Jesus Suffered So That We Might Live – Pt 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 9

In John 10:10, Jesus tells his disciples (and by extension He tells all of us too) that He came into this world in order that people might truly live and have an abundant life.  Most Christians understand that this refers to the renewed spiritual life we can have with God once we accept Jesus as our Lord and have our sins forgiven.  But that is not all that Jesus is talking about.

Sadly, there are still many believers in Christ who have accepted Jesus into their lives, but also believe that there still must be something that they must “do” to really experience complete forgiveness of their sins.  This wrong thinking not only robs the cross of Christ of its full meaning and impact, but it also robs the person of experiencing the fuller life which they can live in the freedom that has been purchased for them on the cross.

    

 Max Lucado points out very well in chapter five of his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” that we tend to hang on to our faults and mistakes and that this is like putting on old clothes that declare “We are sinners!”  And since we are the ones who keep putting these old clothes back on, we think that it is also up to us to “do good” to be able to remove these old sins and faults.

Listen to how Lucado sums this up on page 83:

Welcome to the vest system.  Hard to hide it.  Harder still to discard it.  But we work at doing so.  Emphasis on the word “work”.  Overcome bad deeds with good ones.  Offset bad choices with godly ones, stupid moves with righteous ones.  But the vest removal process is flawed.  No one knows what work to do or how long to do it.

When we really understand the message of the Bible as it speaks about how we are all flawed and sinful people (see Romans 3:23), we also come to realize that there is nothing that we can do to fix this and become righteous people in God’s sight.  That is the bad news.  But the good news is that we don’t have to “do” anything, besides accept Christ and His death to be our substitution for the penalty for sin (see Romans 6:23).

    

Hooray!  Wonderful!!  We can’t take off our dirty rags of sin, but Jesus can!!!  That’s great news.  And it gets even better.  Lucado says on page 87:

You can remove your vest.  Toss the thing in a trash barrel, and set it on fire.  You need never wear it again.  Does better news exist?  Actually, yes.  There is more.  We not only remove our vest; we put on His!  He is “our righteousness”  (1 Corinthians 1:30).

How incredible and amazing is God’s love!  When we were sinners, God still loved us (see Romans 5:8), but as a holy God, He could not bear to look at us in our state of sinfulness.  If that were the end of the story, then God would have to leave us abandoned and forsaken, something that happens all too often in families today.

But as Jesus was dying on the cross, not for any crime or sin that He had committed, He took our sins upon himself (read Isaiah 53:12) and exchanged his robes of righteousness with us so that we could be considered holy by God.  In that brief but climactic moment before Jesus died, as He carried all of our sins to the grave, He exclaimed “God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Jesus allowed himself to be forsaken at that moment in order that we might no longer be forsaken by God.

    

At that moment, we passed out from under the curse of sin and death and entered into the light and life of God.  As I said near the beginning of this article, this life definitely refers to the gift of eternal spiritual life with God as people freed from captivity to sin.  But Scripture also promises us so much more richness of life while we are still living on this earth.

Perhaps the word that can sum it up best is the word “freedom”.  By placing our lives under the authority of Christ, He releases us so that we are free from sin, free from the power of Satan, and even free from self as we are so apt to keep ourselves bound to our old habits and behaviours that trip us up and end up creating more misery in our lives.

    

Once we embrace all of this, then we can truly live.  We will live to love our neighbour, to love our God, and even properly learn how to love and forgive ourselves.  It is at this point that we will then begin to really experience great family lives, great marriages, and great friendships with others.  At this point, we will be content and even prosper in our businesses and careers in life, because God’s blessings will be upon us.

And then when the end of our lives do come, we will graduate from a great life here to a fabulous life there.  As Lucado says, our names will be “written in the Book of the Lamb.  Not in pencil marks that can be erased, but with blood that will not be removed.  No need to keep God happy; He is satisfied.  No need to pay the price; Jesus paid it ALL!

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Jesus – The Eternal Word

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John 1:1 – 5

The Word of Life

1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2From the very beginning the Word was with God.  3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

This is a grand opening to this book, the Gospel of John.  It is very interesting to see how each Gospel (the Good News) begins from a different perspective in setting the background to the glorious entrance of Christ, who came as a baby and lived among us as the man named Jesus.

Mark begins his story with John the Baptist, whose preaching prepared the hearts of people to receive Jesus.  He came and was baptized by John to lead us by example to show the importance of being fully submitted to God.  Then we see Jesus being fully tempted as a man by Satan, but Jesus wins victory and shows that He will be the right Man to save all of Mankind from sin and Satan.

Luke takes us back at the start of his Gospel to the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  He narrates for us the simple and humble beginnings of the One who is King by having simple shepherds witness this divine birth in a lowly stable.  Matthew takes us back even further by starting his Gospel with a long genealogy to show that Jesus came from a line of kings, all the way back to King David, and was also the Successor of Faith having descended from Abraham himself.

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Of the four Gospels though, John takes us back the furthest of all.  He takes us back, not to the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, and not even back to the beginning of the creation of the world.  No, John takes us back before the beginning, before there was even Time itself.  And in that place where only God existed, there also existed the Word.  And contrary to some philosophies and religions, this was not some impersonal or mystic force, but the equally divine and creative Second Person of the Trinity of God.

We start to see the personal side of this One who is called “The Word” in verse two.  Greek has three gender endings on most nouns – masculine, feminine and neuter.  This “Word” that was with God from before the beginning of time is written as a masculine noun, which implies a “person”, not an abstract “thing” was there with God in the beginning.

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There are many other important truths given to us in this powerful introduction that we must make sure we do not miss.  Not only was this eternal Word “with God”, but verse one tells us that “the Word was God.”  This is one of the greatest paradoxes and mysteries about God.  How can one God consist of two Beings?  (Actually three when we add in the Holy Spirit.)  Yes, this is a mystery.  And yet this is what the Bible claims.  And if the Bible fails to be true here, then it is in danger of falling in every other area of truth.  I’ll come back to this.

Another important truth in this passage is that the Word was intimately involved in the creation of all that we see in the Universe.  True, it is God who created the Universe (read Genesis chapter 1), but here we learn that it is through the Word that all things came into being.  In other words, the Word was the Agency through whom God himself caused all things to exist.  (Jumping ahead, we know that Jesus is the Word spoken of here, so we now know that Jesus Himself was intimately involved in creating us and everything around us.)

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Back to this puzzle about God being Three-in-One (the Trinity).  There is an analogy in nature itself that is helpful for us to understand this concept.  A brief description of light is shared in the book “Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations” which says:

Science tells us that light is constituted of three rays, or groups of wavelengths, distinct from each other, no one of which without the others would be light. Each ray has its own separate function.

The first originates, the second formulates, illuminates or manifests, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Mysterious and yet very simple at the same time.  Just as we can accept that there are different components that make up light, but altogether is still just one light, so too we can accept by faith that God is three Persons with different kinds of interaction with us, yet God is still only One in nature and reality.

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One other quick insight on a truth here is in the contrasts found in vv. 4 and 5.  The Word is the source of life and light, which are the complete opposite of darkness and death.  We learn in other verses that Satan, the demon ruler of Hell, is the source of darkness and death.

So we have right here at the beginning of this book a sharp contrast and battle shaping up between the life-giving Word who illuminates us with all that is spiritually true, and the death-dealing demon lord and his realm of darkness.  But praise God, we are told that the Word is forever shining (present tense verb) and Darkness has never been able to put out that life-giving source of life, who is Jesus.

Hallelujah!!  What a great way to start this book.