  Immediately a rooster crowed.

Yes, the rooster crowed, and Peter heard it, bringing to his mind what Jesus had told him just a few hours earlier, that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster would crow (Mark 14:30).  At this moment, too, something also occurred that we often don’t remember.  We all recall the rooster crowing, but how many remember that at that moment the Lord Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house, and as He crossed the courtyard, He looked directly at Peter? (vs 61).  This was the lowest moment in his whole life!  Not only did Peter do something he vowed he would not do, and the rooster reminded him of that, but at that moment, Jesus was brought out and He looked directly at Peter, who then left and wept bitterly (vs. 62).

Peter wept bitterly. Not only had he denied the Messiah, but also turned away from a very dear Friend who had loved and taught him for three years.  Peter had said he would never disown Jesus, despite His predictions (Luke 22:33-34)  But when he became frightened, he went against his promise.  Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus for 12 hours.  Peter knew he failed as a disciple and friend, and broke down in sobs.

Jesus looked at Peter in that moment.  What kind of look was it?  Was it compassion?  Disappointment?  Resignation?  Sorrow?  Love?  The Scripture does not say.  I am thinking that it was a mixture of all of those, but most likely especially one of love and forgiveness as He saw how devastated Peter felt at that moment.

Peter made a big mistake, one that might seem impossible to overcome.  However, Jesus sees beyond the mistake to the heart of His disciple.  Later, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, after the Resurrection, Jesus would remind Peter of who he really is, and Whose he is (John 21:17).  He reminded Peter that he was to feed, to lead and teach Jesus’ sheep, Peter’s fellow believers.  Whatever our greatest heartache or regrets are, we can turn them over to Jesus.  He will forgive, as He did for Peter. That moment when the rooster crowed did not define Peter.  It was the moments with Jesus, and serving Him, that did.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Last Supper And Judas

Mark 14:17-26

In today’s Scripture, midway through Holy Week, we will look at the Last Supper, along with Jesus’ words about the one who would betray Him.  These are some of the last moments Jesus would spend with His disciples, for in less than 24 hours He would be crucified and die.  Let’s take a quick look at both of these events which happened the evening before Good Friday.

In my previous devotional, we looked at Jesus washing the feet of His twelve disciples, and the lesson He was teaching them.  After He was through, the Savior and the disciples gathered around the table in the upper room, to celebrate the Passover meal.  What Christians call the Last Supper was Jesus’ final Passover meal.  There are generally three different beliefs about the Last Supper, also called the Eucharist, among various Christian denominations.  Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and the various Orthodox churches believe in transubstantiation, where the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus.  Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, where they believe that the  Body and Blood of Jesus is present with the bread and wine, but they do not believe it transforms into it.  And most Protestants believe that it is symbolic, that the ceremony is just done in remembrance of that event.  I am not going to get into who I think is correct or not correct, and will just say that those are the three general interpretations.

Jesus had a serious reason for instituting a new Passover.  The bread was His Body, soon to be tortured and broken on the Cross (vs. 22).  The wine was His Blood, soon to be shed on the Cross (vs. 23-24).  Like the Passover lamb, Jesus died in our place to free us from sin.  His innocent Blood paid the price of death for all who believe.  Jesus took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of the bread and the drinking of the wine, and gave them new meaning as the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, showing the significance of what He was about to do on the Cross.

Jesus’ death on the Cross seals a new covenant between God and people.  The old covenant involved forgiveness of sins through the blood of an animal sacrifice.  Instead of a spotless lamb, Jesus offered Himself, the spotless Lamb of God, as a sacrifice that would forgive sins once and for all.  Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin, and His Blood sealed the new covenant between God and man.

Let us also take a quick look at what the Lord Jesus had to say about His imminent betrayal and the one who would commit that betrayal (vs. 17-21).  Jesus knew there was a traitor among the group, and His announcement of such caused some dismay and distress among the group.  Only Jesus and Judas Iscariot knew for sure who He was talking about.  Yet each disciple questioned whether it might have been them (vs. 19).  Betray Jesus?  Certainly not!  But who could swear that they would never, ever be capable of something like that?

At the time of the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot had already determined to betray Jesus, yet he was a cold-blooded hypocrite as he shared this Passover meal with Jesus and the other eleven.  Not only did he betray Jesus, he ate this meal with the Lord, showing the enormity of the offense.

Even though it was predestined that Jesus die for our salvation, that did not make the guilt of those involved with His death any the less (vs. 21).  Jesus’ sacrificial death did not excuse those who brought it about.  Judas Iscariot’s eternal punishment will be terrible.  The severest punishment is reserved for Judas and others like him (Hebrews 10:29).  We are responsible for believing or not believing, and there is a terrible consequence for those who will not believe.  I pray that you are included in those who believe.  If not, will you turn to the Lord Jesus without delay, and ask Him to be your Savior?

Monday, March 25, 2024

Foot Washing

John 13:1-17

Do you have a certain task that you have to do every so often, one that you really dislike doing?  For whatever reason, you really don’t like doing it, and if possible, you might try to leave the task for someone else to do.  For me, the task I really dislike is changing and cleaning out the cat litter box.  I do love our two cats, along with our tiny little poodle, but I don’t enjoy cleaning out the cat’s box!  Other people might have different tasks that they really dislike.  In our Scripture for today, we read about a task that needed to be done, but everyone thought it was beneath their dignity, and refused.  Let’s see what happened.

Israel had a warm and dry climate.  The people in the days of the Bible would wear sandals instead of standard shoes.  After being outdoors and doing a lot of walking, one’s feet would get dusty and dirty.  When coming inside from the outdoors, washing of one’s feet was necessary.  Because this was a humiliating task, only the lowliest and menial of servants would perform that duty.  It was beneath the dignity of even the “regular” servants to do, so the lowest ones were let to perform that for the family and guests.

On the night before Jesus would be crucified, He and His disciples had gathered in an upper room to celebrate the Passover meal.  This was a borrowed room, and there were no servants present.  After a long and warm day, after a stressful week, everyone wanted to relax and enjoy the Passover meal.  However there wasn’t a servant present to do the dirty task of washing the feet, and none of the disciples volunteered for the task.  They all thought that was beneath them, especially when the twelve were always arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest.  Their pride kept them from humbling themselves among the group.

Naturally, Jesus observed all of this.  As the master, the leader, the teacher of this group, as the Messiah, the Son of God, it would have been His right to pick one and tell them to perform the task.  However, Jesus did not do that.  Instead, He took a large bowl, a pitcher of cool water, and a towel, and got down on His knees, and performed the task that only lowly servants did (vs. 4-5).  Jesus was the model servant, and He showed His servant attitude to His disciples.  They had not wanted to wash their peers' feet, but Jesus, God incarnate, got on His knees to them and performed the servant’s task.

Not only was this cleansing their feet from the dust and dirt of the day, this was also symbolic of spiritual cleansing, and a model of Christian humility and selfless service.  Each of the disciples noticed that their Master was performing this task, and were probably embarrassed.  When Jesus got to Peter, he told Jesus to stop, that He didn’t need to perform that lowly task on him (vs. 6-8).  Peter was indignant that Jesus would stoop so low as to wash his feet.  Jesus had meant to show that this was also symbolic of spiritual cleansing, of salvation through Him.  However, Peter did not see the symbolism of that involved.  The Savior had to point out that unless one is washed clean through Him, then he has no part in Him (vs. 8).  Unless the Lamb of God cleanses a person’s sin, one can have no part with Him.

Peter did not want to be left out of a relationship with Jesus!  He wanted all in!  “Wash all of me!” he said (vs.9).  Jesus instructed them that once they have initially been washed and cleansed in salvation, that never needs to be repeated.  We can never lose our salvation.  We do, though, need constant washing for the forgiveness of our daily sins as we battle sin in the flesh (vs. 10).

Afterwards, Jesus put the bowl, pitcher, and towel away and rejoined them at the table.  He taught them a special lesson in humility and having a servant’s heart and attitude with one another (vs. 12-17).  No more “I’m the greatest!” attitude for them.  His children must love and serve one another.  Jesus frequently taught that to be a leader, one must be a servant.  Are we willing to take the lower spot, or do we always feel that we have to be in the spotlight, in the grand positions?  Are we willing to do the thankless tasks, even tasks that others shun, or do we want all of the applause?  We must be willing to serve in any way that glorifies God.

In verse 12 we read that Jesus finished washing the disciples' feet.  He left no one out.  This means that He also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot.  Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer!  He gave His betrayer equal attention.  Are we willing to love and serve others just as much?  Jesus gave us an example to follow.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Lavish Display Of Love

Matthew 26:6-13

During Holy Week this year I thought that I would do something just a little different.  Instead of using the Scriptures from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, which I usually follow for my devotionals or meditations, I decided to pick four Scripture passages of events that happened during the last week of Jesus’ life, ones that are generally overlooked in the Lectionary.  Today’s Scripture gives the account of a woman’s great sacrifice for the Lord, and how Jesus promised it would be remembered.

As our Scripture opens, it is a few days before the Last Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion, and He and His disciples were invited to dinner at the home of one, Simon “the Leper” (vs. 6).  We can safely assume that Simon no longer has this dreaded, contagious skin disease, as those with this disease were always quarantined, living in isolation outside of town, far away from the general population.  In fact, they had to call out “Unclean!” if anyone would come near.  So the fact that Simon is back among people, living in Bethany, a nearby suburb of Jerusalem, and having people over for dinner, shows that he no longer was leprous.  There is even a possibility that Simon could have been one of the many lepers that the Lord Jesus healed, and this meal was just a token of his thankfulness for what Jesus had done.

As Jesus and His disciples, and any other guests were seated around the table, a woman came in and began to anoint Jesus.  In Biblical days, particularly with more wealthier households, meals were often served in a courtyard or patio, which were only semi-private.  That would be cooler, with a nice breeze, rather than in a hot, crowded, stuffy room inside a house.  Thus, someone from the outside could enter without raising a disturbance.  This woman, as we shall see, was criticized for what she began doing, not for entering in uninvited.

This woman, who some believe was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and also lived in Bethany, began pouring very fragrant oil upon the head of the Lord Jesus (vs. 7).  This was oil that was used when preparing a body for burial.  The ancient Jews did not mummify or embalm bodies like the ancient Egyptians did.  They would loosely wrap a body in linen cloth, after anointing the body with fragrant oils and ointments.  These would only preserve the body for a few days, and would cover up the stench of decay.  This was a task that the women in the household would do.  Naturally, everyone at the table noticed her doing this, as the scent of the perfume spread.

As this woman proceeded to anoint the Lord Jesus, some of the disciples noticed that the particular oil she was using was one that was extremely expensive.  This was not an oil that someone would have just picked up at their local supermarket for a few dollars.  This was one that would have been purchased at a great expense, one that would have been a great sacrifice to have bought.  And here she was, liberally pouring this on Jesus while He was alive.  Some of the disciples immediately began to criticize her, acting all pious and sanctimonious, saying that she could have sold that and given the money to the poor (vs. 8-9).  This was mainly said by Judas Iscariot (John 12:4-6).  Since he held the group’s money bag, and would frequently help himself to it, he would have loved to have gotten his hands on the huge value of that perfumed oil!

Jesus knew why this woman was doing this (vs. 10-12).  By anointing Jesus while He was still alive she proved that she believed in His resurrection.  She was showing her devotion right then, as she knew His Body would not decay, and thus would not need the oil.

In this passage, Jesus was not advocating that we neglect the poor (vs. 11), as there are countless verses all throughout the Bible where we are told to care for and help the poor, the widow, and the orphan.  What Jesus said here is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 15:11. Jesus was highlighting the special sacrifice this woman made for Him.

There is a higher priority than any other earthly ministry that we can do, and that is the worship that we render to the Lord Jesus.  This woman was very willing to take an expensive burial oil, worth multiple thousands of dollars, and lavishly pour it upon the Lord Jesus, to show Him her love, devotion, and worship.  The Lord rewards faithful devotion to Him.  What she did was memorialized in God’s Word forever (vs. 13).  What are we willing to do or to sacrifice for Jesus?  

Friday, March 22, 2024

We Wish To See Jesus

John 12:20-33

Have you ever wanted to personally meet a celebrity, whether a certain movie star, singer in your favorite music group, politician or member of royalty?  Depending on how famous they are, they are likely to have a lot of security surrounding them, and unless you are also quite famous, you likely won’t be able to get near.  That is, unless you are friends with someone who is also a good friend of theirs.  Then, perhaps, you could get them to introduce you to that celebrity.  In our Scripture passage today we read of some people who wanted to meet Jesus, and what they did in order to accomplish that.

In our Gospel reading for this week, we see several Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover.  These were either Hellenistic Jews, or Greek Gentiles who had converted to Judaism.  After the conquest of most of the Middle East and Central Asia by Alexander the Great (356 BC - 323 BC), Greek culture was spread and adopted by many people.  Also during this time many Jews settled in areas outside of Israel, moving all throughout the Mediterranean world, especially in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and in Greece.  Though they kept their Jewish faith, many of them adopted a much more Greek lifestyle, including speaking Greek.  By the time of Jesus, the Jews who remained in Israel tended to look down on these “Hellenized” or Greek Jews.  These Greeks in vs. 20-22, were either Hellenistic Jews, or Greek converts, either of which Jews in Israel would have scorned, and made it difficult for them to approach Jesus.

These Greeks had heard of Jesus and His teachings, and now that they were near where Jesus was, they wished to meet Him.  How could they get a way in to Jesus, and past the crowds, many of whom might try to stop them?   How about through one of His disciples?  They must have learned the names and identity of some of the disciples, and saw that one of them had a Greek name, that of Philip.  Philip and his family might have had some Greek connections.  These Greek pilgrims chose him, and told Philip that they wanted to see Jesus.  Philip went and told his companion disciple, Andrew, and they told Jesus about the Greeks wishing to see Him.

Are there people that we know who wish to meet Jesus?  What are we doing about that?  Maybe we feel that we don’t know enough to effectively speak with them, or are too timed.  If that is our dilemma, we can get another Christian, go get “Andrew”,  and tell them about Jesus.   Like Philip, we should always make sure that anyone who wants to meet Jesus is able to.

As we continue in our Scripture for today, we read where Jesus spoke again about His imminent death on the cross for us.  The Savior spoke of  “the hour” having come (vs. 23).  This hour is the time of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation.  The phrase “should be glorified” in this same verse guarantees the resurrection, because Jesus could not be glorified unless He was resurrected.

When we take a grain kernel or seed and plant it, in a sense it “dies”.  That might not seem to be pleasant for the seed.  However, in order to bring forth a crop it needs to be buried in the ground.  In like manner, Jesus’ death will bring salvation to many (vs. 24).    Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for our sin, and also to show His power over death.  His resurrection proves that He is able to give eternal life to believers.

We, too, as Jesus’ disciples, may have to lose our life in service and witness for Him (vs. 25-26).  As believers, we are called to put ourselves last and Christ first in all things.  We must be so committed to living for Jesus that it would look like we “hated” our life by comparison.  We can do this by disowning our self-centeredness, and releasing our own control over our life to Jesus.

Jesus, in His human nature, wanted to be delivered from this horrible death He faced (vs. 27).  By going to the cross for our sins, He was taking on the wrath of God for the sins of the word, which caused horror and anxiety in the sinless Savior.  However, Jesus knew that God sent Him into the world to die for our sins, and in our place.  Jesus said no to His human desires in order to obey His Father and to glorify Him.

In closing, we read how as Jesus prayed that God would glorify His Name, the Father spoke audibly from heaven that He had glorified it, and would glorify it again (vs. 28).  This was an audible Voice, yet not everyone heard what was said, and some who did, did not believe it was what it truly was (vs. 29-30).  Some thought it was thunder, and some thought it was an angel, not God.  Others, though, did know it was God.  Some can hear the voice of God, while others only hear noise.  Who are you listening to?  Are you listening to the Voice of God, or are you listening to the devil’s noise?  Be sure you keep your ears tuned to Jesus!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Our Great High Priest

Hebrews 5:1-10

One of the themes of the New Testament Book of Hebrews is that Jesus is better.  He is better than the angels.  He is better than Moses.  The sacrifice of Himself is better than the animal sacrifices offered by the people.  And today we look at the fact that Jesus is better than the Jewish priesthood, and the high priest in particular.  Let’s look into our Scripture passage and see what we can learn from this portion of the Book of Hebrews.

According to the Laws of Moses in the Old Testament, those who were part of the Jewish priesthood were to be descendants from Aaron, and thus from the tribe of Levi.  A high priest was then selected from among the priests   This was a hereditary position, not one that just any Jewish young man could decide to choose as a career.  Among the several responsibilities that the Aaronic priests had, one important one was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people, for forgiveness of their sins.  However, one thing that they had to do first, was to offer a sacrifice for themselves.  Being human, they too had sinned, and needed God’s forgiveness for themselves.  The high priests were sinful men, just like we all are, so they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, as well.  Then they would be in a position to offer the sacrifices on behalf of their fellow man (vs. 1-4).  Because these priests had similar failings and faults like the people who came to bring a sin offering, they could have compassion on those who inadvertently sinned out of ignorance.

These sacrifices needed to be offered over and over again, because the blood of animals could not take away sins, and the high priests were also sinful men (Hebrews 10:4).  We needed a priest and a sacrifice who could take away our sins, so God chose and appointed Jesus Christ to be our High Priest (vs. 5-6).  The priesthood of Jesus was planned by God from the very beginning.  Jesus had no sin, and because of this He was able to be both the perfect High Priest and the perfect sacrifice when He sacrificed Himself once for all.  God chose Jesus to be our High Priest just as Aaron was chosen.  His priesthood is superior to Aaron’s, though, because He is also our King, and has no earthly succession, just like Melchizedek.

As we continue to read in our Scripture, in verse 7 we read that Jesus shared in our humanity, and so He did not, in His human nature, desire the pain and disgrace that awaited Him (Luke 22:39-43).  Nobody would want to go through the torture that Jesus faced.   But Jesus showed perfect obedience, even to death on the Cross.  He always did the will of the Father.  Because of His faithfulness, Jesus triumphed over death (I Corinthians 15:54-55).

In verse 8 we read the phrase “learned obedience”.  This doesn’t mean that Jesus had to learn to obey, like our children do when they are little, because that would mean that Jesus had sinned.  It means that Jesus actively sought out the path of obedience, and then unfailingly walked it.  Jesus was obedient through His suffering.  We who are sinful and far from perfect must pass through suffering, too.  Jesus’ suffering enabled Him to have complete sympathy with us.  He is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15).  Being obedient isn’t difficult if it isn’t costly, but it is a different story when it costs us everything, including our life.  Jesus sacrificed and suffered everything for us when He gave up everything and came down to earth from heaven (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus was not to be a High Priest just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles (vs. 10).  In order for this to be, His priesthood would have to be something other than from the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron.  Jesus’ priesthood was after the order of Melchizedek.  We read of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20, and in Psalm 110:4.  He was not a Hebrew, a descendant of Abraham.  He was a Gentile, and in fact, gave a blessing to Abraham.  Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone, Jew and Gentile.

So following the theme that Jesus is better, we see that He met all of the requirements of being a High Priest, but that He is better than the Old Testament Aaronic priesthood.   Jesus was divinely appointed (vs. 5-6).  He had compassion on mankind (vs. 7-8).  And Jesus gave the perfect offering for sin - Himself (9-10).  Come, and call upon our Great High Priest, Jesus, today.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Cleanse Me From My Sin

Psalm 51

Let me state a fact that should be fairly obvious to everyone, and that is that we are all sinners.  Most reading this may be true Christians, but we still have all done some rather rotten things.  There are some Christians who have even committed some actual crimes.  Will God forgive them?  Will He forgive us for all of the terrible things we have done?   A look at today’s psalm, one written in the aftermath of a grievous sin and then genuine repentance, should give us the answer.

King David was one of the great people of the Bible.  He was the hero from the battle with the Philistine Goliath, and countless other wars against various other Canaanite nations.  David was the author of many of the Psalms in the Bible.  And yet as we read in the Scripture, David fell into a very serious and shocking sin.  In II Samuel 11, we read how David, instead of going with his army as its leader as he should have, stayed home.  During this time he saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, had her brought to the royal palace, and had an affair with her, despite her being married to one of his military officers.  When she found out that she was pregnant, David brought back her husband, Uriah, hoping he would go home to his wife for a while, so David could pass the child off as Uriah’s.  However, that didn’t go as planned, so the king issued an order that Uriah be sent to the worst of the battle, then all military support withdrawn to leave him to die.  When that was done, David took Bathsheba as his wife.  Thus, in a few short weeks, he had committed both adultery and murder.

Does that mean that David wasn’t really a true believer?  Of course he was.  God called him a man after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).  Would God forgive him of such heinous sins?  Will He forgive us when we do some terrible sin?  The answer to both is yes.  When we confess and repent, the Lord will forgive us (I John 1:9).  It took David a while to come to God in repentance, over a year, because the baby was already born. The Holy Spirit was undoubtedly pricking his heart during those months, but it took a visit from the prophet Nathan to get David to fall on his knees in confession to God (II Samuel 12:1-15).  Psalm 51 was written in response to this time.  God will forgive any and all sin, including murder, if the individual comes to Him in genuine repentance and confession.

As we read through this psalm, we see that David acknowledged that he had sinned against God (vs. 4).  But hadn’t he really sinned against Uriah?  He took that poor fellow’s wife, and then his life!  And he took advantage of Bathsheba, leading her into sin.  All sin hurts us and others.  David’s shining testimony was greatly tarnished, and his sin cost Bathsheba her reputation, and Uriah his life.  However, all sin is ultimately against God, and requires His forgiveness first and foremost.  This sin, all sin, offends God because sin in any form is a rebellion against His way of living.

True repentance and confession will admit guilt.  Repentance takes full responsibility for our sin.  It doesn’t blame someone else.  David didn’t put the blame on Bathsheba.  He didn’t complain to Nathan or to God that she shouldn’t have been bathing where she could be seen, so it wasn’t really his fault, it was hers.  In verses 1-3 David repeatedly owns his sin, saying my transgressions, my iniquity, my sin.

When we are truly saved we can never lose our salvation.  David didn’t, and we can’t, either.  But we can lose the joy of our salvation through our sin (vs. 12).  By repenting and confessing we can return to peace with God.  That year of unrepentance must have been a miserable one for David, but once he confessed and got right with God, he could pray and God’s joy and peace could return.  God didn’t put David on the shelf as a result of his sin, either, but continued to use him in many mighty ways (vs. 13).

When we are feeling the farthest away from God, He is actually the closest to us (vs. 17).  He does not abandon us in our time of crisis, for He has promised to save us, even in our darkest time.  When we are at our lowest point, God is very close to us, and He promises to save those who are crushed in spirit.

In closing, perhaps you have done something that you feel God could never forgive you for.  Perhaps you are a Christian, but have fallen into something that you are so ashamed of, and feel that God has forever turned away from you now.  He didn’t turn away from David, and He hasn’t turned away from you.  There is no sin that is too great that God won’t forgive you of!  God can and will forgive us of any sin.  However, He doesn’t always erase the consequences of that sin.  David’s life, his testimony, and his family were never the same as a result of what he did.  If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, you need to turn to Him, confess your sins, and call upon Him to save you.  As verse 7 says, Come to Jesus and He will wash you whiter than snow!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

A New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34

We’ve all made agreements throughout our life.  Some of them are legal and binding, and others are not.  I can agree to do you a favor, but that is generally not legally binding unless we saw an attorney before, or I signed some legal contract with you.  Then it would be binding.  A covenant is a type of legal agreement, a promise, or a contract.  Another legal word for a covenant is testament.  In our Bibles we have the Old Testament and the New Testament, also sometimes called the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  Our Scripture for today speaks of a new covenant that the Lord will make with His people.

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God called Abraham and his descendants to be His people, and He promised to be their God and to bless them.  In the Book of Exodus this agreement was formalized where the people of Israel made a covenant with Yahweh.  They agreed to obey the Law that He gave, and worship only Him.  God agreed to be their God, bless them, and give them the Promised Land.   This was a covenant, a legally binding contract, with each side agreeing to keep their side of the agreement.

However, the people of Israel broke that covenant, the promises that they made to Yahweh.  They never remained faithful to worshiping only Him, and repeatedly broke the Law that He gave.  The Lord never broke His side of the covenant.  In the covenant there were punishments spelled out if the people broke their end of the agreement, yet that did not stop them from straying away from Him.

The prophet Jeremiah, the last great prophet before the people would be taken into captivity because of their repeated breaking of God’s covenant, spoke the words of our Scripture passage.  Here the prophet brings the promise of God, that He would make a new covenant with the people (vs. 31).  He describes the relationship of God with His people as being like that of a husband and wife (vs. 32).  The marriage of a man and woman is like a covenant agreement, where the husband and wife make promises to each other.  Throughout the Old Testament God’s Word describes the people of Israel as being an unfaithful wife to the Lord.  Instead of permanently casting them off, like a husband would to an unfaithful wife, God says that He will make a new covenant with them.

Israel had failed to keep the old, Mosaic Covenant.  God promised a new covenant, by which those who know Him would participate in the blessings of salvation (vs. 33).  The Old Covenant, broken by the people, would be replaced by a New Covenant.  The foundation of the New Covenant is God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:6-13).

This covenant is also for all people, both Jews and Gentiles, from the least to the greatest.  No one was excluded from being able to come to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus.  This covenant offers a unique, personal relationship with God Himself.  His laws are now written on our hearts instead of stone, as the Old Covenant was (vs. 33).

As our brief Scripture passage closes, God gives a promise to all those who come into covenant agreement with Him.  God promises that He will forgive the sins of those who come to Him in this New Covenant, that is, through the Lord Jesus, and will remember them no more.  It is a blessing that the Lord does not remember our past sins, throwing them in our face again!  How many times does someone tell us that they forgive us, only to keep bringing that offense up again and again?  God does not do that to us!

Have you come to Jesus, accepting Him as your Savior, and are now a part of that New Covenant?  If you have taken Jesus as your Savior, His Blood has washed away your sins, and now you are one of His people! 

Friday, March 15, 2024

When A Miracle Is Needed

John 6:4-15

Most of us, if we are a Christian, say we believe that God can do anything.  However, do we truly believe that?  When faced with a seemingly impossible situation, do we honestly believe that He can step in and work an astounding miracle on our behalf?  There are some, including some church leaders, who will say that God doesn’t work that way, especially if the miracle needed would go against what is normally, naturally possible.  Our Gospel reading for today tells the account of just such a miracle, one where the disciples were faced with an impossible situation, and the Lord Jesus provided a miracle that was completely against what would be naturally possible, showing that God does work that way.

As our Scripture from the Gospel of John opens, Jesus saw the huge crowd surrounding Him, and He knew that it had been a while since most of them had eaten, and He wanted to provide for their needs.  So Jesus asked Philip, one of the twelve disciples, where they could get enough bread for the crowd (vs. 4-6).  Philip looked at the multitude, and estimated that it would take at least a year’s salary to buy enough food to feed everyone (vs. 7).  He was thinking of solving the problem through man’s ideas and worldly means.  That is so frequently the way we face problems, and if there is no normal, human way to solve the problem, we give up.  So often I have heard religious leaders so piously say that a miracle, one that would go against what is naturally possible, is just not the way God works, at least not today.

Jesus was testing Philip and all of the disciples, because He knew what He was going to do.  He wanted to see if they would turn to Him and request the miracle that was needed.  Sometimes the Lord will set a seemingly impossible task before us to test us to see whether we react in fear or in faith.

Andrew, Peter’s brother and one of the twelve, started to take a baby step in faith, as he pointed out that there was a little boy who had brought a small lunch with him, some small loaves of bread and a couple of fish (vs. 8-9).  Then his faith started to droop again, as he figured that wasn’t even enough to feed more than just one or two people.  That little boy may have been sitting nearby where Jesus and the twelve were, and overheard their discussion of food.  Perhaps he tugged on Andrew’s robe, and offered him his lunch.  That boy didn’t let the notion get in his way, one that many unbelieving theologians have today, where they say that God won’t break the physical laws of nature to provide a miracle.  Andrew took a step of faith by bringing the boy and his lunch to Jesus’ attention, but then doubt set in.

We should not assess our circumstances from a worldly perspective.  Financial resources are not always the most important ones.  We can limit what God does in us by assuming what is and is not possible.  Five small bread rolls and two fish cannot humanly feed over 5,000 people.  It’s not naturally possible.  However, God is above what is naturally possible!  He can do the miraculous!  Here the Lord Jesus multiplied a lunch to feed a multitude (vs. 10-13).  He parted the Red Sea and also the Jordan River, something against nature, for the people to cross.  God also heard and answered the bold prayer of Joshua to stop the sun in its path across the sky, something also against nature, in order to give extra daylight for the need he had (Joshua 10:12-14).  Joshua certainly did not listen to the naysayers that might have told him that God would never stop the earth in its rotation (which is what He actually did), and so he prayed to God in his need.

God is greater than the needs of the multitudes.  Since He can provide for them all at one time, we can have confidence and trust Him for our own daily needs.  When we face a seemingly hopeless situation, we should not ask “What am I going to do?”  Instead, we should ask “God, what are You going to do?”  On that day He borrowed a sack lunch to feed over 5,000.  God has a plan to guide us safely through every seemingly impossible situation if we simply trust Him instead of our own resources.  Cast your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).  Trust Him to provide the resources that you need.

That day the boy gave what little he had, and it made all the difference.  If we offer nothing to God, He will have nothing to use.  But God can take what little we have and turn it into something great.  Remember, little is much if God is in it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Grace, Not Works

Ephesians 2:8-10

Have you ever taken credit for some work that you didn’t do?  Perhaps at school you brought in a parent’s or siblings artwork for an art assignment, knowing their work was much better than yours.  The piece won a prize, which you claimed as your own, but you knew you hadn’t done anything to deserve it.  Or you turned in a paper your friend had written, and you knew the work wasn’t yours.  Maybe at work you were assigned a partner by your boss, and the two of you were to finish a project.  They did all the work, but you took all the praise, and never mentioned your co-worker at all.   It is bad enough in school or work, but how about if we try to take the credit for something that Jesus did?  Let’s look into our Scripture to see if this is something that we’re trying to do.

Our Scripture today comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, and it contains some verses that make it clear exactly who is responsible for our salvation.  Is it something we do?  Is it something that God does?  Is it a mixture of the two?  Let’s see what God’s Word tells us?  Paul, here, makes it unmistakably clear that it is through God’s grace that we are saved, not through anything that we do (vs. 8-9).  So many people think that they are saved because of things that they do.  However, the Bible tells us it is not through our works.

If you were to take a random sampling of people in your neighborhood, and asked them if they thought they were going to heaven, and on what basis, many would probably answer yes, they felt they were going to heaven because they did this or that throughout their life.  They go to church, they give to various charities, they volunteer here or there, that they are basically a good person.  Our Scripture today makes it very clear that salvation is not through anything that we do.  It is not even partially merited through our works.  It is solely through God’s grace, and we cannot claim any of the credit.

We are saved and become a Christian through God’s unmerited grace, not as the result of any effort, ability, or act of service on our part.  Man cannot merit salvation, irrespective of what he does.  We cannot boast about our own ability and strength.  We can only boast in the Cross of Calvary.

Salvation is a gift from God.  When given a gift, we do not pay the person.  It is a gift.  Salvation is a gift.  We do not have to work for it, nor can we work for it.  If I paid for it by my works, then it is not a gift, it is something that I earned, like a salary.  Though you may thank your boss when he hands you your paycheck because you are a polite person, he is not doing you a favor. You earned that paycheck.  You worked for it, it is not a gift.  However, you cannot work for your salvation.  It is a gift.

Another thing to note about a gift is that it does the person absolutely no good unless they accept the gift.  I may give you a gift, setting it on the table for you, but if you don’t accept it and use it, it has done you no good.  Jesus died for everyone, but not everyone is saved, not everyone will go to heaven because they never accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.  The gift was given, but it was not accepted.  To those, it will do them no good, which they will sadly find out on Judgment Day.

So are good works not important?  Why bother doing good things if God takes no notice?  God does take notice.  As Paul stated, we are His (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (vs. 10).  Good works cannot produce salvation, but they are the subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidence of our salvation.  God’s intention is that our salvation will result in good works and acts of service.  Since our salvation is a gift from God, it cannot be of ourselves.  Good works are the end result of salvation, and never the cause.  We are God's workmanship, His work of art, His masterpiece.

Have you received this gift that God has for you?  Remember, nothing that you can do will ever earn you a place in heaven.  The Lord Jesus died upon the cross to pay the penalty for your sins.  Accept Him as your personal Savior, and receive His gift of salvation today.  


Monday, March 11, 2024


Psalm 122

One place that is mentioned in the Bible, probably more than any other place, is the city of Jerusalem.  Over the centuries people have desired to make pilgrimages there, even during times when to do so might be dangerous.  It is a city beloved by several faiths.  Let’s take a very quick look at the city of Jerusalem, and also at this short psalm of David, which gives praise and prayer for this holy city.

One name which Jerusalem is often known as is the City of David.  King David conquered the city from the Jebusites, making it his capital city.  Prior to David, the hill country in and around the city was inhabited by the Jebusites, one of the Canaanite tribes, which had not been completely conquered since the days of Joshua.   The priest and king who came to bless Abraham, Melchizedek, was from Salem, which has been traditionally identified with Jerusalem (Genesis 14:18).  He was called the king of peace, as the word “Salem” has meant “peace”, and the word “Shalom” stems from it.

David was born and raised in Bethlehem, which is a few miles southeast of Jerusalem.  After his victory over the giant Goliath, the young man David decapitated his enemy, and then took his head and brought it to Jerusalem (I Samuel 17:54).  He knew that one day he would be king, as a short while earlier the prophet Samuel had anointed him.  This perhaps shows that even before he came to the throne, David had plans to make Jerusalem his capital, and was “planting a seed” to stake claims to the city, which still remained in Jebusite control.

During the reign of King Saul, the capital was in Gibeah.  However when David came to the throne, he completely conquered Jerusalem from the hands of the Jebusites, and made it his capital in 1003 BC (II Samuel 5:6-10).  It remained the capital until the city was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.  It was later rebuilt, and was subsequently destroyed by the Romans on August 29, 70 AD.  Over succeeding centuries Jerusalem was under the control and rule of many different powers, including the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British, and then in 1947 when Israel came back into the hands of the Jewish people.

The name Jerusalem means “city of peace”, but there have been countless wars and battles fought there, since the days of Joshua on through to this very time, more than probably any other city in the world.  David encouraged believers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (vs. 6-9).   Little did he know how desperately his city would need prayers for peace over the coming centuries!  Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah prayed and wept for the holy city, as he knew her sins would bring her destruction.  Jesus, too, wept and prayed for the city (Luke 19:41-44).  We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, God’s holy city!  This peace is much more than an absence of conflict.  It is completeness, health, justice, prosperity, and protection.  The world cannot produce this peace, as it only comes from God (John 14:27).

After making Jerusalem his capital, King David moved both the Tabernacle from Shiloh in Ephraimite territory, and also the Ark of the Covenant, which was in Kiriath-Jearim following being held by the Philistines, into the city of Jerusalem, where he planned to build the Temple.  His son, Solomon, built the Temple, which stood in the heart of the city.  David loved to go into the Tabernacle to pray to the Lord, and many devout Jews found joy and peace in coming to the Temple (vs. 1).

Though the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt slowly over the years, following its destruction in 70 AD, there is no Temple there.  Christians do not need a Temple to worship God in, as the Holy Spirit indwells each of us, and we can, and should, worship Him anywhere we are.  However, corporate worship with other believers is very important, which is why we have churches.  How do you feel about going to church each Sunday?  Is it a chore for you, something you reluctantly do on occasion?  Or does the thought of going to church fill you with delight, like it did with David?  When we have unconfessed sin in our hearts, we may not be so eager to worship God, especially with other believers.  If our love for Him has grown cold, we are much more likely to skip church.  When David fell into sin, he confessed and got right with the Lord.  If necessary, we need to follow his example, and then we, too, can say that we are glad when we go into the house of the Lord!

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Cause And Effect

II Chronicles 36:14-23

Most of us have heard about cause and effect.  If a person does a certain thing, a specific result will likely happen.   You don’t sleep well, so you are tired the next day.  You miss a step on the stairs, you will fall. If you study in school, you will likely get a good grade.  Most people like to believe the good ones, but all too frequently deny the bad ones will happen, at least not to them.  Our Scripture for today closes out the Book of Chronicles, and is a prime example of cause and effect.  The people of Judah did certain things, in their case some very bad things, and what God had warned them about did happen, whether they wanted to believe it or accept it, it happened.

Since the days of Moses, when that leader brought the people of Israel the Laws of God, the Lord had repeatedly warned the people that they needed to obey Him or there would be consequences.  After Moses passed, God sent numerous prophets to the people to encourage them to follow His ways, and to warn them of what would happen if they followed the pagan religions of the Canaanites and other nations.  However the people continued to persist in disobeying the Lord and going their own way, worshiping pagan gods.  They felt that all was okay since they mixed the worship of Yahweh with that of the foreign gods, and that since they were God’s “chosen people” He would never really punish them.

The people of the southern kingdom of Judah had seen their sister nation, the northern kingdom of Israel, fall into captivity because of their sins over a hundred years earlier, yet they did not take that dire warning.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others warned them, but Judah proved to be no better spiritually than Israel.  Cause and effect happened, the people disobeyed God, and He brought punishment.  The people of Judah also went into captivity to Babylon.

God issues severe warnings against disobedience (vs. 15).  He does so not out of anger, but out of compassion.  God’s warnings are to protect us, not to punish us.  However, when a culture or a people comes to despise God’s Word, and habitually mocks and scoffs at His messengers, judgment cannot be far away.  The people of Judah found that out, and we, today, need to take warning as well.

God gives us warnings to teach us lessons, and to keep us safe, not to be mean to us.  How often do we ignore what He says, even tossing His Words aside?  The people of Judah did.  When God saw them making and worshiping idols, He sent His prophets to warn them, but they wanted their own way (Jeremiah 18:1-12).  Because of this, God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and carry the people away captive.

In verse 21 we read of one of the many laws of God that the people had persistently disobeyed, and that was one where the people were to give the land a sabbath rest every seventh year.  The land was not to be planted or harvested during that year, in order for it to rest.  One year out of seven, just like the people were to rest one day out of seven.  The people never followed that law, possibly out of fear that God wouldn’t provide for them, even though He had promised He would.  However, the people never obeyed, not for 490 years.  This would date back to the days of the priest Eli, who had raised the prophet Samuel, before the days of David or Saul.  They now owed God 70 years of Sabbath rest, and that is how long He allowed them to be in captivity.  The people had flaunted all of His laws, not just idolatry.

As we look around the world today, we see people and nations who have arrogantly turned their backs on God and His Word, and flaunt their disobedience in front of His face, thinking that nothing will happen.  Even some people and churches who claim to be Christians refuse to follow His Word, and stubbornly think their way is better, that they need to keep step with “today’s culture”.  How about you?  Do you heed God’s warnings?  Do you believe in cause and effect, that if you do certain things, certain results will be sure to follow?  Beware of harboring sin in your life  The day will come when remedy is no longer possible, and God’s judgment replaces His mercy.  There is a day coming when He will judge this world for its sin.  Turn to Jesus, and follow Him before it’s too late!

Friday, March 8, 2024

Zealous For God's Holiness

John 2:13-22

Are you really zealous about anything?  Is there something or someone that you hate to hear anything negative spoken about, and you will quickly jump to their defense?  Perhaps it is a loved one or a good friend.  Maybe it is some book, movie, or activity that you enjoy, and don’t like to hear them get maligned.   How about your faith, and anything related to that, whether it is the Savior, the Church as a whole, or your own individual church, or God’s Word?  Will you stand up for them?  In our Scripture passage today we see where the Lord Jesus saw when there was something wrong, something that was being done that shouldn’t have been done, and what He did.  Let’s look into the Gospel of John.

When our Scriptures open, Jesus had just been at a wedding, where He had changed water into wine.  Then the festival of Passover came, and Jesus, with His disciples, went to Jerusalem to celebrate that holy week.  While there He went to the Temple and saw something that brought on righteous anger.  At the time of Passover many pilgrims from all over the nation, along with many from other countries around the Mediterranean, would come to Jerusalem.  Because of the long journeys, it was not practical to bring the needed sacrificial animals along with them, so these pilgrims would purchase animals there in Jerusalem.  They would also need to get their foreign money exchanged into local money.  In addition, the Temple tax needed to be paid in Temple currency.  Merchants took advantage of these opportunities, and they set up stalls right there in the outer courtyards of the Temple.

All of this was necessary, the sale of clean and unblemished animals for the Temple sacrifices, and the exchange of foreign money for local and Temple currency.  However, what had been slowly happening over the years was that this business started to be moved inside the Temple itself, particularly into the Court of the Gentiles, where Gentile converts to Judaism were allowed to worship, thus crowding them out with the constant flow of lambs and goats, along with merchants.  In addition, these merchants saw this time as a prime time to make a lot of money, so they raised the price of the animals, along with the fees to exchange the money, all to make a good profit.  The Temple had become a free-for-all, rather than a house of prayer.

This was a problem on several fronts.  First, these merchants were selling animals in a space where people are supposed to be able to pray.  They showed no concern for that.  They did not care that neither Jewish worshipers nor Gentile converts could pray to the Lord in a place meant to be sacred for worship.  Also, there was egregious price-gouging going on.  Merchants maximized their profits by charging travelers high prices for everything, which is why Jesus called them a “den of thieves'' (Matthew 21:13).  All of this defiled the Temple during the Passover.

Jesus saw this, knew it was wrong, and was not going to tolerate it a moment longer.  He wasn’t just losing His temper.  Jesus was purifying a holy space, and protecting people from exploitation.  Jesus was taking something wrong and setting it right.  His disciples recalled a verse from Psalm 69:9, which referred to Jesus’ zeal when it came to God’s house, the Temple (vs. 17).  When the holiness of God and His worship was at stake, Jesus took fast and furious action.  He will not tolerate irreverence towards God.  God’s holiness demands holiness in worship.

The sin of these people was not in selling the sacrificial animals.  It was where they were selling them.  It was also a sin for those who were charging way more for these animals, and cheating people in money exchange.  Even though the sale of animals made money for the upkeep of the Temple, worship was the purpose of the Temple.  They were making a mockery of God’s house of worship.  Jesus cleansed the Temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the corrupt merchants crept back in with their wares.  Three years later, in the last week of His life, Jesus needed to cleanse the Temple again.

How about you?  How zealous are you for God’s holiness?  When you hear or see something or someone who is attacking or reviling Our Lord or His Word, the Bible, or saying some belittling or demeaning joke about Him, do you just brush it aside, or are you filled with righteous indignation?  Are we afraid to speak up, for fear that we, too, might become the subject of their belittling comments, or do we defend the Lord Jesus?  Sometimes it seems that we get more upset if someone puts down our favorite TV show than we do our Savior!  Jesus could not, and would not sit idly by when the holy Temple was being treated in such a disrespectful manner!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A Great Struggle

Romans 7:13-25

Do  you have some certain sins in your life, some bad habits that you have struggled with ever since you became a Christian, ones that you just can’t seem to break free from?  Most Christians do.  You may be surprised, but that includes the pastor, the deacons, and even some of the great, well-known preachers, missionaries, and the saints of the past.  Believe it or not, that included the Apostle Paul, as we read in our Scripture for today.  Let’s see what Paul had to say about this problem that he had in his life, and which we all also face.

Before we were saved, we all willingly took part in various sinful behaviors.  For some it may not have been so outwardly noticeable, but it was sin nonetheless.  Some may have sat on the phone gossiping with their friend, putting other people’s reputations through the shredder.  Someone else may have been a terrible liar, or someone with a filthy vocabulary, or a habitual shoplifter.  For other people, their vices may have been more noticeable and harmful.  They had a terrible temper and beat their spouse and children.  Maybe they would frequently stop by the strip club on their way home from work, or they drank heavily or used drugs.  Then one day we turn to the Lord Jesus, accept Him as our Savior, and become a Christian.  He washes away our sins, and we think that these vices in our life are gone.  However, we periodically find those nasty cuss words spewing out, or we lose our temper, or we find ourselves seated where we shouldn’t be.  What happened?  We want to do right, but we find ourselves doing what we don’t want to do, what we know we shouldn’t do.

We look at the Apostle Paul as one of the greatest Christians of his, or really any generation.  Yet he struggled with such a problem, as he shared in our Scripture.  He doesn’t say what his particular vices were, but they periodically reared their ugly head in his life.  Paul desired to obey God’s Word, and hated his sin (vs. 15, 19, 21).  Paul saw sin in himself, but that was not all that was there (vs. 17, 20-21).  He knew that he served Jesus with his mind (vs. 25).

Paul is describing the struggle of believers, not the lost, unsaved people.  When we honestly evaluate ourselves against the righteous standards of God’s Word, we realize how far short we fail.  When we are saved, we now have two natures.  The new nature which desires to follow God and His Word, and the old nature, which still desires to follow sin.  Sin no longer controls our whole nature, as it does an unbeliever, but it does hold captive our old nature.  Sin contaminates us, and it frustrates our desire to obey the will of God.

Becoming a Christian does not stamp out all sin and temptation in our life.  The old nature continually seeks to rebel and be independent of God (vs. 14-15).  We must never underestimate the power of sin, and it is fruitless to attempt to fight it in our own strength.  How many of us find ourselves slipping back into the sinful patterns and habits, even though we pledged never to do it again.  In our own strength it is like those New Year’s resolutions that are broken within weeks.  We cannot live for God by the strength of will-power.  It, alone, is not enough. We need to take hold of the power of Jesus Christ that is available to us.  We must exercise faith in the Savior and the Cross.  The Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, and through Him we can have victory.  Then we will have the ability and strength to say yes to Jesus and no to sin and our old nature.

Paul does not approve of the sin of his old nature that resides in his body.  He strongly disapproves.  We must never use the power of sin or Satan as an excuse, because they are defeated enemies.  Without Jesus’ help, sin is stronger than we are.  However, Jesus conquered sin once and for all, and He promises to fight by our side.

The believer’s new nature does not side with sin, but agrees with God against sin.  Our old nature is continually wanting to wage war against our new nature.  They are like two dogs fighting against each other.  They are like the weeds trying to take over your garden, or like two boxers in the boxing ring.  If we continually water the weeds and even feed them plant food, they will thrive and take over.  If one boxer is given only an occasional crust of bread and water, while the other is fed a healthy diet every day, who will win?  Who are we feeding, our old nature or our new nature?  Be continually feeding your new nature by daily prayer and Bible reading, by listening to godly music and staying in fellowship with the Lord.  Feed the new nature, and the old nature will grow weaker and weaker.