What Was “Finished” at the Cross? (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion – Day 361

“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, NKJV).

The messages in this new series will build upon what was discussed in the preceding series, namely “Why Do Christians Continue to Sin?” To better grasp what is being discussed, I recommend that you read the presentations in the order in which they appear. The title of this series is inspired by the following words Jesus spoke from the Cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). The obvious question is, what is finished? The Bible does not offer a direct reply to this question. However, when we search the Scriptures it is not hard to understand what things are finished (accomplished) in view of what happened at Calvary. Let us start with the Book of Daniel

In chapter 9, Daniel was praying for himself and for Israel, petitioning the Lord to forgive their sins and restore Jerusalem to its former glory. While he prayed, the man (angel) Gabriel appeared to him with a prophecy about the restoration of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:1-27). Our opening Scripture captures the initial part of Gabriel’s prophecy. According to Gabriel, certain events were about to happen in the near future that would have a significant impact on God’s people and the rest of the world. The events are related to the work of the Messiah (Jesus). We will focus on those things in the prophecy that are relevant to the topic we are discussing. 

Gabriel mentioned six things that would happen. They are not necessarily in chronological order. We are interested in the first four things listed: “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.”  These four things are related to the things the Messiah would accomplish by virtue of His death and resurrection. The language in the prophecy speaks of decisive victory over sin accompanied by the reign of righteousness. The time frame specified by the prophecy would be the time to finish transgression, make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity. But what do these things mean? In what ways are these things fulfilled under the New Covenant? And how do these prophecies affect the life of Christians? 

We will start with the prophecy about making reconciliation for iniquity. Several passages in the New Testament testify that the Father has reconciled us to Himself. For example, Paul writes, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10; and v. 11). Notice the past tense. Reconciliation for iniquity is an accomplished fact and a fulfilled prophecy. It is a work done by the Father through the death of Jesus. We, therefore, are a reconciled peoplenow, not some time in the future. This means there is perfect peace between the Father and us (Romans 5:1-2). We now have grounds for intimate fellowship with the Father. 

Paul speaks again of this reconciliation in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (5:18-19). The Father has made reconciliation for iniquity. And  the prophecy in Daniel has been fulfilled. 

Let us pause here. God willing, we will discuss the remaining portions of Daniel’s prophecy tomorrow. Stay reconciled to the Father and remain blessed. Amen.

For further study2 Corinthians 5:1-21

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 10)

Daily Devotion – Day 360

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Today we will wrap our current series. This does not mean, however, that we are done talking about the issues we have raised. We still have important aspects of the topic to cover. But I wish to treat those matters under a different title starting tomorrow. This means the next series will be a natural progression of the present series. It will help us delve deeper into why the typical Christian finds it impossible to break with sin once and for all. The hope is that the insights gained from the discussion will help Christians view themselves differently and respond better to Jesus’ call. 

Today’s presentation will serve as a bridge that will usher us into the next series. Before we discuss the opening passage, read it one more time, and to the best of your knowledge respond to the following prompts. You will not be graded, so no worries: a) Could you say that you have denied yourself, taken up your cross and followed Jesus in obedience to what He said? b) Do you believe that what Jesus said in the passage is relevant and applicable today?   

In the passage, Jesus is talking about issues that pertain to eternal salvation. If we wish to come after Jesus, He demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross. Denying the self implies dying to one’s former self, the self that existed before we encountered Jesus for salvation. Jesus wants to give us a new life, but He needs us to let go our old self. This requires that we die to our old self, the self that will not submit to the law of God. Jesus will not force new life on us. He will not add His gift of a new life to our old life, either. There can be one life at a time; either the old or the new, but not both. This is what Jesus is indicating when He says, “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark8:35).

If we hold on to our old life and refuse to deny it, we will not have life (eternal). However, if we bid farewell to the old self for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the Gospel, then we will have life. We must lose something to gain something. This is where a lot of people struggle. They want to enjoy the best of both worlds: Jesus (salvation) in one hand and the pleasures of sin (the old self) in the other hand. But, according to Jesus, if we do that we will not have life. Denying the self is the point at which we die to sin and live for Christ alone. It is not possible to die to sin unless one first denies the self. 

Unfortunately, most Christians assume they can overcome sin without first denying the self. They treat what Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35 as something trivial, supposing that the Cross of Christ has taken care of that on their behalf. But the truth is, self-denial is not optional for Christians; Jesus demands it. The believers in the New Testament understood this and the Apostles wrote about it. Take, for example, what Paul said, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians5:24). Paul is writing to Christians like us. He says those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh. He did not say Christians would crucify their flesh some time in the future. In fact, crucifying the flesh is a a key sign that one belongs to Christ. 

Note also that Paul did not say Jesus would crucify our flesh for us. Crucifying our flesh is not part of Jesus’ job description. He provides all the help we need, but we are the ones who must decide if we will crucify our flesh or hide behind the Cross and make excuses. What Paul said confirms the point Jesus was making in our opening Scripture. Many Christians continue to sin because they have skipped the step of crucifying their flesh (denying the self). They are waiting for Jesus to do that for them, while Jesus is waiting for them to obey Him. 

We will explain this point further when we begin the new series tomorrow, God willing. May the Lord keep you and be gracious unto you. Amen.

For further studyMatthew16:21-28

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 9)

Daily Devotion – Day 359

“For the death that He [Christ] died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:10-11, NKJV).

Yesterday we did not say anything about the passage from Romans 6:10-11. We will do that today, because the passage provides key insights into the topic we have been discussing in the current series. 

Another reason sin recurs among Christians is, they fail to see that their life and that of Jesus are intertwined. Many still think of Jesus as if He is up there and they are down here. This makes them suppose that there are two separate lives: one for Jesus and another for believers. It is like disconnecting the head from the rest of the body. Such a view of the Christian life leads to a host of problems, not the least of which is our implicit admission of defeat when it comes to living without sin. Take another look at today’s opening Scripture. It contains critical truth. If we can grasp what is in it, we would lead a completely different life. 

Notice that in the passage Paul is drawing a parallel between the life of Jesus and the life of believers. He tells us what Jesus did (past tense) and what He is currently doing (present tense). What did Jesus do in the past? He died to sin once for all. And what is Jesus presently doing? Currently, the life Jesus lives, He lives to God. Immediately after making this point, Paul turns to believers and says, “Likewise you also. . .” Paul wants believers to know that the life of Jesus he has just described is the same life expected of a believer. Hence he tells us, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesusour Lord.” 

Jesus and believers are one; they share the same life. He is in believers and believers are in Him. The life Jesus lived on earth is the same life believers must live on earth. Some things, of course, are exclusive to Jesus. For example, He alone is Savior of the world; He alone is the mediator between God and man; He alone is the firstborn from the dead, etc. But in everything else, how Jesus lived on earth applies to Christians. The Holy Spirit that was in Jesus is the same Holy Spirit in us. The divine ability in Jesus that enabled Him to live sinless is the same divine ability in us. If being without sin was good for Jesus, it is good for us also, and the Father expects nothing less. 

Paul says, Jesus died to sins once for all; then he applies that to us. We, like Jesus, must reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin. Being “dead indeed to sin” is another way of saying we choose to live a life in which we sin no longer. We are not called to die slowly to sin. No, we are dead to sin (past tense, done, finished). And every day we wake up, we reckon ourselves dead to sin. In place of sinning, we live our present life for God alone, just as Jesus currently lives for God. We need not be afraid of this calling. We, rather, ought to be thankful, for it is an honor to be called to live like Jesus. Let this be our motivation in our daily walk with the Father.

We will pause here and continue tomorrow, if the Lord wills. Until then, enjoy life in Christ. Amen.

For further studyColossians3:1-17

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 8)

Daily Devotion  – Day 358

“For the death that He [Christ] died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:10-11, NKJV).

In the entire chapter 6 of Romans, Paul has but one message for Christians: You can live sinless, so live that way. Recall that at the beginning of this series (Part 1), I briefly mentioned Romans 6:1-2 and recommended that everyone take a look at it. I said at that time that we would return to that passage later. The time has come, so to refresh our memory, this is what Paul said: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Everything Paul said in this chapter is held together by the first two verses (which we have just quoted) and verse 14 where he writes, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” In Paul’s mind, those who have died to sin can no longer live in sin. In other words, they can no longer sin. That is what he implies by the rhetorical question, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” 

Some would say that there is a difference between living in sin and merely committing a sin. But this is just another way of avoiding Paul’s point. The Bible makes no distinction between committing sin and living in sin. When someone sins, in that moment the person is living in sin, even if the sin lasted for one minute. The one whose sin lasts one minute and the one whose sin lasts one month both lived in sin at some point. Hence, attempting to draw a distinction between committing sin and living in sin amounts to splitting hairs. The implication of Paul’s rhetorical question (“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”) is obvious: Because believers have died to sin, they can no longer continue to sin; the only life befitting their status as God’s children is a life of righteousness, a life without sin. 

Paul knew believers were (are) fully capable of living without sin because of the abundance of grace available to them. In case people had any doubt about this, he emphatically stated, “For sin shall not have dominion over you . . . for you are under grace.” Notice Paul’s choice of words. He did not say, “Sin shall have dominion over you from time to time.” Rather, he says that sin will have no dominion at all. This means Jesus has opened the door for every believer to live sinless. What remains is for us to take advantage of the opportunities grace has set before us. 

Not only is it possible for a Christian to live without sin, it is the expected normal life of the believer. The believer has no other life. This is good news, that we can live righteously as Jesus did. Therefore, we need to preach a Gospel that includes the cessation of sin so that Christians can experience the joy that comes from reigning over sin.

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, meditate on Romans6.

For further studyRomans 6:1-3

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 7)

Daily Devotion | Day 357

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood . . .” (Romans 3:23-25, NKJV).

What Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 has gained popularity in many Christian circles. In fact, many Christians know that passage by heart. Even those who have not memorized it are familiar with its words. Different people quote the Bible for different reasons and for different purposes. Romans 3:23 is one of the most misused passages of the New Testament. It is misused because it is often taken out of context. Paul said a lot of things in his Letter to the Romans, often explaining a point over several lines. Therefore, it is irresponsible, and even dangerous, to pull a line from Romans and try to make a case out of that line alone.

Some quote Romans 3:23 as a justification for the recurrence of sin in the believer’s life and for his inability to cease from all sin. For them, what Paul said in that passage amounts to something like this: “Christians still remain sinful people. Consequently, though we should not sin, all Christians will sin from time to time. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. No one is or can be perfect. No one can overcome sin completely; it is just by grace that we all can approach God through the blood of Jesus.” Because of this thinking, many Christians live far below their calling (and ability) to live holy and righteous. Furthermore, this way of reading Paul’s words is unfortunate, for it creates a conducive environment for sin to continue among believers. To successfully respond to our calling to be holy, it is important that we read Romans 3:23 in context.

First of all, when Paul said, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he was stating the past sinful condition of Jews and Gentiles. He was in no way suggesting that this would be the condition of those who believed in Christ. Paul said, “all have sinned;” he did not say, “all will continue to sin or remain sinners.” There is a big difference between the two. In Romans 3:23, Paul was not describing the born again life. In the born again life, Christians do not fall short of the glory of God. On the contrary, as Paul himself admits, “we all [Christians], with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . .” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore, to use Romans 3:23 to explain (or justify) the recurrence of sin among Christians misses Paul’s point. It further demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of what it means to be born again.

Another reason we cannot apply Romans 3:23 to Christians is because of what Paul says next in Romans 3:24. Paul writes that we are “justified freely by His [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” This means believers have been washed from their sins and brought into a righteous condition before God. In addition, they have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. The problem of sin identified in v. 23 is countered by the solution of justification and redemption offered in v. 24. Therefore, Christians do not have an excuse to continue to sin. In fact, they have no business quoting v. 23 to justify why they remain sinful. Christians were sinners; but they no longer are sinners. They now are redeemed. An unredeemed person might have an excuse, but a Christian has no excuse; none. The problem in v. 23 is over. We now live in the reality of v. 24.

Unfortunately, many Christians fail to distinguish between the reality described in v. 23 and the one described in v. 24. As a result, they suffer from a crisis of identity. This crisis is largely responsible for the failure of many Christians to live without sin. To change this situation, we need to re-examine what the Scriptures teach about redemption and how redemption impacts our victory over sin.

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, know that you are redeemed. The power of sin is broken. Stand your ground and enjoy the redeemed life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyRomans 5:1-21