Crucifixion

CRUCIFIXION

So Pilate delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.
Jn.19:16-19

What an amazing God! He is sovereign, ruling all things to fulfill His pleasure, and He steps back to allow His Son such incredible mistreatment. When you think of the unjust beating, the whipping, the cursing, the spitting upon this innocent man, it all seems so unjust. Actually, His death is all about justice. Crimes had been committed against God, man had horribly offended His maker. We were hopelessly wandering in the results of our sinful behavior until the kindness of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. Actually the wrath of God was upon all of us, at least until this incredible display of justice and mercy at the cross. John says it best in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The wrath of God? Nobody in this day and age talks about the wrath of God. God has been reinvented by modern man. He is so inclusive and never judgmental, or is He? Actually God is just and holy as well as merciful. The sins of all of mankind have to be dealt with, never overlooked. The options are only twofold, accept His offer of His sacrificial death or reject Him. If you reject Him the consequences are unspeakable, as John said, the wrath of God abides on you.
Many of us were deeply effected several years ago as we watched the suffering of Christ portrayed in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. I will never forget the feelings I felt as Jesus was being beaten beyond recognition by the Roman soldiers, I wanted to stop them. I was so angry at their unthinkable treatment of our Lord, and then I remembered, it was God who bruised His Son, these wicked men were just pawns, fulfilling the plans of God. Actually, it was you and it was me that crucified Christ. My sins were the nails that were driven into His hands. God was displaying His love for me in the death of His Son. This Easter, take another trip to the hill called Golgotha. As you look again at His death on the cross, remember these words, “No greater love can a man have than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.

CRUCIFIXION

So Pilate delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.
Jn.19:16-19

What an amazing God! He is sovereign, ruling all things to fulfill His pleasure, and He steps back to allow His Son such incredible mistreatment. When you think of the unjust beating, the whipping, the cursing, the spitting upon this innocent man, it all seems so unjust. Actually, His death is all about justice. Crimes had been committed against God, man had horribly offended His maker. We were hopelessly wandering in the results of our sinful behavior until the kindness of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. Actually the wrath of God was upon all of us, at least until this incredible display of justice and mercy at the cross. John says it best in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The wrath of God? Nobody in this day and age talks about the wrath of God. God has been reinvented by modern man. He is so inclusive and never judgmental, or is He? Actually God is just and holy as well as merciful. The sins of all of mankind have to be dealt with, never overlooked. The options are only twofold, accept His offer of His sacrificial death or reject Him. If you reject Him the consequences are unspeakable, as John said, the wrath of God abides on you.
Many of us were deeply effected several years ago as we watched the suffering of Christ portrayed in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. I will never forget the feelings I felt as Jesus was being beaten beyond recognition by the Roman soldiers, I wanted to stop them. I was so angry at their unthinkable treatment of our Lord, and then I remembered, it was God who bruised His Son, these wicked men were just pawns, fulfilling the plans of God. Actually, it was you and it was me that crucified Christ. My sins were the nails that were driven into His hands. God was displaying His love for me in the death of His Son. This Easter, take another trip to the hill called Golgotha. As you look again at His death on the cross, remember these words, “No greater love can a man have than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.

GETHSEMANE

GETHSEMANE

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Lk.22:39-44

What an amazing glimpse at the struggle Jesus endured as He faced the final chapter of His life and ministry on earth. All of His teaching, all of His miracles, all of His actions, would be in vain without this final act in the unfolding drama of the redemption of fallen man. What was the source of the tension that Jesus experienced in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane? Was He just recoiling at the physical suffering that goes along with crucifixion or was it more than that? Actually, others have died a martyr’s death without the intense trauma that Jesus experienced. What exactly transpired that dark night as Jesus yielded His will to His heavenly Father? It seems as if Jesus was given the full awareness of what He was about to endure by His sacrificial death on the cross. There was more than physical suffering involved, much more. Christ was about to endure the wrath of God, the judgement of God on the sins of mankind. The spotless lamb of God was about to experience the horrors of God’s justice as the sins of humanity were judged at the cross. The significance of this is infinite, far beyond our ability to comprehend. The years of sin against a holy God were about to fall upon Jesus at the cross, this was the struggle that He faced. He willingly agreed to endure the horrors of God’s wrath so that I could go free. This is the demonstration of the greatest of all loves, the love of God for sinners displayed in the death of His Son.
This glimpse of mercy and justice revealed at the cross is the greatest of all mysteries. Natural man thinks that mercy is just overlooking sin, that is not the kind of mercy God offers. His mercy is the fruit of the justice of God being upheld at the cross. It pleased the Father to bruise His Son (Isa. 53:10). Christ’s death was not in vain, it was essential. Without this display of God’s justice, His mercy would have not been available to us. My idea of Gethsemane has changed, it was more than the physical pain, as horrific as that was, that was facing Jesus at the cross, it was the satisfaction of God’s justice, something only His spotless Son could perform. This passion season, take time to remember that special night in the garden, decisions were made that effected the rest of our lives. Glory to God!!!

THE LAST SUPPER

THE LAST SUPPER

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matt.26:26-28

What a week! So much had happened, it seemed like just a blur of fast moving events. There was the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, the foot washing performed by the Lord. But there was one event that stood out above all others. It started out as just another passover meal, something these jewish disciples had done every year all of their lives, but this time was different. Passover would never be the same again. As Jesus broke the bread, He said “This is my body, given for you.” The He took the wine and said, “This is is the new covenant in my blood”. No stranger words had ever been spoken. Somehow what He said reminded them of John the Baptist’s prophesy, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” That week, thousands of lambs would be sacrificed for the sins of the people by the priests at the temple. Is that what Jesus was talking about? Was He somehow their sacrificial lamb? Was His death somehow connected to His strange phrase, the new covenant? So many questions, not many answers. They would not understand until after Jesus died and He began to open up their understanding. They, like the people of Jerusalem, had their focus on a messiah who would fix everything in this life, get rid of the Roman oppressors, heal their bodies, fix their economy. Nobody was thinking about a spiritual kingdom. Sound familiar? We have been bombarded over the past few years with “itching ears preachers” promising our best life now with no thought or preparation for the spiritual kingdom that Jesus came to establish. It would do us good to go back to this passover meal often. Let Him paint the picture of this scene on the tables of our heart. Remember the words of this, our sacrificed lamb. “Take, eat, this is my body given for you. Drink of it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.

FOOT WASHING

FOOT WASHING

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jn.13:3-5

There were many vivid pictures painted in the minds of the disciples, during the week of our Lord’s passion. There was the image of Mary breaking the alabaster box, and anointing Jesus with the expensive ointment. Then, there was the unforgettable passover meal, the incredible visual of the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus. And finally, there was this scene, how could these men ever forget the night Jesus dressed as a servant and washed their feet, this portrait was painted on the canvas of their souls for the rest of their lives. Mathew Henry says that it was actually a portrayal of the life of Jesus, Listen to his powerful words.

“Many interpreters consider Christ’s washing his disciples’ feet as a representation of his whole undertaking. He knew that he was equal with God, and all things were his; and yet he rose from his table in glory, laid aside his robes of light, girded himself with our nature, took upon him the form of a servant, came not to be ministered to, but to minister, poured out his blood, poured out his soul unto death, and thereby prepared a laver to wash us from our sins.”

This night was a picture of why Christ came. He stripped Himself of His heavenly garments and became one of us. All of us were without hope and without God and He came to our rescue, He became our heavenly high priest, the representative of the human race before the Father, this is the portrait being painted on the disciples’ hearts that night. Jesus did not come to be served, after all, what can I offer Him? He came as a servant, to minister to all that will humble themselves and receive His love. This week, as we remember the suffering of our Lord, let Him wash your feet. Like Peter, you might feel uncomfortable, but this is why He came, to seek and to save that which is lost.

A FAMILY THAT CAME BACK TO LIFE

A family that came back to life!

Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

Jn.12:1-6
“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.”

It was Passover week, and just like this coming Easter most of our houses will be filled with Easter festivities, at my house we will roast lamb and gather all the grandchildren around. In this little town of Bethany the city was in a uproar. Jesus and the disciples were eating at Simon the leper’s house (who had probably gotten healed), Lazarus was there who had been raised from the dead, Mary, with her sister Martha, was there. In fact I guess you could say they all had been “raised from the dead”. But this house had other visitors, the bible says “Much of the people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there (Jesus); and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he raised from the dead.” It was a house filled with a bunch of “lookie loo’s”.
What is happening at your house? When you gather around your table this resurrection Sunday what stories will you tell? Mary sat there looking at the jar of ointment, maybe they had bought it when Lazarus had died? It was a memory of what Christ does in our lives. At that great day, she understood in her spirit that Jesus would be dying. So she took her precious ointment out and displayed spectacular love. It was loud, open, and very clear. Just like her brother, being released from those grave clothes, she too wanted the whole house to breathe in the touch that changed her life.
This Easter, when you stare at the empty tomb, are you willing to display your open love? Spurgeon writes “Let us be willing to “pour contempt on all our pride,” and “nail our glory to his cross.” Have you anything tonight that is dear to you? Resign it to him. Have you any costly thing like an alabaster box hidden away? Give it to the King; he is worthy, and when you have fellowship with him at his table, let your gifts be brought forth. Offer unto the King thanksgiving, and pay your vows unto the Most High.”

GOD IS MY GOOD

GOD IS MY GOOD

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Lam.3:24

We live in an incredibly man centered and self centered world. I thought I had become a God centered Christian, but several years ago I was radically challenged at the core of my beliefs and my teaching as a pastor. Two of the books that effected me were “God’s Passion for His Glory” by John Piper followed up by “The End for Which God Created the Earth” by Jonathan Edwards. As I read these two books, I began to realize how I had let the relevance of the world’s ideas for happiness and success infiltrate my ministry. That was about to change in a dramatic way. For the first time in many years, I was being confronted with a message that was totally God-centered. Here is one of the quotes from Piper’s book which consisted of observations on Edward’s book, “The End for Which God Created the Earth”.

“The love of God for sinners is not his making much of them, but his graciously freeing and empowering them to enjoy making much of him. As Edwards says, “God is their good.” Therefore if God would do us good, he must direct us to his worth, not ours. The truth that God’s glory and our joy in God are one radically undermines modern views of self-centered love. God-centered grace nullifies the gospel of self-esteem. Today, people typically feel loved if you make much of them and help them feel valued. The bottom line in their happiness is that they are made much of.”

That phrase challenged the very foundation of what I had preached for almost twenty years at that time. I had thought that freedom was me being the center of God’s universe when actually, I had it backwards. Only when He became the center of my life, then and then only could I begin to experience the love and joy that He offers me. My satisfaction does not come from the gifts and blessings He brings, my joy flows from God Himself. As Edwards says, “God is my good”. So if you have been listening to the itching ears message of self esteem, you are missing the whole point. God’s love for us, like Piper says, is not Him making much of us but Him freeing us to make much of Him. That is the place of true freedom and the place of pleasures evermore.

SCATTERED BEAMS

SCATTERED BEAMS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Ps.16:11

I was re-introduced to the writings of Jonathan Edwards in 1995, shortly after the Spirit of revival began to visit our church. I say re-introduced because, like many others, I first read Edwards in high school when “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was required reading. I began to read his biography that year, needless to say, my life has never quite been the same. There was one quote in that book from Edwards preaching that effected everything I have believed and preached from that day forward. Listen carefully as you read that quote for yourself.

“The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.”

The “enjoyment of God”, that is something I had been unfamiliar with for many years. Revival had restored that part of my life and Edwards was expressing this truth in words and in his relentless, God centered theology. I had been preaching about a good God who would give us our best life now with His blessings and gifts. Revival had brought me face to face with another kind of happiness, happiness spilling over from the other world, happiness that comes from God Himself. To enjoy God is infinitely better that all the earthly joys that this world offers, they are but streams pointing to the ocean of His love.
Maybe you have been unsatisfied in life, you can never quite get to that level of blessing and success that you think will finally bring you happiness. Today, I am asking you to reconsider, maybe you have looked to the gifts rather than the “Giver of all gifts” for your happiness. Like I did several years ago, look again to the God of our forefathers, maybe you will discover this heavenly ocean for yourself.

RELEVANT, EMERGENT, OR JUST A SLOW FADE

RELEVANT, EMERGENT, OR JUST A SLOW FADE

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.
2 Tim.4:3

Success has been the litmus test for spirituality for many Christians, and sadly, for many pastors over the last two decades. If it is growing in numbers and in dollars, it must be God. Is that what we really believe, is that what you believe? The results of that position has taken the church down some interesting paths over the last few years. We have traveled from positive thinking to faith confession. We have been seeker sensitive, relevant, purpose driven, and emergent, but have we been biblical. Have all of our journeys been motivated by a hunger for God or just a lust after success and a desire to be accepted by the world? In our pursuit of accomplishment, have we lost sight of what is central to the christian faith, have we lost sight of God Himself? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his very soul?”
John Piper addressed some of these issues in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory”. Here is one of his observations about what is really important in the Christian life.

“If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then all true virtue among human beings must aim at bringing people to rejoice in the glory of God. No act is truly virtuous—that is, truly loving—that does not come from and aim at joy in the glory of God.”

That statement defines what has been missing in many churches. Piper talks about bringing people to a place in their life where they have their joy in their relationship with God and His Glory. Rather than trying to find identity and satisfaction from our accomplishments or personal identity, the goal of a Christian is to find his joy in the Lord. The pursuit for satisfaction in our accomplishments or possessions is just a sign of a cold heart. Maybe the trend over the recent past is nor really relevant, purpose driven, seeker sensitive, or emergent after all. Maybe it is just another version of the slow fade from the Glory of His Presence.

ITCHING EARS

ITCHING EARS

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2Tim.4:3,4

What a strange thing to say, Paul said that church people would have “itching ears”. He was describing some of the characteristics that would creep into the church in the end of days. Could he be talking about the time we live in now, if he is, what does “itching ears” refer to? Paul is talking about what happens when christians begin to lose their first love. They either want to hear something new and different or want to hear something that will justify the carnal lifestyle they have chosen to live.
The first category would fall into the area of new and unusual doctrine. Many times people who are bored want some new experience rather than solid teaching from the the written word of God. This could be an unhealthy emphasis on physical manifestations.Their focus could be things like gold dust, gold teeth, feathers, and various other physical manifestations. Don’t get me wrong, God can do anything but our focus is not on manifestations but on Christ. Paul warned us about these kinds of distractions, he said even if an angel from heaven preaches a doctrine more than what he had preached, let him be cursed.
In our modern, relevant world, we have been bombarded with a different kind of message. The itching ears of our generation wants to hear a message that makes allowances for all sorts of carnal behavior in the church. Martin Luther termed this type of teaching “antinomian”, meaning that salvation by grace liberates us from following the rules. It seems like the itching ears of this generation wants no absolutes, leaving us to be tossed too and fro by our own carnal desires. These teachers would emphasize only the mercy and love of God and ignore or make light of His holiness and justice. Our God is all merciful but He is also holy and requires justice.
For a true christian who has tasted of the sweetness of the grace of God, wearing the yoke of obedience becomes our pleasure and not a burden that we carry. We have been saved from the carnality of this dark world by His grace, His written Word has become our food, His Presence has become our living water that we drink. How can I remain uneffected by the “itching ears” doctrines of this age, by being satisfied with Christ and being saturated with His Word.

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Rev.22:1

Do you ever think about heaven? It is really hard to even imagine what it could be like. We know about the streets of gold, about the gates made out of pearl, the foundations of the city made of precious stones, we even know about our loved ones. But let’s face it, does anyone really want to go there, I mean go there now. I guess the problem we have is that it doesn’t ever seem real to us, it seems kind of mysterious and, frankly, a little scary. What could change our perspective of heaven? What could make it more desirable than living here on earth? Actually that comes from a revelation of God, a spiritual glimpse into the incredible trinity. Our relationship with the Father, His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit is what makes heaven, heaven. Jonathan Edwards is known for his sermons about hell, one of his best messages was entitled “Heaven is a World of Love”. Enjoy this short excerpt from that message.

“There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love — this eternal Three in One — is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows forever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love! Again, I would consider heaven, with regard,”

He talks as if he has experienced this river of love, not like someone who has just read about it and has a belief about it. Actually, he had experienced heaven at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edward’s church had been overwhelmed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the years of the Great Awakening. The Holy Spirit is actually the manifestation of God’s love, He is the actual foretaste of the atmosphere of heaven. Edwards spoke of heaven as if he had been there and wanted to go back, that is exactly what had happened. For many today, heaven is just a better option than the alternative. It doesn’t have to stay that way. Just as in all spiritual truth, the things of heaven are made real to us by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is a world of love, it is a place of unspeakable joy that will increase in intimacy and intensity throughout all eternity. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until you die to experience this world of love, He is being poured out on all flesh today.