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.

Meet Sarah: The Mother of Believers (Pt 3)

Daily Devotion | Day 319

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise . . . So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free [woman]” (Galatians 4:28, 31).

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote to address a hotly contested issue among Christians of that region. Some Jewish Christians, mostly based in Jerusalem, had convinced Gentile believers that submission to the entire law of Moses was necessary for their salvation. They were not asking the Gentiles to replace faith in Christ with the law. They did insist, however, that submission to Christ and His law was not enough. Gentiles needed to be initiated into the law of Moses as well via circumcision.

Paul heard about this. To his dismay, some of the Gentile Christians had either embraced this false doctrine or were close to doing so. His letter to the community was a sharp rebuke for their gullibility. Additionally, Paul took the opportunity to reiterate the sound teaching regarding these matters. In doing so, he combined the power of rhetoric, familiarity with the Scriptures and his divinely inspired insights into the new covenant. Today’s opening passage falls within this context.

Paul brought Sarah into the picture when he wanted to contrast the old covenant with the new. He did not mention her by name, but the context made it clear that he was speaking of Sarah (Galatians 4:22). Paul wanted to convey the following message: Whoever chooses the law over Christ (or in addition to Christ) chooses slavery over freedom. And to bring this point home, he made use of an allegory which involves two women: Sarah and Hagar.

Let us note that these two women are not fictional characters. They are historical figures in the Bible. And they both represent deeper spiritual realities with far reaching implications for believers. Paul’s goal is to show the ‘prophetic’ relationship between the two women and the two covenants they represent.

Hagar was a slave.  She represents Mount Sinai, earthly Jerusalem, life in the flesh, spiritual slavery and the law (old covenant). Children born of Hagar are born in bondage. As a result, Hagar’s children do not inherit the promises God made to Abraham.

In contrast, Sarah was a free woman. She represents the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26-27), life in the Spirit, spiritual freedom and the new covenant. Consequently, children born of Sarah are free; they are children of promise and heirs of God: “the Jerusalem above [represented by Sarah] is free, which is the mother of us all” (4:26).  This being the case, Paul confidently concludes that we, Christians, are children of promise as Isaac was (4:28), and “we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (4:31).

To sum up:

Being a child of Sarah is about identity, origin and destiny. If you do not know your origin and spiritual lineage, you will be confused about your identity and your heritage. Confused identity leads to a confused life. If you do not know you are from a royal family, you will live the life of a slave. This is what the Galatians were tempted to do.

But the Father wants you to know where you came from, which family you are part of, who you are and where you are going. Here, the life of Sarah is instructive. Sarah is more than a character in the Bible. She represents royalty, grace and freedom in Christ. And she is the mother of all who believe. Glory to God for giving us Sarah. Amen.

For further studyGalatians 4:1-7, 21-31 and John 8:31-47

The Power of a Purged Conscience

Daily Devotional: Day 128

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14, KJV).

God is holy and pure. Therefore, the only way for anyone to have fellowship with Him is to serve Him with a purged or cleansed conscience. It is impossible to worship the Holy God with a conscience stained with sin. When you serve God with a purged conscience, you are operating with enormous supernatural power through the Holy Spirit who lives in you. You demonstrate calm confidence in the Lord’s presence, knowing that you have allowed Him to purge you. By contrast, when you serve or approach God with a guilty conscience, you are operating from a position of weakness. You may ignore or shut down the voice of your conscience, or desperately confess all the “I am” confessions, but that won’t fix the problem until you come to a place of purged conscience. There is no substitute for a purged conscience. Only the blood of Jesus can provide that.

 God sent His Son to shed His blood for us, because, among other things, He knows that a purged conscience is indispensable if we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. A purged conscience is, therefore, a quintessential part of the package of redemption that Jesus offers us. Without it, it is impossible for us to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (cf. Romans 12:1-2). This is what today’s Bible reading is telling us. Let’s delve into the text for more.

The Old Covenant based on the Law was given through Moses. Animal blood was often shed and sprinkled during various rites of purification and atonement (cf. Exodus 24:1-8Leviticus 16:1-34). The sprinkling of animal blood sanctified (cleansed, made holy) the worshipers. But this sanctification was external; it didn’t go far enough to purge the conscience of the people once for all. But the blood of Jesus – which is the blood of the New Covenant – did what the blood of animals could not do. The Bible says if animal blood brought some cleansing to those under the Old Covenant, how much more shall Jesus’ blood purge (i.e. purify) our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Did you catch that? The “dead works” is referring to works of sin. Sin is a work; but it is a dead work because it only produces the fruit of death (cf. Romans 6:23). The purpose for purging our conscience is so that we can serve the living God. Do you see the point? You can’t serve the living God if your conscience isn’t clean before God.

When Jesus’ blood purges us from the dead works of sin, we are set free from the burden of a guilty conscience. Not only that, this purging empowers us to consistently perform deeds of righteousness, thereby maintaining a clean conscience before God. The result is that our worship of God becomes acceptable. An added blessing is that it helps us to grow in boldness and assurance before the Father. As you come to Jesus with a heart that has forsaken sin – through authentic repentance –  He will purge your conscience with His blood, and you will be free to worship the living God in holiness and righteousness. You shall walk with the boldness, power and liberty of a cleansed conscience. This is the life God wants for you. Just obey Him and see the results.

The Lord let His face shine upon you today!

Pray to the Father about this message that you’ve heard.

For further study: Hebrews 10: 1-22 (note v.1-2)