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

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

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 335

“For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:55-57, NKJV).

Our message for the next few days will be a continuation of what has been said previously in The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth. Although the two messages are closely related, we found it helpful to treat the current series as a distinct sub-topic within the discourse about the Lord’s Supper. We did this for three reasons. Firstly, what we are about to discuss is indispensable if we want to grasp the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, the topic is extremely rich and profound. As such it requires its own time and space. Thirdly, it is a subject that has generated controversy, division and confusion among Christians for centuries. 

Christians deserve clarity about what Jesus did for their salvation, especially regarding the body and blood of Jesus. We can benefit from what Jesus did if we know what it means for us. We hope the current series will further this cause. If you have not read the previous five-part series on the Lord’s Supper, please do so. This teaching is an extension of that.

What Jesus has done for us – in His death and resurrection – is marvelous. Our responsibility and privilege is to examine it critically, and appropriate it for our edification and for the sole glory of the Father. As the title suggests, the question we will be addressing throughout this series is: When we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper, are we eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood? Some (notably Roman Catholics) say, “Yes;” others (mostly Protestants/Evangelicals) say, “No.” And there are others who are ambivalent. But what do the Scriptures say?

As we tackle this question, we will look at what happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:21-24). Our study will take us also to Capernaum where Jesus said He would give us His flesh and blood (John 6:22-59). Additionally, we will examine vital truth from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:28-33) as well as highlight lessons from David’s friendship with Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:11-17). Throughout this teaching, there are two Bible concepts we want to keep in mind: marriage and covenant. These two concepts are the keys for understanding what Jesus said about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. In other words, the concepts of marriage and covenant provide the ‘hermeneutical parameters’ or framework for understanding and celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

The principle of fellowship, union or oneness is well established in the Bible, usually in the context of a covenant. Understanding how this principle works will clarify  how the Lord’s Supper works. Fellowship is a mutual sharing which makes the parties involved become (literally) one. This means at the Lord’s Supper fellowship we are joined to the Lord’s body and blood and the Lord is joined to us as one. Paul made this clear in the passage we read yesterday (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The cup we bless, he said, is fellowship (communion) of the Lord’s blood, and the bread we eat is fellowship (communion) of the Lord’s body.

What Paul said is no different from what we hear from Jesus in today’s opening Scripture. The Lord says, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” Notice that Jesus has His mind on fellowship or union with Him. As we partake of His body and blood, it leads to an intermingling. In a manner of speaking, Jesus passes into us and we pass into Him, thereby becoming one reality. Therefore, Jesus and the Lord’s Supper participant, while remaining distinct individuals, essentially are one.

We will pause here. What we have said so far is an introduction. God willing, we will go in-depth starting tomorrow. Remain blessed in Christ and have a wonderful weekend. Amen.

For further study: John 6:1-59 

The Man Who Was Not Ashamed to Be Baptized

Daily Devotion | Day 288

“And John tried to prevent Him, saying “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:14-15, NKJV).

John had one mission: to prepare the way for the Messiah and to introduce Him to Israel. He knew who he was and who he wasn’t (John 1:19-26). Many in Israel responded well to his message. They came to John confessing their sins and to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:5).

One day, while John was ministering, Someone came to him to be baptized. It was Jesus. John was stunned. Jesus wasn’t supposed to be there. In fact, Jesus didn’t meet the requirements for baptism. To request baptism, people had to acknowledge their sin, repent (and confess). Therefore, anyone who didn’t know Jesus would assume that He – like everyone else – was a sinner seeking reconciliation with God. John must have felt embarrassed at the sight of Jesus standing in line for baptism. He rightly tried to prevent Jesus, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

Jesus knew John was right to refuse to baptize Him. In the end, however, John was persuaded when Jesus appealed to righteousness. “Permit it to be so now,” Jesus said, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We can identify two important points in Jesus’ statement. First, He talks about the importance of fulfilling all righteousness. Jesus understood Scripture prophecies about Him. He knew that He had to be like us in all things. About thirty years prior to this encounter with John, the Son of God fulfilled prophecy by becoming flesh (John 1:14).

The time had now come for Jesus to be publicly initiated into his Messianic ministry. As part of this initiation, it was important for Jesus to show that He came to redeem Israel from sin (Matthew 1:21). Additionally, His baptism would underscore the fact that He fully embraced Israel’s burden of sin and their need for decisive victory over it. Entering the waters of baptism was, therefore, symbolically (and spiritually) significant. Doing this, for Jesus, was a fulfilling of God’s righteousness because it agreed with the Father’s will as expressed in multiple Messianic prophecies (notably Isaiah 53).

Second, Jesus spoke in the plural when He said to John, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus recognized that He and John were co-workers. They were a team working together to accomplish one goal. They had different but complementary missions. John’s mission needed Jesus’ mission to be authenticated (John 3:25-30). At the same time, Jesus’ mission relied on John’s successful preparation of Israel via the message of repentance (Luke 3:1-6).

To sum up, Jesus was not ashamed to enter the waters of baptism alongside sinners. We shouldn’t be ashamed either to be crucified and buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11). We shouldn’t be ashamed either to confess Him as our Lord and Savior (Luke 9:26; 12:8-9).

BlessingMay your life be a shining testimony to the glory of God. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 2:1-18 

Building A Record in Heaven

Daily Devotion|Day 270

“And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ So he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God’” (Acts 10:4, NKJV).

Christianity was still in its early days. Up to this point, the preaching of the Gospel had been limited to Judea and Samaria. But God’s plan was to complete the profile of His Church by bringing in the Gentiles. Jesus had already appointed Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:10-15). But Paul’s work had to wait until Peter had first launched the Gospel to the Gentiles according to the Lord’s design (see Acts 15:6-7). After Peter was done, Paul (according to the Lord’s plan) was to primarily focus on ministry to the Gentiles, while the former (Peter) was to focus primarily on ministry to the Jews (see Galatians 2:7-9).

Among the Gentiles, God chose Cornelius and his household as the gateway to Gentile ministry. Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army. The Bible says that “he was a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Today’s opening Scripture tells us what happened when an angel appeared to Cornelius. We are interested in what the angel told Cornelius: “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.”

Cornelius didn’t know Christ. But he knew God existed, and he served Him to the best of his understanding. He feared God and did what was right, praying to Him and giving alms. When the angel appeared, he disclosed to Cornelius that his prayers and good deeds had risen as a memorial before God. In other words, God had taken note of his deeds and committed to remember them. We can go deeper into the text, but let’s pause here and draw out a lesson for our Christian life.

Nothing you do in life goes unnoticed. Your deeds may be hidden from people, but not from God. Remember what Jesus said, “pray to your Father who is in the secret in place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). Everything you do or say in life matters. It may not matter to you, but it matters to God. Everything you do, you’re creating a record before God. The question is, “What kind of record are you creating?” God remembered Cornelius for his prayers, his alms and his fear of God. What will God remember you for?

Every minute you’re alive, it is your chance to fear God and do good. God will remember you and reward you in good time. Use your time here on earth wisely. Build a good record for yourself.

BlessingMay the Lord let his peace reign in your family. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyJob 1:1-20 and Matthew 6:1-24