What Was “Finished” at the Cross? (Pt 5)

Daily Devotion | Day 364 Cont’d

“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).

As I mentioned earlier today, the following will be a continuation of the point we were discussing in Part 4 of the series: cessation of transgression through self-denial in Christ. This subject is present not only in the teachings of Jesus, but in those of the Apostles as well. For example, Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesharm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sinthat he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). This sums up everything we have been saying about the cessation of transgression (or sin) in the believer’s life. Peter could not have put it better. Now you can understand why Daniel prophesied that the Messiah’s arrival would pave the way to finish the transgression.

 Notice that Peter does not talk about a progressive or future cessation of sin. Instead, he describes it as the present, ordinary experience of the believer. Note also how he connects these three things: the suffering of Christ, the suffering of the believer and ceasing from sin. He says the believer should arm himself with the same mind as Christ. Which mind? The mind which understands that overcoming sin involves denying to oneself, and that this self-denial is accompanied by suffering. Knowing this, Peter declares, “he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Many Christians overlook the suffering aspect of life in Christ and the crucial role it plays in putting an end to transgression. Find time and read 1 Peter 3:13-4:1-19, Romans 6:1-23 and 1 John 2-3; you will notice that the three Apostles are saying the same things using different words and expressions.

Let us complete this section by looking at something else God did in Christ to put an end to transgression of His laws. In Hebrews 10:16-17, the author says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them. . . Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (For the full text of this prophecy, see Jeremiah 31:31-34). According to the author of Hebrews, the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled in Christ. Look closely at the passage.

In the Old Covenant, God wrote His laws on tablets of stone. The people broke that covenant by breaking the laws established by the covenant. Then God announced that He would make a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-32). In the New Covenant, what did God do differently? Instead of using tablets of stone, He has put His laws in our hearts and has written them in our minds. What is God hoping to achieve by writing His laws in our hearts and minds? He wants to prevent transgression of His laws. If His laws are written into our hearts and minds, this means His laws are built into the core of our being. Our new ‘DNA’ is wired with God’s laws. The laws of God are now in our nature. It would, therefore, be natural for us to obey God’s laws. In short, this would put an end to transgression.

After talking about putting His laws in our being, God adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In the New Covenant, God would no more remember our sins and lawless deeds because of two things. First, because Jesus would have washed away all our sins with His blood. God would not remember sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. Second, because God’s people (in whose hearts and minds His laws are written) would no longer transgress His laws. God would have no sin to remember because His people would be walking in the Spirit, fulfilling His laws (Romans 8:1-8). Consequently, the prophecy in Daniel 9:24 would have been fulfilled. When we present the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is important to explain to people these fundamental truths. When people grasp these truths, the Church would have a formidable presence in the world and the Name of the Lord would be revered.

May the Lord grant you deeper understanding of these matters. And as your understanding increases, may you experience a new chapter of victory in all aspects of your life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

What Was “Finished” at the Cross? (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 364

“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).

Let us pick up where we left off yesterday. We were talking about how Daniel’s prophecy regarding the cessation of transgression is fulfilled and explained in the New Testament. We referenced Matthew 5:29-30 where Jesus instructed us that if our right eye or right hand causes us to sin, we should pluck it out or cut if off and cast it from us. Today we will examine this teaching closely in light of other passages in the New Testament. We want to find out how the transgressing of God’s law ceases at the Cross and because of the Cross.

Jesus did not come into the world to give us a partial solution to the sin problem. He came to deal with the sin problem once and for all. That is why He took away all our sins with a single sacrifice (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:10, 14, 18). When He appears a second time, it would not be to deal with sin but to give salvation to those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:27-28). Therefore, as Messiah, Jesus addressed the sin problem at its root. To tackle sin at its root, He did (and said) many things, culminating in His death and resurrection.

We have already talked about how Jesus made an end of sins and made reconciliation for iniquity (see Parts 1 & 2 of this teaching). In addition, Jesus did something else to make sure that after we are reconciled and forgiven, we do not return to a life of transgressing God’s law, but rather obey the Father in holiness and righteousness. This is where He taught us about denying the self.

Specifically, Jesus said that if something causes us to sin, we must cut it off and cast it from us. Jesus was not joking. What He said has the same force today as it did when He spoke those words. If we understand this teaching and practice it, then we will understand the Cross and benefit from its power. The most effective way to resolve a problem is to identify the cause and remove it. This is what Jesus is doing when He tells us that if our right eye or right hand causes us to sin, we must cut it off and cast it from us. He wants us to identify the things in our life that cause us to sin and take decisive action to part with them; no hesitation and no excuses. If we had to choose between life in heaven with one eye (or one hand) and death in hell with our full body, Jesus says the former is more profitable.

Jesus is not asking us to mutilate our body or someone else’s. His point is about doing whatever it takes to distance yourself from whatever causes you to sin. This means if you are aware of anything (or anyone) in your life that is a source of sin for you, Jesus expects you to “cut it off” and get rid of it. If, for example, you are in a relationship or friendship that causes you to sin, Jesus expects you to end it by walking away from the relationship. Likewise, if you have in your possession any images, videos or other materials that cause you to sin, Jesus wants you to get rid of them. And He wants you to obey Him now, not some time later. If you want Jesus to save you, He will, but on His terms alone, not yours. If you want to be saved on your own terms, He will not be part of that arrangement.

When you obey Jesus by “cutting off” the causes of sin in your life, this will cause you some suffering: You might lose friends, relatives, money, reputation and so forth. You might even be persecuted or killed. This is what Jesus means when He talks about losing your life for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel (Matthew 16:24-25). But persevering in this suffering is how you stay crucified with Christ and remain dead to sin. And because you are crucified with Christ and are dead to sin, you will no longer transgress God’s law. Your former life of transgressing God’s law would be over. In your new life, you will live for righteousness alone. Salvation from sin is costly; it cost Jesus His life. Make no mistake; it will cost you, too.

We have more to say about this point, but I have to pause here. I will post the continuation shortly. Then God willing, we will conclude the series (as well as the Daily Devotional) tomorrow. Stay blessed.

For further study1 Peter 4:1-19

What Was “Finished” at the Cross? (Pt 3)

Daily Devotion | Day 363

“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).

Yesterday we discussed how God made an end of sins through the Cross of Christ. Today we will look at the part of Daniel’s prophecy that says the time of the Messiah would be a time “to finish the transgression.” We are at a critical juncture in our discussion, so let us pay extra attention to the issues we will be addressing from this time till the end of the series. To transgress means to break God’s law. Transgression describes an action, the action of breaking God’s law. The Bible says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, KJV). 

According to Daniel, there would be a cessation of transgression because of the Messiah’s work. At first glance, we might be tempted to think that transgression would be finished only after we die or when Christ returns. We will soon find out that it is not the case. After death, what is done is done; there would be no room to transgress God’s law. Hence, cessation of transgression applies only to our time in this world. In the Father’s plan of salvation, the cessation of transgression is part and parcel of manifesting the born gain life.

How does the cessation of transgression work? The Scriptures, especially the New Testament, tell us how. Let us recall the passage where Jesus demanded self-denial from all who desire to follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25). We talked about it in Part 10 of the series “Why Do Christians Continue to Sin?” Self-denial is not a pleasant experience, at least not at the beginning. Like cases of addiction, self-denial might cause initial withdrawal symptoms. But Jesus needs that from us for the cessation of transgression to take effect. Cessation of transgression does not happen mechanically or magically. It works only when believers obey Jesus’ command to deny themselves and crucify their flesh. 

Obedience to Jesus is necessary for salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God, but Jesus does not impose the gift on us. Therefore, He cannot save us if we disobey His word. If we resist Him, we are refusing His salvation. In case anyone has doubts about this, the Bible says, “And having been perfected, He [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus taught us concrete ways to express self-denial and die to sin. In no uncertain terms, He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. . . And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30). 

Do not take the above-quoted Scripture as a pretext to harm your body. God willing, tomorrow we will discuss the passage and determine its relevance for believers within the context of Jesus’ death on the Cross. Until then, let your light shine that all may see and give glory to your Father in heaven. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 10:1-31

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

The Agony of A Righteous Soul

Daily Devotion | Day 292

“And [God] delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:7-8).

Not only is God righteous, He is righteousness. He desires as well that His sons and daughters walk in His character of righteousness. This is important because the Father wants fellowship with His children. It is within this fellowship that one finds eternal life.

Fellowship with the Father is a fellowship of righteousness.

Because He is righteous and holy, the Father does not fellowship with unrighteous people, i.e. those who walk in sin. Paul put it well when he wrote, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If you are righteous, you will know it. The Holy Spirit will bear witness with your spirit (Romans 8:14-16). You will have no doubt about it.

In this world, being righteous or godly comes with a price. This brings us to today’s Bible passage. Peter is writing about Lot. As you recall, Lot was Abraham’s nephew. He lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters. The Bible tells us that the people of Sodom were involved in all manner of iniquity (Genesis 18:20-21). God eventually destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But, as Peter says, the Lord saved “righteous Lot.” Lot was a righteous man living in the midst of unrighteous people. And he suffered on account of the ungodly environment.

Peter says Lot was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked.” This tells us about the agony of a righteous soul. Righteousness is purity. When you are pure, it makes you highly sensitive to ungodly behavior. When you encounter any form of ungodly conduct, in your spirit you will find it disgusting and distressing. It’s a silent and indirect form of persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). This was what Lot felt. He is not alone. This ‘oppressive’ feeling is common to all who are righteous.

Peter further explains that Lot “tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.”  Lot had a righteous soul. He wasn’t corrupted by the sinful environment in Sodom. However, each day, he put his soul through torment on account of the lawless acts he saw and heard in Sodom. If you have a righteous soul, you can relate to Lot’s experience. A righteous soul makes you spiritually sensitive. It makes you cringe when you witness ungodliness. It makes you feel what God feels when He sees iniquity. This is the agony of the righteous.

With a righteous soul, you can’t participate in ungodly conduct. What others consider entertaining, you find disagreeable. There are TV programs you can’t watch. There are books you can’t read. There are images you can’t watch. There’s music you can’t listen to. There are dresses you can’t wear. There are places you can’t go. There are conversations you can’t have. There are words you can’t speak. There are thoughts you can’t entertain. And, there are friends you can’t have.

It is the price you pay for being a righteous soul. But it’s worth it. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). 

Be a righteous soul. Stay pure. Stay blessed.

For further study2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 5:1-21 and 1 Peter 4:1-19