Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
This pictures are helpful reminders of a few things. First, I need to grow my goatee back. Second, I still have a lot more weight to lose. Third, I must not wear this shirt for a picture again.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
SCRIPTURE FOUNDATION (I CORINTHIANS 15):
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
RESURRECTION: THE EVIDENCE
Prosecution Lawyer: With all of this said…(turn toward judge) your honor,(turn toward the congregation) ladies and gentlemen of the jury I rest my case. You must convict Christians and the church of fraud. There is no way that Jesus could have risen from the dead.
Judge: (Speaking to the defense lawyer) Are you prepared to make your closing arguments for the defense?
Defense Lawyer: I am.
Judge: Go ahead.
Defense Lawyer: (Face the judge) Thank you your honor. (Face the congregation) Ladies and gentleman of the jury, let us review the evidence. I believe that once we are done, looking at the arguments of my opponents arguments one by one, you will see that the prosecution has not proven that the resurrection as a fraud. As a matter of fact, you will come to understand that the resurrection is the only reasonable conclusion of what happened with Jesus that Sunday morning.
Prosecution Lawyer: OBJECTION
Judge: OVERRULED. Go on…finish your closing argument defense….
Defense Lawyer: Thank you your honor.
As I was beginning to say, I have given you three reasons why the evidence of the resurrection is factually true. They all start with the letter E.
The empty tomb
The explosion of the early church and its resurrection-centered world view
I will repeat those:
The empty tomb
The explosion of the early church and its resurrection-centered world view
Defense Lawyer (continued):
First—the empty tomb. On Friday Jesus was buried. By Sunday morning it was discovered that the tomb that the people laid Jesus in was empty.
The prosecution has offered alternate explanations to how the tomb could be empty. Each one of these alternate explanations can be proved non-factual and irrational looked at more closely.
The first objection to the empty tomb my opponent raised is commonly referred to as the swoon theory. According to this theory, Jesus did not die, he only passed out. Then he came awake at some point before that Sunday morning, rolled away the rock from inside the tomb, and walked out of the tomb alive.
This does not work on so many levels. First, the nature of the stress and torture that Jesus endured before he ever got to the cross would have been enough to kill most of us. He was so stressed anticipating the cross that the Bible records he was sweating blood. We know now that this is an extreme reaction to stress, and shows that his health was in danger before he was even captured. Then, he was without sleep for around 24 hours. He was beaten with a cat of nine tails 39 times. The reason they did not whip him 40 or more times is because 40 was considered fatal for many people. He had thorns crushed in his head. He was too weak to carry his own cross by the time they marched him to Calvary, or Golgotha, called the place of the skull.
Then, we need to understand the nature of death on a cross. When a person dies on a cross they die of suffocation. The weight of their body pulls their body down on the cross. This causes the person hanging there to be unable to breathe. They must then push their body up the cross to survive and breathe. When a person finally dies on a cross, they suffocate, as Jesus did. Then we see that they broke the other men's legs, to make sure that they could not push up, and thus hasten their deaths. By the time they got to Jesus they realized he was already dead. They did not need to break his.
Then, the apostle John's account of the death of Jesus make it clear that blood and water ran out of Jesus body when the soldiers thrust a spear in his side after he had died (19:34). This flood of blood and water that rushed out of his body when the soldier stabbed him indicates that Jesus' pericardial sack and heart were punctured fatally at this moment. So if Jesus was not dead from the torture before the cross, or what happened on the cross, he certainly was dead by the time they made that fatal blow to his heart.
In order for the swoon theory to be true he would not only have to have woken up from this, he would have had to roll a several ton rock uphill and he would have had to escape. He would have to somehow make his death cloths look like they were unwrapped, ran out of the tomb naked, been unnoticed by the soldiers guarding the tomb, found an alternate set of clothes, disguised himself as a gardener, then ran out to Emmaus, and back to Jerusalem. This idea has long been discredited.
The next argument against the empty tomb that the prosecution made was that perhaps grave robbers got into the tomb and stole the body. This argument is as old as the first Easter Sunday, because the Jewish leaders made it up as soon as they heard about it. You can read about this in Matthew 28:11-15.
Really folks, is it realistic that the grave of Jesus was robbed? It was guarded by Roman soldiers who faced court martial and even death for failing in their charge to protect a grave. It had a seal of Caesar on the tomb to mark it for protection. Do you really think that this rag tag bunch of fisherman had the ability to attack or deceive the Roman soldiers, roll a huge boulder away from a cave, grab the body, and carry it off to create a rumor about a resurrection they were not really expecting?
All accounts say they were hiding in a rented room somewhere in Jerusalem scared to death to do much of anything. They did not even anticipate the crucifixion, despite Jesus telling them about it over and over again. They did not stand with him at the cross, with the exception of John, because they were too scared to be associated with Jesus. But they crafted a courageous plan to overcome an elite group of soldiers, steal the body, and pretend Jesus was risen? The argument does not hold water.
Then, the prosecution also alluded to the idea that the disciples must have gone to the wrong tomb. Really? Why wouldn't the soldiers and Jewish officials have just went to the correct tomb and showed people the body of Jesus. They would have! And at that point the "Christian movement" would have been completely over. The disciples would have been redirected to the right place by the owner of the tomb, and people would have cared for Jesus there.
The truth is that the prosecution does not want to believe the resurrection does not want to believe that the resurrection is true because he does not want to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. He wants to be Lord of his own life.
Prosecution Lawyer: Objection, argumentative
Judge: Sustained. The defense will stick to the facts of the case
Defense Lawyer: Yes your honor
In addition to the evidence of the empty tomb, we have the eyewitness testimony of the resurrection.
The apostle Paul said it most succinctly in I Corinthians 15: 3-6:
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
Although as Paul says this, he focuses on the most reputable accounts according to his accounts. Mary Magdeline also saw him in the garden around the tomb, but people did not always find women's testimony credible, which is another part of the evidence in favor of Jesus' resurrection that we might get to later.
The prosecution has no credible argument to make against these eyewitnesses.
They tried to argue that there might have been some mass hallucinations. They even sighted a group of people in Portugal that seemed to have seen something as a group that was not there.
Once again, the prosecution is grasping at straws to prove the resurrection of Christ to be false. There is no such thing as one big psychic mass hallucination where the details are so clearly described by so many. The situation in Portugal was a perceptual suggestion made by a person that several people eventually agreed to—about the sun appearing to come closer to the earth. It is the equivalent of seeing Jesus and Mary in a piece of toast and all your friends agreeing.
It is not the same as several people, in different times, and in different places, having seen Jesus, touched him, had conversations with him that other people heard, and agreeing to the details of the whole experience with him.
Mass uniform hallucinations, the kind that would account for the resurrection anyway, do not happen.
The prosecution has referred to the eyewitness testimony as simply wishful thinking. But were the disciples really expecting a Messiah to die and rise again? Were they expecting a Messiah to conquer sin and death, but not conquer kings and kingdoms?
No the disciples, and all the Hebrew people, were expecting their Savior to lead them with a sword against their oppressors. This is why John and James, while Jesus is still with them, ask to be on Jesus' right and left when he comes into his kingdom. This expectation is why Jesus has to chide Peter when he tries to push him to become a conqueror by saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan" The disciples did not get what Jesus was saying about the resurrection. They were huddled in an upper room.
They had no idea what Jesus was up to w/ the cross and the empty tomb until they experienced it.
Besides, if the whole thing was wishful thinking, wouldn't they have put themselves at the empty tomb? Instead it is the women who first come and discover the empty tomb in every gospel, and then come back and tell the disciples that the tomb is empty. And then they don't believe.
Would future leaders of this movement really paint themselves as cowards and converts of a woman preacher if this were not true? In fact, they simply state the facts as they know them.
Still others that spoke on behalf of the prosecution say that the witness of the eyewitnesses were legends created later in history.
I ask you, would sane people die for a nice little legend that they created later in history? When their legend gave them no political power, no material or financial benefit, and complete and total alienation from their friends and family?
Would they have created a legend that was so counter-cultural? That in many ways went against both their Jewish roots, and against the empire of Rome in such forceful ways that both the Jews and the Romans would hunt them down and try and kill them for centuries? And then, for much of the early church, have that faith urge them to in no way take up arms, seek revenge, or try to fight against the persecution they faced?
No, if the disciples were making up a legend, they would have made it a nice, manageable, easy legend.
The orthodox church would have also adopted many of the later writings of people who pretended to be gospel writers and biblical teachers but really were spreading unrealistic, uncomfirmed and fantastical stories about Jesus. These writings, such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter, were roundly condemned by the church early on and have no real authority in the church today because they are so unhistorical and mythological.
The writings that squared with the historical facts, such as we have in Scripture, remained as Scriptures of the church because they told the truth instead of legends about Jesus by people who had personally encountered him.
So we have the evidence of the empty tomb. And we have evidence of the eyewitnesses.
The interesting thing is that while the evidence for the resurrection is compelling with either of these pieces of evidence, when you combine the empty tomb and the eyewitness testimony it makes an even stronger case for a factual, literal resurrection.
But this is not all of our case.
We also have the early church and it radically new world view to corroborate the resurrection. Our third argument for the resurrection, besides the empty tomb and the eyewitnesses, is the explosion of the early church and a resurrection-driven world view.
The early church based its whole existence on one historical truth. Jesus died for our sins, and rose from the dead on his third day in the tomb, conquering sin and death.
If this was simply a convenient myth, the early church would have been mocked and ridiculed out of existence. The truth is, the enemies of the early church had no answer for the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, the early church, and its faith in the message of Jesus, spread throughout the world. In less than 300 years, Constantine was ruling Rome, and came to the conclusion that he could not squelch Christianity, so he would join its ranks.
The prosecution has tried to show that dying and rising myths of the Ancient Near East predate Christianity, and that the resurrection of Jesus was a simple adaptation of those ideas.
This is a deceptive argument, because it has a measure of truth in it. There were other resurrection myths. But they were understood as myths. Not as realities. Most of them had to do with seasonal cycles. And the after-death appearances by the pagan God's were not bodily. They were more like ghosts. People did not report touching their wounds like they did with Jesus. As a matter of fact, these dying/rising myths were not claimed as historical truths the way Jesus' resurrection was.
As a matter of fact, most of philosophical and religious thought in the Greco-Roman world had a belief that spirit was good, and the body was bad. It would be offensive for someone to return in bodily form like Jesus. The Ancient Near East had contempt for the body. None of them would claim a bodily resurrection.
The prosecution also talked about Hebrew hopes for the resurrection, and how that formed their faith. It is true that Hebrew thought predicted a resurrection, and in fact Jesus fulfilled many of the promises about a Messiah in Hebrew thought.
But most people saved the idea of a resurrection for the end times. When the lion laid down with the lamb. After the day of the Lord and the final judgment.
Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead was unexpected and world changing. Even though he said he would do just what he did!
The church went out. They did not fear death because they knew that they would rise again just like Jesus did. So they were slaughtered by the millions. They were concerned enough with loving the way Jesus loved that adopted the disabled children that everyone else abandoned. They refused to join the military because they would not have their allegiance to the Roman government conflict with their allegiance to Jesus as King. The church's commitment to honoring Jesus as King meant that they refused to worship pagan Gods. They refused to participate in wild parties that honored false Gods. They treated their neighbor as their equal. They treated every person, regardless of their previous history or social station, as brother and sister. And they changed the world. Their lives, and the lives of faithful Christians today, are witnesses to the power of the resurrection.
I ask you, ladies and gentleman of the jury, to return a verdict in favor of truth of the resurrection. And not only acknowledge that with your hearts and minds, but to acknowledge that with your lives and your minds, your hopes and your values.
Judge: Does the defense rest?
Defense Attorney: It does
Judge: And the prosecution?
Prosecution Attorney: We rest as well your honor
Judge: I believe the jury and I are ready to render a verdict. The verdict is (opens piece of paper)….HE IS RISEN!
I would like to poll the jury
Judge: Very well. Men and women of the congregation..eheemm…I mean jury….if you agree with the verdict that Jesus is risen from the dead…would you stand and say "HE IS RISEN INDEED" after I say HE IS RISEN? Then the pastor will come to lead us in our invitation hymn. Ok…ready? HE IS RISEN (point to the congregation)
Jury: (as they stand) HE IS RISEN INDEED
Kyle Idleman has written a book with a terrific concept. In his book he challenges people to answer the question: Are you simply a fan of Jesus, or are you a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?
The first section of NOT A FAN presents the reader with several diagnostic questions to challenge the heart of someone trying to discern if they are a "fan" or a follower. These questions are very pointed, helpful, and will be convicting to many who use these questions as they were intended.
The second section lays out the case for Jesus wanting disciples and instead of fans. Each chapter focuses on a key quote from Jesus that encourages the reader to go deeper in their understanding of what it means to be a true follower of Him and his Word.
The third section offers an inspirational invitation for radical discipleship.
NOT A FAN is written with passion and energy. A great book for someone who feels like they need a little inspiration in their faith.
(This book given by Amazon Vine for an honest review)
By Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna
Published by Tyndale House Publishers
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I few years ago, I began conversations with friends about what the nature of church was. At that time, I was a part of a congregation that was dedicated to offering programs to reach out to unbelievers and serve believers’ needs in order to integrate them into the life of the church through Sunday morning worship. When a person began to attend the large gathering of Sunday worshippers they had started being a “part of the church”. Until that point, they were not considered a part of the congregation.
When I began these conversations among fellow believers I began to ask them, “What counts as ‘church’? Does only the Sunday morning gathering of the entire congregation count as church? Or does participation in a small group in someone’s home count as ‘church’ as well? What about the folks that attend Sunday School but leave before worship? Do they count as part of the church or not?”
SMALL IS BIG argues that our understanding of church has become too institutional and too narrow. As members of what is alternately called “house church”, “organic church”, and “simple church”, Tony and Felicity place before their readers a different vision of what the word “church” means and what church can be. In arguing in favor of house churches, they believe that a simpler model of church is not only more efficient and effective, but also more biblical.
The text of SMALL IS BIG reads as part memoir and part thesis. The Dales begin their book by sharing about their own journey toward “simple church”, and how it has ministered to them and others they know effectively. Throughout the book, they share examples of their joys and sorrows in their spiritual and church journeys.
The authors also make a convincing case for house churches as a Biblical model for living out the Christian faith in community. They thoroughly speak about the history of house churches (Chapters 3 and 4) and the Biblical basis for organic churches (Chapter 9 and 13).
SMALL IS BIG also practical. Most of the last third of the book addresses how leadership (Chapter 17) and finances (Chapter 18) work in a house church. The Dales do not simply wax eloquent about their vision for the church, they get very clear about how this kind of church functions effectively.
The biggest problem I have with SMALL IS BIG has to do with the way it is being marketed. It is a re-release of a book entitled THE RABBIT AND THE ELEPHANT under a different title. This practice of selling the same book under a different title always bothers me, especially when I buy the same book twice under two different titles.
All in all, SMALL IS BIG is an excellent primer for understanding the house church, or simple church, movement. It is well-written, conversational, biblically-based, and well-reasoned. If anyone is interested in starting or participating in a house church model of Christian community, I would recommend this book strongly.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Efrem Smith is a well-respected Christian leader and speaker. Having built a reputation as an inspiring and well-grounded youth ministry leader and church planter, he focuses his attention to writing a book called JUMP about strong, aggressive, and passionate faith.
Much of the book is based on the metaphor of a leap of faith, and the example of the leaping ability of the impala. The impala can jump well over 10 feet in the air, but refuses to jump over the 3 foot wall that encloses their station at the zoo? Why don't the impala jump? And what does that have to do with how live and understand a leap of Christian faith? JUMP will help you sort all of these issues.
I was impressed in the balance of Efrem Smith's focus. This book contains a lot of content about both the relational aspects of faith and the missional direction of living a faith-filled life.
I would recommend this book to anyone needing inspiration, and courage for their Christian journey.
(This book was provided to me by Amazon Vine for an honest review)
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I was so excited to get this product in the mail. I have always had an interest in genealogy, and wanted to know more about my personal history. Unfortunately, this program was so difficult to understand and to install that I will never get a chance to use it.
My computer kept having problems booting the program. I called for help with customer service from the vendor. The customer service department yelled at me, and told me that the program was often incompatable with my version of Windows (Vista), my email account (AOL, which was not installed on the computer), and my antivirus (Norton). None of their troubleshooting explanations were helpful.
Although I think this would be a great program to use, and it seems to have a lot of bells and whistles, it is not user friendly for anyone who does not have a strong programming and troubleshooting background. I would not recommend it to anyone.
Friday, April 22, 2011
By Stanley Hauerwas
Published by Brazos Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker
CROSS-SHATTERED CHRIST is a book made up of meditations on the seven last words of Christ on cross. It is a short little book that is well worth the read.
CROSS SHATTERED CHRIST is a pretty book. There are several illustrations throughout the book that are very well done.
It is also a thought-provoking book. Hauerwas never pulls his punches. He introduces questions that the text brings up, and at times he lets questions linger and moves on further into the text he is studying. He challenges the reader to really look at what is happening with Jesus on the cross, and to deal with what Jesus is doing and teaching in his last words on the cross.
I would recommend to anyone who is doing a study on the seven last words that they should read CROSS-SHATTERED CHRIST. At times you will be in disagreement, and at other times you will be confused with what Hauerwas has to say. In any case, you will be challenged and grow through reading the CROSS-SHATTERED CHRIST.
THE SEVEN SAYINGS OF THE SAVIOUR ON THE CROSS
By Arthur W. Pink
Published by Baker Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Arthur W. Pink was a pastor and Christian leader in the early and middle twentieth century. He was a fundamentalist preacher who was born in England, but served in America, Australia, and the United Kingdom. His writings have been beloved, and his emphasis on expository preaching has gained a strong following.
THE SEVEN SAYINGS OF THE SAVIOUR ON THE CROSS is a collection of sermons based upon the seven last words of Christ. Each sermon has seven points. And, each message has a theme which Pink identifies and expands upon. These sermons are very wordy, and somewhat austere for modern readers.
I used this resource off and on as I prepared my sermons on the topic of the seven last words. At times, this resource was very helpful. Other times I felt the author was more interested in establishing his theological points than really doing the exegetical work he needed to do with the text.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Today I was taking pictures of her with my cell phone. When she got my cell phone from me she opened it and held it to my face like she was taking a picture of me. She has no figured out how to take a picture yet, but she was starting to get the gist of what is going on.
Every day she picks up some new skill and habit. She is beginning to recognize family after they visit on skype.
Last Sunday she was moving around with her walker at church, just like some of our senior members. It was fun to see.
She is also learning to imitate words, and has her own little language that she talks to every one in. Nobody knows what she is saying, but she is saying something!
I think one of the fun things about healthy little kids this age is that you can see discernable progress from week to week and day to day. It literally goes from one day they cannot crawl, and then the next day they can crawl a little, and then they can crawl everywhere.
Who says parenting can't be fun.
Monday, April 18, 2011
ZONDERVAN ILLUSTRATED BIBLE DICTIONARY
Written by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney
Revised by Moises Silva
Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker
The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary has been a standard of one-volume Bible dictionaries for decades. In April 2011, the good people at Zondervan publishing will release the latest update on this modern classic. The first copy of this work was published in 1963 as the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, and was edited by Merrill Tenney. Twenty four years later the text was re-released under the title New International Pictorial Dictionary, and this edition was overseen by J.D. Douglas. Now, with twenty-four more years passing, Moises Silva has guided the revisions and additions to this edition of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. The result is an excellent update to the two previous editions of the text. Several needed updates are made, and the changes are made without leaving the strong foundation that the original work set for casual readers and church leaders alike. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is an excellent resource for nearly any Christian teacher, from a Sunday School teacher to a college professor, to have on their bookshelf.
There have been several updates to this work in adding or revising content. The Introduction tells the reader that "almost 1800 new entries have been added, bringing the total to over 7200" (p. v). There have also been updates in photographs, and new maps added. The content of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary has been brought into the twenty-first century.
Other updates to the text are more cosmetic, and make for a more pleasant study experience for the reader. The nature of the alphabetization of the new text makes the new text more accessible to lay persons. The fonts and the layout have been updated for a new generation. The pictures are sharper. The maps are more visually appealing.
As a pastor, what I enjoy about the text is the relative brevity of the entries. In many Bible Dictionaries, one entry can be pages long. This is not the goal of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Instead, most of the entries last from 1/8 or a page to a full page, and can be read in only a few minutes. For instance, if I wanted to know what the "abomination of desolation" was, I could turn to page 12 in the text and read a brief overview of the term in less than a half of a page. I would have several Scripture references to look up, and a good idea of the scholarly issues and debate about that term. This is very helpful for me, especially when I am familiar with the issue people are speaking about, but don't necessarily know all the terminology that they are using.
Also, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is relatively affordable. For around twenty dollars you can have a bible dictionary on your shelf that will be a treasured resource for years. It is worth investigating!
MAX ON LIFE
By Max Lucado
Published by Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Max Lucado is a prolific author that has encouraged and inspired millions. Often taking on a specific theme or section of Scripture, Lucado writes in a fashion that makes the Bible narrative exciting and meaningful to people who might otherwise find it dull and difficult to understand.
Lucado's latest book, to be released on Tuesday April 19, is Max on Life. What the book consists of are questions that people have written to Max Lucado about life, faith and theology. All totalled, the book answers 172 questions that were asked. It also includes an addendum that answers a number of questions about writing and how to get published.
The supporting resources at the back of the book are plentiful. It has both a scripture and a subject index. The publisher has also added a guide to Lucado's books by subject in the back of the book.
As I read through this book, I thought that this book would be an enlightening and fun book for a Sunday School class or small group at some point. The group could easily take the book, and the questions and answers, and use it as a resource to have a discussion of basic Christian beliefs.
If you are a fan of Max Lucado, this is a great book to have. It would also be a good book for people who are wanting to learn more about their faith, and how to think and live like a Christian in twenty-first century America.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
At one point, a while ago, I was visiting with a woman that was facing her own mortality. She was thinking about what was left in this life, but also what was to come on the other side of death. “I hope I make it in,” she said.
I replied by visiting with her in more depth about his concern. I probed about whether she had ever accepted Jesus. She replied, “Oh….I know and have confessed Jesus as my Lord and my Savior….it is just that….”
And there was a long pause.
I replied, out of a sense of the Holy Spirit’s leading and not out of my own intelligence, “It is just that it is completely out of your control.”
“Yes,” she replied.
A lot of things in life humble you by making you feel completely out of control. Your child is in the hospital, suffering, and there is nothing you can do to make them better. It’s out of your control.
You work your heart out for years in a job you love. Everybody at work appreciates the work you do. Then you get the news. Somebody halfway across the country believes the company needs to cut payroll, and the position you work in is cut. You hear the news. “It is nothing personal,” the man firing you tells you, “if it were up to me I would keep you.” You want to do something to keep your job. You can’t. It is out of your control.
A phone call comes into the church. A pillar of the church’s body seems ready to die, but she keeps holding on. She is having a hard time letting go. Could you send a pastor over to visit with her? The secretary contacted me, since I was the only one in the office at the time.
Like the example mentioned before, I went.
We talked. We visited about her sense of failure. None of her children were attending worship anywhere. She needed to stay alive. She needed to fix it. She wondered if God would be mad at her for failing in this regard. We looked at Scripture and we prayed. She wanted to fix everything before she was gone. She couldn’t. It was out of her control.
A lot of things are out of our control. Actually, just about everything is out of our control. Except our decisions about our heart, our attitude, our actions. Except our decisions about what we bend our knee to in worship—either the idols that offer us false hope and false security like wealth, strength, and self-sufficiency, or the Lord God.
The Scripture says that the passage we looked at last week, “It is finished” were not Jesus’ final words. His final words were these, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit”.
I was discussing preaching this passage with my mother and my wife as I went to the airport. I do that a lot. I don’t like to prepare sermons in a vacuum. I like to talk them out a little bit as I go. I think it makes me a better preacher to hear what other people hear from the Spirit as they read and hear Scripture.
I shared a few things. Then my mom shared, “I think the hands are important. He says, ‘Into your hands” That is a beautiful way of stating it…Into YOUR HANDS I commit my spirit”.
As usual, mom was right. More right than she knew actually. You see in Luke 24:7 the Bible says that Jesus was “delivered into the hands of evil men”. But as he utters these last words, he does not let these men with bloody, greedy, and violent hands have the last word. He says to God the Father, “Into YOUR HANDS I commit my spirit”.
Jesus’ final words reflect a choice. Let me say that again. Point #1 Jesus’ words reflect a choice.
Evil men thought they were controlling Jesus’ life and his death. They thought they could manage his ministry and put him “in his place”. In Jesus’ last words he defiantly tells those who drove the nails in his hands and feet that they were not in control. He was choosing to relinquish his life to the Father for God’s purposes. He was choosing to surrender to the will of God by going to Calvary.
Jesus is not a victim here. He is a willing participant in his own crucifixion. He chooses to go there for you and I. He willingly places his life and his death in the hands of His loving father. And he is not shy about doing so. He cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. To show his captors and the crowd that they were not in control, He was. And he chose to abandon himself to the arms of God. He chose to live and die in dependence and trust in the hands of an almighty, loving, heavenly father. We should choose to do the same.
We live with this illusion that we can manage our lives well. We live with this idea that if we put enough of our energy and effort into a person or situation, we can control it or them perfectly. Then something happens. We throw up our hands. We realize we are pitiful at managing our lives, our situations, and our world.
Which is, by the way, right where God wants us.
Jesus wants us to pray with him the prayer that he prayed from Psalm 31, as we live and as we die. He wants us to pray “Father, into your hands….”
Jesus’ choice was to relinquish control over his life and his death to the hands of the Father. He wants us to make the same choice.
Placing our lives in the hands of the Father in not something we should wait to do until the moment before the moment we die. We need to live all of our lives constantly depending on God.
This is easier said than done. We can give lip service to “depending on God” or that “we are counting on Him to provide” without actively yielding to God’s will. We can say we are putting ourselves in a position of depending on God when we are really grasping for all the control we can possibly get and hoping for God to fill in the gaps to give us all of our wants.
It is also easier said than done because when we do the real work of surrendering and yielding all of our hopes, dreams, desires, and our very lives to God and what he wants it hurts. Maybe not physically! But for sure it hurts emotionally, mentally, relationally. When we say to God we want to place our lives in his hands, he molds us and prunes us. And that is not always comfortable. It’s always worth it, but it not always comfortable when it is happening.
It is hard to relinquish our lives to God as well because many of us do not like to say no to all the other things that vie for our attention. We want to have our security placed in our bank account and our home, our friends and our families, our political parties and our traditions. And if we truly live a life of dependence on God, He will have priority and preeminence over all of those things.
It is hard to relinquish our lives completely to God, most of all, because we believe a lie. We believe the lie that the things we have are ours. They are not. We believe the lie that the blessings we have we deserve. We don’t. They are gift. We believe that our children, our parents, our spouse, and our friends are ours. They are not. They are gifts on loan from God. And we better be thankful for those blessings, and faithful in how we care for those gifts every day. Each person we love is child and his creation—trusted to us. We believe that the life we have is ours. It isn’t. It is God that gives us breathe, and he can take it away at a moment’s notice.
From the beginning, when Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, we have failed to depend on God. When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve he convinced them that God did not want them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because God did not want what was best for them—he was holding out on them. The serpent said, in effect, “God doesn’t want you to be like Him. You better eat that fruit and take control of your life. Because you can’t trust God to take care of you and have YOUR best interest in mind.” So they sinned by not trusting God and by taking control for themselves instead of trusting and depending upon the Lord.
Now Jesus, as he hangs on the cross, reverses the bad sin of Adam and Eve. In the worst of circumstances he tells the Lord, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit”, which is another way of saying, “Even in this moment where I am suffering and dying here, I don’t trust in other men or women, I trust completely in you.”
So how do we learn to place our lives in God’s hands? How do we begin to depend on God day to day? How do we begin to relinquish our lives to the Father like Jesus did on the cross?
I have four beginning steps, baby steps if you will, that will help you begin to constantly depend upon God in your everyday life.
1. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior
In the end, the Bible says, “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”. Why not do it know, instead of before you stand before the judgment seat of God.
The Scripture makes it clear, you cannot serve two masters. You will hate this one, and love the other, or you will love that one, and hate the other. You need to choose who you place in the driver’s seat of your life?
The world? Really? Does this world have your best interest in mind? Does this world love you? Or is it just going to use you and abandon you?
You? You think you deserve to be master of your own life? You think you know better than God? I got to tell you, I think that will be a mess. You know how you make a mess of so many things! You know where you would be without God’s grace!
Place your eternity and your life in the hands of the Lord Jesus by accepting Him as your Lord and Savior.
2. Actively take steps of obedience that demonstrate trust in God
If you do not actively take steps of obedience that demonstrate your trust in God you will be one of those people that come to church and talk a good religious game, but never really live by faith. You will have a semblance of faith in Christ, but you will never really see the power of God at work in your life. The power of God at work in your life becomes evident as you take steps of obedience to trust God.
Jesus obeyed God by going to the cross. He lived a sinless life of obedience. And by actively choosing to commit his Spirit to the Lord in death he takes another step of obedience to God.
You need to trust God enough to have the courage to obey his Word. Even when it hard. You need to trust God enough as well to obey the leadings of His Spirit. Even when it costs you something.
For us, in recent years, we have felt convicted that we should tithe. We were not that good at that when we were single, but after we got married we decided that God was leading us to contribute ten percent of our income to God’s work.
It is not easy. As a matter of fact, sometimes I think about all the other things I could do with the money we have given back to Lord. But less and less now. You know, there is some sense in which divine math trumps modern accounting, and we always end up more blessed than we expected. But it takes a step of faith to obey and trust in this way. Every month.
We have also, during this season, felt led to do a family devotion time with one another. We obeyed this leading from God. Sometimes we just finish the devotion and look at each other and say, “true dat”. Other times we are really led into discussions we need to have. It has been good for us.
You know those steps of obedience God has for you. Perhaps they include being baptized. Or finding ways to serve your neighbor. Or doing something to show your spouse you love them. Have the courage to take steps of faith. Especially the ones that push you out of the place where you are comfortable.
3. Letting go
When Jesus was on that cross, saying those last words, there was a certain sense in which he was letting go. He was placing his life and his soul in God’s hands, to do with as he willed.
We need to do the same.
There are a lot of things that we try and manage and control that we just need to let go of. There are a lot of grudges that we need to let go of. There are a lot of destructive attitudes that we need to let go of.
There are times where we are mistreated, and we want to fight or demand our fair treatment, and really the best idea is just to let go of fretting and stewing over that situation and just let it go.
There are times where we are so stressed about a bunch of things that are completely out of our control. And we need to simply let them go and place them in God’s hands.
You can’t fix everyone. You can’t make every situation right. You can’t make everyone as healthy as you want them to be. You can’t do everything you think you can.
At some point you have to pray about things in your life, and tell God, “Hey, I have tried to control and manage and run this situation for several days or months or years now, and I am just a miserable failure at it. I’m letting it go. I am placing it in your hands.
4. Accepting and working within your abilities and limitations
You can’t do everything. You can’t be everything to everybody. At times you have say, “I can’t do this Lord, I place it in your hands”
Some of you cannot do all the things you used to do. You have to learn to accept where you are at, and live within the limitations you have now. You have to place your limitations in God’s hands, and depend on Him to see you through each day.
Some of you have a hard time saying no to anything, and so you try and do everything, and then get frustrated that you are expected to do everything. Learn that you don’t have to do everything, and control everything. Understand you have limits learn what to say yes to and what to say no to. Pray about it. Set priorities.
Why is all of this important? Because, whose hands you choose to place your life in is ultimately who you worship. Are you going to worship the Lord, and completely depend on Him? Or are bend the knee to your own ego, or the pressures of the world around you? Are you going to have to be confronted with difficult circumstance after difficult circumstance before you are finally convinced that it is almost all out of your control anyway? I sure hope not.
I pray that you will take those hands that you have so desperately been clawing, fighting and grasping for everything with, and I pray you will open them, and place your life, your circumstances, your hopes and dreams, your family, even your death, and place them in God’s hands. I pray that you will pray with Jesus, “Into your hands I commit my spirit”
Friday, April 15, 2011
THE SEVEN LAST WORDS FROM THE CROSS
By Fleming Rutledge
Published by Eerdmans
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Fleming Rutledge is an Episcopal priest, and a well known preacher and teacher in more progressive mainline circles. I recently read her series of sermons on the passion entitled THE SEVEN LAST WORDS FROM THE CROSS. I found her writing compelling, thoughtful, and insightful.
Each meditation begins with the Scripture text, moves on to her sermon, and ends with a hymn that brings the message of the text into song. My favorite of her mediations is the “Behold thy Mother…Behold thy Son” message. In this particular section of the book, she very clearly defines what she is NOT trying to communicate, and then very forcefully makes her case for what she does want to communicate. Her insights helped me understand the passage in a new way.
If you want a Good Friday reflection that is both briefly written and deftly insightful, pick up this book by Rutledge. You will not be disappointed.
THE SEVEN LAST WORDS
By Fulton J. Sheen
Published by The Society of St. Paul
Reviewer Clint Walker
I bought this book because I was seeking books on the Seven Last Words for a sermon series I just finished putting together. There were several helpful books in putting together these messages. This text from Fulton Sheen was not one of them.
First, before you look at buying this “book” you need to look carefully at its description. It is more of a pamphlet than a book. Small enough that you can put it in your back pocket, and read each thought as a devotional, if that is what you are after.
Secondly, I did not really think that the writing spoke to my heart at all. There was nothing quotable or novel about what was said. There was nothing that I could take out of it to stimulate my thinking on how to teach others in a bible study or sermon. It was a very dull text.
Finally, it had a strong emphasis on Mary the mother of Jesus, and pondered her role in passion in several spots. In retrospect, this certainly should have been expected from a Catholic writer. However, on a book highly recommended about the passion of Christ I did not expect it.
If you are thinking about purchasing books on the Seven Last Words, there are several out there that are better.
THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY
By William H. Willimon
Reviewed By Clint Walker
The last seven weeks I have been preaching on the seven last words of the cross. One of the resources I have used has been THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY: ENCOUNTERING THE SEVEN LAST WORDS FROM THE CROSSby Will Willimon. In this book I discovered what I believe to be a collection of sermons that Bishop Willimon has preached during his career on each of these seven last words. What I found was a book that was very helpful in my preaching preparation, as well as a spiritual guide in helping me place myself under the cross for the 2011 season of Lent.
One of the things I love about Willimon's writing and preaching is that he appears to be unafraid. He is open about his mistakes and his victories, which takes courage. It also takes courage to boldly state the truth about what the Scripture is saying without trying to nuance it or make it more pallatable. Willimon demonstrates both kinds of courage.
Willimon is also skilled at bringing out parts of the text he is preaching or writing about that other people might miss. This is true in all his books. It is also true in this one.
THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAYspeaks both with profundity and with simplicity as it shares about what is happening on the cross. This is especially true, in my opinion, with the afterword. Usually I don't read afterwords, prefaces, or epilogues, but I did with this book. The afterword in this text is an expansion on the author's theology of the cross. The discussion of Luther and Barth was enjoyable. Even more helpful was the author's insistence in the centrality of the cross not only during the Lenten season, but in our entire Christian journey.
A book I would strongly recommend to anyone wanting to understand more about Jesus and his message.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
By John Piper
Published by Multnomah
Reviewer Clint Walker
John Piper is a well-respected leader, a gifted teacher, a well-regarded preacher, and a prolific writer of over forty books. He is well-known for his advocacy of a complimentarian view of gender roles, as well as being a leader of the "New Calvinist" movement in the United States. Piper is also well-known for his advocacy of a viewpoint he has coined "Christian Hedonism". As a matter of fact, his book Desiring God, which explained his view of Christian hedonism, was the book that launched him into notoriety on the stage of American evangelical theology. The book was published twenty-five years ago this year, so the publisher has re-released the book with revisions.
Desiring God is as powerful and relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago.
I have a special affection for Desiring God. I discovered it a year after my freshman philosophy class at Trinity College (Now Trinity International University). In my freshman philosophy class, I had to write a special research paper on one issue in philosophy. I wrote it on Christianity as Hedonism. When I read Piper's book, I discovered I was not alone in my viewpoint. I felt encouraged by Piper's argument for Christianity as being the most pleasurable way of life for humanity to embrace.
Desiring God is both theologically grounded and uncompromisingly practical. The first few chapters lay out the author's journey toward Christian Hedonism, a rationale for Christian Hedonism in general, and how God is motivated by his own happiness and joy. After laying the foundation for his argument, Piper begins to lay out a case for living a life of joy and fulfillment in several areas of Christian discipleship.
Desiring God is well-researched. Throughout the text, Piper quotes Scripture extensively. He also quotes a number of theologians and Christian leaders throughout history. Included in his theological sources are Augustine, Calvin, Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis. Also included is a reference to the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
The revisions of the book are entirely appropriate. Piper added a new chapter on suffering. He updated some of the text based upon cultural changes. The back of the book has an extensive index of Scriptures referenced, as well as another index. It also has a study guide included. The updates not only make the text more fun to read, they make the book easier to study in small groups and church congregations. Even with a older copy of this book, I feel thankful for the opportunity to have this new, updated copy.
THE DANGEROUS DUTY OF DELIGHT
By John Piper
Published by Multnomah
Reviewer Clint Walker
John Piper is a well-respected leader, a gifted teacher, a well-regarded preacher, and a prolific writer of over forty books. He is well-known for his advocacy of a complimentarian view of gender roles, as well as being a leader of the "New Calvinist" movement in the United States. Piper is also well-known for his advocacy of a viewpoint he has coined "Christian Hedonism". As a matter of fact, his book Desiring God, which explained his view of Christian hedonism, was the book that launched him into notoriety on the stage of American evangelical theology. The Dangerous Duty of Delight is a gift book that is an abridged and simplified version of Desiring God. It is being re-released on its tenth anniversary, and the twenty fifth anniversary of Desiring God. The Dangerous Duty of Delight accomplishes its goal, and is an intelligently structured summary of Desiring God. It summarizes Christian Hedonism in a brief manner so that the average reader can get the concept of the philosophy in a short amount of time.
The Dangerous Duty of Delight grounds the philosophy of Christian Hedonism thoroughly in both Scripture and in Christian history. Piper quotes numerous Scriptures in the first few chapters to fortify his point. He also references luminaries such as Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis. As a Reformed theologian he also spends an entire chapter heading on the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which says that humanity's chief goal is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." He goes on to say that enjoying God is not simply an opportunity, but our duty as believers.
Much of the rest of the text of The Dangerous Duty of Delight is a guide on how to implement a life of Christian Hedonism. Piper focuses specifically on money, marriage, worship and missions. Each of these areas of life, he argues, requires that we focus on the most joyful experience possible if we are to life in obedience to Christ. Although, it must be noted, that often the most pleasurable long-term result often means delaying short-term gratification.
I enjoyed reading this text. Having read Desiring God several years ago, this book helpfully reminded me what I had learned. Having been a Christian Hedonist before I read Piper, I felt encouraged by his argument for Christianity as being the most pleasurable way of life for humanity to embrace. For those who are not familiar with Piper or Christian Hedonism, The Dangerous Duty of Delight would be an excellent resource to become more familiar with him.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Passage (John 19:28-29):
28 After this, Jesus, knowing[a] that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Have you ever set a goal and seen it to completion? I hope you have.
For some of us it is hard to do this, because we are perfectionists. We want to do everything just perfect, and so we feel like it is never quite the way we want it. But I bet most of you have set a goal, worked toward the goal, finished the goal, and saw it to completion from beginning to end.
When I visit Pete Vulgamore, or drop by Bushy's shop for that matter, I like to look at the cars they are working on. Pete does such a good job at restoring these old vehicles, and they are just amazing to look at. Recently I saw there were three vehicles in the alley behind his house he was working on. The first was this old rusty piece of metal that vaguely resembles what used to be a car. The second was an old wagon that needed to have a major mechanical overhaul. The third was that red truck that I just love.
What amazes me is that the beautiful red truck, probably, at one point, resembled that old rusty piece of metal that used to be a car. But Pete deftly works with the car, and step by step moves it toward restoration.
Now in my imagination, as I think about Pete working on that red truck, there was some point where all the restoration of that truck was done. And in that moment, I imagine Pete just stepping back and looking at that truck for a bit, and saying to himself, "Yep, I think that is it. That is what I wanted." Then I imagine he called Pat out to take a little drive in that beautiful red truck.
One goal that I have had for several years was to have Jennifer and I have our cars paid off and our student loans paid in full. For the last couple of years I doubled up Jennifer's student loan payments, we used our tax rebates and returns to pay off student loans and cars as well. Finally, I transferred some money from our savings account about a week and a half ago, and paid off the last of the student loans. I had to sit by the mailbox for a second and smile and nod. Yep….got 'er done. We accomplished what we set out to do. Now I am eagerly awaiting that letter from the USDE that says, "Paid in full".
It is something like this, this sense of completion and accomplishment, that we hear from Jesus through his sixth word from the cross.
The sixth "word" or phrase or saying from Jesus as he hangs on the cross is "It is finished". It is finished. This word can also be translated, "It is accomplished" or "It is completed" OR "It is done".
"It is finished" translates into three words in our language, but in Greek, the language most of the New Testament was written in, it is not actually three words but one word. That word is TE-TELL-e-STAI. It describes an action that has been totally completed from beginning to end. The root of the word in Greek is TE-LOS which describes aiming toward an end or a goal.
Before we get more into what this word really mans in the context of Jesus' dying on the cross, we need to briefly discuss what the words "It is finished" do not mean.
This passage does not mean I give up. Jesus is not saying he is worn out and just wants to quit because he cannot do any more or go any further.
"It is finished' does not mean I am done for. It is not the death gurgle attempting to warn people that he was soon going to die and we should all pay even more attention to him and offer more care.
"It is accomplished" does not mean that I am going to take a break now.
"It is finished" is not a word of surrender. Because these words are not surrender it is not Jesus telling anyone that they won, or that they got their way, or anything like that. Jesus willingly went to the cross. He willingly submitted to that death so that he could save us.
No the words, "It is finished" mean none of these things. In fact, in many ways, the second to last word from the cross means the opposite of many of these commonly held assumptions.
If one is to understand the words, "It is finished", it needs to look at this passage through the eyes and ears of the original readers. Specifically, we need to look at this passage through the context of the gospel of John, and plumb the depths of what God was trying to communicate through him. When we do so, we come up with three guiding metaphors, or word pictures, that help us to understand what God is doing here.
Let us look at them step by step.
As we do this, and we do a little research, we come to understand that this word TE-TEL-e-STOI had some common usages. One of them actually had to do with commerce. Specifically it was written across a debt or a bill when it was completely paid off and the transaction was complete. When Jesus cries out TE-TEL-e-STOI he is crying out "PAID IN FULL".
He is declaring that the work is complete that he set out to do on the cross. He has taken upon himself the punishment for our sin. As the Scripture says," God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The Bible is clear. Sin costs us. It has a price. It separates us from God. Throughout the history of Scripture we see this. People offer sacrifices for their sins. In the Lord's Prayer we pray, "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors".
The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And there is a price to pay for that.
Jesus goes to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. To take the responsibility for our sin upon himself, so that if we trust him, then we can spend eternity with Him. As the Old Testament prophecied, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
A helpful way to understand this is to understand the view of sin as slavery. According to this helpful word picture, our sin has put us in a place where we are in slavery. When people entered slavery at the time of Jesus, they were there, most often, to pay a debt that they could not pay. When someone was set free from slavery, it was often by someone who would come to the creditor that held the debt, and paid the price on that person's behalf. That person was called a redeemer, because he took a situation that was useless and hopeless, and redeemed that person's life to give them a second chance.
Sin has cost us by separating us from God, and making our lives enslaved to sin, the flesh, and the devil. But when Jesus dies on the cross, he pays the price that can set us free from the power of sin and death. The question is, will we accept it? Will we take this gift?
So It is finished means PAID IN FULL, but we look at this word and the context it is in it tells us even more.
To understand more about what is going on when Jesus is on the cross, we need to look at John 1. John 1 begins with the language of creation. It says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then in verse 14, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us". After that verse 29, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Jesus comes into the world to recreate the world. Jesus comes into the world to make the world new again. The make us new creation. To help us discover what we were made for. To give us purpose, hope, life, and life abundant. Our sin, the things we have done wrong, has marred us. It has beaten us up. It has left us helpless and heartless and hopeless.
When Jesus says, "It is finished" or "It is accomplished" he is saying that this work of recreating the world anew, where we have hope for a reconciled relationship with God, where we can find hope for eternal life, has been accomplished through his work on the cross.
God's whole goal through creation is for people like you and I to be in right relationship with him. When mankind fell by choosing to sin, he needed to make a way to be reconciled to him, while also being truthful and just enough to allow sin to have its consequence of death. Jesus died for us on the cross to create a new reality between us and God.
This work has been began in the garden of Eden as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, was anticipated by the Law God gave Moses, predicted by the prophets, and hoped for by generations.
As I said, since we first chose to sin, God has been at work making a way where we can be reconciled to him through becoming a new creation. That work is completed through Christ's work on the cross. Now, because "it is finished", we have the opportunity to be made anew in our lives and our relationship with God. 2 Corinthians 5 puts it this way, "17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!"
Which brings me to our final point. When we hear "it is finished" we hear "paid in full" in relationship to all our sin. When we hear "it is finished" we hear "new creation" as we see that God's work of making of this old world a new world is completed through Christ's reconciling and saving work on the cross. But for me the most exciting news coming from the words "It is finished" is that Christ is exclaiming a cry of victory. He is saying that although there are battles that will still be fought for me and you against sin, the flesh and the devil, that the war is won when Christ gave his life on that cross for you and for me.
All of Satan's efforts to separate us from God, to keep Jesus from a sinless life and to tempt him, all of his effort to work evil and destruction receives its ultimate blow through Jesus' death on the cross.
Satan's ultimate destination is hell, and he wants to take everyone with him. The Bible says he is a roaming lion seeking whom he may devour. The gospel of John says he is a thief who comes to kill and destroy, but Christ has come to give us life and give us abundant life.
Are there still battles to face? Yes. Is there temptation still in front of us? Of course there are. But the war has been won. Romans 16:20 says that Satan will soon be crushed underneath our feet. How awesome is that.
When Jesus says "It is finished" it is a victory cry. He is demonstrating in his moment of greatest weakness, he has defeated the devil while he was at his strongest.
They arrested Jesus. They beat him. They mocked him. They hung him on some boards. They hung him there to die. And the world thought Jesus was done for. Satan thought he had won. Everyone believed that Jesus had been defeated on that cross. But Jesus says something different.
When he says "It is finished" he says the victory is won. He says that it is all a part of his plan. He shows that he has tricked the Devil. And Satan's plan to defeat the Messiah has been a part of Jesus' plan to conquer sin and death all along.
"It is finished" is not a cry of surrender or resignation. Those words are the words of a conqueror. One who has the power to overcome sin and death. Who is strong enough to suffer through the cross, and make it a moment of victory. One who is strong enough to make a way of salvation for sinners like you and I.
So, the question is, what will you do with this Jesus? Will you follow him as your Lord and Savior? Or are you going to fight against him?
What will you do with this Jesus? Will you trust this one who rules the world to rule your life, or will you keep pushing him away, unwilling to be reconciled with him. Or will you say to this pushing him back and away, "It is finished." I hope you will. Amen.
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