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

Three Signs You Are Reigning in Christ (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 302

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NKJV).

Yesterday, we talked about how a life of righteousness is a sign that we’re reigning in Christ. Today, we will continue with our series on “Three Signs You Are Reigning in Christ” by looking at another sign: peace.  Let’s note that the three things mentioned by Paul are not the only signs of life in the kingdom. However, they are core elements without which it is impossible to claim the presence of the kingdom in one’s life. Before we talk about peace, let’s make a brief comment on the nature of God’s kingdom.

The point of us being in God’s kingdom is to reign in Christ, i.e. to reign over everything associated with the powers of darkness, notably sin, satan, demonic oppression and a life of fear. At this point, let’s recall what Paul said about our place of dominion in Christ: “He [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).

Some think that we will start to reign only when Jesus appears a second time. Yes, there’s a future component of reigning with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). However, the reality is, there’s a present tense component as well. The power to reign is already at work in us now. Jesus Himself pointed to this present tense experience of the kingdom when He said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). The kingdom within us is what makes it possible for us to experience and manifest the essential signs of the kingdom, thereby attesting that indeed we are sons and daughters of the King of Kings. Therefore, the normal experience of every child of God is to exude peace.

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be called, “Prince of Peace” (9:6). The peace of Jesus is the very peace of God. By his death, Jesus reconciled us to the Father and obtained peace for us. Consequently, Jesus “Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14; see also Romans 5:1-2). As children of God, this peace is imparted to us freely. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). This peace is of divine origin and it inhabits the Christian soul. When you receive this peace it keeps you still, tranquil, unafraid and unagitated. Your spirit is at rest in the bosom of the Father. You can go through adversity and still be at rest. This is how you reign in Christ.

 The peace of God is the power to rest in God. And, when you’re resting in God it means you’re reigning in Christ. You are sharing in the peace of the Prince of Peace. As a natural result, you then can produce peace as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

This is the Father’s plan for you. Embrace it and enjoy a life of divine peace. Amen.

For further studyPhilippians 4:1-9 and Colossians 3:12-17

Praying for Those Who Don’t Deserve It

Daily Devotional |Day 228

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28, NASB).

Love is the most powerful weapon you have. Have no doubt about that. You will never win by hating or even disliking people. Keep your heart free from all resentment. The condition of your heart determines the condition of your whole life. If your heart is pure, your whole life is pure. If your heart is bitter, your whole life is bitter as well. You don’t want to make resentment your friend. Listen to what Jesus is saying today. It will liberate and strengthen you.

You will be tempted again and again to resent people, but you must say “No” to resentment and hate. The kind of love Jesus is talking about in today’s Bible passage is possible through faith. Jesus wants you to take, not just the highroad, but the divine road. Specifically, Jesus says, pray for those who mistreat or abuse you.

Being able to pray for those who hate or hurt you, identifies you with Jesus. Do you want to be like Jesus? Start by doing what He tells you. Prayer connects you to the Lord in a special way. When you pray for people who don’t deserve it, you are glorifying God and shaming the devil. The enemy wants you to hate; he wants you to resent. In short, he wants you to be like him. Don’t be like him, because you are a child of light (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5). The truth is, when you hate, you lose. Haters are losers. Hate weakens you. Hate never wins anything. Love, and love alone, empowers you. When you pray for those who mistreat you, the power of Jesus will flow mightily through you

What you need to realize is, the spiritual realm, just like the physical realm, operates on laws and principles. You can’t hold on to anger/grudge/resentment and hold on to the grace of God at the same time. One has to go. As Christians, we are beneficiaries of God’s abundant grace which He lavished on us through His Son and the Spirit. We, in turn, are called to be ministers of graceWe give grace because we are grace people.

Identity and behavior go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. You are from grace (identity); therefore, you show grace (mission). One prominent way of extending grace to people who mistreat you or hate you is to pray for them. Jesus wants you to pray for them, not against them. 

Jesus’ teaching is deep and radical. You need to receive it with faith and a spirit of submission, even when your feeling is pulling you in the opposite direction. Keeping Jesus’ teachings will fill you with life, because His words are spirit and they are life (cf. John 6:63).

Take Jesus’ message to heart. You may not feel like praying for people who have hurt you. But be led by the Spirit of Christ, not your feeling. Feeling is just feeling. If you follow your feeling alone, you may never do what is right.

Do what Jesus tells you, your feelings notwithstanding.

May the Lord grant you victory over every adversity through The Power of Love! Amen.

 For further study: Romans 12:9-21      

Offering Peace to the Peace-Loving

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 212

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18, KJV).

God wants us to be people of peace. He wants us to be bearers of peace, spreading peace wherever we go. Peace is an essential part of love. Where true love exists, there also will be peace. In today’s world, too many people seem to be on edge, easily irritated, quickly losing their temper. Peace is one of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.

We need peace in our hearts to function as Christians. Not only that, we need peace to be able to live with others, including our spouses, siblings, children, parents, friends, co-workers, classmates, church members, etc. Today’s Scripture passage is taken from a set of instructions Paul gave to the Christians in Rome. His message is simple: If it be possible, as much as lies in us, we should live peaceably with all people.

Paul chooses his words carefully. He does not say we must live peaceably with all people. He qualifies his statement with, “if it is possible.” This means, the ideal is for us to live in peace with all people. But at times this is not possible. You may want to live in peace with all people, but you can’t force peace in a relationship if the other party (or parties) do not want peace. The fact is, not everyone appreciates peace. Some people hate peace, whether they are aware of it or not. Such people tend to create a climate of constant strife, argument and anger. The Bible talks about the frustration of living with people who resist peace: “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peaceI am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7).

Let’s make every effort to live peaceably with all people. But let us not stress over those who don’t want peace.

The peace of the Lord be with you today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 10:1-14

When Is the Right Time to Forgive?

Daily Devotional: Day 200

“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep [died]” (Acts 7:59-60).

 When Is the Right Time to Forgive? This question assumes that you do forgive those who offend you. Forgiveness is one of the core teachings of Jesus Christ. We also know that it’s one thing to know about the teaching of forgiveness, but a completely different thing to live it. Without forgiveness, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a weak proposition, and in vain do we follow Christ.

Timing plays a vital role in making good decisions in life. The ability, for example, to make the right call at the right time is an essential part of discernment. In other words, if your sense of timing is right, you’re more likely to discern correctly. But if your timing is poor, you could make costly mistakes. The same goes for forgiveness. You may not think it important, but the timing of your forgiveness is almost as important as the forgiveness itself. This means it is possible to forgive at the wrong time. Today, let’s look at the life of Stephen – the first Christian martyr – to see when the right time is to forgive those who offend you.

Stephen rebuked the Jewish leadership and convicted them of the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 7:51). And, he paid the ultimate price for his witness. The people brought false accusations against Stephen, condemned him and then stoned him to death. While they were stoning him, Stephen cried out to Jesus, asking Him to forgive the sin of his killers. Notice two things about Stephen’s forgiveness. First, he forgave his killers and prayed for them while he was being killed – while he was in pain. Second, he prayed loud enough for the murderers to hear him praying for them.  

When people wrong you, have a short window (the best time frame) to forgive. The longer it takes to forgive, the harder it becomes to forgiveThe longer you hesitate to forgive, the greater the chance of harboring bitterness, resentment and fear. If you get to this point, you have far bigger problems on hand than merely forgiving the offending party. Unforgiveness is like a seed that falls to the ground (of the heart). If it is allowed to take root, it becomes harder to removed. The best time to forgive people is during the time frame the offense occurs, not after. When it hurts, that’s the right time to forgive. A clear sign that you’ve forgiven is when you start interceding for those who have wronged you.

Forgive by faith, not by feeling. Stephen was in pain. If he followed his feeling, he would not have been motivated to forgive. Forgiveness is an action of faith compelled by the love of Christ. Whenever the offense occurs, that’s the right time to forgive and start praying for the offender, not days or weeks after. When you forgive at the right time, you leave satan no room to exploit the situation against you. At the same time, you gain spiritual advantage over the problem. The right time for you to forgive is now.

May the Lord bless you and give courage to forgive in a timely manner. Amen.

For further study: Genesis 50:14-26