Category Archives: the cross

The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy


Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


Rescued from Hopelessness

 

abundant life.jpgKnowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways (the empty way of life)  inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  1 Peter 1:18-19

In 1978 Kansas released the song “Dust in the Wind.”  It’s kind of a fun sing along song, but yet it reflects the emptiness of life, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea…”  King Solomon kind of said the same thing in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He was the wisest man, had tons of money and wives and stuff, but yet he concluded it was all “a chasing after the wind,” in Ecc. 2:17.  

I was struck by this futility when hearing of an old friend who would go to her dad’s grave every year to pour a can a beer on his grave in remembrance of him.  On her way out from the cemetery, she got into a serious car accident.  It made me think of the futile and empty ways of trying to make life have meaning.   

But with Jesus, life takes on a new meaning, or He gives meaning and value for the first time.  Things go from black and white to color.  In John 10:10 Jesus declared, “I have come that you might have life, life to the full.”  And in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life, meaning to life, abundant life, and a value of life that we can’t know apart from Him.  

Everyone tries to figure out life’s meaning and value, with the questions of ‘where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’  When you begin to embrace the Bible and its world view, you can see that you have been created by God, the events of your life have meaning and value, and coming into a relationship with Jesus gives you eternal life.  

This was made possible by the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we could be redeemed, or ransomed from the futile ways of life that we inherited.  To be ransomed is to have a price paid to get you back from a kidnapper.  Our soul napper is Satan, who took us captive in our sin to do his bidding.  Jesus paid the bounty with His blood to buy us back from Satan and to set us free to enjoy this life that is abundant and joy filled.  Jesus rose again to demonstrate that He is the Son of God,  with power to conquer sin and death.  We must claim this personally, asking God to forgive our sin, crying out in belief that Jesus came from God, died for us and rose again and living a life given over to Him.

Last night I was reminded of the truths of 1 Peter 1:18-19 as I sat with women from our County jail in a Bible study.  Two women cried in despair as they described the troubles of their lives, of the struggles of addiction and of how they didn’t think that life has any purpose to it.  They listened as we talked about the hope that God proclaims that comes from finding life in Him.  

Oh God, may they find their hope in You, and may they be rescued from their empty way of life that has brought such pain.  Thank you that you have saved me from a hopeless life and that You have given me meaning to life, with the glorious hope of eternity with You.  Thank you Jesus, for redeeming me with Your precious blood.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14


Do your prayers sound like this?

growth

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to HIm.  Colossians 1:9-10a

Most of the time my prayers do not sound like  Paul’s prayers.  But when I really want to see someone grow in their Christian life, I borrow these words.  They really distill what we need to have to make it spiritually.  And when I’m stuck on how to pray for myself, I do the same.  Let’s take his prayer apart:

Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  According to quora.com, the average adult makes around 35,000 choices a day.  Just try to order a sandwich from “Subway” and you’ll notch about 30 choices.  It would be really nice to get a little note from God with our directions for the day.  Instead of getting that, we get the Holy Spirit who is always with us to guide us.  God, direct me today so I know I’m doing what You want me to do.

In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.   Just this last week I encountered a situation with a difficult parent where I needed God’s wisdom regarding how to respond to her bullying and berating.  I asked God for understanding what she really is angry at and how to stop butting heads with her.  God is not like a magic eight ball that gives immediate answers, but I trust that He will speak ideas into my heart and mind as I proceed.  Take your most difficult situation that is facing you and ask God for His wisdom and understanding.  

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  In the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” the character played by Tom Hanks, Captain Miller,  dies in his mission to save Private Ryan, the only son left in his family.  James Ryan went back to Normandy to Captain Miller’s grave.  Ryan stood by his grave and said, My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day, I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope it was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” (From http://www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions)

We don’t have to earn anything related to what Jesus has done for us.  That’s what grace is all about.  Private Ryan  felt a strong gratitude and had a  sense of purpose in life because of the sacrifice made for him.   We need to live our lives with a different purpose and sense of value because we know that Jesus  gave up His life for us.

Fully pleasing to Him.  If we do something that God instructs us to do, then we’ll be pleasing to Him.  That’s what obedience is.  If we don’t do something that we know God has commanded us not to do, the same is true.  If you want to please God, obey Him.  That’s what Samuel told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold to obey is better than sacrifice.”

May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will today,  along with gaining wisdom and understanding from His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  May God direct your steps and give you ideas, creativity and skill that comes from Him.  May you walk differently because you belong to Jesus, being filled with gratitude because of His sacrifice for you.  And may you please God by being obedient to Him.   May you turn from sinful ways and delight in doing things God’s way.  


Jesus Came Forward

Jesus' arrest.jpg

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees went there with weapons and torches.  Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward, and said to them, “what do you seek?”  John 18:3-4

In reading Greg Morse’s blog on April 12, 2017 from “Desiring God,” I was struck with these thoughts:

Jesus had just finished His final words with the disciples in the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as His big prayer with the Father.  “He knew His hour had come,” as John 13:1 states.  For most of the last three years Jesus had been saying, “My hour has not come,” like in John 2:4 and John 7:6, 8.  Judas brought the band of soldiers to arrest Him.  Jesus knew the Old Testament, so He knew what was going to happen.  Isaiah 53 could have been playing in the background.

Jesus was fully human (a mystery) and knowing what was ahead, He still came forward.  In the Garden He had prayed, “Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.  Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done,” from Luke 22:42.  In verse 44 we find that “He prayed so earnestly that His sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground.”  Jesus knew that He was going to be the Passover lamb and that,  in taking on the sin of the world, He would be separated from the Father.

Yet He came forward.  I would want to either hide or to fight.  Not Jesus.

  • He came forward with boldness. “‘Whom do you seek?’  They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’”  John 18:4-5
  • He came forward willingly: “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord.”  John 10:18
  • He came forward doggedly: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.”  Hebrews 12:2
  • He came forward at the right time: “For while we were weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6
  • He came forward for us: “Since therefore we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”  Romans 5:9-10
  • He came forward in love: “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:10

In light of this, it is our time to come forward:

  • To no longer live for ourselves: “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…for the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that One has died for all…that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.”  2 Corinthians 5:11-20
  • To deny ourselves and to be bold for Jesus: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny Himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever would save His life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in glory.   Luke 9:23-26
  • To proclaim His excellencies: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

*Photo from lds.org