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.

When to Obey God, Instead of Man

Daily Devotional: Day 121

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives . . . “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:15-17, NKJV).

The Israelites lived peacefully with the Egyptians for about 400 years. But all of this changed when a certain Egyptian king ascended the throne, who felt threatened by the increasing number of the Israelites. He, therefore, adopted a policy of hostility and enslavement to subdue God’s people. This is the background for our Scripture reading today. The king of Egypt ordered the Hebrew (Israelite) midwives to kill all Hebrew sons whose birth they assisted. But the midwives disobeyed the king. As I often like to stress, pay attention to the detail. The midwives did not disobey just for the sake of disobeying.  They did not disobey because they were arrogant and rebellious. Notice this: The midwives disobeyed the king, because they feared God.

On several occasions the Bible admonishes us to honor and submit to civil/political authorities (cf. Mark 12:13-17Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17). When, however, you are ordered to commit evil, deny your God, or violate your Christian conscience, then you must object, and if necessary, disobey that human authority. In other words, whenever you are put in a situation where you must choose between obedience to God’s Word and obedience to men, God wants you to obey Him rather than man. God alone must be feared. I have said this in one of my Daily Devotionals, and I’d like to repeat: You cannot fear God and fear man at the same time. You must choose whom to fear.

God rewards those who fear Him and respect His commandments (See Exodus 1:20 for the blessings God bestowed on the midwives for their bold stance). When the Hebrew midwives disobeyed the king of Egypt, they were putting their profession and even their life on the line. But because they feared God, they did not fear what the king could do to them. They’d rather die than disobey God. This is the meaning of fearing GodBeing willing to rather die than sin against God. If you are a ‘people-pleaser,’ you can’t be a ‘God-pleaser,’ or vice-versa. Likewise, you cannot be a ‘God-fearer,’ if you are a ‘people-fearer.’

I’ll share a personal story with you. About 15 years ago, I was a senior at a seminary in Ghana where I was training to become a Catholic priest. As president of the student council, I had several responsibilities, and often I had to make important judgment calls. I’ll spare you the details, but one day there was a shortage of food at lunch time. Three professors (who were my superiors) ordered me to break into the food storage room to make food available to the students. But in good conscience, I disobeyed the order. I was fully aware that these professors were taking advantage of the temporary crisis to use me as their pawn to further their political agenda against the Rector of the seminary. I refused to play along. At the end of the day, God vindicated me. 

The point is this: You have a God-given right under the Bible to disobey a human law that commands you to violate the law of God or your Christian religious conscience. Whom or what you fear says a lot about you. Do not compromise your loyalty to God’s law because of your fear of human power. Your sole desire as a Christian is to do what pleases the Father, following your Bible-trained conscience, regardless of what people think about you or threaten to do to you.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study: Daniel 3:1-30

The Way of the Righteous

Daily Devotional: Day 105

“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments” (Psalm 112:1, KJV).”

Many are the afflictions of the righteous (cf. Psalm 34:19). But many also are the blessings and rewards of the righteous. Today’s Bible text tells us that blessed is the man who fears the Lord. The Bible is referring to a godly person, one who trembles at the majesty and holiness of God, and recognizes his need to submit to this God and serve Him. The fear of God, according to the Bible, is the beginning of wisdom. In fact, where there is no fear of God, folly reigns in people’s hearts. Soon, they will declare that God does not exist (cf. Psalm 14:1).

A person who fears God manifests several characteristics. One of these characteristics is that he is careful to avoid sinning against his God or violating His commandments. This diligence is based on the person’s reverence and deep love for God. And if the godly person sins (cf. 1 John 2:1-2), he will not hesitate to repent and return to serving the Lord in holiness.

Another characteristic of a righteous person is that he delights greatly in the commandments of God. That is true. If we love God, we will delight greatly in His commandments. For we cannot separate love for God from love for what He commands. If we find the commandments of God repulsive or burdensome, that is an indication that our love for God is questionable. Jesus Himself said, “If ye [you] love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

There is great reward for fearing the Lord and delighting in His commandments. Today’s text, Psalm 112, lists at least eleven (11) blessings for walking in the way of righteousness.

Answer your calling today. Go out and walk in the way of the righteous: in your family, your friendships, your workplace, your school, your local church, or even when you are alone. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Prayer:

Holy Father, you are All-Holy. I am in awe of you. Who am I that you should call me your child? Yet you have lavished your love on me. I bless and thank you for your great love for me. Stir up your Spirit in me and enable me to walk in the way of your commandments. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 119:97-112

Right Heart, Right Life

Daily Devotional: Day 47

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them into their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Hebrews 8:10, KJV).

The new covenant is established through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Under this new arrangement, God writes his law into the core of your being – heart and mind – when you believe in Christ and get saved. Consequently, your transformation will occur from inside out, and not from the outside. You will no longer attempt to obey God based on an external law written on stone tablet. In the Bible, you’ll find several instances of God’s instructions – including do’s and don’ts – which require your obedience. Because God’s law is already written in your heart, when you come across God’s law in the Bible, it’ll spark your interest and resonate with your spirit. This means your spirit will recognize the law and will not oppose it, because the same law is already in you. This is the basis for being happy to obey God. It’s the reason you don’t feel like a burden is being imposed on you. God’s law is already woven into the inner fabric of your born-again spirit. Therefore, keeping the commandments of God doesn’t come across as burdensome. On the contrary, you’re delighted to obey your Father in heaven (Read the verses of Psalm 119 below).

From this point on, you’re not obeying God to get him to save you, but rather, you’re obeying God because he has saved you by grace through faith, and you’re in love with him. It’s all about love from this point. The Apostle John put it perfectly when he wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).  Jesus himself also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). True love for God inevitably bears the fruit of obedience. If you find yourself making light of God’s commandments or disobeying Jesus, it’s a red flag; repent and turn to God. A truly changed heart will always love the Father. And whoever loves the Father will love his law and keep it. It’s not complicated. 

Pray:

Father, thank you for the blessings of the new covenant. Thank you for writing your law into my heart and my mind. Thank you also for pouring your love into my heart (Romans 5:5). Because you have given me a new heart, I can and I will love and obey your Word. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. (Enjoy Don Moen’s rendition of the song “Trust and Obey”)

For further study: Psalm 119:89-106